Friday, September 30, 2005

Videotaping Your Own Murder

It happened to this poor young bowhunter in Wisconsin. It's a chilling story, but one thing in it annoyed me. At the beginning, the article says that the authorities might never have known what happened to him if they hadn't found the tape. Fine, I guess. You could read this to mean that they wouldn't have known it was a murder. But then later, the article implies that because there was no blood when the police found the body and the wounds from the gun were small that the video tape was somehow necessary to show that he had been shot. Hello!, he says in a sarcastic Mike Myers voice. Does the reporter not think that someone like a medical examiner might actually examine the body to determine the cause of death? I mean, the tape was good for catching the killer, but the article sounds silly when it keeps implying that the authorities wouldn't have been able to figure out that this was a murder without it.

I'm just saying.

Undefeated Teams

These kind of stories always amuse me. The writer rambles on about the "character" of the unexpectedly unbeaten Kansas, Baylor, Indiana, and Vanderbilt for an extraordinary number of words for 4 teams who are likely to finish the season with at least 4 losses apiece. Don't get me wrong, I like underdogs and surprises too, but it's way too early in the season to be bloviating about the special characteristics of these teams. If one of them is 7-2 toward the end of the season, then I'll be impressed. But catching a couple of breaks or beating down programs at the beginning of the year means nothing. Take Indiana, for instance. They still have to play Ohio State and Minnesota at home, and at Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, and Michigan. There's at least 5 losses, and a neutered underdog.

Japanese Horror

I'm a fan of the wave of Japanese horror movies that has been lapping at our shores the last couple of years. At the very least, it has sparked some new interest in horror, and The Ring and The Grudge were two of the best horror movies of recent years.

In that vein, Rene Zellweger is going to star (with Tom Cruise producing -- hopefully there won't be a John Travolta/Battlefield Earth effect) in a remake of a Japanese horror movie about a woman who sees the supernatural after a corneal transplant. That's a venerable (or just old, depending on your point of view) plot device, but I think there's some potential in it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Duelling Bozos

Here's a fun story from scenic Mt. Clemens, Michigan about two guys who are being charged with "duelling" after a knife fight. As the article takes great pains to point out, the statute went on the books in 1846. As they say in the trade, old law is good law.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Giant Squids!

Japanese scientists (these guys can come up with anything) have gotten pictures of a 26 foot (!) long giant squid. They had it on a hook for a while, but only were able to pull up one of its tentacles. The suckers on the tentacle were still able to cling to the ship despite the tentacle's detached state. That's some scary calimari. This isn't quite the cryptozoology event that Bigfoot on tape would be, but it is pretty big. The main difference between the giant squid and the sasquatch? No one has ever found a bigfoot body, but giant squid carcasses have washed up before.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Horror Channel

At, you can check out what could be really cool: a cable channel devoted entirely to horror. One smart feature is that they are going to show movies unedited and uncut. They are focusing on sponsorships to bookend the movies instead of having commercials during them. The creative advisory board contains some impressive names: John Carpenter (the legend), Wes Craven (right up there with Carpenter), Tobe Hooper (more limited output, but the TCM is an all-time classic), George Romero (King of the Zombies; this list is really impressive), and I have to add Sid Haig, Captain Spaulding from House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects.

One thing I did notice about the list, though, is the lack of horror writers on the list -- the 1,000 pound gorilla being Stephen King. The channel's credibility goes up a lot if his name is at all linked. I think they should do a show where each episode, in the vein of The Twilight Zone, is a self-contained story written by a different author. That would increase the buzz for the channel, and they could use some of the shows to promote new writers as well (ahem). At any rate, I'm pretty excited about the project.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Gaudy Vomitorium of a Movie

I just noticed Roger Ebert's review of The Devil's Rejects. It's an interesting review, as the title to this post suggests. Read it and see why I think Mr. Ebert is one of the best movie reviewers out there. I think he underrates House of 1,000 Corpses, which had flashes of genius under the schlock, but overall I enjoy his carefully measured critique of Rejects. Certain New York Times reviewers should be reading Mr. Ebert and taking notes.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Summer Has Ended...

...and so has the Summer of the Vampire. Yes, I did finish reading Dark Dance, although it was touch and go to be honest. I've delayed writing this post because this whole series of books has been disappointing. I kept waiting for the really good one, the white-knuckler, but it never came. Oh well. I'll do a brief recap of Ms. Lee's opus, and then end with a ranking of the four (everybody likes rankings).

There's not a heck of a lot to say about DD. As I mentioned a while back, it started off interesting. However, once the main character, Rachaela (Yes, that was her name. There was a guy named Adamus too. And yes, reading those names did get annoying after a while) arrives at the spooky house on the heath, the forward movement of the plot peters to a stop. Things happen after this, 350 pages worth of them, but the string of events is not really a plot. I was mildly curious about how she would wrap it up, but even that felt obvious when I read it. Not the best horror book I've ever read.

So here's the rankings:

1. Vampire Junction; not a perfect book, but far beyond the others
2. The Historian; ambitious and highly enjoyable at times, but too many words in between those times
3. Dark Dance; neat beginning, some creativity, and an excellent back of the book blurb equals not quite last place
4. Children of the Night; Awful; I'm surprised the bloodsuckers haven't come after Mr. Simmons for this one

Now Those Are Some Sore Losers

Serbia-Montenegro lost to France in the European Championship tournament for basketball on Tuesday. Were the Serbians upset at being eliminated from the tournament? I would say yes: "The Serbia team took the loss hard. Fights broke out in the locker room, Obradovic (the coach) quit, and three veterans said they were finished."


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Mysterious Ball of Fire Seen in Florida Skies"

The invasion begins.


The show premieres tonight on ABC. Sounds promising.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Death Eaters!

I've always thought that was a cool name for bad guys. Here's a link to the trailer for The Goblet of Fire. Looks awesome.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Zellweger and Chesney Split

I wasn't particularly interested in this story until I saw the line: "Though her annulment papers cite 'fraud,' Zellweger says its 'not a reflection of Kenny's character.'" Well, that's a relief. According to Ms. Zellweger, her representatives were just using fraud in the legal sense, which of course is vastly different from how fraud is normally meant. But why did she want to file for divorce? Because there was a "miscommunication of the objective of their marriage." What the heck does that mean? As far as I know, the objectives of marriage are pretty limited. Did one of them want to have a good excuse not to get together with an old boyfriend/girlfriend? Was Renee finally tired of the "Zellweger"? These are some important questions, and I'd like answers.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Speaking of Ghosts

Over Labor Day weekend, my wife, sister, and I went camping near Traverse City, Michigan. One night we went to dinner at a haunted restuarant called The Bowery out on the peninsula. The restaurant was located in what was the barn of a decent-sized mansion from the early 20th century. The story goes that the wife upon discovering that her husband had left most of the money to the maid, with whom he had been having an affair, hanged herself from the elevator shaft connecting the barn and the house. The wife's ghost has haunted the building since then.

Our meal was uneventful, although we did get our waitress to tell us a neat story about an encounter with ghostly footsteps she had when working late one night. After dinner, the wife and I went upstairs to check out the elevator shaft. I'm sure it was just the general mood of the evening, but there was definitely a spooky vibe up there. Unfortunately, we didn't see any ghosts -- just some poorly behaved children. I could see it being very spooky there, though, on a deserted winter's day. Eating there beat Applebee's, anyway.

Laura Linney Ghost Sighting

Here's a neat little story about a ghost that Laura Linney believes she saw in a theater during a dress rehearsal at a haunted theater. And, by the way, there are a couple of quotes in the story from the actress about how The Exorcism of Emily Rose was purposely made balanced so that viewers had to make up their own minds about whether Emily had been possessed or not. Apparently balance is too much for critics like Mr. Scott, when it comes to matters of religion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

One Last Post On Emily Rose...

...only because I'm still astounded that this movie wasn't better reviewed. For confirmation that the A. O. Scott review was representative of movie critics in general, the Rotten Tomatoes rating for Emily Rose was 44%. I really think the explanation for this is that certain of the reviewers just can't stomach a movie that even suggests that demons, and by implication God, might be real.

I wrote this post to tie up a couple of loose ends, as well. First, here is a good review from the National Review website. It's not political, so don't get all worked up if NRO isn't your bag. I found this reviewer's take much more interesting and even-handed than that other guy's review. Second, I wanted to relate a piece of external evidence that should help show that it wasn't just me liking this movie inordinately.

As you may or may not know, Emily Rose is rated PG-13. I didn't realize that going into the theater, and it was an unpleasant surprise to encounter the theater full of screaming, laughing, and cursing high schoolers geeked up on a Friday night. My wife and I saw The Ring in a similar theater, and it was not an optimal experience. The noise in the theater was deafening, especially when Samara crawled out of the tv near the end. So we expected the worst for this movie. The shouting and general yowling during the previews made me even more worried, and I seriously considered walking out and asking for a refund. However, I decided to stay the course, and by about 15 to 20 minutes in, you could have heard a mouse sneeze in the theater during the quiet parts of the movie. I've never been in a theater that went from chaos in the beginning to attentive, dead silence (punctuated by a few well-deserved screams at pop-out frights) like that one did.

My point is this: if that theater full of teenagers hopped up on caffeine and hormones can sit still on a Friday night through this allegedly "too talky" horror movie, what does that say about movie critics who thought it was boring? I think it says a lot about what little there is to some of them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Review of Exorcism of Emily Rose

In the previous post, I criticized A. O. Scott's review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. In a more brief post (I hope), I wanted to discuss my thoughts on the movie.

First off, I thought it was an excellent, excellent movie. As even the negative reviews mention, the cast is superb. Tom Wilkinson did an especially good job as the accused priest. In the hands of a lesser actor, there would have been some serious laugh line/over-acting potential for that role.

I also really liked tackling the subject from a courtroom perspective, and I don't think that's just because I'm a lawyer. Some have criticized this move because there's "too much talking" or some such complaint you expect to hear from a kid hooked on "Doom." However, I'm on record as selecting The Exorcist as the best horror movie of all time. This is why it annoys me when the reviews for this movie talk about the lack of head-spinning and vomiting in the new movie. It would have been stupid for the director of Emily Rose to have scenes like that when the original is so well-known and respected. I'm sure then the reviewers would have harped on the movie's lack of originality.

But instead of tapdancing on the grave of a classic, the new movie's setting allowed the director to explore the one weakness of the original: what if you don't believe in possession? I've always thought The Exorcist was very, very scary, but would it have the same effect on an agnostic or atheist? I would think not, and that's where a lot of the interest in the courtroom scenes comes from in the new movie.

An additional plus about setting the movie in the courtroom was that it allowed the director to dole out dollops of escalating fright throughout the movie as the flashbacks explained what did happen to Emily. So instead of maintaining a level of fright through the whole movie, the director was able to charge the audience with regular shocks. I think this heightened the experience.

All in all, I recommend this movie to anyone who likes a good story, has any intellectual curiosity at all (unlike Mr. Scott from the Times), and doesn't mind some disturbing horror scenes.

By the way, I hope you don't wake up at 3am after watching the movie (you'll see).

Idiotic Reviews

I'm typically not big on name-calling on this site, because I understand that not everyone thinks the same way that I do and that my tastes are often idiosyncratic. This time, though, I have to say that every review I have read of The Exorcism of Emily Rose is dead wrong: it is an excellent, thought-provoking movie, and the reviewers who think otherwise need to step outside the echo-chamber for a minute.

First, there is A. O. Scott of the New York Times. Mr. Scott has perfected the art, and exhibits his skills in his review of Emily Rose, of simultaneously arguing that the expectations for horror movies are low and yet concluding that somehow the reviewed film manages not even to meet those meager expectations. However, the main problem of this particular review, and Mr. Scott's whole view toward the movie, is encapsulated in this quote: "Father Moore knows what he saw. So do I: propaganda disguised as entertainment."

What a load of crap. That statement comes at the end of a review that is generally bland and devoid of any reasoning that leads up to such a conclusion, other than a snide reference to intelligent design. I have no truck with the intelligent design folks, and neither do millions of other Catholics who find a way to believe that religion and science can coexist. So what is Mr. Scott saying? Basically that a movie, a horror movie no less, that has characters that argue and/or suggest that the possession at the center of the movie was actually a supernatural event is propaganda.

But the movie was not propaganda, and a person not blinded with religious bigotry would have seen this. In fact, the courtroom scenes were full of details that would refute much of the evidence that supported the supernatural thesis. I won't go into the details so as not to spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it, but my point is that the movie proceeds much more along the lines of a conversation or argument about the supernatural versus the medical explanations for what happened. The setting is dramatic, and of course the movie is more sympathetic to the accused priest, but the argument is certainly not one-sided. It is simply not propaganda.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Cougar Kills Horse In Lower Michigan

In Jackson County Michigan, just west of Ann Arbor, a mountain lion has allegedly killed a horse. The article describes the wounds as follows:

"There were two punctures in its neck like a vampire bite and gashes that looked like knife wounds."

The DNR has always maintained that cougars have been extinct in Michigan since the early 20th century, but as the article mentions, there are theories that the population of cougars was reduced almost to extinction but not all the way. Until recently, the DNR has dismissed the frequent citings of cougars in Northern Michigan, or claimed that they were escaped pets. I wonder if this killing will force the department to change its thinking. After all, this is to some extent a matter of public safety, because, unlike, say, black bears, cougars do prey on people in certain circumstances. It's an interesting question. And, as a hiker, a somewhat scary one.

Strange Earthquakes

Here's an interesting map showing earthquakes in the Midwest. Not something you normally worry about, in Michigan at least.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The NFL Is Back!

As I watch the opening game of the season with multiple tabs open in Firefox to monitor my fantasy teams, life is good.

Added bonus: on one of my more important teams, my QB is former Michigan Wolverine Tom Brady.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The upcoming WB show "Supernatural" looks kind of cool. I can't recall ever having watched a show on the frog network, but I may just have to record the first episode of this one.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fall Movie Season

Here's an interesting article from the Toledo Blade (great name for a newspaper) about the 25 most anticipated movies of the fall movie season. The ones I'm most looking forward to are: Harry Potter, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, and King Kong. Of movies not mentioned, The Fog has some potential, and I'll probably see Saw II, even if my expectations for it are pretty low. One movie I'll be purchasing on November 8th is The Devil's Rejects, because I was unable to convince anyone to go see it with me.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Movie Thoughts

In watching the trailer for the movie Cry-Wolf, which initially looked pretty cool, I began to rapidly lose interest during the trailer. After a moment's reflection, I realized why this was. According to the film's website, the director won a million dollars in a contest from Chrysler to film the movie. I thought that sounded kind of neat, and the still picture they are using to advertise the film is spooky in a way reminiscent of the good parts of House of 1,000 Corpses. But you know what bothered me about the trailer? The kids in it were too attractive. Yes, you heard me right. It just didn't seem right for this gritty, hard won little horror film to have a trailer that pans over a room full of kids straight out of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. I mean, think back to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and how it had such a documentary feel to it. Then fast forward to the remake with Jessica Biel and her drawn on blue jeans. Did that second movie at all feel real? Not to me. Plus, there's the whole cliche issue, as a result of which certain segments of the viewing populace are just immediately turned off when there are well-endowed girls running around and screaming helplessly. I'm not saying that the people in movies should be ugly, but it is really distracting when they are near-models.

So there it is.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Plane Like a Bird

This is a cool article about a small drone plane that looks like a seagull and will be used for investigating urban areas. Sounds like a good Christmas gift for me, if anyone is looking for ideas.