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

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Friday!

Bri Heart and Jervy Hou are celebrating with slow-burn silliness and an epic cover of "Friday"!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Herbert Lom dead at 95

The legendary actor Herbert Lom passed away in London today. He was 95. Click here to read his obit at the L.A. Times.

Although most people recognize him as Inspector Clouseau's long-suffering superior in the original "Pink Panther" movies, he actually tackled just about any role a male actor could play--from sauve leading men, to dangerous psychopathic villains... and every kind of character in between. He appeared in over 100 televisions shows and movies, and their genres were as diverse as the characters he played.

Click here to read reviews of Lom-starring films at Terror Titans--in which he played Van Helsing and the Phantom of the Opera, respectively.

Click here to read a couple of reviews of comedic mysteries featuring Lom at Watching the Detecitves--including one of his turns as Inspector Dreyfus in a "Pink Panther" film.

Monday, September 24, 2012

An average spaghetti western

Ringo: Face of Revenge (1967)
Starring: Anthony Steffan, Eduardo Fajardo, Frank Wolff, Armando Calvo, Alejandra Nilo, and Alfonso Goda
Director: Mario Caiano
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A pair of drifters (Steffan and Fajardo) save the life of a man who has half a treasure map tattooed on his back (Calvo). They join him in the hunt for the second half, which is tattooed on the back of a bandit-turned-sheriff (Goda), but the quest is complicated by a professional gambler who strong-arms himself into getting a cut of the treasure (Wolff) and greed and distrust among this band of adventurers with questionable morals.

"Ringo: Face of Revenge" is an average European-made western populated by cliched characters that are that just enough spin to them to make the proceedings interesting. As is almost always the case in these sorts of movies, the "heroes" are only slightly less villainous than the bad guys... and usually can be distinguished from them only because they don't don't pick on or kill people who didn't "have it coming" (for the most part).

The film is also fun to watch because elements that usually ruin a non-comedy like this somehow work here... like the way the entire cast except Anthony Steffan seem to be playing to the back rows, and the fact the plot only works because the characters do stupid thing after stupid thing. Instead of garnering my usual reaction of looking for something better to do with my time, the unevenness in acting and the boneheadedness of both heroes and villains alike actually made the movie more engaging,

Frank Wolff, as Tricky, was excellent as the slimiest double-crosser you've ever want to reach through the screen and punch in the face, and Eduardo Fajardo delivers one of the best comic-relief sidekick old timers that I've come across. Fajardo is even better when the comic sidekick turns dangerous and tragic toward the end of the film.

While this may not be a film worth seeking out for casual western fans, it's worth seeing if you can't get enough of spaghetti westerns, or if you're a fan of Athony Steffan or treasure-hunt stories.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Something positive from the "Muslim World"

I spend a lot of time here snarling about the murderous beasts that give decent Muslims in the "Islamic World" and across Europe and even here in the United States a bad name. I've always been very particular about only directing my hatred at terrorists and their supporters and enablers, so when something great like the events of yesterday occur--events that saw the good people of Benghazi drive out the monsters posing as men from their midst,  it's only proper that I devote some time to that as well.

The psychotic dirtbags of Ansar al-Sharia are looking for  a new home.
If you haven't read about the spectacular events that happened yesterday, click here to read an article about it from the New York Times.

You can read additional coverage and see more pictures at The Daily Mail Online.

Cars and buildings belonging to Ansar al-Sharia were set ablaze.
Wouldn't it be grand if such events could take place all across Asia and the Middle East? Wouldn't it be brilliant if there could be a true "Arab Spring"?

Here's hoping this is the start of something wonderful and not just a "blip" in the course of world events. If this had been the outcome of the "Arab Spring", I would buy the notion that the Obama Administration was doing something right with their foreign policy. Hell... if this is the beginning of something positive, I may have to reevaluate my opinion and where my vote was going to go in November..

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three cheers for 'Charlie Hebdo'

The publisher of "Charlie Hebdo" puts a lie to the common American satirical image of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." Charb, as he is known, has more fight in his left little toe than most American publishers have in their entire bodies... hell, in their entire editorial staffs.

The blood-thirsty idol-worshipers of Mohammad (as opposed to peaceful and civilized true Muslims) have had the American media running scared since 2005... so scared, in fact, that when one of their own--cartoonist Molly Norris--came under threat, anyone barely said a peep and just stood by and watched her get "disappeared."

American publications don't even dare print the Danish Mo-toons... and work so hard to ignore them that many of them don't even know they're Danish; a particularly gross CNN anchor kept referring to them as Dutch last week.

But "Charlie Hebdo" has extended a metaphorical middle finger in the direction of the bloodthirsty maniacs, the same middle finger they've offered to Catholics, Jews, and other religious and political groups that have been satirized in the magazine's pages.

Yet, they are being told from various corners that they should not mock Islam and its fabulous prophet Mohammad--they might hurt the delicate sensibilities of Muslims... not to mention the delicate sensibilities of freaks who claim they belong to "the religion of peace" while raping and murdering an American ambassador or setting fire to press clubs because they feel they're not getting enough media attention.

Even supposed defenders of free speech rights have criticized them for printing the cartoons and others, including the feckless Obama Administration have given limp defenses of freedom of expression while setting the stage for a "they were asking for it" if Charlie Hebdo's offices get firebombed again.

"One gets the impression it's okay for 'Charlie Hebdo' to criticize the Catholic extreme right, but no one is allowed to poke fun at Muslim fundamentalists," Charb told reporters.

And he's right. It's hip and edgy to make fun of Catholics and Mormons and Jews, but go after Muslims and you're a bigot or asking for trouble.

Funny thing is... most of those people who will say that Charb or Kurt Vestergaard or anyone who has the stones to actually throw some much deserved ridicule the way of Mohammad-worshipers and Muslim extremists would turn purple with rage if someone told a rape victim that she was "asking for it" because of the hooker boots and mini-skirt she was wearing during her late-night stroll through Central Park.

Publishing obnoxious cartoons of Mohammad in "Charlie Hebdo" is not 'Islamophobia' as I've already seen at least two ninnies state. No, Islamophobia is NOT publishing cartoons or doing comedy routines directed at something that is so richly deserving of mockery and contempt--the notion that Muslims and their dogmas are somehow more sacred and worthy of respect than those held by people of other religions, or even those who hold no religions.

By the way... I actually don't care for many of the Mo-toons that "Charlie Hebdo" published, so I won't be reposting most of them. Some will show up for the return of Mohammad Mondays at Shades of Gray once I translate them into English--assuming there's a point to revive that series come Monday. As I've said before, I only post Mo-toons when the bad behavior of idol-worshiping Mohammadans give me reason to. But several of those cartoons don't contain enough wit or artistry to warrant reposting, but instead are created for shock value and to offend. However, you can take a look at them here and here if you like, along with commentary from the blogs that posted them.

But just because I don't care for the "Charlie Hebdo" Mo-toons, and personally would not have printed them, doesn't mean I don't support their right to do.

Three cheers for "Charlie Hebdo" for not surrendering to fear of violently mad Mohammad cultists--and for even going so far so as to flip them the bird.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

A couple of pictures from the great Masamune Shirow to get you in the mood!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remember September 11, 2001

I've been seeing a theme in 9/11/2001 memorial postings that I've not noticed before--that we remember "accurately" what happened that day.

Great sentiment. Here's what happened, for those who need reminding:

Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airlines with the intention of flying them into buildings, murdering all passengers onboard and as many people on the ground as possible. 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. All 19 were Muslim, and they carried out their plans of mass-murder in the name of their god and prophet.

Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, one was crashed into the Pentagon, and the passengers on the fourth jet fought back against the terrorists and crashed it in a field in Pennsylvania, saving who knows how many people or historical landmarks.

The total death toll on that day was over 3,500 innocent people, and 19 monsters who walked and talked like human beings.

The word of the terrorist attacks on American soil spread around the world with the speed of light, the world reacted with a mixture of shock and celebration. The Palestinians were particularly jubilant.

So yes. Let's remember accurately what transpired on September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 7, 2012

'Supernova' is a bit of a disaster

Supernova (2005)
Starring: Luke Perry, Tia Carrere, Emma Samms, and Lance Henriksen
Director: John Harrison
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When the sun is hit by a large meteor, it stars throwing off waves of superheated plasma and magnetic storms, which cause massive devastation on Earth. But that's only a prelude to the real disaster: A brilliant astronomer has predicted that the sun will go supernova in mere weeks, destroying all life on the planet.

"Supernova" originally aired as a two-part mini-series on the Hallmark Channel. I almost didn't bother watching it, because if the disaster being faced by Earth really is a supernova then the ending is a foregone conclusion. Well, since the DVD was sitting around, I ended up watching it anyway.

Basically, it's a by-the numbers disaster movie. If you like such things, you'll probably enjoy it... if the occasional bad special effect or computer graphic doesn't bother you, and you don't mind the number of continuity gaffs sprinkled throughout the film. Or the fact that there's a disorienting disconnect between the film's stated location and the locations it was filmed at. I know cities double for other cities all the time, and that Vancouver, Canada, has been passed off as just about every major American city at one time or another, but rarely has any cinematic effort been so sloppy in trying to get viewers to believe one place is actually somewhere entirely different.

The bulk of the series supposedly takes place in and around Sydney, Australia. But the principal photography took place in and around Cape Town, South Africa. South African license plates can be seen in several shots... and famous natural scenery such as Table Mountain is front and center in several scenes. This of course accounts for the strange lack of Australians anywhere in the film, white or aboriginal.

I can't help but wonder if the series was originally set in South Africa, and that it was decided that for some reason it would work better if it was set in Australia. Whatever the rationale, if you recognize Africa for Africa while watching it, it will appear that more than one set of characters manage to drive across the ocean.

Aside from the settings gaffes, the most annoying thing in the movie revolves around the calculations used to determine that the sun is about to blow up. I can't go into details without ruining a plot-twist in the second episode, but I doubt I was the only one one saying, "Seriously?" to it.

On the acting and casting front, everything is serviceable... like the general thrust of the film, every actor is playing the sort of character we're used to seeing them play. No one stands out as particularly bad or particularly good. The only missed beat is that if you're going to put Tia Cararre in your film or series, shouldn't there be at least one scene where she's in a tight outfit or showing lots of cleavage? I thought that was some sort of cinematic rule?

Oh, and if you are attracted to "Supernova" because you're a fan of Peter Fonda, you need to know that despite his presence on the DVD cover, his role amounts to an extended cameo. Not only does his character have nothing to do with the main action of the story--his role in it is over as the movie is starting--he has no scenes with any of the main cast. I can't help but think that is time on the series was a couple of half-days.

All in all, "Supernova" is something most of you can miss without feeling your life is poorer for it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In honor of the 2012 Democratic National Convention

Sometimes I think that Peace Prize Winners shouldn't have a kill list.
But you dumped Bin Laden in the sea so maybe it's all good.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mike Oldfield: Far Above the Clouds

If you've been coming here for a while, you know I'm a big Mike Oldfield fan. His music often serves as background static for when I'm writing and as an inspiration for when I'm trying to come up with ideas.

"Far Above the Clouds" filled my head with visions of inter-stellar war, the fall of civilizations and the migration to new worlds. It was music that finally brought into focus the *true* history of a race of near-human aliens that have been a cornerstone of my long-running RPG campaign--since 1995 and counting. (It's a history that I, up to the point of listening to that track, knew was incomplete and distorted, as the distant forebearers of the modern peoples had gone to great lengths to deny their true origins as genetically engineered servants to another species. Up to that point, though, I didn't know the full truth either. But, thanks to Mike, I finally did.)

The track is from "Tubular Bells III", a disc that remains among my favorites from Oldfield and in my collection.

Here's the original, epic version.

Here's a version that contains both parts of "Far Above the Clouds"--the section that opens the "Tubular Bells III" album ("The Source of Secrets") and the grand music that closes it. I think some of the changes were not well considered, mostly where the use of the bells go, but the best parts of the song remain intact.

Here's a remix that, unlike many such dance mixes, manages to keep much of the epic quality of Oldfield's original version. The video even reflects the ideas on a cosmic scale that the song inspired in me.

Here's a fan-recorded cover of "Far Above the Clouds" that captures the essence of the piece nicely, if not the scale:

Here's a remixed version you might like, if you're into club and/or trance music. Personally, I think it waters down the impact and power of the music by stretching it too thin and repeating some of its simplest cues over and over again. The structure of the original piece is dissolved here, and the most powerful sections are gone. (Yes, I understand that was necessary to create this particular remix... but it makes me sad for those who might not experience the power of more effective versions.)