Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Supersizers Go


Currently, I only have 5 unfinished reviews in my drafts, which is pretty great. That does not count all the reviews I discarded in a fit of rage, but who's counting? I've swept the floor, trimmed the dog's toenails, made some soup, well, probably not in that order, but you get the idea. All of these things have been done to keep me from finishing any of those reviews.

Instead, I'm going to knock out this brief review of the television program The Supersizers Go.

Actually, what I'm going to do first is complain about my upcoming trip to Hollywood. Now, don't get excited. It's a stupid business trip, and under no circumstances do I want to go. I'm going to be trapped in all sorts of meetings and conferences from sun-up to sundown, and it's going to be an enormous drag.

To make matters worse, I'm going to be right there on Hollywood Boulevard, trapped in a corporate meeting, forced to eat an inane cheese sandwich, which I was absurdly demanded I order nearly two weeks in advance, and it's not going to be any fun whatsoever. The genius who thought up the idea to proactively order lunch obviously has no idea who they're dealing with. I have the attention span of a gnat, so expect me to change my mind fourteen times on what I want to eat for lunch. I should never have ordered a cheese sandwich. I really should have ordered something else. I was sent a picture-less menu in advance with a deadline. I had a week to think about it. Obviously, I decided at the last moment in a panic, and now I'm filled with cheesy regrets. Why couldn't we have ordered when we arrived? Is this not the Internet Age? Why was this a huge deal? My mind is in a spin. I haven't even had this sandwich yet, and I'm positively sick of it. I'm going to have to blink at people in a corporate setting while eating a soggy cheese sandwich I started hating more than 13 days ago. I have no control over my life.

The sandwich isn't important right now.

Because I'm very sensible, I've prepared for my trip by purchasing outlandish footwear and 80s gothic t-shirts, because I've been told I have to dress business casual and wear a button-down shirt, and I have to wear comfortable shoes, and no one tells me what to wear, and no one tells me to be comfortable. I've never been comfortable in my life, and I'm not starting now. Shoes aren't meant to be comfortable, they're supposed to startle and confuse people, well, at least the pairs I always buy.

I'm going to do business like I always do business, which I suppose means I'm going to be disturbing, alarming, and disruptive, and I'll be doing team building exercises looking like a bearded Nick Cave.

Yes, let's do that trust fall. I'll totally catch you. Don't I look trustworthy?

If I'm allowed to escape, I'm going total tourist on this trip, so if there's any way I can get down to Panpipes Magical Marketplace, I'm going to, which is right down the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where I'll be chasing the ghost of Montgomery Clift until all hours, and I might check out Beetle House LA, which is the Beetlejuice themed nightclub and bar, because like just like Mount Everest, I'll go because it's there. These are things that must be done, because I've been to Los Angeles several times, and every time it has sucked. Meetings upon meetings upon meetings. It was just awful. If you were to quiz me on Los Angeles after any of my business trips, I would have to say it's full of chafing dishes.

Because I'm me, I'll probably stage a mutiny during those team building exercises, and drag everyone down to see William Shatner's star on the Walk Of Fame just to be a jerk and to walk off the bloat of that cheese sandwich. I have zero tolerance for corporately mandated fun, and as Groucho Marx said, 'I wouldn't want to be a member of a team that would involve any sort of team building', although I might be paraphrasing, but that's not really what we should be focusing on. I'm going on a really lame trip, and it's going to be tedious and awful unless I do something drastic and cheesy and mutinous. So if I have to go, I'm going all out. But I'd really rather not go.

Speaking of going, let's get back to The Supersizers Go. Sue from The Great British Bake Off relives moments of British history through its food and clothing, and it's absolutely hysterical. Medieval, Restoration, Edwardian, and even the Eighties, are all experienced through period dishes and fashion, and many animals are eaten, and several are sewn together to create entirely new ones, which is ghastly.

The Medieval version of a Turducken.

The banter flies fast and furious, with Sue describing a cake by saying, 'This sponge has the ping and spring of a Jayne Mansfield hooter', and I'm certainly not going to argue with her about it. Sun-dried tomatoes are eaten, Sue regrets some fondue, and the dulcet tones of Spandau Ballet are heard, but don't let that put you off. It's very funny and informative.



Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave


I'm not really one to go into New Year's resolutions, because I think I'm already pretty great, and I don't need much improvement. In fact, I would consider myself a genius, and someone who's pretty stable. Having said that, I'm going to forget I said that, and explain my New Year's resolutions, which involve a lot of self-improvement. Many times last year, I said I would try to post more reviews. Forget I said that. Sure, you could easily look and see that my number of posts were the fewest since the beginning of this blog, but that's not important right now. What is important is that I'm going to post more from now on, but don't hold me to that, because I could easily change my mind. 2018's posts will be the very best ever, as long as you don't look too deeply.

The following post is a review from October I abandoned. It's probably the best of all the posts from last year I abandoned, which certainly isn't saying much, but ignore I said that. Here it is, it exists. Just ignore all the incomplete thoughts, non sequiturs, and 180 degree turns. It's fine. In fact, it's better than fine. It's the best.

Oh yeah, forget I said anything about New Year's resolutions. I need no improvement, and you can't prove it.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave


No one comes to a church because it caught a bad case of the draculas. A buxom dead chick dangles from a church bell because that's the best place to hide them, I suppose. Inexplicable, random, low-lying fog appears. An elderly monsignor climbs up a mountain carrying an absurdly large golden cross, and his companion, a priestly weakling, flops about. Varying stock lightning occurs, along with varying European villages.

Dracula forces the timid priest to dump a rotten corpse out of coffin so Ol' Drac has a place to sleep, which was actually pretty sweet. Then there's a dreary discussion about a spilled beer. The hero has a anachronistic Roger Daltry-esque haircut, which distracts. A grown woman attempt to sleep with a porcelain doll, then climbs absurdly high rooftops. Someone has several 'shnaps'. Dracula lurks about and glares, and little else.

The movie continues with carriage rides, walking, and multiple rooftops. Finally, Drac gets stabbed a few times, falls, bleeds from the eyes, but forgets to change into a bat to escape his fate.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is a Hammer film, which is about the best thing going for it, and makes it light-years better than any of the Twilight films, which isn't saying much.



In case you missed it, I rambled on about the sci-fi film Taking Earth over at Cultured Vultures. Check it out.


Monday, December 25, 2017

Streaming Wonderland


In lieu of doing any of the things I really should be doing, which is finishing any of the partially completed reviews that are piling up in my drafts, and in between slices of rum torte and way too many Bohme Weinbrand Kirschen, I stumbled upon the most fascinating streaming programs on the Hulu, but then again, it could be the liquor talking. 


As I was beginning this portion of this ridiculous holiday post, I realized that our beagle, William Henry Harrison, peed in our laundry basket, then I noticed someone left a plastic bag filled with excrement covered infant clothing in my kitchen. This was not a pleasant holiday surprise, and then I was forced to sterilize my entire life.


Puppies Crash Christmas is a short film where naughty puppies ransack a prepared holiday set. Dogs eat gingerbread houses, lap at enormous punchbowls of eggnog, and discreetly crap amongst extravagant holiday packages which they happily shredded. It was adorable, and set up the day for continuous Dadaesque programming.



The least successful of these absurd programs, Gingerbread Home Remodel features a static camera placed before a gingerbread house at a holiday office party, as revelers tear off bits of the pastry. I recently spoke with someone about how the best part of any holiday party is the ghosting, where one appears at the party and then abruptly leaves without a goodbye. It's the perfect alibi, where one can claim they were at the party, but not suffer through the exhausting horror of actually being at the party. Anyway, I disliked this program because I couldn't actually leave from it. That was kind of a lie, I left the room several times for more cake.


One of the more enjoyable entries in the series because a home intruder appears to be trapped in a chimney gifting the viewer some unexpected Xmas schadenfreude, Stuck Santa is nearly an hour of booted feet dangling from a fireplace as the hapless intruder weakly cries for help or exclaims in a muffled voice, "I hate the tiny house movement!". Occasionally the boots kick, or tools and presents drop from the chimney, breaking the monotony.



In this Warhol-esque entry, a static camera is positioned in front of an herb-encrusted roast beast surrounded by red-skinned potatoes as it cooks for 52 minutes, with nothing but the ambient sound of the oven's thermostat adjusting the roasting temperature. Much like Warhol's Empire, nothing happens, that is until oven-mitted hands retrieve the finished dish. 


And finally, Two Tickets To Christmastown is another static camera program, this time it is placed beneath a Christmas tree with a roaring fireplace in the background, as a miniature toy train circles around the presents beneath the tree for nearly an hour. Mrs. Deathrage demands that I mention the extremely shallow depth of field.

I'm contemplating watching the other programs, the one about sap and the other about thermostats, but I think I'll get another slice or two of the rum torte first.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Haunting On Washington Avenue: The Temple Theatre


Investigators explore the Temple Theater in Saginaw, Michigan and discover paranormal phenomena in this ghost hunting documentary.

Staged in a compelling, unhurried, direct format with long takes and few of the quick edits and jarring sound effects found in paranormal programs, A Haunting On Washington Avenue: The Temple Theatre presents supposed evidence of hauntings in a matter-of-fact, take-it-or-leave-it manner, which when taken at face value*, generates some genuine chills.

Featuring footage of someone walking through a soggy bootlegging tunnel beneath the theatre utilizing night vision cameras, the capturing of supposed spirit orbs, and the recording of whispered environmental voice phenomena, which are all standard tropes for this type of program, the film is edited in a way that heightens tension and reluctantly pulls the viewer in. In a startling scene, an investigator looks down a backstage hallway with a lone dressing room light on at the end. The door suddenly slams, extinguishing the light.

In a particularly alarming scene, a static infrared camera is placed in a deserted restroom. Shooting down a long row of ornate mirrors as cheesy, orchestral muzak plays quietly in the background, a stall door seemingly unlatches itself, and opens and closes. No voiceover narration, the camera just documents the action. The disembodied, piped-in, easy listening music** adds a sense of the uncanny.



Honestly, without the music, the scene in the restroom would've been just another supposed ghost clip. The music made it surprisingly eerie***.

Don't talk to me about special effects, or not-so-special effects, because I know. Any number of special effects could have been used to create the alleged ghost activity in both scenes, from strings to a dude standing in the stall to CGI. The result is the same, which is me second guessing whether or not I really needed to get another snack cake out of my dark pantry at midnight. I did, of course. I'll punch a whole cluster of ghosts in their faces if they're thinking about stopping me from getting another snack cake****, *****.


*Disclaimer: As far as I know, there is little evidence to prove the existence of ghosts.

**Disclaimer: As far as I know, the music of Mr. Acker Bilk was not playing in the haunted restroom.

***Disclaimer: As far as I know, the ghost of Mr. Acker Bilk is not haunting the restroom of the Temple Theatre.

****Disclaimer: As far as I know, the ghost of Mr. Acker Bilk is not haunting my pantry.

*****Disclaimer: If the ghost of Mr. Acker Bilk exists, and in the extreme off-chance he is haunting my pantry, he may not have any of my snack cakes.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Movies I didn't watch

Yes, I realize I've posted nothing the entire month of October. I don't have an excuse, really, other than I've been busy eating Little Debbie Fall Cakes and Palmer chocolate eyeballs, and watching television programs that I really don't have time for.


Inexplicably, my TV plays the sounds and images of professional sports, which I do not condone. 



Often, my TV seems to play programs I would never choose for myself. The only rational explanation for these mysterious events is that my television is haunted, and not in a good way.




In between moments of spiritual possession, my television played the following films and shows, and I didn't finish watching them:


Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood




Lately, I'm watching a lot more Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood than I care to admit. In case you're wondering, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is a TV show for children where the lead character, a young tiger, learns a valuable lesson, which is something that I frown upon. No one, and I mean no one, is going to teach me a valuable lesson.

Beachfront Bargain Hunt

More often than not, I'm forced to watch something called Beachfront Bargain Hunt. I don't really care much for the beach, I hate having sand stuck to me, I often overpay for things, and I dislike most people. I certainly do not want to watch beach enthusiasts haggle for real estate. 


Dracula


TCM's Monster Of The Month is Dracula, so they've been playing vampire movies every Sunday in October. As I was watching Dracula for the billionth time, a strange sound compelled me to go to the basement.


No, not that sound. The sound of the dryer's buzzer, signaling that my laundry was done. When I returned, the film was over because of course it was, my life is now a Daniel Tiger-filled nightmare, and I have very little control over my own circumstances.

Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula


I wish I had a good reason for not finishing this film, but I don't really, other than I've seen it before, it wasn't very good, and it wasn't nearly as awful as Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, which I reviewed here:

http://stabforddeathrage.blogspot.com/2011/09/jesse-james-meets-frankensteins.html





Dracula's Daughter




Immediately following several moments of comic relief, Dracula's corpse is burned with salt amidst a foggy atmosphere. Fully cloaked from head to toe, and false eyelashed within an inch of her life, Dracula's Daughter reprises the iconic line, 'I never drink...wine.'  After receiving some psychiatric help, Dracula's Daughter offers her female victim a sandwich, then asks her to remover her blouse. Featuring distracting music and distracting daylight, Dracula's Daughter lacks the oppressive gloom of the original Dracula, but it certainly has its moments, and lots of subtext.



Suspiria


Incredibly stylish, slow-moving, lurid, ridiculous, and amazing, Suspiria features elegant satin dresses, high heels, and extravagant hairstyles amidst impossible, surreal sets, filmed in deeply saturated Technicolor in cool aquamarines, sapphire blues, glittering metallic gold, and deep, blood red.

What's happening, what is everyone talking about? Unknown, but it doesn't matter, since the soundtrack howls and gasps as women are murdered by hairy armed attackers. Who wouldn't love that? Unfortunately, my son-in-law didn't, and he politely asked me if we could stop watching Suspiria just before it gets totally freaky.

No, I can't believe it, either.





There is one last thing I'd like to complain about before October is over. I recently purchased a bag of Hershey's Dark Chocolate Miniatures, which on paper sounds like the most absolutely perfect thing ever. No longer will one have to be plagued by Mr. Goodbars. It's all Special Dark bars.


Sadly, this is a bag filled with lies and despair. If you thought you were going to escape Mr. Goodbars, you have another think coming. Just as in the Classic Miniatures bag, the number one ingredient in the Special Dark bag are Special Dark Mr. Goodbars, which are only marginally better than regular old ordinary hideous Mr. Goodbars, so I'm pretty furious about that, but I ate them anyway out of fury and spite. 





Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stealing Charlie Chaplin


I had the following conversation with Mrs. Deathrage about this documentary:

Me: I fell asleep watching this documentary last night, and I'd like to finish it. It's about that one time someone stole the corpse of Charlie Chaplin and held it for ransom.
Mrs. Deathrage, unblinking, daring me to scoff at her absurdity: That doesn't sound very interesting.

Utilizing interviews of various vintages, news footage from the period, and brief clips from his films, Stealing Charlie Chaplin examines the ghoulish two month period following Chaplin's death where inept bodysnatchers unearthed his simple wooden coffin from its grave in Switzerland and extorted his widow. 

The documentary stretches for time by recounting Chaplin's career; after being placed into a destitute home as a child and the deaths of his parents, Chaplin busked and pantomimed, being discovered by Keystone and becoming one's the world's greatest filmmakers. As his career waned, he was accused of sympathizing with communists and was investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and was involved in a paternity suit orchestrated by the FBI. President Hoover and Senator McCarthy banned him from America, and revoked his visa. 

One rainy night nine weeks after his death, Chaplin's grave was disturbed, and his coffin stolen. Neo-Nazis were initially thought to be the ones to blame, stealing his corpse in response to his film The Great Dictator.


The documentary goes at length discussing the minutia of the ploy to capture the criminals while paying the ransom, where a police officer would drive Chaplin's Rolls disguised as a chauffeur wearing a Swiss Air Uniform.

Overlong and slow-moving, Stealing Charlie Chaplin could easily have been condensed to a short, but it's still a lurid, fascinating subject, no matter what Mrs. Deathrage thinks.

Don't tell her I said that. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Blackwell Ghost


A self-deprecating filmmaker decides to abandon zombie films for ghost hunting, and finds he's terrified of fairly standard haunted house tropes in this documentary-style horror film. After viewing a couple of not-especially compelling ghost videos on Youtube, the filmmaker flies a plane to Pennsylvania, where he interviews a homeowner who captured footage of a supposed full-body apparition meandering through his dining room. As luck would have it, the home has a dank basement with a "well" covered by a heavy iron lid with the word "sewer" on it, where a legend says that a crazy woman dismembered children and tossed their remains within it. 

The filmmaker and his wife take up the owner's completely-not-creepy offer to spend three nights alone in the house, and they set up apps, cameras, and a trigger object and wait for results. During the night, the couple awakens to find the basement door mysteriously open, but of all the haunted places in the house, they neglected to place a camera on the possible source of the phenomena. Newbie mistake, or plot device? 

The next evening, they awaken in the night to a house filled with smoke, as the oven and all the stovetop burners were on. Not sure if that would cause smoke, though. I guess that would depend of the cleanliness of the homeowner's oven or the special effects department. The filmmaker does some research, and finds a newspaper article backing up claims of murder. Because he felt like getting suffocated by sewer gases, the filmmaker opens the well, because why not. Suddenly, all the equipments' batteries are drained, the lights go out (although one lone continuity-defying night vision light remains on), and the haunting hits a fever pitch. 

The Blackwell Ghost consists of interviews, selfies, emails, cellphone usage, computing, flight footage, muffled onboard microphone usage, shaky cam, one seemingly annoyed wife, and very little ghost footage. Brief at less than an hour, it's mostly irritating when we're forced to watch cellphone footage, but has a compelling quality about it when the film gets down to the actual ghost hunt. It also raises a couple of observations. One, no matter the quality of 'evidence', there will still be disbelievers, particularly if you already have a career as an effects-heavy filmmaker, whether it's in ghost hunting, climate change, science, politics, or what have you. And two, what noises in someone's house can be attributed to spectral phenomena, and what can be attributed to faulty wiring, the expansion and contraction of old wood, absent-mindedness, overactive imaginations, or the effects of gravity on clutter? When the filmmaker is conducting his walk-through of the house, the owner describes the alleged spirit climbing the stairs and the accompanying creaky sound. The wife shrugs this off, saying houses often make noise, which is true.

After viewing The Blackwell Ghost, I decided to prepare dinner. I thought to myself, "Odd noises don't happen where I live. Noises have a reasonable explanation. Usually, it's because something expensive needs to be repaired."

At that exact moment, an unexplained noise occurred, as if something moderately heavy fell somewhere in the depths of my abode. My dog, sitting in his usual place, dangerously underfoot as I cook, looked in the direction of the noise, and then looked up at me with an expression of wonderment. I said, "Yeah, buddy. I heard that, too."

After an investigation into the source of the sound, as if we were Scooby Too and Shaggy, I have no idea what it was, or what caused it. This does not mean my home is haunted, but it does seem to contain some amount of gravity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDmE0zv2oo4