Friday, June 05, 2009

Camera Obscura: True Blood Meets Bob Dylan;The Banal Vampire Diaries; New Sherlock Holmes Trailer; Goodbye David Carradine

Time again to delve into the strange world of movies and stories which fascinate me and many other movie fans. The weak-hearted might want to skip past this one.

It bugs me when I see news and magazine reports making the statement that "zombies are the new vampires". The two monsters are forever separate creatures, and while the popularity of one may rise (from the dead) and the other may fall, they remain two iconic forms of cinematic (and often literary) fear which have been invited into the homes and theaters of America and the world.

The share one similarity - humans are here only as a form of sustenance. That perhaps is why they endure as those truly nasty fears we seldom can shake away. And in my opinion, vampires are on the upside of fame these days - though zombies are close behind, always drawing near to haunt and chew on our thoughts.

On June 14th, the excellent HBO series "True Blood" returns for another season and I say hooray for that. The show is an eclectic mix of horror and satire, the acting is top-notch, and the twists and turns of the story always surprise (and get pretty steamy too). In a nutshell, the heroine of the tale, one Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), is a small town Louisiana gal who has the relentless burden of being able to read the thoughts of others. And she sort of has a boyfriend, known as Vampire Bill, who turned vamp during the Civil War and has a rather charming Southern politeness to his ravenous nature. Also, America and the world, have been given notice that vampires are real and are here to stay - demanding equal rights, since they have this nifty new chemical-based beverage called TruBlood which slakes their thirst for human blood. Of course, some vamps, known as Mainstreamers, are trying to blend into the normal world while other vamps denounce such efforts as cowardly. (Is a vamp war ahead? Or is this whole mainstream deal a massive hoax?)

As I suspected while watching the first season, there are far more supernatural oddities afoot in the Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Every character has secrets - some sad and some far more sinister. More of that will be revealed in the upcoming season. Nothing is what it seems - even drug dealers in the town sell vials of vamp blood to get high on and of course a newly created religious group has formed to battle the notion of equal rights for vamps and they are likewise dangerous creatures.

Catch up on the first season, now on DVD and get ready for a compelling and most unusual series. How many other vampire tales can promo their show with a tune by Bob Dylan?

On the more banal side of vampire tales is a new series being pushed on the CW Network (itself a hellish hybrid of the WB and UPN). Based on a series of books by LJ Smith, the series is called "Vampire Diaries" and is set in a high school -- this ain't Buffy, folks. Think Dawson's Creek meets Twilight. Or think The Mediocre Meets Hormonal Hijinks. Here's the web site, which says a popular high school gal falls for a new-kid-in-town vampire who happens to have an evil brother and they fight over the girl and the town in a ..... yawn. Sorry, I just lost all desire to even care to watch this. Hey, maybe they could have called it "Dawson's Hellmouth".



Thank goodness director Brett Ratner got the boot as director of a new live-action Conan The Barbarian movie. The new director (rumor) is one James McTeigue, who directed "V For Vendetta" and this fall's "Ninja Assassin" (scripted by J. Michael Stracynski). Of course, this is about the tenth attempt at a new Conan adventure in the last 4 years, so it's all guesswork at this point. Previously, Robert Rodriguez was slated to take the project, but he decided to produce a new movie based on another character created by the mighty Robert E. Howard, "Red Sonja", starring his girlfriend Rose McGowan -- whoops, make that his ex-girlfriend and place that movie in Limbo.


A new trailer has arrived for the new Sherlock Holmes movie and -- well, just take a peek:


Finally, a farewell to the late David Carradine.

I grew up watching his original "Kung Fu" series, which was the ultimate revision of those seemingly endless years of bad TV Westerns. He had no gun, no ranch to protect, no outlaws to hunt down, no card games to scam. The show made him more than famous and he re-invented the series a few times in later years, but was never near as good as the original.

His movies earned him the chance to work with Martin Scorsese ("Boxcar Bertha", "Mean Streets"), Robert Altman ("The Long Goodbye"), Hal Ashby ("Bound For Glory"), Walter Hill ("The Long Riders") and he made tons of cult films like "Death Race 2000", "Cannonball", "Circle of Iron", and countless others, including the upcoming summer horror film "Autumn" (and about 6 others still in production).

And of course, no one other than Carradine could have made the kind of Bill he made in "Kill Bill Volumes One and Two." His speech near the end of Vol. 2 about Superman is simply brilliant.

He could be a very difficult and obtuse performer. Back in March of this year, he attended a screening of "Bound For Glory", a film wherein he played the iconic Woody Guthrie. The evening was turned upside down, to say the least, by his odd behavior. Writer Chris Williams said of that night:

Not since I saw Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner go at each other in an excellent production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? a couple of years ago have I experienced a night of live theater quite as riveting as the three-way cage match between David Carradine, Haskell Wexler, and the audience the other night following an American Cinematheque screening. I keep alluding to what a nerve-wracking, weird and wonderful night this was, and I've gotten asked to go into detail about how the proceedings unfolded, or unraveled."

The full account of that evening is here.

Here is an interview with him from 2007 on the John Kerwin show, which includes a short clip which had been cut from "Kill Bill". And as always, David always knew how to surprise an audience.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I was looking over your movie news links, and there's a site that I've been newly obsessed with that belongs on that list:


    These guys have super up-to-date news every day, and their format is clean, super easy to review and it's a lot less obnoxious than Harry Knowles & company.

    Check it out and keep 'em coming!