Monday, October 31, 2011

Blog-o-ween: My scary movie list

Over the past week Tracy has provided us with a list of some of the most outstanding scary movies.  Those are the movies that if you haven't seen, you need to.  Seriously.  Do it.  I'll wait.

I thought I'd share a few of the ones that had an impact on me and a few of the ones I love simply because they're outrageously bad but have a special place in my cold, black heart. 

The ones that had the biggest impact on me are:

- The Evil Dead: I was super young when I saw it.  In fact this was my first horror movie.  I was at a sleepover and Evil Dead was put in the VCR.  Have you seen it?  Can you imagine what you would have thought of it if you'd seen it before you were 10? But thanks to this movie, Bruce Campbell is the legend he is today.

- The Watcher in the Woods: I then backtracked a bit and saw this Disney approved scary movie.  Boy did I love it.  This was one of those movies that I watched quite often during my childhood.  I'd love to watch it now to see if it holds up.
 It has a phenomenal cast (the chick from Ice Castles , Bette Davis and even a Real Housewife).

- Poltergeist: Any child of the 80s should have good memories of this movie.  I was probably scared the first time I saw it but loved it so much that I watched it over and over and over.

- It: Stupid clowns.

 - Halloween: I can't remember how old I was when I saw this but I know it was pre-high school for sure.  This is my dad's favorite scary movie and for good reason. In fact, my dad, who was a minister at the time, snuck out at Halloween after the town's curfew and went to people's back doors.  He heard a few screams and had a few doors slammed in his face.  Twisted man.

- The Shining: I read the book a couple of years before I saw the movie.  I didn't need to put it in the freezer like Joey did but I do remember having to walk away from it a couple of times. Even though I read the book and knew what was going to happen, I still watched the movie with the covers over half my face.  I was home alone that night too.

- The Silence of the Lambs: My memories of this start off with a giggle.  My friend and I made my mom drive us to the theater to see it.  My mom decided to stay and see it too since she had heard good things.  My friend and I were teenagers asserting our independence so we made my mom sit by herself.  The theater was packed so my poor mother was surrounded by strangers with no one to grab onto.  I remember sitting in the movie theater with my knees folded up under my chin in a sort of upright fetal position.  This was the movie that made me fall out of love with slasher films and in love with the psychological thriller.

- El Orfanato: Old age and lots of slasher films jaded me over the years so I don't really get scared at movies anymore.  This one, produced by movie god, Guillermo del Toro, took me back to being really freaked out though.  It's such a good movie that Hollywood is remaking it.  Of course.  Rent the original. It's really beautifully done.

Ok, so the ones that aren't great but I will love forever:

- Shocker: Bear with me.  It's a movie about a serial killer who builds up his tolerance to electricity so that when he gets caught and is inevitably given the electric chair for his heinous deeds, he doesn't die.  Nope, he becomes electric or something and then inexplicably ends up jumping in and out of random people while chasing the football player kid who turned him in.  My friend Kristen and I used to rent this when we couldn't find anything else to watch.  It's hilarious. Guess what else?  It's written and directed by esteemed scary movie director, Wes Craven.
If, for some reason, you Google this flick, be sure to include the word "movie" in your search.  Trust me.

- The Hellraiser movies: I also watched these with my friend Kristen.  In fact we used to watch tons of scary movies together.  C'mon!  The main bad guy's name is Pinhead!  Plus they made me jump. A lot.

- Sleepaway Camp: This is another disturbing one that I saw waaaaayyyy too young.  Seriously.  It's nasty.

- Children of the Corn movies: My friend Angela and I watched these a lot.  In fact at one point we were trying to convince our friends we had actual crushes on Isaac and Malachai.  

Of course I loved the first few Freddy and Jason movies.  I leaned way more towards Freddy though.  He had such style and panache.  Then they just kept rolling out sequels, joint sequels, Jason got sent into space and it got beyond ridiculous.  I had high hopes for the Freddy reboot but didn't bother with it when it got horrible reviews.  It's too bad.

"Fear Itself" (Buffy 4.4): Spines tingle and gooses bump!

This Halloween episode is a season highlight for me! The fractures in the Scooby gang are becoming too obvious to ignore, especially if you're a Fear Demon who didn't get the memo about baddies skipping Halloween. Here's the Buffy guide to surviving a house haunted by your own deepest insecurities. It's more amusing than it seems.

DO remember that the scariest stories are the ones we believe about ourselves.
Season 2's Halloween episode, cleverly entitled "Halloween," is referenced a couple of times in "Fear Itself." Year before last, Ethan Rayne (haven't seen the last of him yet) awesomely turned everyone into their costumes. Whereas that episode explored what happens when what we put on the outside becomes real, this show makes manifest what our gang feels like on the inside. Xander fears that his townie status makes him irrelevant to his co-ed pals, so he becomes invisible.
Invisibility is difficult to represent visually. Xander's freak-out face will have to suffice.

Willow suspects that she's a crappy witch and a second banana to Buffy, so she loses control of a spell and has to run off looking for help.
One little light goes in her mouth. It's unaccountably disturbing.

Oz is afraid that he'll lose control of his inner werewolf, hurt Willow, and have to abandon her, so he, well, turns into a werewolf, scratches Willow, and abandons her.
Pictured: Oz's safe place.
Buffy is scared that she will lose everyone she loves, and won't be able to save them when they need her, so she gets separated from her friends, and only hears their screams as she battles demons alone.
Little Red Riding Hood's track record isn't so great either--just ask Grandma.

DON'T underestimate this show's capacity to make a trite life lesson immensely entertaining. . .
When the Fear Demon makes his appearance, he's minuscule and therefore impotent to hurt any of the gang. See what they did there?
Sure it's a cliche, but trust me, the show makes it funny as hell.

OR more complicated than it first appears.
With the exception of Xander, each character eventually sees a version of the fear they encounter in this episode become literal outside the haunted frat house. Willow does lose control of her powers in season 6, Oz will hurt Willow and leave her in a few short episodes, and Buffy isn't able to save a very important person she loves next season.
To alleviate the sadness invoked by that last point, I give you Giles's Halloween costume.

DO honor what is truly frightening in this episode. 
Riley's back.
Nice hair, jackass.

Blog-o-ween: The Shining

The inevitable outcome of all work and no play.
Though these posts weren't in any particular order, The Shining might just be my favorite horror movie. Not only is it scary in the way that hits me where I live (those tight POV shots over Danny's shoulder as he tricycles around the Overlook's "deserted" hallway corners; creepy kids a plenty; simmering madness that finally boils over; "Redrum"), I think what it has to say about masculinity and the dream of the American West is pretty freaking genius. But that's way too boring for this entry (if you want me to email you my prospectus, I totally will). Let's talk about naked zombie corpses rising from the bathtub, slaughtered sisters who want to play with you "for-EVAH and EVAH and EVAH" and a haunted hotel of horrors that actually includes furries. Though Nicholson is more than happy to turn his hat around and take the final act of the film right over the top, the Grand Guignol-ness of his performance is actually a welcome respite from the psychological terror of the first two-thirds of the movie. I know Stephen King hated the choices Kubrick made in the adaptation, but Uncle Stevie and I will just have to agree to disagree this time. As an aside, the Stanley Hotel (where The Shining was filmed and the inspiration for King's novel after he spent a night there) is about an hour and a half from where I live, and they totally let you stay in room 237. Any takers?

In Time - Time is Money and 99% don't have enough

In Time (formerly Now, and before that I.M. Mortal)
Director: Andrew Niccol
Stars: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and a bunch of other young Hollywood types

Wow, I don't know that a movie has ever been released with such timeliness.  Seriously, this is the ballad of the folks "occupying."  The deal is time has replaced money.  Everyone physically ages to 25 (and that's it) and then their clocks start.  At 25 you get a year and most everyone (uh, 99%?) has to earn more time.  However that time you have and earn gets spent on rent, coffee, bus rides, food, etc. and the price of everything keeps going up and up and up.  So it's cool that you age to the point where you're probably the best you'll ever look but you spend your days, hours, minutes worrying about the time you have left.  If you're wealthy you live in constant fear of being robbed and attacked for your time.  Everyone's got complaints.

JT's character, Will, lives in the ghetto time zone of Dayton and gets gifted with a century of time from a wealthy man whose mind has aged even though his body has not.  Of course it's assumed by the timecops that Will stole his time and killed the guy.  EVEN THOUGH HIS SUICIDE IS ON CAMERA!  Will decides the best way to spend his new time is by going to the richest time zone, East Greenwich.  In fact there were lots of cute little nods to names and places that have to do with time.  He meets Seyfried's character, Sylvia, in East Greenwich and coincidentally she's the daughter of the richest man alive.  Stuff happens, they end up on the run Bonnie and Clyde style and try to find ways of giving those in need more time Robin Hood style.  All while trying to take down the man, aka her dad, played by Vincent Kartheiser (Connor!) and out run the timecops who are led by Cillian Murphy.

Mostly the movie was fine if a bit all over the place.  The idea (and story) is a nifty one but there were tons of plot problems.  Add on the issues of time passing on screen (dark night to sunny day in an hour) not really jibing with the time passing on Will's arm.  Oh, right, your clock is glowing on your arm (as seen above) so there's no way to not be aware of it unless, you know, you constantly wear long sleeves or kicky gloves like Sylvia does.  Also a lot happened very quickly but with no set up, plan or explanation.  The viewer just kind of had to accept what was happening without giving it too much thought.

This is the kind of cast, filled with gorgeous 25 year olds, that give aging Hollywood actors coronaries. Seyfried was good but I could have done without the wig.  I liked the chemistry with her and Timberlake but she's adorable and a good actress so I'm guessing it'd be hard not to have chemistry with her.  I do have to give her major props though.  People run a lot in this movie and Seyfried did a lot of running in really tall heels.  My hat is off to her.  Cillian Murphy was as incredible as he usually is.  Seriously, the dude is great and should be getting much more work.  Conversely Alex Pettyfer was as terrible as he usually is and I was left scratching my head. I always wonder how these "It" actors/actresses get chosen.  Dude should get way less work than he does. But I will admit that I like the way he looks.  Vincent Kartheiser (Connor!) was good but instead of being weasel-y Pete from the 60's he was weasel-y Philippe from the not-too-distant future.  The poor guy has landed solidly in the land of the typecast. 

And what about Justin, you ask?  Well as a matter of fact, I'm currently sitting here watching JT rapping and singing with Jimmy Fallon and wondering why he doesn't give acting a rest for a bit and put out a new album.  Does that answer your question?  He wasn't horrible.  He just wasn't great.  Matt Bomer (LOVE HIM) did more in his very few minutes of screen time than poor JT did in the whole movie. 

So not bad but not great either.  It got stomped this weekend by Puss in Boots which I wanted to see but had fears of a theater full of kids.  Plus my cheap theater only had one non-3D showing. Stupid 3D.

Blog-o-ween: The Walking Dead - The Morning After

Can I just say OMG!!! Have I mentioned how much I love this show?  This won't be in chronological order but bear with me.  I'm kind of going off my notes but also going off how most people seemed to be paired up in this episode: Shane and Otis, Rick and Lori, Daryl and Andrea, etc.

We open episode 3, "Save the Last One" on Shane shaving his head.  When he was done and staring at himself in the mirror I half expected him to show us his Travis Bickle impression.  Seriously.  And that was an incredibly effective use of voice over as Rick recounts a high school tale of Shane stealing his principals car while we watch current Shane and Otis trying to outrun a hoarde of zombies.  Every time we check in on them I think to myself, "They're completely effed. How are they going to get out of this?"  Well I'll get back to that later.

Next up we catch up with the folks who stayed behind in the RV.  Carol is sobbing over her lost daughter, Sophia. Andrea is loading a magazine with bullets.  Daryl is lying on the floor having to listen to both and decides to go out for a midnight stroll.  Andrea decides to go with him and I would too.  I feel badly for Carol but I couldn't listen to that crying all night.  Carol gets the hint, pulls herself together and joins Dale for lookout duty on the roof. 

A quick aside, have y'all noticed how great the editing and camera work are on this show?  Truly the production value is movie quality.  I'm still bummed at Darabont's ouster but they're doing just fine so far.

Glen and T-Dog make it to the house and adorable Glen wonders if they should knock. Heh.  T-Dog points out that they're probably beyond that by now..  Glenn and Maggie get a look at each other and I'm desperate for the storyline from the first book.  I see hints of it in this episode so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  As T-Dog is getting patched up Maggie kind of sneaks up on Glen who is taking his first shot at praying.  They have a great but quick conversation about belief in God and considering what's going on you can't blame them.  I like what Maggie says which is something along the lines of whether or not you believe, you still have to make the best of your current situation. Too true, girl.

Speaking of making the best of your situation, Daryl and Andrea stumble around in the darkness and across a chap who didn't quite know the best way to handle his situation.  They've found a very hungry and flailing zombie (can't really call him a walker because he wasn't going anywhere) who had hung himself after being bit.  He left a quirky little poem on the tree though and it went like this:
Got bit
Fever hit
World gone to shit
Might as well quit
Daryl, who I'm not getting tired of saying how much I love, says, "Dumbass didn't know enough to shoot himself in the head." He later quips, "Hangin' up there like a big pinata."  Hee!  I love that he was just going to leave him swinging from that branch.  Andrea felt he deserved to be put out of his misery and in exchange for Daryl to do so she had to answer his one question: Does she still want to die?  Understandably she just doesn't know if she wants to be dead or alive and that living is just a habit. People need to stop asking her though. 

So while all this other stuff is going on, Rick, Lori and Hershel are waiting for the medical supplies so Hershel can operate properly on Carl.  If Shane and Otis don't make it back soon Rick and Lori will have to decide if they want to go ahead with the surgery even though it's incredibly risky.  Lori understandably is stressed about her ailing son but also if they should be taking heroic measures to ensure his life in a world that downright sucks.  Why force a child to grow up in a world where survival is all there is?  Meanwhile little Carl wakes up, asks where he is and then proceeds to tell his mom about the pretty deer he saw.  Carl stops talking mid-sentence, starts convulsing and TEARS. OUT. MY. HEART.  This kid is good, y'all.  Anywhoodle Rick later notes to a stressed out Lori that instead of his son waking up and complaining about being shot the only thing on his mind was that deer.  It's moments like that which validate their hope for some kind of survival.  There have got to be more deer out there they can gawk at.  Maybe they should take a lesson from the kid in American Beauty and notice the beauty in grocery bags blowing around.

Luckily for Carl Shane shows up just in time but wait, where's Otis?  Shane glumly shakes his head and we know Otis didn't make it out.  We end the episode back on that first scene of Shane in the bathroom and we now see a suspicious cut on his head.  Interspersed with his shower and head shaving are the details of his escape.  It's not so much that Otis didn't make it out, it's more that Shane ENSURED Otis wasn't going to make it out.  I blame Otis for putting this idea in his head earlier on.  The walkers are steps behind them and Shane shoots Otis.  I repeat SHANE SHOOTS OTIS!  It wasn't a fatal shot because Otis gets a grasp on Shane and Shane proceeds to stab or cut or hack Otis until he lets go.  Shane takes off and we actually get to see the walkers Tear. Otis. To. Bits.  Uh, one palate cleansing show, please? Mama needs her sleep.  Ok, sure, both of them probably were not going to get away otherwise but dang! I was kinda hoping Otis would be around a bit longer. 
Next week we get back to searching for Sophia.  Hershel doesn't want the group to be hanging around past them finding her 'cause he's got his own people to protect.  DUDE. I TOTALLY hope we see just how many people he's protecting.  Wow, I really shouldn't have read the first book.

Today in Pop Culture History: All sorts of messed up stuff happens

31 October 1978: Having escaped from a mental institution the night before, homicidal kid turned homicidal adult Michael Myers returned to Haddonfield, Illinois, to kill a bunch more people. Repeat for 1982, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, and 2001.

And he always seemed like such a nice, quiet, creepy kid-next-door.

31 October 1981: The Dark Wizard calling himself Lord Voldemort attacked aurors and Hogwarts alumni Lily and James Potter in their home in Godric's Hollow, killing both. The First Wizarding War was declared over on this night when Voldemort disappeared after attempting to murder Harry, their one-year-old son. The boy, who miraculously survived the killing curse, was spirited away to be raised by Muggles by an enormous man who appeared to be riding a flying motorcycle. The Boy Who Lived would return to the magical world as a Hogwarts student ten years later.

I can't be sure, but I do wonder if that scar is going to be significant in Harry's life?

31 October 1982: With help from an extra-terrestrial dressed in a ghost costume who has just phoned home, Elliot's bicycle achieves temporary flight. Any connections to the previous year's flying motorcycle incident are unknown.

Quite beautiful, actually.

31 October 1984: New kid in town Daniel LaRusso gets jumped by a bunch of bratty punks from Cobra Kai dojo, who are clearly jealous of his success with the popular girl in school and his awesome shower costume. Luckily, Daniel's ass is saved by the handyman who works at his apartment building.

Pictured: Mr. Miyagi all out of bubble gum.

31 October 1997: Breaking a centuries-long streak of absolutely nothing paranormal happening on Halloween at the Sunnydale Hellmouth, former musician and once and future Chaos-worshiping trickster figure Ethan Rayne casts a spell on the citizens, turning them into their costumes. The Slayer is temporarily incapacitated.

It was a real good night for Captain Harris, though.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blog-o-ween: Halloween

Before slasher films got a little ridiculous, John Carpenter's Halloween could still trace a through-line to Psycho. Despite the sequels and imitators it wrought, the original has relatively little blood and gore. What is does have is a creepy kid turned psycho killer who will oh-so-slowly walk after you with a big freaking knife. There are definitely some significant jump-scares in this one--a memorably placed blond comes to mind--but they are all earned through the masterful ratcheting of suspense that begins with the opening murder and doesn't relent until Jamie Lee Curtis is the final girl standing. I also like that a psychiatrist is a (to be sure, somewhat ineffectual) action hero. Go Dr. Loomis!

Today in Pop Culture History: Orson Welles punks America

30 October 1925: John Baird, Scottish engineer and inventor, broadcast the first television signal in London. Though his system was almost immediately obsolete (some things never change), we can, by extension thank Baird for the BBC. Without him, we wouldn't all be able to say at cocktail parties that the British (Office, Being Human, Prime Suspect, take your pick) is better.

30 October 1938: Orson Welles broadcast his radio production of H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds. He sold it so fierce that a nationwide panic ensued, as many thought the alien invasion had really happened.

And he did it while smoking a pipe and giving the studio audience complimentary tickets to the gun show.
Do yourself a favor this all Hallows Eve Eve and give it a listen. I'll get you started with the first part:

30 October 1974: Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in Zaire in the much hyped (Don King was involved--'nuff said) "Rumble in the Jungle." Not only did this bout produce the splendid documentary When We Were Kings, it also featured Ali's "rope-a-dope": a move wherein he crouched on the ropes, protecting himself while letting the larger and stronger Foreman tire himself out before Ali's eighth round KO. Remember when Hugh Jackman refused to punch Zeus back when he was "shadowing" Atom in Real Steel? Got it straight from Ali.

Don't call it a comeback.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blog-o-ween: Pan's Labyrinth

The Pale Man makes the psychedelic boat ride seem sort of tame.
Though not a traditional horror movie, Pan's Labyrinth has stuck in my head like gumdrops in a molar since I saw it in the theatre in 2006. It is a contemporary children's fable, but not of the Tangled variety. Rather, it's an OG fairy tale--dark, bloody, and not averse to slaughtering the innocent. As the young heroine Ofelia negotiates the mystical labyrinth she discovers near her new home in Francoist Spain, she must also elude the all-to-real cruelty of her wicked stepFATHER (about time), a Captain in Franco's army who takes to fascism just fine. With her sociopathic pater familias torturing his way across the countryside, Ofelia is left to tend to her pregnant mother, whose health is precipitously declining. What gets me most about this film is the visuals, stunning in their grotesque strangeness: the mandrake root sustaining Ofelia's mother's health, the stick insect that leads her to the labyrinth, and most arresting of all, the Pale Man guarding a dagger she must retrieve. The juxtaposition between fantastical monstrosity and the violent banality of political evil in this film is masterful and deeply unsettling. No happily-ever-after here, folks.

Chuck and Grimm - The Morning After

I know Friday night is a death night for shows. But for people like me who end up crashing on Friday nights, I'm excited about the line-up.  We've got Chuck at 8pm, Grimm at 9pm (both on NBC) and then I'll get to see Fringe, on Fox, at 10pm (having recorded it on my trusty sidekick, my DVR).  That's if I can stay awake long enough.  It sucks being old.  Anywhoodle, as some of you may know, Fringe got bumped for game 7 of the World Series. Go Cards! (That's for all my peeps in Missouri.  Yes, I actually know people who live there. Ok, two people but still)  The rest of you were probably out at Halloween parties, having fun, cutting loose, etc. But next week Fringe will be back and all will be well with my geeky little world.  For now, here's a look at what happened on Chuck and my thoughts on Grimm.

"Chuck vs. the Zoom"

I am a little emotional that this is the first episode of the final season of Chuck. I've already mourned it publicly so I'll dispatch with the lamenting. Instead I'll revel in what's sure to be a fun season.  They are rolling out the guest stars and start with, wait, no. Can't be! Luke Skywalker? Is that
Yep, that's Mark Hamil about to be punched by our hero, Chuck. I could make some snide comment about life as a Jedi master being rough but I won't.  Nope, instead I'll say that it was a fun cameo and move on.

So Chuck is no longer the Intersect (the brain program that gave him super powers) and instead heads his group of "formers" (former CIA, former NSA, formerly *just* a nerdy Buy More worker) in spy-work-for-hire gigs.  At the end of last season, Morgan, Chuck's BFF and co-nerd /co-Buy More worker, got the Intersect uploaded into his brain.  We get to see Morgan use his new found skills on Old Skywalker up there and he did a fine job indeed.  While Chuck used to "flash," thanks to the Intersect, Morgan informs us that he "zooms" instead.  I like it.  Chuck does not.

They get a new gig and poor Chuck gets relegated to the van.  He's missing all the action and is very mopey about it.  Oh, the new target is the one and only, Craig Kilborn.  It's funny, I know that both Zachary Levi ("Chuck") and Adam Baldwin ("Casey") are tall (both 6'4") but I forget how tall until they're standing next to the 6'5" Kilby.  Back to the show, they have some plan of distracting Craiggers with a dance from Morgan and Sarah while Casey does something to get info from Kilby's evil computers, blah, blah, blah.  More importantly, how cute was Sarah's little black party dress?  And the shoes!?! Can we talk about the shoes?  I NEED those shoes.  Morgan shows his newbie status and freaks when Kilby gives Sarah's toosh a little squeeze.  He's afraid he'll 'prematurely zoom' so Chuck's suggestion of thoughts about baseball is hilarious on so many levels. 'Cause you know, the game is on the other channel, threatening already weak Chuck ratings...get it?  So things go awry and Chuck has to get back in the game to save the day and his beloved "formers."  Valiantly he surrenders himself so that they can all escape.  BTW, this is where I finally get some good Morgan/Casey interaction. Casey slaps awake an unconscious Morgan who says, "Did I do great?" Casey replies, "Shut up, moron." Gosh I love those kids.  Chuck, ever the leader, hasn't really given himself to the bad guys!  No, he's left them exact instructions on how to save him after he escapes the bad guys and jumps out a window.
Sadly, even after getting the evil Craiggers, the gang gets their money stolen from the evil CIA dude that's after Chuck.  I'd tell you why but I can't remember.

Oh and while the whole "Get Kilby" plan is in action, Chuck and Morgan are planning a surprise for Sarah.  Chuck wants to buy her a house on the beach and this is when I realize that somewhere inside of me is an 8-y.o. boy. I giggle every time they refer to their plan, Operation Toes In The Sand,  Morgan even has a binder with T.I.T.S. in giant letters on the front.  Heh.  But that evil CIA dude stole the money Chuck was going to use to buy the house Sarah actually preferred, a very normal house that you'd see a normal TV family living in. Awwww.

So by the end of the episode Chuck has realized, with help from Sarah, that he doesn't need the Intersect to be great.  He's their leader and he's darn good at it.  Plus Chuck's got an idea, based on the Buy More that they own, to make some money.  That'll go well and I'm sure won't fail miserably at the hands of Buy More employees/ne'er-do-wells, Jeff and Lester.

Now onto the pilot episode of Grimm and this will be brief.  I liked it more than I thought I would.  The cast is decent and I thought the directing and editing was fun and edgy.  There's potential for this show so I hope it lasts a bit longer.  The title, Grimm, refers to a guy who sees the supernatural aspect of people that the rest of us can't see.  Grimms are hunters and werewolves, etc. were taught to fear them.  The shows revolves around cop Nick Burkhardt, a Grimm who is recently seeing some creepy stuff on people's faces.  He has no idea what's going on until his Aunt Marie, a feared Grimm, shows up to fill him in on his legacy.

In the pilot, a werewolf, or blutbad (think German - 'bloot-bahd'; which I think translates to blood bath), is nabbing girls in red jackets.  Heh.  We see a college girl out for a run in her red tracksuit.  She's distracted by a figurine placed on a log in the woods and stops to inspect it.  WHAM! She's taken down by something or someone super fast and apparently tearing her to pieces by the sound of all her screaming. In her defense, if I were out jogging and saw a Hummel, I'd stop too.  My grandmother collected those and they're not only adorable but valuable too.  Then later a little girl, also in a red sweatshirt, gets nabbed and Nick and his partner spend the rest of the episode tracking her down.  Nick mistakenly thinks its this one blutbad , Eddie, but he's not bad, he's our comic relief! They find the girl hidden in a creepy postal worker's basement and all is well.  Or is it?  Oooooo....

I think the show has potential but it also had some issues (acting being a big one).  I will be tuning in and not just because I have faith in Buffy and Angel producer, David Greenwalt, who is this show's creator/executive producer.  There could be some fun storylines and I'm willing to give it a chance.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Potent Notables

- And why wouldn’t they?  He's who my estate will hire to write the biopic of my life.

- Say it with me now…DUH! 

- My dear friends, the Renaissance professors (Hi Kate and Jenna), can rest easy now. 

- GAH!!! I love that someone over at InStyle thought to do a photo shoot with Miss Piggy

- Adorbz…want. need. must have.

- io9 is doing a countdown of the 50 scariest movies. Number 43 has a very special place in my heart.

- Have you seen the character posters for The Hunger Games? No?  Hiding under a rock are we?  The folks at firstshowing put them all together.  But if you want to go link by link you can start with Effie at  Lenny Kravitz looks gooooood but I still can't see him as Cinna.

Blog-o-ween: The Blair Witch Project

Lost says thank you.
I don't tend to see horror movies in the theatre, because I like to have the "hide under the blanket on the couch" option. But the hype surrounding The Blair Witch Project in 1999 was too potent to be ignored. I know that this film did not actually invent the "found-footage" genre--there are those who insist that it's just a rip-off of The Last Broadcast-- but its balls-to-the-wall "this really happened" Internet campaign was a harbinger of shows to come. Plus, the movie is creepy as all get out. Three ambitious and more than a little annoying amateur documentarians disappear into the New England woods in search of a legendary kid-killing witch, and they don't come back out. The hand-held, uber-intimate footage documents mysterious cairns, humanoid stick figures that accrue spookiness by orders of magnitude with each appearance, inexplicable sounds in the night, and what I'm pretty sure is teeth from one of the trio who goes missing. What really sticks with me, though, is the final sequence--the abandoned house, bloody child-sized handprints, and Michael facing the wall as Heather screams and drops the camera. Eff. This is totally why they burn witches. Blair Witch 2, however, is why they burn clueless studio execs.

Blog-o-ween: Community and Parks & Rec - Didja watch?

Didja watch Community?  If you had you woulda seen:

- Everyone in the group tell a scary story...none of which are actually scary.

- Annie's story was funny and had a twist, kind of (she's really a werewolf who eats Jeff very slowly). Plus it featured Vampire Jeff and his, well, blood whore, Britta. This was not Britta's episode.

- Abed's was the most boring but most logical and contained all the things people should do to avoid getting killed in scary stories.  One of which was standing back to back with knives.

- Pierce's story was not at all scary and really whacked out.  The women were relegated to the bedroom.

Didja watch Parks and Recreation?  If you had you woulda seen:

- Andy and his fake blood (Then later his not so fake blood)

- April's costume, a Sumo wrestler after he's lost weight.

- Jerry, who is continually picked on, wearing a Mr. Potato Head costume.  The look on his face when he  sees his daughter dancing all up on Rob Lowe was priceless.  Awesomely April detaches his Mr. Potato Head smile and flips it upside down into a frown matching his own face.  Poor guy.

Trailer Park!

Happy Friday before Halloween, y'all!

Time to get spooky with the Muppets!

This looks FREAKY!  

This looks adorable!

Angie's directorial debut.

I love George in these kinds of roles.

Today in Pop Culture History: The Dark Side of iTunes

28 October 1961: A customer who has been lost to history, though I'd like to think he had a lot in common with this guy:

walked into the London record shop owned by Brian Epstein, and asked for the record "My Bonnie" by The Silver Beatles.  Epstein had never heard of the group. He checked them out at The Cavern Club, and signed the, ahem, fab three (plus Pete Best) within days, renaming them The Beatles.

Best looks this disgruntled in every picture I found, as if he could already see the Ringo on the wall.

If this event had happened in 2011, the dude would have just downloaded the Silver Beatles single, and we would have lost, among other things, the clean simplicity of this album.

Now imagine including "Silver." Ruins everything, right?

In honor of the portentous customer with excellent taste, stop by your local record shop today and buy something. If you want to be totally insufferable about it, you could ask the proprietor for a copy of "My Bonnie." I would love you forever if you did.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop: If you don't applaud, he'll die

Looks like he's having fun, right?
There have been a few films that make the argument that comedians are driven by a toxic and magical mix of aggression, narcissism, and self-loathing (Funny People and The King of Comedy come to mind), but I can't recall a documentary that makes that point as explicitly as Conan O'Brien Can't Stop. The title is meant to be taken quite literally--it's a portrait of comedy as addiction; the Tinkerbell metaphor is his, not mine.

The beard Conan sports during the doc is a marker of the evil/angry persona that he quite readily admits has come to the forefront since NBC's notorious fubar handling of "The Tonight Show" after Leno's ersatz "retirement." Due to being banned from television and the Internet once he refused to take the show he had dreamed of hosting to a later time slot, Coco went on the road with a 44-date comedy tour entitled "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television." And he took his rage as a carry-on.

The film includes clips from what seems to be a hilarious concert interspersed with Conan working out his demons by and through verbally eviscerating himself and whoever else happens to be in the vicinity. By the end of the film, his haggard face make a pretty bleak argument for why they call them "laugh lines." Needless to say, it made me crush on him all the more.

Blog-o-ween: "Hush"

Can't even shout.
Can't even cry.
The gentlemen are coming by.
Looking in windows, 
knocking on doors . . . 
They need to take seven 
and they might take yours.
Can't call to mom. 
Can't say a word. 
You're gonna die screaming 
but you won't be heard.

I mean, COME ON. Though not technically a movie, the tenth episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will give you the wiggins with the best of them. Written by personal god Joss Whedon (we kind of like him here at Once More with Geekery), the episode introduces into your nightmares "The Gentlemen," dapper demons who descend on communities, rob the citizens of their voices, and proceed to oh-so-delicately remove their hearts while the victims soundlessly scream. The episode has been rightly lauded for its technical bravado--there are only about seventeen minutes of dialog in the forty-five minute show. It's also notable for the way the Sunnydale-ites turn on each other within hours once silenced and quarantined. But it's the Gentlemen that really creep me out. Because of the silence, their graceful and precise movements (harshly juxtaposed against their straight-jacketed simian sidekicks) are highlighted and made all the more eerie and unsettling. Freud tells us the uncanny is psychically distressing not only because of foreignness but, crucially, because of familiarity. (The literal German translation is "un-homelike," with equal emphasis on both sides of the hyphen.) A civilized demon who dresses like a dandy and has a face distorted into a permanent rictus of death is going to get under our skin more than a Balrog any day of the week. I still can't bear to watch the scene when Giles's f-buddy Olivia is staring out a dark window into the empty night . . . and a Gentleman's face slides into the frame.

Blog-o-ween: Suburgatory, Modern Family and Happy Endings - Didja watch?

Didja watch Suburgatory?  If you had you woulda seen:

Their first suburban Halloween
- George (Sisto) is trying to convince neighbor Dallas (Cheryl Hines) that scary movies can be fun. His options: The Exorcist, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby.  Dallas's response, "Can't we just watch Sex and the City the Sequel?" Ha!  See that's funny because it's true.

- a teenage girl dressed as a "slutty mushroom."  Tell you what, this show isn't hilarious but they do pick up on stuff like how girls/women can't just be a nurse at Halloween they have to be a slutty nurse.

Didja watch Modern Family's 're-air' of their Halloween episode?  If you had you woulda seen:

- Speaking of slutty nurses, upon seeing her daughter's choice in costume Claire asks, "Are you trying to get candy or Japanese business men?"  Funny yet racist.

Didja watch Happy Endings?  If you had you woulda seen:

- The odd and kinda creepy mom and baby costume.

- They rectified it with the "ZZ Top Gun" costume on the left.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blog-o-ween: Scream

Designed and directed by his red right hand.
Scream scares me because I scare easy. Trust me, I am the most susceptible-to-frights audience member you can imagine--just amp up the music and deliver a super-tight over-the-shoulder POV shot, and I'm hiding under a blanket on my couch. So, more seasoned and/or less anxiety-ridden moviegoers might have found the thrills in this film a little mundane. But, I would think most all horror fans would applaud the meta-clever eye that Scream turns on the genre. As Judith Butler would say, it's repetition with a difference. The movie gleefully engages the "rules" that scary movies have taught us--don't drink or do drugs, don't have sex, never say "I'll be right back"--while simultaneously turning them on their head. Heroine Sidney Prescott is the final girl who does lose her virginity and still manages to be both vulnerable and strong while kicking the bad guy's ass. And the opening sequence, which dispatches a blond A-lister with bloody delight, is a smart nod to Psycho and became a trademark of the franchise. I happen to be a fan of Screams both 2 & 3 as well (though I prefer to believe the fourth doesn't exist), but I understand the reservations of those who believe them too precious and self-aware to be successful. The original, however, is a classic in any town.

Bad Teacher - Even Worse Movie

The CVS I stopped at last night put in a new Redbox. Since there was nothing on TV I decided to get Bad Teacher.   I read what the critics had to say when it came out in theaters and because of those reviews I avoided the movie. I had NO expectations of this movie. Wait, that's not accurate.  I really like Jason Segal, I mostly like Justin Timberlake and have no real feelings about Cameron Diaz (it totally depends on the role for me).  I knew writers from The Office penned this film and The Office was a show that made me laugh on occasion (before I gave up on it that is).  So I did have a slight expectation that it would be a funny movie.  Funny is soooo not the right word.

I never laughed.  In the hour and a half it was on I didn't even crack a smile.  There were a couple of conversations or stand alone lines that were amusing but overall it left me with a whole lotta meh.  They had a stellar supporting cast made up of comedy veterans. Folks who have actually studied comedy. Jokes were flying all over the place and not one dang laugh exited my mouth.  They totally misused genius Lucy Punch as Cam's rival, Miss Squirrel.  They had a school full of kids which could have been comedy gold. Read Tracy's review.  She's totally right about the potential for hilarity between teachers and their students.  It touched on it but mostly chose to focus on how completely terrible a human being she is.

So the story is...Elizabeth Halsey is a lazy, gold-digging, awful person in search of someone to take care of her and her bills.  In order to land this man to pay for her life she decides she needs a rack to up her hotness from an 8 to a 10.  We then follow her for the next year on her journey of stealing and cheating in order to secure the money.  She gets away with murder and even returns to the school, sans new rack, to be a guidance counselor. Ugh. Ok, I didn't need her to learn a lesson for me to like this movie. She does change a tiny bit but it's unbelievable because we get no redeeming qualities at the outset of the film. 

I need, OK want, those shoes
Continuity and reality were an issue too.  The movie's 'powers that be' thought enough for her to lose the super hot Benz in exchange for a tiny beater. However they didn't think about how she's parading around in  wardrobe made up of clothes and shoes that are worth tons.  She could have sold just her shoe collection and had the money for the boob job.  I'm not kidding.  She wears a pair of YSL cage ankle boots (THAT I LOVE) that go for $1600 (or went for last season; now they're cheaper) . Most days she's in  various Louboutins and I think I even spotted a pair of Brian Atwoods. Further problems with reality or a lack thereof is what I like to refer to as the "rosebud effect."  Just like Citizen Kane, this movie should not have happened.  Based on early events, this story wouldn't take place.  No teacher could act the way she does and last a month let alone a full school year.  But instead we're supposed to accept every awful thing she does just so the movie can exist.

I need to just skip these movies that I had doubts about when they were in theaters. Typically when I go with my gut I'm safe.  Then again, there are the times where I want to see if a movie is as bad as they say it is.

Adaptation Angst: The Dark Tower

Hile, gunslinger! Those who love Stephen King's epic fantasy series The Dark Tower do so psychotically. And I, I am one of those people. Adapting the seven-volume beast is really a job fit only for HBO, and it looks like they're going to do it. We all say thank-ee, sai. Unlike A Song of Ice and Fire, King's magnum opus is complete, so casting becomes an even stickier wicket, since all the fanboys and girls know exactly what's going to happen to whom and when. Also, several characters from King's other novels make appearances in TDT, so continuity from previous films is an issue. However, Javier Bardem as Roland is a good start. I'm hopeful and excited about this one! Angst-level only at a 3! Long days and pleasant nights until the man in black flees across the desert, and the gunslinger follows.

In the meantime, check out the GN. It'll make you cry, it's so good.

Charmed channels Harry Potter, the Blair Witch Project, and Judith Butler

We get more angst-a-liciousness with the Leo/Piper/Dan triangle in the last two episodes of this disc, but before I get to that, I must discuss the truly weird gender stuff that goes on in the first two. In 2.5, Prue gets turned into a man . . .
Why Shannen Doherty left the show: Exhibit A

in order to attract a succubus . . .
A phallic vagina dentata? That's too effed up even for Freud.

that the distractingly sweaty and disturbingly randy Phoebe has been channeling through her dreams.
Almost makes you forget about the bad clothes and hair, doesn't it?

The upshot is that Prue-homme learns that some bitches need to be slapped, a lesson reinforced by "That Old Black Magic," which features a good witch turned bad, who uses a snake to do her bidding. Why does that sound familiar?

Oh, right.

The witch, "Tuatha," enjoys shrinking men to the size of mice and, ahem, feeding them to her snake. She also encounters three kids in the forest where she's hiding out who are filming a documentary on the "Blair Witch." Their names? Heather, Michael, and Josh. This baffles me with its ballsiness. The writers counted on their audience getting the reference, but apparently not remembering how the movie ended? Or are they "writing beyond the ending," stipulating that the trio escaped and continued filming their doc, only to get killed by a real witch in San Francisco? That's actually pretty funny. Ah well, on to what I'm really interested in--the love triangle.

Episodes Watched
"She's a Man, Baby, a Man!"
"That Old Black Magic"
"They're Everywhere"
"P3 H2O"

Into It
Piper and Dan's relationship is progressing, with an overnight trip to meet the parents, um, I mean "go to a cousin's wedding" in "They're Everywhere." Leo is decidedly NOT into it. We get some fun eye rolling and pointed references to "your friend Dan." BUT . . .

Over It
Rather than get all whitelighter up in there, Leo pulls an Edward Cullen cop-out and tells Bella, er, Piper, that she'd be better off with Dan because he could give her a normal life. To that, I quote Sarah Marshall.

Love is love, green-eyed Leo, and as we learn in "P3 H20," through a really touching flashback where we learn how the girls' mom died (and that she was in love with her whitelighter), you might as well be dead if you don't live for it. Get it together and go get your girl.

Waiting for It
Prue to have better taste in men.

Why Shannen Doherty left the show: Exhibit B