Saturday, August 27, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Unsuspected

The Unsuspected
directed by Michael Curtiz

This 1947 film straddles that line between noir and murder mystery. It's entertaining though there isn't that much mystery about the murderer's identity. Back then, some people still accepted Freud's/Jung's theories of a child's initial subconscious sexual attraction to his or her opposite sex parent. 

My non-expert understanding of these theories is that many have been discredited and disproven or are out of favor for other reasons. Even so this film references them, suitably repressed and hidden for the mores of 1947 America. But they're hard to miss. 

Even though the story is not original the film's shadow, smoke, and fog cinematography is simply too cool for words. And the dialogue, written largely by Bess Meredyth, Curtiz's wife, again gives the lie to the idea that successful women characters were only to be found in our modern day and/or only talk like or act like men.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Book Reviews: 2034-A Novel Of The Next World War

2034-A Novel Of The Next World War
by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis
Speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi, recently led a delegation of US politicians to Taiwan. China, which views Taiwan as a rebel province in need of forcible reunification, lost its collective s***. 

China issued many poorly worded ridiculous sounding threats (that I must assume sounded more menacing in Mandarin instead of the bad Bond movie villain speak that the English translations invoked) against Representative Pelosi in particular and the US in general. 

One official government Chinese paper (not that the Chinese have independent media) suggested that China should shoot down Pelosi's flight. 

When Pelosi completed her trip the Chinese threw a more dangerous temper tantrum, putting in a near blockade of Taiwan and holding multiple days of live fire exercises that involved lobbing missiles over Taiwan and into Japanese territorial waters.

China also reduced communications with the US, sanctioned Pelosi and her associates, and issued ominous statements about how upset they were and that real soon people (read the US) would regret messing with them. 

Officer Brooks and Angel Guice

I am not overly fond of police officers. Some percentage are just not very nice people, whether they are being rude and officious, enforcing laws differently depending on race, or using unnecessary force simply because they felt like humiliating, hurting, or killing someone--often African-American. 
Obviously there are also many decent officers who do their job. 

Unless an officer's request is obviously unlawful and/or you are ready to throw down, I would advise most people to use the courts to battle a police officer they believe is wrong.

Recently an Atlanta police officer stopped the actress Angel Guice and her male companion for being in a park after hours. I thought a warning was sufficient. However, the police officer chose to issue the couple tickets. In Georgia, you are apparently required to sign a ticket. The man signed his ticket. Ms. Guice refused to sign hers.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Movie Reviews: Firestarter (2022)

Firestarter (2022)
directed by Keith Thomas

This is a remake of the 1984 movie Firestarter which was in turn based on the 1980 Stephen King novel. It has the updated special effects and gender/race switched characters common today. Firestarter's weakness is that the creators pandered to fans of the modern anti-hero (anti-heroine) character for whom morality is far less important than action, winning, and being a "bada$$". 

In HBO's Game of Thrones this tendency led people to cheer Daenerys Targaryen, a woman who wasn't a feminist avenger but a budding tyrant who saw her caprice as the only valid law. 

Daenerys' female identity immunized her to almost all criticism so even today some fans can't reconcile the casually murderous dragonlady with their fantasy of girl power. 

Like GRRM, King has written some downer endings and antihero protagonists, but the Firestarter novel lacked those. This film dramatically changed King's ending along with some major character motivations.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Movie Reviews: Wicked Woman

Wicked Woman
directed by Russell Rouse

This is a 1953 B-Movie that is somewhere between film noir and seedy crime drama. At seventy-seven minutes, Wicked Woman is a fast moving short film without deep character dives and long exposition. You will recognize the characters from other movies but more importantly from real life. Life is full of people for whom things didn't quite work out as planned. 

Sometimes even successful people learn that they are missing other important facets of life. So depending on how you view this, you may find the characters underdeveloped or as I did, reminders of people I've known or otherwise encountered through life.

The film has a realistic appreciation of the motivations of certain men and women and how both genders seek advantages. I was surprised at the film's sexual frankness and its occasional nods to the supposed unfairness of gender roles, here voiced by a wife who sees herself as a martyr, though she might be just as big of a jerk as everyone else.

Music Reviews: Debra Devi: Jamification Station Volume 1

Debra Devi
Jamification Station Volume 1
Decades ago I used to agree with some classical or jazz musical snobs (critics and musicians) that live performances without any overdubs were the "real" measure of talent because after all as everyone knew, overdubs were only used to show off unnecessarily or fix mistakes. If you really were about your business you would bring it live. 

This was of course bulls***!  
Any talented musician, composer, or performer will make you recognize his or her skill regardless of the tools or environment that he or she uses. However I do enjoy listening to live music. There's still something special to me about hearing musicians perform in real time with no net.

With the onset of the Covid Pandemic the singer and musician Debra Devi wasn't as able to perform live at concerts as she had previously. Undeterred, she and her band created a number of weekly livestream concerts, some of which Devi recently produced and released as the EP Jamification Station Volume 1. No overdubs, no retakes-what you hear is how it was.

Movie Reviews: The Satanic Rites Of Dracula

The Satanic Rites Of Dracula
directed by Alan Gibson

This movie is a sequel to the oft unintentionally hilarious Dracula AD 1972, which imagined a Dracula transported to the London of the eponymous year, surrounded by swinging mods and hippies. Dracula AD 1972 tried and horribly failed to update the Dracula story for a contemporary audience. On the other hand Hammer's standards by then had relaxed enough to include a truly tremendous amount of cleavage, which was probably the movie's only redeeming feature for those who appreciate such things. 

Probably the film's biggest problem, besides the bad acting, derivative soundtrack, and inadvertent humor was that Dracula was still restricted to Gothic settings inside the movie. So it felt as if Dracula AD 1972 were really two movies spliced together, and not in a good way.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula, though a sequel, imagines a very different England (and London) than the previous movie. Here, everything is gray, lifeless, and somber instead of bright and musical. The people doing stupid short sighted things are not callow youths looking for excitement but rather some of England's most important politicians and businessmen.