Song of the Day: Home Sweet Home (by Mötley Crüe)

For the latest song of the day I go back to my teenage years growing up in the 80’s when hair metal ruled the world. While my heart still resided with thrash metal and heavy metal I still got caught up in the power ballad which defined the mid-to-late 80’s. It was this power ballad in all it’s cheesiness which to this day is still quite catchy to listen to. I mean Mötley Crüe in one’s playlist at the time meant getting tail instead of chasing them away.

“Home Sweet Home” is one of the few Crüe songs that seem to have survived the test of time. Chappelle may think Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorns” was the power ballad of the 80’s, but he is wrong. This song is and shall always be. Plus, it has that awesome slow-mo sequence near the end where the band dances to the beat. Yeah, cheesy like I said earlier.

Another reason I picked this as the latest song of the day is what will be posted afterwards.

Home Sweet Home

You know I’m a dreamer
But my heart’s of gold
I had to run away high
So I wouldn’t come home low
Just when things went right
It doesn’t mean they were always wrong
Just take this song and you’ll never feel
Left all alone

Take me to your heart
Feel me in your bones
Just one more night
And I’m comin’ off this
Long & winding road

I’m on my way
Well I’m on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight tonight
I’m on my way
I’m on my way
Home sweet home You know that I seem
To make romantic dreams
Up in lights, fallin’ off
The silver screen

My heart’s like an open book
For the whole world to read
Sometimes nothing-keeps me together
At the seams

I’m on my way
Well I’m on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight tonight
I’m on my way
Just set me free
Home sweet home

A Quickie From Lisa Marie: Lollilove (dir. by Jenna Fischer)

In the role of Pam Beesley on the American version of The Office, Jenna Fischer has served as a role model for artistic, red-haired receptionists everywhere. (I write this, of course, as an artistic, red-haired receptionist.)  However, before she played Pam on a sitcom disguised as a documentary, she played herself in 2004’s Lollilove, a satire disguised as a documentary.

Lollilove tells the story of Jenna and James Gunn (played by Fischer and her then-husband, Slither director James Gunn), a young, idealistic Hollywood couple of decide that they want to do something good for humanity.  After giving it a lot of thought (at one point, we see that Jenna has written “Charity is hard!” in all caps in her diary), Jenna and James decide that their purpose in life is to pass out lollipops to the homeless.  Recruiting Hollywood friends like Judy Greer, Jason Segal, and Linda Cardellini (all playing themselves), they set out to make their dream of homeless people sucking on lollipops a reality.

Clocking in at a brisk 64 minutes, Lollilove is like the Office’s slightly more psychotic cousin.  In the best tradition of transgressive art, Lollilove is fully committed to its ludicrous story and, to its credit, it never wavers from pursuing its story to its ludicrous (if all too believable) ending.

A large reason why the movie works is because of the lead performances of Fischer and Gunn.  Lollilove probably features Fischer’s best work outside of the Office and Gunn proves himself to be as good an actor as a director.  Both of them bring a manic sincerity to their crazed alter egos.  Mention should also be made of the homeless of Los Angeles who play themselves in the film’s final scene.  Yes, when the “fictional” Gunns hand out their inspirational lollipops, they’re giving them to the real homeless. 

And, it must be said, some of the homeless do seem to appreciate the gesture.

(As an added bonus: Lloyd Kaufman has a cameo in which he plays a priest and it has to be seen to be believed.)

Bulletstorm E3 2010 Demo

Of all the shooters profiled at E3 2010 the one which stood out the most and looked to be most fun was Epic Games and People Can Fly Studio’s upcoming arcade-like shooter Bulletstorm. The game is developed by Polish game developer People Can Fly headed by Adrian Chmielarz. The game looks to follow in the footsteps of another arcade-like shooter which came out in 2009: Borderlands.

Bulletstorm takes a different approach from the more realistic shooters like Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2. The game goes the way of over-the-top action similar to past classic shooters like Duke Nuke ‘Em and Serious Sam. They marry this with the XP mechanics of an rpg which helps levels up the abilities of the player and allow them to upgrade/buy better weapons and gear.

From the demo trailer shown above the game also looks to add some very Rated-R comedic dialogue in addition to the gory action. The game definitely looks fun and looks great. Like all Epic Games published titles it looks like Bulletstorm will be using Epic’s proprietary Unreal Engine 3.

The game has a tentative release date of February 22, 2011 for the platforms Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PC.

Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Episodes of South Park

I love South Park and, when I decided to list my ten personal favorite episodes, I thought this would be an easy article to write.  How wrong I was.  It’s hard to narrow 203 episodes down to 10 when you happen to love 193 of them.  As I struggled to settle on my ten, I did a google search to see what other South Park fans had listed as their top ten episodes.  What I discovered was that a lot of people had a top ten list and no one seemed to be in agreement.  I guess that’s why I love South Park.  It’s a show that people either love or hate, often for the exact same reasons.

I first truly discovered South Park when I was 18 and the show, itself, was either 7 or 8.  Don’t get me wrong.  I knew about the show and I’d seen the occasional episode (though my mom would always promptly change the channel if she walked into the room and saw it on the TV).  But, as far as becoming a true “fan” of the show, I arrived late.  Perhaps as a result, my list of favorite episodes is pretty much dominated by the latter seasons of the show (though I did come very close to putting Gnomes on the list). 

10) The List (Original Airdate: November 14th, 2007) — Okay, technically The List isn’t really one of the best episodes of South Park but it’s always made me laugh, largely because me and my girlfriends used to obsessively make lists like the one in this episode.  We also always took it way too seriously, even though the police were never called and I don’t think anyone ever ended up pulling a gun on anyone else.

9) You Got F’d In The A (Original Airdate: April 7th, 2004) — Not only is this episode of perfect parody of You Got Served, it’s also full of priceless WTF moments like the duck dancing to a song about Ketamine, Randy Marsh dancing to Achy Breaky Heart, and Butters killing even more people than usual as a result of his dancing.  It also features the Goth kids at their negative best.  Speaking as someone who used to have an exclusively black wardrobe even while she was fantasizing about becoming a world-famous prima ballerina, this episode gives me the best of both worlds.  It was also one of the 1st episodes of the show that I ever sat down and truly watched.

8 ) Ginger Kids (Original airdate: November 9th, 2005) — Cartman reveals that along with being a racist and an anti-Semite, he’s prejudiced against redheads as well.  Then he’s tricked into believing that he is a redhead and promptly organizes all the “gingers” in town into a cult.  Admittedly, one reason I like this episode is because I’m a ginger kid myself and, oddly enough, this episode was first broadcast on my 20th birthday. 

7) Miss Teacher Bangs A Boy (Original Airdate: October 18th, 2006) — Cartman as Dog, the Bounty Hunter.  What else needs to be said?  (Well, let’s not forget Ike’s facial expressions as Kyle tries to warn his parents about Miss Teacher.)

6) Night of the Living Homeless (Original Airdate: April 18th, 2007) — The homeless invade South Park and the end result is a brilliant parody of both zombie movies and liberal good intentions.

5) Whale Whores (Original Airdate: October 28th, 2009) — I like this episode for a lot of reasons.  First off, the TV show Whale Wars is one of those smugly, self-satisfied shows that just deserves to be ridiculed on general principle.  Secondly, it brought attention to just how barbaric Japanese whaling really is and it did so in a far more entertaining way than the Cove.  But, ultimately, it all comes down to Cartman’s performance of Poker Face.

4) You Have 0 Friends (Original Airdate: April 7th, 2010) — This is the episode that made me proud to have deleted my Facebook account years ago.

3) Pandemic and Pandemic 2: The Startling (Original Airdates: October 22nd and 28th, 2009) — Yes, a lot of South Park fans disliked the two Pandemic episodes but I loved them.  Along with ridiculing the current “home video horror” craze (which would later be epitomized by the ludicrous Paranormal Activity), the show also worked as a wonderful commentary on the whole series itself.  From the minute Craig said, “You know, this is why no one else wants to hang out with you guys…,” Pandemic had me.  Of course, needless to say, there’s also nothing cuter than a guinea pig in a pirate costume.

2) Go God Go and Go God Go Part XII (Original Airdate: November 1st, 2006 and November 8th, 2006) — There’s a lot of reasons why I like these episodes but the main reason is that, speaking as a nonbeliever, I’ve always felt that a lot of comedies satirize organized religion (excluding, of course, Islam) because it’s an easy target as opposed to actually having anything interesting to say about it one way or the other.  (Hello, Family Guy.)  It takes more guts to satirize something like atheism, especially the Richard Dawkins brand of disbelief.  Plus, the Sea Otters.  You have to love the Sea Otters.

1) The Imaginationland Trilogy (Original Airdates: October 17th, 24th, and 31st, 2007) — I don’t know that there’s anything left to be said about Imaginationland so I will just say that the relevance of this trilogy — in which humanity’s imagination is threatened by a bunch of thugs and bullies — became all the more obvious after Comedy Central decided to censor South Park’s 201st episode to avoid hurting the feelings of terrorists.

Review: Orphan (dir. by Jaume Collet-Serra)

There has been a complaint which has been getting louder and louder for the past several years from both horror and mainstream film fans. The complaint is that horror films of late have either been remakes or another sequel. While this complaint is not exclusive to the horror genre (non-horror genres have had the same problem) it is more prevalent and happens more often. Once in awhile a film will come out that tries to be different and put out an original story. Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra has done just that with his second foray into feature filmmaking with Orphan. While the film won’t win many awards and become the critical darling the way Let the Right One In did Collet-Serra’s Orphan does bring a fresh new take on the evil child subgenre. Despite some of the flaws and script problems the film does entertain throughout most of its running time until it loses steam in the final 15 minutes.

Jaume Collet-Serra first got his start directing the 2005 remake of House of Wax. A film more famous (infamous in some people’s eye) for being the first major film of socialite Paris Hilton. A film that deservedly got panned by critics, but still did well enough in the box-office to put horror fans on notice that Collet-Serra might be a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Orphan marks his second full-lenght feature and using the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson, Collet-Serra tries a hand in the evil child subgenre which has more than it’s share of classic titles like The Omen, The Bad Seed and The Good Son. While this subgenre of horror usually means some sort of demonic-possession or some sort of mental or genetic abnormality causing for their psychotic or sociopathic behavior, in Orphan an interesting reason was given to the nature of it’s titual character.

The film begins with a harrowing and quite disturbing scene of the Vera Farmiga’s character pregnant and in labor, but also starting to miscarriage her child. The graphic nature of the scene quickly lays down the hammer that Orphan will not hold things back just because childen will be involved throughout most of it’s running time. We then see Farmiga’s Kate and her husband John (played by Peter Sarsgaard) at the local orphanage as they attempt to fix their family and ease Kate’s emotional turmoil over the miscarriage by adopting a child. They meet Esther a 9-year-old Russian orphan girl who seem to be the perfect child at first glance. Esther’s well-spoken and well-mannered at such a young age. Esther soon becomes part of John and Kate’s young family which consists of a younger deaf daughter named Max and a son named Daniel. While Max accepts Esther as a new older sister Daniel senses something just off-putting about Esther and reacts much more coldly towards his new dopted sister.

The majority of Orphan‘s second and first half of the third and final reel shows Esther’s true nature peek through the facade of Old World genteel and proper behavior. 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrmann does an excellent job portraying the sociopathic and manipulative Esther. It is difficult to believe that a child actor of her age able to tackle such a dark role and actually pull it off without making the character too over-the-top or campy. In fact, no matter how one thinks of the performances of the rest of the film’s cast (Farmiga does a good job in the Cassandra-role with Sarsgaard an average performance as the hapless and clueless husband) this film is totally Fuhrmann’s and she sticks the landing.

While the film tries to make something original (and most of it is to a point) out of a tried-and-true model of the evil child storyline the script doesn’t hold up through the length of the film. The story itself is quite interesting when one really steps back to look at it, but there’s several leaps in logic the Kate character makes which will illicit more than a few confused reactions (running away from incoming help and into the dark, unknown being a major one). The dialogue itself is serviceable with none of it wince-inducing. There’s just a sense that the film’s reveal in the end of the film as to Esther’s true nature was just handled in a very clumsy manner. The twist is very original but the execution of that reveal after the tense and very brutal 40-50 minutes before it comes off quite flat. Orphan definitely looked like a script which was in need of several more rewrites to reconcile the first 3/4’s of the film with the final part. Yet, despite the ridiculous manner in which the final 10-15 minutes unfolds Collet-Serra manages to keep the film from dragging along through two hours. It actually plays much faster for a film with such a long running time.

In the end, Orphan marks a decidedly better effort from Jaume Collet-Serra, but one which still shows that he has some polishing to do to join the ranks of better horror directors of his generation. The film is enjoyable enough if given a chance. Most horror fans will enjoy the film and some may even embrace it because of the silly ending. Mainstream audiences looking for a change of pace from the strum und drang of the summer blockbuster season could do no worse than Orphan. It is not a perfect film and not even an above-average one, but it is a good horror film that tried to add something new to the genre, but hampered by a storyline that cannot sustain the tension it built-up and the brutality it showcased. In the hands of a much more seasoned filmmaker with a better hashed out screenplay Orphan could’ve become an instant classic.

Review: Sole Survivor (Dir. by Thom Eberhardt)

In my “which movie should I review poll” 1983’s Sole Survivor came in dead last, receiving a total of 3 votes out of the 234 cast.  I really wasn’t surprised to see that because Sole Survivor, along with having a dreadfully generic title, isn’t really that well-known.  I found the DVD at Half-Price Books where it was being sold for a dollar in the clearance section.  If not for the fact that I can’t resist a bargain, I would never have heard of this movie either.  Which is a shame because, taken on its own low-budget terms, Sole Survivor is actually a pretty effective horror film.

Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, Sole Survivor has a plot that should be familiar with anyone who has ever seen any of the Final Destination films.  Denise (played by an actress named Anita Skinner) is a neurotic commercial producer who, as the film opens, is the sole survivor of a horrendous airplane crash.  (When we first see Denise, she’s still sitting in her seat, surrounded by the remains of her fellow passengers.)  Against the advice of just about everyone, Denise insists on dealing with the trauma of the accident by trying to return to her normal life.  This is complicated, however, by the fact that she’s still having dreams about the plane crash.  Everywhere she looks, she sees mysterious and menacing strangers watching her.  And, on top of everything else, she is now being stalked by a mentally unstable former actress who claims to be having nightmarish visions of Denise’s future.  Is Denise suffering from survivor’s guilt (as her doctor boyfriend insists) or is she instead being pursued by Death?  If you’ve ever seen a horror film, you can probably guess the answer.

As I mentioned previously, its easy to compare Sole Survivor with the Final Destination films.  However, a more appropriate comparison would be to the 1962 black-and-white classic Carnival of Souls.  Whereas the Final Destination films are largely about coming up with ludicrously convoluted ways for Death to get what he or she wants, Sole Survivor (like Carnival of Souls)  is less concerned with how Death gets the job done and more concerned with building and maintaining a growing sense of dread and hopelessness.  For the most part, director Eberhardt disdains easy shock effects in order to concentrate on building up a palpable atmosphere of doom.  As a result, the film can occasionally seem to be a little slow but it stays with you even after the final credit. 

Also, much like Carnival of Souls, Sole Survivor features an excellent lead performance from an actress who, more or less, disappeared from movie screens after the film’s release.  Carnival had Candace Hilligoss.  Sole Survivor has Anita Skinner.  Skinner gives an excellent lead performance, always remaining a sympathetic.  According to an interview with the film’s producers, Skinner was uncomfortable with the more excessive side of Hollywood and retired from acting shortly after making Sole Survivor.

Sole Survivor was released on DVD by Code Red, so now people like me can appreciate this neglected movie.  The transfer looks great.  Unfortunately, the DVD is pretty thin when it comes to extras.  Neither Eberhadt nor Skinner are interviewed nor do they contribute to the film’s commentary track.  Instead, we have to make due with the film’s producers.  In general, producers usually provide the worst DVD commentary tracks with typical insights running along the lines of “We had the same lawyer” and “So, after that, we brought in another screenwriter.”  The producers of Sole Survivor aren’t quite that bad but their commentary is still definitely lacking in insight. 

But that’s a minor complaint.  In the end, what matters is the movie and not the commentary track.  And as a movie, Sole Survivor is a an overlooked classic of the horror genre.

Review: Anatomy of a Murder (Dir. by Otto Preminger)

Last Friday, I randomly selected 10 movies from my DVD library and I asked you, this site’s wonderful readers, to vote on which one of those movies I should watch and then review.  234 votes were cast and the winner (by two votes!) is the 1959 courtroom classic Anatomy of a Murder.

First off, a confession of my own.  When I’m not reviewing movies or chattering away on twitter, I work in a law office.  Before anyone panics, I’m not a lawyer, I just hang out with a couple of them.  For the most part, I answer the phone, I schedule appointments, and I keep all the files in alphabetical order.  On a few very rare occasions, I’ve accompanied my boss to court and the thing that has always struck me about real-life courtroom drama is how boring it all really is.  There are no surprise witnesses, no impassioned closing statements, and those all trail rarely, if ever, jump to their feet and start yelling that they’re innocent.  For the most part, real life lawyers are usually just as poorly groomed and bored with their work as the rest of us.  Don’t even get me started on the judges, the majority of whom seem to have judgeships because they weren’t really making the grade as an attorney. 

As a result, it’s rare that I get much out of seeing lawyer-centric movies or tv shows any more.  After seeing the reality of it, I find fictionalized courtroom theatrics to be ludicrous and, for the most part, evidence of a lazy writer.  However, I’m happy to say that last night, I discovered that — no matter how jaded I may now be about the legal process — Anatomy of a Murder is still one of my favorite movies.

Based on a best-selling novel and directed by the notorious Otto Preminger, Anatomy of a Murder tells the story of Paul Beigler (James Stewart), a former district attorney who is now in private practice after having been voted out of office.  Having apparently fallen into a state of ennui, Beigler spends his time drinking with another alcoholic attorney (Arthur O’Connell) and trying to avoid his secretary’s (Eve Arden) attempts to get paid.

However, things change for Beigler when he is hired to defend an army officer named Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara).  Manion has been arrested for murdering a bar own named Barney Quill.  Manion says that he was justified in committing the murder because Quill raped his wife, Laura (Lee Remick).  Others claim that Manion is himself just a notoriously violent bully and that the openly flirtatious Laura was having an affair with Quill.  Despite strongly disliking Manion and disturbed by Laura’s own obvious instability, Beigler takes on the case.

Beigler decides to argue that Manion was temporarily insane when he shot Quill and that he was acting on “irresistible impulse.”  As shaky as that line of defense might seem, it’s not helped by the fact that Manion himself is a bit of a brute.  Meanwhile, Beigler finds himself facing not the innefectual D.A. in court but instead a young, ambitious prosecutor from the State Attorney General’s Office, Claude Dancer (played by a young and obviously ambitious George C. Scott).  As the trial begins, small hints start to appear that seem to indicate that there’s a lot more to the murder of Barney Quill than anyone realizes…

Director Otto Preminger is an odd figure in film history.  Up until the early 60s, he was a consistently interesting director who made intelligent, well-acted films that often challenged then-contemporary moral attitudes.  However, once the 60s hit, he became something of a parody of the egotistical, old school, autocratic filmmaker and his films seemed to suffer as a result.  Like many of the film industry’s top directors, he found himself adrift once the 60s and 70s hit.  His decline was so dramatic that, as a result, there’s a tendency to forget that he made some truly great and important films, like Laura, Carmen Jones, The Man With The Golden Arm, and, of course, Anatomy of a Murder.

Anatomy of a Murder represents Preminger at his best.  His own natural tendency towards embracing melodrama and shock are  perfectly balanced with an intelligent script and memorable performances.  Whereas later Preminger films would often come across as little more than big screen soap operas, here he makes the sordid believable and compelling.  Preminger has never gotten much attention as a visual filmmaker but here, he uses black-and-white to perfectly capture the grayness of the both the film’s location and the moral issues that the film raises.  He keeps the camera moving without ever calling attention to it.  As a result, the movie has an almost documentary feel to it.

As previously stated, Preminger gets a lot of help from a truly amazing cast.  At first, it’s somewhat strange to imagine a Golden Age icon like Jimmy Stewart appearing in the same film as a dedicated method actor like Ben Gazzara.  These are two men who represent not only different philosophies of acting but seemingly from two different worlds as well.  However, Preminger uses their differing acting styles to electrifying effect.  One of the joys of the movie is watching and contrasting the old style, “move star” turns of James Stewart, Arthur O’Connell, and Eve Arden with the more “naturalistic” approaches taken by their younger co-stars, Gazzara, Lee Remick, and especially George C. Scott.  The contrast in style becomes a perfect reflection of the film’s contrast between what is legal and what is correct.  All the actors, as both individuals and as an ensemble, give memorable performances.  When you look at the cast, you realize that any one of their characters could have been the center of the story without the film becoming any less compelling. 

Lee Remick (a notoriously fragile actress who, for years, I knew solely as the poor woman who kept getting attacked by her adopted son in the original Omen) brings out the best in everyone she shares a scene with.  Whether she’s making Stewart blush or breaking down on the witness stand, she dominates every scene as an insecure young woman who forces herself to be happy because otherwise, she’d have to confront the fact that she’s miserable.  (I should admit that I related more than a bit to Remick’s character.  To me, the movie was about her and therefore, about me.) 

She is perhaps at her best towards the end of the film when she is on the witness stand and is cross-examined by George C. Scott.  Starting out as flirtatious and seemingly confident, Remick slowly and believably falls apart as Scott methodically strips away every layer of defense that, until now, she’s spent the entire movie hiding behind.  By the end of the scene, Remick has shown as every layer of pain that has built up in Laura Manion over the years.  For his part, Scott is simply amazing in this scene.  Determined and focused, Scott doesn’t so much cross-examine Remick but seduces her and the audience along with her.  As a result, when he suddenly turns off the charm and lunges in for his final attack, it’s devastating for everyone watching.  (And, as was correctly pointed out to me by a friend while I was watching the film last night, George C. Scott was quite the sexy beast when he was young.)

Lastly, the film’s judge is played by an actual lawyer by the name of Joseph Welch.  Welch wasn’t a great actor but he did make for a great judge.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Preminger film is a few contemporary morals weren’t challenged and, at the time it was released, Anatomy of a Murder was considered to be very daring because of its frank discussion of topics like rape and spousal abuse.  It doesn’t seem quite so daring now but it does seem to be remarkably mature in a way that even most modern movies can’t match.  That being said, the film does occasionally embrace the “she must have been asking for it” male viewpoint but still, it’s a remarkably advanced movie for the 1950s.

One of the wonderful things about watching a 51 year-old film is that it provides a chance to see what was considered to be shocking in the years before you or I was born.  From watching this movie, I’ve discovered that, in the year 1959, “panties” was apparently a taboo phrase.  A good deal of the film’s plot revolves around the panties Lee Remick’s character was wearing the night she was raped and their subsequent disappearance.  At one point, there’s even a scene where Welch, Stewart, and Scott struggle to come up with a less offensive term to use when referring to them in the court.  (Scott suggests employing a term he heard in France.)  Seen 51 years later (in a time when we can not only say “thong” in polite conversation but specifically go out of our way to show off the fact that we’re wearing one), this scene, and the actors’ obvious discomfort whenever they have to say the word “panties”, never fails to amuse me.

Preminger’s other grand challenge to the 50s mainstream was in getting Duke Ellington to compose the film’s jazz soundtrack.  At the risk of being called a heretic by some of my closest friends, I’ve never been a big fan of jazz but it works perfectly here.  Ellington, himself, makes a cameo appearance and wow, is he ever stoned.

In conclusion, allow me to thank the readers of the site for “ordering” me to watch, once again, a truly classic film.  Now, seeing as how close the vote was and that I know, for a fact, that some people voted more than once, I think it would be only fair for me to also rewatch and review the other 9 movies (Lost in Translation, Primer, Hatchet For the Honeymoon, Emanuelle in America, Starcrash, Darling, Sole Survivor, The Sweet House of Horrors, and The Sidewalks of Bangkok) in my poll over the next couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to each and every one of them (well, almost all of them) and, again, thank you for allowing me to start things off with a great film like Anatomy of a Murder.