Well, another month has come to a close and that means that it’s time for another poll here at the Shattered Lens.
As always, please feel free to vote for up to four films and write-in votes are accepted!
Well, another month has come to a close and that means that it’s time for another poll here at the Shattered Lens.
As always, please feel free to vote for up to four films and write-in votes are accepted!
I couldn’t let June end without one more edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation film trailers.
1) Barbarella (1968)
2) Wizards (1977)
3) Fantastic Planet (1973)
4) Night Tide (1961)
5) Experiment in Terror (1962)
6) Panic In Year Zero (1962)
What do you think, Trailer Kitty?
I just finished watching the latest episode of True Blood and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings.
On the one hand, Bill’s acting evil again and I hate it when Bill acts evil.
On the other hand, Eric is being all dangerous and sexy and you know how much I love that.
So, as often happens when it comes to True Blood, I’m conflicted.
After spending most of the previous episode in a catatonic state, Bill spent most of this latest episode acting like a jerk. First off, he decided to test his new powers by standing outside while the sun rose and ignoring Jessica as she pleaded with him to come back inside. At first, it looked like Bill might actually be onto something but then the sun actually rose, Bill burst into flames, and barely managed to make it back inside the mansion.
Once Bill had healed, he sent Jessica to kidnap one of the men who first created true blood so that Bill could force the man to synthesize a new type of blood. Not surprisingly, this involved Jessica dressing up all trampy (though I have to say that I own that same outfit and I’m thinking about being Jessica for Halloween this year, again) and flirting with the man until they were alone and she could grab him.
Bill’s plan also involved finding the perfect donor for this new blood and, as always, this led to him showing up at Sookie’s. Even though Sookie refused to invite him in, Bill was able to enter her house and cause Jason to float in the air while he talked to Sookie. Only after Sookie emphatically refused to be his donor did Bill leave the house.
However, Sookie isn’t the only faerie around. As Bill walks back to his home, he runs into dumbass Andy. While Andy explains to Bill that the governor’s curfew is in effect, he lets slip that he now has four half-faerie daughters. A small smile comes to Bill’s lip as he congratulates Andy on his luck.
See what I mean? Bill is acting totally evil!
Meanwhile, Eric has gained entry to the bedroom of Willa, the Governor’s daughter. Despite initially saying that he’s going to kill her, Eric instead kidnaps her and, with the reluctant help of Pam and Tara, holds her prisoner. Willa (who actually looks a lot like Eric’s “sister,” Nora) doesn’t really seem to mind the idea of being Eric’s prisoner and you know what? I don’t blame her! Seriously, for those of us who love True Blood when Eric is being all sexy and dangerous, tonight’s episode was for us!
Along with all of that, we also had Niall (played, perfectly, by Rutger Hauer) attempting to recruit a faerie army so that he could defeat Warlow. However, it turned out that Warlow had already found most of the faeries before Niall did. The only faerie that Niall was able to find and recruit was Ben, who — with Bill crazy and Eric kidnapping — appears to be destined to become Sookie’s love interest for the season.
Speaking of love interests, Nicole and those annoying activists showed up in tonight’s episode but the majority of them ended up getting killed by the werewolves. A wounded Nicole was last spotted (by Sam, who was there to rescue Emma) stumbling into the woods. Saying that Nicole needed their help, Sam followed after her. As I said last week, I think Sam could do better.
And finally — Rev. Newlin’s back! In case you were wondering what happened to everyone’s favorite spokesvamp, he’s currently being held prisoner and interrogated about Eric by the creepiest government doctor that I’ve ever seen.
As I said, I had mixed feelings about tonight’s episode. On the one hand, I could tell that it was obviously laying the groundwork for something pretty spectacular. On the other hand, Bill’s evil and I don’t want that.
So, as of this writing, I’m conflicted but hopefully, things will be a bit more clear after next week.
Random Thoughts and Observations:
Decade of last.fm scrobbling countdown:
41. Our Lady Peace (765 plays)
Top track (30 plays): Angels Losing Sleep, from Healthy in Paranoid Times (2005)
We are all entitled to a guilty pleasure or two. I would humor calling Our Lady Peace mine, but only if we agree to restrict their cause for lameness to the lyrics. Their popularity, especially as those “Canadian softies” emerging amidst much heavier U.S. trends, overshadows the fact that they are absolutely amazing. Raine Maida’s voice is capable of making anything sound great, and capable of making me not give a shit about singing a falsetto at the top of my lungs at traffic lights with my windows down. Even as I was signing the final divorce papers with my radio in the late 90s and letting my affair with Napster and heavy metal be known, I was probably listening to 1999’s Happiness…is Not a Fish That You Can Catch more than any other album on the market. I’ve definitely listened to it more than most other 1990s albums–even the grunge greats–in my more informed years to follow.
How people have experienced OLP over the years probably varies drastically depending on where you’re from. The late 1990s and early 2000s marked the final days of musical segregation, with Americans barely having a clue who Radiohead, Blur, and Muse were. (Didn’t one of them do that “woo-hoo” song?) The U.S. and Canada were a bit more in sync, but Our Lady Peace was definitely not the overhyped megaband down here that my Canadian friends recall. They were just “that band that did Clumsy and Superman’s Dead”. The singles on Happiness received minimal air time, and the only song since that I’ve really heard extensively here was “Somewhere Out There” (Gravity, 2002). (I can’t honestly speak for their last three albums of course. Maybe “Angels Losing Sleep” was huge–it deserves to be–but I hadn’t listened to mainstream radio in years by then.) My main point here is that, while OLP might have been played to the point of annoyance in Canada, down here they were presented modestly enough to not face serious media pollution. I had a better opportunity to engage them by choice–and choose which songs I liked best.
Our Lady Peace are a band that has definitely catered to the radio single. Even on their first album, Naveed (1994), a few tracks stood out as decisively more catchy than the status quo. Their albums by and large are never perfect; there are plenty of second-rate tracks in their discography. What they have really accomplished throughout their career is a consistency of top-notch quality among the handful of main focus tracks they produce for a given album. They are a band better set to a playlist, and even as recently as Burn Burn in 2009 they’ve pumped out new material worthy of that mix. (“Signs of Life”, “Paper Moon”–featured above) Happiness…is Not a Fish That You Can Catch remains, I think, their best album by far, because it is the only one for which I can safely say there are no downer tracks. Every song on that album could be a single. But I really do enjoy the full discography, and I have a tendency to queue it up from start to finish when I’ve got a long project to work on at home. Something about the more ho-hum tracks projects a sort of humility on the big picture–the sense that these guys are down to earth, not supernaturally brilliant in the sense of contemporaries like Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. Their lyrics are frequently incredibly lame, but that’s the only major fault I hear in a band that was perhaps a bit too successful to be appreciated for their real worth.
Our Lady Peace: a guilty pleasure? Maybe, but I’ll keep singing along.
Last night, my sister Erin and I watched the 2008 Lifetime Movie, Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal.
Why Were We Watching It?
This is my fourth favorite Lifetime movie, coming in right behind Confessions of a Go Go Girl, The Babysitter’s Seduction, and Mother, May I Sleep With Danger. It comes on every few weeks and, if I’m at home, I’ll usually end up watching it. I forced my sister Erin Nicole to watch it with me because she actually was a Texas cheerleader and I figured she would have some insight into the film that I might otherwise miss. Plus, it’s just fun to watch movies with Erin!
What Was It About?
Emma Carr (Jenna Dewan, who would later become Jenna Dewan-Tatum) is the new cheerleading coach at a small Texas high school. She views cheerleading as being the most important part of a young girl’s life and she quickly proves to be an inspirational and beloved teacher. However, five mean girls — the Fab Five of the title — are determined to do what they want, regardless of whether it’s good for the cheerleading squad, the school, or Coach Carr’s marriage. Making things especially difficult is the fact that the leader of the Fab Five (played by Amber Benson) is the daughter of the school principal (Tatum O’Neal). While Coach Carr tries to instill a sense of teamwork and self-esteem into the rest of the squad, the Fab Five spend their time drinking, hanging out in sex shops, and posting racy videos on YouTube.
Needless to say, this film is credited as being “based on a true story.”
Though the film was undoubtedly exaggerated, it still did manage to capture just what it’s like to go to an athletics-obsessed school in small town and suburban Texas. Seriously, it’s a world that only makes sense when you’re actually a part of it. Once you leave and think back, it all looks like a silly Lifetime movie.
Everytime after I see this movie, I find myself occasionally clapping my hands while chanting, “Pump, pump, pump it up/Pump that spirit, keep it up!” Seriously, it’s fun!
What Did Not Work?
Both Erin and I were occasionally amused and often annoyed by how seriously Coach Carr took cheerleading. Every time that Jenna Dewan started to give a speech about the importance of cheerleading (“You represent your school!”), Erin and I started laughing. She was just so serious about it that I found it hard to believe that her character wasn’t being played for laughs. Imagine my shock as I realized that the film meant for us to take her seriously.
(However, Erin has assured me that there are coaches out there who really do view cheerleading as being a mission from God.)
“Oh my God! Just like us!” Moments
As we watched the film, I continually asked my sister if this movie was an accurate portrayal of what it was like to be a scandalous high school cheerleader in Texas. According to Erin, the film was accurate but exaggerated. She said that she had known girls like the ones portrayed in this film but, even at their worst, they weren’t “as demonic” as the Fab Five. Erin also asked me to make clear that she was certainly never one of those girls. And I can vouch for that! There’s a reason why Erin’s nickname is “the nice one.”
When I first started high school, quite a few people told me that I needed to follow my sister’s example and try out for cheerleader and I have to admit that I was occasionally tempted to do so. However, I never did because I already had ballet and drama club, I wanted to establish my own identity, and Erin told me that being cheerleader meant that I had to be perky all the time and, quite frankly, I’ve always needed my time to sulk. So, I’ve never regretted not following the cheerleader route but I still found it amusing that the evil redheaded cheerleader in Fab Five was named Lisa.
My home state is the best! Seriously, would anyone ever want to watch a movie called The Vermont Cheerleader Scandal? I think not.
Today’s song of the day is an instrumental piece from the latest horror remake, Maniac. Composed by the French musician Rob, Maniac‘s score is just as important to the film’s unlikely success as Elijah Wood’s disturbing performance in the lead role. Reminiscent of the scores composed and performed by Goblin for the films of Dario Argento, Rob’s work here results in one of the best horror scores ever recorded.
Here is Haunted.
By all logic, Maniac has no right to be as good a film as it is.
A remake of William Lustig’s notoriously sleazy (if grimly effective) 1980 film, Maniac tells the story of Frank Zito (Elijah Wood, taking on a role previously played to repulsive perfection by Joe Spinell). Frank is a twitchy young man who sells mannequins for a living, has frequent conversations with his dead mother, suffers from intense migraines, and relieves stress by scalping strangers. Much like the original Maniac, the remake is largely plotless. Frank stalks women. Frank yells at his mannequins. Frank pursues an unlikely romance with an incredibly naive photographer (played here by the very sympathetic Nora Arnezeder). Much blood is spilled and the film eventually comes to a conclusion that’s even darker than Lustig’s original.
One thing that does distinguish this remake from the original Maniac is that director Franck Khalfoun and producer (and screenwriter) Alexandre Aja attempt to truly put the viewers in Frank’s disturbed mind. With the exception of a few isolated moments, the entire film is a collection of p.o.v. shots. While we hear Frank talk throughout the film, the only time that we actually see him is during the rare moment that Frank takes the time to look at his reflection. That may sound gimmicky (and it is) but, at the same time, it actually works surprisingly well. Much like Frank, the audience spends the film trapped in his disturbed mind and often unsure about whether they’re seeing something real or having another hate-fueled hallucination.
It helps that Elijah Wood gives a surprisingly credible performance in the role of Frank. While we only actually get to see his face a handful of times, Wood makes every one of those moments count. Unlike the original’s Joe Spinell (who gave a performance that was so incredibly sleazy that he almost seemed to be surrounded by a cloud of grime whenever he showed up on screen), Elijah Wood uses his youthful face and his deceptively gentle voice to turn Frank into a disturbingly plausible threat. With his nervous eyes and rather befuddled expression, Wood makes Frank into the murderer next door One reason why serial killers are so scary is because the majority of them look more like Elijah Wood than Joe Spinell. Director Khalfoun uses Wood’s passive screen presence to put the audience at ease, just as surely as Frank uses his innocent face to fool his victims. As a result, the viewers keep expecting Frank to show some shimmer of humanity. That’s make it all the more disturbing to watch as the film reveals just how much of a monster Frank truly is.
Playing the role of Frank’s love interest, Nora Arnezeder also deserves a lot of credit. While the original film definitely suffered because you never believed that Caroline Munro’s classy photographer would actually be attracted to Joe Spinell, the relationship between Wood and Arnezeder is a lot more plausible and hence, it also has the potential to be a lot more tragic. Without Arnezeder’s empathetic performance, Maniac would just be a numbing collection of scenes of people being murdered. However, Arnezeder creates a character that viewers will actually care about. We worry about her as we watch her relationship with Frank develop but, at the same time, we can understand what she thinks she sees in this shy and eccentric man. As opposed to the original film and despite all of the graphic violence (and it is graphic, make no mistake), the remake of Maniac never feels misogynistic and that’s largely due to the work of Nora Arnezeder. Arnezeder gives us something that the original never bothered to do, a character to sympathize with.
Finally, you can’t talk about the remake of Maniac without mentioning the film’s excellent score. Composed by a French composer who goes by the name of Rob, the synth-heavy score has a wonderfully retro feel to it that pays homage to both the old grindhouse films and also adds a propulsive element of menace to every scene. Much like the electronic score of the far different Upstream Color, the score of Maniac becomes a character all of its own. I would even go as far to say that it’s perhaps one of the best horror score that I’ve ever heard.
I wasn’t expecting much of Maniac. In fact, the only reason I saw it was out of curiosity. I was expecting to be a typical horror remake, a cynical film made solely to exploit the notoriety of its source.
Was I ever wrong!
Maniac is not a pleasant film. It’s a dark and gore-filled movie but, in its disturbing way, it’s also oddly effective and compelling. It’s a film that probably has no right to be good and yet, that’s exactly what it is.
Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, and Michael Fassbender in a film written by Cormac McCarthy!?
Plus — there’s a cheetah!
I am so there.
World War Z premiered over this past weekend and as I mentioned in my review the film was better than expected and showed something which previous zombie films have never truly shown and that’s the epic nature of just how a zombie apocalypse would look. While the film probably has disappointed fans of the novel for it’s massive and major deviations of the novel it was adapted from it was still a fun film.
It was from the opening title sequence of World War Z that I was first introduced to the song that comes in as the latest “Song of the Day”.
The song “Isolated System” from Muse’s latest album, The 2nd Law, really comes off as a nice precursor to what will be an apocalyptic event just around the corner. The whole song is an instrumental piece that’s interspersed with voice clippings from news reports that just have a hint of something ominous about to happen. The song looks to have have been influenced, whether by accident or on purpose, by another song which works well as a soundtrack to the apocalypse: Godspeend Ye! Black Emperor’s “East Hastings”.
Even if one didn’t like the film World War Z, this song was at least a nice find for those who haven’t been introduced to it.
I’ll get this out of the way and just say it: World War Z the film pretty much has nothing in common with the acclaimed novel of the same name by author Max Brooks (reviewed almost at the very beginning of the site). Ok, now that we have that out of the way it’s time to get to the important part and that’s how did the film version turn out on it’s own merits.
World War Z was a film that took the long, winding and rough road to finally get to the big-screen. Whether it was the five different writers brought in to work on the script (J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame came onboard first with Christopher McQuarrie coming unofficially to help tighten a few scenes in the end) to the massive changes made to the original source material that was bound to anger the fans of the novel, the film by Marc Forster had an uphill climb to accomplish even before the final product even came to market.
I was as surprised as man others were that the finished product was better than I had anticipated. Some had very low expectations about World War Z coming in due to the rumors and news reports coming in about the problems during production, but it doesn’t change the fact that the unmitigated disaster predicted by every film blogger and critic beforehand never came to fruition.
World War Z might not have been what fans of the novel had wanted it to be, but when seen on it’s own merit the film was both exciting and tension-filled despite some flaws in the final script and use of well-worn horror tropes.
The film begins with a visual montage interspersing scenes of nature (particularly the swarming, hive-like behavior of certain animals like birds, fish, and insects), alarmist news media reporting and the mindless celebrity-driven entertainment media that’s so big around the world. From there we’re introduced to the main protagonist of the film in one Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) and his family. We see that the Lane family definitely love and care for each other with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos in the supportive wife role) and their two young daughters, Rachel and Constance. The film could easily have spent a lot of time establishing this family and their relationship towards each other, but we move towards the film’s first major sequence pretty much right after the opening. It’s this choice to not linger on the characters too long that becomes both a strength and a weakness to the film’s narrative throughout.
World War Z finally shows why it’s not your typical zombie film with it’s first major sequence in the center of downtown Philadelphia as Gerry and his family sees themselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As they wait there are some subtle hints that something might just be somewhat awry ahead of them as we see more and more police racing towards some sort of emergency ahead of the family and more and more helicopters flying overhead. There’s a brief lull in the scene before all hell breaks loose and the film’s zombie apocalypse aspect goes from 0 straight to 11 in a split second.
It’s this sequence of all-encompassing chaos overtaking a major metropolitan city seen both on the ground through the eyes of Gerry Lane and then on flying overhead wide shots of the city that gives World War Z it’s epic scope that other zombie films (both great and awful) could never truly capture. It’s also in this opening action sequence that we find the film’s unique take on the tried-and-true zombie. While not the slow, shambling kind that was described in the novel, these fast-movers (owes a lot more on the Rage-infected from 28 Days Later) bring something new to the zomgie genre table by acting like a cross between a swarm of birds or insects with the rapidly infectious nature of a virus.
These zombies do not stop to have a meal of it’s victims once they’ve bitten one but instead rapidly moves onto the next healthy human in order to spread the contagion it carries. We even get an idea of how quickly a bitten victim dies and then turns into one of “Zekes” as a soldier has ended up nicknaming them. It’s this new wrinkle in the zombie canon that adds to the film’s apocalyptic nature as we can see just how the speed of the infection and the swarm-like behavior of the zombies could easily take down the emergency services of not just a city and state but of entire nations.
World War Z works best when it doesn’t linger too long between action sequences. Trying to inject some of the themes and ideas that made the novel such a joy to read only comes off as an uncomfortable attempt to try and placate fans of the novel. When we get scenes like Philadelphia in settings like Jerusalem and, in smaller scales but no less tense, like in South Korea and on a plane, the film works as a nice piece of summer action fare. This works in the first two thirds of the film but a sudden shift in the final third in Cardiff, Wales could be too jarring of a tonal shift in storytelling for some.
While the change from epic and apocalyptic to intimate and contained in the final third was such a sudden change this sequence works, but also shows just how bad the original final third of the film was to make this sudden change. It proves to be somewhat anticlimactic when compared to the epic nature of the first two-thirds of the film. We get a final third that’s more your traditional horror film. In fact, one could easily see World War Z as two different films vying for control and, in the end, the two halves having to try to co-exist and make sense.
World War Z doesn’t bring much of the sort of societal commentaries and themes that we get from the very best of zombie stories, but it does bring the sort of action that we rarely get from zombie films. The film actually doesn’t come off as your traditional zombie film, but more like a disaster story that just happened to have zombies as the root cause instead of solar flares, sudden ice age or alien invasion.
So, while World War Z only shares the title with the source novel it was adapting and pretty much not much else, the film wasn’t the unmitigated disaster that had been predicted for months leading up to it’s release. It’s a fun, rollercoaster ride of film that actually manages to leave an audience wanting to know more instead of being bombarded with so much action that one becomes desensitized and bored by it. There’s no question that a better film, probably even a great one, lurks behind the fun mess that’s the World War Z we’ve received, but on it’s own the film more than delivers on the promise that most films during the summer fails to achieve and that’s to entertain.