Friday, October 29, 2021

Movie Reviews: Phone Booth

Phone Booth
directed by Joel Schumacher
This is another older film that is as much a noirish morality play as action/thriller movie. Like some aspects of the biblical Satan, the film's bad guy is an accuser, a prosecutor. 
He's someone who will reveal your sins, venial or otherwise, and make you confront them, pay for them, and maybe transcend them. He might be helping you (painfully) to reach a more enlightened stage of life.
Or he could just be a sicko who enjoys humiliation, violence, and pain. So YMMV on that. 
The story mostly takes place in or around the titular phone booth but I didn't find this claustrophobic or boring. The late director kept things moving.
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell, whose native Irish accent occasionally pokes through an attempt at Bronxese) is a publicist who likes to think that he's going big places. 
Stu spends more time keeping up appearances than he does providing value to his C-list clients. But if his clients don't figure this out before the check clears, then Stu is happy to take their money.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Movie Reviews: Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes
directed by Roger Michell
This smartly written older film had two leads, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck who each turned in powerful performances. 
Changing Lanes initially masquerades as a road rage movie. It's really a morality play that examines the choices we make and how those decisions impact us all.
Changing Lanes is not explicitly a Christian movie but I think that it takes the best of Christian precepts, or moral precepts that anyone can accept, and applies those to everyday life. As the title suggests we can all change our path. 
If you are only familiar with Samuel L. Jackson from his more bombastic roles this film could remind you of what a versatile actor he is. 
This movie makes you think. I appreciated that the film showed how swiftly even the best of men or women--which the characters are not--could be pushed to a moral precipice. It's what happens next that defines the kind of person we are and/or want to be. 
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". That is certainly the case with the two lead characters though they differ in age, race, and economic status. It's a busy day in NYC. Two men need to get to the courthouse for very different reasons. Unfortunately they get into a car accident.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Movie Reviews: From Beyond

From Beyond
directed by Stuart Gordon 
This 80s low budget horror film was done by the same director who did Re-Animator and stars two of the same actors from that film, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Although it's not as darkly comic it still has much of the same feel as Re-Animator
From Beyond, like Re-Animator, is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story of the same title. And like the film version of Re-Animator it increases the role of the female characters and greatly ups the sex appeal. This wasn't hard to do at all as IIRC H.P. Lovecraft didn't include any female characters in either of those stories; he almost never wrote female characters.  
Given that Lovecraft claimed indifference to sex perhaps that's not too surprising. 
Lovecraft was also at best indifferent to anything and anyone that wasn't him so it would have been a stretch beyond his capacities to write from another's pov. Like Hitchcock's Psycho, From Beyond definitely makes you think you saw more than you did. 
Unlike that movie though it is occasionally pretty explicit. So YMMV on that. Similar to Clive Barker's Hellraiser films there's a hint of kink that suffuses this entire movie. 
Another theme that Lovecraft liked to play with was that what we saw as magic was often in fact advanced science or technology that we lacked the ability to use or comprehend. This is not as offbase as you might think. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Reviews: The Hungry Earth

The Hungry Earth
by Nicholas Kaufmann
The Hungry Earth
is a new thriller/body horror novel written by Nicholas Kaufmann whose work was previously reviewed here and here. As I get older I wonder if some of the fascination I or other readers feel with body horror novels isn't at least in some part driven by fear of aging and the inevitable body changes that occur. 
The driving force in most body horror stories is that the human has been infected by or taken over by something that sees humans as merely a vessel for propagation.  
And there's not a damn thing the human can do about it. Humans have a number of other living creatures in us or on us using us for food or to obtain food. Some of these parasites are beneficial to us. These include our mitochondria. Others are neutral like the mites that live in our pores, eat our dead skin and oil secretions, and have massive orgies on our faces while we sleep. 
Other organisms are negative or downright malignant, like tapeworms, roundworms, candidiasis, guinea worms, bedbugs, plasmodium, and several other entities. 
What is scary about these creatures is that they seek to rewire and rework our bodies for their benefit, not ours. They can also substitute their desire and "intellect" for our own. 
This last is most often seen in species besides humans but there's no real reason a human couldn't react just like an infected mouse or ant and seek to spread the parasitical infection at the cost of his own wellbeing or life.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Music Reviews: Tarheel Slim -"I've Got You Covered/Wildcat Tamer"

Since the pandemic begun I've been listening to more old school original rock-n-roll, primarily though not exclusively created by Black people. There are many different iterations of this music. 
As mentioned before on this blog during the time much of this music was created and performed, the music definitions of today had not been created. 
A person might record a slow blues for one market, an uptempo rocker for a different market, a lugubrious plodding gospel tune for the church crowd or a horn heavy churner for people who just wanted to dance. So you can call this music rock-n-roll, jump blues, rockabilly, whatever. I just like it. I like to think myself well versed in this stuff but I have been surprised and humbled and even a little angered to discover just how much of this music I hadn't heard before.
One musician I discovered was Tarheel Slim, or as his birth certificate read, Allen Bunn. As his nickname indicates, Bunn hailed from the great state of North Carolina. Born in 1932 the baritone singer and guitarist had hits in various genres, including gospel, pop, doo-wop, blues, rock-n-roll, jump blues, rockabilly, and soul. There are two songs of his which stood out to me on the collections I purchased.

Michigan Deer Attack

If you happen to be in Northern Michigan minding your own business keep a watch out for an aggressive deer which apparently doesn't like humans and has no problem demonstrating its disdain.

ARENAC COUNTY, MI — Showing no fear of humans and with a distinctive item around its neck, an antlered deer attacked a woman on her Arenac County property. 
While the woman survived the bizarre attack despite numerous puncture wounds, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding residents that wildlife should indeed stay wild. 
On Sept. 26, DNR officers responded to a residence in the Au Gres area for a report of an antlered white-tailed deer having attacked a woman, according to Lt. Brandon Kieft, DNR district law supervisor.

The woman in question, 64-year-old Patty Jean Willis, had been getting ready for church when she let her dogs outside and heard them making a ruckus, she said. Looking into her backyard, she saw a deer standing there. Adding to the oddity was that the deer wore an orange collar around its neck.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Woman On The Beach

The Woman On The Beach
directed by Jean Renoir
This is a relatively short film noir although it feels a little longer than its seventy odd minutes. It lacks most of the violence associated with the genre. 
It's a quiet film that is nevertheless unsettling and occasionally even weird. I suppose you could say that most of the missing physical violence is replaced by emotional pain. The story is just as foggy as the cinematography. This movie is all about mood. 
I didn't think there was quite enough action to move the story forward. But on the other hand The Woman On The Beach is a decent look at how people's internal struggles, desires, and goals play out in their relationships and their larger lives.
Scott (Robert Ryan) is a taciturn war veteran and current Coast Guard officer. Although people didn't use the exact term at the time that this film was made, Scott suffers from PTSD. During the war a ship that Scott was on was torpedoed and sunk. Scott nearly drowned. He now has recurring nightmares and even waking dreams about drowning and being pulled down to the bottom of the ocean. There's always a strange blonde woman in these dreams but Scott can't tell if she's luring him into danger or trying to save him.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Movie Reviews: Bodyguard (1948)

directed by Richard Fleischer
This 1948 film was helmed by Richard Fleischer who also directed the somewhat lighter in tone The Clay Pigeon. Bodyguard is not the darkest noir either though it occasionally flirts with some heavier takes in terms of story and theme.
It might be of some interest to younger viewers because it stars famed Hollywood knucklehead Lawrence Tierney in the lead role. Tierney was never a superstar but made his name playing many tough mean guys, regardless of which side of the law his character could be found. 
This was a bit of art imitating life as the hulking alcoholic Tierney had numerous brushes with the law and violence, some minor, others less so.
His record included everything from assault on police officers, to drunken bar brawls with stabbings, fights with fellow actors, numerous stints in jail, and suspicious timing when a woman he was visiting supposedly jumped out of her apartment building to her death.