Scenes I Love: Up

The passing of Steve Jobs has brought out condolences and praise for one of the most innovative and creative forces in technology, entertainment and how the world interacted in the digital age. One of the many things he has created and fostered was the animation studio we’ve grown to love and call Pixar. It’s difficult to fathom of anyone who doesn’t have at least one fond memory from watching a Pixar film. I have my favorite from several Pixar releases, but one that I really have enjoyed reliving over and over (sometimes with my brother who also loves the film) is the film Up from 2009. It’s from this cg animated film that I’ve chosen the latest “Scenes I Love” in honor of Steve Job.

I’m sure there’s many scenes other people love from this film. Whether it’s the great opening sequence that will bring the most cynical person to tears or scenes between crotchety, old Mr. Fredrickson and Wildlife Explorer Russell. I’m also sure that many would choose scenes involving their talking furry companion Dug. It’s the scene where Dug first meets up with Russell and Mr. Fredrickson which I love the best.

I would try and describe why I love this scene but I think watching it would be the best explanation why I love it so. The one below is a bonus and just shows why Dug is a favorite.


A Quickie Horror Review: Planet of the Vampires (dir. by Mario Bava)

Later tonight, I’m going to watch Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath but before I do, I want to take a few minutes to review another one of Bava’s films, 1965’s sci-fi/horror hybrid Planet of the Vampires.

Taking place in the far future, Planet of the Vampires begins with two space ships receiving a distress call from an unexplored planet.  While landing, the two ships are separated from each other.  As the Argos lands, its crew is possessed by an unknown force and suddenly start trying to kill each other.  Only the ship’s captain (Barry Sullivan, who gives a surprisingly good performance in a role that most actors would have just sleepwalked through) is able to resist and he manages to snap the rest of the crew out of their hypnotic state. 

Once the Argos lands, search parties are sent out to find the other ship.  They find themselves on a barren planet where the surface is obscured by a thick, multi-colored fog.  As they wander through the planet, it quickly becomes apparent that they aren’t alone.  The searchers may have left the ship as human but they return as something else all together.  It all leads up to a surprisingly bleak conclusion.

If the plot of Planet of the Vampires sounds familiar, that’s because it’s probably one of the most influential, if not widely known, films of all time.   The film has been imitated in several other, far more expensive films but few of them manage to capture Planet of the Vampires’ sense of isolation and impending doom.  With this film, Bava again showed that he was one of the few directors wh0 could accomplish so much with so little.  While this isn’t an actor’s film, fans of Italian horror will squeal with delight to see Ivan Rassimov pop up here in a small role.

I’ve mentioned Planet of the Vampires before on this site when I was giving 10 reasons why I hated AvatarTo me, Planet of the Vampires stands as proof that you don’t need a gigantic budget to make an effective horror (or sci-fi film).  In fact, often times, all a huge budget does is shut down the audience’s imagination and quite frankly, nothing on film will ever be as impressive as what the audience can imagine.  With Planet of the Vampires, all that Mario Bava had to create an alien world were two plastic rocks and a smoke machine.  Working without the crutch of CGI, Bava had to pull off most of the film’s special effects “in camera,” and he would later say that one of the benefits of all that smoke was that it helped to obscure just how low budget this film was.  In short, Bava was working under circumstances that James Cameron would refuse to even consider and yet Planet of the Vampires holds up better upon repeat viewings than Avatar ever will.  The low-budget forced Bava to emphasize atmosphere over effects.  Yes, this film has its share of gore (it’s an Italian horror film, after all) but ultimately, this is another example of a horror film that works because of what it doesn’t show.  This is a film that exploits your imagination, working its way into the darker corners of your consciousness.  Bava creates a palpable atmosphere of doom that makes Planet of the Vampires into a surprisingly effective film.

Review: Craft – Void

Here it is five days into October and I haven’t covered a black metal album yet. I ought to be ashamed. Allow me to belatedly kick off my favorite season in good proper satan-worshiping style.

Serpent Soul

Craft’s new album kicks ass. I might go on long analytic rants right and left about modern black metal hybrid bands standing at the forefront of innovative new metal today, but when it comes time to dig out the really sinister shit, tradition still carries the flag. Craft have spent the last ten years proving that corpse paint and spiked bracers still have a legitimate roll in black metal.

Void starts out by punching you in the nuts, then Mikael Nox gets about an inch from your face and compliments your tears with spittle while John Doe plants his foot on your chest and breaks out the tremolo. By the two minute mark they’ve finished chalking a pentagram around you and the ritual begins. If this transition strikes you initially as a disappointment, leaving the opening brutality behind too soon, just give it some time. As the three minute mark approaches, the tremolo guitar invokes a brief vision of awe and terror, soon to be lost in a chaotic haze. If you haven’t moved by now, you’ll probably find your intestines dangling from the ceiling beams.

The only real disappointment in the entire song is the fact that it ends.

The Ground Surrenders

It’s not that Serpent Soul, or any other track on the album for that matter, is aesthetically above standard. As song writers they follow the black metal status quo, and if you don’t like this genre of music they’re not the sort of band you’re likely to make an exception for. Rather, what makes Void as a whole so great is all in the details of delivery. The vocals, guitars, and drums all merge perfectly to create a single solid sound in which nothing seems out of place. It’s all so tight that every dynamic shift delivers; the impact never falls short of their intentions.

Succumb to Sin

Granted plenty of black metal bands have preferred moderate tempos, it’s one of Craft’s great consistencies on Void to always take maximum advantage of the sort of heaviness a slow and steady plod can offer. It’s almost as if the tension of each track is measured, with the opening brutality as the measuring stick. Any time it cuts back you’re practically guaranteed a return. Whatever’s built up is always properly released, whether it be in the form of the explosion at the end of The Ground Surrenders or through the more subtle bursts employed on Succumb to Sin. Add a quick guitar solo at the end to let out the leftovers, and here you’ve got an exceptionally well-formed song.

I’ve talked this album up quite a lot, but let me be clear as to why. It’s not great in any of the ways I usually get fired up about; it’s pretty plain and simple black metal. Like Total Soul Rape and Terror Propaganda (I never actually knew Fuck the Universe existed until I started writing this), it will probably be a fall staple for me when I’m itching for good black metal with no trappings, but the only thing I’m really going to remember is that I liked it. I’ll forget the intricacies of the songs that I’ve picked up on while writing this pretty quickly. But what really struck me when I paid attention to it (and what might subconsciously continue to draw me to their first two albums) is not ingenuity but the quality of their musicianship. This album shines because every member of the band does the right things at the right times every time, feeding off of each other’s performance to create a really tight, unified sound. It’s just really well crafted music, no pun intended.