Stephen King’s The Stand to Trip Up Onto the Big-Screen

Stephen King properties sure has been heating up around Hollywood of late. For the past month or so we’ve had almost weekly news about Ron Howard’s plans for King’s massive book series, The Dark Tower. Today news that the role of Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger, has been offered to Spanish-actor Javier Bardem shows that the planned film adaptation of The Dark Tower is moving forward.

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter blog Heat Vision, Warner Brothers and CBS Films are planning to co-produce the film adaptation of another Stephen King property and one many of his fans consider as their favorite. I consider myself one of those fans and I’m actually quite excited that these two studios are looking to adapt the epic, apocalyptic novel The Stand.

The novel already was adapted into a mini-series by Mick Garris in 1994, but that adaptation didn’t satisfy the book’s fans as its producers were hoping for. This planned film adaptation looks to give The Stand a grand stage to be shown to its old and new fans. While trying to adapt a novel that is over 1200 pages long might seem daunting the same was said about trying to adapt a novel that was three times it’s length and that one succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. If Peter Jackson can take The Lord of the Rings and create an epic masterpiece out of such a dense piece of literature I think King’s The Stand should make just as good a transition.

Here’s to hoping that this particular apocalyptic project gets on the fast track and doesn’t get bogged down in development hell the way another apocalypse-themed film project has found itself in: Max Brook’s zombie epic novel, World War Z.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Quickie Review: Stander (dir. by Bronwen Hughes)

Stander was a very good film about the real-life exploits of Andre Stander, Lee McCall and Allan Heyl who were known collectively as The Stander Gang. The Stander Gang was well-known for their daring and reckless bank robberies in their homeland of South Africa. The film stars Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Mist) as the title character with Dexter Fletcher (Band of Brothers and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and David Patrick O’Hara (Braveheart, Doomsday) rounding out the rest of the Stander Gang.

The film starts off introducing Andre Stander as a highly decorated member of the South African Police Force in the late 1970’s and the beginning of the anti-apartheid movement. It shows Andre Stander’s growing disgust and disenchantment in his government’s racist apartheid policies and his own role in enforcing it. After a violent and brutal break-up of an anti-apartheid protest gathering where Stander kills a protestor, the film begins to move into meat of the story. Stander’s disenchantment with the government causes him to commit bank robberis in audacious fashion as a way to rebel and defy the very state he has sworn to protect and serve.

The scenes where Stander commits these bank robberies were shot well and showed just how daring Andre Stander really was in his exploits. There’s even a sequence where he returns to the scene of his most recent crime to investigate the robbery. A robbery he just committed just hours before during his lunchtime. These scenes and the later ones when he’s joined by two other bank robbers shows Tom Jane at his finest. I think many would be hard-pressed not to think Jane’s performance as a South African, accent and all, wasn’t authentic. His charisma ruled throughout the film and was mostly evident through the many bank robbing sequences. He truly gave Andre Stander the air of a Robin Hood character who, despite his criminal acts, became a sort of folk antihero.

The second half of the film details the exploits of Stander after his incarceration for his bank robberies while a captain of the South African Police Force. It’s here that we meet the rest of Stander’s Gang as he recruits fellow inmate and outlaws Lee McCall and Allan Heyl. Even the way Stander engineers his escape from the work-prison he has been sent to shows his daring in thumbing his nose at the state and the police he used to be a part of. Dexter Fletcher was very good as the twitchy and less stable Lee McCall whose nerves begin to fray the bolder and bolder the gangs bank robberies become. David Patrick O’Hara was also good as the very professional bank robber Allan Heyl. Heyl didn’t have the charisma that Stander had, but he was the rock which kept the robberies from spiraling out of their control. It was great to see O’Hara in another strong role. Some might recognize him as the scene-stealing Stephen, the Irish rebel who joins William Wallace’s fight against the English during Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

The rest of the film was pretty much one bank robbery after the other with the Stander Gang always one step ahead of the police task force put together to capture them. In a twist of fate, the task force was headed by Stander’s former friend in the police force Cor Van Deverter whose intimate knowledge of Stander’s tactics and thought-processes helps in slowly closing the noose around the gang. There’s abit of a repetition in the robberies and the getaways, but they serve an important purpose of slowly building up the Stander Gang’s folk hero status amongst the population. It also showed the effect it had on some of the members of the gang. As popular and infamous the gang had become they were still outlaws who knew that sooner or later their luck would run out and they’d either be put back into prison or killed outright. For some it was the latter and for others the former.

Throughout the film, one could sense that some of the motivations behind Andre Stander’s actions as a bank robber was to assuage his guilt over the sanctioned acts of brutality he had to perform to protect the apartheid government of his nation. The film and the story being told was almost a full-length film of Stander’s attempt to make up for his past transgressions. And what better way to do this than use the system of the state against itself. He himself points out that a white man could get away with anything when most of the policemen in the city were called away to deal with an emergency regarding the black majority population. Stander realizes this to be true and his second career as a bank robber was born. The film only hints at him being a very good policeman, but the majority of the film shows just how much better he was as a criminal.

The film was expertly directed by Bronwen Hughes and as said earlier had strong performances from all the main leads in the film. The story rarely slowed down to the point that the story lost its direction. Every scene always led to the next part of the story being told until the very bitter end. Stander was a very good film anchored by a fine performance from Thomas Jane. The film showed a brief glimpse into South Africa’s apartheid past and how one individual’s decision to defy the state led to a brief, but daring life of a modern-day Robin Hood.

Book Review: They Thirst (by Robert R. McCammon)

Robert McCammon’s 1981 vampire novel, They Thirst, has to be considered one of the best of its kind in horror literature. Most vampire novels take on either the Victorian-era guise with velvet coats and silk fipperies, or they take the more monstrous route with the vampires less a literary analogy for repressed-sexuality and more the undead monsters that they are. In They Thirst, McCammon takes the concept of the vampire as an evil plague that slowly acts like an epidemic, consuming all in its path until none are left and only the primogenitor of its evil left to rule over the wasteland.

McCammon’s vampire tale is a massive one which takes on a grand stage from it’s Eastern European beginning all the way to its urban apocalyptic climax. Similar in tone to Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, They Thirst posits the question of how would a place such as Los Angeles do when confronted with one of mankind’s oldest evils. With ‘Salem’s Lot the same premise wass used but in a smaller, intimate setting of a quaint New England town where everyone knows everyone. McCammon does King exponentially better by setting They Thirst in one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world. The vampire lord in question is Prince Vulkan, a Hungarian prince from the 13th-century whose plan to create a vampiric empire molded in his image begins in the City of Angels.

The story begins simple enough with grave-robbings and an inordinate amount of mysterious disappearances even for a place like Los Angeles. They Thirst still follows the so-called vampire rules laid down by Bram Stoker in Dracula which he in turn had taken from Eastern European folklore. There’s even a subplot concerning one rich executive whose business of mass-producing coffins catches the gaze of Vulkan and his minions. The novel is rife with modern re-telling of the folklore of medieval times, but this time around McCammon pulls out all the stops as the epidemic of vampirism slowly works its way from the slums and ghettoes of the poorer sections of LA and into the middle-class neighborhoods and soon even the high and mighty in their manses in Beverly Hills are not left immune. McCammon does a great job of describing the gang-ridden streets of early 1980’s Los Angeles. He makes great use of this colorful aspect of LA to help explain why the rise of vampires in the city became unchecked. Vulkan’s decision to prey on the destitute and down-trodden of such a massive metropolitan area gives him the army he’ll need to take over the rest of the region.

Chosen, as if by fate or by some higher power, are a disparate group of Los Angelinos whose only tie to each other are their own horrific encounters of the true danger plaguing their city. There’s LA detective Andy Palatizin whose own encounter with the demons now in his city goes back to his youth while living in Hungary. It is Palatizin’s own past history with the creatures of the night that helps tie him to Vulkan and whose confrontation in the end makes things all the more personal. There’s also Wes Richer, an up-and-coming comedian whose sudden rise in fortune gets interrupted by Vulkan’s own plans. It is through Richer’s lover, Solange — a medium whose knowledge of the supernatural gives her some insight about the danger at hand — that he becomes involved in the fight for the city. Then there’s Tommy Chandler who becomes the youngest of those chosen to fight the undead menace that soon engulfs the city. Vulkan himself has his own soldiers amongst the mortals and the most interesting being an albino sociopath called Kobra whose amorality causes him to answer Vulkan’s siren call to join him in LA. All in all, the characters in They Thirst were well-written and brought their own complex personalities to the story.

The novel gradually builds up from its simple beginnings. Like a dam just barely keeping the overflow from breaching the top, They Thirst doesn’t let the reader go once it’s gotten its hook into them. The horror of the magnitude of the epidemic shares a similarity to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. McCammon deftly shows how governments and people in general lose focus and common sense when faced with something that shouldn’t exist. He shows how quickly modern man can fall from their perch as the dominant predator due to their science and logic. They Thirst shows that it’s those individuals and small groups who’ve held on to the old traditions and/or willing to believe the impossible who eek out a sense of survival once the region becomes cut-off from the outside world and the undead run rampant in the streets. It was so easy to read the book and substitute zombies in place of vampires and see it work just as well. In fact, I think McCammon could’ve easily written this novel as an epic zombie novel and it would’ve lost none of its horror and punch.

As a horror novel They Thirst must rank up there with classic vampire novels such as the aforementioned ‘Salem’s Lot and Dracula, but also another vampire novel which share similar apocalyptic foundations in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Robert McCammon takes an age-old legend and infuses it with a modern sensibility and a sense of the epic that even horror wirters rarely ever pull off. It’s a shame that the paperback is now out-of-print and the novelist himself have kept further printings from being made and released. But for those still willing to read this great vampire novel, I suggest they search the used and second-hand bookstores for a copy. The book won’t disappoint.

Film Review: The Mechanic (dir. by Simon West)

A few years ago, I declared that January should just be renamed Statham because seriously, Jason Statham was in like almost every single freaking movie released that month.  Seriously, it was like every time I turned on the TV, there was yet a new commercial featuring Jason Statham in some movie that I had absolutely no desire to see.  “Oh look,” I’d say, “that’s Jason Statham swinging a sword.  Oh, now he’s driving a car really fast.  Oh, wow, now Jason Statham’s looking off to the side and squinting…”

Well, this January, Jason Statham is only starring in one film and it might be the best of his career.  At the very least, it’s the first time I’ve been able to kind of see the guy’s appeal as a film star.  That film is The Mechanic and it opened this week.

In the Mechanic, Jason Statham plays a contract killer.  He’s known as a mechanic because he “fixes” problems.  After Statham’s mentor (Donald Sutherland) is killed, Statham takes the man’s son (Ben Foster) under his wing and starts to teach Foster the tools of the trade.  However, unlike the cool and detached Statham, Foster is a jittery and angry psychopath.  However, despite their differing approaches, they are forced to work together when the same man (Tony Goldwyn) who ordered Sutherland’s murder decides to come after them.

As I stated before, I’ve never quite gotten the appeal of Jason Statham as an actor.  In fact, as Jeff and I waited for the film to start, I said, “I’ve never really gotten Jason Statham.”  As soon as I said that, this woman sitting in front of us turned around in her seat and I swear to God, she rolls her eyes at me in this way that said, “Bitch, please.  Like Jason Statham would ever give your raggedy ass a second look.” 

I proceeded to narrow my eyes in a way that said, “You best be watching what you say, you nasty ass ho.”

She cocked her head in a way that said, “Oh, no you didn’t!”

I flared my nostrils in a way that said, “Oh yes, I did, you hootchie ass skank…”

She leaned forward as if to say, “Gurl, you need to get Jesus in your life…” 

I smirked as if to say, “Jesus?  What does Jesus have to do with this?”

Before she could answer, the movie started.

Anyway, what was my point?  Oh yes, Jason Statham.  In the past, I’ve never gotten his appeal but in this film, I did.  For the first time, I saw him as something other than just an expressionless English guy.  Statham is athletic but, unlike a lot of other action movie stars, he’s not so ludicrously muscle-bound that you can’t believe him as some guy you might run into out on the street.  Previously, I just thought that Statham was a bad actor but, with the Mechanic, I realized that, whereas other actors act with their eyes and their voice, Statham acts with his body.  You look at Statham with his constant scowl and his cold eyes and you believe that he could kill someone in real life as well as in the movies.  Statham is perfectly cast as a professional killer and The Mechanic wisely doesn’t try to suggest that the character is anything more than just a very disciplined sociopath.  Much like the best pulp heroes, Statham’s mechanic is a hero by default.  He’s a bad guy but everyone else in the movie is worse.

Also, there’s a scene about ten minutes into the film where Statham, fresh from killing a drug lord, changes clothes in a linen closet and as soon as he removed his shirt, I said, “Oh, I see the appeal now.”

Playing opposite of Statham, Ben Foster gives another one of his intense performances.  Throughout the film, Foster is perpetually on the verge of exploding and his typically high energy performance provides a nice contrast to Statham’s typical nonperformance.  He’s the Eli Wallach to Statham’s Clint Eastwood.  However, Foster doesn’t just rely on theatric for his character.  Instead, he gives a complex, multi-faceted performance as a character who, in the hands of a lesser actor, could have just been your average psychopath.  He even manages to win some sympathy for a character who, on paper, wouldn’t seem to deserve it.  Even more importantly, he brings out the best in Statham in a way that previous co-stars like Sylvester Stallone couldn’t. 

Director West keeps the action moving quickly without ever letting the movie degenerate into just a collection of over-the-top set pieces.  When the film does break out into action, West handles it like a pro and, as spectacular as the action may get, he still manages to keep things in the realm of the believable.  However, West also invests the film with a dark, almost grim atmosphere that fills every scene with a feeling of impending doom and growing paranoia.

The Mechanic is a fast-paced, unapologetic thriller that, in its way, ultimately becomes a masterpiece of the pulp imagination.   It’s very easy to imagine this as an Antonio Margheriti film from the early 80s, starring David Warbeck and Giovanni Lombardo Radice in the Statham and Foster roles.  Both director West and the cast deserve to be applauded for making a grindhouse film for the 21st Century.

Review: Crank (dir. by Neveldine/Taylor)

Through the Shattered Lens has been quite eclectic when it comes to reviewing films, music and all forms of entertainment. While we’re not averse to the more high-brow and artistic fare what will come across to most visitors of the site is how love for grindhouse and exploitation films are quite strong in this place. Grindhouse and exploitation of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s usually fill the bill but once in a while a certain film of aq more recent time frame will make the cut. One such film is the over-the-top, ultraviolent and extremely funny film Crank from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, or as they like to call themselves, Neveldine/Taylor.

One thing I must point out is how this movie has confirmed Jason Statham in my eyes as the current action-star of the last couple years. A favorite of Brit action-auteur director Guy Ritchie, Statham has gradually built himself a decent list of action-movies that take good advantage of Statham’s old-school sense of machismo and smirking confidence reminiscent of the such past macho actors like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen just to name a few. Statham is thick in body, but none too muscular and his wry, British sardonic personality mixes well with his many different action-movie personas. In Crank he pretty much steals and holds the ludicrous and unique different plot from spiralling out into camp and MST3K territory. Even though Statham would never be considered an acting giant, his performance as the hitman Chev Chelios racing against time to avenge his inevitable death was very well done. Crank starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Like the actions and behavior of its main character, this film seems to be racing towards the end and not caring to slow down and give the audience a chance to take a breather. He literally willed this film to be nothing but crazily entertaining.

Many have called the idea for Crank as another derivative of the mid-90’s action film Speed. I’d be the first to say that they’re really not off the mark by much. Instead of a bus wired to explode if it dips below a predetermined speed, Crank puts the same premise and uses a human body instead. The human in question is one Chev Chelios whose botching of a contract hit lands him in a bit of hot water with the underworld bosses who hired him to do the job. Ambushed and knocked unconscious, Chelios soon wakes up to realize that something is definitely wrong with him. A bit of villain grandstanding from the employer he disappointed, Chelios quickly finds out that he has been injected with an exotic cocktail of chemicals called the Beijing Cocktail (definitely sounds like something made-up for a grindhouse flick) which would kill him by inhibiting his body’s ability to produce adrenaline. He learns from a colleague that he will need to keep his adrenaline pumping constantly to remain among the living and must do so by any means necessary. Whether he accomplishes this through extreme physical activities, drugs, and energy drinks Chelios must do them all in order to buy himself enough time to tie up lose ends in his life and to find the employers who have killed him. That is pretty much the story of Crank in a nutshell.

Crank doesn’t take much of the film’s early minutes to explain some backstory on Chelios other than him being a professional hitman. Instead writer-directors Neveldine/Taylor use the entire running time of the movie to gradually give glimpses into what kind of a person Chev Chelios is. With their use of handheld digital cameras and kinetic-style editing and camera shots, Neveldine/Taylor takes the premise of Crank and lets the audience ride along not just as passive viewers but almost like active participants. The “in the now” look of the film with some shots angled so that they’re almost in first-person or over the shoulder views doesn’t look as gimmicky as it sounds. One film released the same year that compares to Crank in terms of unique filmmaking for an action film it would be Running Scared that was released earlier this year. Both take the action flick conventions and dare to rise above it either through a dark fairytale style that was Running Scared or the manic, darkly amoral humor that gives Crank such an exhilirating sense of pacing.

The one thing that people will remember most about this movie is the many action sequences that happen throughout the film. With their decision to use handheld digital cameras, action sequences in Crank take on an almost hyperkinetic look to them. Again this film shares some similarities with Running Scared with how its action sequences were shot with such inventive use of angles and framing not to mention in-your-face violence. Crank has less of the surreal quality of Running Scared and more of a live newscast. In fact, at times I felt as if I was watching a news crew vainly chasing after Statham’s character as he paints the Los Angeles with non-stop adrenaline-pumping violence and activities. Whether its him getting into an outnumbered free-for-all brawl with a certain inner-city gang or having a very impromptu, unexpected and thoroughly indecent display of public affection with dozens in witness, the film’s amoral and sense of active nihilism makes this film a most politically-incorrect one. There’s a scene involving a taxi driver that was wrong on so many levels yet it invoked some of the biggest laughs and reactions from myself and the audience around me when I first saw it in the theaters.

The violence comes hard and fast and unlike Statham’s past couple of Transporter flicks, there’s nary a martial art choreographed fight scene to be seen. No, Chelios is an action film character who attacks and fights with sudden directness and brutality with as little movements required as possible. Chelios doesn’t need kung fu or karate moves to take out an opponent when a a well-placed kick, punch, elbow, etc…is all that’s needed to put a man down. Crank’s action sequences also had no CGI used (something I learned prior to seeing the film) with Statham doing most of his stunts. This wouldn’t be too much of a big deal until one factors in the fact that one of the action pieces takes place in a helicopter flying a thousand or so feet above the street of LA. Statham must have quite a steely pair if there’s truth behind him doing that helicopter fight with no greenscreen CG trickery or wire-fu assistance used.

Outside of Statham the rest of the cast took to their roles with a relish and had fun with them. And as with every action-flicks the hero will need a foil to motivate him. Statham’s Chelios has his opposite number in Verona played with thuggish calculation by Jose Pablo Castillo. Then there’s Doc Dwight Yoakam as Doc Miles. Chelios’ acquaintance whose knowledge of all things chemical borders on the absurd but in Crank makes it work. But the other performer who stood out outside of Jason Statham has to be Amy Smart as Chelios’ ditzy but well-meaning girlfriend, Eve. She plays this character to the hilt and seem to be having a ball while doing so. Her outdoor scene of PDA with Statham and a follow-up scene during a car chase shows me that Ms. Smart was pretty game about going all the way with how to portray her character.

I won’t mention too many more details on what actually happens in the film since I think its best to see it for oneself. Words can’t really describe the sheer insanity and fun mayhem this movie puts up on the big-screen. The story may not be too original and it’s lead may not be the best actor out there, but what Statham lacks in acting proficiency he more than makes up for sheer charisma and old-school machismo that’s way too rare in action-flick actors nowadays. Crank is more than your run-of-the-mill action movie. The creativity shown by writer-directors Neveldine/Taylor gives Crank a unique look and their attempts to try new techniques succeeds more than it fails. But in the end this film lives and dies on the shoulders of Jason Statham who I must say is the action-hero of this new generation of actors.

So, better grab hold tight of something or someone, because this film is one hell of a ride and you’re not getting off until the very end whether you like it or not.

6 Trailers Designed To Induce Hysteria

This latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers was meant to have a theme.  I was only going to include trailers of films that have been reviewed on the Hysteria Lives! website.  Unfortunately, I ran in to some trouble with the New Year’s Evil trailer and I ended up going with a different trailer of a movie that hasn’t been reviewed on the site.  So, yes, the theme kinda falls apart at the end.  But anyway, let’s get things started…

1) The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1970)

Sergio Martino doesn’t get as much attention as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava but he made some giallo classics and this is one of them.  Yes, the trailer’s in Italian but stick with it anyway.  Also, the person who uploaded this to Youtube, included another trailer — this one for Lucio Fulci’s Lizard In A Woman’s Skin — after the end of the Mrs. Wardh trailer.

2) Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

You can tell that this trailer from 1981 isn’t messing around because the birthday cake gets it!  I saw this movie on TV a few years ago.  The brain surgery scenes really freaked me out.  Another thing that freaked me out was a scene where all the high school snobs decided to spend their night at a special showing of High Noon.  Why couldn’t I have gone to high school with a bunch of film snobs?  Seriously, life sucks.

3) Don’t Open The Door (made in 1975, released in 1979)

All together now: “Don’t.  Don’t.  Don’t.  Don’t.  Don’t…”  With all due respect to the very hot Eli Roth, that was my favorite of the fake trailers from Grindhouse.  Anyway, Don’t is not a real film but Don’t Open The Door is.  Exploitation film of the 70s and the 80s were always trying to tell us how to live our lives.  Don’t stand by the window, don’t look in the basement, don’t go in the house, don’t go into the woods…alone, and now, apparently we can’t even open the freaking door.  This actually reminds me of this time that we were visiting my grandma and I was up in the attic exploring and I heard my sisters downstairs calling out my name because they couldn’t find me so I tried to open the attic door and I accidentally yanked off the door knob.  Agck!  That was scary.  But I survived and here’s the trailer…

4) Body Count (1987)

I haven’t seen this one so all of my information on it comes from what I’ve read online.  Apparently, this was Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s attempt to make an American-style slasher film so, of course, it takes place at a summer camp.  David Hess is in this one and apparently, he’s not playing the killer for once.  Former Russ Meyer star Charles Napier is in this one too.  As for why I love this trailer, just listen to narrator at the end of the trailer when he starts tossing out various taglines.  It’s as if the film’s producers were arguing about which tagline to use and finally someone said, “Fuck it, just toss them all in there!  Now, shut up and behave!  It’s time for dinner!”

5) Scalps (1983)

Horror will surround you … and we’re not just talking about the acting.  I love it when trailers dare you to actually sit through the entire movie.  (And, I should add, that I own Scalps on DVD and, bad acting aside, it’s actually a surprisingly effective little horror movie.)

6) Bloody New Year (1987)

I wanted to include the trailer for a film called New Year’s Evil here but the only one I could find had this huge advertising logo across the bottom of it.  But while I searched, I came across the trailer for another New Year’s horror film, Bloody New Year.  And you know what?  I’ve seen New Year’s Evil and it sucks and it had a really nasty sort of sadism to it that makes you feel dirty after you watch it.  So, fuck New Year’s Evil.  Now, let’s all have a Bloody New Year!

Finally, since that Lizard in a Woman’s Skin extra actually means that there were 7 trailers in this edition as opposed to 6, I’m going to add one more bonus trailer so that we can end things on an even number.  There’s no way I couldn’t take the opportunity to include Edgar Wright’s brilliant fake trailer, Don’t.

What Lisa Watched Last Night: Doing Time On Maple Drive (dir. by Ken Olin)

Early Friday morning, I found myself watching an old school made-for-TV movie, Doing Time On Maple Drive, on the Lifetime Movie Network.  If you’ve heard of this film, it’s probably because it features a kinda young Jim Carrey in a supporting role.

Why Was I Watching It?

Because when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re getting hit by the old insomnia curse, what’s a girl to do put turn on the TV and change the channel to the Lifetime Movie Network?

What’s It About?

The Carters appear to be the perfect American family.  They’ve got a beautiful house in the suburbs (on Maple Drive, no less), the children are all handsome and intelligent, the dad is a succesful businessman, the mom a perfect homemaker, and blah blah blah.  You know how this is going to turn out already, don’t you?  Dad is actually an overly competitive jerk, mom is in denial, the daughter is a neurotic mess, the youngest son is a closeted homosexual, and the oldest child is Jim Carrey.  He’s also an alcoholic and he claims that his name is actually Tim but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still Jim Carrey.

What Worked?

Tolstoy once said that all happy families are the same but that each unhappy family is unique.  The family in this film is unique because — well, oh my God, how dysfunctional can you be?  Not only do you have the judgmental parents and the alcoholic son but you’ve got the frigid daughter and the self-loathing gay son.  Just using one of these stock characters would have made the film’s storyline seem familiar and predictable.  However, tossing all of them into the mix and you’ve got an old school camp classic, complete with dramatic monologues, scary silences, and all the rest.  Though this was originally made and shown by Fox, Doing Time On Maple Drive really does take the beloved Lifetime Family Drama formula to its most logical extreme.

The film is also pretty well-acted and features some familiar faces for those of us who love horror and exploitation films.  For instance, the gay son is played by William McNamara who, if you’re an Argento fan, you may remember his extremely graphic death scene in Opera.

Making the film even more odd, McNamara’s character is engaged to Alison, who is played by Lori Loughlin, the mom from 90210.  How often do you get to see a mix of Argento, 90210, and Jim Carrey on screen?

What Didn’t Work?

Jim Carrey!  Don’t get me wrong, Jim did a good enough job playing his role but the whole time you’re watching the film, you keep thinking “that’s not Tim the alcoholic, that’s Jim Carrey.”

What’s ironic about that, of course, is that Jim Carrey is probably the only reason why anyone ever chooses to watch Doing Time On Maple Drive.  Well, Jim Carrey and insomnia.

(As a sidenote, Jim Carrey had to deliver the line, “I’ve done my time on Maple Drive,” which, of course, meant I had to yell, “We have a title!”)

“Oh My God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

During one dramatic moment, Alison tells her boyfriend, “What’s funny is a part of me always suspected you might be gay…”  This line made me cringe just because I said the exact same thing to one of my ex-boyfriends once.  He started crying.  It was just kinda awkward.

Lessons Learned

If you ever meet the “perfect” family, run away.

Song of the Day: Am I Evil? (by Diamond Head)

Since I have been in a metal state of mind since finding out that The Big 4 of thrash metal would be appearing together on-stage this coming April 23 at Indio, CA I just had to pick a metal song for the latest “Song of the Day”. The song picked was an easy choice. It was Diamond Head’s classic metal track, “Am I Evil?”, from their 1980 debut album Lightning to the Nations.

Taking inspiration from the openings of both Black Sabbath’s “Symphony of the Universe” and Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the bringer of war”, the beginning of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” has become one of the most recognizable and beloved of all metal songs. Right from the start the song just oozes an aura of heavy evil and the lyrics of a young boy who witnesses his mother’s witch-burning and his quest to avenge that death just adds to the doom and gloom of the song.

Diamond Head was part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWBHM for short) bands which bridged the Atlantic from the mid-to-late 70’s all the way into the early part of the 80’s. While they were not as successful as other groups who came out of the NWBHM scene like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard they were a huge influence on another growing subgenre of metal that was about to give birth in the U.S.

I speak of the rise of thrash metal and how it’s four horsemen (Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth) would look to Diamond Head as one of the NWBHM bands which influenced their sound with all four looking at Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” as one of those songs which taught them what heavy metal really meant.

It’s no surprise that during the concert tour season of 2010 these four giants of thrash metal would tour together and do seven shows with the show in Sofia, Bulgaria ending with three of the four bands sharing the stage to cover this Diamond Head classic.

Whether played by Diamond Head, Metallica or the Big 4 just listening to “Am I Evil?” definitely makes one feel like their soul just got darker and their heart colder. Just the way heavy metal should affect anyone and be glad that it does.

Am I Evil?

My mother was a witch, she was burned alive
Thankless little bitch, for the tears I cried
Take her down now, don’t wanna see her face
Blistered and burnt, can’t hide my disgrace

27 every one was nice, gotta see them,
Make them pay the price
See their bodies out on the ice, take my time

Am I evil, yes I am
Am I evil, I am man

As I watched my Mother die, I lost my head
Revenge now I sought, to break with my bread
Takin’ no chances, you come with me
I’ll split you to the bone
Help set you free.

27 every one was nice, gotta see them,
Make them pay the price
See their bodies out on the ice, take my time

Am I evil, yes I am
Am I evil, I am man

On with the action now, I’ll strip your pride
I’ll spread your blood around, I’ll see you ride
Your face is scarred with steel, wounds deep and neat
Like a double dozen before you, smell so sweet.

27 every one was nice, gotta see them,
Make them pay the price
See their bodies out on the ice, take my time

Am I evil, yes I am
Am I evil, I am man

I’ll make my residence, I’ll watch your fire
You can come with me, sweet desire
My face is long forgotten, my face not my own
Sweet and timely whore, take me home

Lisa Marie’s Latest YouTube Obsession

Over the past few days, I’ve become obsessed with a four-part video on Youtube.  I don’t know who uploaded this video or why she (or he) felt the need to share it with the world.  I suppose I could always go to the user’s channel and send a message but I don’t think I will.  To be honest, I know that even if I did get a reply, the answers would probably just be a disappointment and certainly no where close to matching what I’ve imagined.  Sometimes, the best questions are the ones that are never answered.

Anyway, as for the video itself, it was apparently filmed in 1987.  Though it’s never explicitly stated, I think that this video was made in a high school gym.  Apparently, the occasion was a fundraiser that was meant to help pay for the senior prom.  For nearly 40 minutes, members of the Class of ’87 walked out onto a makeshift stage and showed off some of the tackiest prom dresses in the history of tacky prom dresses.  Seriously, with one or two exceptions, the dresses here run the gamut from horrid to hideous.  These were dresses from the Gurl, What Were You Thinking? collection. 

(If I may say so myself, my prom dress was a 100 times better than anything seen here.  It was a black mini with a pleated skirt and a sequined bodice.  I was all boobs and legs in that dress and I’m sure some people would say it was too much of both.  But so what?  I felt like a movie star.  I also did that silly thing where you throw your garter and then you dance with whoever catches it.  It was fun and all but I never got the garter back and I hate to think of what the guy who caught the garter did with it after the dance.)

So, why does this video obsess me so?  Well, admittedly, some of it is the fact that whole thing — from the balloons that decorate the stage to the gift certificates to McDonald’s that are given out as door prizes — is just so amazingly cheap that it actually becomes charming in much the same way that a 50s B-movie or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.  I love listening to the breathless commentary of the two hosts and comparing it to the models who, for the most part, almost seem to know that, 23 years in the future, this whole thing is going to end up on YouTube.  I also love how, as the video goes on, the audience goes from being politely attentive to openly talking amongst themselves as the show goes on.  Finally, the static camera work and the fact that every model is a star for at least 15 seconds, is reminiscent of the early Factory films of Andy Warhol.

I also like to watch the models and to wonder where they are now and whether they even remember the night and the show that has captivated me.  Since they were all high school seniors in 1987, they would be in the 40s now.  I wasn’t even 2 years old when this video was made.  I don’t know any of them and (unless they’re reading this) they don’t know me but we have a bond in that we’ve all shared the same hour.  After watching this video several times, I feel as if I know most of these models.  I’ve studied their body language as they walked across the stage.  I’ve noticed who smiled and who looked miserable.  I’ve created elaborate backstories for them and figured out who has ended up married to who and who ended up getting drunk on prom night and crashing his car (and tragically killing his date) afterward.  I’ve figured out what terrible secret links together all the guys wearing the sunglasses at night.  At this point, actually meeting or talking to anyone actually in this video could only be a massive disappointment.

However, I think the true appeal of this video is that it’s both a record of an actual event but yet it’s totally devoid of context.  The simple act of watching it becomes a search for meaning in which you’re guaranteed to find whatever it is you want to find. 

The Big 4 to Thrash Indio, CA For A Day

First news that 70,000 tons of metal wasn’t a scam and thus automatically becoming the greatest cruise ever to put out to see. Now, news of The Big 4 doing a show in the US a week after the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Who are The Big 4 and why do I sound excited about this news. Well, The Big 4 are the four greatest thrash metal bands and one could say four of the greatest metal bands to ever grace the land of heavy metal. The Big 4 show will include the bands Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer with the biggest of the four in Metallica looming over everyone. Yes, these four bands will be performing together for the first and only time on U.S. soil. They had done a similar tour over in Europe last year and each show were sold out and were a headbanging success.

While I won’t be able to make the show (already committed to attending Anime Boston which will occur the same weekend) I’m sure there’s enough people who read this site who live in California and wish to partake on this very metal of an event.

Tickets will go on sale on January 28, 2011 so metal fans who want to attend better get to buying them tickets and raise the horns!

*I’m sure necromoonyeti wishes he could attend this show as well as 70,000 tons of metal.

*Also, the fact that the Coachella Music Festival seems to be lacking in the metal department makes that 3-day event an #epicfail