Friday, June 15, 2007

Camera Obscura: 21st Century Movie Mayhem

Time again to wade deep into the shallow end of movies.

Oh, the things I watch so you don't have to, and the things you (meaning The Public) watch which I take in many months after the movie is on The Hot List. All that and more is here in this regular Friday feature.

Let's tackle a new movie first, like the based-on-a-really-bad-video-game - "D.O.A." "D.O.A." is a video game about ... uh, well,chicks in skimpy outfits who fight in tournaments, and there are like 4 or 5 game 'sequels' including one involving volleyball. They could have just called the game Nekkid Fu-Fightin' Chix, but I guess D.O.A. sounds ... more clinically violent. The movie offers up Jamie Pressley, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance and Eric Roberts (as the Bad Guy), and is directed by fight choreographer Corey Yuen. And boasts 4, count 'em, 4 screenwriters. It was supposed to be released last October, but distributors wisely reset the date for the summer.

Why make the movie? I think it has something to do with the fact that Maxim magazine makes money, that kung fu movies make money, and that America loves sex and violence. Especially when there is absolutely no logic, narrative or reason for the sex or the violence. Here's one write-up of the plot which made me laugh out loud: "Three female fighters are chosen to take part in DOA: Christie Allen, a sexy jewel thief, Tina Armstrong, a tough-as-nails pro-wrestler and Kasumi, a Ninja princess."

Yuen is a highly imaginative fight director, and pre-adolescent boys who pay (repeatedly) to see this PG-13 hoo-ha will be in Heaven. Fighting. With Chicks.

The reviews are in for the new Fantastic Four movie and they are not fantastic. They are really bad. Clocking in at 87 minutes, the movie is apparently still too long according to some critics. I may go see it, but only because Silver Surfer is an old favorite of mine. The good news is the Silver Surfer will be getting his own movie, with "Babylon 5" writer J. Michael Straczynski providing the script.

As I am an inclusive person, here's a movie for the women -- a movie of nekkid dudes in an action setting!! There are plenty of bare butts, ripplin' muscles and even a love story in the fresh to DVD "Apocalypto." It's a bizarre mish-mash of history and hysteria, and director Mel Gibson provides heaps of torture and dismemberment in his .... well, it isn't really an Epic, though it has Epic Moments.

I will say however that the visual style and cinematography are so good, there is truly little need for script or subtitles to the movie. It's so well presented that almost anyone can grasp the story and the drama by the vivid pace and graphic violence. Run, Jaguar Paw, Run!!

I liked the movie a little bit better when it was called "The Naked Prey", as that film's Lessons in Empire Building were more clearly expressed. Still, Mel Gibson knows how to ramp up the action and show off the beefcake, so have at it ladies.

For sheer weirdness , the Movie of the Week this time out goes to "The Thirst." The advertisements claim the movie is a cross between "Requiem For A Dream" and "Near Dark", but it isn't nearly that good. It does have a cast of fairly well-known performers Clare Kramer (Glory from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"), Adam Baldwin ("Serenity") and Jeremy Sisto.

The plot is nearly indescribable nonsense -- a stripper and recovering drug addict (Kramer) is turned into a vampire one night. Her boyfriend, who is not a stripper but is a recovering drug addict and nerd, sees his ex-living girlfriend in some skeezy Goth-strip club which looks like some kid's idea of a how a basement in his parent's house could look cool. So he gets turned into a vamp too.

The boyfriend learns his girlfriend is now living among a group of vampires who are hiding out in a church camp for kids, awaiting the first campers of the season. The duo decide to kick the vampire habit and take down the vamp family. Oh, and there's some plot point about only women being able to turn people into vampires, but no one has fangs. There is more arterial blood spray in the movie than I've seen in a long time - this blood sprays out like it was designed by the guy who did the water fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas or maybe the guys who did the Mentos and Diet Coke videos.

Oh, and the Vampire Family includes two sort-of Asian Twins who speak gibberish and slither all over the place. Their performance and presence are indicative of the unlimited nonsense in "The Thirst". I've seen worse movies, and that's about the highest praise I can give this one. When vampirism is the cure for rehab, it just is not going to be a good day (or a good movie).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Moon Pie Party and the Bonaroo Festival

Big crowds and much entertainment abounds this weekend in middle Tennessee. You can choose between the constantly growing Bonnaroo festival or the traditional old school celebration of Moon Pies and RC Cola.

For some 13 years, the adoration of the Moon Pie and RC Cola has been held in Bell Buckle, with this year's bash set for Saturday. Events include a coronation of the Moon Pie King and Queen and the World's Largest Moon Pie Cutting Ceremony. Full schedule of events are here at the official site. As a child raised in Tennessee, I myself prefer the full three-course Southern Lunch: a white-bread baloney sandwich, topped off with a Moon Pie for dessert and all washed down with an icy cold RC Cola. I will confess, though, I think the last time I dined in such fashion I was in my teens.

The massive Bonnaroo Festival is underway this weekend in Manchester. Live broadcasts via the web and satellite radio are available for that, and lots of folks are blogging the event, including my fine friend Atomic Tumor (though blogging more at his convenience than for news, and with the style and observations that make AT such a great read). The official 'Roo site has all the news and links to hearing/seeing the event.

I am not sure if anyone has ever live-blogged a Moon Pie Festival, but perhaps it's time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Yeah, They're Dead. They're All Messed Up.'

As I am loathe to just jump in and participate in every goofy popular web/blog trend that rolls thru the internets, I am a fan of the zombie movie stuff, and since Newscoma did alert me that today is "Blog Like It's The End of the World!", then I am in. The premise, begun here, is that folks should blog like a full-blown worldwide zombie apocalypse is underway.

And hey, I've joined in for "Talk Like A Pirate Day" and "Wear a Gorilla Suit Day", so then why not this one?

Here's some things to consider -- at best, both electricity and fuel for vehicles will be utterly unavailable within a matter of hours. If you can find a bookstore to loot, which is likely as zombies don't read much, get yourself a copy of Max Brooks "Zombie Survival Guide". It has plenty of helpful info, but your reading time is gonna be limited. If you are traveling in a group, get one person to read as the rest of you flee for safety.

As Max has noted, one of your best defensive weapons will be a good, hefty axe. They need no ammo at all to work well.

Do not spend too much time bemoaning the fact you haven't already read Max's book, or that you did not join up to promote the Zombie Preparedness Initiative. Too late now.

In a recent interview, Max was asked:

How can a layperson like myself distinguish between a zombie and a bureaucrat?

Max Brooks: Simply put, a zombie will try to eat you, a bureaucrat will try to ruin several hours of your day."

Trust me, a bona-fide zombie is not going to require a lot of pondering on the "hey is that a zombie?" issue. You'll know.

As I was thinking about what to write for this BLITEOTW Day, I wondered how the current media might handle the event. For instance:

The story on FOX News: "Well at long last, the Democrats have shown what they really are and what they really want -- they are the Undead and they want to eat you or convert you. These Demo-Zoms are anti-family and anti-American! .... oh wait, holy crap! Is that Ronald Reagan?? Looks like he has decided to rejoin the Democrat Party. And we can confirm that Hillary Clinton is registering the zombies to vote."

The story on CNN: "We have exclusive footage of the Anna Nicole Smith zombie and she's devouring an attorney and a .... hold on, hold on, Paris Hilton has a comment to make ...."

Drudge Report: Zombies eating brains! Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, have NOT been attacked!

OK, fine, those are the easy jokes.

Now on to the blogging the zombie doom outside my doorway.

Here's how I would cover it:

"Outta here, suggest you do same."

ADDENDUM: A new zombie-comedy movie is set to open in limited release this weekend, called "Fido". A friend sent me a trailer for the movie, which is set in an alternate 1950s America. Some cosmic debris from a passing comet has turned all the dead into zombies, Fortunately, a giant corporation known as ZomCom, has established a method to 'domesticate' them and they are put to work as servants and menial laborers. A young boy named Timmy finally gets one of his own at his idyllic suburban home, who he calls Fido (played by Billy Connolly). Carrie-Anne Moss plays Timmy's mom. It looks pretty funny, so in honor of this day, here's the trailer:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TN Legislature Rejects Real ID Act

More good news today -- the TN Legislature has adopted a resolution rejecting the Real ID Act!

Mike Silence noted the vote on SJR248 today.

My hearty congratulations to the state - now it's time for the federal representatives from Tennessee to take action and repeal this terrible legislation. Forget asking for federal funds for the act -- repeal it!

Contact your elected officials via these email, phone and faxes.

Local Congressman Designates 'Eagle Day'

1st District Congressman David Davis sponsored a Resolution which Congress adopted last week which is called "American Eagle Day", to be observed on June 20th.

While I have often been critical of the Republican Congressman's take on numerous national issues, I do appreciate his appreciation of one of the nation's symbols, and more importantly, his high praise for the dedicated and successful work of the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge:

This non-profit group has worked to establish recovery programs to protect the eagle, and actively cares for many non-releasable birds to ensure they live healthy lives.

“In addition, they operate the largest bald eagle-breeding facility in the world, and have released hundreds of eaglets into the wild with the support of local, state, and federal officials.

“Through the efforts of the American Eagle Foundation and a grassroots effort by children nationwide, I was pleased to offer this legislation for consideration."

Indeed, the organization daily works to protect those beautiful creatures and to expand our ability to nurture and study American Eagles. Their web site is here, though their eagle nest cam is down until next year, but this site is full of information and I encourage you to learn about the group, and support them if you can through donations.

I am also thankful that Rep. Davis' first bill presented to Congress was not some wacky, unwarranted partisan policy. Though it will be noted his resolution isn't really much of a stretch - it's kind of like a bill saying "Hey. I like America and American Eagles" and it's hard to fault an elected official for making that kind of pronouncement.

Now if the Congressman will apply his efforts on some other rather important issues, he'll earn much, much more of my respect.

NOTE: Some other ideas on National Symbols.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Show Me Your Papers, American!

Some controversial new laws for American citizens has me wondering in a most negative fashion about how much government documentation the future American will be required to carry.

I've mentioned some of this before, like the Real ID Act, tacked onto legislation to provide relief funding for victims of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia. The law mandates every citizen in the U.S. must have this new ID if they wish to open a bank account, travel on an airline, collect social security, enter a federal building, utilize any Federal service, get a job and more. And like Russ McBee has written, this law needs to be repealed.

Over the weekend, I learned about another new law, which I had never heard about, enacted under the title "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative." Under this law, American citizens who travel to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, or take cruises to the Caribbean must now have passports to return to the U.S. As of next year, says the law, if you drive or walk into Mexico or Canada, you'll have to have a passport to return.

But this past weekend, the massive backlog of those Americans who seek such passports for travel is so large, the law has been put on hold for a few months until the State Dept. can hire hundreds of new employees to process applications. However:

This summer also may not spell the end of the passport crunch.

Homeland Security has insisted it plans to go ahead with a January 2008 start for requiring passports at all land border crossing in the United States — a security measure that could trigger a new frenzy of applications."

Since the Real ID law mandates each state create their own IDs, will other states formally accept them since they are from other states? Will we need passports to travel from state to state? Or will we need documents giving permission to travel out of and return to our home states and documents giving permission from the states we wish to visit?

UPDATE: The state legislature has voted to reject the Real ID Act and calls for federal officials to repeal it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

State To Cut Sales Tax, Morristown Set To Raise It

This week the state government crafted a much-agreed to plan for a rollback on state sales tax on food from 6 percent to 5.5 percent. The state Democrats pushed for the rollback, which is likely to be approved by the state and will go into effect on Jan. 1 2008.

The plan only affects food sales tax and customers will get a - somewhat small - break.

Except in Morristown.

Poised to enact a property tax rate increase of 40% the city also plans to provide a referendum (is it one of those city games of a non-binding votes the city has held before if the public rejects it?) which would increase the local option on sales tax on all items by .25 percent and decrease slightly the massive property tax rise. If approved, grocery taxes would be cheaper outside Morristown city limits.

In addition to the sales tax increase and the historically high new property tax on residents and businesses, the city also wants to tax residents and business under a new 'storm water assessment", a new tax based on 'impermeable square footage' for property owners and they hope to net some $400,000 annually. That's about the same amount of they city's 'book-keeping error' from last year.

The first Morristown council meeting to vote on these proposals, June 14 at 4 p.m., is also the same meeting where the public will be allowed for the first time to comment on these widespread tax increases. According to city officials, all these tax increases will only allow the city to operate for 3 years before another increase is needed.

UPDATE: As I mentioned on this topic before, I doubt there will be much if any dissent on the increase, since comparatively the rate in Mo'town is pretty low anyway. I do wonder just how much taxes and the dubious management of city finances must increase before the public does decide to get involved in the issue.