Friday, March 31, 2006
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's baddie is Leatherface.

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The Saw Is Family, yo.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Memoirs of a Geisha
So, I finally got to see this film yesterday. It was amazing, every bit as great as the book. But it's late, and I kind of have a headache, plus I'm lazy, and about a dozen other excuses for not writing a proper review.

But I won't leave you empty-handed. Here's Bobby Lee's parody of it from Mad TV. Damn funny.

Saturday, March 25, 2006
M comments on our recent films

As V mentioned, I had the opportunity of watching several films we’d wanted to see together for a while. I always love seeing good films again with someone else – in a way it’s like seeing it yourself partly for the first time again, as you judge everything against what you think they’ll think and watch for their reactions to bits that affected you…


First up, Narnia was excellent. I keep hearing that this (and the books) is some ultra Christian allegory, which is not how I remember the books I read as a kid – I just remember awesome fights with mythological creatures and a timeless and emotive story, which the film pretty much was. By sticking to the books and using modern effects they pretty much couldn’t go wrong. I always thought Mr. Tumnus was creepy (especially in the old animated film) and he’s about as creepy here too! V mentioned a point about the wartime background as an allegory rather than the Christian motif and I can see her point particularly when watching the film. Roll on the sequels!


Hostel was probably the best real ‘horror’ film I’ve seen in years. OK, this was probably the most disturbing cinema experience I’ve ever had. (As films go, not audiences). I am used to extremely gory films not intended for general viewing in cinemas or video.

Firstly, V and myself were big fans of Cabin Fever, being more of an ‘Evil Dead’ style homage with broad comedy mixed with some sick but ultimately cartoonish gore. There were hints in Cabin Fever that Eli Roth was a more hardcore horror fan – particularly the use of music from ‘Last House on the Left’ as a subtle acknowledgement. In this film, those hints are realised, with almost a ‘Last House on the Left’ for the new millennium.

This film is played commendably dead straight with only the very slightest and blackest of humour. It truly grabs the sick, relentless, grimy, dirty and uncomfortable feel of ‘Last House on the Left’ and puts it squarely and cleverly into a modern setting.

What is scary to me in the film is the sheer and utterly unadulterated, pitiless, perverse, brutal and inevitably believable violence inflicted on human beings by other human beings for nothing but pleasure. Not only does this film show torture at its bleakest and most visceral, it incorporates it into a believable and well-made film structure that makes you ultimately care about the portrayed characters suffering, compounding the horror.

There is the bleakest of humour, so bleak that even the most hardcore horror fan might wonder if it was intentional, even after Cabin Fever’s fun. For instance, a character tries constantly, pointlessly but utterly understandably to retrieve his fingers that were lost while being transported to a butcher’s block and ultimately an incinerator in a scene that reminded me a lot of the unforgettable disposal of bodies by a concentration camp employee in Men Behind the Sun – a film depicting Japanese war crimes – not exactly light hearted humour?

What makes the film so good is that it’s entirely capably filmed with not the slightest inkling of anything less than professionalism and talent. The characters are well established; the plot cleverly plays urban myths and popular news scare stories- i.e. what scares us. Saw, Dawn of the Dead etc. may have gore and violence but in an ultimately fantastical way. Hostel portrays infinitely more disturbing scenes in a manner that you imagine is really happening somewhere in some form, it’s the portrayal of the true evil extent of human beings, even from the callous minor characters, from the knowing girls that use sex to hook the victims to the critically independent blank and brutalised street urchins that only know the rule of survival on the street.

V and I disagreed a little about the film. V thought the torture was unrealistic and unnecessarily graphic at times. V also thought the street urchins (watch the film) were maybe more evil than the torturers and torture guards. I’d have to really disagree with both counts. I think we were both quite affected by the film though (maybe I was more)

For my money this is a real classic of modern horror and almost makes me afraid of what might follow! I’m also sure that the music in one scene was an appropriate ditty from the Wicker Man.

As an afterword, The Daily Mail (extremely right wing, knee jerk newspaper in the UK) vilified this film as they do with almost any horror film and blamed it for influencing criminals for the last year when it wasn't released (ho hum) with a 'review' that laughably intimated that the film was anti-gay because a 'middle aged Dutch business-man' had the film's 'bloodiest death' for daring to put his hand on the leg of one of the main characters. If they had watched the film they'd have seen that the other deaths (that they complained extensively about) were far bloodier and that the 'Dutch' man in question was very obviously in the film one of the torturers. They actually pay people to review these films as a career...

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek was a quite surprising low budget hit and a really good horror film. I thought it had more in common with Open Water than a low budget. For a start they are both high profile recent Australian films involving foreign tourists and supposedly based on a true story – apply that to as many films as you can! Second they both inevitably involve the threat of the eerie natural wilderness of Australia (see ‘Long Weekend’). Thirdly it involves characters that I was sure V would surely hate as much as the struggling couple that put her off Deep Water where I thought the people acted realistically in the circumstances and timeframe.

V has a definite point about the way these things can happen in real life. A threat didn’t even occur to me when we broke down on the highway. See in England there aren’t any ‘wilderness’ areas. I had to run along the side of the highway for several miles until I hit civilization and then call ANY place that could help us. It never occurred to me that Bozo with his poodle was anything other than a moron who happened to know the only tyre place in reach. That’s how these things happen though…ugh. I’ll know better next time… maybe. To me the tyre man seemed as normal as many of the other people I’d seen there!

Back to the film, it was as grim as hell and told a very basic and brutal story. I doubt it had much to do at all with the 'true story' oft quoted in the advertising. I did read up about the 'real' case which sounded nothing like this film but was possibly more disturbing as it competed with a lot of similar stories in Australia - people going missing on a large scale and torture/murder seems to be a national obsession from the articles I've read...

V for Vendetta

Now I haven't seen this yet but I've read a lot about it and V gave me the comic book for Xmas which I devoured rabidly.

What V says pretty much corresponds with what I've read about this. We were going to watch this WAY back last year but the film was postponed...and postponed. In general I don't get why films and TV shows are not shown because they contain something contentious in the current news. For example after the NYC attack every film or TV show remotely referencing the 'twin towers' was censored while the TV showed constant newsfeeds of footage and intimate analysis for months...The thing is, V for Vendetta is exactly ABOUT this contention and social control through the media - kind of ironic.

The film sounds awfully watered down. As the whole purpose of the comic book was at least contesting the definition of terrorism and portraying the weak will/stupidity of the voting majority and their control by the goverment and it's financial backers it should be very timely.

The comic book was written from a very 1980's viewpoint, when cold war was still rampant and the thought of Thatcher being ousted by a 'caring' government was on the horizon. I think we're now a lot wiser about the 'cold war' and the 'alternatives' of the 80's governments.

I do want to see this but I anticipate another 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' style mediocre film. For my money 'From Hell' was a pretty decent adaption of a comic book that went into minutely researched historical detail, every bit of which was intelligently and artistically put onto the page. I'm glad to hear the most moving part of the book is present where Evey is incarcerated in a concentration camp with a hidden letter from a lesbian inmate. I'm less glad to hear about the dumbing down and cleaning up of all the characters and a ludicrous ending.

I still wanna see it though!

Friday, March 24, 2006
M needs a stern talking-to
I see M has decided to exploit my profound hatred of the word "pant" in his choice of baddie. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect he was deliberately trying to annoy me.

Seriously, though, "pant" is one of those words that curdles my blood. It is not "a pant". It is "a pair of pants", or just simply "pants". FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PANTS! NOT PANT!


That model might not look half as weird if her waistband weren't halfway up her ribcage. This is an observation that I have made.
More Friday Baddie blogging

I’m so impressed by V’s hard work on this blog lately that I am inspired! I’m gonna start a paper-round right now! In the meantime, here's a Friday baddie especially for V :P

I particularly like the specialist pregnant figure displayed in this advert for a 'Pant' sale..
Wow, who'd have thought it: MySpace is actually good for something
Just when I thought MySpace was nothing but the official world headquarters for illiterate teenagers and surly emo kids, they've gone and made the new Morrissey album available in its entirety before the actual release date. Then again, I guess that caters right to the surly emo kids, doesn't it. I'd worry that my enthusiasm for Morrissey makes me emo, but I don't have a stupid haircut so I think I'm safe.

You can't download it or skip through tracks or anything, you have to just sit and listen to it straight through on their website. But I have it going in the background right now and I'm telling you, it's pretty awesome. Morrissey has never made a disappointing album. If you're curious, you can listen here.
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's baddie is the house from The Amityville Horror.

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Even though they've admitted it was all a hoax, I still don't think I'd spend the night there. Or invite any priests or nuns over for tea.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Codename V reviews a very good film that you've never heard of
In which V has seen a rather obscure film and has found it to be quality.

I rented this film Evilenko because a number of things caught my eye. Firstly, it's (sort of) a true crime kind of thing, and I like those. Secondly, it stars Malcom McDowell, and while most people probably wouldn't consider that a real plus, I think he usually gives interesting performances. Thirdly, Angelo Badalamenti did the score.

I say it's only sort of a true crime story because it's mostly fiction, only loosely based on the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo. I won't get into his story, that's what the Wikipedia link is for. I set my expectations for this pretty low, because direct-to-video films you've never heard of are nearly always crap. Evilenko was quite a surprise.

The cinematography in this film was excellent. Several of the scenes were very dreamlike and definitely had a David Lynch sort of quality about them. Particularly the opening and closing scenes I found to be both morbidly beautiful and haunting. From the first ten seconds of the film, it's easy to identify Evilenko as a depraved monster. Nearly all of the actual violence happens off-screen, but I found Malcom McDowell's performance to be extremely dark and predatory. He very effectively made me feel fear for his victims, and I got this sick, knotted-up feeling a few times throughout the film.

Plotwise, this has a lot to offer. Evilenko is pretty screwed up about the decline of Communism (did I mention this was set in mid-80s Russia? Read your Wikipedia article). He has problems at work. He has problems with sex. Killing little kids (and sometimes young women) becomes his outlet. Meanwhile the police are looking for him along with a reluctant psychoanalyst. There are more than a few scenes that are uncomfortable to watch, most notably Evilenko's very unconventional interrogation by an obsessed police officer. I watch a lot (I mean, a lot, people) of these kinds of films, and this is one of the few that left me feeling kind of dirty and ill afterwards. And that's exactly the effect I think certain films should have on you. Given the subject matter and the grim realism in the film, I defy any sane person to watch this and not feel a bit defiled by it.

I strongly recommend this. I'm sure it must have been low-budget, but the production values were stellar and the overall look of the film was not at all cheap. Oh, one other thing for the Badalamenti fans... there's a theme song to this film with vocals by the chick from The Cranberries (Dolores something? O'Ridoran?) and it's very reminiscent of Julee Cruise's songs from Twin Peaks. Very reminsiscent indeed.

I've rambled enough, just add this to your list of films to see. Trust me.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Adventures in G-Mail Spam
So I have this G-Mail account, and it seems to be a magnet for weird spam. By "weird spam" I mean "stuff that could almost pass as bizarre hipster beat poetry." See for yourselves, cool cats.

First up we have a remarkable composition from Tanesha Rosenda. It's called XP PRO, OFFICE 2003 AND ALL AT ONLY $12-60 EACH, WE GIVE U LICENSE similar
sandwich development promised supposedto. beautiful off edge we letters? motor steps a black.
similar rich she teach wife.
music allow love did why whom. music fire whom?
news being promised off immediate side,
mentioned reading how news pride off.

(insert appreciative finger-snapping here)

Next is the profoundly melancholy SAD TO HAVE SHORT D1CCK, BIGGER 2" NOW AT LOW filled, by Lou Wendi.
speaking tying again?
news across immediate next back. bad pride raise fascinate happened thus. immediate pretty find happened evening.
studied again sugar human you here? pretty parents find again development hard.
wife not we young similar wrong. teach evening already wrong.
companion embarrass thats reply.

It's amazing how accurately Lou Wendi captures the nature of mankind's existential struggle.

Let's close out tonight's Mega Bohemian Poetry Slam with a well-crafted piece about longing, written by Monika Dorie. It's called purpose CHEAAP PRIICE C1AALIS, \/1AGGRA, XANNAX, LEVITTRA, VAL1UUM, ULTRAAM, MER1D1A somewhere
money a reference out letters is? across edge black thus across. studied drew filled slow gym we,
wrong across evening light?
suddenly beautiful why parents.
he filled fascinate commit wanted motor? very we corner.
off suddenly corner thus?

Now that's what I'm talking about, Daddy-O. It's just like the title says, 'purpose somewhere'. But where? What happened in the slow gym? Why parents? For what reason did he want that motor? I am moved. I am moved to tears, to agony, moved to suddenly corner thus. If you don't get it, you're such a square.

Later, all you cool cats and kittens. Stay hip.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Random Monday Freakshow
Click here to see... um...

I don't really know how to explain this one. A Japanese woman is wearing a cuddly toy seal as a hat. She just about craps her pants because she seems to think this polar bear can break through several inches of strong (and no doubt bear-proof) glass.

This raises some serious philosophical questions. Like, (1) wouldn't a polar bear be able to tell the difference between a real seal and a cuddly toy seal stuck to the top of someone's head? And (2) WTF?
Sunday, March 19, 2006
V on V
Okay, so. Being the geek that I am, I went to see V For Vendetta this past Friday afternoon. I went to the first show of the day, because I couldn't possibly wait any longer - this film has been postponed at least once, due to (if memory serves) the train bombings in London this past summer.

For the benefit of those not in the know, V For Vendetta is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore. For the further benefit of those with no cultural awareness, Mr. Moore has written some of the best and most influential graphic novels of all time. OF ALL TIME, people. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I suggest you run out and acquaint yourself with From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Watchmen (which is quite possibly singularly responsible for changing the face of superhero comics). But I digress. The man is a genius and a true master of his craft.

He's also a complete lunatic. You won't see his name associated with this film - it's conspicuously absent from the credits of this film, and will be absent from the credits of ANY future films based on work he published with DC comics. He's been ranting for years about how he was raped by Hollywood and DC is the devil and he's been cheated and used, etc etc. I used to assume this was because most films thus far based on his work have been crap. Okay, that's not fair - they weren't crap. They were quite good, really. From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were both well made and completely entertaining, as was Constantine (based on a character Moore created). Good films, sure... but they bore little if any resemblance to the original books. So I always kind of figured that Alan Moore was pissed off at the loss of his artistic integrity. You spend your life creating these wonderful stories and amazing characters, crafting messages with depth and philosophy and whatnot. From Hell had footnotes, FFS. And then the film comes out, and it's all been cut down and re-written and Heather Graham is playing a whore (quelle surprise) whose fake British accent keeps changing every ten seconds. I can certainly see how one might feel raped by Hollywood under such circumstances.

But then recently I read an article that pretty much said he was pissed off because he wasn't getting paid what he thought he was worth. Forget artistic integrity, do what you want with the work, the characters, Heather Graham. Just show him the money.

So, I lost a little bit of respect for an idol there, but so what. He's still a genius mastermind, and if you haven't read V For Vendetta yet, I really wish you would. And I wish you'd read it BEFORE you see the film. Here's why:

The comic is a brilliant Orwellian drama. V is a vigilante madman, desperate to reclaim society from the grasp of a totalitarian government. In the comic, the government is portrayed via the use of an analogy that gives it human characteristics. The government has a brain, a voice, hands. It's a creepy narrative device, and it's one of the things that sets this story apart from other 1984 clones. The heroine (if you want to call her that), Evey Hammond, is about to turn to prostitution having hit rock bottom. The people are oppressed. Concentration camps exist, experiments are carried out. Everything is bleak, and V is dead set on revolution.

The film, while enjoyable, makes a lot of changes to the core plot. Evey Hammond is far from being a prostitute, she seems to have a pretty cushy (if thankless) job at a television station. The people aren't oppressed, unless you call sitting around in middle-class homes watching television all day "being oppressed". The only real sign of government control is an enforced curfew. The creepy dictator only ever appears on a gigantic TV screen, as is required for every film ever made about an Orwellian society (see also: 1984, Equilibrium, and I think maybe possibly Freejack? But it's been years since I saw Freejack, and for good reason).

The underlying message of the comic is still present in the film, at a very basic level. I was telling M the other day... the average American moviegoer is maybe kind of stupid (sorry, fellow Americans, it's true. I present as evidence the success of Larry the Cable Guy). It takes a certain degree of intelligence - both book smarts AND social awareness - to fully appreciate something with the kind of political and philosophical foundations found in the graphic novel. They really had to dumb that stuff down, or I think the average person might get a bit bored.

I know that sounds harsh, and I guess it seems like I'm selling my fellow humans short. But honestly... deep down you know I have a point. See also: The Fast And The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and the forthcoming The Fast And The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift for examples of what the average American has the mental capacity for.

I'm rambling a bit. In summary: this film isn't complete crap. But it didn't impress me half as much as the comic did, either. And despite glossing over some serious issues, it did successfully raise some provoking questions like "just how do we define terrorism, anyway?" In the current socio-political climate, I think "terrorist" is a word that gets severely abused. But you have to figure that out for yourself.

So yeah, sure, go watch this film. I guess you have my permission.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
A few words on films seen with M
So, M was here for a couple of weeks, and we saw a few films. Not as many as we usually see, but that's because the pickings were pretty slim.

First we saw Narnia, which I'd already seen but M hadn't. If memory serves, this made my list of the top 5 films of 2005, so I won't get into it again. But maybe M will have some observations.

Also we saw Hostel. I'd already seen this one as well, but totally didn't mind seeing it again for M's benefit. I can't remember whether I wrote about this when I saw it. The first time I saw it, I have to say I was pretty disappointed. It had been built up as a very brutal film, and the premise was indeed gruesome. But... I don't know, I can't explain it, it just seemed kind of flat to me.

Seeing it with M, I was slightly more impressed the second time around. Still, I don't think it was as great as it had the potential to be. Without giving too much of the plot away, I'll say this: it was like watching two films. The first half or so was a great psychological thriller which I found genuinely very creepy. The second half was just violence on top of violence. There were some specific elements of that violence which I found to be kind of cartoonish and over-the-top. I honestly couldn't work out whether it was meant to be black humor, or serious, or just gross for the sake of being gross. I think I'd rather see more of the psychological thriller, really. It was far scarier when they were hinting at what might be happening, rather than when they showed in explicit (and I have to say, sometimes ridiculous) detail what was happening.

M was far more affected by this film than I was. He brought up a lot of very good points regarding human trafficking and travelling to strange places. I hope he reviews it for y'all, as it's always interesting to get different viewpoints.

The other film we saw was Wolf Creek which M had seen but I hadn't. Before we saw it, he kept comparing it to Open Water, which I didn't really get into. He wasn't sure if I'd like Wolf Creek at all. It was a lot like Open Water, in that it took more of a documentary approach to the story. It's hard to explain... it was a lot more character driven than the avearage horror film. You really were able to get into the heads of the characters and understand their personalities and motivations.

Wolf Creek scared the crap out of me, and I'll tell you why: because that stuff can happen.

You've got three friends driving across the Australian Outback to see a crater. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and they have to rely on the kindness of a stranger who offers to tow them to safety and repair their car. Once he gets them back to his camp, he turns out to be totally psycho. Much torture-kill follows.

Here's a true story: last year, M and I were driving along and I got a flat tire. This was before I was smart enough to get a cell phone. M went off on foot to locate a pay phone, and eventually a tow truck was summoned. This bizarre hillbilly Deliverance type man put us in the tow truck and drove us back to his garage. From then, lots of things happened very quickly. It seemed to be instantly agreed that M would accompany the man to an ATM and a tire shop. There was only room for one passenger, and I ended up being locked inside the man's garage with only a small poodle for company. The poodle really gave the situation that whole "it puts the lotion in the basket" kind of atmosphere.

About two seconds after they left, I realized: hey, I'm locked in a strange Deliverance man's garage. He's separated me from M. It's hard to explain, but the situation just felt wrong. He could be out killing M right now, and then come back to finish me off. I panic. Really. I start looking around for evidence that he's kept or killed people in his garage before. It starts getting dark. Another man appears, beats on the locked door with a crowbar. Demands to be let in. I'm near tears. I realize I'm going to die in that garage, and nobody knows where I am or where I was headed.

Of course, the odds of crazy Deliverance tow truck driver being a torture-kill psycho are incredibly slim. He really did take M to get a tire, and the crowbar man turned out to be some random guy who needed his own tire changed. But my point is: it could have gone the other way. I've watched hundreds of horror films wherein people end up in these situations, and I think "how could they be so stupid?" But the reality is, when you're in the situation, sometimes you don't really have much choice but to trust a stranger. Things happen fast. So fast that an intelligent, level headed girl might find herself locked up somewhere before the danger impulse even has time to register.

So yeah, Wolf Creek scared me. That shit happens. Be careful out there, people. Oh, and also it was well-made film with three-dimensional characters and a compelling plot.

That's enough for now. I'm considering writing a lengthy analysis of every version of Pride and Prejudice that I've seen, but I suspect that I'm the only person who has any interest in that...
Breaking News: Codename V Emerges From Cloud of Apathy, Updates Blog
Oh hey, look at that. This blog has been around for about a year. Granted, for the past couple of months I haven't really felt motivated enough to post, but what can you do. It's just a blog, and meanwhile the real world keeps turning.

But all that is about to change, because it seems that I actually have things to say. And while I collect my thoughts for a film review, I'll leave you with the world's most incomprehensible Chinese takeaway menu. I'll have the Flower Ensign Three Braise The Squab, and a nice cool glass of The Fruit Enchants. Mmm... squab...