Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Dread Pirate Westley

I noticed what I think is an allusion to The Princess Bride in one of the early Cersei chapters in A Feast for Crows. First, the undergaoler in charge of the black cells' name is Rugen, like Count Rugen (the Six-Fingered Man). Then, soon after introducing Rugen, another character concludes what a certain poison was and that he would "stake his life on it." Very similar to "Iocaine powder. I would stake my life on it," said by Prince Humperdink. Anyway, I thought it was kind of interesting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cthulu's Family Circus

For Lovecraft fans, this little cartoon is hilarious.

Speaking of Laughable...

...there's Mr. & Mrs. Smith. How stupid a plot idea is this? Two top-secret, deadly assassins just happened to be married to each other for six years without either of them knowing it. Way to rip off the idea from the end of True Lies, too.

Re-Evaluating King Kong

I've been waffling for a while on whether or not to see it. After Lord of the Rings, I have a lot of good will toward Peter Jackson. However, as I noted a while back, Kong is going to be three hours long, and that may be too much ape for me. Now, though, I am re-considering in light of the intense trailers, especially the one in front of The Goblet of Fire, and this article in Newsweek. Hell, I'll probably see it. After all, other than Narnia, the choices this fall are pretty laughable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hollywood Down, But Horror Up

That's my take on this report on the continuing sob story that is Hollywood's declining box office. The fall box office total, measured as the ten weeks following Labor Day and not including The Goblet of Fire was down considerably from the last two years. This is bad news for Hollywood, and I'm not going to try to spin it in their favor, because I think if they made more quality movies then this problem would go away to some extent. But what was interesting was that in the list of the top ten fall movies, five of them could be classified in the horror/suspense category, if you stretch it to include Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Even without that one (which I think you should include), you have Flightplan at 1, Saw II and The Exorcism of Emily Rose at 3 and 4, and then Corpse Bride at 6. That's a pretty solid showing, especially since none of these movies was likely ever considered blockbuster material. To me, this shows the steady ability of horror movies to put butts in the seats even during what is considered a down time for Hollywood movies in general.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Kill the Spare" (The Goblet of Fire -- With Spoilers)

We caught the new Harry Potter movie last night at the Henry Ford Imax. This time, I decided to re-read the book so that I could see how they would adapt this one. The answer? They cut the bejesus out of it. A lot of the subplots were either eliminated or metioned in a cursory way. S.P.E.W. was no more, Rita Skeeter became less pesty, the whole Hagrid-giant thing was cut, and so on. In some ways, I was disappointed that I had re-read the book so recently, because I found myself spending too much time trying to decide whether or not I liked the omissions and changes. In the end, I'm glad I did read it, though, because there was such a wealth of background information that I would not have remembered otherwise and which made the scenes that much deeper.

The director/screenwriter did a good overall job on the adaptation, I thought. This was probably the most action-packed of the books, and there was a lot of background information on new characters that had to be hit on. The pace of the movie was a little breathless at times, but it had to be, I think, to get in even what they did. The two nitpicks I had were that I thought Krum, while a star athlete, wasn't supposed to be that good-looking (although my sister disagreed) and I did not like the changes to Harry's challenge against the Hungarian Horntail. I thought it was unnecessary and actually counter-productive to the portrayal of Harry as a talented flier. On the other hand, the one change I really liked was having Neville give Harry the gillyweed instead of Dobby. It just felt less contrived than the way Ms. Rowling, for whom I have the utmost respect, wrote it in the novel.

Where does this movie rank? Even though the novel is probably my favorite of those so far, I would rank this movie second, contingent upon a re-watch. I rank The Prisoner of Azkaban first, because I really liked the atmosphere and feel that Alfonso Cuaron added to Hogwarts. It felt a little more gritty, and real, than the Chris Columbus interpretation of the first two. This movie was somewhere in between, but where it was a little off, I felt, was that it felt at times too much like an action movie.

I don't want to sound too negative, though. The movie had a great cast (Mad-Eye was hilarious), high the important points, and had a pretty freaky, although very odd-looking, Voldemort. A great job, even if I would have paid happily the extra money to see this one done in two parts.

Well, We're Safer Here Than In Camden...

Detroit is only the second most dangerous city in America. That's a relief.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Walk the Line

We were fortunate enough to get out last night and see Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, both of whom were excellent. Unlike Professor Althouse, I enjoy this time of year for the biopics, at least the ones about musicians. They're fun because it's like seeing a movie and a concert. Last year, Ray was really good, but Walk the Line topped it by far. One difference was that while I enjoyed Ray Charles' music, watching him (in the form of Jamie Fox) doing drugs and womanizing was kind of weird, given that the "Ray" in my mind was the nice little old man in the Pepsi commercials.

Now, Johnny Cash, on the other hand, here's a guy you expect to have had some problems. I mean, one of his most popular songs is about being sent to prison after killing a man just to watch him die. The movie doesn't disappoint, and what I liked a lot was that it didn't sugarcoat things. The way Mr. Cash got together with June Carter certainly didn't make him look like the nicest guy in the world, and they didn't throw in some lame rationalization to try to create sympathy.

One really neat thing about the movie was that Mr. Phoenix and Ms. Witherspoon both sang their own songs, and apparently neither had much of a singing background before that. They both did well, with Mr. Phoenix doing an excellent job. The other thing I really liked (aside from Robert Patrick of T2 fame doing a good job as Mr. Cash's non-supportive in the extreme father) was that the movie was not so terribly sentimental as many of these type movies can get. I thought it told in a pretty straightforward way the story of The Man in Black (I had to get that in there), and actually the two plus hours flew by. I couldn't believe it was over when the lights went on. Anyway, I highly recommend this movie, and not just for Johnny Cash or country music fans. After the movie, everyone I was with was talking about getting a Johnny Cash cd, and some of them, including my wife, are far, far from country music fans. I think anybody could enjoy this one.

The Devil's Rejects

I did watch it the day after it came out, but I haven't blogged about it yet for two reasons. First, I have been fighting illness, including a cold and some strange night chills-inducing bug that my mom helpfully suggested might be TB. It's not, but it did take the starch out of me. Reason two is that, frankly, I was a little disappointed with The Devil's Rejects.

The natural comparison is between Rejects and Rob Zombie's first movie, House of 1000 Corpses. In many regards, Rejects compares well. It was a very good movie, and certainly a more cohesive, and coherent, one than its predecessor. In fact, I would say that it is a better movie that Corpses.

But Corpses was just more fun. All the little touches that went into it, from the scary movies on tv to Captain Spaulding's horror ride at the gas station to the Halloween setting, created an atmosphere of appreciation of horror. It had some scary parts, but not many, and that was okay. Mr. Zombie's horror fandom seeped into every scene.

Rejects, however, was not like that. It was really more of an action, thriller-type movie than a horror movie. So while it was very good (and had a really cool soundtrack, by the way), it was different, and because my expectations seem to have been for a movie that was more well-executed but essentially in the vein of Corpses.

, while very good, was not that movie. I enjoyed it and will probably watch it a few more times, but I am still hopeful for the movie I wanted from Mr. Zombie. With the improvement he showed in Rejects, I think he can do it.

Awe-Inspiring Humor

Two Chinese kids in Yao Ming jerseys lip-synching "I want it that way." If you haven't seen it, you need to. Now.

Run, Forrest! Run!

Now that he is fleeing the land of the frogs, Johnny Depp is showing that bad hygeine (seriously, look at the picture at the link) is not the only thing he has learned from the French. Apparently he moved to France because LA had become too violent, but now the smell of burning cars is starting to get to him. I love it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bird Flu Chicken Littles

For those among us with our feathers ruffled about the impending bird flu pandemic that is destined to doom mankind, this article by Michael Fumento is an important corrective. Its distilled essence is this message: relax.

Funny Headline

"US filmmaker Scorses wants to quit making Hollywood blockbusters"

It would be funnier if it was a direct quote from Mr. Scorsese himself, of course: "Oh the burden of making multi-million dollar masterpieces. It just wears on me."

Aside from the sarcasm, I do have one practical suggestion if he really wants to stop making hit movies: work with Oliver Stone.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


In front of Saw II, we saw (heh heh) the preview for Hostel, which looked, well, hostile. Follow the link to the film's website, and you'll see a disturbing, masked fellow with a chainsaw in his hand and a damsel in the background. Frankly, the preview for this movie made it look like what I feared the Saw sequel would be: pointless violence. Saw was good because there was a reason for the grotesquerie. While it allowed people to take thrills in the misfortunes of others, it wasn't a simple celebration of sadism. I won't say that Hostel is without knowing more, but the Tarantino connection (he "presents" the movie) lends one to believe that extreme violence is in the cards. On the other hand, Eli Roth, who wrote and directed this movie, also performed the same work on Cabin Fever, which I thought was well done. Hmm. Need more input.

Impalements v. Protruding Object

What is the dividing line between an impalement and a protruding object? Frankly, I'm not sure. But apparently in 100 horror films released since 1975, impalement has been the most common "pain inducer," followed by protruding object.

The article's list is odd, because it appears to contain 91 films, some of which go back to 1960. At any rate, I've seen around 46 of them (the uncertainty is due to my inability to remember which Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies I've seen. They kind of blend together).

Looks Like a Franchise

There will be a Saw III.

Lounge Against The Machine!

I have recently, as in yesterday, discovered a musician by the name of Richard Cheese. It turns out that he is a genius who does lounge covers of mostly hard, popular songs. My favorite is his rendition Disturbed's of "Down with the Sickness, which is on his album "Tuxicity." For the unititiated, this album name is a play on "Toxicity"by System of a Down. This is the stuff of legend.

Not that there has to be, but there is a horror connection here: Mr. Cheese's "Sickness" was in the (execrable) re-make of Dawn of the Dead.

The Devil's Rejects

It is time:

Saw II Review

On Friday night, it was time for Saw II. I had earlier been concerned that it would be a gorefest without the same level of menace as in the original. To some extent I was right, in that there was definitely blood, in good amounts, and the sequel was lacking a little of the menace. My wife's theory was that it was because Jigsaw did a lot of the narration, which necessarily took away from the mystery of the first one.

Overall, though, I was pleased. This was a very solid movie, if not one for the squeamish (I thought the part with the hypodermic needles was particularly intense). As I'm sure everyone has heard, there is a twist at the end. It's actually kind of a multi-pronged deal. I really liked one of the prongs, which I thought was sadistically ironic.

I don't have a lot else to say about this movie. If you're a horror buff and/or you enjoyed the first one, you should without a doubt check this one out. It's certainly a strong entry in the gross-out horror genre, and like the original shows how to do that kind of movie right. On the other hand, it's not a critical entry to the horror canon (I would argue that the first one might well be, but the jury is still out), and just not everyone's cup of tea.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Conservatives in Hollywood?!

So asks this article from the City Journal. The reporter says that they exist and goes on to hypothesize that the coming years will see more of them. His reasoning is that Hollywood is losing money because of its doggedly liberal worldview and gives examples of conservative (he's talking culturally here, not politically) movies that have been successful in recent years, including Spider-Man II and The Incredibles. I think it's an interesting hypothesis, especially if it's true that dvd sales are down as well. The article is definitely worth a read.

Cheerleader Sex Scandal

In case you're a guy and somehow you've missed this story today, two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested over the weekend in Tampa for disorderly conduct. And, oh yeah, before that they were having sex with each other in the women's bathroom. My circuits are overloaded with jokes on this one, so I'll go for the cheap trolling-for-hits-ploy: judging from their pictures, they certainly are lipstick lesbians.

Curse of the Mummy!

This is a real life one, centered around a frozen mummy found in the Alps in 1991. Seven people connected with the mummy have died now. Maybe it's a coincidence, but it's a pretty spooky one. There's even an eerie quote: the head of the university's investigation team, when asked about the possibility of a curse said: "No. Next thing you will be saying I will be next."

He was.

Friday, November 04, 2005


In case you haven't noticed or are new to the site, there are now some rather menacing-looking ads on the right side of the page. I think it's neat how closely they're correlated to the content of the site. Plus, some of them are good reminders, such as the one for The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror episode this weekend. I really need to set the DVR for that one, because I know I'll forget. Anyway, be sure to click on them if you like my commentary here. Support my horror habit so that I can feed yours! Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Oh Yes, There Will Be Blood

We're seeing Saw II tonight. A report will follow this weekend (after painting...sigh). I'm not entirely sure what to expect from this one. I liked the original a lot. While it was pretty gruesome, I thought it was also very scary and menacing. And the twist at the end was top-notch. I'm a little worried the sequel is going to just be ultra-gory without the scares. We'll see.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Intelligent Design

I think this theory is interesting in the way that Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster is: it's kind of enjoyable to look at the supporting examples, as long as you don't look to closely or think too hard. But it's important for us Catholics to keep in mind that even if its critics tend to come off as religion-bashers, ID is not a theory to which our faith subscribes. This post from Mark Kleiman's blog helps explain why.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

And In Other Scary News...

Is this a belated Halloween thing or what? Not only are there stories about vampire bats, but there's also this story about a pizza guy who moonlighted as a serial killer (or is it the other way around?). He is accused of killing 23 people. No word about whether he killed the people before or after he delivered the pizzas. Seriously, though, the good news is that he was already serving time for an unrelated rape, so the odds of him breathing free air again are slim to none.

Rabid Vampire Bats

In Brazil. 23 people have died, and over 300 attacks have been recorded. As if the bird-eating spiders and poisonous frogs weren't enough to keep people away.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Weekend...

...would seem to be kind to horror movies making their debuts, and the one definitely was for Saw II, which is getting good press for beating out the Zorro nonsense. I've heard good things about it, including that it is more intense (or gruesome, if that's the way you feel about it) than the first one.

Speaking of Saw, here's an interesting profile of Tobin Bell, the man who plays Jigsaw. One line from it that's classic: "...Bell doesn't want his career to be limited to emaciated lunatics who enjoy forcing unpleasant people to kill each other for sport." No?

One Seinfeld footnote: Mr. Bell played "Ron" in the episode "The Old Man." It's important.

Cue the "Jaws" Music....

Joey Harrington may start this weekend for the Lions. Da da. Da da. All kidding aside, it really doesn't matter if Harrington or Garcia starts when the Lions are using turnstiles instead of offensive linemen (all right, not all kidding aside). To me, the main indictment against Matt Millen (other than his nightmarish won-loss record) is that he has failed so completely to build up a line that can pass or run block. I think all but the most inept teams have a line that can do one or the other at least passably well.

That reminds me of the one really good criticism of Millen's selecting Mike Williams where he did: the fact that they could have had the best offensive lineman-- probably Jammal Brown, who went 13th overall to the Saints. Would 10th (where the Lions picked) have been too high to take Brown? That's a pretty hard case to make.

I'm just hoping he learns from this season and brings in some legitimate talent for the O-line (I'll eat a little crow here, because I thought Rick DeMulling would be at least solid and certainly not the eye-gougingly bad he has been). After all, it's looking like we might be in for another high draft pick...