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.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

GOP's Failures Blamed On Democrats

It is a gross lie and it is deeply deceptive, manipulative and idiotic for the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, to proclaim that any questions or doubts to legislation regarding military tribunals is an act of protection for terrorists attacking the U.S. and its interests.

The legislation, H.R. 6166, brought out this outlandish comment from Hastert, that opposition to it: means "... more rights for terrorists. So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans ... would be coddled if we follow the Democratic plan."

Let's be honest about the failure of the GOP leadership from Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist -- they have failed for the last three years (or perhaps even intentionally delayed) constructing the systems and legal definitions necessary to conduct tribunals or hearings for individuals apprehended in the "war on terror".

Sen. Frist referred to the bill as a "critical tool", yet it is a "tool" which his leadership has failed to properly devise -- and now their failures are somehow blamed on Evil Democrats.

Only a decision from the Supreme Court has spurred these party bosses and the current administration to develop a proper legal basis for handling what is admittedly a very complex problem.

In recent months, I have heard deeply disfigured lanquage used in reference to actions termed "alternative interrogation techniques" or "extraordinary rendentions".

Last year, reports that the United States were operating "secret prisons" was rejected as nonsense, or as the near-treasonous reports of liberal media. Yet, a few weeks ago, the President reversed his stand and hailed these operations as successful detentions which resulted in vital security protections.

What is that can be done to effectively halt, prevent and investigate the crimes and acts of war against our nation and others by terrorists?

The one certainty is that these "critical" issues have been danced and waltzed around by congress like shy fifth-grade boys at their first dance. Thoughtful and wise and reasoned legislation is in tremendous demand now -- current and future generations of Americans and other free citizens of the world will deal with the outcome of decisions today.

And what is clear from this proposed legislation - and the Republican proclamations about it - is that they hope to use it as a "critical tool" on the campaign trail to scare the bejesus out of anyone considering casting a vote based on facts and not based in fear.

Perhaps the public - and the press - need to also highlight the other important actions made by the House of Representatives on Wednesday:

-- House Conference Resolution 478 -- "Supporting the goals and ideals of 'Lights on Afterschool!'. a national celebration of after-school programs."

-- House Conference Resolution 458 -- "Expressing the sense of Congress that there should be established a Let's All Play Day."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wrong Judicial Decision in Hamblen Election

I just can't keep quiet on a local problem, despite the weight of personal issues here at the home front.

A razor thin two-vote difference in the race for a Hamblen County Commission seat has slowly moved through the courts and a judge has decided there should be a recount of the votes.

A recount is a useless and pointless action.

The local election commission has already stated the two vote difference was made via absentee ballots - so recounting all the votes will accomplish nothing to resolve the situation.

The critical questions are whether or not those ballots were cast by valid, registered voters and when they were cast.

Currently only the Knoxville media has bothered to report the judicial decision. Even the local paper's website has, as of 7 pm today, no report of the decision.

Given that the alleged victor in the race is a former employee of the newspaper, it's clear there is a desire for no change in the vote tally. The previous incumbent office holder deserves better from the election commission office and the judicial review. The vote count made on election day itself resulted in a tie -- so reviewing the status of the two votes cast via absentee ballots should be the only focus of judicial review.

More on the numerous problems election day and the judge's opinion here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Short Break

I am sad to say that my good friend Edmund passed away on Sunday. I mentioned this likelihood on Sept. 13 in a post, and I am taking a few days away to deal with much here at the homestead. Many of you have already expressed much fine and good thoughts and I am most grateful for your concerns.

When I have enough presence of mind to resume here, I shall.

So stay tuned. And thanks for your consideration and patience and warm regards.