Monday, November 28, 2011

Nine Lives

I started reading Rue Morgue a little less than ten years ago. The first issue I ever bought had a quite negative review of a movie called Nine Lives that, for whatever reason, completely intrigued me. I had to see it. A couple days ago I discovered Netflix finally had it available for streaming. Victory is mine!
Victory but not entertainment.
Nine Lives is about a group of nine friends (seven English, one Scottish, one Paris Hilton) gathering at one guy's family's country home. After a night of drinking and talking, most of the group goes to bed. One of the two guys who stays up finds a book and becomes possessed by an angry Scottish ghost named Murray, who wants his land back from the English or something. Also, he has no eyes.
This terrifying and murderous turn of events causes everyone to talk a lot. And cry and be incredibly melodramatic. But mostly, they talk. They talk about all kinds of things: they state the obvious, they make sure to use each others' first names as much as possible, they repeat themselves over and over, they make sure to point out the person who was most recently killed "was my best friend" and, of course, they throw in some half-assed attempts at talking about existentialism so the thirteen-year-olds this movie was obviously made for will feel like they're watching something written by someone who had a brain.
None of the acting is particularly great, but I have to make special mention of Paris Hilton's performance: I'm thrilled she was the first to die because her acting in this movie almost made me regret all the nice things I've said about her since becoming a fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera. (She is really great in Repo. My guess is that she took acting lessons between making these movies. Or maybe she only tries to put in good performances when working with talented people.)
Nine Lives is all around pretty terrible, but in more of a boring way than anything else. It's not quite an hour and a half long and most of that run time feels like padding. Nothing really happens in this movie at all. It's a whole lot of me yawning, occasionally interrupted by somebody getting stabbed (usually offscreen and with very little blood. That's not even my high gore tolerance talking; the blood is just really minimal).

End of line.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hostel II

Hostel Two tells the magical tale of three American art students (Beth The BlandyDull, Lorna The RatlikeNerd and Whitney The SlutWhore) studying abroad in a mystical, fictional Europe where all natives are in cahoots with all other natives to lure unsuspecting Americans to Slovakia, where they're sold to a murder club. (Honestly, if these movies were remotely true to real life, Americans would have stopped visiting Europe ages ago.)
Hostel Two is a bit more fun than the first one because, in spite of the fact that I didn't like a one of them, the three protagonists are more likeable than the three protagonists in the first movie (yikes; sucks to be the guys in the first movie) and, unlike the first one, I think Hostel Two has a sense of humor. I laughed exactly once during the first movie (in a scene that involved people being hit by cars). I laughed ... well, more than once this time. It wouldn't be accurate to call this movie lighthearted or a laugh riot or anything like that, but it was funnier (the online auction scene was straight up comedy) and more fun and satisfying to watch.
Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of all that "girl power" nonsense that feminists and the Spice Girls tout left and right, but I do enjoy it when chicks get to kick some ass in movies (Leeloo in The Fifth Element, for instance, or Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare On Elm Street). Beth The BlandyDull turns out to be one tough cookie underneath all the boring, which is pretty freaking cool.
On the other hand, I thought the first movie was a bit grittier and grimier. I like that, too.
Oh, and I guess I should add: Earlier today I was telling Rebekah about how I wasn't as satisfied with the gore in Hostel as I could have been, that I was expecting it to be far grosser than it turned out to be. She pointed out that I have an extremely high gore tolerance, to which my response was "I do?" The more I think about it, the more I realize she's right. So Hostel may actually be as gory as they say and I'm just a difficult-to-please gorehound. (I still think Cabin Fever was gorier, though.)
I'd be hard pressed to say whether I like Hostel or Hostel Two more. Hostel Two has more build up, more character development and, for the most part, more boring stretches. It also has a more satisfying ending. I suppose it wins by a slight margin, but I thoroughly enjoyed both movies.

End of line.


I was told by several people that Hostel has no plot; that the first half is nothing but sex and the second half is nothing but gore.
Hostel has more plot and much less sex and gore than I was led to believe. Not that there isn't any. But I was expecting the second half to be so unbelieveably gross that I'd have a hard time watching it, and that wasn't the case. (I did end looking away during one scene, but it was a scene I'd actually seen before on Spike TV's Scream Awards. Once is enough for me.)
So even though it was less disgusting than I had expected (hoped) I ended up liking Hostel for its story as much as its violence. It's a simple story (simple enough to make people claim it isn't even there) but an engrossing one nonetheless. And a tense one. Tense enough to make me yell at the screen a few times (mostly at characters about how they are being stupid) and then unable to sleep afterwards (which caused me to put on The Simpsons and then sleep in 'til eleven thirty, which I hate doing).
Brad and Nikki also loaned me Hostel Two, so I'm sure I'll be reviewing that one soon.

End of line.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I never finished reading The Strange Case Of Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, because it was obvious the story was building to the dramatic conclusion of "they were the same guy all along!" Also known as "the one thing everybody knows about Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde." And I just didn't have the patience for that.
I did finish reading Psycho by Robert Bloch. I finished it today. It was entertaining in an old pulp novel sort of way, but it didn't have the intended dramatic impact because I have seen the movie Psycho, which was based on this book.
For the two people out there who aren't familiar with Psycho the movie (not that you're reading this blog, but just in case) I'm not going to give away the dramatic conclusion to which the book builds, but those of you who have seen the movie already know it, know it from page one, and knowing it makes entire chapters of the book almost painfully eyerolly.
The shock only works once. And it was effective the first time I saw Psycho. That movie may be a classic (it was groundbreaking in a lot of ways) but, in my opinion, it doesn't really hold up to a second viewing. Once you know, it makes the buildup kinda dull. So that's the problem with the novel.
The guy who loaned me Psycho (the book) also loaned me Psycho II and Psycho House, its sequels. I've read a synopsis of the movie Psycho 2 and I just read the back of the book Psycho II, and they have completely different plots. I think that's pretty cool.
Someday I plan on watching the movie sequels to the movie Psycho. But I have access to the books, so I'll just have to read those first.

End of line.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

They Might Be Giants at the House Of Blues in Anaheim, November 16, 2011

I'm not the sort of person to let personal drama prevent me from going to conerts. I had tickets to this show and, come hell or high water, I was going to it. (I've had a fairly dramatic week.)
On the way to the concert, Ivy's older daughter was busy getting arrested for Occupying San Francisco. I'm not a protest kind of person; even when I agree with protestors I find them motherfucking annoying. But then I don't get to have experiences like getting arrested by riot cops. (That may sound like sarcasm, but it isn't. I actually think it's pretty cool and I'm a little jealous.)
My point is, that had nothing to do with my own drama, and drama is far more entertaining when you're privy to it but not directly involved.
Anyway, none of that matters. I'm not reviewing my week so far or my friend's kid's arrest record. I'm reviewing a concert.
Jonathan Coulton was the opening act and ... Okay, see, here's the thing. I have this terrible habit of reacting negatively to extreme praise. For years I've had friends going on and on about how wonderful Jonathan Coulton is, so my natural reaction was to never want to hear his music ever. And I pretended to be familiar with him already just so people wouldn't play me any of his stuff. (I do the same thing with certain movies. But I won't say which ones, 'cause then someone'll try to make me watch them and I don't want to.)
I had heard some Jonathan Coulton songs before. I had him among my LastFM favorited artists for a while (I don't mind listening to him on my own terms) but the only song of his they ever played was I'm Having A Party (or some title along those lines) and I wasn't terribly impressed. I heard Still Alive when Ivan showed me Portal, and I liked that one enough to listen to it several times on Youtube. And on the way to the show Ivy played a song he did about the presidents (which I really liked) and some Christmas song about robot overlords (to which I was fairly indifferent).
But now that I have seen him play live, I can say with absolute certainty that he rocks. He rocks big time. I am planning on getting all his albums just as soon as I have the money to do so. And I will buy his newest album first so I can have a copy of Good Morning Tucson, which is the song that absolutely won me over to his side.
As for They Might Be Giants...
They're fantastic.
I don't know why I bother reviewing concerts because I never know what to say. I have never seen a bad They Might Be Giants show. John, John, Dan, Dan and Marty (actually I guess one of those Dans goes by Danny, but it's funnier that way) always fucking bring it.
They played (to the best of my memory) twenty seven songs, they divided the audience into apes and people, they gave away a copy of Join Us on vinyl and a very large Join Us poster, the Avatars Of They showed up and regaled us with the tale of how They Might Be Giants stole songs from their rejected demo tape because puppets don't have lawyers.
I danced, I sang, I bounced, I headbanged, I pumped my fist, I yelled "WOOOOOOO!" a lot. I was right in front, so I could see a good portion of what was going on (some of my view was blocked by Linnell's piano) and a few times John Flansburgh and Danny Weinkauf were so close to me that, if I were more rude (or creepy) I could have touched them.
I was less than six inches from John Flansburgh. It actually made me almost cry. (If I had been alive in the 1960s, I totally would have been a crying Beatle fangirl.)
So, the verdict: They Might Be Giants = wonderful. There's a reason I have a tattoo of their logo.

And, in case anyone cares, here's a list of the songs they played. I don't remember what order they played them, so I've arranged them alphabetically. (Sorry it's not in order, but I didn't get a set list. Marty Beller gave me a drumstick, though, so I can't complain.) Songs with an asterisk were encore songs:
Alphabet Of Nations
Birdhouse In Your Soul*
Can't Keep Johnny Down (first song played)
Careful What You Pack
Celebration (second song played)
Clap Your Hands*
Damn Good Times
How Can I Sing Like A Girl*
In The Middle, In The Middle, In The Middle (sung by Robin "Goldie" Goldwasser)
Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Judy Is Your Viet Nam
Marty Beller Mask*
New York City* (last song played)
Particle Man
Piece Of Dirt
Purple Toupee
Spoiler Alert (sung by The Avatars Of They)
The Famous Polka
They'll Need A Crane
We Live In A Dump
When Will You Die (last song of the main set)
Why Does The Sun Shine
Withered Hope
You Probably Get That A Lot

End of line.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


More fuel for my theory that moviegoers don't have any intelligence for filmmakers to respect:
Puss In Boots, an insultingly predictable movie (don't give me any of that "lighten up, it's a kids' movie" bullshit; kids deserve better than mediocre, pandering crap), was the number one movie in the country for two weeks in a row.
On the other end of the spectrum, Drive barely got any attention as an entity and some woman tried to sue because it wasn't like The Fast And The Furious. (And also because there are some racial slurs against Jewish people. Said by Jewish characters. And she doesn't seem to have a problem with the same characters' racial slurs against Asians and Italians.) I cannot begin to fathom how fucking stupid this woman must be.
Now, Drive isn't for everyone, certainly. For instance, I know my mom would hate it. It's tense and stressful and violent. (Oh, the violence. So much violence.) But even if I had hated Drive (I didn't, but if I had) I wouldn't have been able to deny that it's a good movie. A damn good movie. If I had gone into the theater expecting something like The Fast And The Furious and ended up instead with what Drive actually is, I'd be thrilled. When the movie ended and I tried to talk to my friend about it, I couldn't. Drive genuinely rendered me speechless; I couldn't figure out how to say words to express how I felt.
What I liked about Drive was that it understood when to be quiet. It takes its time. It starts slow and even when the action kicks in and the movie goes full tilt violence boogie all over everybody's asses, it still has its fair share of slow, quiet moments.
The acting's fantastic. I'll never understand why my friends think Ryan Gosling is hot but I can't deny the dude's a very talented actor. Bryan Cranston is great, Albert Brooks is frightening (who knew?), Ron Perlman is ... well, he's large and meatheady, which we all already knew he was good at. But still!
I can tell this one's going to stick with me for a good, long while. I just wish I knew how to put into words why Drive is such a great movie. "Great" doesn't really cut it as a descriptor.
You know how sometimes you're watching a movie, but your mind is wandering? You're thinking about other things going on in your life, thinking about what may or may not happen next in the movie, what the characters should have done, what you would have done in their situations, or a million other things? That didn't happen with Drive. It was completely engrossing. I can't exactly say that I wasn't thinking, but I wasn't thinking about anything other than what was going on, on screen, at that moment. It drew me right in and told all other parts of my brain to keep quiet for a little while while it told me this amazing story about a driver who makes friends with his neighbor and winds up in a world of trouble. It's not often a movie can do that.
Films like Drive are rare.
And when they do come along, complete idiots sue them for not being brainless action movies.
And this is why moviemakers don't respect our intelligence.

End of line.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dr. Syn Alias The Scarecrow

This is one of those old live action Disney movies that most people seem to have forgotten about. In fact, I'm pretty sure more people The Gnome Mobile than this one. And I don't even remember The Gnome Mobile.
It wasn't a bad movie, exactly. It was just ... it felt very, very long. And also it felt like two movies.
Basically, it's a superhero story. Mild mannered vicar Doctor Syn is, in fact, the mysterious Scarecrow, who smuggles alcohol and silk and probably other stuff and redistributes it to the poor. Take that, the British government!
The first half of the movie is about a guy in the Scarecrow's smuggling ring who starts working for the army because they threatened to hang him for smuggling. Of course, now the Scarecrow's gang wants to hang him for being a traitor to their cause. And it seems like all the guy really wants to do is be drunk and not get hung.
The second half of the movie is about a Navy deserter returning home and getting arrested for deserting the Navy. So now the Scarecrow has to rescue him. 'Cause he's a nice guy like that.
I liked certain things about the movie (Patrick McGoohan being the obvious example; there were neat plot points and stuff, too) but overall it was kinda boring and too long.
The Scarecrow / Doctor Syn was a cool character and his schemes to get back at the traitor smuggler and rescue the Navy deserter from jail were by far the most entertaining parts of the movie. It was all the plot exposition leading up to those setpieces I didn't care for so much.

End of line.