Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Worst. Website. Ever.
So, M is on Special Assignment in Scarborough this evening, and he sends word of what he seems to think is an intriguing amusement. He says there's a place called Terror Tower on the beach, and it promises tours of famous horror film sets.

Okay, this does sound interesting. When pressed for more detail, M describes it as a warehouse type building with garage doors. I don't know about y'all, but I'm thinking "tower" might be a misnomer.

So he tells me to Google "terror tower Scarborough", which I do. And ye gods.

First, the unsuspecting web surfer is greeted by numerous animated gifs, which were maybe fashionable circa 1998. They flash by pretty quickly, but there are a few aliens in there (the skinny big-eyed kind, not the cool Sigourney Weaver kind). There's a rather garish witch holding up the words TERROR TOWER. There's... um... what looks like Count Dracula holding up his own severed head, or maybe it's Frankenstein's head. And I think I saw Beethoven in there. I can't say. Oh, and a shitload of dinosaurs.

So once you get past that crap, you get one page with a broken image, and a list of what one can only assume are examples of the famous horror film sets you might expect to tour. But I can't think of any famous horror films which might include "bewitched graveyard" or "elevator to hell", so I'm guessing this is a colossal ripoff. But then, most beach attractions ARE colossal ripoffs.

Furthermore, their gift shop appears to carry Dracula-themed merchandise. And I mean, exclusively. Highlights: "Use a Dracula pencil as a Stake through the heart!" and "You could use a flap of Vampire skin for a bookmark...." Incidentally, their flap of vampire skin looks exactly like the bookmark M bought me from the Statue of Liberty gift shop. Be warned, America! Your souvenir bookmarks could be made of vampire skin! The consequences have yet to be seen!

Honestly, this website is way crappy. Especially considering it's the official site of what presents itself as an actual business, and not the website of some 12 year old kid on Geocities. Go see for yourselves: www.terrortower.com
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Stranger than fiction...
If Axl Rose and Tommy Hilfiger got into a fight, who would win?

Hilfiger just kept smacking me, Axl says.

Alrighty then.
Friday, May 19, 2006
The DaVinci Code: not that bad, really.
In which V. has seen The DaVinci Code and found it to be suitably entertaining.

I really don't know why this movie is getting such crappy reviews. The only explanation I can think of is, maybe it's backlash against all the hype? I don't understand the hype, either. The novel was a good novel. Nothing special, not like a groundbreaking literary masterpiece or anything. It was just... a good novel. I read it on an airplane and thought it was time well spent. And now we have the film, and really people, it's a summer blockbuster. What are you expecting? It's not Citizen Kane. If you go into this realistically hoping to see an entertaining story with a lot of style and little substance, I doubt you'll be let down.

The one problem I have with this story (both book and film) is that you've got these people out there who somehow think a work of fiction affects The Holy Gospel Of Our Dear Lord Jesus Christ. Um, yeah... last time I checked, "fiction" means "made up story". Just because a book uses real-world events or places in its narrative doesn't make the narrative itself real. It's like I told my mom the other day, we're good Southern girls, we've seen Gone With The Wind. But even though we do know for a fact that Atlanta burned, we're sane enough to understand that Scarlett O'Hara wasn't actually there.

So yeah, you get these bizarre fundamentalist crazies who think that The DaVinci Code is either (a) so totally for really real true, and that if you look at these works of art and go to these locations that were mentioned in the book, you can Uncover The Secret Mysteries Of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Which is really just stupid. Or (b) they think it's BLASPHEMY! It's DARK SIDED! AAAAAGH. This is also really just stupid. See also: Marguerite Perrin.

I live in the Bible Belt. So I suppose it was inevitable that when I got to the cinema this afternoon, there were some bizarre fundamentalist crazy protesters in the parking lot. Three of them. It was quite a small protest. Mainly all they did was wave their Bibles around and shout BLASPHEMER! AAAAAGH! at everyone who went inside the cinema. I was immediately reminded of this:

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I was tempted to throw the goat at them and hiss, but I was having a really good day and didn't want to start any bullshit with the bizarre fundamentalist crazies. They're crazies after all, and you never know what crazies might do.

So yeah. The actual film review should start right about now, shouldn't it?

As I said, I liked it. It was enjoyable. It was a most decent mystery, and the film had that super-polished flashy slick quality that huge blockbusters usually have.

The cast was stellar. I mean, dude. I will say two words to you, and they are two words that fully encapsulate the true meaning of Quality, and this is an indisputable fact. And those two words are: Jean Reno. Jean Reno is Quality. YOU CANNOT DENY THIS.

Aside from Jean Reno, there were several other actors I personally like very much. You've got Audrey Tautou (my favorite actress) from Amelie. You've got Gandalf. You've got Paul Bettany. All quality. Tom Hanks plays the same f*ing role that Tom Hanks always plays (and always seems to get all kinds of awards for). I don't really dislike Tom Hanks, I just think he's turned into one of those actors who always just plays himself. Like Jack Nicholson. For the most part, he's got that one character. In The DaVinci Code, that character happens to have a mullet. This sets him apart from Castaway (in which that character lost a whole bunch of weight) and The Green Mile (in which that character happened to be a cop). This is not to say that Tom Hanks did a bad job. Just that... it didn't really have to be Tom Hanks. He didn't bring anything particularly special to the table.

Considerably less quality: Jurgen Prochnow was in this film. Jurgen flipping Prochnow. This is a guy I most closely associate with cheesy direct-to-video sci-fi/horror. But oh well. There he was.

Overall you had mostly quality actors doing a mostly quality job. Really, you have to judge this by pop-culture standards and not by intellectual ones. I seriously doubt Dan Brown set out to change the world with his great vision. Dude. He just wrote a mystery novel that for some reason, people went all apeshit over. And that's fine. I think a lot of people are unable to accept that a film can be entertaining while having zero artistic value. And I really think that's the case here.

My mom phoned me from work because all of her co-workers were wondering if The DaVinci Code is worth seeing. And I'll tell y'all what I told them: yeah, I enjoyed it.

Even if that does make me a blasphemer. AAAAGH.
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's baddie is... me.

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I saw The DaVinci Code, which makes the Baby Jesus cry.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Yet another thing that is wrong with America
I find this appalling. Utterly appalling.

Mo. Town Denies Unmarried Couple Permit (AP, via Yahoo news)

Olivia Shelltrack and Fondrey Loving were denied an occupancy permit after moving into a home in this St. Louis suburb because they have three children and are not married.

It doesn't seem like this kind of thing should be legal. One day we're all going to wake up and realize that this has become some kind of totalitarian fascist state. For serious.
This just about sums it up...


I'm not sure if this is meant to be humourous or what, but I find it alarmingly true. I see kids like this nearly every time I go out in public. No thanks. Motherhood is one club I won't be signing up for. And by the way, if your kid is like this, please keep it away from me.
Friday, May 12, 2006
King Kong: WTF? No, I mean it. Seriously, WTF?
In which V would like her 3 hours back.

Okay, okay. In which V would like her 90 minutes back, since she watched half of this film on fast-forward.

Before I jump right into bashing this bloated train wreck of a film, let me just say a few things. Firstly, I really like Peter Jackson. He's made some truly amazing films, especially the films he made with zero budget and homemade special effects. And I liked the LOTR trilogy. He really did that justice, and it made him boatloads of money and won him some important awards and generally put him on the map as a respected director. So, what's a guy do when he suddenly has an astronomical budget and carte blanche to make just about any film he wants to make?

He remakes something. WHY? Why is it that a filmmaker with genuine talent and vision chooses to redo something old, instead of using his powers for good and giving us something new and innovative?

As if it's not bad enough to remake an older film, Mr. Jackson makes the fatal error of remaking it poorly.

Here is what I actually liked about the film:
1. Naomi Watts had pretty hair.
2. ...

To be fair, the parts of the film that actually had a plot were fairly entertaining. Out of just over 3 hours, I'd say that about 45 minutes went toward establishing and furthering the plot. The rest of the film was as follows:

1. Once the ship reaches Skull Island, there is a neverending scene of Turmoil In Stormy Waters, wherein all of the characters spend what seems like half an hour shouting out "ROCKS!!! ROCKS!!!" whilst the captain steadfastly attempts to dodge about a thousand rocks. I quickly grew bored and pressed FFWD.

2. Once the crew actually land on Skull Island, there is a neverending scene of Turmoil In Which Everyone Is Attacked By Savages. And all because Jack Black tries to give a small savage child a chocolate bar. I was unable to suspend my disbelief.

3. Next there is about 20 minutes of what I think was intended to be exposition, but just seemed like a bunch of sailors milling around and Naomi Watts looking soulfully out to sea (with pretty hair) and then Naomi Watts getting kidnapped (in the least interesting manner possible) and the sailors realize they have to go back to Skull Island to fetch her.

4. Interminable scene of savages offering Naomi Watts up as a sacrifice to Kong. They could have done this in about three minutes, really. There is much screaming and pounding on drums. I think I dozed off for about ten minutes.

5. Giant CGI monkey absconds into CGI jungle with Naomi Watts. We spend about half an hour watching him run around or fling her about. He flings her about quite a bit really, and I find myself wondering whether in real life she mightn't get brain damage or internal injuries or something. I am unable to suspend my disbelief.

6. Sailors etc. pursue. While following the trail of giant CGI monkey through CGI jungle, they rest for a bit in a CGI ravine whereby they are soon chased after by numerous CGI bronotsauruses and other, smaller CGI dinosaurs, possibly raptors. There is a positively ridiculous CGI dino stampede, and numerous people and smaller CGI creatures are crushed underfoot. This culminates in a CGI bronto pileup, with dozens of computer-generated things tripping over one another and rolling about. Even on fast-forward this lasted more than 15 minutes.

7. Naomi Watts attempts to entertain giant CGI monkey by doing vaudeville routine including tapdance and pratfalls. Monkey likes pratfalls, thumps chest. Monkey amuses self by constantly making Naomi Watts fall down. This was possibly the only genius scene in the film, but only in the sense that it was incontrovertibly lame.

I get hazy on the sequence of things here, as I think I may have dozed off (read: napped soundly) for several minutes.

8. Naomi Watts escapes and runs through CGI jungle. She runs and runs and runs and runs and runs. And then she runs some more, all on fast-forward. She encounters more CGI dinosaurs (the mean carnivorous kind) and a couple of giant nasty CGI bugs. There is an exhaustive fight between CGI monkey and CGI T-Rex. On paper this sounds indisputably cool. Yeah, on paper...

I am unable to suspend my disbelief for, like, the three dozenth time today. I mean, okay. I know that in an epic film about a giant monkey and an island full of amazing creatures, one must suspend one's disbelief. Even so, I really don't think that should extend to accepting that the human characters can escape unharmed from circumstances which would normally leave them horribly maimed (if not dead).

9. CGI Monkey has showdown with sailors, etc. on a CGI log which spans a very deep CGI ravine. Lots of monkey-growling and chest-thumping and log-shaking ensues. Numerous CGI humans fall dramatically into ravine.

10. Bottom of ravine. Humans vs. hordes of giant CGI insects, scene is of infinite length. A nervous boy who has Never Fired A Gun Before manages to shut his eyes and shoot all the giant CGI bugs off of Adrian Brody with a machine gun, without doing Adrian Brody any harm. Suspension of disbelief is becoming a full-time job. One pretty cool thing happens in this scene, though: a sailor gets his head eaten by a giant tube with teeth. It looks like one of the baddies out of the original Legend of Zelda. AWESOME. Fast Forward some more.

11. They get the girl back and there's some plot to trap the CGI monkey and she gets upset about it, because even though the CGI monkey has spent the past gazillion minutes flinging her around violently and making her fall down for his own amusement, she feels sorry for him. To be completely 100% honest, I fell asleep again around this part, and when I woke up about 10 minutes later I didn't bother to rewind to see what I'd missed. So....

12. Suddenly they're back in civilization and Jack Black has the CGI monkey all chained up and you just know no good can come of it. Also, you know he's going to get loose and climb the Empire State Building (all the while flinging the girl around violently some more). You also know how it's going to end, and so when you press "display" and see there's nearly an hour left, you think to yourself "an hour? An hour MY ASS" and so you watch the entire rest of the film on FFWD.

I swear, after I'd finished with it, I felt as if I hadn't slept in weeks. All that running around in various CGI environments gave me a headache. I can't imagine how pissed off I'd be if I'd actually spent $6 to see it in the cinema. Or if I'd even had to pay to rent it. A lot of people seem to think it's some kind of epic masterwork or some such nonsense... I just don't get it. It was the crappest film I've seen in YEARS. It was even crapper than Star Wars Episode One - and these are strong words, friends.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Where I'm From
I'm totally stealing this from my friend Lisa's journal. Her example was lovely and inspiring, and I wanted to try it for myself. I think it will be a cathartic and nostalgic kind of thing, and probably lots of fun. The directions (and another nice example) are here, if anyone else wants to have a go at it. It is much harder than it looks.

I am from all the paper I need to color my dreams upon; from 64 crayolas with a sharpener built into the box, from markers and pens and small hands covered in ink.

I am from the white house on Osage street, the one with deep grass for bare feet and a tree good for climbing and my name carved with love into the sidewalk outside.

I am from my grandmother's lillies, from her irises and roses and hydrangeas pink and blue. From sunflowers that grew much taller than the little girl who planted them with her Papa's help. From lilac trees and tulips and pecans hitting a tin roof like thunder.

I am from Cantrells and Sellars, from Rose and A.V. and a house full of encouragement.

I am from people who embrace life and live without regret.

From copperheads on the playground and that one legendary kid who did a complete 360 on the swings that one time, and everyone swore they saw but nobody remembered who it was.

I am from Right Mindfulness and an eightfold path that I barely keep one foot on. I am from evenings spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table.

I am from the Old South, from sweet tea and grits and peaches sold on the roadside.

I am from the mystic who caught wild birds. I am from a grandfather who was first an illustrator and then a soldier on a beach in France, and then my hero.

I am from the smell of honeysuckle, from lines drawn or painted or scribbled and shared. From two dollars on every birthday, from red bandanas and mismatched socks and my first pair of all-stars (that are still in my closet, twenty years later). I am from a box full of fairy tales, written and illustrated by a woman who hid them away for me to find when I was grown. I am from a jar full of soil, taken from a place on Osage street where once there was a white house.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Strange but True!
In which V shares some strange (but true!) stuff, and reviews a good film.

Today I had the pleasure of seeing An American Haunting at the cinema. I can't properly review this without giving y'all some background, so let's start way back at the beginning.

An American Haunting is based on events that by many accounts really happened in Tennessee around 1817. You might have heard about the Bell Witch; I first read about this story in high school while I was doing a term paper about Southern ghost stories. It's a freaky story, and you can learn a little about it here. The film I saw today is just one of many that have been either based directly on or inspired by the Bell Witch (I'm pretty sure The Blair Witch Project took a lot of points from it). Whether or not you'll find this film effective really comes down to one thing:

Are you open to the possibility that weird things happen?

I'm not saying that weird things are necessarily supernatural. For example, I suffer from a couple of common sleep disorders - night terrors, accompanied by sleep paralysis. When I have these night terrors, I have the sensation of being awake in bed, and I see terrible things around me. Things like corpses, ghosts. They touch me, levitate me, slap me, hit me, pull the covers away. And thanks to the sleep paralysis, I can't fight back. Now, of course these things aren't really happening - they're part of my nightmare. But it's certainly not an average nightmare, and it certainly does seem real enough until I do wake up. It's genuinely very creepy, and anyone who has serious night terrors will tell you just how real they feel.

On the other hand, I'm not saying that weird things necessarily are not supernatural. I'm willing to bet that nearly every single one of us has, at some point in our lives, experienced something really damned weird that we have no logical explanation for. We weren't dreaming. It wasn't the wind. It wasn't our imagination. Something weird happened, and we can't reason it away. I bet this has happened to even the most skeptical of you.

Getting slightly off track here, but not really, I'd like to mention another recent film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The brilliant thing about this film was, it looks at both sides of the demonic possession issue. It shows you the religious point of view, with evidence that Emily Rose did indeed suffer from demonic possession, etc etc, all the stuff you've seen in a dozen films like The Exorcist. But then, it shows you how possession can be explained away with more 'normal' concepts like epilepsy or mental illness. That film didn't take sides. It made both cases and let the viewer decide.

An American Haunting is similar. It lets you know that the film is based on real, documented events. It also lets you know that the Bell Witch is very much unexplained and is considered something of an unsolved mystery. At the end of the film, you get a bit of text explaining that nobody knows for sure what the Bell Witch was really all about, and that this is just one theory.

And let me tell you, it's one hell of a sinister theory. There's a framing story as well, about a family living in the present day. It wasn't until the very end of the film when I realized how the Bell Witch was affecting that family that I realized just how freaking sinister it all was.

Plot in a nutshell: You have the Bell family. The father, John Bell, does some kind of dodgy land deal which results in his breaking some arcane church law and also getting on the bad side of an unpleasant woman. This woman is reputed to be a witch, and she seems to put a curse on the family.

John Bell starts getting really sick, whilst his oldest daughter Betsy starts getting the Exorcist treatment (read: levitation, getting slapped around by invisible forces, generally tormented in bed) and also starts hallucinating a bit.

There's more, but you should read up on it - it's fascinating stuff. Anyway, the film is about these events and the family's attempts to generally stop them from happening.

I found it all to be positively creepy. When I'm watching a movie and I get really creeped out, I sit on my feet. Usually this is a matter of my temporarily lifting my feet up and sitting on them for a minute or two, until I am no longer creeped out and can put them safely back on the floor. Friends, I tell you now that I sat on my feet for the entire film. The creepiness just doesn't let up. There's one scene in particular that got to me a bit, wherein the invisible force is pulling Betsy Bell quite violently up a flight of stairs.

I was creeped out by it because I don't discount the possibility that these things truly happen. I've read a couple of reviews that say this film is boring. I suppose if you're a die-hard skeptic, it would be boring. Because really, what can you possibly get out of it? I mean, honestly... this shit happens to me in my dreams every couple of months. I can handle it because I know it isn't real. Hell, I even sort of look forward to it in a perverse kind of way. But the reason those dreams are scary is because there's a small part of my mind that thinks "hey V, what if next time it isn't just one of your night terrors? What if next time, it's for real, and you don't wake up, because THERE IS NO WAKING UP because you're already awake?"

Personally, I think that small part of the mind is normal, and it's a completely natural human reaction to have. Personally, I think you have to be a pretty severe hard-ass to be able to get through life being completely dismissive of Things Unseen. I mean, come on, it keeps life interesting.

An American Haunting flips that mental switch, and makes you face the possibility that maybe you SHOULD be scared sometimes. The fact that no clear reason is given for what happened makes it even creepier. It gives a theory, sure. But no clear reason. That small part of your brain starts telling you to watch your back, because weird shit doesn't need a reason to happen. It made me think about evil, and it made me think about fear, and it's rare that horror films actually make you think as opposed to just splashing boatloads of gore in your face for 90 minutes and then sending you on your way. So in this regard, it was extremely effective and creepy, and I applaud it for that.

Here is a strange but true factoid: I went to high school with a girl who was a direct descendant of the Bell family (her dad's name was even John). She was a total freak, but not in the way that you'd expect (she wore horn-rimmed glasses and a cape to school). We were friends for a couple of years, but she was pushy and bossy and kind of a bitch so eventually I wrote her this letter telling her what a horrible person she was and I gave it to her at lunch one day. And that was the end of that.

Here is another strange but true factoid: So today after the film was over, I went to the ladies room. I'd been to the first matinee of the day, and the rest of the place was dead empty. There were maybe two other people in the entire place (and only me in American Haunting, you try being all alone in a dark cinema watching a creepy film). But all five of the ladies room toilets had blood in them. And I don't mean, like, trace amounts. Not like "oops, five people forgot to flush their tampons". I mean, serious blood. In the toilets. In all of them. I went out and told the girl who was working the concession stand, and she went in to have a look, and she started freaking out. I decided maybe it would be a good idea to come home and use my own bathroom.

Um. Yeah, I don't think I can top that. Nothing else to say here.
Five things I totally heart this week
In which V totally hearts some stuff, and it mostly seems to be about television, therefore V wonders if she should cultivate some new hobbies...

1. Dr. Who
Although I've been aware of this show since I was a kid, I never actually saw it until very recently. It was just never on. I think when I was in high school, or maybe junior high, PBS used to show it at some insane hour like 4AM. But then last year they started up a whole new series of it. M was into it and told me a bit about it and made it sound really intriguing. So when the Sci-Fi channel started showing it here, I thought I'd give it a try. OMG it's just about the coolest thing ever. It almost kicks Star Trek TNG's ass, but nothing can really kick Star Trek TNG's ass. As far as awesome sci-fi television goes, Dr. Who is definitely way up there in the ranks!

Here is a side note about how much of a sad geek I am: I downloaded the KLF remix of the Dr. Who theme and I listen to it in the car all the time. And I put it on my little iPod to play at the gym, so when I work out I can groove to the Dr. Who theme. It really is a great theme. Really. I have never worked out to the Star Trek TNG theme, although it too is an excellent bit of music.

2. Lost
I was all pissed off at Lost for a while, because I was getting pretty sick of that whole "let's wait three weeks between new episodes" thing that they were pulling. That's just not on. It's not proper. Not when your show has a cliffhanger every frigging week and each episode picks up directly where the last left off.

And then I saw this week's episode, and I have to forgive them for everything. They can wait six weeks between episodes for all I care, if they keep this stuff coming. I can't go into details because M hasn't had a chance to see it yet (he watches on Saturdays). But I was watching, and it was great, and then in the last few minutes it was awesome to the max, and I was all WAIT!? WHAT? WTF? OMG! I was caught totally off guard to say the least. Caught off guard and shocked and my poor little mind was blown. What I really appreciated was, nothing in the previews or adverts or general online commentary even hinted at something like this happening. It was out of nowhere, and I liked that. That whole element of surprise thing, it's very effective.

M, you'd better watch this ASAP because I am bursting with ideas and theories that I can't keep to myself. It is awesome to the max! TO THE MAX, I say!!!

3. The Ghost Whisperer
I never thought I'd say this, but I am starting to really like this show. When it first started back in September, I didn't watch it at all. Then I started watching it occasionally for comedic value, because I've never liked Jennifer Love Hewitt at all. And then I realized, hey, this is actually pretty decent entertainment. And Jennifer Love Hewitt has pretty hair, and she's less irritating than she was in all those "I Continue To Know What You Did Last Summer" films. Sometimes the episodes are pretty unintentionally funny, but I'm still able to watch them without irony. And sometimes they're actually pretty creepy - like the two-part season finale about the plane crash. I'm pretty psyched to see the second part of it tonight. So Friday nights are shaping up to be damn good TV nights, what with the blessed trinity of The Ghost Whisperer, Dr. Who, and...

4. Numbers
Or Numb3rs, if you're anal. Also casually referred to as CSI: Maths, this rounds out Friday nights. I don't like maths, but I like this show. I actually find myself thinking that if maths had been made this interesting when I was in school, I might not have had to repeat algebra. But I digress. This show is about crime solving, much like CSI, but unlike CSI it gets a bit more into the everyday lives of its characters. They have friends, families, relationships... and you see how the crime/maths life affects all of that. And the characters are people you can really like, which I find rare. I find myself wanting to reach through the TV and bitch-slap most of the characters in most of the other programs, most notably everyone involved with Will and Grace or The New Adventures of Old Christine. So there.

5. The Killers
So apparently they've told the media that their new CD will be the greatest album of all time, or words to that effect. I half believe it, although they'll be hard pressed to top The Joshua Tree.
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's Baddie is a Dalek.

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