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

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: Christina Aguilera

With Ramadan of 2010 coming to an end, we present another danger to the planet more severe than Global Warming. It is one of the women who keeps Iranian holy man Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi up and at night, and who prompted him to deliver this divinely inspired warning to all of us: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

And here's the proof.

Fifteenth Case Study: Christina Aguilera

Born in October of 1980, Christina Aguilera is the second earthquake-causing pop tartlet to emerge from the Mickey Mouse Club, appearing on the television program along side Britney Spears. In 1999, she first threatened the world when she shot to pop music super-stardom and started shedding her clothes in sex-charged music videos. By 2001, even her own grandmother was telling her to find something decent to wear, but it was too late. Aguilera caused the Gurajat earthquake that killed 20,000 people in India as that nation was starting its fifth full decade free of British rule.


By the mid-2000s, Aguilera was becoming a real challenge to Britney Spears in the race to earn the Biggest Skank of the New Millennium Award. Although she ultimately lost the race to the bottom, Aguilera is actually a bigger threat to global stability, because not only was the most immodest of the immodest, but she is also a gifted singer with a fabulous voice... a siren on land who is sure to doom men just as if she was on the sea. And in July of 2006, she brought destruction to the island nation of Java in the form of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami that injured and killed over 10,000 people.

In 2007, Aguilera gave birth to a son, and she subsequently became a little less of a danger to the world. However, it remains to be seen what she still has in store for us, as not only did she release a new album this year, but she is starring in the upcoming film "Burlesque". Will the earth once again tremble because of the immodesty of Christina Aguilera?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pects vs Persians

Devil of the Desert Against the Sons of Hercules (aka "Anthar the Invincible", "Soraya, Queen of the Desert" and "The Slave Merchants") (1962)
Starring: Kirk Morris, Mario Feliciani, Michèle Girardon, Roberto Dell'Acqua, José Jaspe, and Renato Baldini
Director: Anthony Dawson (aka
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

After a princess (Girardon) is driven from her palace when an evil warlord (Felicianii) conquers her city and sold into slavery, the wandering hero Anthar (Morris) and his boy sidekick (Dell'Acqua) set out to rescue her and restore her to her throne.

"Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules") is a TV edit or an Italian fantasy movie originally titled "Anthar the Invicible" that's set in pre-Islamic Persia. It features gorgeous costumes and sets, a decent storyline (if you're into this sort of thing), and a rousing musical score. The mirror maze where the main bad guy likes to dispose people who annoy him is also very cool.

The only real flaw the film has is that it's a bit slow in getting under way, and there are a couple of times where the story doesn't grind to a halt because of convenient idiocy on the part of the bad guys. (There's a bridge across a chasm that provides easy access to a camp, but the guard is posted underneath it instead of at one of its ends. Huh?)



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Global Warming Strikes Again:
Cold Snap Kills Animals in Bolivian Rivers!

Um... what?

Cold empties Bolivian rivers of fish: Nature News

Now we're to believe that Global Warming is melting the ice to the north, while deep-freezing the south? Are we to believe that since heat rises, and north is up, that OF COURSE Global Warming is just melting stuff in the northern hemisphere?

I was keeping an open mind, but now I'm increasingly starting to side with the people who say the whole global warming/climate change crap made so popular by Al Gore really IS nothing more than politically motivated claptrap at best, some sort of neo-pagan doomsday religion/cult at worst. If for no other reason, because now they're swinging back to the imminent global destruction I remember they were talking about as a kid: Man was causing GLOBAL COOLING and we were all going to die because is it!

I think perhaps these two Times Magazine covers, from roughly 30 years apart, illustrate the level of bullshit that's being spread more clearly than I can...


How long before we see this cover story again?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Latest Al-Qaeda recruiting video

They're winning hearts and minds....



At least it's a step up from this preview clip from "Saudi Arabian Idol."



(I actually have no flippin' idea what those guys are doing. I'm sure it's supposed to be some sort of song, but "Numa-Numa" it ain't.

Friday, August 27, 2010

'Best in Show' is among
the best mockumentaries

Best In Show (2000)
Starring: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Jim Piddock, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgens, Jane Lynch, and Michael Hitchcock
Director: Christopher Guest
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

I first came across this film while channel-hopping, and I thought I was documentary or maybe some reality show. I was astonished at what I was seeing. Yeah, I know people forget the documentary crew is there as time goes on, but these people pitching a fit in an airport with their dog were almost too much to be true. Then, I started seeing familiar faces, and I realized I was watching a movie from the makers of "This Is Spinal Tap", "A Mighty Wind", and other "mockumentaries." Like the two great comedies I just mentioned, "Best In Show" is a fabulous bit of comedic movie making.

"Best In Show" follows a number of show-dog owners as they take part in the Mayflower Dog Club's "Best In Show" competition, where dogs of all breeds come to compete to see who is the top dog and walk away with the Blue Ribbon. There's the lovable country boy Harry Pepper (Guest) with his bloodhound, the simple Gerry & Cookie Fleck (Levy & O'Hara) with their terriers, nut-case yuppies Hamilton & Meg Swan (Hitchcock & Posey) with their hunting dog, the loving gay couple Scott Dolan & Stefan Vanderhoof (Higgins & McKean), and the airheaded millionare Sheri Ann Ward Cabot along with her trainer Christy Cummings (Lynch). From the trips to the show, through the pre-show party, the show itself, and a wrap-up detailing "where they are now", the film stays solidly grounded in the pretense of being a documentary, never breaking style once.


Several of the actors portray their characters so naturally that it's easy to believe their the real thing, such as McKean as the low-key gay hairdresser and Piddock as the consumate professional dog expert who is stuck doing show commentary with an idiot TV announcer (Willard). Other actors, such as Levy and portray such hapless characters that it's impossible to not feel sympathy for them. Finally, we have naked satires, like Hitchcock and Posey's ever-bickering obnoxious yuppie couple and the aforementioned Willard. The mix of these types of characters interacting and moving through a story more realistic-feeling than any of the previous mockumentaries from this same general crew makes this an engaging and constantly hilarious movie.

The DVD version of the film is also excellent. It's got about an hours worth of excellent additional scenes that weren't in the film. These are all great, previously unseen bits... unlike the dreck that is often present as "extras" on DVDs. These scenes were cut for length, not because they were crap. It's also got a commentary track by Guest and Levy that's actually interesting to listen to, and that sheds all sorts of light on how Guest and his actors make these sorts of movies.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

N is for Ninja; that's good enough for me

N is for Ninja. N is for November. And while we're at it, N is also for Nine.

Therefore, I am declaring Nine Days of the Ninja on November 1 - 9. I'll have a little blogathon across the various Cinema Steve blogs during those days, and I would like to invite anyone out there to join in. Maybe it can be a real blogathon, instead of just me playing by myself in my own little sandbox.

You can send me links to old reviews of movies, cartoons/anime, and comics featuring Ninja and/or posts featuring information about the creators of such stuff, and I'll index them as I did with my Expendables Week mini-blogathon. Of course, I'd love for someone to post new material that I can link to during the Nine Days of the Ninja, November 1 - 9.

Please email me at stevemillermail@gmail.com if you're interested. Logos will be posted soon, and I'll be doing reminder posts/emails as the time draws near.


Or ARE They?!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: Special Ramadan Edition

Given the controversy surrounding my efforts to raise awareness of the dangers posed by immodest women and their naked flesh to the safety of us all (as revealed to us when the great and wise Imam of Imams Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi stated in April of 2010 that "women who do not dress modestly ... spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes"), I am once again refraining from posting a Tectonic Tuesday Case Study.

I want the most holy Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi to be able to enjoy the Holy Month of Ramada with a calm mind, not having to worry that my calling attention to immodest, earth-shattering women might be increasing the problem rather than elevating it.

Instead, here are tips for those ladies out there who want to go to beach and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea without the risk of causing earthquakes.

Modesty by the Sea:
Tectonic Tuesday Ramadan Special Report

First, let me stress that there is no doubt what so ever than large number of women prancing about immodestly in bikinis is a danger to the planet. The Chinese proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt in 2008 when their stunt to create the Olympic Rings out of bikini-clad women gathered over 1,200 of these immodesty females in one place, triggering earthquakes in Oregon, California, and China's own Sichuan Province.


But how then can a woman of conscience avoid being the cause of such disasters while still enjoying summer sea-side activities?

One option is the Burkini. This is swimwear developed to ensure that no woman will ever cause an earthquake while on the beach. Of course, numerous instances of women in Burkinis being shot with tranquilizer darts and shipped off to the mysterious land of the Teletubbies in tragic cases of mistaken identities show there's a different sort of risk that arises from the Burkini.

The ideal situation is to strike a middleground, being modest in your dress while not looking like a Teletubbie or an extra from Cirque de Soleil on a smoke break.

Laurin here had the right idea. As Imam Slammy (as the all-wise Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi is known to his friends) would undoubtedly confirm, the second biggest threat from immodest women is their uncovered heads and that sexy, sexy hair! But she isn't wearing a top. Going topless at the beach isn't very modest. (Of course, by going topless, women will make it easier for men to engage in the fatwa-approved adult breast feeding recommended by Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini of Saudi Arabia, a great man who is almost as wise as Imam Slammy himself. But the risk of earthquakes is probably not worth it.)

The Tectonic Tuesday staff recommends the Burkini design to the left is the only solution that allows women to enjoy the beach while avoiding the risk of being mistaken for a Teletubby and hunted down by animal control, or spreading adultery and (consequently) increasing earthquakes. It is actually more modest than the Burkini, as it covers the face as well as the hair and arms. The only possible way to improve this design was to have the woman wear parachute pants along with it.

Another option would be for women who insist on wearing immodest swimwear to frequent women-only beaches. There are a few of those around the world. Adventuress (and notoriously immodest woman) Lara Croft recommends the one in Italy's Riccione Resort.




Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking, but not finding, comedy anywhere

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)
Starring: Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth, and John Carroll Lynch
Director: Albert Brooks
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When comedian Albert Brooks (Brooks) is sent to India and Pakistan to compile a report for the United States government on what makes Muslims laugh, he finds the task more difficult than he imagined.


To say that "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" is mild-mannered is an understatement. The movie is so polite and respectable, its voice so soft, that the audience has a hard time figuring out what exactly it's trying to say. Is it a film about a man who is too wrapped up in himself to see that he misses many examples of comedy and what amuses Muslims (and Hindi, since Brooks spends most of his time in Hindu-dominated parts of India)? Is it a film about the ineffectiveness of political bodies to truly deal with the human element (which the film shows all sorts of examples of)? Is it just a string of mildly amusing skits that aren't supposed to be anything else but mildly amusing (something the film also has plenty of examples of)? Is it supposed to be about differing cultures failing to intersect (something the film also provides multiple examples of)?

Frankly, I'm not sure, but I do know that the post-script was the only thing I actually laughed at. I spent most of the rest of the film feeling embarrassed on behalf of Brooks (the character, not the actor) and thinking about how if the film didn't feature the very attractive Sheth as Brook's local ever-cheerful assistant, I probably wouldn't have stuck with this film.

It's not that it's a bad movie, and I really wanted to like it more than I did. Every actor featured does a good job, and every character that appears is perfectly believable--perhaps a little too believable, because watching this film isn't that different from every day life. In other words, "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" is so blandly polite that it's no different than what you'd probably experience if you were to head down to the local shopping mall and spend an afternoon people-watching. Worse, it's probably not all that different from just another day at the office. (Well, except for the hashish smoking, AK47-toting Pakistani wanna-be comedians.)



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ray Bradbury turns 90!

One of the greatest American authors, not to mention the greatest sci-fi/fantasy writer to ever walk the planet Earth, turns 90 today. Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury!


The writer of Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles stories, and literally hundreds upon hundreds of spectacular short stories ranging from light-hearted satire to the darkest tales of horror, Bradbury is the one writer that anyone who claims to be a sci-fi fan MUST read. He's also the one writer that I loved as much today as I did when I was 11. I still read Something Wicked This Way Comes every year in October.

Bradbury truly is a man for all ages. But I think Rachel Bloom expresses love for Ray Bradbury far more strongly than I ever could. She also offers one of the weirdest and funniest tributes anyone has ever recorded to him.



Reportedly, Ray Bradbury watched the video and loved it.

Two ladies of the night at their best

Catwoman & Vampirella: The Furies (DC Comics, 1997)
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artists: Jim Balent and Ray McCarthy
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

When Gotham City is plagued by a string of violent, cat-themed break-ins, everyone assumes that Catwoman--legendary thief and adventuress--has gone psychotic... except Catwoman, who wants to retore her bad reputation to its proper place. But before she has that chance, a mysterious, batwinged avenger known as Vampirella--dedicated foe of the Cult of Chaos and evil vampires everywhere on this world and any others--swoops down upon her, dead-set on stopping her before she commits any further evil acts.

"The Furies" is one of the best Vampirella comics to be published since Harris Publications revived the character in the early 90s, produced by a team that I am certain will be looked back on as being part of the very best stories featuring DC Comics' Catwoman. When this book was published in 1997, Vampirella was beginning to seriously flounder under Harris, while Catwoman was at a glorious height that I don't think the character will ever be at again: She was cast as a complusive thrill-seeker and adventuress for whom staging elaborate capers and impossible crimes were almost an end unto itself, and this team-up with Vampirella (once the misunderstandings between them are cleared up) works because of the generally lighthearted tone that pervailed in the Catwoman series at the time.


The book is particularly fun to read because of the amusing banter between Catwoman and Vampirella, as they beat up thugs and confront the ever-scheming Penguin in their search for the werepanther.

"The Furies" is a comic book I recommend highly to fans of classic Vampirella. I think you'll enjoy it immensely. Similarly, if you liked Catwoman back when Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench were writing the series, you'll also find this to a very entertaining read.

For more reviews and drawings of Vampirella, click here to visit my Shades of Gray blog.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

'Hercules' saves Western Civilization!

Hercules Against the Mongols (aka "Maciste Against the Mongols") (1964)
Starring: Mark Forest, Ken Clark, Howard Ross, Nadir Moretti, Jose Greci, and Maria Gracia Spina
Director: Domenico Paolella
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Following the death of their father, Genghis Khan, the evil Sayan (Clark), Susdal (Ross), and Kin Khan (Moretti) violate the peace treaties he had brokered with the Western Christians and return the Mongol hordes to the of conquest. Standing in their way, however, is the wandering hero Maciste. Witness what happens when the unstoppable force meets an unmovable object.


"Hercules Against the Mongols" is another one of those Hercules movies that isn't really about Hercules. The first hint is that it takes place in 13th century eastern Europe, and the second hint is that there's no reference to Greece and Greek gods at all. The film is actually one of the many movies about the Italian hero Maciste, but, for whatever reason, any of these Italian sword-and-sorcery flicks from the 1960s had to be about Hercules when they were imported into the United States and dubbed into English.

As far as this sort of fare goes, this film comes is about average. The bad guys are intereting--with Ken Clark being particularly fun as a Fu Manchu-mustachioed creep so untrustworthy he'd probably betray himself if he thought he could get away with it--the costumes and sets are pretty good, and the script moves along at a nice pace.

On the downside, the actors who did the English dubbing are universally awful, and I don't think I've ever before seen this many Caucasian actors trying to pass for Asians in a single movie. There's also the character of Maciste/Hercules. He doesn't have one-tenth the charisma of the charisma as villanious opponents, partly because he doesn't do anything particularly interesting for most of the film--he's heroic but unremarkable-- and partly because Mark Forest never rises above the level of a generic stongman.



Friday, August 20, 2010

A fact about "adult" anime....

'Diary of a Big Man' is a funny tale of bigamy

Diary of a Big Man (1988)
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Sally Yeh, and Joey Wang
Director: Chor Yun
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

In something of a change of pace, action star Chow Yun-Fat takes the lead in a romantic comedy as a stockbroker who stumbles his way into marriage with two different women after he can't bring himself to break either's heart. With the help of a loyal friend, he attempts to balance both marriages, but eventually something has to give....


This film takes all the twists and turns that one expects a romantic comedy to take, but it does it with a certain style and flair, and it explodes into completely unexpected over-the-top and hilarious insanity. The performances by Chow Yun Fat and Sally Yeh are particularly fun to watch as the antics unfold.

One complaint I have is that the subtitles are... well, brittle. They are more difficult to read than average, something which is frustrating in a film where the patter is flying fast and furious. On the upside, there aren't many examples of the bizarre literal translations that are so common in Hong Kong flicks. Another subtitle complaint is that the featured song in the film is subtitled in Cantonese but not in English.

Despite these technical gripes, this is a fun little movie that's worth watching.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

For those in the New York City area...

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero has announced a major protest in Lower Manhattan this Sunday, August 22 (which means there are going to be that many more people for Nancy Pelosi to order investigated for daring to oppose a monument to Muslim terrorists):

Join construction workers, firefighters, veterans, 9/11 families and first responders, human rights leaders, and residents of the Ground Zero neighborhood will unite for a major protest at the Ground Zero mosque site.

Protesters to demand that the State Department answer: why are you sending Imam Rauf as an envoy across America and the globe on the taxpayers’ dime?

WHO: The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and:

the Blue Collar Corner;

The Bravest;

9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America;


Women United International;

Stop Shariah Now;

ACT! For America and ACT! Manhattan;

Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam;

and many other organizations and leaders to be announced, as well as local residents living in the Ground Zero area.

WHEN: Sunday, August 22nd at 11:00 a.m

WHERE: Park Place, at northeast corner of Church Street and West Broadway, Manhattan

WHY: To push back against those attempting to impose harsh Shariah Islam, stealth jihad or terror on our nation. We will not be moved!

Stallone goes over the top!

This review is a spin-off from the week-long celebration of The Expendables at Watching the Detectives.

Over the Top (aka "Meet Me Half Way" (1987))
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, David Mendenhall, and Robert Loggia
Director: Menehen Golan
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Lincoln Hawk (Stallone), a long haul trucker and semi-pro competitive arm wrestler struggles to reconnect with his son (Mendenhall) after the death of his wife.

Yes... I wrote "semi-pro competitive arm wrestler." There are parts of this movie that play like "Balls of Fury", with its extreme ping-pong matches, yet it's all meant to be taken seriously. And apparently there are enough folks out there who take arm wrestling seriously enough that there are leagues and championships, just like we see in this movie. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but this website is proof that truth is often nearly as strange as fiction.

But why anyone would think that a movie centered on a semi-pro arm wrestler could be profitable with a budget of $25 million is a complete mystery. Perhaps they thought anything vaguely sports related starring Sylvester Stallone would be an instant hit, what with the first three "Rocky" movies having been huge successeses. They were of course wrong, and "Over the Top" lost some $9 million during its theatrical run.

I don't know if this movie bombing is a good thing or a tragedy, because if it had turned a quick profit, I'm sure we would have been treated to Stallone as a semi-pro caber tosser in "Death Logs" and as a semi-pro curling player, squaring off against a team of villains led by Dolph Lundgren in "Clean Sweep."

I do wish I had remembered this movie existed while working on my forthcoming book, 150 Movies You Should (Die Before You) See. It would have been ideal for the chapter titled "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time." But, featuring it for The Expendables Week is a good second best.


While I remain baffled any executive at Cannon Group, Warner Bros. or Golan-Globus would have thought an idea this lame could earn back a $25 million investment, I can see why this film might have appealed to Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone is an actor, who enjoys acting, and the character he portrays here is different than any other he had played at this time (or since, as far as I know). Lincoln Hawk comes across like a gentle, soft-spoken man for whom confrontation is something he tries to avoid until back into a corner, and for whom violence is usually not even an option to be considered. There is a lot about the Lincoln Hawk character that feels very real, and I think Stallone does a good job at portraying him. I also think this character looked better on paper, because he's the only thing that feels even close to real in this film, as the goofy arm wrestling "action" is laughable, and Hawk's Snidely Whiplash-like millionaire father-in-law (played by Robert Loggia) is so over the top in every way that one might think the title refers to him instead of an arm wrestling move. Hawk's relationship with his son also feels artificial, both because of some weak writing... and because child actor David Mendenhall is an average child actor. And that means that you can tell he is ACTING whenever he is in a scene.

Aside from fans of Sylvester Stallone being able to enjoy him doing something a little different, there really isn't anything particularly exceptional about "Over the Top". All the technical aspects of the film are executed with the level of competence you'd expect for a movie someone spent $25 million on, but there is no making up for the fact that the film's main hook is goofy in the extreme (even if there is a real-world counterpart to it).



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Something of interest to film students

Christian Gamboa of Star Costumes sent me a most interesting email today.

"We recently launched the first-ever Horror Scholarship," he wrote. "It's a $1000 scholarship designed to provide assistance to students studying to work in the horror industry."

As someone who has nothing but Humanities degrees to my name, and who studied creative writing, film and a little journalism while at university, I think an initiative like this is a great thing. Anything that actually encourages people who are trying to enter a creative field to learn the underlying craft necessary to produce exceptional work is a Good Thing. Too much garbage is being produced by too many "self-taught" individuals... a trend that's been accelerating since the late 1980s.

In the briefest and most general of terms, applicants might qualify for the Star Costumes Horror Scholarship if they are over 18 and pursuing an advanced degree in an area of film studies, with an intent of working in the horror genre. The deadline for applications is, appropriately enough, October 31, 2010.

For details (and the actual facts about the scholarship and the application process), click on the logo below.







(Now, if only someone would start a fund for impoverished crabby writers with a love for the trashier side of fantasy and horror....)

What's missing in this picture?

Can you solve the first-ever Cinema Steve brain-teaser? It's fun for the whole family!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: Special Ramadan Edition

In recognition of the Holy Month of Ramadan, I will refrain this week from posting pictures of dangerous, immodest, earthquake-causing women. Sources tell me that the all-wise, all-knowing Imam of Imams Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who revealed to us the danger women prose to the world when he said "Many women who do not dress modestly ... spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," is concerned that my efforts to spread his word might in itself be causing earthquakes.

So, to make sure that the most holy and wise of the Imams can have a restful Ramadan, I am skipping this week's case study in favor of showing pictures of properly modest women (and others) in burkas.

First up, a properly modest woman showing that it IS possible for a fanatical Muslim to also be a patriotic American. Can anyone reading this say that they have ever wrapped themselves more thoroughly in the flag than Aisha Khan here? (I think that's Aisha under there. It could be her brother Ali... he likes to dress in women's clothing.)

These burkas will be on sale at the gift shop when the Cordoba House mosque opens in lower Manhattan, a clear demonstration that the effort is not a giant "fuck you" to the United States of America.

Speaking of Ali, this is definately him, enjoying himself in one of Aisha's burkas. It is said that a cross-dressing man isn't necessarily a homosexual. This is not the case in Islamic society, however. Hamas, al-Qaida, Fatah, and other Muslim-based terrorist groups are comprised mostly of homosexuals, and those who cross-dress are the biggest queers of them all. Before missions of suicide bombings and murders, it is a tradition--one that reportedly goes all the way back to Mohammed--for the Lions of Islam to ass-rape one another while screaming "Alluh Akbar!" as loud as they can. But only after the moon has risen during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

By way of contrast, here's Paris Hilton--presenting herself as modest as she ever gets--surrounded by properly modest women. None of these women caused earthquakes on the day this picture was taken, but only the Grand Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi knows if Hilton was wearing the wrong hair.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hits and Misses from 'The Expendables'

With Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" emerging from the weekend as a certified hit, my Watching the Detectives blog will focus entirely on past movies of the film's featured players between August 16 and August 20.

This post indexes those reviews, as well as any others that have already appeared on the review blogs of Cinema Steve. Although focused around a group of actors, the selection follows the random grab-bag approach that is the standard around here. If you have any reviews you'd like me to link to, please email me here.

The Expendables: A Retrospective of Mayhem and Violence



Sylvester Stallone (Expendables Character: Ross)
Over the Top, 1987 (Cinema Steve, 3/10)
Cliffhanger, 1993 (Watching the Detectives, 8/10)
Demolition Man, 1993 (Watching the Detectives, 7/10)
Eye See You, 2002 (Watching the Detectives, 4/10)

Jason Statham (Expendables Character: Christmas)
The Transporter, 2002 (Watching the Detectives, 6/10)
Transporter 2, 2005 (Watching the Detectives, 8/10)
Crank, 2006 (Watching the Detectives, 5/10)
War, 2007 (Watching the Detectives, 4/10)
The Bank Job, 2008 (Watching the Detectives, 7/10)
Death Race, 2008 (The Universal Horror Archive, 5/10)
Transporter 3, 2008 (Watching the Detectives, 5/10)
Crank 2: High Voltage, 2009 (Movies You Should [Die Before You] See, 1/10)

Jet Li (Expendables Character: Yang)
The Bodyguard from Beijing, 1994 (Watching the Detectives, 4/10)
War, 2007 (Watching the Detectives, 4/10)

Dolph Lundgren (Expendables Character: Gunner)
The Russian Specialist, 2005 (Watching the Detectives, 7/10)
Command Performance, 2009 (Watching the Detectives, 7/10)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Expendables Character: Trench)
The Villain, 1979 (Cinema Steve, 8/10)
Predator, 1987 (Terror Titans, 10/10)
Red Heat, 1988 (Watching the Detectives, 9/10)
Last Action Hero, 1996 (Watching the Detectives, 8/10)
Jingle All the Way, 1996 (Cinema Steve, 6/10)
End of Days, 1999 (Terror Titans, 6/10)

Bruce Willis (Expendables Character: Church)
Moonlighting: The Pilot Episode, 1985 (Watching the Detectives, 7/10)
Die Hard, 1988 (Watching the Detectives, 9/10)
The Last Boy Scout, 1991 (Watching the Detectives, 6/10)
The Whole Nine Yards, 2000 (Watching the Detectives, 8/10)
The Whole Ten Yards, 2004 (Watching the Detectives, 4/10)
Hostage, 2005 (Watching the Detectives, 8/10)
16 Blocks, 2006 (Watching the Detectives, 6/10)
Lucky Number Slevin, 2006 (Watching the Detectives, 8/10)
Perfect Stranger, 2007 (Watching the Detectives, 3/10)

Mike Oldfield and the Moonlight Shadows

Here are some videos for and covers of one of the best songs from the great Mike Oldfield. Although his past two releases have disappointed me, I hold out hope that he will rediscover the creative well-spring that brought the world "Hergest Ridge," "Ommadawn, "Five Miles Out," "Crisis," "Discovery," and numerous other great musical works.

First, here's the original video for the original single version of "Moonlight Shadow." Part of it seems to work contrary to the dark nature of the song, but overall the music and the visuals compliment each other nicely.



Here's a remix of the song by Italian producer and DJ Gigi D'Agostino. More often than not, remixes are inferior to the original song as they stretch it out and dilute it, sapping the life from even the greatest of music. Not so with this effort. D'Agostino brings a freshness to "Moonlight Shadow" that is worthy of the original.


Here's a cover by Aselin Debison set to a homemade video by a YouTuber. Not a bad cover, with a Celtic flavor that I think Oldfield would appreciate.


Polish metal band Pathfinder covered "Moonlight Shadow," providing us with a version so overblown it seems like a parody. Still, the durability of this great song is evident, and you'll be entertained. (I don't know if you'll be as amused as I was, but I hope so.)


Finnish speed metal band Deathlike Silence slowed down a bit when they covered "Moonlight Shadow." It's not a bad version, but they made the mistake of replacing the guitar solo bridge from the original song with some mess of their own creation.



Here's a techno version of the song by E-Rotic. It's apparently very popular with anime fans--there are literally dozens of different YouTube videos featuring this version with everything from anime stills to clips from computer games or anime used as visuals. Of the ones I checked out, I liked this one the best. It uses footage from "Vampire Hunter D."


Finally, bringing us full circle, we have Mike Oldfield's original song again, this time set to clips from the Dr. Who episode where Billie Piper's character Rose got stranded in an alternate universe. If you didn't know better, you might the music and the visuals were created to go together.


Fun Fact: Mike Oldfield has explained that the song was inspired by the movie "Houdini," starring Tony Curtis.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A week of 'The Expendables', August 16-20

In celebration of the successful premiere of Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables", I am devoting the week of August 16-20 at Watching the Detectives to reviews of films featuring its stars.

If any blogger out there would like to join in, I'll link to your post. I am also willing to post links to older reviews or articles you've written about Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, or any other featured player in "The Expendables." Please drop me a line at stevemillermail@gmail.com.

Tin foil hats DO work against mind control!

They Came From Beyond Space (1981)
Starring: Robert Hutton, Jennifer Jayne, and Michael Gough
Director: Freddie Francis
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A group of scientists researching a strange group of meteors fall prey to alien mind-control. They swiftly start spreading their domination to others, as well as start spreading a deadly plague. When they try to dominate astrophysicist Dr. Curtis Temple (Hutton), the metal plate in his head protects him. He launches a one-man battle to figure out what the aliens are up to, and how they can be stopped.


"They Came From Beyond Space" is a sci-fi movie in the "invisible invasion" mode that's got an okay cast and all the components of a great sci-fi thriller, but the stew never quite reaches a boil. The best moments of the film are the unintentional comedic moments, such as when Dr. Temple and a colleague literally create tin-foil hats for protection from the alien mind control.

And aside from unintentional comedy, there's nothing else here worth commenting on. It's about as bland as a movie can be while still offering a little entertainment.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

How can you tell it's 'the wrong hair'?

Under most circumstances, I couldn't care less about Paris Hilton and her hair, but this article caught my eye.

Paris Hilton sued for wearing the wrong hair

If you don't want to waste your time reading about Hilton, she's being sued for allegedly failing to wear a particular brand of hair extensions after being paid US$3.5 million to do so.

And I am left wondering: How can the company that believes they were wronged tell Hilton was not wearing THEIR hair extensions? Do you women folk swap hair extension tips while you luxuriate in public rest rooms? Was Hilton's failure to honor her contract discovered because there is a way to tell virgin hair from non-virgin hair? (Apparently, the product Hilton agreed to lend her name and face to is made from the hair of European virgins--or so the online listing for Hairtech International products imply, as the first paragraph on this random page shows. Maybe she was busted because virgin hair would look decidedly unnatural on someone as well-used as Paris Hilton?)

Please help educate a curious bachelor whose female friends would just turn away and laugh. How can you tell if Paris Hilton is wearing the hair of a virgin in this photo from a 2008 media event held specifically to promote the Band-It hair extension product from HairTech International?



(While contemplating the mysteries of telling one brand of hair extensions from another, perhaps you would be interested in reading reviews of movies featuring Paris Hilton at Terror Titans.)

Join Jack Nicholson for a
'Ride in the Whirlwind'

Ride in the Whirlwind (1965)
Starring: Cameron Mitchell and Jack Nicholson
Director: Monte Hellman
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When three drifters cross paths with a band of desperadoes, vigilantes mistake them for members of the gang. The innocent riders are forced to become the criminals they are mistaken for in order to survive.


"Ride in the Whirlwind" is a surprisingly engaging western. I say "surprisingly", because when it comes right down to it, an awful lot of the movie is spent with characters having fairly mundane and repetitious conversations, and is populated with characters who are as unknown to the viewers when the movie ends as they were when it started. Usually, such elements are signs of a cheap movie that is choking on the padding added to stretch it to a decent run-time. In this film, however, the elements merge with the random way three possibly shady--but certainly not the bad guys they are mistaken for--men are forced down a path of violence and brutality. I suppose this movie is an illustration of how a talented director and cast can create a find movie where hacks would merely produce a pile of crap out of the same material.

I recommend this movie if you are a fan of westerns. "Ride in the Whirlwind" occupies a sort of middle ground between the "traditional" American western and the European western (best recognized through Sergio Leone's movies starring Clint Eastwood) that was transforming the genre when this film was released.

(Trivia: "Ride in the Whirlwind" was shot back-to-back with "The Shooting", another low-budget western directed by Hellman that featured much of the same cast and used the same crew and locations.)



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tectonic Tuesdays: Anna May Wong

Immodest women are nothing new, and neither is the devastation they bring... they've been causing chaos since it was just Adam and Eve. It took the wisdom of the Great Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi to realize the connection between their wicked ways and earthquakes--a connection described here--and it is this series of posts that prove he is right.

Fourteenth Case Study: Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong was not only one of early cinema's legendary great beauties, but she was also the first Asian-American movie star. Wong overcame the naked racism of early Hollywood to gain worldwide popularity with movie audiences, but she also put her body on display in sexy outfits in many of the 35 silent movies she appeared in between the years of 1919 and 1929. As a result, a 1929 earthquake off the eastern coast of Canada triggered a tsunami that left tens of thousands of residents of coastal towns homeless.


After spending a few years making movies in Europe, and making a successful transition from silent movies to talkies, Wong returned to the United States to not only use her immodest ways to inadvertently threaten the world with earthquakes, but to more directly assist the Allied effort to defeat the Japanese Imperial Army and liberate her ancestral homeland of China. In 1942, starred in two movies highlighting the brutal nature of the Japanese occupation of China. However, that same year, her cinematic displays triggered earthquakes in Guatemala and Turkey, with over 1,000 people dying in both locations.

And all because of the immodesty of Anna May Wong.

Monday, August 9, 2010

'Dream of a Warrior' is a confused mess

Dream of a Warrior (2002)
Starring: Leon Lai, Park Eun-Hye, and Lee Na-Young
Director: Park Hee-Joon
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Dean, a Soul police detective (Lai) starts having strange dreams of a beautiful girl being menaced by monsters (Eun-Hye). He is soon assigned by his superiors to help Dr. Jang, a researcher working on time travel experiments. Dean learns that the girl of his dreams is the doctor's daughter, who he, in true mad scientist fashion, used as the test subject in one of his experiments and ended up stranding her in a distant time and place. Dean is the only one who can save her, and soon he too is sent long ago and far, far away, to the world of Dillmoon where the last outpost of civilization is being menaced by evil madmen who wield second-rate computer graphics as their primary weapons!


"Dream of a Warrior" is a fantasy movie that wants to be a sci-fi film. Or maybe it's a sci-fi movie that wants to be a fantasy film. Whatever it is, it's a hodge-podge of ideas that don't mesh very well. Most of the film consists of the story of the final days of Dillmoon and the last incarnations of Lai and Eun-Park as the doomed lovers, Dean and Princess Rose.

In fact, the whole time travel concept is such a small part of what goes on that it's almost extraneous. However, add to the mix a group of cultists that appear early in the film who warn about dire consequences when Jang's experiment links our world to Dillmoon (who then never reappear, and whose predicted dire consequences never pay off), as well as the fact that Dean isn't the only character in the movie that has a counterpart on Dillmoon, and the time travel aspect goes from a ill-fitting add-on to a sword-and-sorcery fantasy film to a convoluted and ill-conceived twist.

There's an average time-travel/eternal-warrior love story that's been smashed together with an average sword-and-sorcery story in "Dream of a Warrior", but the combined total is something that's less than worthwhile. Maybe the 100-minute version that was released in Hong Kong and Korea makes more sense, but the 87-minute international version (the one I viewed) was entertaining but severely lacking in any decent pay-offs from its disparate elements.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hitting the wrong target....

So, I got tired of the Chinese spammers filling the comment sections with crap. I set comments to be moderated. Great idea, until you reject a comment you meant to accept.

To the person whose comment I rejected who ISN'T a Chinese spammer... my apologies. I clicked on the wrong button. If you feel so inclined, please post again!

The Fruit Guys

I don't watch much television when I'm at home, but there isn't much else to do sometimes when you're traveling.

And maybe it's because I'm away from home at the moment, but the Fruit of the Loom television commercials with the singing fruits are seeming funnier to me than ever before. And it got even funnier when I went to this website. (It's perhaps the goofiest way to sell underwear ever devised.)

What's more troubling than the fact I found myself laughing like a madman over guys dressed up in fruit costumes singing about underwear, is that I found the music videos and the songs more entertaining than most REAL pop songs I've also been watching recently on television.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The film of choice for a drug intervention

Zardoz (1974)
Starring: Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sarah Kestleton and John Alderton
Director: John Boorman
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

In the distant future,the intellectually curious (yet violent) barbarian Zed (Connery) hides in the floating head of his tribe's god Zardoz and ends up being brought to a Utopian land of immortals who have developed telepathy but lost all passion for life. Here, he may become their salvation or their destruction... or perhaps even both.


If you have a friend or family member you want to convince to stop drinking or using drugs, do this:

1. Get a copy of Zardoz.

2. Get a copy of "The Russia House" or "Hunt for Red October" or "Goldfinger", whichever Sean Connory-starring film they are most likely to want to watch.

3. Put the copy of "Zardoz" in the other movie's box.

4. Next time the friend or family member is blitzed, sit down to watch the movie with them. Show them the box when they ask "what is this shit?" or "why is James Bond wearing pirate boots and a diaper?" or "why is that giant floating head vomiting guns and shouting about penises?" or "why are those old people doing ballroom dancing?" or "why is James Bond pulling Clay Aiken in a rickshaw while wearing nothing but red man-panties?" and say you don't know what they're talking about and make comments as if you're watching the movie the box belongs to.


5. When they stumble off or pass out, switch "Zardoz" for the real movie. Return "Zardoz" to the rental place or destroy it.

6. When your momentarily sober friend or loved one next asks about that weird movie they half-remember from the night before, insist that it doesn't exist. Put the movie that belongs in case in the player and show them what they watched.

7. The fact that they hallucinated something as unbelievably strange as "Zardoz" will scare them straight right then and there. They will be BEGGING you to enroll them in a detox program and they will never touch drugs or booze ever again. Guaranteed.


"Zardoz" is a beautifully filmed sci-fi movie that is so desperate to offer intellectually deep social commentary that it ends up coming across like a boorish grad student at a party trying to convince you of how smart he is. There are some interesting points raised about human nature and civilization, but they are presented so heavy-handedly and in such a trippy environment that you won't really be able to pay attention to them; you'll be too busy wondering how ANYONE thought this movie was a good idea, and, more specifically, how ANYONE thought featuring Sean Connery in pirate boots and a diaper was a good idea (including Sean Connery... he must have been really desperate for a paycheck in those initial post-Bond years).

Aside from curing drug addicts and alcoholics, "Zardoz" might bring a dose of startling weirdness to a Bad Movie Nite. It's not a very good movie, but there's enough here to make it worth watching if you're in the right frame of mind. It's a botched sci-fi film that exists at the crossroads between "Brave New World" and "Road Warrior" and "2001" and "Slipstream", but that crossroads is also home to a pseudo-intellectual swamp haunted by giant floating heads and patrolled by a gun-toting Sean Connery in a red diaper!



Friday, August 6, 2010

The Atom Bomb and Hiroshima

Today, it's exactly 65 years since the first atom bomb used in warfare was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.


I think it was the right decision, and I think it saved hundreds of thousands--if not millions--of American service men from dying during a bloody invasion. The survival of America and American citizens should be the top priority of our government. In 1945, America had leaders who knew that.

The military regime in control of Japan was every bit as evil as the Nazis. Japanese culture of the time promoted that the highest glory was dying for the Emperor... it was dominated by a rotten culture of death that has much in common with the ideology promoted by the various Islamic terrorist groups (and even a couple of Mid-eastern governments) today.

So, if you lean toward wringing your hands over the bombing of Hiroshima, you should remember that Japan chose to attack America first. Maybe you should also read about the way Japan murdered hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians while testing biological, chemical, and conventional weapons. Much is said about the evil Americans and their A-bomb in history classes around the world, but hardly a word--if any at all--about Unit 731. When you're done reading teary-eyed accounts of firestorms and radiation burns at Hiroshima, perhaps you can read this piece by Judith Miller about the monstrous behavior of the Japanese in occupied China.


This article about the Japanese atrocities during World War II is also worth reading. (Of course, that article also shows that even in 1940s, America could be its own worst enemy as far as propaganda wars go, as it was us that put the foundation in place that permits the ever-growing denial among the Japanese that they did anything at all wrong during WWII.)

And finally, the author of "Japan's Secret War" has this straight-forward article.

When "put in context" (to borrow a phrase that Oliver Stone has been misuing of late), dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima was the right choice. Dropping the second one was equally justified and correct.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chinese peasants give the Japs what-for!

This month, it's 65 years since the United States of America dropped two atom bombs on Japan and brought an end to World War II. This is one of several reviews I'm posting to mark the anniversary.


Blood on the Sun (aka "The Big Fight") (1972)
Starring: Roc Tien and Ching Ching Chang
Director: Ting Mei Sung
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

During the Japanese occupation of northern China during WW2, a local commander of the forces occupying a small town and its corrupt, collaborating leadership engage in a campaign of oppression and terror. When resistance fighters start appearing and successfully challenging, the Japanese stage a competition where they invite the villagers to test their fighting skills against the best of martial artists in the region's occupying force, hoping pride will draw out the rebels and allow them to be killed.


"Blood on the Sun" is nicely staged martial arts drama with thoroughly despicable, perverted villains (the Japanese troops and their Chinese collaborators harass and/or rape any woman they come across... and that's just to warm up) and brave, morally upstanding peasant heroes.

This movie is one of countless Chinese movies that portray the Japanese military as evil, perverted butchers... and given what happened in places like Nanking and in backwaters like the one portrayed in this film, it's understandable. However, it is also a great martial arts movie with some great set-piece fight scenes--like the one where the girl resistance fighter whips off her skirt and reveals it to be lined with dozens of razor-sharp metal disks and ready for use as a weapon--and better-than-average dubbing (as far as obscure 1970s martial arts flicks go).


The film will also entertain those who appreciate down-to-earth, realistic martial arts battles. The most fantastic the film even gets is when the hero throws a dagger at a Japanese soldier and kills him without even turning around to draw aim. And please don't mistake down-to-earth with boring in this case. Every single fight in this film is very dramatic and exciting. In fact, I think I this film may now rank among my favorite martial arts movies of all time.

Of course, with a movie like this, one has to just live in the moment and not consider what happens to the heroes once the film is over. Given the historical truth regarding the brutality of the Japanese Imperial Army, I doubt any of the villagers in the film would survive for long once more troops arrived and that the burning rubble of their homes would serve as their graves. The triumph at the end of this film is a fleeting one at best, and while the Japanese were ultimately defeated, uprisings such as the one in this film in reality ended badly for the rebels.

Still, "Blood on the Sun" is an entertaining and well-paced film. The only real complaint I have is with the abrupt ending, but I'm not sure if the version I saw is complete. The print used for the DVD transfer was pretty ragged in places, so I wouldn't be surprised if a few seconds were completely missing at the end. (Despite this flaw, I count this film among the many pleasant surprises that I've found in the "Martial Arts 50 Movie Pack" DVD collection.





Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tom Mankiewicz dead at 68

Tom Mankiewicz, screenwriter for three of my favorite James Bond movies--'The Man with the Golden Gun', 'Live and Let Die' and 'Diamonds Are Forever'--died this past Saturday at the age of 68. He had been battling pancreatic cancer for some time,and he passed at his Los Angeles home.

Tasty Tuesday: Chicken ala Walken

This installment of Tasty Tuesday brings a video from actor Christopher Walken. The man knows how to cook a chicken.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

'God's Gun' is flawed but worthwhile

God's Gun (aka "A Bullet From God") (1977)
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, Leif Garrett, Sybil Danning, Robert Lipton, Heinz Bernard, and Richard Boone
Director: Frank Kramer
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When the vicious outlaw Sam Clayton (Palance) and his gang murder a small-town priest (Van Cleef), the church's altar boy, Johnny (Garrett) and the priest's twin brother (also Van Cleef) set about getting revenge and stopping the outlaws in a most unusual fashion.


"God's Gun" is a dirty, grimy western in the mold of "For a Fistful of Dollars." Even the good guys are somewhat questionable when it comes to their morals, virtuous acts are tainted with blood and evil, and you can almost smell the sweat and feel the dust gritting between your teeth as the wind blows from the screen. It also features fairly convoluted storyline that rivals those found in more famous westerns from the same period, and while there aren't any developments that are particularly surprising to viewers paying attention or who are well-versed in the western genre, the twists and turns of the plot are well executed.

The film also features some fine acting from Lee Van Cleef, who plays the dual role of twin brothers who are retired gunslingers. One has become a priest, the other a rancher just across the border with Mexico,but both have sworn off violence and have committed themselves to lives of peace. It's rare that we get to see Van Cleef actually act in a film--beyond his usual "I Can Stare At You And You'll Drop Dead"-type characters--and to see him in in an almost Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque role is pretty cool. (As the priest, Father John, he is attempting to mold young Johnny into a responsible adult. Even as Lewis, the gunslinger-turned-rancher, he attempts to direct Johnny away from a life of violence.)

Another remarkable part of the film is Jack Palance. Although he once again is playing a psycho--and a psycho who is so far around the bend that the quiet menace that so often hangs around Palance's characters is all but dispelled by naked brutality--he is fun to watch as he brutalizes everyone from townsfolk to the members of his own gang. His idea of family values is also creepy, or unintentionally hilarious, as his idea of getting to know the son he never knew had in the second half of the movie is to bellow, "Come out here, or I'll kill your mother!"

Speaking of Sam Clayton's son, Leif Garrett does an okay job, but he's like most child actors... in some scenes, he overacts slightly while in others he barely seems to be running lines. He's not exactly bad, but he's not exactly good either.

Every other actor in the film is decent enough, but they aren't portraying characters so much as they're just filling the shoes of figures that populate any western (the druken sheriff, the cowardly townsfolk, the plucky saloon girls, the sleazy bandits, and so on). None of them detract from their place in the scenery, so they're all good. (Although a few of the bandits get to shine a bit during the gang-rape scene in the saloon, and durning the sequence when Johnny and Lewis are executing their unusual revenge scheme against the Clayton Gang),

Despite all its good points, the film suffers from a lack of moral focus. The writer and director seem to want to give Sam Clayton an eleventh hour redemption after he discovers Johnny is his son, but the character's actions--and Palance's portrayal of him--have been so repulsive and over the top that there is absolutely no way that any amount of speeches about how he now just wants to raise his son in peace will win viewers onto his side, nor make us believe that even Clayton himself believes what he is saying. So, while Clayton's ultimate end has a degree of irony to it, the climax of the film is undermined by the way the filmmakers suddenly seem to desire to invoke sympathy for him. This weakness in the ending is what keeps this movie from rating any higher than average.

"God's Gun" is an undeservedly obscure entry in the Spaghetti Western canon (and I'm using the term loosely here, as it was actually shot in Israel and produced by the Israeli team of Golan-Globus) that fans of the western genre should check out. It may be a tad too confused about its own moral viewpoint, but it's still worth seeing.