Saturday, November 27, 2010

Everything sucks

It is quite curious, and more than a little amusing, that four of my friends who started watching True Blood did so because of a girl. While my online compatriots’ warm recommendations of the show (ranging from “trashy fun” to “completely retarded but it’s got tits and gore”) were enough to pique my interest, it was, in fact, a girl who lent me her box sets of the first two seasons. So, if nothing else, this show gets you laid. Review over, good night.

Created by Six Foot Under’s Alan Ball, True Blood is what I imagine a vampire story would be like when told by an already fairly tipsy Ian McKellen. Funny, colorful, hammy, dirty, slightly decadent, over the top… in short, good times.

True Blood’s portrayal of vampires as a thinly veiled analogue for the LGBT community (to the extent that the living are referred to as “breathers” – har har) is an interesting one, as it couples the seductive otherness the vampire is usually associated with to themes of tolerance and acceptance. It was quite amusing to see extremely flamboyant short order cook Lafayette live a relatively bash-free life in a small Louisiana town like the show’s fictional Bon Temps. The few people that did get on his case were cartoonishly retarded rednecks who promptly got their asses kicked. It took the show another season for anyone to say anything homophobic again, and once more the character who did it was comically stupid. I think it’s a smart way of circumventing the barriers of some viewers who might not want to think about DEM GAYS too much and just for that, I have to applaud this silly ass show.

It also made me think of vampires in recent popular media, and how wildly different their portrayals can be. Let’s find out!



Very popular right now, thanks to Twilight and True Blood. They’re just a little different, but not different in the way those weirdos at the RPG store are. More like… sexy-different. Man, if you bagged that, all ya girls would be squinting at you like you were a Steven Seagal villain.

Examples: Edward Cullen and Bill Compton are prime examples of this category.

Oh! the decadent sleaze vampire

Shelly nor Byron could out-ennui him: the decadent sleazepire usually lives in a castle or manor and is just so – fucking – bored with all your human morals and shit. And ho ho ho, bisexual doesn’t cut it! He might as well fuck an armadillo to see what it’s like, later wiping his dick on a Vermeer, claiming the man himself was such a dreadful bore. Often, these vampires will be of frightfully European origin, embodying every blown-up caricature Joe Q. Moviegoer might mentally conjure about LEBBREL YEWREP.

Examples: Lestat, True Blood’s Eric Northman, the background assholes from Underworld, and to a somewhat lesser extent Dracula himself.

The action movie asshole villain vampire


Nothing much to say about this guy but the fact that if you de-fanged him, he might as well be a Lethal Weapon villain. He’s the boss of some organization probably, and he’s got big plans that’ll shake the vampire-world up! Usually slightly decadent, but not moreso than your standard rich mortal douchebag. Like, he might drive a Ferrari, but the interior isn’t made of albino gorilla babies.

Examples: Deacon Frost, Sam Neill’s guy in Daybreakers (pictured), the Master from Buffy.

Eeeeek! The monster vampire!


Sometimes this guy is some sort of ur-vampire, feared by the regular kind as much as humans in the know; sometimes the story’s universe simply depicts vampires as bat-themed zombies. Either way, the monster vampire wants your blood and he’s going to rip you in half trying to get it. Fuck seduction and glamour and decadence, this dude is hungry.

Examples: the reapers in Blade II (pictured), the Mexivamps in From Dusk Till Dawn, Buffy’s Turok-han, the vamps in the Will Smith version of I Am Legend, Count Orlok.

The notion of vampirism in storytelling is as old as the day is long (hort hort), so this by no means an exhaustive list. If you believe there are any glaring omissions, please tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No One Leaves Harlan Alive

Following up the first season of Gossip Girl with the first season of Justified is a bit of a culture shock, to say the least. It’s a looooong drop from the towering spires of decadent Manhattan to the woodland meth labs of ole Kentucky. For the viewer as much as protagonist Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a deputy marshal stuck in his ways somewhere right after the Civil War. Givens is “exiled” to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky after shooting a dude in Miami. I was immediately endeared to this soft-spoken southern gentleman, seeing as how the reason he shot the guy was basically that he’d shoot him if he didn’t leave town. Towns were not left, guys were shot. For the observant among you, the guy in question is character actor Peter Greene, whom you may remember as baddie Dorian from Jim Carrey’s early hit The Mask. 2010 Dorian looks like he has cancer, aids and drank from the wrong Grail all at the same time.

Givens isn’t happy to be transferred to Harlan. His grifter pappy Arlo, his childhood sweetheart Ava, and a surprisingly florishing drug business all contribute to Raylan’s gentlemanly headache. But most of all, Raylan has his hands full with his former best friend Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).


Goggins is the show’s ace in the hole. Raylan and Boyd are pretty much on the entirely different ends of the spectrum. Think of “the South” as an idea, a collection of stereotypes you’ve acquired throughout your years/decades of pop culture consumption. Now try to put all the good things in one column, and all the bad ones in another. Chances are the former will be a pretty good description of Raylan, while the latter fits Boyd to a (swas)tee(ka). They’re like Batman and the Joker, if the Joker were a little stupider, and Batman a lot more likeable.

Unfortunately, Boyd gets shot at the end of the pilot and spends most of the remainder of the season in hospital/prison. This pretty much condemns the first half to a “crime of the week” format that unfortunately doesn’t really do the show justice. It is, of course, purely in the realm of comic book fantasy (Raylan is under investigation for shooting a guy, but then just merrily shoots at least one other guy per episode) but the show works best when it’s dealing with themes of friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Hell, Raylan doesn’t kill Boyd in the first episode because they “once worked the mines together. Hell down there.”

There’s an easy, affable charm to Justified, carried mostly on the shoulders of Olyphant and Goggins. It’s really astonishing coming from backstabbing BFFs Serena and Blair to the constantly-giving-each-other-another-shot enemies that Raylan and Boyd are. Is this the difference between a boys’ show and a girls’ show? I haven’t seen enough gender-specific shows to be able to tell. I just know that come February 2011, I’ll be itching to find out what kinda shit Raylan and Boyd have gotten themselves into. I hope that by then the show has gotten a little “bigger”, and escaped its TV feel. I mean hell, I’ll have seen one hell of a western by then.

This one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The 10 Biggest Annoyances in Mass Effect 2

After my forays into “icky girly cootie” and “artsy fartsy awardsy” territory in my most recent posts, I thought I’d venture back into safe nerd territory like the wild Kevin Smith after making a PG-13 movie. In yet another first for Wholly On The Level, this article is a collaboration between myself and fellow Gossip Girl enthusiast Matthew “Notorious O.W.L.” Hedgecock.

Mass Effect 2 is a superb action RPG, filled with great writing, amazing set pieces and most importantly the illusion that you, as a player, have a significant impact on the game-world at large. But nerds wouldn't be nerds if we couldn't nitpick. Here are the ten biggest annoyances of Mass Effect 2!

Take it away, Matt!

1.) Kaiden Alenko’s uniform

Sup Kaiden. Boy, I’m sure glad I don’t have to talk to Ashley in this playthrough. Now please take those fucking Christmas lights off your shoulders and quit dressing like an asshole.

Note from Luca: God, I should have known there’d be at least one fashion complaint in here.

2.) Ashley Williams
Urrggghhhh. Remember those spikes of hot regret you felt in Mass Effect 1 after you left Kaiden to die on Virmire? Yeah, they’re back, and they hurt just as much as before. Here you are, back from the dead, having just slaughtered an entire legion of Husks and Collectors and a NIGHTMARE FROM HELL Praetorian all while managing to save half a colony of space truckers and what is your reward?
You get lectured at by racist, trigger-happy Fundamentalist. Thanks SO much BioWare, I really wanted to get sermonized about what an asshole I am by a character who is SO AWFUL that she has the ability to kill Wrex – THE BEST CHARACTER - in the first game! Please, God, let her get roasted on a spit and eaten by Krogan in ME3.

P.S. God help your soul if you romanced her in the first game. Thought you avoided her awful slam poetry this time around? “Commander, you have received a new message on your private terminal.”

3.) Harbinger’s smacktalk
“If I have to tear you apart Shepard, I will. I know you feel this. Leave the dead where they fall. Your form is fragile. Your form is so fat, I thought I was fighting a volus. Pathetic mortals don’t know how to shoot freethrows. Entire squad is babies. I’m not talkin’ about dance lessons, I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up, Shepard.”

Granted, Harbinger’s constant prattle makes you want to kill him more AND informs you that a powerful enemy is on the battlefield. But who would have guessed that an ancient race of sentient machines with unknowable motives would talk shit like a 12-year-old in a Halo match?

4.) Keiji’s face

Fuck is wrong with you, Kasumi.

Lucanote: Kasumi does redeem herself a bit by going into a haiku-writing lust frenzy for Busta Rhymes-alike crewmember Jacob not long after Keiji’s death.

5.) No female Turians
This is a pretty nerdy complaint because clearly this is a development limitation. But there are good reasons given as to why you don’t see female salarians or krogan, and volus and elcor aren’t common enough to really warrant attention.
But damn – you can fly from one end of the galaxy to the other and not see ONE female Turian? Better watch out, FemShep, you’re gonna have a mess on your hands after Garrus pops that heatsink.

6.) The ramen stand
Just someone tell me why this is here. So Grunt and Kasumi can make one-time comments about it if you just so happen to take them down there? Sorry, that’s not a good enough reason to have that asshole chef shout GOMOSHEVASS or whatever the hell he says every time I pass by him.

The ramen stand is a mystery. A shitty mystery.

Luca NOTES!: Your shameful racism, however, is plain for all to see.

7.) Jaroth’s carelessness
I wish all enemies were careless enough to leave their evil plans out in the open for you to read freely WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF THEM. Stopping Hitler would have been a lot easier.

Luca sighs: I’ve played this game twice now and I had to look up who Jaroth was. He’s the devilishly crimson salarian who’s the leader of one of the teams trying to take down Archangel. He wants to organize a mafia coup on Omega, but foolishly lets all his iPads lay around for Shepard to read and later tell the don about.

8.) Cerberus acting retarded
About ¾ the way through the game, Shepard is tasked with scouting the inside of a derelict Reaper for the dead machine’s IFF. It’s a great mission – scary, tense, and difficult in a way that few other missions in the game are.
Plotwise the mission is very good, except that it continues the trend of Cerberus behaving like total fucking morons. OK, so a science team has gone missing (of course) and when you get there you find out they’ve been turned into Husks (of course) but what’s more surprising is that the team was apparently LIVING in the Reaper while they studied it.
Come again? Whose idea was it exactly to set up residence inside of a demongodrobot from beyond space? Sure, screw-ups are pretty par for the course for Cerberus – these people have a “Jurassic Park” type incident on their hands every damn week – but this one just seems particularly stupid. I think they know enough about Reapers at this point to know it wouldn’t be a good idea to crawl up one’s ass and make themselves at home.

Eye-rolling Luca: At this point Matt quit writing his “ten” biggest annoyances, mailed me what he had and somehow left a garbled message on my voicemail containing heavy breathing and repeated use of the word “Ga’hoole”. So without further adue, the final two annoyances of Mass Effect 2!

9.) Cockteasing bullshit
For a game company that is deservedly well known for its gay-friendly writing, ME2 is strangely devoid of any possibility of same-sex romance. It’s very likely that this was a time limitation issue, but compared to any previous Bioware games the STR8Z UNLEE limitations stick out like a conservative thumb. The set-ups are still in there: Tali, the quarian mechanic, speaks of her species’ intimacy rituals and shyly suggests that she’d be honored to go through one with the female player. Which is then never followed up on. Jack, the telekinetic criminal tells you of her polyamorous experiences, but rudely shoots you down if you hint at any interest. Sorry, my canuck developer friends, but I don’t buy it when this character

doesn’t at least swing both ways.

10.) Give me ze detonators, Mr. Shepard!
A shady racist organisation that’s not afraid to kill as many beings as it needs to advance “human interests”, headed by a man who does not ever confer his real name AND WHOSE EYES GLOW IN THE DARK, asks you to hand over the base of an advanced alien race you’ve been fighting throughout the entire game. As a player, you’re given the choice to just blow up the base or set off some sort of special bomb that kills every living organism in it. I understand the importance of clear-cut binary choices in a game like this, but come the hell on. Who would ever think under any circumstance that handing over a facility that is somehow able to produce Godzilla-sized Terminator foetuses to an organization of space Republican-Scientologists is even close to a good idea? The only reason I can see for handing over the base to Cerberus (said organization), is just a morbid curiosity for how it would affect the third game. Which I, of course, succumbed to.

Please succumb to your own base instincts and tell us what nitpicks you had with this otherwise quite amazing game in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

…in which I throw all credibility to the wind.

In my ever continuing quest to reach a wider audience (15 is my current short-term goal), I decided a while ago to start breaking down gender boundaries with an article on You Got Served. Coupled with the personal minimum of bi-monthly updates I’ve promised myself, I must now subject you to a post that will make the B2K dancing epic look like The Wild Bunch.


Gossip Girl tells the story of self-exiled New York socialite Serena van der Woodsen (future Green Lantern girlfriend Blake Lively) and her return to the NY gossip scene, much to the chagrin of former BFF Blair Waldorf (2010’s Single White Female Leighton Meester). You see, Serena had some drunken sexytimes with Blair’s boyfriend. Instead of just having a catfight and ignoring each other for a while, exile had to happen. An overreaction? Well, if this is a dealbreaker for you, it’s probably for the best you just pass up this show. Drama queen exaggeration is the order of the day here.

Pretty much every problem that drives the plot – what loose plot there is – revolves around the protagonist’s social standing. I had some problems, initially, bringing myself to care about the plight of Serena & co. Social faux pas in my own high school years didn’t seem to have such epic and dramatic consequences. Maybe I adjusted my viewing mode, or maybe the writers found their footing, but a few episodes into it I found myself not only relieved of my skepticism but actually… emotionally involved?

One of the better decisions the writers made was not to draw out the Serena/Blair feud the show started with. Four episodes was more than enough: the stage was set, the players in motion.

Ultraplayer Chuck Bass is perhaps the show’s greatest victory so far. Coming off of not one but TWO attempted rapes in the first episode (!!), this character embodies the ultimate hedonism of the super rich (within the limitations of teen-oriented television, of course). I don’t know to what extent Chuck is supposed to be a villain – everyone kind of is in this morally abhorrent biotope. I do know that his smug face pretty much lights up any scene he’s in with pervy remarks and other general innuendo. There is a strange, kind of touching affection Chuck has towards Blair like some sort of Dolce wearing Gillman. They reminded me a bit of John Malkovich and Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons: veteran players always on the lookout for the next challenge/victim. Which, in turn, brought me to the conclusion that this would probably have somewhat of a geek following if you had the same plots set at some court in 18th century France or something.

The show’s biggest misfire is the Humphrey family and their tribulations. So-called audience identification characters, these woe-is-me bumfucks are a stark contrast to cartoons like Blair, Chuck or Carter Baizen. Besides not being any fun to follow, they even fail at being relatable by simply living in their huge apartment, owning an art gallery and going to the same exclusive school as the rich kids. I guess because the apartment looks like an ironic 90s throwback we’re all supposed to relate. Protip for anyone currently writing that Dick Cheney biopic: make sure there’s an Ace of Base poster in view in the background at all times.

It actually feels decadent to watch this show while I’m struggling to get through something with a social conscience like Treme. It’s been a while since I could actually classify something as a “guilty pleasure”, but here we are. I know I love it.


Friday, September 3, 2010

The Big Hustle

It is not in this blog's habit of talking about movies in a serious way. Or rather, it does not discuss movies that are meant to be taken seriously in a serious way. But because I am a flexible fellow who is not afraid to branch out into unknown territory, I will do just that today. Just. That. Don't expect me to thatch Mrs. Poopingsworth's roof cuz I just won't do it. Anyway, let's get it on.

Valhalla Rising tells the story of an unnamed mute Viking warrior portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen. He is a slave, and made to fight other slaves. He's so good that he's bound to a pole, while his opponents get free range. Without fail, he bashes everyone's brains in regardless.

Now, this thing is laden with subtext right off the bat. The title itself and the fact that Mikkelsen's nameless guy is called One Eye by his young companion immediately invokes images of Norse mythology (Allfather Odin is portrayed as having one eye). But that's not really touched upon, outside of a short opening crawl. It's the christians that get the brunt of the screentime. Christianity is seen as an invading force from the get go: The opening crawl describes how monotheism is slowly supplanting the old gods, a rival slave-owner tells One-Eye's master he should sell his prized fighter. "You could use the gold. It's the only language the christians understand."

So here we have christianity as a new way of life. A more civilized one. But director Nicholas Winding Refn isn't intersted in portraying the Vikings as noble Robert E. Howard barbarians, whom civilization had best leave unsullied. They are scared of this change, as any culture in decay who's seeing the new bad boy on the block stand up would be. The first twenty minutes of basically One Eye fucking up other fighters in various nasty ways represents to me that dying culture making waves. Here's our big dick warrior god, doing circus bear tricks! We're still here, choo gonn' do?

But One Eye ain't happy, and he escapes in a bloody fashion. That's basically the fashion One Eye does things in: Silent and bloody. Understandable when you're kept in a cage and only let out to kill dudes in between what looks like blood-soaked acid flashbacks. One Eye leaves a young boy alive because he's not that bad a sort, I suppose. IMDb calls the boy "Are", but I don't recall ever having heard a name. The movie almost works better without anyone having names but One Eye. Maybe I just misheard, but I like the idea that everyone's just a shadow to One Eye. The fact that his name is something the boy came up with just to have something to call him adds to it.

The boy comes up with "One Eye" in response to a christian norseman asking for the mute's name. The christian and his band of quasi-knights are introduced after having just dispatched a bunch of heathens and rounded up their scared, shivering, naked women. Since this is the only scene in the movie in which we even see women, I'm tempted to think the shot is meant to mirror civilization's stripping away of the matriarch's mysticism. No need for mom-witches anymore, we got a big poppa god now, and he works alone. But it's a single shot, and not very much elaborated on.

Things really started to click when the boy explains to the christian where they found One Eye. Spoilers will follow from here on out, so if you want to go in fresh and not knowing anysides the general premise I've laid bare so far, I suggets you quit now.

One Eye was found unconscious and alone on a boat coming from over the ocean. That oughta give you a pretty good hint at what One Eye's motivation is. Surely, he wants to go and kill the filthy injuns what killed his durn crew. And sure enough, he takes up christian dude's offer of going to the Holy Land with (relative) eagerness. Soon, a thick fog rises, however, and the journey takes a lot longer than anyone had anticipated. Some men believe One Eye is cursed -- Are lied that they were both christians. Expectedly for anyone who's been watching the movie from the start, they do not succeed in killing him to lift the curse.

The sea voyage is the thing that made me realize this movie's not meant to be taken at face value at all. There's no way they could have crossed the Atlantic in such a shitty little boat. We're deep in parable country here, brah.

Once in North America, the shit hits the fan. This obviously isn't the Holy Land and there are arrows being shot at them from everywhere. They do what good christians do: go nuts and declare that it is now Stab-N-Rape o'clock. Eventually, there's two christian dudes left. Son of the main christian guy and an old guy whose son died follow One Eye and Are into the wilderness. They ask Are for guidance, as he can somehow read One Eye's mind. Since we as an audience never really hear them commune telepathically, it's up to us to decide if he really can, or if he just enjoys power over grown-ups. An unresponsive god-figure being mediated by someone whom no one is sure actually understands him? With the advice both men get essentially being "fuck off and die somewhere", I'm inclined to think Are likes the power.

In the meantime, One Eye's visions/flashbacks have been getting stronger. Coupled with the death and decay he sees around him, he has realized that violence will only beget more violence and it's something he has no taste for anymore. His ultimate surrender and sacrifice at the hands of the natives is perhaps his way of changing: becoming a Christ-figure instead of the warrior god he's been throughout the movie. Are is absolutely baffled by this, and the film ends with him standing on the beach alone as the native Americans leave him be. This is the second time he's deemed not important enough to kill. Are, ultimately, goes from hustlin' religious type to simple man, always ignorant of the motivations of the truly divine.

This is the first Nicholas Winding Refn movie I've seen, and I'm curious about his other work now. I'm equally intrigued by his strange desire to make a Wonder Woman movie (not that WB will ever give it to him). I wonder how much fetish subtext he could sneak into that one.

It ain't your standard Hollywood Viking epic, but if you go in expecting something akin to 2001: A Viking Odyssey, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Do you absolutely disagree with me on everything I thought this movie meant to say? Great! Tell me about it in the comments.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Strong Heart

Young and stupid movie watchers may think Sam Worthington is the only actor around who possesses A STRONG HEART (see: Terminator: Salvation, Avatar, Clash of the Titans), but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, almost a full decade before Worthington showed us the strength of his heart, two other young lotharios impressed us with their cardiovascular fortitude. I am, of course, speaking of those two guys from B2K that made a movie once.

B2K? Well...

Having watched this video again, I have to correct my statement and say only one of the two guys is actually from B2K. The other guy is Roger the annoying neighbor from Sister Sister, a terrible show in its own right.

Anyway, in You Got Served Roger and B2K are street dancers who very much love their craft and hope to strike it big one day. But since this is a movie, the strength of their hearts will be tested before they can gyrate in the background of T-Pain videos. The ultimate way to test it, is to be provoked by a bunch of super white dudes with Dragon Ball Z hair from Orange County. Of course they do not have the moves and subsequently get "served" by our way fresher heroes. This will not stand, obviously, and Goku and his crew challenge our boys to a REAL dance-off at Steve Harvey's dance warehouse. For REAL money this time. Oh shit, it is definitely on.

Naturally, for our downtrodden heroes this is a serious investment of like, college funds and shit, while for Goku and his crew it just means that they can only eat the scrotums of four white tigers this month instead of seven. Sorry, that image is the most decadent brunch I could imagine. Leave comments with more decadent stuff, please! I have only seen a bit of Gossip Girl, so I'm not too versed in it.

Here's where the movie ensures us our leads have strong hearts. Roger doesn't have the necessary funds, so he'll have to ask his grandmammy. I kind of assumed he would make up some bullshit excuse to get $1500 from an old black lady, but no, he really just says SUM SUCKAS FROM DA OC DISSED US AND WE CAN'T GET PLAYED LIKE DAT! Grandma contemplates this for a few seconds, closes her eyes, sighs deeply and proclaims: "You got a stroooong heart, just like yo grampappy." And then he gets $1500. Cuz he can't get played like that. I wish You Got Served came out in like 1990. I'd have gotten a lot more stuff from my parents if I just knew how to negotiate with them.

Anyway, Steve Harvey is a dude who owns a warehouse where he allows kids to dance. He is very insistent on the fact that no one fights in his dancing warehouse. To ensure this, he lays down the law before the dance off starts. And just to make absolutely sure nobody thinks about startin' nuthin', he introduces MISTAH CHUCK. Mr. Chuck is a man of few words and even fewer facial expressions. Harvey assures the dancers that Mr. Chuck is an off-duty policeman friend of his, who will take care of any problems that might arise. This is punctuated by Mr. Chuck showing off his service weapon. I love that in this universe dancing is such a badass occupation that riots regularly arise from it, and an off-duty policeman will literally shoot teenagers who get angry over gettin' served.

Disaster strikes, however, as one of Roger and B's crew has sold them out like an Uncle Tom motherfucker and has totally taught all their best moves to the DBZ crew. Down and out financially, even more tensions come to a head when Roger finds out B is dating his sister, played by the daughter from Damon Wayans' sitcom My Wife & Kids. It's kinda hilarious hearing her try to talk street, since I suppose it sounds about as convincing as when I do it. Bless her for trying, though. Her best line: "This is my CRAZY friend Beautifull!" Way to write at goddamn Saturday morning cartoon/prequel level, writers of You Got Served. Beautifull (2 L's get it rite!!) is, despite the suspicions her name might incur, actually quite beautiful. She's also kind of amazingly offensive as she's essentially just SASSTRON 5000.

Something that didn't even cross my mind while watching the movie is that, while there are two retardedly gorgeous girls in it, neither of them actually dances. It's a guy thing. There are female dancers, but they're in the background. Heh, well. Food for thought. Not really, though. This movie is made for teenage girls. We're supposed to be showing off romantic, athletic, rhythm-havin' dudes. This is never more apparent than just before the final dance-off, where Roger and B both have INTENSE dance rehearsals with their shirts off in the night's pouring rain.

I came to the realization that a dance movie like this is not very different from something like Friday the 13th or Rambo. You don't really come for the plot, or the acting, or the meaningful themes the story explores. You come for the murders/the action/the dance. And yeah, the dance scenes were ultimately very impressive, and the plot and characterization just full of ridiculous enough moments that... well, I kinda have to categorize this movie as a success.

And, you know, you can totally not look gay for watching it cuz these girls are in it.

That's probably the most positive note I've ever ended a post on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Masque of the Red Death

Roger Corman used to make a shit-ton of movies. In fact, he'd have made about three in the time it takes you or me to eat a bowl of cereal.

In 1964, he released The Masque of the Red Death. Ever the dealmaker, he shot it in England, taking advantage of a tax loophole and getting subsidies for using a British crew. Additionally, he used sets from Burton/O'Toole/Gielgud epic Becket. The result is a pretty good-looking movie done on the cheap. Kudos, Corman.

What I love about this "horror" movie is that there's barely a scary element. Vincent Price isn't a vampire or a mad scientist. He's just a guy who likes to fuck with people. The plague (the titular Red Death) is ravaging the countryside, and Price's Prince Prospero has invited a bunch of his nobleman friends to sit it out in his castle.

Also there is peasant girl Francesca, played by the lovely Jane Asher. For some reason, Prospero wants to convert her to satanism. Yeah, that's Prospero's scary hook. He has a little shrine to Satan in his castle, which is little more than a small black room with an altar and two pretty rockin' dragon statues on it.

His arguments for Francesca to convert to satanism are pretty poorly thought out, as well. "God is dead!" "The world is evil anyway!" "There would be chaos if no one took control!" But hey, he's Vincent Price. He delivers all that stuff about "Bask with me in the glories of hell!" with such smug gusto that it's a joy just literally hearing him talk.

I love that this movie exists. That there was an era where producers wanted to make money, and what they had to do to get money was film some people getting fucked up in a spooky castle while Vincent Price rambled on about doom and terror and darkness and I don't know he likes Satan or something.

There is also an amazing subplot where Alfredo, one of Prospero's asshole noble friends kicks a lady midget ballerina for spilling his drink. Two minutes earlier, he breathlessly whispered to Prospero that "I want her". The kicker? Corman somehow couldn't get a hold of a real lady midget (??), so it's an actual five year old girl voiced by an adult actress. I was initially confused whether or not Alfredo was a pedophile or just a dude horny for midgets. When Prospero's guy-midget plots to get back at mean old Alfredo, he pledges to his lady love he shall not rest before this wrong is righted. He is a real midget, though. I don't even know who was more uncomfortable the day they had to shoot that romantic scene. In the spirit of equal opportunity discrimination, the male midget is also dubbed by a non-freak actor.

Spoilers ahead, though the movie's almost 50 years old and who gives a shit. The vengeance of Hop Toad (male midget) consists of convincing Alfredo to wear a gorilla suit to the titular masque, since all the other guests will be "cleverly disguised, but still... only human." Hop Toad will be playing the ape's midget handler. During the act, our jilted lover douses Alfredo with brandy, ties him to a lowered chandelier, lifts him back up with his amazing little person strength, and sets him no fire. Everyone is shocked, but Prospero is dying of laughter.

"See to it that Hop Toad receives five sovereigns for this delightful performance! A beautiful reminder of life's little cruelties!"

Wow. I wanna live in that castle. If one of life's little everyday cruelties is a guy in a gorilla suit getting burned alive in front of your dinner party guests, well... you know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What makes a man a fan REDUX

I was under the impression I'd shed my fanboy manes last year, with the release of Terminator Salvation.

Rereading the post, I hilariously found that I'd left myself an out in the final paragraph. "Can't say I'm completely cured", indeed! So of course I find myself in the theater watching Predators, a 2010 sequel to a 1987 Alien rip-off that ignores the 2004 crossover spin-off and its 2007 sequel. I'm such a cinephile!

Adrien Brody seems to have become the celluloid king of demasculinization. In Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong, he played a stammering playwright called Jack Driscoll. The original 1933 Jack Driscoll was the ship's rugged first mate. In the new Predator movie he's a mercenary just like Arnold in the original, and doesn't even really do a bad job with it, but it's still a sobering realization. Just fyi.

Despite not being as good as the first one, or as outrageously silly as the second one, I was mildly entertained.

Flashforward a week and I'm watching Centurion. It's also about a bunch of guys being hunted. Not by skull-fetishisizing (??) aliens, but by barbarians and a few supermodels dressed as such. It's amusing to consider how twelve year old me would have dismissed one in favor of the other based purely upon their villains: an angry girl vs a SUPER BERSERKER PREDATOR BLACK.

Basically, what I'm saying is Centurion is a better Predator movie than Predators. C moves like a motherfucker, while P has some real pacing issues. Both movies find our heroes sheltered by an eccentric at the start of the third act, but it feels like welcome relief in C, as opposed to wtf in P. That last sentence was probably Chinese to anyone over 40. I'm not gonna explain it, though. I'm all Christopher Nolan. Let your waking mind fill in the gaps on its own! Or Google. It's good at that.

The hermits in both movies are ludicrous to varying degrees: C has a beautiful young girl who knows some stuff about healing herbs, but was banished by the villainous king for being a NECROMANCER (god, witch just wouldn't cut it, huh?), while P has a fat black man who supposedly has been living off the land for the last ten years.

The GROUP OF PEOPLE IN PERIL in both movies differs substantially as well. The C-people are a group of soldiers who are painted in broad strokes to be instantly likable. The P-people have been selected by the Predators to serve as BIG GAME on their hunting preserve planet. As you can imagine, Earth's most dangerous aren't exactly the nicest guys, so there's a lot of cock-measuring. This, unfortunately, results in the viewer not even knowing anyone's names. Out of the 9-10 or so humans that are in the movie, we find out a gullible Russian soldier's first name (and even his two boys'!), the eccentric hermit's and the main guy and girl's. Hell, the movie ends with Brody and the chick finally telling each other their names. The characters here are painted broadly, not exactly to be likable (although I didn't hate anyone per se), but to differentiate them enough so that the audience can keep track of who died. In P's defense, C doesn't have a stand-out character like Walton Goggins' inmate.

Predator fanboys, I'm not dissuading you from seeing Predators. I am however strongly encouraging you to see Centurion. Ever since that big bawss Pred tossed Danny Glover a musket, I know a lot of you have been clamoring for a historical Predator movie. This is probably the closest we'll get.

Or maybe this

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Look not a gift cloak in the stitching!

You ever go to the movies and figure "Eh, I'll see what I'll see what I get there"?

I should honestly do that more often, but it's hard to see something that will honestly surprise you if you read as much about movies as I do. Being ill-informed, I was under the assumption the culturally insensitively titled The Karate Kid was playing in a theater near me. It wasn't.

Still jonesing for a dose of cultural insensitivity, I instead opted for the culturally insensitively cast Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I had actually read some things about it, but outside of them being negative I didn't even remember anything particularly scathing. Hoping to mine some laughter out of the whole sordid affair, I sat down to let this gilded Pirates of the Caribbean sandblast over me. (Strangely enough, the little preview screen outside the theater showed STREET DANCE 3D, but it was not to be, unfortunately.)

Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular prince actually manages to be vaguely Arabic looking, something that can't be said for his adoptive brother, played by Coupling's Jeff.

It's like looking at Uday AND Qusay at the same time! Strangely coincidental, the fellow who's walking next to Jeff there is Jack Davenport, another Coupling alumnus who managed to get in a big Disney Hollywood epic as Norrington in the Pirates series.

Besides racial insensitivity and religious pussyfooting (the movie can't seem to decide whether the Persians are mono- or polytheistic, and even then any deities are only referred to as "the gods" or "God"), the film also takes a firmly sexist stand in Gemma Arterton's princess Tamina. Alternately shrill, loud and annoying, the princess causes the deaths of many by not liking Jake very much and refusing to tell him what the deal is with this dagger... of time.

Luckily, the dagger... of time can actually turn back time, hence destroying every chance of drama that may have occurred. You can only turn it back a minute though! If you go back, like, a lot the world will end! But then they do and it doesn't and I'm like ehhhhh I wish I'd seen Street Dance 3D.

Props where props are due, though. Alfred Molina and his NGBAKA friend are actually pretty funny as the comic relief, and sometimes the music is pretty enough. I'm also quite sure the art designers had a blast making this.

The one instance where my friend and I were actually having a blast was when Jake gives his adoptive royal dad a cloak for tribute. My friend whispered to me: "Watch out! It's poisoned!" and then the poor Bernard Hill lookalike king actually started melting from it. Giggles turned to outright guffaws when a courtier shouted: "THE CLOAK! IT'S POISOOOOOOONED!"

The bad guy has a literal trouser snake. But he's still boring. How the fuck, right? Don't see this.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gosh durn kids!

When put together, teenagers are a horrible, amorphous blob of noise, bad decision-making, casual cruelty and mindless consumerism. Why I stare down this crater-faced shoggoth on a daily basis, is anyone's guess (hint: I play videogames and watch movies instead of being productive and write). Normal people are always a source of bemusement/irritation to the average movie geek, so I tend to cherish insight into the cinematic tastes of these MUNDANES whenever such an opportunity is presented to me. The last few weeks have been, by some extraordinary circumstances, rather fruitful in this respect.


Only a few days into my temp, I was tasked, along with a few other teachers, with monitoring around a hundred-fifty students as they watched a movie. It being my second day and all, I had no idea what movie this was until I suddenly got charged with making the beamer work. I had to stifle mad laughter when I saw the cover to dated-as-hell 1995 Rob Cohen opus Dragonheart.

One thing you learn from watching movies with kids is perspective. Fucking hell, is Dragonheart a slow movie! And holy shit is the camera work static! A friend later informed me this was probably because it was made in the early days of CGI, and adding computer shit in post was still in its infancy. Makes sense! Unfortunately, this meant the whole movie felt like retarded ren faire cosplay, and the kids were restless throughout. The few moments that worked were the comedy bits where surly Quaidknight and bumbling Seandragon play off of each other (and then only with the younger kids).

It's tough picking a movie to show such a big crowd of kids, especially with varying age groups, and I'm glad it wasn't my responsibility or I'd have picked Crank or something. Casual cruelty: actively booing the film when the credits started. Oh well, I'm sure Cohen, Quaid and Connery all forgot they made this movie. Poor Dina Meyer, though.


Where vaginas roam, Twilight festers! From seeing a girl show her copy of New Moon to a friend, to one of the first questions upon learning I was into movies being a smirking "What about Twilight?", it's safe to say the abstinence-saga permeates teenage culture pretty thoroughly. I'm not going to begrudge the twelve year olds their MAKE-AH DE GOOGLY EYES prose -- they are twelve year old girls, after all. Making googly eyes with a pretty boy who wants to do nothing but make googly eyes with you is pretty much walhalla for them.

Hope for the future: I described the plot of Breaking Dawn to a bunch of 17-18 year olds and the entire class was just dying with laughter, while one or two girls confirmed what I was saying. I did not make any additional jokes.


Student: What did you think of Avatar?
Me: It was okay.
Student: Alright.


What? Daybreakers, a relatively succesful movie among most kids in one class of 17-18 year olds. Some of the girls were turned off by the gore, but others were actively asking questions about the nature of the world presented by the Spierig brothers. Saddening: one girl was confused because "I thought you can't kill a vampire?".


High school is a weird fucking place sometimes. Can you name one other place where the Saw-franchise is a staple, an icon, an indispensable part of canon? It's insane how unanymously loved this series is among teenagers. I was barely conscious during the 80s, so I'm assuming this was the same way with Freddy and Jason movies back then. Funny: English not being their first language, all the kids pronounce these movies as if they were female pigs.

Because I am not a cranky old man, enjoy this heartwarming rendition of Teenage Kicks!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iron Man 2: Why should we-e-e even care

The plot of Iron Man 2 picks up right after Iron Man. Tony Stark has just announced his alternate identity to the world. This displeases Ivan Vanko (the amazingly hammy, but also really entertaining Mickey Rourke) to a great degree. To such a degree, in fact, that he immediately goes to work on a makeshift ARC reactor (the thingamajig that powers the Iron Man suit). Because Russians are all into circuses and bears and shit, he makes two lightsaber whips to go with his half-a-suit. During this suit-making montage (and opening credits) composer John Debney gives Vanko a badass musical theme that is reminiscent of the Soviet national anthem in places (!!).

The movie cuts to Tony Stark being a cool slick badass. Robert Downey Jr pretty much kills it: I don't think there's a smoother motherfucker in movies today. Gwyneth Paltrow's all frowny with him, a dickhole senator wants him to hand over that goddamned suit to the government and Stark's buddy James "Rhodey" Rhodes frowns at him as well (he also faded into a different black man since last movie, namely Don Cheadle). My favorite addition in this Washington DC sequence however, is Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. Hammer wants to be Tony Stark badly: the suits, the babes, the love, ... understandably. But sucker as I am for awkwardness humor (I pretty much love Borat and Brüno), I just had a ball seeing Rockwell throw himself head-first into a million jokes that get a polite chuckle at best from these huuuge crowds.

A lot of people the action of the first movie wasn't well done. I didn't have any particular problems with it, but it was definitely the first superhero movie where you were actually having more fun when the guy was out of the suit than in it. To those whiners I say: well, the action's a lot cooler than it was in the first one. Unfortunately, they added a whole new problem. Tony Stark ain't got shit to do.

You see, Vanko makes an assassination attempt on Tony. This fails, and the cockatoo-loving (seriously) Russian gangster-inventor (seriously) goes to jail. Justin Hammer, convinced this guy could get rid of Stark for him, busts him out and fakes his death. But he better build him some reaaal good stuff for the upcoming Stark Expo! Hammer's presentation at the Stark Expo is the climax of the film. So, uh... the villains are just kinda workin' on stuff for the remainder of the movie. But we'll get back to you, oohhh you'll see! The drama in the second act comes completely from Stark going on a self-destructive "I don't give a fuck" binge after being unable to stop the ARC-reactor in his chest from slowly poisoning his body. Personally, I really enjoyed Tony Stark coming to grips with his mortality. It's heavy enough to make you feel for Stark, but never too dark to destroy the movie's fun atmosphere.

So yeah, an hour of this movie is literally Stark & Co fucking about, waiting for the plot to happen again at the start of the third act. Beyond the nagging sensation that the movie wasn't really moving forward in any way, I still had a good time with it. That's pretty much due to Downey Jr and the cast. I mean, when things happen like Stark in the Iron Man suit dancing to California Love, pissing himself and then suggesting to Pepper Potts (Paltrow's character) that she drink his piss, well... that's a good time at the movies, you know?

Oh, and Stark has a new assistant, but I can't remember who plays her.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kick-Ass: A promise kept

My parents think Spider-Man is a pussy.

They've seen Sam Raimi's original 2002 Spidey outing and decided enough was enough for them. I could see why Raimi's love letter to Silver Age (basically the 50s/60s) comic books was a little hard for them to swallow. Peter Parker becomes a superhero out of guilt over his uncle's death and decides to start fighting crime, as his initial selfish impulses to make money through his powers end in doom. A noble motivation, to be sure, but when Peter's refusal to admit his feelings towards his friend Mary Jane at the end of the film, my parents zoned out. The character was, simply put, "an idiot". Sacrifice is a part of the workaday life of any immigrant fortysomething former coal miner, but this Parker kid was just a masochist to them at this point.

Matthew Vaughn's newest film Kick-Ass certainly doesn't have that problem. Nerdy high school protagonist Dave Lizewski dons a scuba suit for the simple thrill of being talked about and liked. He doesn't even do anything beyond wearing it under his clothes the first few weeks of coming up with the idea. The first time he tries his hand at some actual crime-fighting, he gets stabbed and run over. After a few months in hospital, he's back on the streets with metal plates over most of his bones and damaged nerve endings, granting him a severely increased pain threshhold. Through sheer determination he manages to defeat three hoods beating up some guy, and the video makes the rounds on the intarwebs.

Kick-Ass becomes somewhat of a media figure with merchandising and everything. Despite freakshow fame and an ability to take a punch, Kick-Ass is still outmatched in strength and fighting skill by... well, most people. So much so, in fact, that his life is in danger not soon after his initial victory. He is saved by eleven year old Hit Girl in a slashy rescue most people will find Kill Bill-esque. Hit Girl and Big Daddy (her regular daddy, played by Nicolas Cage who is obviously so happy to be in a good superhero movie he practically jizzes on the camera in every shot) are well-trained, determined and have a target: mob boss Frank D'Amico.

If it weren't for these two intersecting with Dave's life, Kick-Ass would have been an Apatow-comedy with a comic book gimmick. But now Dave suddenly finds himself in league with two people who slaughter cartoon gangsters in their spare time. I've heard a lot of talk about the "switch in tones" the movie makes once the murders start to happen. How it somehow goes from a real world to an over the top action movie from the moment Hit Girl (if this movie makes one contribution to pop culture, however slight, it's probably her) stabs a dude.

I disagree. It never felt to me that the movie was really operating under any kind of reality. D'Amico's crew, for one, are complete caricatures. They wouldn't look out of place in Vaughn's earliest producing efforts (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). The death of the protagonist's mother is treated as a twenty-second gag in the first five minutes. The mafia seems to rule 2010 New York as if it's 1930s Chicago. These are not exactly the hallmarks of Dogme 95, people.

Some people also believe there's a muddled message being delivered here, seeing as how Dave's character growth culminates with him killing a bunch of dudes, or maybe they come to the conclusion the film isn't meant to have a message at all and just asks you to sit back and enjoy the carnage. Personally, I think Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman kind of hit the nail on the head when it comes to the whole idea of superheroism.

If you go back to the very start, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman wasn't the boy scout he is now. He's a pretty angry dude in his first few appearances, using his super-strength on non-powered thugs. Hell, Batman straight up shot guys before Robin came along. In Gerard Jones' rather amazing Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, Siegel and Shuster are described as sheltered momma's boys, unable to vent their teenage frustrations somewhere constructive.

The term "power fantasy" is often bandied about in regards to superhero comics, and at its very core that's absolutely still what the genre is. Alan Moore already recognized this in his seminal 1986 comic book Watchmen, and Vaughn's Kick-Ass (not to be confused with Mark Millar's Kick-Ass, which is only about terrible things happening to horrible people) basically tells us the same thing: "Superheroes would be pretty fucked up dudes in real life... but holy shit look at this awesomeness!" It's no wonder Dave gets the girl after revealing his secret identity to her, even though she was under the impression he was gay and he'd abused her trust to GET IN DAT ASS. In real life Katie's decision may not make sense -- or at least the speed and eagerness with which she makes it doesn't -- but hey, the hero gets the girl.

Kick-Ass is a bit like Shaun of the Dead. It's meant to be a satire, but damned if I don't think it's on par with most of the "real" efforts in the genre. It's a total and complete celebration of a geek niche that is, at its very heart, kind of disfunctional. It knows it, it laughs at it, and it's never even remotely ashamed of it. The final shot of the movie echoes that of Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery, one of the very first action movies. Here's Vaughn now essentially saying "Oh, and we've always wanted blood in entertainment to get our kicks lawl". I can't help but think that's very cool of him.

But I have no interest in this whole damned genre! It is infantile and abhorrent to me! Oh really? You must think you're a real goddamned Mr Fancy Pants! You know what the DEVIL has to say about that?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dreamworks WUT??!

What the hell just happened? I'm confused. My socks may be on backwards. Did I just bump my head? Was that E I bought off of Johnny Tapia of dubious quality? Did Dreamworks just make a good movie?

How To Train Your Dragon is the story of Hiccup, a witless and clumsy Viking who frankly isn't very good at being a Viking. Jay Baruchel invests Hiccup with a biting wit and sarcasm which lead me to fear this movie would fall prey to Dreamworks' typical TOO HIP FOR DIS SHIT post-ironicism cuz, like, Vikings are totally lame. I was luckily proven wrong in the first ten minutes or so.

Instead of pillaging and raping, the PG Vikings of the town of Berk are comically badass and mostly must defend their island home against raiding dragons. As the title may have spoiled, Hiccup captures a young dragon which he can't bring himself to kill. He dubs the semi-paraplegic reptile (while crash-landing, his tail fin got ripped in half) Toothless. Over the course of the second act, a not entirely unexpected friendship grows between the two outcasts. Of course, a Viking/dragon friendship is akin to an Israeli/Palestinian one, so the shit hits the fan once it is revealed why

While the plot is formulaic and contains no real surprises, it's great character work and amazing design that make this movie reach the heights it does. The chemistry between Hiccup and Toothless, two animated characters of which only one actually speaks, is rather amazing. Chris Sanders' dragon designs are full of personality and all get a chance to shine. They're so good, in fact, you'll be able to name at least three kinds of dragons within the first half hour of the movie.

If you can, catch it in 3D. I can't remember a big deal being made out of this movie's THREEEE DIMENSIONS! but it easily rivals some of the better stuff done in Avatar. Hiccup actually training Toothless, and showing off his work to rival/love interest Astrid are some of the best, most beautiful and uplifting scenes I've seen in a theater in quite a while. And there's not a hint of irony there.

It's not a perfect movie: the title is dreadfully lame, it's kind of grating that all the Vikings parents actually have Scottish accents and the kids American ones (you can just imagine a Dreamworks exec waving money at himself going HATAZ GONNA HATE BUT AUDIENCES GOTTA RELATE) and there are a few sincerity-undercutting ironic groaners in there still.

It doesn't make it any less fun though. Incredible 3D, superlative designs and two central characters that work on that intangible level only the best of movies can accomplish make make this movie a must if you have kids or just like good animation.

Congratulations, Dreamworks. Wonder suits you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DTV Delirium

2009 has been good for the action schlock fan. Between Blood and Bone, The Tournament, and the return of the "classic" Universal Soldier franchise with its latest installment dubbed Regeneration, it seems as if a new Pyrite Age has arrived.

Unfortunately, I've come to piss on the pyrite. Regeneration is kind of a bore. It hurts me to say that, really. The action is top notch, and the fights are exciting. Director John Hyams is truly his father's son. Peter Hyams (DoP on this) was a serviceable Hollywood journeyman for a while and even a JCVD alumnus, having directed both Sudden Death and Timecop.

Johnny Boy's a big fan of Children of Men, apparently. A drab, industrial world filled with shabby appartments and dilapidated factories is the one in which Luc Devereaux and Andrew Scott move through this time around. You might say this is just a staple of the cheap Eastern European shooting locations, so typical for DTV action, but Hyams pulls off several long tracking shots that are very reminiscent of the Cuaron film. One in particular during which JCVD dispatches a few dozen men with a knife is amazing.

Besides Hyams' technical mastery, there's really only one other thing the movie has going for it: Dolph Lundgren in a small role (sliiiightly too big to be a cameo) as a clone of the original film's villain Andrew Scott. Scott's clone isn't the colorful psychopath the original was, but his confused existentialism is very amusing, as the answers he seeks aren't as much "42" as they are "kill 42 dudes". He really steals the show in the three scenes he's in.

JCVD plays Luc Devereaux as a man without purpose, grim and joyless. Did Devereaux fall into a depression after the first movie, or was JC just contractually obligated to make this movie and it shows? Either way, he's really boring besides being in good shape still. And that weird lump on his forehead.

Most screen time goes to Andrei "DA PIT BULL" Arlovsky, who I think is some sort of MMA fighter or something. He's menacing, but doesn't exactly exhude charm. There's one pretty good sequence where he's basically parkour Jason Voorhees, destroying 4 nameless Universal Soldiers, but that's about it. He has a Baraka-style armblade, if that gets you off.

How would I have fixed this movie?

*Beef up JC's part. Have him be a soldier of fortune or tournament fighter who is utterly bored with his human opponents, and thus sees DA PIT BULL's hostage situation as a chance to finally have some fun again.

*Make the doctor who created DA PIT BULL and cloned Scott a true Mad Doctor, ranting and raving about his GENETIC SUPERMEN and WORLD DOMINATION.

*Have Scott rebel against his creator as seen in the movie, but have him team up with JCVD to take down the superior PIT BULL model. Then, have Scott betray JC and make their fight the climactic one.


So there you have it, Universal Soldier: Regeneration: a decidedly mixed bag in the DTV Renaissance of 2009.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Da Illest Villains

It's always little dull men like you, isn't it? -- Dan Dare to the Mekon

John Hurt in excessive facial prosthetics and a Brian Henson-voiced retarded dog in front of a fireplace telling stories. This honestly would have been enough for me as a 24 year old, but I'm sure 9 year old me would have begged to differ. Jim Henson's The Storyteller series consists of nine episodes recounting Celtic, German and Russian folk tales.

Don't expect Disney-style fairy tales, though: people die, go to hell, meet devils, man-eating griffons and Terrible Things In The Water. But it's all in good fun (even though I recall being quite scared watching this as a child)! There's a very British sensibility to this production, which causes all the monsters and ne'er-do-wells to be strangely susceptible to reason and etiquette which, in turn, kind of causes them to be a lot less scary. Also they are very obvious puppets.

During my week-long odyssey through storyville, I also happened to see 2004's Der Untergang, the "Passion of the Hitler" movie. I didn't know very much about it, save for Bruno Ganz' apparently great performance. No doubt about it that he was good and compelling, but I don't know if I would say I was totally blown away. But perhaps this had something to do with my own preconceived notions. Hitler has become kind of a joke. "Worse than Hitler" has become jokey hyperbole. "You know who also liked [something]? Hitler!"

Now, I'll readily admit I'm not a Hitler-scholar, but the movie didn't really tell me anything about Hitler I didn't already know. Likes dogs, (white) kids, yelling, is a gentleman to (white) ladies, ... I did learn that Eva Braun was the jolliest of beards. Not to knock the film or anything; I always do enjoy a good old "descent into debauchery" tale. One thought that did permeate my viewing: "God, why didn't anyone just step up like Slim Charles and pop two into this decaying asshole's skull? Why does he still have so many followers, even with the Russians at the damn door?". Without delving into demagogy (I'm already pretty proud my initial guess its spelling was correct!), one need only take even a cursory glance at a high school textbook to kinda get the devotion.

I got the idea for this post as I was watching another episode of The Storyteller the next day, and got to thinking about the nature of villainy. A well-known rule of writing is that antagonists should be well-rounded and interesting. Don't just make their actions evil for evil's sake. And then Hitler, one of the bestest examples of real-life supervillainy, is the most boring fuck in the world when he's not being all shouty and murderous. If you look at the private security contractors who're jumping on Haiti right now, they're pretty much COBRA in real life, but somehow I don't think Erik Prince is as entertaining as Cobra Commander.

Don't get me wrong, "real life villains" can make for very interesting stories in their own right. I'm not advocating for cinema to return to ONLY PANTOMIME VILLAINY PLZ, I'm just saying that sometimes you want a man-eating griffon in a castle of skulls. They're the mysterious "other", villains fit for childhood and the terror of the outside world. Denizens of a realm where you would fear to tread, defeatable only by shows of kindness and perseverance and spirit. Hitler and Prince are real-life villains: cunts.

I leave you with the best villain of all time farting:

haha a fart