Review: Metallica: Through the Never (dir. by Nimrod Antal)


“And the road becomes my bride”

Concerts have been a major part of a teenager’s transition into adulthood. Often have we begged our parents to get us tickets to our favorite band’s concert as they toured straight into our hometowns. We’d beg, cajole, promise whatever just to be able to attend that big show that we thought everyone we knew would be attending. Rock concerts have been a huge part of this coming-of-age journey. It’s the show that our parents dreaded (especially the metal shows) and the ones that pulled in the outcasts kids.

We would either outgrow this youthful event because it’s not something that interests us, but most often it’s just because we either do not have the time to attend rock concerts due to work and other adult responsibilities. While we would still go to a concert of our favorite band when time and money affords for it in the end it’s something that’s become more of a past-time to reminisce about.

Metallica: Through the Never is the latest concert film that could change all that. Filmed during Metallica’s latest world tour, the film was directed by Nimrod Antal (Armored, Predators) and turns what could’ve been just your typical concert film into a surreal mixture of excellent concert footage and an apocalyptic narrative involving one of the band’s roadies. The latter felt like an extended music video and the lack of dialogue by the film’s narrative lead in Dane DeHaan does give this part of the film it’s surreal vibe. This part of the film could easily come off as one of Metallica’s music videos. It has mayhem involving nameless rioters battling an equal number of police right up to a nameless, gas-masked horseman who ends up paying particular attention to our beleaguered roadie.

Yet, while this apocalyptic-like narrative makes for a nice sideshow the main reason to see Metallica: Through the Never is the concert footage. While Antal does a good job with the story going outside the concert it’s inside where he shines. Making use of over 20 cameras on cranes, dollies and handhelds, Antal is able to make the concert footage feel like one was actually at the show. He uses every trick in the book from close-ups of each band member to sweeping crane shots that gives a bird’s-eye view of the concert.

It’s this part of the film that may just be one way for those of us who grew up going to concerts but have lost the time to return to such events to finally experience them again. It helps that the 3D used helps give the feel of not just being there but an enhanced experience that one may not find while actually attending the show live. But it doesn’t end in just the visuals.

A concert film can only go so far on how it looks. In the end, if the film doesn’t do a great job capturing the audio of the event then why even bother watching. Metallica: Through the Never doesn’t skimp on the audio assault. It is just exactly what I mean when I say audio assault. The audio in this film brought me back to attending past metal shows from my youth in near-perfect volume and clarity.

Metallica: Through the Never needs to be experienced in as big a screen as possible and if one’s able to see it on IMAX then I recommend they do so, but if that’s not possible then I still say go out and see this unique take on the ubiquitous concert film. It might not be the same as attending a Metallica concert, but it’s the next best thing to actually attending one.

Artist Profile: Judson Huss (1942–2008)


Judson Huss was born in North Carolina.  After studying art at several different design schools, Huss grew dissatisfied with the “modernist” approach of most American instructors and moved to Europe.  Huss lived and worked in Paris.  His paintings are in select private collections in France, the Netherlands, and America.  After his death, much of his work was collected in the retrospective art book, River of Mirrors.

Huss1 Huss2 Huss3 Huss4 Huss5 Huss6 Huss7 Huss8 Huss9 Huss10 Huss11 Huss12 Huss13 Huss14 Huss15

6 Trailers For 6 Films That Were Never Watched By Walter White

First off, I must apologize for the lateness of this week’s edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers.  The Trailer Kitties were so depressed over the finale of Breaking Bad that I had to resort to using the Trailer Possum to gather up this week’s trailers.

Let’s see what he dug up.

1) Kill Them and Eat Them (2004)

2) Suburban Sasquatch (2008)

3) I, Zombie (1998)

4) Teenagers From Outer Space (1959)

5) No Blade of Grass (1970)

6) Beyond The Time Barrier (1960)

What do you think, Trailer Possum?

Photograph by the Dazzling Erin Nicole

Photograph by the Dazzling Erin Nicole

What Lisa Watched Last Night #92: The Cheating Pact (dir by Doug Campbell)

Late last night, I watched an original Lifetime movie called The Cheating Pact.


Why Was I Watching It?

It was on Lifetime.  How could I not watch it?

What Was It About?

The Cheating Pact is yet another Lifetime movie about upper middle class high school girls murdering each other.  The girls also refuse to appreciate or listen to the advice offered up by their mothers and, in typical Lifetime fashion, the movie doesn’t seem to be certain whether it’s worse to be a murderer or a spoiled brat.

(Personally, I was occasionally accused of being a spoiled brat when I was in high school and I turned out just fine…)

Heather (Daniela Bobadilla) and Kylie (Laura Ashley Samuels) are both feeling pressured to get high scores on the College Entrance Test.  Fortunately, Heather’s former best friend Meredith (Laura Wiggins) is a genius.  (Just in case anyone is doubting Meredith’s intelligence, she wears glasses.  So there.)  Meredith agrees to take their tests for them and soon, she’s getting paid thousands of dollars to help her peers get into college.

However, Kylie isn’t happy with her score and feels that Meredith deliberately did poorly on the test.  And so, as often happens in these films, Kylie shoves Meredith to her death and then tries to frame Heather for the murder,

What Worked?

Whenever you watch a Lifetime movie about a teenage girl doing something wrong and then not going to her mom for advice (or, even worse, ignoring her mom’s advice), you always know that the worst possible thing is going to happen as a result.  In these uncertain times, a film like The Cheating Pact is so predictable that it’s actually rather comforting.

I also love how Lifetime movies always present high school as being ruled by an erratic matriarchal society that’s dominated by secret organizations and melodramatic conspiracies,  If anything, I think Lifetime movies probably offer the most realistic depictions of high school that I’ve ever seen.

What Did Not Work?

Hey, it was a Lifetime movie.  Therefore, it all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Kylie, I once accidentally shoved someone over a stairway railing.  But shhhhhh …. don’t tell anyone.

Lessons Learned

I missed the opportunity to make a lot of easy money in high school.

Trash TV Guru : “Breaking Bad” Series Finale


The promotional blurbs on A&E’s cover packaging for the various box set and stand-alone DVD releases of Patrick McGoohan’s classic series The Prisoner refer to it as “television’s first masterpiece,” but let’s be brutally honest here — for a good long time there it probably stood as television’s only “masterpiece.”

Which isn’t to say that there haven’t been some good shows over the years, but start-to-finish, wire-to-wire masterpieces have been pretty tough to come by. I won’t speculate here as to why that’s been with any kind of probing analysis, apart from making the obvious observation that American TV, in particular, has been geared to appeal to the so-called “lowest common denominator” for so long now that frankly most people don’t even expect for there to be anything good on the tube when they turn it on, even with 200-300 channels to choose from. We all just sorta watch it anyway.

I’ll be the first to admit that my two favorite shows of all time — Doctor Who and Twin Peaks — hardly fit the definition of “masterpiece” even though I love ’em dearly. Hell, one of the best things about Who — and I’m referring to old-school Who  here, not the current abomination running around cloaked in its title, which hasn’t held much of any appeal to me since the end of its first return season with Christopher Eccleston in the lead role — is that it’s so damn imaginative and clever and stupid in a fun way and addictively, insanely watchable and re-watchable in spite of its glaring production value weaknesses, often hammy acting, and atrocious dialogue that those so-called “deficiencies” actually become part of its charm. And I’m willing to be that “charm” is one of the things that has engendered such a strong following for various other “fan-driven” series, such as  Joss Whedon’s  Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, both of which have rabid cult followings, to be sure, but neither of which, I think,  even the most zealous Whedon fan (and there’s plenty of competition for that title) would admit, at least in their more honest moments, was anything like a “masterpiece.”

Charm is not something that Breaking Bad ever had much of, though, is it? From the outset, we knew we were being asked to become involved in the life story of a guy who was dying, and furthermore was broke and dying. It’s been a pretty “heavy” show from day one, hasn’t it?

Which isn’t to say that it didn’t have lighter moments interspersed here and there throughout, because of course it did, and in early days it even looked like Dean Norris’ Hank character was never going to amount to much more than bog-standard, albeit well-written, comic relief. But as things progressed, even he became a more multi-dimensional character, and as Bryan Cranston’s Walter White sold out more and more of his soul to purportedly “provide for” his family, a show that started out heavy only became heavier.

And yet — lack of charm and a general “bummer” tone don’t preclude a show from being great, do they? And I would contend that Breaking Bad will be remembered as being more than just great, it will be remembered as — here’s that term again — a masterpiece (the third by my count anyway, in TV history — anyone care to guess what I think the second was? The only hint I’ll give is that it was a relatively recent show).

It was difficult, at times, to be sure. Watching the lives of all these people go to hell in a handbasket even became something of a chore during this final season, particularly the season’s second half following its over-12-month hiatus. Walt was a real bastard, wasn’t he? And that could be downright excruciating to witness. But here’s the thing:

You just never knew what the hell was going to happen next. Series creator Vince Gilligan and his coterie of writers always had another rabbit in their hat, another brightly- colored handkerchief tied to that long string of them coming out of their sleeve. The show never once lost its power to surprise.

Until tonight’s series finale, “Felina,” written and directed by Gilligan himself, which pretty much saw all loose ends tied up more or less exactly as you thought they would be.

I’m sure there might be some hand-wringing among fans that long-suffering characters like Anna Gunn’s Skyler and Aaron Paul’s Jesse weren’t given necessarily “that much to do” in this wrap-up episode — hell, RJ Mitte’s hapless Walter Jr./Flynn didn’t even have a single line of dialogue! Meanwhile, a couple characters we hadn’t seen much of since the second season, Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz, played a pivotal part in Gilligan’s last script.

And yet — everything ended on just the right note for all these people, whether they were given too much to do, too little, or just enough. Events played out more or less in exactly the fashion we expected them, maybe even needed them, to.

And that, finally, may prove to be Breaking Bad’s greatest trick of all : a series that thrived on the element of surprise gave us an entirely predictable conclusion that nonetheless felt exactly right.

Walter White is dead and gone now, and Heisenberg with him. His hat’s off. And so is mine. This series hit it out of the park from the word “go” to the word “stop.” As a slow-burn tale of human tragedy — hell ,of loss of humanity altogether — it stands unequaled. A “happy ending” or “loose, interpretive ending” would have been a huge cop-out. There’s only one way things could have gone here — only one way they were ever going to go.

That’s how they went. And that’s just perfect.

Film Review: Rush (dir by Ron Howard)


Rush, the latest film from Ron Howard, is the type of film that I usually hate.

It’s big, bombastic, and so extremely mainstream that it actually features Chris Hemsworth uttering the line, “This is what I was born to do,” without a hint of irony.  This is a film about rich boys playing with expensive toys and the movie’s portrayal of women manages to make Aaron Sorkin look enlightened by comparison.  Finally, the film is about a sport that I previously knew nothing about and, after having spent two hours watching this film, I still know very little  about.

And yet, I didn’t hate Rush.  In fact, I really enjoyed it and I think the reason why comes down to one thing.

I have a weakness for hot guys who drive fast cars.

Rush tells the true story about the rivalry between two Formula One racers, the flamboyant Englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the extroverted German Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl).  The film follows them from their first meeting in 1970 until they both find themselves competing for the Formula One championship in 1976.  Along the way, we watch how both of them deal with the temptations that went along with being a rich celebrity in the 1970s.  (Lauda resists the majority of them.  Hunt does not.)  Along the way, one of them struggles to recover after a horrifying accident and both of them try to maintain a balance between their personal lives and the fact that each race they run could potentially be their last.  (In one of the film’s best scenes, Niki explains that he’s prepared to accept a 20% chance of dying during a race but not a point more.)

Plotwise, Rush is pretty much a standard sports film, full of men talking about the importance of being men while women stare up at them with adoration.  Inspirational speeches are delivered and everything comes down to one final race.  If, like me, you’re not into Formula 1 racing, the film can occasionally be difficult to follow.  During one extended montage of cars racing across the world and occasionally crashing, I found myself seriously wondering how many races could possibly be run in a Formula One season.  As the film reached its conclusion, James and Niki started talking about which racers have the most points.  Their conversation would have undoubtedly been easy to follow for someone who was into Formula One but for me, it took a few minutes to figure out what they were going on about.

However, none of that matters.

Rush works.

There’s a lot of reasons why Rush works.  The film’s glossy recreation of the 1970s (in all of its frequently tacky glory) is enjoyable to watch and Hans Zimmer’s score is properly loud and majestic.  Both Hemsworth and Bruhl give good performances, with Hemsworth coming across as properly flamboyant and Bruhl bringing some much-needed humor to a character who, in the hands of a lesser actor, could have been insufferable.  Both Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara do good work bringing seriously underwritten characters to life.

However, the film’s ultimate success belongs to director Ron Howard.

Ever since Frost/Nixon prevented The Dark Knight from getting a best picture nomination in 2009, there has been a certain loud element of the online film  community that has used Ron Howard as a go-to example of a safe and thoroughly commercial director.  He is often dismissed as being the epitome of a mainstream, conventional filmmaker.

However, as mainstream as Howard’s sensibility may be, Rush proves that he still knows how to craft an exciting scene.  I may have occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was and wasn’t in each car but that didn’t make the races any less thrilling or the accidents any less horrifying.  During the film’s best sequences, you feel the thrill of being in control of the uncontrollable and you understand why Niki and James are willing to risk death just so they can experience being alive.

Trailer: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (SDCC 2013 Reveal)


This past summer those who attended the Marvel panel over at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 were treated to Joss Whedon’s reveal for The Avengers sequel.

From the mid-credits scene at the end of The Avengers many thought that the villain for the sequel will be the cosmic baddie Thanos. I guess Whedon and Feige decided that it was best to keep Whedon in their pockets for now and went in a different direction. The sequel to The Avengers will have one of the superhero team’s toughest and most persistent archenemies: The self-aware and truly pissed off android known as Ultron.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron will not be following the events from this past year’s Age of Ultron crossever series in the comics. It instead will just use the title and create a brand-new story behind the origins (this time around it won’t be Hank Pym aka Ant-Man who creates Ultron, but someone else) of the Avengers main enemy and it’s plans for the team and Earth.

This change in Ultron’s creator didn’t sit well with some of the purists who want everything in the Marvel Universe to be adapted exactly how it was originally written. Fortunately, I’m not one of them and I actually think this change further solidifies the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it’s own alternate universe that comprises the near-infinite realities of the Marvel Multiverse. Where the universe with make’s up the original comic books have been given the Earth-616 label the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now been given it’s own of Earth-199999.

It’s going to be interesting to see what Whedon and company will come up with to make Ultron a villain worthy to get the team back together again. It helps that they’ve chosen James Spader to voice the bugshit-crazy and angry Ultron.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron will premiere in our universe on May 1, 2015.

“Oh, The Villainy!” TTSL Style, Take Three : “Harley Quinn” #1


So, I’ve saved the worst for last.

Oh, sure, there are plenty more DC “Villains Month” books that we could talk about, but I counted up earlier today and between this site and Geeky Universe I’ve reviewed an even 10 of these things, and that’s enough for me. After this, I’m out.

Anyhoo, in recent weeks, in case you haven’t been following the comics industry scuttlebutt, DC has come under fire for having an open submission contest for new artists. What’s so wrong with that, you ask? Why, nothing — it’s great to find new “talent” to replace the already poorly-compensated average comic book penciller, I suppose. You don’t like drawing Justice League for 80 bucks a page, no health insurance or pension, and little to no royalties per copy sold? Fine. We’ll find some new kid to take your job who’ll work for 60 bucks a page and won’t complain. It’s the American way, right?

So what’s this got to do with Harley Quinn #1, or Detective Comics #23.2, as the official record-keepers would have it? Well, the “sample page” DC wanted their next generation of potential suck — err, freelance non-contract employees to submit was a scene depicting super-villain Harley Quinn, best known as the Joker’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, sitting naked in a bathtub and slicing her wrists open. Sex n’ suicide — again, the American way, right?

As insanely offensive at worst, tone deaf at best as the theme for this “new talent contest” was, however, it ain’t squat compared to what Harley does in this book. This whole “villains month” fiasco has already given us a mass shooting in a hospital in the pages of Desaad #1 and a workplace mass-murder/ suicide in the pages of Solomon Grundy #1, both of which would lead one to suspect that none of the suits at DC have been following the news for the past, I dunno, decade or so, but here, writer Matt Kindt (who was also responsible for the aforementioned Solomon Grundy, and who’s capable of soooooo much better,  as his work on Dark Horse’s Mind Mgmt. series shows) has the psychotic villainess, in between flashback sequences to her pre-evil nutcase days as a psychiatrist at Gotham City’s infamous Arkham Asylum, engineer a senseless mass slaughter of innocent poor children by giving away booby-tapped video game systems at a local orphanage.  When she flicks a switch, the Nintendos or Segas or X-Boxes or whatever all go “boom!” and the kids all get killed.

And after that, she’s recruited by Deadshot to rejoin the Suicide Squad, a team of hard-luck “anti-heroes” who work for the government. You know, the very same government that should be locking her ass away in prison for life for just having killied hundreds of children for no reason whatsoever.

Artist Neil Googe does a decent enough job illustrating this senseless and thoroughly tasteless tale of depravity, but that’s just trying to stitch a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when your subject matter is this out-and-out vile. I don’t blame him for the overall tone of the book, but shit, I honestly wouldn’t care how badly I needed to eat, I’d have refused this assignment if I were in his shoes.

But hey, who knows, right? DC’s playing pretty fast and loose with continuity these days, maybe we’ll find out this whole sorry spectacle was just a delirious fever-dream that naked Harley was having while she killed herself in her tub.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #91: The Omega Code (dir by Robert Marcarelli)

Early this morning, after waking up and walking into a wall, I watched The Omega Code, an evangelically-themed film from 1999.

Why Was I Watching It?

Earlier this year, my friend Evelyn and I watched a film called Megiddo: The Omega Code 2.  We were both oddly amused by Megiddo so, when I saw that the first Omega Code film was going to be on one of the religious stations, I set the DVR to record it and made plans to watch it at some point in the future.

Last night, I happened to wake up around 3 in the morning.  I got out of bed, I took a few steps forward, and I walked straight into a wall.  After that, I turned on the lights and I was relieved to discover that my nose had protected the rest of my face from the wall.

So there I was at 3 in the morning with my red nose and my bruised pride and, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get back to sleep.  What’s a girl to do, right?  So, I decided that since I was awake anyway, I would go ahead and watch The Omega Code.

What Was It About?

The world is ending.  People are starving.  Nations are going to war.  Fortunately, the President of the European Union, Stone Alexander (Michael York) has a plan to save us all.  Unfortunately, Stone Alexander also happens to be the Antichrist.

In order to get all of humanity to accept his plan, Stone recruits the world’s most famous motivational speaker (Casper Van Dien).  However, Van Dien find out about the Omega Code, a secret code that uses the bible to predict the future.  And, as Van Dien discovers, the future looks positively apocalyptic….

What Worked?

When I reviewed Megiddo: Omega Code 2, I mentioned that if you’ve got a naturally villainous name like Stone Alexander, you might as well be evil.  The same remains true of The Omega Code.  Stone Alexander is so evil and Michael York is obviously having so much fun playing him that the fun is almost contagious.

Michael Ironside plays Dominic, Stone Alexander’s henchman.  In a rather offensive moment, Alexander reveals that Dominic is both gay and a former priest and the implication (which was probably popular with the film’s target audience) is that Dominic’s villainy is the direct result of both his Catholicism and his sexuality.  But, regardless, Ironside gives a memorably menacing performance.

It’s interesting how the villains in religious films are often more compelling than the heroes…

What Did Not Work?

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was spoiled by getting the chance to see the 2nd Omega Code before I saw the first one.  Omega Code 2 was the epitome of a so-bad-that-it’s-good type of film but the first Omega Code was just bad.  Not even the combined villainy of Michaels York and Ironside could make The Omega Code entertaining.

(Add to that, Megiddo: Omega Code 2 featured cameos from both Franco Nero and Udo Kier, while The Omega Code featured … well, no one.)

No review of The Omega Code would be complete without mentioning that, in the lead role, Casper Van Dien gives perhaps one of the worst performances ever captured on film.  It’s oddly fascinating to watch and try to figure out how anybody could give such an incompetent performance.

As I watched the film, one question kept nagging at me.   The Omega Code makes the argument that biblical prophecy should be taken literally.  Therefore, if the bible is itself a literal document that tells you everything that you need to know  than why hide a secret code between the lines?  And, if you’re going to go through all the trouble to come up with a secret code, why use that code to then hide cryptic phrases that could literally be translated to mean anything?  It just seems a bit overly complicated.

(That, incidentally, is the same reason why I don’t have much use for anything that Dan Brown has ever written.)

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

None.  Seriously, there was not a single moment in this film to which I could relate.  Some of that may be because this film was obviously made to appeal to an evangelical audience, as opposed to a free-thinking fallen Catholic like me.

Then again, it could also be that The Omega Code just wasn’t a very good movie.

Lessons Learned

I really didn’t learn anything.  Sorry, not sorry.