Friday, May 06, 2011

Camera Obscura: Buffy Slays Zombies, Bonnie & Clyde vs Dracula, and Tarantino's Western

I had a mostly artsty film post all prepped and ready for today, but my inner nerd has won the day and so, a post jam-packed with fanboy/nerd news and movies is herein offered despite the hot red blush of shame I experience when telling such tales.

Warning: what follows is violent, messy and lacking in good taste.

I've been a Robert E. Howard fan for a long time and his character of Conan the Barbarian (not all the knock-offs penned by other writers) is written with a mythic style to rival any Homeric epic. While I scoffed at talk of a movie based on the character in the early 1980s, the John Milius film "Conan The Barbarian" with Arnold Schwarzenegger shut me up fast. Written by Milius and Oliver Stone the movie was and is a stunning success - great writing, powerful music, and bold action. The sequel which followed a few years later was not. It was gutter trash.

Hollywood is trying to tackle the tales of Conan again this summer, but given the writers for this new version are the same writers for such terrible movies as "Sahara", "Dylan Dog" and the incredibly butchered Ray Bradbury short story "The Delicate Sound of Thunder", this new 3-D Conan has most fanboys in doubting mode. One plus is that actor Stephen Lang (who can bring excellence to even the worst of movies/roles) is playing the villain of the piece, but a huge minus is the director here is Marcus Nispel, who has trotted some terrible remakes in recent years - the "Friday the 13th" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movies.

A new preview of the Conan film is online, which you can watch here. Looks kinda weak.

But there's just no way the crew for this version can touch the mighty epic of the original.


More swordplay is offered in the samurai action movie "13 Assassins" by director Takashi Miike. It's a remake too, based on a 1963 film, about a small group of warriors who take on an entire army. Miike's version boasts a 45-minute battle sequence which has fanboys around the internet stunned:

In an age where even the practical effects of corn syrup blood spatter have been traded for CGI (Ninja Assassin, looking at you), it’s unthinkable that a director would film a fight sequence which relies almost exclusively on practical effects, choreography and (gasp!) good old fashioned acting. The fact that this same fight sequence goes on for 45 minutes is just plain mind-blowing -- and that’s exactly how it feels when you watch it. 13 guys with swords versus 200 guys with swords, set in the streets of a small village: you watch the entire thing play out from the first slice to the last cut."

Here's a trailer.


Just arrived on DVD is this year's winner for Great Title and Horrible Movie all rolled into one -- "Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula". No reason to watch it really, but notable for being ... well, for being a strange title with nothing worthwhile to back it up.

Well, since Hollywood has already gone into a big bucks production of the book "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", I'd say we can expect more such titles. Here's a video promoting the book:


I dived deep into my nerdy heart when I saw the following trailer for a new video game -- it's "Call of the Dead", a variation in the Call of Duty military-themed video game franchise. For this new adventure, the set up is wildly off kilter.

It begins on the set of a movie being made by King o' Zombie movies George Romero, and the stars are (swoon) Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy for those in the know), Danny Trejo ("Machete"), Robert Englund (the Freddy Krueger) and Michael Rooker (from "The Walking Dead"). Without warning, the movie gets invaded by real zombies and they attack and haul of Romero. And just as quick, these Hollywood actors weapon-up and go on a gory attack.

Yes, it is silly and stupid and without value. And yes, I can't wait to play it. Here's a trailer for the video game which hit stores this week.

Bonus: a NSFW peek at how the game starts out, complete with bad puns.


Finally, a slab of good news for Quentin Tarantino fans - he's leaked the title and script for his next film, a full blown Western called "Django Unchained".

The character of Django was a staple in the early 1960s spaghetti westerns and was played (usually) by Franco Nero, and had a reputation for being quite violent.

Tarantino toyed with the Django name before in the Takashi Miike movie "Sukyaki Western Django".

At Obsessed With Film, they offer a lengthy review of the script and the casting ideas - which includes actor Christopher Waltz from "Inglorious Basterds").

So, we heard last week that the 7th movie from the legendary writer/director Quentin Tarantino will be Django Unchained, a Sergio Leone/Sergio Corbucci style Spaghetti Western homage that will tackle 19th century American black slavery head-on and without much sugar-coating. The movie would be centered around Django, a black slave who becomes gunslinger when freed by a German bounty hunter who takes our title character under his wing, shows him the ropes of contract killing, then helps Django find his enslaved wife who is under the control of an evil plantation owner."

I'm such a lunatic fan for Tarantino, I'd even watch "Glee" if he directed an episode ... well, maybe ...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Legislators Still Pushing Law to Shorten Foreclosure Time

State legislators are continuing their push for legislation to change foreclosure laws in Tennessee which will shorten the time it takes to foreclose on homeowners - even though the Tennessee Bankers Association, which created the legislation, denies any such move to shorten that time.

I've written about this here and here, and have received a few emails from the TBA's attorneys claiming I'm demonizing them and lying to readers. They paint this legislation as merely a battle between banks and newspapers, a claim which just doesn't hold up.

Legislation titled HB 1920 and SB 1299 originally planned to change the law so that only one public notice of foreclosure be published instead of the current 3 times law established, and now they have amended it to require only 2 notices. The TBA also claims the costs of publishing such notices are too high - citing a cost of $2500, though newspaper publishers cite the average costs of about $250.

The fact is that the current law, TCA 35-5-104 A(2) defines the description required for public notice publication as : "Describe the land in brief terms, including the street address if available."

So it seems clear to me the attorneys working for banks have created a system where the longest possible descriptions are offered, which increases attorney fees and the cost of publication. That is not a homeowners decision nor is it a decision of newspapers.

Opposition to this legislation does come from newspaper publishers, true, but as noted in an email I received from Daily Times publisher Eric Barnes, many other groups oppose it as well. He writes:

"The Land Title Association, the Bar Association, the Press Association and a variety of consumer groups are opposed to the bill.

We are opposed to the bill for many reasons:

- At 1 newspaper notice, Tennessee would have the lowest standard for public disclosure in the country, putting us below West Virginia, which requires only 2 notices. Many states require 4 or more.

- Public notice is not just about notifying the homeowner; it’s about notifying:

- Neighbors whose property values are inextricably tied to the neighborhood,

- Family members who may be unaware of the financial problems of a parent or grandparent,

- Non-profits and other entities who may be able to help a homeowner avoid foreclosure,

- Municipalities, neighborhood associations and CDC’s who are on the lookout for the blight and crime that is too often a result of foreclosures.

- The bankers claim no one reads the notices; in fact, they do. We get calls and emails every day from people about our notices, whether they’ve seen them in print, online, or in an email. However, a stripped down notice with a just a book and page number would render those notices almost meaningless.

- While there are a handful of examples of newspapers charging onerous amounts for notices, in truth the statewide average is less than $250/notice. And that price is falling."

Also opposed -

Former legislator Susan Lynn, who writes:

This is not a conservative or liberal issue, but one of fairness. A property owner deserves to get the best price for their home in a forced sale. The public deserves to know that a government-proscribed procedure, foreclosure, is creating an opportunity. In return, the bank is deemed to have acted in good faith when foreclosing on a home."

Nancy Releford of the Home Equity Mortgage LLC

"Tennessee is going against national trends to protect the consumer and granting special favors to banks ..."

Mortgage attorney Webb Brewer, who writes:

"Reduction in the publication of notices of foreclosure would also reduce the number of people who might come to a foreclosure sale to bid on the property if a homeowner is not able to avert the sale. Since Tennessee law allows a mortgage lender to collect the difference between the amount owed on a loan and the foreclosure sale price minus expenses, it is in the consumer’s best interest for the sale to bring the highest possible price. Currently, in most cases mortgage companies purchase the properties they foreclose on for far less than the real value of the property, leaving a large deficiency. The bills under contemplation would make this situation worse."

Despite these concerns, the legislation moves forward. The TBA claims "shorter notices help everyone" and:

anks do not want to be in the real estate business."

And yet, they are indeed in such a business.

The only way to slow it down or have it further debated - you have to get involved and contact your representatives and senators. The directory for Senators is here, for Representatives here, legislators is here and I urge you to contact them today.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Dawn of a New Day?

One aspect which struck me hardest last night as news unfolded that US forces had located and stormed the plush mansion compound where the Al Quaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was hidden, and that he had been killed in a firefight - the mostly youthful faces of those out in front of the White House and on the streets of Manahattan and around the nation.

So many celebrating the news were in the early to late twenties, and for that group most of all, Bin Laden has been the giant villain to end all villains. Since they have been children - nine, ten, eleven years old - the evil terrorist and his network of killers has held enormous influence. They essentially have grown up in a grim world terrorism and Bin Laden had created and on the evening of May 1st, 2011 that world changed again.

For many thousands of young people in the Middle East - in Egypt, Libya, and more - the terrorist was already irrelevant as the protests and demands of a younger generation pushed to end dictatorships and seek a more democratic and more free world.

Certainly, terrorism will remain a fact of life for far too many people. But for now, a brighter future has been seen and felt for the first time in nearly a decade and we all hope this is the future which flourishes.