Friday, August 22, 2008

Camera Obscura: "Doomsday" Rocks; New Heinlein Film; "Appaloosa"; and More Movie News

After a few weeks of uninteresting movies and/or news of films on the way, it's great to have some goodies to offer.

Question: what happens when two of the world's most outlandish directors- Takashi Miike and Quentin Tarantino - join to make a movie? You get "Sukiyaki Western Django". Sort of looks like a MGM-Technicolor musical version of Sergio Leone. Opens in limited release on August 29th. Are you ready for the trailer??


The recent DVD release of the unrated action-packed movie which had some of the worst marketing of the year and left the movie to die quickly at the box office is a must-see for sci-fi and action fans. "Doomsday" is the most recent from Scottish director/writer Neil Marshall. His first two films are likewise excellent genre pieces, "Dog Soldiers" and "The Descent". He's inventive, imaginative and makes some truly intense movies (meaning you should make the effort to see all three movies). He makes sharp choices in casting, composition, pacing and each of his movies deliver far more than you might expect.

"Doomsday", as Marshall explains in the DVD, is his homage to early John Carpenter movies, especially "Escape From New York" and to "Road Warrior." The result is high-octane fun and mayhem and easily rests very well with those other two classics. And yes, the car-chase finale is almost as good as the end of "Road Warrior". He's not ripping off these movies, he's saluting them.

In "Doomsday's" futuristic world, the Snake Plissken/Mad Max part falls to actress Rhona Mitra (as Colonel Eden Sinclair) and she is every bit as tough, world-weary and relentless as those guys. The story begins as a brutal viral outbreak in Scotland causes the U.K. to wall it all off, leaving the dead and any survivors to fend for themselves in hopes of halting the killer disease. In the evacuation at the time, the young girl Eden is separated from her mom and even has her eye shot out. But, decades later, the disease starts to appear in London and turns out corrupt government officials have known that survivors are thriving in the walled-zone. Maybe there's a cure. Time to send in Snake - I mean Col. Eden (complete with an eye-patch and a cyber eyeball to boot).

Like "Escape" and "Road Warrior" all the set-up for the movie rolls out fast to get you into the action of her adventures. She's joined by a top-notch military squad (who last a bit longer than usual in such action yarns) and discovers a world overrun with madness and cannibalism. One of the leaders in this nightmarish landscape is a character named Sol, and in one amazing scene, he takes to the stage like a rock star, the descendant of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger, and super-charges the crowd into a frenzy.

The movie isn't mean to be more than it is - escapist sci-fi, a little social commentary, and loads of atmosphere. Add in some fine character performances from Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, and David O'Hara (who did great work in "The Departed") and this is more than just B-movie hijinks. It's a roaring good time. Director Marshall has turned in 3 great flicks, and his next projects are directing Hugh Jackman in the thriller "Drive" and a horror-themed western called "Sacrilege" (which he calls "Unforgiven" as told by H.P. Lovecraft).

Folks, I've picked many a director/writer in the past based on their skills with basic genre movies and predicted they would make major marks in cinema and haven't been wrong yet. Just two such names include David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson. So check out Neil Marshall's work and I'm sure you'll see just what I mean.


An actor who both Cronenberg and Jackson helped make a star is Viggo Mortensen and he has two movies on the way this fall which will likely make him even more well-known and respected. The first is the much-anticipated adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel "The Road".

And also out this fall is a western he stars in with Ed Harris, "Appaloosa", based on Robert Parker's best-selling book about two hired guns brought into to battle an no-good rancher, with Harris also directing. Co-stars include Jeremy Irons and Renee Zellweger. The trailer was just released:


Director Alex Proyas ("Dark City" and "I, Robot") is tackling one of the biggest names ever in the sci-fi field, Robert Heinlein. It's one of his lesser-known novels, first published in 1942. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathon Hoag". Hoag has a disturbing mystery to solve - he has no memory of what he has been doing during his waking hours, and so hires a detective team to find out. The discovery, of course, has consequences which no one expects.


One of the legendary names of Bad Cinema is Herschell Gordon Lewis, famed for ultra-low budget drive-in fodder with gallons of really cheesy blood and gore effects. I've seen more than a few of them, and unless you're some kind of horror-movie fanatic, I can't suggest one worth watching. Of course, here in the 21st century, Hollywood (or maybe Burbank or some place in Idaho, I'm not sure) thinks that it's remake time.

HSG's single great accomplishments were his titles: "The Gore-Gore Girls", "2000 Maniacs", "Blood Feast", etc. etc.

But a new remake just landed on DVD of "The Wizard of Gore". And it actually has some decent reviews and that's due to some strong production values and a casting coup of the ultra-strange actor Crispin Glover in the lead role of Montag The Magnificent, a magician whose show is pure Grand Guignol as he goes about dis-assembling the bodies of volunteers from the audience. Glover is joined by some other famous odd actors, like Jeffery Combs and Brad Dourif, plus Bijou Phillips and top billing is also given to the 21st Century .... um .... models, known as The Suicide Girls. Sort of the pierced-and-tattooed Playmate wannabes.

I almost rented it -- almost. But after reading some reviews, hey, it might be more fun than say, sticking a fork in my eye. There's a trailer for the movie which you can see here - it's a bit too bloody/nasty for this humble yet lovable blog. Check it out here. I have to admit it, Glover and Dourif look like they chew up the scenery with wild abandon.


For you honest-to-Pete horror fanatics might like to take a look at the 3-Disc Amicus Collection. Director Roy Ward Baker offers some fine and funny commentary about the company which was sort of the low end of Hammer films.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That's No Bigfoot - It's A Rubber Gorilla Suit

Very few Tennessee bloggers are as devoted as my dear friend Newscoma to the nuances and incidents which is the legend that is Bigfoot. Last week she experienced some bona fide joy regarding the reports that some hunters/entrepreneurs in Georgia (the one in the U.S.) had indeed obtained the remains of just such a creature, aka The Georgia Gorilla.

She posted a pic of the critter on her blog and even to my untrained scientific eyes I detected some pretty hinky things about that image which were taken as the critter lay nestled inside a freezer packed with ice. Newscoma was close to traveling to California last week to witness the news conference heralding the event, which was to feature DNA samples.

So I must offer my condolences to her and share my dismay when the Reuters News Agency reported the following: it was simply a rubber gorilla suit:

No wonder Bigfoot failed a DNA test. Researchers said on Tuesday the hairy heap claimed by two men to be the corpse of the mythical half-ape, half-human creature was actually a full-body rubber gorilla costume.

The discovery adds another dimension to what appears to be an elaborate hoax by Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, the owners of a company that offers Bigfoot merchandise, that sparked an Internet frenzy last week.


"Steve Kulls, executive director of the Web site and host of Squatchdetective Radio, said in an online statement that the rubber suit was discovered after the researchers thawed the "corpse."

In a detailed statement, Kulls said researchers had used heat to speed up the thawing of the shaggy remains. Within an hour, they realized at least part of the head was hollow and, over the next hour, a break appeared near the feet.

"As the team and I began examining this area ... I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot," said Kulls.

The whereabouts of Whitton and Dyer were not known on Tuesday."

Ah, for the lack mystery in our humble nation. Seems the oddest and most unexplainable events still occur in the Congress and the White House.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seldom Seen Background of Attorneys In Flag Controversy

There's a few factors not to be read in media reports regarding the Anderson County federal lawsuit filed by a student against the school system, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated because school officials sent the student home for repeatedly wearing clothing the system deemed in violation of the school's dress policy - clothing depicting a Confederate flag.

The now-former student, Tim Defoe, hired as attorneys representatives of a group called the North Carolina-based Southern Legal Research Center: Knoxville-based attorney Van R. Irion and SLRC founder Kirk D, Lyons. The SLRC has constantly taken up similar cases with the constant arguments of the "freedom of speech" variety.

The SLRC site list multiple legal battles on such cases, though with typically unfavorable and confusing results (as noted by the the Southern Poverty Law Center).

Lyons himself is a most controversial figure, with reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center that Lyons was married some years back in the Idaho-based Aryan Nations Compound, and has often attempted to join legal battles involving members of the neo-Nazi skinhead groups like The Order, and aiming to link himself, as mentioned above, to a variety of high-profile cases.

The Sons Of Confederate Veterans also has been split by Lyons' involvement, as Lyons' goals often go far beyond preserving 'heritage or history', as Lyons makes claims that :

He defines himself as "an unreconstructed Southerner from Texas and a Christian." That means, he said, "that my family didn't surrender in 1865 and I haven't surrendered."

Mr. Lyons said that if he had defended Klansmen and neo-Nazis, it was because they, like all Americans, deserve representation. If he has spoken to extremist groups, he said, it is because they have shown interest in his work.

That said, he admits preferring that the country "be run with Christian, European traditions." He also admits disapproval of his brother's marriage to a Filipino.

Some of Mr. Lyons's opponents said they suspected that his real goal was to use increased influence in the Sons to win financial backing for his law firm. As it is, the vast majority of the firm's $200,000 budget is generated by his regular solicitations of the organization's chapters and members. But his work, he said, is hardly making him rich, and he takes a salary of only $36,000.

Mr. Lyons, who now holds a lesser leadership post in the Army of Northern Virginia, seems to hold considerable support within the Sons. Roger W. McCredie, the group's chief of heritage defense, backs him because "he has succeeded in making other people see that instead of always reacting, we have got to seize the initiative." Patrick J. Griffin 3rd, the immediate past commander in chief, said he admired Mr. Lyons because "it takes a true person of character to stand up and defend unpopular individuals."

Using black Southerners as a model, Mr. Lyons said, he will continue to assert "that Confederate Southern Americans are no longer going to take the back seat of the bus."

"A lot of people have asked Southerners, `Why do you keep fighting the war?' " he said. "Because a lot of people haven't stopped attacking us, that's why. We're tired of being second-class citizens and the stereotype for our good friends in Hollywood and the media. And we're tired of being the whipping boy for the race problems in this country."

The strategy of defining a school dress code policy as a Constitutional issue seems to have initially been a winner in Tennessee, as the jury in Anderson County ended up in a deadlock.

I would hope the local news media in East Tennessee might decide to dig deeper in to the players in this federal suit to better inform the public of what agenda is truly being pushed here.

(Note: My thanks to a reader who pointed out the SLRC board and goals via an email. Also, I am keenly aware this post is likely to attract the worse kinds of comments and attacks. Such does not detract from the fact the above mentioned attorneys and organization have backed Defoe's legal efforts.)

Weekly Best of Tennessee Blogs

Time for the weekly roundup of the best in blogging across Tennessee, as presented by Russ McBee, who is handling the chores this month at TennViews. (Note: Russ, I am not sure that somewhat wacky Burger King bath is noteworthy, although I did see that some local Knox TV stations did feature the tale as well. Not that I'm unhappy to be in the round-up, especially as many of my posts were on Rep. David Davis highly publicized meltdown. Still, as always, topics of all types are covered by Tennessee's best.

Here be the roundup:

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: An International, First-Hand Perspective ("Want to find out what bloggers who write in a language you can't read are saying? This is a great place to start.") and Running on Stolen Property

• BlountViews: Tennessee Division of Elections: No election ("But we assume nobody will press the issue with Blount County to seek further clarification, and they will do whatever they want to do as usual.") and MDT: You get what you deserve ("Do we get what we deserve, or do we get what the backroom mechanics of the local political establishment and the MDT decide we need?")

• Carole Borges: John Edwards and what seperates a man from a boy ("I'm so mad at John Edwards I could spit.") and Bush's pastor rebukes the Republican favorite son ("The Republican Right should be appalled at McCain's record when it comes to having decent morals and values.")

• The Crone Speaks: Rapists Get a Pass in Knoxville: It’s Her Fault ("This isn’t logical reasoning, it’s simple brutality that is not being acknowledged by juries.") and Bush-dog Schuler Profiting From TVA Oversight Position ("This is a pretty substantial investment, and the approval by the TVA for the land swap will greatly increase the lining of Bush-dog Schuler's pockets.")

• Cup Of Joe Powell: Debating Student Rights and Southern History ("Can a school system's dress code policy curb your free speech?") and Kitchen Sink Bath At Burger King ("Thank God the internet allows stupid to be shared on a global scale.") BONUS: Rep. David Davis can't believe he lost here, here, and here.

• Don Williams: Putin and Bush doomed to waltz thru history in each other's eyes ("No doubt, Putin saw his reflection in Bush's vacuous eyes, for this is a man who, like Bush, views war as the natural state of humankind.")

• Donkey's Mouth: Chairman Dean Responds to Arkansas Democratic Party Shooting

• Enclave: 13,000 Children Abandoned by the United States Government ("Uncle Sam is one cruel bastard to el niƱos.") and English Only is Astroturf, Not Grassroots

• Fletch: Hanging Around and Bigger is Better [Ed. note: Holy crap!]

• KnoxViews: Jesse Helms a great American? ("What editorial devil possessed the KNS to publish the "Citizen's Voice" tripe by June B. Griffin in today's (Aug. 16) edition?") and Doughy yet suave man about town seeks sociopathic presidential aspirant and Online convention coverage and McCain embraces Bush, supporters defect ("Saying "nobody likes a funeral," prominent Republicans are staying away from their convention.")

• Lean Left: Is It Just Me? and Testing the Limits

• Left Of The Dial: Hyper Local and Summer Blog Blues

• Left Wing Cracker: OK, how about NOW? Here's the MMHF 2008 SCHEDULE!! and Who owns McCain? Hint: it's not you.

• Liberadio(!): An Open Letter to Rep. David Davis, Candidate Tim Barnes, Nashville Public Radio, and the National Media ("Since the story broke of potential recount challenges by both candidate Barnes and Rep. Davis, a couple of things have happened.")

• Loose TN Canon: Top CIA official confesses order to forge Iraq-9/11 letter came on White House stationery'

• Nashville for the 21st Century: 80's Night at the TNGOP ("What is funny is that in 1984 the Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse. They were a paper tiger, not a bear in the woods. So, in that regard, Hobbs' comparison is fairly accurate.") and No Speaky Spanish ("Oh, and just to pour salt in the wounds of TIRRC, Crafton is proposing an interpreter fee for those who need language services. But remember, his wife is Japanese and his Brother-in-law is Hispanic, so its OK.") and Republicans Attempt Voter Suppression in Ohio ("[T]he prospect of shorter lines in minority areas and easier access to vote is keeping some GOP officials up late at night.")

• Newscoma: AT&T = Epic Fail and Random Thoughts and Martin Plant To Close ("A plant that has been around for most of my life is closing. ... This is just another huge loss for this community.")

• The Pesky Fly: Things I'm not buying for $1000, Alex and Presumptuous? Maybe. Dangerous and Wrong? Oh Yeah!

• Progressive Nashville: It's just plain mean ("These knuckle-draggers who claim they are defenders of Judeo-Christian values clearly don't understand the concept.") and Spin control ("The Tennessean wants the story to be about numbers, but rezoning is a story about people.")

• Resonance: NeoCon Dreams ("Yesterday Senator McCain said: "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations." Today comedian Limbaugh, et al., are framing (and condeming) the conflict as Russia's quest to control oil flows. The irony is overwhelming.")

• RoaneViews: Roane County Industrial Park causing Water Problems and Dear Tina E*****s

• Russ McBee: Pelosi caves yet again ("Pelosi is more than willing to substitute meaningless gimmicks for substantive policy, all based on her phobia of being called names by Republicans.")

• Sharon Cobb: To Be President In America--Must Be Born In America, 35 Years Of Age,....AND CHRISTIAN! Rick Warren With Obama And McCain ("In a 2008 America, one clearly has to be a Christian to be elected. And that's wrong.") and Where Does The TnGOP Stand On Us Heartless Jews? and Day 3:The Tennessee GOP Still Won't Reply To The Jewish Community Regarding It Being A Christian Organization

• Silence Isn't Golden: How Many Times Can The Straight Talk Express Derail? and I Think I'd Rather Be A Turtle ("I did my first ever scuba dive in Bora Bora.")

• Southern Beale: Saying No To Sean Hannity and Still Dropping ("This reminds me that back in April when gas prices started climbing into the stratosphere, local conservative yakker Steve Gill said it was the Democrats' fault. Well, bless his heart. So, now that gas prices are falling, do Democrats get the credit?")

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: CNN: Is Obama the AntiChrist? ("Oh, my aching head. If we weren't stuck inside the borders of a giant insane asylum, CNN would be laughed off the air.") and Hillary's Name to Be Placed in Nomination and Sexist Olympic Photos of the Day

• TennViews: Unemployment continues up: shockingly so in some Southern States ("We have less than six months until someone new is in the President's seat. How bad can it get in six months?") and National English-only group congratulates Nashville on ballot initiative, takes credit for helping ("When even the local Chamber of Commerce doesn't agree and instead takes the "progressive" point of view, it's a pretty good signal that you're on the wrong side of the issue.") and A call for party unity ("For the sake of party unity, Rob Huddleston calls for 1st District Republicans to unite and tell David Davis to shut up and go away.")

• Tiny Cat Pants: Some Child Left Behind ("I keep thinking how history will judge us, what the folks will make of the ways in which we lied to ourselves about what we're doing and why we're doing it.") and Stupidity and Women's Health

• Vibinc: Getting in a Wreck Teh Suk and Take Ice Cream off the Menu

• West Tennessee Liberal: Disrespect

• WhitesCreek Journal: Search Me and T. Boone's Boy: "Will Lie For Money" and Running From Red ("John McCain is a half assed Conservative, even if he does lie like one.")

• Women's Health News: Tennessee Women to Have Fewer Options for Reproductive Health and HHS Sec. Leavitt Responds Further to Objections, Ignores Substance ("Clearly, Leavitt values a "social statement" just as much as women's access to care, while completely ignoring objections that the proposed regulation may extend that refusal of care to very basic needs such as contraception. If that doesn't send a chill up the spine of America's women and families, I don’t know what will.")