Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Fistful of Warm Bodies! (Matt’s Picks)

    Warm Bodies, huh?  The spark of life kindled in the body of a zombie isn’t all that warm.  And while Steven Seagal may have the Fire Down Below and Prodigy may indeed feature a confessed arsonist, I think we at In the Mouth of Dorkness know a little something about warm bodies.  How about these?

5. Sam Kramer (Spontaneous Combustion):  Our young hero hides a dark secret in his genes that even he’s not aware of.  The temperature is rising and he’s getting a bit hot under the collar.

4. Till Lindemann (Rammstein Live Aus Berlin):  How many songs has Norah Jones done while on fire?  Frankly, any member of the band could probably make this list, as I think each one gets set on fire at least once per performance.

3. Soup Face (The Slammin’ Salmon):  She’s offending the Tokyokin guests!

2. The Witch (Conan the Barbarian):  All she had to say was ‘Zamora,’ but no; she’s gotta go all shape-changing and biting.  At some point, throwing the bitch in the fire was the only real option.

1.  Frank (Return of the Living Dead):  He just wants to go home to see his wife.  But a night filled with punks, Bert and Ernie, split dogs, the Tar Man, and Indian farmed skeletons can’t end well.  But our hero knows what to do, and how to keep the evil inside him from getting to anyone else.

"Watch your mouth if you like this job!"


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Iron Man 3 Poster Drops

I really love the promise of this latest poster.  Looks like The Mandarin is really going to give ol' Shell Head a beating and I can't wait to see Robert Downey Jr take those licks.  Shane Black knows how to put his characters through the wringer and I think the only way you can get beyond the mega blockbuster sensation that was The Avengers is to put a serious hurt on its main player.  Hope Gwyneth makes it out alive, but I wouldn't count on it.


Unused Skyfall Poster Is The Most Badass

Empire Online recently unveiled this supremely badass, and sadly unused, poster for Skyfall.  I guess I can understand why.  Albert Finney's appearance in Skyfall is very much last act, but dang it! I'd really love to have this hanging on my apartment wall.  Finney with a Shotgun.  Nothing much cooler than that.


Dork Art: Super Mike Mitchell

For the next 48 Hours, Mike Mitchell is offering a random grab bag of his Super prints for $30.  But two grab bags and get a Super Krang for free.  This is most certainly tempting.  The rarity of the 4 x 6 prints varies, but the only thing holding me back from purchasing is my fear of scoring the Spongebog Sqarepants, the Pokemon, and Zelda.  Knowing my luck that would most certainly be the outcome.  But Sam Jackson's Jules or John Goodman's Walter?  Those are amazing.  Click HERE to start your grab bag.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dork Art: The 2013 BAFTA Brochures

These latest batch of brochures for the 2013 BAFTAs are even better than last year's work.  The artist is Jonathan Burton and you can purchase them as prints if you're willing to part with your hard earned American dollars.  I even like the images done for my two least favorite of the nominated films, Life of Pi & Les Miserables.  I know these Award Shows are complete nonsense, but I still can't help getting swept up in the movie making enthusiasm.  Really looking forward to the absurdity of The Oscars on February 24th.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Brad's Week In Dork! (1/20/13-1/26/13)

The first month of the new year is winding down, and the first crop of 2013's movies have proven mostly dreadful.  No big shock there; that's how it usually goes down.  But I was hoping for a Grey or maybe even a Haywire.  No such luck.  Arnie's big cinematic return, The Last Stand proved to be an anemic bore as well as a financial disaster.  Guess the rest of the world cares not if the Last Action Hero can still Terminate, or did they recognize the lack of sizzle in the trailers.  Curious to see how Stallone's Bullet in the Head fares come February 1st.  Can these action titans put butts in the seats outside of the Super Group ridiculousness of The Expendables?  I have some serious doubts, and that makes my 13 year old heart very sad.

I still managed to witness some quality programming.  As we march ever closer to February 24th & Oscars Night, I caught up with my last two Best Picture Nominations as well as a Documentary Feature.  All three were quite good.  And this week also saw the final episode of Fringe, possibly my all time favorite science fiction adventure show.  I was never quite enamored with this final season, but I'll miss John Noble's acid addled god complex and the nightmare creations that sprang from his mind.

Finally, with the passing of Michael Winner, I found most of my week consumed with the Death Wish franchise.  It's been a good ten years since I'd seen one of Charles Bronson's urban rampages, and I am pleased to report that his blood thirsty quest for gangland revenge still holds up even when the sequels descend into exploitation lunacy.  But, boy oh boy, my favorite bits of dorkery came right at the end when I witnessed a pair of Franco Nero performances that absolutely stole my geeky heart.  It amazes me just how much transformation Nero can achieve with just the slightest difference in facial grooming.  In one film he's a grizzled beastmaster, and in the other he's all Magnum PI cool...with a ninjutsu twist.  And voiced with great Kung Fu dubbing.  A new man crush has been achieved.

Taken:  "I know the world."  Papa Neeson should never have allowed his daughter to travel to Paris in a sophomoric attempt to shadow U2.  But since Xander Berkley bedded ex-wife Famke Janssen and bought his way into his daughter's heart with ponies and swimming pools, Neeson saw no other alternative than to let her fall victim to the slave trade.  However, Papa Neeson does have a particular set of skills, and he'll only let slavers have their shenanigans for so long.  Eventually those skills have to be put into practice and Taken pretends to be a big screen version of television's 24.  And for a PG-13 actionfest, Taken delivers on the torture violence spectacularly.  We get broken wine bottles jammed into throats, bullets blasted into the shoulders of corrupt cops wives, and scumbag villains strapped and car batteried.  All in the name of parenthood.  And Neeson excels in spitting the rage & hate as much as the machine gun fire; he's having a lot of fun playing action hero and I'm happy to see him continue to do so.  After all, I'm sure Maggie Grace can find countless ways to play distressed damsel - Elisha Cuthbert certainly found 8 seasons of 24 terror.

Taken 2:  "When a dog has a bone, the last thing you want to do is take it from him."  It's Father vs Father in this even more sanitized sequel to the 24 wannabe.  Rade Serbedzija gathers all the leftover goons from his slave trade family and sends them after Neeson.  But these thugs are just chum for Neeson's shark, and Taken 2 offers very little suspense as Neeson easily dispatches one helpless villain after the next.  There's never a question of victory, we're just killing time until one proud papa meets the other.  The final confrontation between Neeson and Rade is quick and rather civil.  Taken 2 is enjoyable enough thanks to Liam Neeson's bark, but it's a pale imitation of what was already an imitation.

The Last Stand:  It's been ten years since Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in a film (Terminator 3), and nearly twenty years since he starred in a film that was passable as "good" (True Lies).  So I really wanted to enjoy this.  Especially with the idea of Kim Jee-woon, the sick visualist behind The Good The Bad The Weird & I Saw The Devil, driving the action and delivering a little demented flavor to the proceedings.  But The Last Stand is sooooo painfully dull.  It spends far too much time building who-gives-a-shit plot with the useless Forrest Whitaker - and Johnny Knoxville has no business Rob Schneidering on the sidelines.  There's a little fun to be had here with cars in cornfields and Arnie firing revolvers into the skulls of crooks, but the thrill is gone and what's left is a shell of past glories.  Kim Jee-woon doesn't seem to be driving the action as much as holding the reigns - let him loose Hollywood, and we might have a bloody good show on our hands.  As is, The Last Stand is another forgettable January release and a tough nail in the career of Schwarzenegger.  

Fringe - The Final Season:  When this season first started I could hardly believe it.  Never would I have imagined during the first season of Fringe that the final season would take place 25 years in the future where our Amber-traveling heroes would battle it out with the despotic, emotionless Observers.  This is wonderfully crazy, high concept comic book fun.  Olivia & Peter struggle to find happiness in each other when the world keeps crushing their hopes; can they possibly survive such sci-fi parental horrors?  Well, when you've got the mad mind of Walter Bishop fighting on your side then you've got hope buried deep inside his drug fogged genius...granted, all this horror is his fault but the beauty of Fringe is that it's his saga of salvation, and watching him fight for himself is 90% of the show's heart.   The final moments of the show are satisfying, and as much as I'll miss Fringe, I'm happy that it got it's time for a proper send off.  

Silver Linings Playbook:  Of all the Oscar nominated films this was the one I had the least amount of interest towards.  A romantic dramedy starring Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence that center around anxiety, dance, and football?  Yeah, no thank you.  But, dang it, Silver Linings Playbook is probably the most satisfying little romance that we've had in quite some time and to dismiss it simply as a quirky romcom would do it injustice.  Bradley Cooper gives his best performance so far as the bipolar Pat attempting to worm his way back into the heart of his wife after nearly beating her lover to death in the shower.  Fun times, right?  But when he meets the equally troubled Jennifer Lawrence, their bond formed through jogging and dance is redemptive...and a complete fairy tale.  Watching the first half of the film I was convinced that the story would end in heartache and ruin.  But there is magic in football, and if you read the signs properly or force the signs to read the right way for your needs, than there's a happy ending for all of us.  Love, Dance, & Football conquers gambling addiction and all manner of psychological trauma.  

Death Wish:  "Which war was yours?" After his wife is murdered and his daughter assaulted, Charles Bronson's bleeding heart liberal takes to the streets of New York with a sock full of quarters and an itchy trigger finger. The film is far less exploitive than you're probably expecting (or desiring), but you've got the sequels to quench your bloodlust. The first film is more interested in exploring society's desire for absolute justice as well as Paul Kersey's satisfaction at playing urban cowboy.  With each bullet to the head the righteousness of Gary Cooper sinks into a dry Charles Bronson smile.  But my favorite moment has to be the channel surfing New Yorkers taking inspiration from his violent acts, finding the courage to defend themselves with hatpins & steel toed construction boots. Death Wish is a brutal, anti-climactic (where the hell does Jeff Goldblum's gang go?), and rather depressing. And I love it's hateful heart.

Death Wish II:  When we last saw Paul Kersey he had moved to Chicago where he most certainly would continue his blood feud against the hoodlums and pickpockets of the windy city - a vigilante serial killer born.  However, when Part 2 picks up, he's moved across the country with his still traumatized daughter and her ineffectual husband, and he's still plugging away at the architect game.  Business as usual.  That is until another gang of rapists and murders invade his home, kidnap his daughter, and drive her to plummeting suicide.  A new mission of vengeance is born.  Death Wish II is much more the exploitation flick than the original - the film seems to revel in the horrors inflicted upon the innocent, and it's even more mean spirited when it lingers on the violent retaliation of Charles Bronson.  The Gang itself is much more present than the original's random thugs, and the script goes out of its way to demonize these gun-running, beatbox dancing, drug addicts.  Bravo to the dayplayers that wallow in the filth of their characters - some serious grubby scenery chewing accomplished.  Death Wish II is a cheap followup to the original, but it's paving the way to the gratuitous glory of Death Wish 3.

The Paperboy:  A fascinating train wreck of a film.  Matthew McConaughey & Zac Efron are a couple of desperate civil rights reporters investigating the circumstances that placed John Cusack on death row.   Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, this ain't Just Cause.  Once Nicole Kidman's white trash nightmare enters the picture we're given horrendous displays of jailhouse masturbation and what has to be the greatest gift to crap cinema ever burned into celluloid - Nicole Kidman screaming "If anyone is going to piss on him it's gonna be me!!!!!"  Yes, ladies & gentlemen, The Paperboy might be trying to be a great many things, but it will forever be remembered as the movie in which Nicole Kidman erotically urinates upon Zac Efron's jellyfished chest.  There is just no living that down.

Justified - Season Four "Truth & Consequences":  "I see so much death around you..."  Raylan follows the breadcrumbs of the Waldo Truth mystery and it leads right to the doorstep of the Detroit Mafia.  Not good.  Boyd confronts religious whackjob Billy and comes out on top thanks to a little rattler aggression.  A solid episode that's hopefully building to a mob war powder keg.  However, I'm not really sure yet how I feel in regards to the bartender melodrama.  Her bumfight boyfriend is a little goofy, and if she's in on the swindle than I'll be a little disappointed.  I do want to see Raylan take this confident chump out, and I hope he does it in a smart, smirky, and brutal fashion.

Death Wish 3:  "They killed The Giggler, man.  THEY KILLED THE GIGGLER!!!"  In part 1, they killed his wife.  In part 2, they killed his daughter.  And in part 3, they kill his old Korean War buddy.  Man, Paul Kersey just can't catch a break.  This time out the NYPD don't even bother to fight his vigilante ways, in fact, they recruit him to take down the cult-like Manny's Gang.  Bronson gathers his war buddy's machine guns, grenades, and uses enticing motor vehicles as bait for the savage scum loitering the streets.  One bite, and BOOM!  Colt Cobra slugs blast into your spine; Charles Bronson victorious!  This is miles away from the troubled spirit of the original film, it celebrates the gratuitous gore of street justice and relishes in the absurdity of genre.  Death Wish 3 feels like an Australian post-apocalyptic western filmed on a crappy Hollywood backlot, and it's amazing.  Easily the most fun entry in the franchise.

Death Wish 4 - The Crackdown:  The fourth film attempts to return to the grit and grime of the first two movies, but once you venture into the Rocket Launcher madness of Death Wish 3 there is not going back to the anti-hero basics.  The crime that ignites this latest spree of killings is the crack overdose of Paul Kersey's girlfriend's daughter...yeah, they're really stretching it at this point.  A mysterious benefactor sponsors Charles Bronson's gangland attacks, but it's obvious from the start that the mystery man is the true villain...unfortunately, the script drags and drags offering very little joy in the killing.  Not sure if the thrill is lost with the departure of director Michael Winner, or if Bronson's vigilante has simply past his action hero prime.  Whatever the case, there is no real point in going any further with the saga.

Amour:  Michael Haneke does not make Fun Nights Out At The Movies.  He makes emotionally devastating dramas that haunt the viewer days after the credits roll.  Amour is no different.  Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Great Silence!) and Emmanuelle Riva are an elderly married couple forced to acknowledge their mortality when one of them is stricken with a paralyzing attack.  For two hours we watch this couple suffer and survive - if not physically, than emotionally.  It's a hard watch.  Especially for this married man.  And I don't know if I could go through it again.  But I'm glad a did the one pass.  Both Trintiganant & Riva deliver heart wrenching performances, and there is a sense of uplift even when their story is so painful.

Keoma:  "The Man Who Is Free Never Dies!"  If you listen to this interview, Franco Nero claims Keoma to be one of his favorite roles, if not his very favorite.  It's easy to understand.  As Keoma, Nero is a grizzled, screaming, beast of a man plagued with surreal visions of the past and saddled with the impending doom of having to slaughter his three evil half brothers.  It could never have been as iconic as Django, and it's not as fun as The Mercenary...but it most certainly is beautifully bizarre.  Director Enzo Castellari (the original Inglorious Bastards) obsesses over the style of Sam Peckinpah, pushing slow motion action (not so much violence) to its absolute limits and stumbles upon a supernatural fantasy playground.  Mix the dreamscape with the hauntingly terrible, yet mystifyingly fantastic Leonard Cohen rip-off theme song and Kemoa has suddenly become one of my New Favorite Spaghetti Westerns.  

Searching for Sugar Man:  I don't want to go into the mystery of this doc too much.  It's best if you discover the narrative for yourself.  What I will say is that it revolves around the phantom of singer/songwriter Rodriguez.  He had absolutely no success in the states, but somehow became one of the most recognizable musicians in South Africa.  The Beatles.  Elvis.  Rodriguez.  The story that this documentary unfolds is affirmative and uplifting - especially for the creative types out there.  And it lead me to Rodriguez's two albums: Cold Fact & Coming From Reality.  For the last three days I've been listening to them on constant rotation.  Comparisons to Bob Dylan are not a stretch.  Hopefully, this Oscar nominated doc will lead to more fanboy births like myself.

Enter The Ninja:  "I Want My Black Ninja And I Want Him Now!!!"  Well, this is just a fantastically bad movie.  Not quaint.  Or charming.  Just horrendously, beautifully bad.  Franco Nero is a newly trained ninja that travels to the Philippines and beds the bored wife of his impotent war buddy plantation owner.  When he's not supplying the most tiresome of love acts upon Susan George, he's fending the homestead against hook handed goons and their Big Oil masters.  The action is laughable, the dubbing abysmal, and the misplaced enthusiasm for ninjutsu is painfully awkward.  But dang, it sure is fun.  And Franco Nero is definitely the Magnum PI of wonky stand-in martial arts.  A must see for fans of the cruddy.


Book Review: Infidel

“…I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim.” -page 348

    There is a real struggle in our modern world.  We struggle as a man trying to tread water with a weight tied around his ankle.  That weight is religion in all its forms, that constantly threatens to drag our civilization back into the mud and blood our ancestors worked so hard to climb out of.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book is a brutal look inside a world few Americans have seen in more than the glossiest of Hollywood depictions or the abstract of the Nightly News.  This is the world of petty tribal infighting, of genital mutilation, of honor killings, of rape victims blamed for the crimes committed against them, of acts so barbarous it takes religion to be so audacious and blind as to even attempt justification.  With a refreshingly honest, surprisingly light voice, Hirsi Ali tells her story, starting in what was, for all intents and purposes, a bronze age existence, all the way to world renowned political figure and activist.

    She describes her childhood, capturing a child’s eye view of growing up in various parts of Africa and the Mid East, as her parents, each extraordinary in their own way, took different paths, and her cruel, tradition bound grandmother did much of the parenting.  Her father existed like a creature out of myth, as he spent a good deal of time in prison, then as an exiled dissident.  As she grew up, her mother became more cruel and sad, her father drifted in and out of her life, her family came together and fell apart, and moved, constantly moved from one city to another, from one country to another.  Always on the outside, always alien, in part due to her family’s religious and racial bigotry.

    As she is wooed by a sort of revivalist Islamic traditionalism, I was reminded of my own youthful experience with faith.  When I first started to question the ideas of my Catholic upbringing, I too threw myself into its study, trying to make sense of it.  She throws herself more fully into faith, even wearing the full body hidjab and going to spirited religious debates.  In my early teen years, I felt I might be on the path to becoming a priest, my studies and fervor were so strong.  But, I too found the deeper understanding and knowledge of the theology to be hollow and ultimately discarded first Catholicism, then all Abrahamic religion, then all religion, and eventually all spiritualism and belief in the supernatural of any kind.  Her frustration with the lack of answers not only from her teachers and those who profess the faith most loudly, but also in the texts themselves echoes my own experiences.  And I love that, at least in part, she is led to this profound questioning of accepted religion by reading trashy novels.  Of course, I also remember the absolute shame and horror with which sex was talked about (if talked about at all).  Not to the level that Hirsi Ali deals with, which seems extreme even by the most stuffy and sex fearing Christian standards.  From the circumcision of women, to the constant chastisement for causing sin in men (just by being women), to the horrors of wedding night sex (and beyond), the world of Moslem sex she describes is disquieting at best.  And it makes the institutionalized woman hatred in Christianity seem amateurish.

“Wishful thinking about the peaceful tolerance of Islam cannot interpret away this reality: hands are still cut off, women still stoned and enslaved, just as the Prophet Muhammad decided centuries ago.” -page 347

    Throughout the tale of her early life, I was constantly reminded of one of the true evils of religious thought, the denial of reality.  This is a profound denial that is not limited to the more obvious things like evolution.  Religion capitalizes on our very nature.  It takes the things that make us human, and demonizes them.  You find someone desirable?  That’s bad.  You enjoy music?  That’s bad.  Pork tastes great?  That’s bad.  Asking questions?  That’s really, really bad.  And it glorifies things that we don’t like.  Denying yourself food?  That’s good.  Prostrating yourself for hours on end in the most uncomfortable way imaginable?  That’s good.  Abstaining from things that give you pleasure, be they food, drink, dancing, music, or the flesh?  That’s good.  Ignoring contradictions?  That’s really good.  Relegating fifty percent of the population to the status of pack animal, denying them a say in pretty much any aspect of society, calling them unclean, and extracting their creativity from the equation of human advancement?  Oh, you know that’s good.  The fear and hatred directed at sexuality seems to be almost a religious universal.  It’s certainly at the heart of the three desert spawned religions.  No wonder they seem to attract busybody old women and sexual predators with such alarming alacrity.  But I think the essential view of so many religions is that this world, the here and now, is evil or a test or a kind of hell, and only if you accept [Fill in the Blank] can you escape your hell into something better.  So, by this standard, I guess anything in the hell we live in that gives us pleasure can’t be real…or something.  Obviously, this is a self-fulfilling belief system, which creates generation after generation of people who refuse to better the world, and in fact, act directly against improving the world (see: global warming deniers, Luddites of all stripes, Christian Zionists, and so many others who actively fight improving the environment, life satisfaction, peace efforts, etc.).

“If Muslims want to immigrate to open and developed societies in order to better themselves, then it is they who must expect to do the adapting.  We no longer allow Jews to run separate Orthodox courts in their communities, or permit Mormons to practice polygamy or racial discrimination or child marriage.  That is the price of ‘inclusion,’ and a very reasonable one.”  -Christopher Hitchens from his forward

    Once she finally breaks away, arriving in Europe, she discovers a new strength as she discovers the freedom of a society ruled by law, not divine will.  She breaks out of the mold of her fellow refugees, and actually attempts to educated herself and adapt to the country that takes her in.  We then see her exploration of Holland and Dutch society from the inside, through and outsider’s eyes.  She learns the language, is surprised by the customs, warms to the sense of fairness, order and personal freedom.  But she is also wary of their extreme politeness and wish to be inoffensive that allows horrible things to go on in the name of civility.  With education and work experience under her belt, a new confidence allows her to establish herself, become a citizen, and even find love.  But the events of September 11, 2001 shake her to her core and make her face things she has tried so hard to ignore, questions about her faith, about faith in general, what’s right, and who she really is.

“…It doesn’t matter who I am.  What matters is abuse, and how it is anchored in a religion that denies women their rights as humans.  What matters is that atrocities against women and children are carried out in Europe.  What matters is that governments and societies must stop hiding behind a hollow pretense of tolerance so that they can recognize and deal with the problem.” -page 309

    Her discovery of politics and celebrity is surreal, as is her sudden rise to national prominence in Holland.  But of course, the threat of death, while more subtle or less omnipresent, is perhaps even more frightening in the peaceful and pleasant world of the Dutch.  The idea of murdering someone because of their religious beliefs or in this case, non-beliefs is abhorrent to me to such a degree that part of my brain refuses to even accept it as a thing that happens (though of course I know it does).  I mean, I think Scientology is more F-Dup than Mormonism, which is way crazier than the other religions of Abraham, which are totally insane next to paganism, which is just plain stupid.  But I wouldn’t wish death on anyone for thinking they’ve been soiled by evil space ghosts that are trapped in a volcano or whatever that hack Sci-Fi writer made up when he wasn’t putting boys in sailor costumes, trying to get out of paying taxes, and hating Asians.  So, I find her life under threat of death, moving from one safe-house to another, being ushered out of restaurants, etc. because of possible thug gangs and murderers out for her blood to be disquieting.  More so the reaction of many people that seem to think she is to blame for the death threats.  Exactly the kind of thinking (that the victim is responsible for the crime) that she is fighting so strongly against.

    The brutal murder of her filmmaker associate Theo van Gogh and the strange journey of living in secluded protection that followed it is frustrating to read.  So much work tossed away as people knee-jerk react to the events that shouldn‘t have been all that surprising (as so many people had been sending warnings).  Not to say for a minute that she wasn’t in danger, as there really seems to have been a concerted effort to find and kill her, by various Muslims bent on silencing an apostate woman.  Her stays at dingy military bases, trips across the Atlantic to stay in a dive hotel in Massachusetts, and hotel hopping in Germany are all most unpleasant, made more so by a lack of communication with friends or colleagues.  But the real Kafkaesque trouble starts when she finally returns to her adopted home, Holland,  where political maneuvers take away her citizenship.

    Christopher Hitchens said many times civilization can not flourish without the emancipation of women, and if she accomplishes nothing else, Hirsi Ali taken a stand and struck a blow for Civilization.  She has illustrated that religious belief should not, can not be a shield to protect the abuse of women and children.  And it is the duty of civilized people to help those oppressed by failed ideologies.  I would say this book is a must read, especially for anyone interested in social justice, women’s rights, modern religion, or current events.

Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Publisher: Free Press
ISBN: 978-0-7432-8969-6


Book Review: Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!

    Everybody has heard of Penn & Teller.  Maybe you’ve seen them do tricks on The Tonight Show or Saturday Night Live.  Maybe you’re the only person (other than me) who actually paid attention to the credits of the English language version of the French animated movie Lightyears (or whatever it’s called in France).  Maybe you saw their movie…you didn’t, I know.  But you know who they are.  Everyone does.  What you and everyone else might not know is that Penn is a pretty smart guy and a funny one (Teller is smart, too…probably smarter, but he didn’t write this book).  He’s as crass as can be, but still eloquent in his way.  For evidence of this, watch their show, Bullshit, where they call BS on various topics and explain why (their episodes on food production where they rip ‘raw’ chefs a new one while singing the praises of genetically modified crops, and their episode that dismantles the Dali Lama and Mother Teresa are kind of amazing).  But if that isn’t enough, read one of Penn’s books.

“There’s one show business and Bach, Dylan, Ron Jeremy, and the guy at the mall in the Santa suit are all in it.”

    Penn Jellette is an atheist.  That much he makes quite clear.  He doesn’t dance around or make excuses.  He just says it.  Using a list of generally accepted American holidays as an extremely loose frame, Penn tells anecdotes, exposes his pain, and celebrates life and living in various essays.  But he expands on those holidays to show that every day we’re alive should be a great day, a holiday.  From his early street performances to phone conversations with Johnny Carson, from his loving parents to his love for his children, from swearing at Gilbert Gottfried to playing an amazing practical (and not hurtful) joke on scientist Arno Penzias, Penn has a crazy story for any occasion.  On his deathbed, he will not be able to look back on his life and feel he didn’t live it.

“I couldn’t jack off in front of pictures of women I’d made cry and if that makes me less of a man, so be it.”

    The book is funny, sure.  But it’s also thoughtful, sometimes sad, often uncomfortable, and generally life affirming.  Penn’s love of life, not just his own, but that of every human being (except maybe Clay Aiken or Donald Trump), is exactly the kind of humanity we so desperately need in greater quantities.  And while I know many will argue this I think it’s a love only possible when one abandons thoughts of the supernatural, the afterlife and such.  Only when you accept that this life, here and now, is all there is, and only what you do and experience and create means anything, can you truly live and love, and make the world a better place for yourself and those who will come after.  He has my absolute favorite answer to the foolish idea that our morality comes from some divine inspiration.  When asked if there is no god(s), why don’t you rape and kill as much as you want?  His answer, and mine; “I do rape and kill all I want.  The amount I want to rape and kill is zero.”  If they only thing that keeps you from doing evil is the fear of punishment or the hope of reward, then you’re a bad person.  It has nothing to do with the gods and everything to do with you.  He follows that up with another feeling that echoes my own.  “…there’s nothing sexy to me about someone who is not attracted to me.”  Beyond all the societal reasons (emotional and physical damage, breakdown of civility, etc.) that make rape wrong, I am now and always have been only interested in a woman who is actively and openly interested in me.  Rape is abhorrent and anathema to me, and that has nothing to do with mystical forces or invisible thought police.

“I want the impossible.  But I’ll settle for what we have.  Everything in the world has to be enough.  Everything in the world is enough.  I’m rejoicing that what scares me and breaks my heart is the beauty of what I have right now.”

    If you’re in the mood for some rollicking good times, nonsequiturs like you wouldn’t believe, crazy cats both famous and not, and a self-effacing/self-aggrandizing narrator not unlike someone you know, check this book out.  If you’ve never had a friend like Penn, you should seek one out.  I’ve had a couple, and they enrich your life.

Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!
Author: Penn Jillette
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
ISBN: 978-0-399-16156-8


Matt’s Week in Dork! (1/20/13-1/26/13)

    Sunday, after watching a movie, Brad, Ben, and I hit up a pretty cool little music shop, CD Cellar, and the only really good used book store I’ve found since moving to Virginia, Hole in the Wall Books.  Scored a few cool books and disks (found some Carl Nielsen, for crying out loud!).

The Last Stand:  You know I’m glad Arnold is back to doing movies.  Sadly, this one never hits its stride, or figures out a tone.  It tries to be funny, but isn’t that funny.  It isn’t really much of an action film, as there’s only a couple bits of action.  It’s not shot well.  The villain is exceptionally lame.  And Arnold seems out of practice.  Still, there are moments.  A few.  And I hope this is just one quick stumble on the path to Old Arnold being a silver screen staple from now on.  And hey, it’s still better than Collateral Damage or End of Days.  Sadly, I think something gets lost when Korean or Hong Kong directors try to make movies in the States.  I’m not the biggest fan of Korean film anyway (It’s called pacing! Look in to it!), but The Good The Bad The Weird was really good.  So I had a bit more hope for this one.  However, it completely lacks that certain energy of Asian films, while also lacking the pacing or script of good American movie.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:  “But you have heard of me.”  Honestly, I was never much for pirate movies.  With the exception of Yellowbeard, I don’t think there was a one I really liked.  The time period had a lot to do with it.  They’re from that in-between time, from around the dawn of the Renaissance to the late 1800s that is a sort of historical dead zone in my interest.  But I’m also not really in to nautical films in general (I hate submarine stories, for example).  So, when this movie came along, and based on a ride at Disneyland no less, I had understandably low expectations.  Imagine my surprise when this turned out to be a shockingly fun adventure movie with enough humor and horrific fantasy to keep it spicy.  Good action, solid cast, nice music and a pretty good tale.  It prompted me to go back and watch more of the old classic pirate movies.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like them.  Still, this one is good.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest:  “Look!  An undead monkey.  Top that.”  Oh, Jack, that wobbling, crackpot jackanape.  He’s up to his old tricks, and it’s trouble for friend and foe alike.  Fancy Will Turner gets roped into a quest to screw over Captain Jack so he can save his lady love.  It’s pretty much just more of the same, though because they were filming back to back, the filmmakers were able to set more up with the knowledge that a third film would tie things up.  And of course, it allows for a cliffhanger ending.  Filled with new and disgusting underwater nasties (seriously disgusting henchmen), daring-do, drunken stumbling, and adventure.  The cast does a fine job.  The movie looks good.  The Music is nice.  The Black Spot.  And of course, the Kraken.  It reminds me of my youth, picking over old reports of sea monsters throughout the ages.  Giant squids that would suck down sailing ships.  I used to eat that stuff up.

Pina:  “You just have to get crazier.”  Look, I’m the first one to admit I don’t get interpretive dance.  I know there’s some kind of meaning in what I’m seeing, but that meaning remains mostly obscure to me.  So much of it seems like random bits of other dance, like some kind of physical jazz.  But, divorcing it from meaning, I understand fit bodies displaying physical agility.  And this movie has plenty of that.  I’m not a fan of groups of people doing the same dance movies in unison.  I think I’ve been affected by too many pop music videos, where that became the standard like a guitar solo in an 80s rock tune, crammed in even when it doesn’t belong.  Visually, though, this film is really something.  I wish I’d gotten the chance to see it in 3D (and I don’t say that very often).  The format is odd, with performances broken up with dancers talking about Pina Bausch, except they’re not talking.  It’s all in voice over while they sit there looking all artistic. What’s up with French Tobin Bell and hand dancing David Bowie?  And the factory veal dance?  I don’t know.  It is interesting to see this group of dancers, some who were with Pina for decades, reminisce and do some of their numbers.  Like so many artists (dancers and singers especially), these people seem deeply emotionally damaged, and that weird mix of narcissistic exhibitionist and shy introvert.  Like interpretive dance, I don’t think I really got this movie.  I started tuning out after the first 45 minutes or so.  Also, I know this is kind of a little thing, especially in the era of the internet, but the credits are pretty much unreadable, which is something I always find annoying.  The commentary by Wim Wenders is actually far more informative, if that’s the word.  I only listened to about 5 or 10 minutes, but I kind of regret not having it on during my first viewing.  Who knew?

Red Sonja:  “Only women may touch it.”  There was a time when Richard Fleischer made really cool movies.  But somewhere along the way he lost it, and then he made Conan the Destroyer.  Not content with destroying all that had been done in Conan the Barbarian, by turning it into a comic book style joke, he then made this steaming turd.  As so often happens, the very essence of Howard is gutted in the opening scene, making our hero a product of fate and magic, not self made, as Howard’s heroes are.  Especially annoying is that the production design looks pretty good and the music isn’t bad.  And they have a much more appropriate actress for Sonja in the film.  Sandahl Bergman can’t act to save her life, but she’s no worse than Brigitte Nielsen, and at least she looks the part.  Actually, the actress who played Sonja’s sister would have been better.  They had a lot of the technical stuff they needed.  Just not a script or any concept of Robert E. Howard’s writing or philosophy.  Seriously, the script is awful.  If it weren’t for the obvious money that went into the crafting of the film and the appearance of Cona…I mean Kalidor, it wouldn’t even rank up there with the Deathstalker films.  Oh man, and then there’s the little kid king and his goofus slave.  Ugh.

"Let us slay English together!"

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning:  What does ‘graphic nudity’ mean in an MPAA rating?  To me, there’s nudity and not nudity.  Graphic nudity seems to mean something else, but I can’t imagine what that is.  Anyway, the second in this new batch of Universal Soldier movies, following up the shockingly good Universal Soldier: The Regeneration is pretty good.  These films do kind of what I’d like to do with Hellraiser; go back to the original concept, rework it, and make it a solid, fairly well thought out, serious take on a cool idea.  This one feels like they have a bigger budget, as it is filmed in North America, not Eastern Europe.  Although, all the girls still seem Eastern European.  The Plummer, who appears to be played by Gerard Butler’s hideous twin brother is kind of awesome.  Dolph Lungren is becoming beautifully old, and Van Damme is terrifying.  The film’s cult of super soldiers storyline is cool, and it features some crazy super-brawls.

The Night Caller (aka Night Caller from Outer Space, aka Blood Beast from Outer Space):  There’s something just a little different about the way the Brits were making horror/science fiction back in the 50s and 60s.  Much the same stories, the same shoddy costumes and effects as their American counterparts.  But while the destination was the same, the journey was so different.  From odd narrative progression, where fifteen minutes in, the two leads disappear for a half hour, replaced by totally different characters, to the strange and probably unnecessary bits of off topic character interplay, a lot of these movies have a specific charm that is pretty much unique to the UK.  (For a slightly more modern example of what I’m talking about, look at Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce).  This feels a lot like a story from the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who (but with better pacing).  The creature is pretty lame, but the movie is well worth checking out for the colorful cast and good dialog.  The interplay between the pornographer and the cop alone is worth the effort.

Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Godzilla VS Monster Zero):  “We’re glad we found friends on Planet X.”  When a couple of dudes take a rocket ship to a mysterious planet, they find much more than they expect.  Those crazy cats from Planet X are ready to get all up in Earth’s business with a giant, gold, three headed beast that spits lightning.  Bah-BAM!  And then they kidnap and control Rodan and Godzilla.  Dude.  Who does that?  Obviously, you have to watch out for the sexy femme fatale.  Especially when she’s not alone.  Nick Adams and Akira Takarada are really fun leads, and play well together.  And I’m always, always glad to see King Ghidorah.  He’s still probably my single favorite giant monster.

Zombie Lake:  “No one knows how I feel, and neither do you.”  Jean Rollin does his thing… this time, with zombies.  Using Jess Franko’s dude-muse (like Tim Burton’s Johnny Depp) Howard Vernon who looks like he’s about to give up the ghost himself.  The zombies look terrible, and unfortunately the camera lingers long enough that you can’t help but notice.  You can see a lot of Rollin’s usual flourishes, but they don’t feel right.  The pacing doesn’t work with the subject, and the dubbing is downright awful, which doesn’t help things at all.  Not just that the voice acting is bad, which it is.  But the English script doesn’t make any danged sense.  When the VW bus full of girls shows up at the lake, though, you’re really reminded that Rollin was an artist, man.  An artist.  Zombie movie fans will almost certainly be disappointed with its focus on a weird love story and a myth shrouded lake (it’s really more of a ghost story), and Rollin fans will likely miss the dreamlike feel of his usual work that only very occasionally peaks its head out here.  I do have to ask, if the child was born during the second World War, how come she’s only like 12 in 1980?  The lesson this movie reminds us of is, like gremlins, don’t ever get Nazis wet.   If anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas, the mayor’s castle would be A-OK in my book.

Seriously, this is from the movie.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End:  “No cause is lost, if there is but one fool left to fight for it.”  This third installment in the swashbuckling fantasy adventure series is full of the expected danger, daring do, grim characters, and exotic locations.  As the series has progressed, it has become less and less accurately titled, as they’ve sailed quite a distance from the Caribbean.  Of course, the big twists at the end of the second film changes the course of events.  With one hero dead and one villain risen from the grave, all bets are off.  A journey to the nastiest looking Asian port ever put on film is a clear necessity.  All the crazy pirate lore they build in these films is pretty cool.  Nine pieces of eight, the Pirate’s Code, the Flying Dutchman, the black spot, Shipwreck Cove, sea turtles, Calypso, and all kinds of wild snippets of crazy old Pirate tales.  Grand.  The climactic whirlpool battle is overblown and overlong.  But otherwise, it’s a fine finish to a trilogy (of course, there would be more to come).

The Devil Came from Akasava:  “Just go to hell, please.”  It’s Jess Franco!  Luckily, this was early enough in his career that Franco hadn’t devolved completely into the turd maestro he would soon become.  There were still some hints of possible talent allowed to slip into his movies.  The man works his zooms like a Terry Crews works his delts.  I was waiting for the zoom that went microscopic, but sadly, like a good script, that was beyond Franco.  Typical of this type of film, especially when Franco is involved, it feels like key scenes are missing.  A guy walks into a room, suddenly it’s several days later and there’s a whole story about that guy having been killed in his jeep in the jungle.  What?  When did that happen?  Shouldn’t we have seen something about that?  Also, as a side note, posing like you’re in a photo-shoot is not dancing.  If I went to see a dancer and she did that, I’d be less than thrilled.  No matter how cute she was.  Whatever the case, somewhere around the 45 minute mark, I started to tune out.  Considering how little seems to actually be going on, it’s way too long.

Taking no guff.

    I finally tried getting back into reading some monthly comics.  Brad hooked me up with a pile, but the pile kept getting bigger and I wasn’t even making a dent.  So, I finished off The Creep, with its fourth issue.  That’s a big ‘meh.’  It started out seemingly like it might be a really interesting weird mystery, but it ended up being pretty bland, with a reveal that wasn’t all that shocking or surprising.  The main character feels like he should be in a totally different story.  This just came off as an episode of Law & Order.

    After that, I had much more fun reading issues 2 and 3 of the new Fantastic Four.  This is the kind of thing the first family of Marvel should be doing.  Every time Reed exists on Earth for more than six months and the East Coast hasn’t become a technological utopia, the comic doesn’t ring true.  So, here we have him and his band rocketing through space having crazy adventures.  The Fantastic Four are really a ‘cosmic’ group, and like similar comics (Silver Surfer, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the like), they should be in space (and/or time), fighting robots and aliens and all kinds of crazy stuff.

    In spite of a lot of mistreatment, deep down inside, I’m still a Star Wars fan.  Or at least, I want to be.  And for the most part, Dark Horse has been the one ray of light for this fan for like 20 years.  Not all the comics are good, but until the Clone Wars CGI series, the only good Star Wars in decades were in comic form.  And I’m kind of itching to do a Star Wars RPG, which would almost certainly be set in or around the original film’s time.  So, I figured I’d try out Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets.  The look of the cover, the subject, and the character design was all very 70s, so I was kind of hoping it would tap into that Han Solo/Lando adventure novel vibe.  It does not.  There’s potential for some cool stuff here, but right off the bat, I don’t like Agent Cross.  The time period (a couple years before Yavin) is perfect for expanding the universe.  But this feels like too many Star Wars stories, too attached to the original movies, going to the same places, meeting the same characters, dealing with the same issues.  With all the universe to explore, we just keep going over the same territory.  The art is OK.  As usual with Star Wars comics, it doesn’t wow, but it looks good enough to do the job.

    Issue 1 of the new Dark Horse ongoing Star Wars comic holds more promise.  Though again, we’re dealing with characters we already know, the writing works a bit better and the vibe of the first couple movies is more present.  It looks like this will be a bridge story between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, which of course, has already been done.  Still, a fairly good read and I’ll be curious to see where it goes.

    One of the best series out there right now is Godzilla: The Half Century War.  The penultimate issue drops Space Godzilla and Mechagodzilla into a three way battle with our old friend.  And long suffering giant-monster hunter Ota is there for the action.  And this time he gets to strike a blow for the Earth, in an unlikely way.  And man, that last panel.  I can’t wait for the final issue, though I don’t want it to end.

    “Our compass is curiosity.  Our destination is the infinite.”  So, I read FF (Future Foundation), issue 1 & 2, and they were oddly charming.  The art is kind of awful, but with this crazy 60s vibe that fits well with the series.  And Matt Fraction seems to have embraced that same 60s crazy that make The Fantastic Four popular all those decades ago.  It even feels like he’s got some kind of handle on the idea that these people are actively building the future, not just a bunch of weirdoes living in NYC.  There’s almost a Marvel equivalent of Batman: Brave and the Bold to it, as they drag out some weird, weird characters.  Lockjaw, man.  Lockjaw.

    DC’s The Phantom Stranger is an odd, and potentially really interesting series.  It’s connections to the more mystical characters like Captain Marvel (or, I guess they’re calling him Shazam now), could make for some good Creepy/Eerie type tales.  And it feels natural that it might mix up with Swamp Thing and Animal Man, but who knows.  And the art work also reflects that old horror comic style.  I’d almost rather see it in black & white.

    I also finally finished Infidel, which I’d started quite a while back, but put up for a bit while I was busy with other things.  Good book.  And I read Christa Faust’s Double-D Double Cross, which was a fun, quick read.