Saturday, July 30, 2022

Movie Reviews: Dracula, Prince of Darkness

Dracula, Prince of Darkness
directed by Terence Fisher

This sixties Hammer film was a direct sequel to Hammer's initial Dracula film though there had been a Dracula film before this one that actually didn't have the titular character included. Although this film was made in 1966 it was still very much of a piece with Hammer's more sedate fifties gothic movies. There wasn't much cleavage (actually one of the lead actresses was famous for always refusing to show much flesh on camera) or any nudity. 

By the standards of today and even the standards of what Hammer would permit in just five years or so there wasn't even that much violence. Christopher Lee, who played the eponymous villain, was allegedly already starting to lose interest in the character and supposedly refused to say any of the dialogue written. The director and writer disputed Lee's assertion, saying that no dialogue had been written for Dracula anyway.

The special effects were minimal, being limited to fangs, contact lenses, and a vampire being brought back from Hell. Still, although by today's standards this film would be rated a mild PG at worst, it still managed to be scary through judicious use of lighting, anticipation, music, quiet, space and settings.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Irishman

The Irishman
directed by Martin Scorsese

Although the director Martin Scorsese has directed and created a wide variety of films (twenty five fictional films and almost as many documentaries), he's probably best known for many entertaining and provoking movies depicting Mafia life. Arguably, Scorsese has created a Mafia themed film tetralogy with the movies Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Irishman

The Irishman came out a few years ago. For whatever reason I only recently watched it. It's not Scorsese's best film but it might be one of his most moral and thoughtful. It should be Scorsese's Mafia cycle denouement. Scorsese's other Mafia films are fire, with dangerous hotheads and sudden eruptions of lust or violence.

The Irishman is the polar opposite. It's ice. Most characters are understated, quiet, and unemotional. People make such oblique threats that the viewer may be unaware that someone's life or wellbeing is in grave danger. 

Movie Reviews: Detroit 9000

Detroit 9000
directed by Arthur Marks

This is an early seventies film noir that was masquerading as a blaxploitation film that was masquerading as a cop buddy film. It had a lot in common with Across 110th  Street. The film was unusual because not only was it set in Detroit, it also was shot in Detroit. 

Often filmmakers then and now use Cleveland or Toronto as stand-ins for Detroit. I hate that. So I enjoyed watching this movie and recognizing so many buildings and areas. Sacred Heart Seminary, which was just down the street from my childhood home, has an brief appearance.

Obviously many buildings from 1973 Detroit no longer exist in 2022 but there are some left. People don't realize it but Detroit had (and still has) many beautiful buildings and homes in a variety of architectural styles, including but not limited to Baroque, neo-Gothic, Romanesque, Art Deco, Victorian, and Art-Moderne. There's a glory, majesty, and beauty to these older buildings. 

Movie Reviews: Primal Fear

Primal Fear
directed by Gregory Hoblit

This is an entertaining older (1996) legal thriller/noir murder mystery that has a number of twists, some of which were immediately apparent, others of which were not. 

Watching it you might say that many of the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride) drove the characters and situations described. 

Primal Fear was also actor Edward Norton's debut. Norton held his own against more experienced actors. I thought Norton was probably a few years too old to be 100% believable in his role as an altar boy but there are different customs on this.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Las Vegas Story

The Las Vegas Story
directed by Robert Stevenson

This movie starred Jane Russell in a dramatic role which still featured her most famous assets. I hadn't seen many of Russell's movies. I mostly remembered Russell from when I was a child and saw her end of career commercials where she was hawking underwear allegedly specifically designed for busty women.  

This was long before "full-figured" had become a polite euphemism for overweight or morbidly obese. Russell's heyday was in the 40s and 50s. Jane Russell was known during her time at the top for her feminine curves, not necessarily her acting skills. 

This rep was a little unfair as Russell rarely was afforded the opportunity to do too much drama. Anyhow Russell got her chance here though her role was limited to lip curls, raised eyebrows, and snarky quips. 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Corion Evans Saves Three Girls and Police Officer From Drowning

You don't need superpowers to be a superhero. You just must be willing to help others, even if it means putting yourself in danger.

A Mississippi teen received a commendation Tuesday night for his heroic efforts in helping to save three teenage girls who crashed into a river and a responding police officer from drowning over the weekend.

Corion Evans, 16, jumped into the Pascagoula River in Moss Point around 2:30 a.m. Sunday after he witnessed a car drive off the I-10 boat launch, the Moss Point Police Department said in a press release Wednesday.

The teen driver of the vehicle told police that she was following her GPS and didn’t realize she was heading toward the water. 

After crashing into the river, the vehicle floated about 20 feet and began to sink. The three teen girls escaped to the roof of the sinking vehicle. Evans was already in the water helping when Officer Garry Mercer arrived at the scene and swam to the vehicle, according to police. Mercer said he was helping one of the victims to shore when she began to panic and caused him to go under and swallow some water. Evans helped safely bring Mercer and the teen victim to shore.

He ran downhill toward the water as fast as he could.
“I just seen the car in the water, then just seen them in the water saying ‘help.’ So I just took my shirt off, took my shoes off and threw my phone and I jumped in the water,” Evans said.

Undeterred by the dark water, Evans headed straight into the river. Later, he learned, alligators live in the river and its bayous. “I was scared, but I just focused on keeping everybody calm,” he said. He went on to save all three women in the car and a police officer who responded to the scen
Everyone was fortunate that Evans was on the scene and ready to assist.

Senator Hawley vs. Professor Khiara Bridges

There are only a few situations where I can imagine voting for a Republican. But there are starting to be fewer situations where I tolerate voting for certain Democrats. I do not understand or accept the fevered progressive attack on basic biology and facts. Humans are animals. Animals reproduce sexually. Sexual reproduction requires two sexes. No more, no less. One sex does the impregnating; the other is impregnated. We can't change who does what. That's science fiction. Although there are people who wish they were the other sex, in fact they are not. I don't mind calling such people by whatever name they wish to be called and treating them with the same respect I give to everyone.

What I absolutely refuse to do is pretend that a man is a woman or a woman is a man. Women do not have penises. Women can not impregnate anyone. Men do not have ovaries. Men do not get pregnant. Stating otherwise is asinine. To the extent that accepting this bovine excrement and repeating it has become a required demonstration of bona fides on the left then I guess I will no longer be on the left. I do not like Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. I really don't. But when Hawley says 2+2 = 4 I am going to agree with him, not with UC Berkeley Professor Khiara Bridges who insists that 2+2 = Alaska and anyone who disagrees is well, "transphobic".

Self-Defense Examples

There were three recent cases of apparent self-defense in which a person used deadly force to stop an attack. 

One incident happened about a month ago in Des Moines, Iowa. In a Hy-Vee store for some reason which is still unclear, a woman named Kapri Lashawn Francis attacked another woman, allegedly blindsiding her and putting her in a headlock while she continued to give her what for. 

Unfortunately for Ms. Francis the woman she attacked happened to be a legal concealed carry gun owner. And wouldn't you know,  that lady had her gun on her. She used the gun to stop Ms. Francis.

Police said suspect Kapri Lashawn Francis, 30, attacked the woman without provocation inside a Hy-Vee grocery store at about 10 a.m. local time. The unidentified woman was legally armed and fired one shot at Francis.

The suspect was shot in the leg, while a male customer was shot in the foot after the bullet ricocheted. Francis was arrested and charged with assault causing bodily injury after receiving medical attention at a local hospital. Police said the victim fired her gun in self-defense after interviewing witnesses and reviewing store surveillance footage.

Movie Reviews: Memory

directed by Martin Campbell

This was an intermittently entertaining thriller which ultimately only demonstrated to me that some of my favorite actors and actresses are finally getting a little too long in the tooth to be believable in certain roles. I don't mean that as any sort of nasty or sarcastic criticism. 

We all get older if we're lucky. It's just that with actors or actresses who have ascended to icon status it can be jarring to see them age out of the character types with whom I have long associated them. I disliked that though this film was set in America, specifically El Paso, Texas, none of the actors sounded Texan.

While to my ears the typical El Paso accent and cadence is not as distinctive or as thick as some Texan or Southern accents, it is still noticeable to me. So it was a little weird that just about all of the lead speaking roles were filled by non-Texans and non-Americans--Northern Irish, English, Australians, Germans, and Italians.  Some did better hiding their actual native accent than others. When an actor doesn't sound anything like their character should it takes me out of the movie. Again, just something I noticed from time to time.

Another Day, Another Bison Attack

You know humans are supposedly the world's smartest animal. We have self-awareness. We can look into the universe's past. We can replace hearts. We create art. And yet for some reason we seem to be unable to understand that getting close to bison, especially bulls, and especially just before mating season starts is a bad idea. The bison apparently do not like humans getting too close to them. To show their displeasure occasionally bison will charge humans and do their best to trample them, gore them, or toss them into the air. Or sometimes all three.

You would think that humans would have figured this out by now and keep a respectful distance from a 2000lb animal that can nevertheless run significantly faster (45 mph) than humans. You would be wrong. People just seem to love doing stupid stuff around wild animals. It makes you wonder who's the real dummy here. Is it the 2000 lb male bison that just wants to eat grass in peace? Or is it the 180 lb primate with the big brain who insists on irritating the ill-tempered 2000 lb bovine?

Movie Reviews: Code 46

Code 46
directed by Michael Winterbottom

This older (2003) movie shared themes with such stories as Brave New World and Gattaca among others. It resonated with current day political, sexual, and cultural tensions. It's something of a film noir. And though I didn't think the two leads had great chemistry this wasn't a bad romance story. 

If you read the New York Times or other liberal papers you will see that many urban intelligentsia believe that it's unfair that rural low population US states get the same votes in the US Senate as highly urbanized and highly populated states. 

People often cite states such as either of the Dakotas, Montana, or Wyoming. Other people argue that nationalism and the nation state are retrograde concepts that should be dropped.

In their view people born in Shanghai or Mumbai should have the right to enter or live in New York City, Los Angeles, or Berlin just as much as people who were born in those cities. This means that there must be an evolution (I would call it a devolution) of political and economic authority away from the people, beyond the state or nation, to supra-national organizations and corporations. 

Saturday, July 9, 2022

New York and Supreme Court Bruen Decision

In the Bruen decision the Supreme Court rejected New York's "may issue" concealed carry gun licensing standard. The decision's text is here
New York had required concealed carry applicants to demonstrate "good character" and a "proper cause". There were no appeals. So if the local police liked you they might let you have a concealed carry permit. 

But if the local police didn't like you, for any reason, good or bad, legal or not, you couldn't get a concealed carry permit.

To put this into historical context consider that in 1956 Alabama Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a concealed carry permit after his house was firebombed by white segregationists. Alabama in 1956, just like New York until recently, had a "proper cause" standard. 

Because local authorities in 1956 Alabama were inevitably either supportive of or the same white segregationists who were firebombing and shooting Black people, they unsurprisingly denied MLK's application. Similarly New York's gun licensing standards disproportionately denied Black would be concealed carry applicants. 

Movie Reviews: The Whistle Blower

The Whistle Blower
directed by Simon Langton

This is a mid 80s British spy thriller that is carried by a powerful but understated performance by Michael Caine. It is a truism that until people experience something horrible they may lack the perspective to be empathetic to previous sufferers. People often accuse their political opponents of having this trait and of thereby being, well, sinful. 

I think that this is a human trait, and not one that is by amazing coincidence only found among people you loathe. 

There are many stories where the protagonist discovers that his own organization, corporation, group, people, or race, whose immorality he was happy to ignore or even profit from, has harmed or even killed the protagonist's loved one--someone in the in-group.

Movie Reviews: Leave Her To Heaven

Leave Her To Heaven
John Stahl 

Leave Her To Heaven was an unusual film noir. The male lead was a placeholder and oft passive observer. Leave Her To Heaven was shot in technicolor (initially I thought it had been colorized). It lacks the light and shadow mix which defines much noir. Many scenes are shot outside and during the day. There's a lack of cynicism. 
The male lead usually takes people at face value.

The movie makes one major concession to the noir genre in that it features a gorgeous femme fatale with some questionable morals, psychology, and sexuality. 

Mores and customs have changed so much since 1945 that were this film remade today I think the femme fatale would be portrayed more sympathetically. I can't call it. There's a thin line between adoring attention and obsessive possessiveness. The lead actress demonstrates this in obvious and subtle ways.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Movie Reviews: Busting

directed by Peter Hymans

This was a 1974 neo-noir movie with all the seventies moral and visual murkiness that I enjoy so much. Although the film is set in sunny LA, it really feels as if it's occurring in such east coast environments such as New York's Times Square or Boston's Combat Zone. Both places have long since been gentrified but to a man of a certain age like myself those areas still invoke a certain grittiness, squalor, and over the top sleaze. 

Older people tell me that is what they were like in the seventies. Los Angeles had its own "bad side of town" but it's difficult to overexaggerate how much Busting eschews the sunny expansive cinematic view of Los Angeles.

This movie shares some DNA with such series as Death Wish or Dirty Harry in that men hemmed in by what they see as society's unfair rules strike out against criminals. Busting is different because it doesn't laud the guys breaking the rules.