Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Normally here I would do a quick summary of the film I'm going to review. I'm not going to do that, because I assume you've heard of the two frowning superdudes pictured above.

So, here we go. Let's pretend for a moment you're unfamiliar with the origins of Batman, because honestly, DC seems to think you've been in a cave for the past 80 years, which requires yet another filmic recap of how Bruce Wayne became Batman. In fact, there's a show on TV doing just that, explaining the origin of Batman and it's taking nearly forever. Plus, it's free, and you don't have to go to the theater and spend $10 on popcorn. Just turn on the TV, and there it is. Did I happen to mention this film is 3 hours long? Any Batman origin should absolutely be left on the cutting room floor. No one needs it, especially when your butt is falling asleep.

I'm going to admit that I didn't see Man Of Steel, and I assume that Batman Vs. Superman is a continuation of that film. I'm just not a fan of Supes, and I'm even less a fan of a dour, megalomaniacal, fascist Superman. Look, I don't want to suggest that we go back to the silly '50s and '60s Superman, you know, like the issue where he battles Dr. Supernatural and his Execution Buzzard.

Actually, I think I would rather see '60s Supes battle a buzzard than Modern Mopey Supes battling Twitchy Luthor any day. More on that later. These modern, 'adult' versions of these heroes are boring and angsty and seem to take a lot of baths, and it's somewhat of a rip-off. Don't you remember heading out to purchase a Batman action figure when you were younger, or back in 1997, or last week, or whatever, and they didn't have any 'classic' Batman figures and they only had Battle Board Batman and his stupid pastel purple suit?

Yeah, that. It's dumb. I'm not an obsessive fanboy demanding 80 years of canonical backstory. Put someone in the suit, put the suit in the car, and save the freakin' world. That's all I ask. And not The Tumbler. I mean the freakin' Batmobile. It's. Not. That. Hard.

Speaking of saving the world, there's a thrilling sequence in this film where Supes battles an alien, resulting in mass destruction. Does it have anything to do with the Man Of Steel? I don't know. It was an exciting scene, and since it was an exciting scene, it's over pretty quickly. Then Twitchy Lex Luthor appears. Why is Jesse Eisenberg in this film? I like him. He was great in The Social Network. He is astonishingly miscast as Luthor. He twitches and spouts non sequiturs, and appears to have attended several classes at the Johnny Depp Acting School, where no take is a good take unless it's a triple take.

And of course, Wayne Manor is in ruin, which is a slight step up from always being infiltrated in the movies. And Batman has premonitions about a future dystopia where Supes is a fascist because of course he does. That's one of Bats' many superpowers. And don't forget the gadgets! Batman uses a blinking transponder to locate Kryptonite, yet it was right there in LexCorp all along. I certainly wouldn't want to be the guy to explain to Batman that the thing that could kill Superman is probably concealed at the lair of his archenemy, because heck, what do I know?

Convoluted, slow-moving, unnecessarily long, and very, very serious, Superman Vs. Batman: Dawn Of Justice plays like dozens of tiny, ponderous, barely-connected mini-movies, all of which are dreary. Thrilling and terrible in equal measure, the thrills are almost instantly forgotten once they're over. It's no fun. It does have the very best CGI money can buy, well, except for that moment with Supes in space, which was embarrassing. Oh yeah, I forgot. The Justice League makes a pointless money grab of a cameo, and it's a huge letdown. However, any scene featuring Wonder Woman is fantastic, and there's not nearly enough of her. You know what they should do? Make a movie about her.

Head over to Cultured Vultures, where I complained about the film Most Likely To Die.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

UFO Secret: The Friendship Case

Models of UFOs dangle from strings in this speculative paranormal documentary. Two groups of extraterrestrials battle over the hearts and minds of Italian UFO experiencers, the W56 are the good ones, the CTR are the bad ones. Fruit gets teleported, TV programs get interrupted, and advanced alien communication devices get implanted in the paws of dogs at the beach. I'm not sure why. Suddenly, an ancient letter from Voltaire to the Count of St. Germain is submitted as evidence, where Voltaire speaks of 'talking pictures' and 'flying machines', which while compelling, doesn't really substantiate much. I don't know an awful lot about UFOs, advanced alien communication devices, or teleported fruit, but it only took me about 5 seconds to discredit the Count of St. Germain as a reputable source for anything, as Wikipedia claims Casanova called him 'a celebrated and learned imposter'. I'm not really sure what any of these guys have to do with UFOs, but I always liked this track by St. Germain.

I'm open minded about dog's paws, disappearing fruit, 18th-century philosophers, and house musicians, but I don't think they have much to do with UFOs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My bus runneth over

Music has saved my life, and it's let me down. More often than not, it's gotten me through some tough times. 2016 has been one of those tough times. Music has always been an escape for me. It's taken me places I never thought I'd go. I've seen things I'd never thought I'd see.

I've said it before. Viewing the film Urgh! A Music War for the first time was one of those 'Music saved my life' moments. Without it, my life would be vastly different. Adrift in a sea of conformity, miles from the nearest shore, Urgh! showed me that there was something else on the horizon. It showed me there are Others out there. I'm not alone.

Lately, music hasn't helped. Movies haven't helped. Certainly the boxes of snack cakes haven't helped. The only thing that helps is the refresh button on the social media platform.

I press the button over and over in stark terror. I read the words. I go down the rabbit hole. I don't emerge.

It's illogical. Even when I say, "I'm not getting on the social media platform", I somehow find myself on it, and the next thing you know, I'm reading an article on the roots of Italian fascism, my face clenched in a knot, my fist in a bag of chocolate mini donuts.

I am an addict, and I'm addicted to current events. My particular brand is politics. Articles on the  spread of fascism is my weakness. I've let everything go. I'm struggling, and there is no cure.

It's fine. I'll just close out my tabs, and turn up the volume.

Whew, am I glad I got that off my chest! I feel a bit better.

BTW, between posting that Motorhead video and writing that sentence, I checked Facebook and nearly read another article on fascism. Baby steps, I guess.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sharknado 4

I spent valuable time on July 31st watching the premiere of Sharknado 4 on Sci-Fi, took copious notes, ate dinner, wrote up the notes, and then abandoned the review. Why bother, I thought? I knew Sharknado 4 was going to be terrible. You know it's terrible. Everyone knows it's terrible. Well, in spite of knowing these things, here is the review. Don't forget, some of the stuff I talk about happened that evening, so your results may vary.

5 years after Sharknado 3, which ended enigmatically with the apparent death of the Tara Reid character; Carrot Top, Vince Neil, a ghoulish Wayne Newton are attacked by sharks at a shark-themed hotel in Las Vegas. Why is there a shark-themed hotel in Las Vegas? Who cares, really. Family members are introduced, who may or may not have been in the first films, but none of them are particularly interesting. A newlywed son and his bride attempt a post-nuptial poolside plunge via parachute when threatened by a Vegas dust tornado, which surprisingly enough heads for the shark hotel because of course it does. Chippendales dancers come to the rescue, but too late to save Carrot Top. People scream, run, and unconvincingly die amidst various shark catastrophes, product placement, and celebrity cameos. Meanwhile, I had a disappointing microwave enchilada meal. I knew very good and well it was going to disappoint me, and I begrudgingly ate it anyway, which is exactly how I feel watching this film and we aren't even to the credits yet. Then David Hasselhoff wears a jetpack.

Suddenly, and with very little warning, Gary Busey appears as a mad scientist, and then Tara Reid appears, dragging a suped-up hot rod by a rope because she's now a leather-clad Bionic Woman. She is no Lindsay Wagner.

Things explode, sharks get punched, and I think I'm supposed to know who all these C-list celebrities are. I don't. Then I watched a couple of commercials for Old Spice and POM pomegranate juice, both of which had better special effects and more compelling storylines than any of the Sharknado films.

In a desperate attempt to make anything tornado-related, there's a bouldernado, an oilnado, a lightningnado, and a nuclearnado, none of which are very compelling. Tara Reid and David Hasselhoff both attempt to unconvincingly run, and Stacey Dash attempts to act, and all three needed stunt doubles. Steve Guttenberg shows up promoting his giant tarantula movie driving the car from the film Christine, and sharks get embedded in the world's largest ball of twine.  I'm not sure why.

Suddenly, there's a half-hearted Baywatch reunion, sharks and family members turn into aquatic Russian nesting dolls, a child goes over Niagara Falls in a barrel, Ian Ziering is resuscitated using miniature sharks as defibrillators, and Tara Reid flies and shoots beams from her hands. I'm not sure why.

Sharknado 4 is dumb, boring, tedious, unfocused, and obviously phoned in for cash. Stuff just seems to happen. Just when it seems as though Sci-Fi is going to nail the coffin closed on the franchise, they leave the door open yet again for another installment. Maybe we can all get together and fund a Kickstarter to keep Sci-Fi from making another one.

Check out my review of Little Blue Truck's Halloween at Winkbooks.

And I said some things about the speculative documentary Bigfoot from 1997 at Cultured Vultures.

And I said some unkind things about the Nicolas Cage film The Wicker Man.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October on TCM

In between scoops of cheesy popcorn, handfuls of Halloween Oreos, and clips of dark ambient group Deathprod, I watched a few films on TCM.

I like music that sounds like it's crawling out from under the bed.

Anyway, yes, I know we got rid of the Dish several years ago, but Mrs. Deathrage needed to watch the Olympics. I find sports to be extremely inconveniencing. Since the Olympics ended, we forgot we had the Dish. Someone on Twitter mentioned that TCM was showing monster movies during October, so I put everything off to watch some movies I've already seen.

Although slow to get started, The Curse Of Frankenstein reboots the iconic monster successfully thanks to the addition of a bit of gore. The reveal of the monster's hideously scarred face still shocks.

The Curse Of Frankenstein's sequel is far less successful, mostly due to the lack of Christopher Lee as the monster and few scares.

Atmospheric and with a fog budget in the tens of dollars, Horror Hotel features witches, hooded acolytes, ritual sacrifice, and a gender-reversed Resurrection Mary. The ending is rushed and doesn't make a lot of sense, but its foggy, cobweb-strewn occultism is surprisingly fun.

I have a love-hate relationship with Horror Express. It's pretty much The Love Boat, only it takes place on a speeding train, as a 2 million year-old human/alien fossil runs amok. Victims bleed from the eyes, their brains are boiled within their skulls until they are smooth, and Telly Savages gargles. It's just awful, but it fills me with a nostalgia for drive-in theater triple features.

Mrs. Deathrage complained while watching this speculative documentary, saying that it was dumb, that I wasn't really paying attention to it, and that it was ineptly photographed, which sounds like a solid review to me.

Speaking of solid reviews check out my review of the book Little Blue Truck's Halloween over at Winkbooks.

And I said some silly things about the speculative documentary Bigfoot from 1997.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Antonio Gaudi

Wow, has it really been almost three weeks since I last posted? Time certainly does fly. I've been traveling a lot. I just returned from my trip to Canada, where I visited Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Montreal.

Speaking of architecture, while I was in Niagara Falls I had breakfast at the Flying Saucer Restaurant, which is a restaurant shaped like a flying saucer.

I had scrambled eggs, home fries, and toast for $5.99 Canadian, which is either $.67 or $15.00 American. I'm not entirely sure which. I had some difficulty with the conversion, because that's almost math and math is for suckers. I don't have proof, but I don't believe Canadians have toasters, because I think they toast the bread on the same grill they cook everything else on. I was too afraid to ask, because there could have been either E.T.s or Men In Black manning the grill, and I don't have time to be taken to Area 51 for debriefing. It's just conjecture on my part, though. And by 'conjecture' I mean I'm almost certain my toast was buttered in bacon grease, which is fine unless you're vegetarian.

While in Toronto I had a chance to see Buzzcocks perform live, which was pretty sweet.

They were fighty and snotty and sloppy and loud and everything I could've hoped for.

Speaking of more architecture, I didn't take many pictures of buildings while in Toronto, but I took some pictures of sick murals, like this epic skull, which was painted on a dumpster outside our AirBnB.

I highly recommend AirBnB. It's someone else's house, so you feel a little like you're breaking and entering, but you have to clean up after yourself, and you get a glimpse of what other people's Netflix viewing habits are. To clear some questions up; no, I don't often frequent dumpsters or dumpster areas; no, I've never broken and entered; and no, I don't really care what other people's Netflix habits are, though if you must know they consist of episodes of Friends.

When I wasn't hanging around dumpsters, I visited the Bata Show Museum. They have an interesting exhibit going on now called Fashion Victims, which is an exhibition of clothing that could kill you.

The photo above is a Victorian gown in a lovely shade of Arsenic Green. Speaking of things that could kill you, I had some of Canada's infamous ketchup flavored chips, which were as ghastly as they sound, and some cheese curds I purchased from a rest stop, which were surprisingly squeaky to the tooth.

I ate one ketchup chip, which resulted in me tearing out my hair, rending my clothes, and begging and pleading for a comet to destroy the Earth so I wouldn't have to swallow it. I then had to eat 6 Coffee Crisp candy bars to get the flavor out of my mouth.

*Coffee Crisp bars not shown because they were eaten.
*Also, Coffee Crisp bars are wrapped in black packaging and called Coffin Crisp bars for Halloween.
*Coffin Crisp bars not shown because they were eaten.
*Rest stop cheese curds not shown because they were left in the AirBnB refrigerator because of excessive and disconcerting squeakiness.

After visiting Toronto, we stayed a couple of days in Montreal. This is probably going to be somewhat of a shock to you, but they speak French in Montreal, and they mean business about it. French is written on every building, sign, and parking ticket. It's a very pretty city, and nearly all the architecture has a French accent.

We hung around Old Montreal for about a half-an-hour for the architecture. It's very, very touristy, and these boots were worn specifically to keep me from looking like a tourist.

We spent the day at the Montreal Museum Of Fine Art and checked out the Mapplethorpe exhibit. I thought this photo was very nice.

We drank many coffees and had many bagels. We visited the Redpath Museum and looked at all the taxidermy and fossils. And although I hate the outdoors, we visited the Botanical Gardens, where we saw creepy, crawly insects at the Insectarium, and the beautiful illuminated Chinese and Japanese gardens.

So anyway, back to the film. Yeah, you remember. The one about Gaudi.

The works of the Catalonian architect are examined in this beautifully shot documentary. Nearly dialogue-free, the film focuses on the undulating, swirling, organic forms of his architecture. The shell-like, jewel-like, wave-like ornamentation of each structure; the labyrinthine brink columns, the intricate wrought iron work, and broken chunks of colorful ceramic tile and shimmering stained glass, each structure seems alive and breathing, and this poetic film's cinematography gorgeously ponders over each building. The film ends as it details Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. Began in 1882, work on the ornate cathedral is ongoing and scheduled to be completed in, wait for it...2026.

I know, right? That's an awfully long time to work on anything.

Anyway, Antonio Gaudi is a lovely, meditative film, but unfortunately, I can't find a trailer for it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Mum Talks To Aliens

A skeptic son treats his mother who has written several books about aliens like a jerk in this paranormal documentary. A veterinarian son travels with his author mother while she attempts to enlighten him on her career, meanwhile he whines about how embarrassed he is and calls her a loony. In an attempt to justify herself, one of her abductee clients fails a lie detector test, which doesn't bode well for her case. She then attends a UFO debate and sits on a panel with astrophysicists, where she's savaged in front of college students. This causes him to reevaluate his feelings about his mother, and calls her brave in the face of ridicule. She shows him a video of lights in the sky, which confounds him. Playing her final card, the pair meets a man who supposedly has alien DNA evidence, and then they meet an astrophysicist who scans the sky for laser signals from outer space. The man with the alien DNA takes a polygraph test and passes, which perplexes the son further.

Less a story about aliens than it is about the dynamics between an arrogant, disrespectful son and his wide-eyed mother, My Mum Talks With Aliens is a paranormal documentary likely to bore the UFO enthusiast, but might thrill those looking for a familial drama with an extraterrestrial twist. Although the evidence presented in the film is suspect at best, and tries to show her in the best light possible while skirting some unflattering talk of crop circles, the mother seems to be patient, caring, and overly earnest about the subject of UFOs, but is always a professional businesswoman, who clings to an unconventional belief system which threatens her family life, but never thoroughly earns the label of 'loony'. The son comes off as petulant, and seems too easily swayed at lie-detector evidence and inconclusive Youtube UFO footage. I'm glad he came around to a half-hearted appreciation of his mother, in spite of her unscientific beliefs, but she should have stood him in a corner for backtalk and sass long ago.

ICYMI, I reviewed the horror-themed game show Hellevator at Cultured Vultures. You should check it out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Top Spin

The lives of several competitive table tennis players are examined as they head to the Olympics in this sports documentary. Highlighted by dynamic slo-mo footage of table tennis players in action, the intense pressure and grueling workout regimens of these athletes is examined in a day-by-day format until the Olympic Trials. Balancing school and practice, the dedication & sacrifice the athletes endure is remarkable. Illuminating differences in styles of play, techniques in offense and defense, and varying spins on the ball help to clarify misconceptions on a sport that is somewhat obscure in the US, and often just seen as a pastime.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Buddhist Art: A Fragile Inheritance

The preservation of deteriorating Buddhist art is examined in this well-shot documentary. Threatened by both natural and manmade dangers, vulnerable ancient paintings are crumbling into dust from wind, sand, flood, fire, earthquake, salt deposits, and the very act of restoration itself. The devotional art appearing in this documentary is created with 'a pure mind for the greater good', often examining the impermanence of life and its rebirth, and uses ancient illustrations as a guide. The depiction of the gods and saints must be accurate, and the requirements cannot be modified. Therefore, its preservation for future generations is imperative. Through conservation techniques such as salt removal, plaster replacement, reattaching crumbling frescoes with adhesives, and the limiting of tourists to remote religious sites, the race to salvage irreplaceable artwork is shown. Featuring beautifully shot vistas of mountainous terrain, colorful traditional garments, gorgeous temples, twirling prayer wheels, and an intricate dance which destroys evil spirits and generates spiritual benefits to onlookers, Buddhist Art: A Fragile Inheritance is an enlightening look at a serious problem threatening priceless cultural artifacts.

ICYMI, I said dumb stuff about the horror film They're Watching over at Cultured Vultures.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Always For Pleasure

The music and culture of New Orleans is examined in this cheeky documentary. Colorful and humorously shot, Louisiana culture is on display, with a jazz funeral procession, musical performances, singing, dancing, marching, as fellas the glorious folk art. of the region. Andouille, ham hocks, and red beans are prepared. Allan Toussaint and Irma Thomas are interviewed, and Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers perform. Legba is briefly mentioned. And of course, crawfish are boiled. A surprisingly whimsical film, a little girl whizzes by on a skateboard, and the ornate and meaningful costumes of the Wild Tchoupitoulas are created. Gorgeous and joyous, don't pass up Always For Pleasure.

Speaking of passing up something pleasurable, don't forget to check out my review of They're Watching at Cultured Vultures.

I can't really guarantee watching the film or my review will be that pleasurable, though.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Bickering heroes team up to avert a world decimating threat in this entertaining, uneven comic book film. Jumping into the action immediately with a breathless opening sequence, Avengers: The Age Of Ultron wastes no time bringing the viewer up to speed, as though you just received the latest issue of the comic book. Unfortunately, the pace makes action-free scenes plod along, such as the Stark/Banner montage of the origin of Ultron and a dreary party scene.

Thrilling and boring in equal measures, Avengers: Age Of Ultron has the very best CGI there is to offer, a hint of characterization, an over-the-top ending featuring hundreds of robots and a levitating city threatening to crash to extinguish all life on Earth and justifying assembling all these heroes, and a relatively high ratio of Avengers-based destruction. You know, Ultron kind of has a point, that the Avengers often seem like a more immediate threat to life and property than Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, well, other than that whole hovering city business.

Anyway, Avengers: Age Of Ultron wasn't half bad, which is more than can be said for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

 ICYMI, I said a bunch of stuff at Cultured Vultures, and I have a Youtube channel you should check out.

And there's more:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Crazy About Tiffany's

Celebrities, authors, philanthropists and other wealthy people gush over the luxury brand in this well-shot, slick, and extremely tasteful, feature-length advertisement. Examining the history of the iconic store and high-end jeweler, from the origin of the robin's egg blue color used exclusively in its packaging, the world's first catalog The Blue Book, the design and creation of expensive jewelry, and clips from the film "Breakfast At Tiffany's", Crazy About Tiffany's looks very expensive, and the music licensing must've cost a fortune (or at least a few comped blue bags of trinkets).

At the 32-minute mark, there's the first mention of non-wealth, as if there is somehow a world beyond the glittering precious metals sold in the store. Don't worry, it's very brief.

Suddenly, everyone onscreen is somehow surprised to discover the Holly Golightly character in Truman Copote's story is a prostitute. Meanwhile, young girls are indoctrinated into the Tiffany cult. A diamond mine is briefly shown from a distance. No actual mine workers were shown because they probably don't really exist.

At 48 minutes, during a clip of the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, amidst swelling saccharine strings, Patrick Dempsey proposes to Reese Witherspoon in an after-hours Tiffany's as less-than-excited, probably-not-actual employees stand around to wait on them hand-and-foot. I suddenly felt quite queasy.

At 50 minutes, weak criticism is introduced that suggests the brand could be considered passe amongst millennials who feel the store might be stuffy and old-fashioned, but it's quickly pushed aside for more self-promotion.

A beautifully shot, awful, congratulatory corporate cheerleading film with deliriously squealing celebrity shills, Crazy About Tiffany's is just as polished as its overpriced baubles, but that doesn't mean you should buy into it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

UFOs and Prophecies From Outer Space

Prophet Billy Meier's somewhat suspect UFO photos are examined in this dull paranormal documentary. After an assassination attempt and walking away from the French Foreign Legion, Billy Meier claims to have been visiting by extraterrestrials and mentored by an alien named Sfath. Featuring talking head interviews and photos of UFOs dangling suspiciously close to trees, The Billy Meier Story rambles on and on about UFOs and some sort of barely touched upon prophecies. Here's a not-especially compelling clip of a too-good-to-be-true UFO dangling near a tree.

I don't know an awful lot about the motivations of supposed extraterrestrials, but if I was piloting a UFO, I probably wouldn't dangle right there by the one lone tree for miles around because it would certainly look suspicious. I do know a bit about boring movies, and UFOs and Prophecies From Outer Space is as boring as a five minute clip of two pie plates hot glued together and suspended from a string.

ICYMI, I said some stuff about the film Zoombies at Cultured Vultures. Check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2016


People do some vaguely science-fiction-y stuff in this largely incoherent, but fascinating, experimental short film. Featuring a screenplay written by a piece of artificial intelligence named Benjamin, the film is simultaneously self-conscious, humorous, somber, and accidentally poetic, as if Tristan Tzara used predictive text instead of cut-up newspaper to write it. The actors act their lines in earnest, but since the dialogue doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, the words and emotions clash, giving a baffling, dada-esque aura to the film. It's a well-shot and fascinating bit of cinema, mostly due to a sense of surprise to what the program could possibly say next. Sunspring is funny, surreal, and thankfully, brief.

ICYMI, I said some stuff about the zombie film Zoombies at Cultured Vultures. You should check it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ancient Alien Question

A point-by-point rebuttal of Erich Von Daniken's book about UFOs is incoherently presented in this rambling speculative documentary. From the Nazca Lines, geopolymerization, Cargo Cults, standing stones, Crystal Skulls, Nephilim, Dropa Stones, and Timewavezero, and amidst repetitive music, endless narration, wipes, and unimpressive CGI images, suspect evidence proving the ancient colonization of Earth from extraterrestrials is examined, jumping from one example to the next with little framework other than Von Daniken's book Chariots Of The Gods, and it would be extremely helpful to have the tome in hand to follow along. Lots of questions are asked, but I'm not entirely sure what the questions are or if they're thoroughly answered, although a few are half-heartedly debunked. There's an explosion of some sort at the 33-minute mark, but even that manages to bore. 

Did aliens come to Earth and build the pyramids? I don't know, I wasn't there. Maybe, just maybe, the people of the time built the structures they did with the technology they had and the tools and raw materials available to them. Or not. I mean, we have evidence that the pyramids were built, because they're like right there, yet little to no actual evidence of flying saucers. Therefore, it was probably definitely aliens. I mean, they scratched easily-found, way-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere selfies into the Earth in Nazca, and that sounds like solid proof of alien visitation to me.

If I was an ancient alien visiting Earth, with untold futuristic and science-y knowledge, I would probably build something a little more useful than a pyramid or a circle of stones, like a Costco, or an International House Of Pancakes, but what do I know? Aliens didn't have Facebook or LinkedIn back then, so a crystal skull as self-promotion was the next best and logical step. Duh. Call me conceited, but if I built a mindbogglingly impressive structure like the pyramids, everyone would know about it. I'd be flying past in my flying saucer with one of those signs fluttering behind it, and it would say, "Visit Stabford's Pyramid. It's sweet. $25 admission, half-price for puny earthlings.", and everybody would  be tweeting, "Yeah, we know about your freakin' pyramid already. Shut up about it."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Atlantis: Secret Star Mappers Of The Lost World

The lost civilization is discussed in this slow-moving and boring speculative documentary. Founded by Atlas, Atlantis was supposedly an economic powerhouse at the end of the Ice Age, and apparently it may have journeyed through a worm hole because why wouldn't it. Rambling on and on, Atlantis: Secret Star Mappers of a Lost World features experts contradicting one another, bickering over locations in Spain and Northern Africa, maps, drawings, and photos of statues and ancient stone structures from around the world, and inconsistent sound levels, the documentary adds insult to injury by incorporating math into the situation, and if there's one thing in speculative documentaries about lost civilizations that may or may not have existed that I just will not stand for, it's math, or science, or sense.

Masterpiece Or Forgery: The Story Of Elmyr de Hory

The story of the mysterious, charismatic art forger is examined in this slow-moving documentary.

Clifford Irving provides much of the backstory, although narration suggests he shouldn't be as trusted as one would hope considering his career.

Elmyr de Hory supposedly painted with Picasso and Matisse in Paris, and after being ignored by the art world for his own original work, focused instead on forging art and partying with celebrities. After gaining notoriety and facing punishment, de Hory attempted suicide with pills and cognac, supposedly dying at the hospital. Or did he, as it was rumored he fled, allegedly disappearing.

Featuring museum directors refusing to talk on the record, a brief examination of forgery techniques de Hory may have used, and awkward, silence-filled interviews with art professionals, former friends, business contacts, and celebrities, Masterpiece Or Forgery bores at times in spite of a charismatic and fascinating grifter at its center. There was a humorous moment when the film-makers were presented with a budgetary problem regarding a trip to South America, where they slyly insert stock footage of South America in lieu of an actual trip and acknowledge it as such.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Snakes On A Plane

I'm thrilled to be invited to join Barry Cinematic's Nature's Fury blogathon. If you get a chance, stop by Barry's entertaining and exceedingly well-written blog Cinematic Catharsis. It's an honor to be asked to contribute. I find it fitting to contribute to this particular blogathon because I'm often furious about nature.

Well, I'm often furious about nearly everything, but I really hate nature.

Nature is that annoying, bothersome stuff one speeds past on the way to the nearest coffeeshop. It's boring and bug-filled, and it often results in excessive sweating and sunburn. I avoid it at all cost. Forests and meadows, while picturesque in film, are often sorely lacking in boxes of snack cakes or fried vegetable dumplings when you're actually out in the tedious midst of it, so I really can't be bothered. Exactly how does one get an order of red curry with tofu delivered to the wilderness? I don't know, and I never want to find out. Against their better judgement, nature enthusiasts often try to convert me to their ways, explaining that there's fun and exertion to be had out in nature, but I'm unconvinced. I had fun once, and I can almost guarantee it was indoors, although I can't remember what it was. Anyway, deep sea fishing, rock climbing, jet-skiing, or any other noxious outdoor activity usually involves dangerous tools and machinery far from the nearest hospital, and nature has it out for you anyway. The Earth will eventually see you dead, buried six feet underneath it for all eternity. No need to provoke it.

Speaking of provoking, maybe I should review the film. I should admit that I've seen Snakes On A Plane before. That didn't make it any easier to sit through. I should also admit that I attempted try to review Snakes On A Plane as though it was a romantic comedy, focusing on the relationships between the characters and refusing to mention the word 'snake'. Unfortunately, Snakes On A Plane thwarted that attempt, since there are few memorable characters and almost no relationships of any kind.

Here it is:

Samuel L. Jackson and two dozen or so disposable minor characters attempt to jettison unconvincing snakes from an unconvincing plane in this dreary action/adventure film.

A man witnesses a mob hit on a prosecutor. After the mobsters come for him, an FBI agent saves the day. They escape the gunmen, and the FBI agent convinces the witness to fly to LA to testify and to endanger his life, which of course he does, otherwise the film would end seconds after the opening sequence because there's very little else going on in Snakes On A Plane other than snakes on a plane.

Aboard the flight are the usual disaster film characters, all of whom are written solely to provide conflict; a germaphobe rapper and entourage, a spoiled, pampered woman and her miniature dog, several flight attendants, one of whom is soon becoming a lawyer and another mere moments from retirement, a mean British businessman, two young boys flying sans parents, and a young newlywed couple, one of whom is anxious and uses a lot of decongestant. None of them are particularly compelling.

Providing the plot device that powers the entire film, the mobster fills the plane with deadly snakes that have been jacked up on snake pheromones. Meanwhile, everyone watches that flight safety routine that starts every flight. Since no one pays attention to those while on an actual flight, I'm uncertain why the film makers devoted so much time to it since the film is an already mind-numbingly long 1 hour and 45 minutes. Some time later, boxes of floral arrangements explode below deck, releasing seemingly thousands of computer-generated snakes because of course they do.

After about 30 seconds of character background and development, the bathrooms are all suddenly occupied by corpses. Amidst jump scares, POV snake-vision, and an allergy to leis, snakes with the ability to plot out their human victims' deaths and somehow kill nearly instantly drop from every luggage compartment, which seems unlikely. 90% of the plane's occupants are either bitten, unconscious, uninteresting, or killed, and there's still an hour to go in this film.

After periods of running, screaming, and convenient turbulence, one of the flight attendants kills a snake in an unlikely airplane microwave with a pre-programmed setting for 'snake'. In an effort to contain the snakes, the remaining passengers build an unlikely luggage wall to keep the snakes out, although the creatures had just minutes before somehow maneuvered their way from the cargo hold to the overhead luggage compartments. I'm not certain how Samsonite deters serpents while metallic plane fuselage, ductwork, avionics, or whatever material separates three unlikely floors of airplane doesn't, but I'm not an expert in luggage or aircraft. Everyone argues, and the aircraft plummets a few times. Things collapse, crash, or break. Snakes climb stairs and swallow grown men. Someone uses a hairspray called 'Spray N Run' as a torch. Samuel L. Jackson comes up with an unlikely way to rid the plane of snakes that also conveniently endangers everyone on board, and the film comes to an abrupt halt on the runway. The remaining passengers decide to keep in contact with one another, and I'm uncertain why. Maybe it's because of snake-induced trauma-bonded co-dependency, but I'm not an expert in snake-related plane mishaps or interpersonal relationships.

While not as awful as a majority of the likeminded films churned out by The Asylum since its release, Snakes On A Plane is overlong and ridiculous, but watching and reviewing it kept me indoors and away from nature, so it has that going for it. Snakes On A Plane bores between scenes of snake attacks. However, it's mildly recommended if you like stuff that sucks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Haunted North America: Witches, Ghosts and Demons

Canadian ghost stories are examined in this dull paranormal documentary.

Amongst the stories recounted in this documentary are an armless ghost in a Gibraltar Point lighthouse, the apparition of a sea captain seen in a Prince Edward Island playhouse, a hermit seen in the lonely, out of the way White Otter Castle, and the menacing Marie Corriveau, a Quebec witch hung in an iron cage from a wooden cross, who murdered by placing a few drops of mercury in her victim's ear.

Featuring interviews with historians and eyewitnesses, Haunted North America is marred by unintentionally comical recreations and overwrought narration. Concentrating primarily on ghost stories in Canada, Haunted North America is misnamed, and rather boring.

M. Hulot's Holiday

A man goes on vacation at the french seaside, resulting in slapstick in this classic French comedy.

Like a lazy summer day, little of importance happens in M. Hulot's Holiday. An open door causes a stiff breeze to blow pouring tea into a different cup. An inner tube covered in leaves is mistaken as a funeral wreath. And the titular character of the story goes to the beach, or goes for a drive, or dodges cars, resulting in one misadventure after another. Utilizing sight gags and little dialogue, M. Hulot's Holiday is hardly a laugh riot. Instead, it's a dry, nearly continuous stream of minor jokes. However, its influence is easily seen in the films of Monty Python and Woody Allen.

I wish I could say I was floored by M. Hulot's Holiday. It was a pleasant diversion, but an easily forgotten one.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Children Of The Stars

The film-making UFO cult is examined in this fascinating documentary. Ruth Norman, outrageously coiffed and gowned leader of the UNARIUS group, founded the organization in an attempt to better mankind before a mothership of 'space brothers' was to supposedly land on Earth in 1974.

Seeing themselves as rulers and prophets who have lived for thousands of years, they 'psychically remember' past lives and episodes of Flash Gordon and Star Trek as though they were based on real events. They created ad-libbed films, whose plots were supposedly based on past-life experiences.

Marred by inconsistent editing and harsh lighting, Children Of The Stars still manages to captivate, mostly on the quirky appeal of the charismatic leader Ruth Norman and her eccentric followers. Using stock footage of public domain sci-fi films pads out the runtime, and inclusion of the clips seems a natural fit alongside clips of the group's own films. The oil paintings of the organizations members and leaders are a highlight.

Children of the Stars is a bewildering look at a fringe belief system, with a rich DIY outsider art aesthetic.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Castle Project

The restoration of an allegedly haunted Colorado mansion, and the supposed paranormal activity that occurs, is examined in this documentary. Featuring a mummified cat, dust particles, and a nervous dog, the attempt to turn a run-down mansion into a bed-and-breakfast while in the midst of a flurry of supposed paranormal activity is outlined day by day, often with little to show other than the creepy stories of the workers who witnessed it. Concentrating on the claims; the sound of crying children, disembodied voices asking 'Are you there?', former owners telling tales of emptying specimen jars of brains into the sewer, unexplained shadows, gives a sense of authenticity and a couple of chills to the film. The presentation of EVP evidence and footage of flickering lights helps suspend disbelief. Unfortunately, inconsistent sound levels, awkward editing, shaky camerawork, and a disjointed storyline filled out with visits to French chateaus and a preachy ending about Purgatory lowers the overall film to an advert for the soon-to-be-finished B&B. Simultaneously an effective haunted house tale and a less-than-effective episode of This Old (paranormal) House, The Castle Project slowly loses energy throughout its unfocused runtime.