Friday, September 29, 2006

Camera Obscura - Silent Hill, Voodoo Moon and Howl's Castle

Some disappointments and some delights await in this week's edition of film reviews, including a sneak look at an upcoming DVD release and a few thoughts on the arriving fall television season. And as we approach October, I have a few Halloween-horror themed suggestions for you.

For the first of the delights, you can blame the fact that I'm a male, or that I'm easily amused, but I was very happy to see that the second of the Johnny Knoxville "Jackass" movies earned the top slot at the box office this past weekend raking in over $28 million dollars.

Yes, the antics and idiocy of Knoxville and his crew are jaw-dropping examples of stupid and dangerous. However I laughed constantly watching the first movie and the second one boasts even more bone-dumb moments of near self-destruction. Maybe you have to have grown up in Tennessee to understand the stupid, painful actions of Knoxville and crew. In other words, I've seen some guys do similar things and though they were stupid then too, they still made me laugh or made me glad I was not dumb enough to try such crazy things.

Be honest - one of the Free Spots on the Bingo Card of Life is that boys and men will do stupid and potentially hazardous things. I don't want to hang out with Johnny and his crew, I pity their parents and I also know all of them have made much money filming stooopid things. I doubt film critics will ever pen meaningful essays on the cinematic techniques or subtexts to be found in "Jackass."

But it makes me laugh and it reminds me of the line from the movie "Time Bandits", where France's Napoleon laughs insanely as the tiny heroes of the movie take to the stage and attempt to sing "Me and My Shadow" and end up fighting with each other. Napoleon, explaining his delight, says he likes "seeing little things hitting each other." And I guess one could say Johnny and his crew are the reality-TV versions of the Three Stooges and their painful slapstick.

And though the acting roles Johnny has had in other films aren't really that notable (though a small part in "Big Trouble" and a larger role in "Grand Theft Parsons" are worth mention), I still think one day the right part in the right movie will arrive. And in my book, he still has the coolest name in entertainment today.

The preview for the movie below wisely warns viewers that critics view Johnny's "work" as a sign of the End of Days.


The videogame "Silent Hill" is brought to vivid and creepy life in movie form, now on DVD. Starring Radha Mitchell as a mom searching an eerily abandoned ghost town in West Virginia for her missing child, she roams in a dimension-shifting nightmare landscape. Darkly lit, endlessly maze-filled and encountering odd human inhabitants - the movie just doesn't make much sense or even attempt it. Simply, this is a ghost story with the emphasis on "ghost" and not story. The best I can say is if you liked the game, you might like this movie.

A new arrival on DVD on October 3rd is the movie "Voodoo Moon" from Anchor Bay. I confess at the outset here that the reason I wanted to see the movie is that it stars Charisma Carpenter, best known as Cordelia on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel television shows. The movie also features TV actor Eric Mabius (of "O.C.", "C.S.I." and the new "Ugly Betty") and one of my favorite B-movie actors of all time, Jeffrey Combs ("Re-Animator").

The story centers on Carpenter and Mabius as brother and sister, who are the sole survivors of a horrifying town massacre some twenty years ago. Now, the brother has become something of a demon-fighter and must join with a motley crew of odd characters to protect his sister and hopefully defeat the nasty creature responsible for the massacre years ago.

The movie is more of one of suspense and mystery rather than jump-scares and horror. In fact, I often felt as if I had tuned into the 3rd or 4th episode of a TV series. The backstory is somewhat complex and the relationships of the characters are as well. It's a moody work, and director Kevin Van Hook (efx creator for "I, Robot" and "Daredevil") is a filmmaker of some promise. For fans of Carpenter and Combs, it's worth viewing.


The best I've seen this week is the latest from Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away") titled "Howl's Moving Castle."

It is a dazzling and imaginative work which will astonish children and adults alike. His work, as always, is truly beautiful. The depth and careful creation of this magical world leaves the CGI world far behind.

The story is of a young girl, who is transformed into an old woman by an evil witch, and who then makes friends with an enigmatic magician named Howl. Howl's home is a walking castle and it's origins as well as Howl's provide a fascinating fantasy. My favorite of Miyazaki is still "Porco Rosso", but Howl is a must-see too.


Venture Brothers rocks!!

A new season of "The Unit" is underway.

"My Name is Earl" is back!!

And for October, Turner Classic Movies once again has a vast amount of classic and cultish Halloween horrors, but mark your calendar for a Russ Meyer double feature on October 20th - "Faster Pussycat! Kill Kill!" and "Mudhoney". Check out the full schedule for the month here.


  1. Silent Hill - Bleah. That was a complete and total waste of the 90 or so minutes I watched it. It had the completely predictible twist at the end, but by the time it got there, hell, you didn't care anymore. Duuuumb.

    Howls Moving Castle is indeed awesome. I still haven't seen a Miyazaki flick that rivaled Princess Monoke, tho. Porco Rosso was pretty darn good, and made me want to get an airplane, and an island (well, I've always wanted an island)

    Glad to see you back around, chief.

  2. I loved Howl's Castle. It was one of the best I've seen all year.
    Loved it.

  3. Howl's Moving Castle was a true delight, I must agree .. my favorite Miyazaki is still Kiki, but this ranks high too


    First, I love love love Jeffrey Combs and have watched Re-Animator more times than I probably should have.

    Second, so far I've only seen "Spirited Away" and "Princess Mononoke," but I very much look forward to seeing Miyazaki's other movies.

    Third, clearly, TCM planned their Oct. 20th lineup in honor of my birthday on the 19th. Rest assured that I will be at home watching, drinking beer and reciting every. Damn. Line. Love me some Russ Meyer!

  5. james2:00 PM

    Joe,you're forgetting some othergood t.v.. How about the probable last season of Smallville upcoming,and the return of Supernatural.Also worty of mention The 4400,and The Dead Zone.And if you have'nt watched Eureka on Sci-Fi you have missed out,plus they have some upcoming shows that promise to be good.One other mention is saturday night ,Toonami and Adult Swim. Okay I've overstayed my welcome,but I want my dvds.

  6. James -
    I have sent numerous emails to you so we could meet up and you can get yer dang DVDs -- if that address is wrong, then email me the right one!
    Perhaps you simply enjoy taunting me from time to time, which is fine by me.

    Eureka (from the creator of "Angel") is very good. I never liked Smallville or Supernatural or Dead Zone (but i did like the Cronenberg movie version. The show I'm trying to get caught up with is the new Battlestar Galactica, and I've been an Adult Swim viewer for many a year.

  7. Tits!
    I love me some Russ Meyer too.
    Wonder Triplets Dammit.
    Send Joe your e-mail. He will give you your DVD's.
    I love me some Cuppa. And you.:)