Friday, July 31, 2009

10 Things I Hate About You: The Television Series

10 Things I Hate About You:
Reinvention Of A Cult Classic

Its hard to find anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s who doesn't remember, or have atleast a vague awareness of the film "10 Things I Hate About You", which next to "Can't Hardly Wait" is considered by many to be the definitive teen movie of the 1990s, in a sense, our Breakfast Club, or Grease, or whatever teen aimed movie from whatever decade you were a teenager that looking back is still awesome, but also in the words of the great sage Phillip J. Frye, makes you feel ways about stuff. As a film 10 Things had everything you would need to remember the decade after the 1980s, snappy pop culture based slang, pop friendly but still enjoyable soundtrack, a parent thats trying to be hip and failing, and all the Julia Stiles being awesome that we can handle. Oh and ontop of all that, its important because its the film that launched the career or a certain recently dead too soon actor by the name of Heath Ledger. As a film, it really is one of the most enjoyable movies I can recall from my teen years, which i think is why when I read awhile back that ABC Family was going to turn the film into a tv series 10 years after the movie was made, I kind of did a knee jerk twinge reaction to the idea. I started to run through my head all the changes they'd probably make to give it a more "current" feel, I had horrible images of well cast and distinctive to each social group they are ment to be cast members being reworked to fit painfully untalented actors and actresses that look like whatever teenage actors were "hot" right now, and dreaded the idea of the replacement of the main characters Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona with Twilight style lookalikes to be "current" with what kids are "into". My fears weren't really helped by the fact ABC Family kept the casting details and plot and stuff super secret until it was just about ready to air the series. Which really was a great move on their part given the outcry about the series once it was announced. Curiosity and word of mouth really are the best promotional tools.

I must say, once I saw the series, I was actually relieved. All my fears and concerns about miscasting and gross working of the plot and the characters, much like what happened when Buffy The Vampire Slayer was made from an obscure Kristy Swanson comedy into a sci fi drama, they all went away. Oh sure, there are afew things that are different, but not really anything I'd say will take away from the over all enjoyment of the program itself. I was actually very relieved to find that 10 minutes into the pilot, I was actually laughing, not that "haha" small laugh, I'm talking actual laughter. The script, though not award winning comedy, was both current and real enough that you would believe the dialog if you were to hear it out on the street, it doesn't sound forced or hacked together by lazy writers, it actually very well written and genuinely funny. The casting is as close to the original cast in style, feel, and personality, with Larry Miller returning to his role as Walter Stratford, the father of the two main characters, Kat and Bianca Stratford. Larry is still hilarious in the role 10 years later, which I personally love, and though the rest of the cast, except for two, are basically refugees from Disney made kids programing and television movies, which is fitting sense half the cast of the original were culled from ended Nickelodeon programs aimed at the same age group, they really are a great mixture and well cast. I've always been a staunch supporter of the right actor for the right role, I guess someone in production is too, thankfully.

About 3 episodes in, I actually found myself wondering if they gave these kids a dvd of the film and told them to study their character, because it starts to get to the point the resemblance between the film and the series are almost strikingly perfect, like to the point you wonder if its gonna fall apart. Lindsey Shaw, formerly of a canceled too soon favorite of mine Aliens in America, stars as Kat Stratford, taking over the signature role of Julia Stiles, Lindsey gets all of the things that make Kat stand out perfect, her constant need to stand up for things, and rattle the status quo, her condescending at times intelligence, all of it, I'm left wondering if Lindsay grew up watching the film and knew exactly how to play Kat. Meaghan Jette Martin takes over the role of Bianca Stratford, who really isn't that hard to play, Bianca is still clueless, airheaded, self centered and obsessed with popularity and being popular, only this time, Bianca isn't the head cheerleader who everyone wants to be friends with, she's the girl trying to become popular by mimicking the most popular girl in school, Chasity Church, where in the film Chasity was the one trying to be like Bianca. Chasity in the series is probably the one cast member that is almost a twin of her movie counterpart, played by Dana Davis who most will remember as Monica Dawson from the second season of the series Heroes, she is almost an exact double of Gabrielle Union, who played her in the film, ironically dressed to look like Union's character from the first "Bring It On" film, this time out Chas is the snooty, snobby, spoiled rich girl that controls the school in general, most are afraid of her and the fits she's known to have at times. The rest of the cast is well done as well, Ethan Peck, the grandson of Gregory Peck, does a great job as Patrick Verona, which is a pretty big task given that he's stepping into the shoes of a man that most of us from the 1990s saw as the next greatest actor ever, thankfully he brings his own take to the role, not just mimicking Heath's portrayal, which i find healthy. I rather enjoy Nicholas Braun's take on Cameron James, the guy who is trying to get Bianca to notice him better then how he was played in the movie, its more realistic and also not done by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom I just hate ever so much. The secondary cast members are just great as well, though i am abit sad they didn't ask of the original cast members to appear as teachers, I think that would have been a nice homage of sorts.

The show does have afew changes from the movie, the Stratfords have just moved to the city from Ohio, in the film Cam had just moved there and is trying to fit in while trying to get Bianca to notice him. In the show, Kat's best friend, Mandella is an overweight asian looking graffiti artist who is more then welling to help Kat in all of the things she does, in the film she's a skinny blond girl that is fixated on the works of William Shakespeare. and afew other minor things to adapt for television I'd assume, but nothing that really be that big of an issue for anyone that watched the film to deal with.

I will however point out that at this point there are two things I find negative about the series, there seem to be, at this point, no references to the work of William Shakespeare, which were throughout the whole film giving that it was a modern take on his "Taming of The Shrew". I can accept that there are none, but it does leave me alittle let down. And secondly, the plot of the film itself has been completely ignored, there is no reference to the fact Bianca can't date unless Kat is dating, there is no plot that involves Patrick being paid to take Kat out so that Bianca can date, the relationship between Kat and Patrick happens by general curiosity and attraction that both are to stubborn to admit, instead the show focuses on both Stratford girls separately, Bianca as she tries to become popular, and how it always includes Cam doing her dirty work for her, and Kat and Patrick in a rather well done mindgame where they try to not admit they're fixated on each other, the only time the two stories interact is either at home, or when Kat gets in trouble for doing something to one of the popular kids. Its not the exact same thing as the movie, but I don't mind the change in plot much, though I'm sure others might have issue with that.

My main thing with this series is, it grows on you. As I stated at the beginning, I wanted to hate it, I wanted to hate the crap out of this and down it like it was some horrible entertainment abortion thats creators should have been shot in the middle of a public square for all to see, but for the life of me, I just can't do that. I find myself actually enjoying the program, sure its not gonna win any awards any time soon, but i don't care, its actually a decently made program. I explained it recently to a friend as a show i see playing out like the series "my name is earl", it will never be the number one comedy series on television, but it doesn't have to be, I see it lasting afew years, being a dependable viewership getter, and will probably fade into the background. And really i think thats enough for the series to do. Its generally enjoyable, and fun to watch, and I hope it continues to be that way for afew years. So, if you haven't seen this yet, give it a shot, you probably will be surprised.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

Torront Picks 7/26/09

Well its that time of the week again, and that means its time for 5 move movies i think everyone should give a look to, even if it is only once... so with out any farther delay, lets get into it....

The Iron Giant: If you haven't seen, or atleast heard about this sometimes overlooked masterwork of American animation, then more then likely you've been living under a rock for the last 10 years. The Iron Giant is set in the 1950s and tells the story of a young boy that finds a giant alien robot thats crash landed in the woods near his home, the robot can't remember why he's there, or who he is, and when asked where he's from, he just points to the sky. As the film goes on, the young boy befriends a local junkyard owner who spends alot of his time making sculptures out of used car parts, he also agrees to house the robot, because he's the only one with a location big enough for him. As the film continues the boy teaches the robot about humanity, and the ins and outs of being human, teaching him about everything from compassion to superman. At one point in the film, after saying to the robot, "You can be anything you choose to be.." the robot dons as big of a cape as he can find and says "I am superman..." reveals that he has booster rockets in his feet and flies around mimicking the character. As the film continues you start to see all of the other things the robot can do, accidentally deploying a gun and firing on some animals, the boy yells at him and says "we do not kill!", which the robot, repeats many times from that point on in the film. By the end, the US Military has gotten word of the Iron Giant and comes looking for it, to decide if they are to destroy it, or take it in to study and learn from its weapons, this triggers a reaction in the robot where it at one point bares all its weapons after the military aims its tanks at it. From there, you see a series of misunderstandings, where the military won't listen to the people who are telling them the robot is harmless. This film is a perfectly done allegory for the cold war. Its set in post World War 2 America, where they lived in constant fear of communists, and would witch hunt them whenever possible, it draws so many lines that are similar, and it does it so beautifully that you don't realize its doing it. Its just a brilliant brilliant film.

Pleasantville: This is one of those movies that you forget about, but you find it on tv years later and sit down and watch out of joy of remembering it was made. Its the story of two teenage siblings, the sister, popular and adored by all, and her brother, kind of a loner that keeps to himself, and spends alot of his time watching television, one night, when they argue over what to watch on television, the sister wanting to watch a concert with her boyfriend, and the brother wanting to watch a marathon of his favorite classic television series, Pleasantville, this leads to a fight between the two, which breaks the remote to the television, which for some reason can't be turned on manually. With out a call, a television repairman shows up, and after asking the boy a series of questions about the series Pleasantville, hands him a futuristic looking remote, after more arguing by the siblings, the remote sends them INTO the television, where after realizing they have no means of escape, they must pretend they are the children on the series, and go about what would be their daily lives, in black and white like an old television series. Their presence changes the lives of the town drastically almost from the start, in both good and bad ways, and with this, the black and white look of the town starts to change as things, and people start to appear in color. This leads to a downward spiral where anyone that is "colored" is harassed, threatened and degraded publicly, and any object thats colored, mostly books, are burned or destroyed, as the town just falls into complete social anarchy, as they are slowly exposed to the joys of life outside of their small bubble in which they live in, and in the end, their lives are all changed as they are opened up to the world outside of their own. The film is a great in the fact its ment to be a metaphor for how life changed from the inception of television to the time when the film was made, how the world changed from simple black and white beliefs, to brilliant bright colors that change the way we look and think about the world around us.

Duel: This film is one of those important movies that only film buffs seem to speak of, its an obscure 1971 made for television movie, back in the days when television movies were considered a viable and respected form of movie making, unlike today, where its seen as a joke of a medium. Its important for afew reasons, but the two key ones are, first, its an early Dennis Weaver film, Weaver being one of the key television and film actors through out the 1970s and early 1980s, and secondly, and more importantly most would assume, this is the first film ever directed by Steven Spielberg, who as you all know, has gone on to be one of the most iconic directors in film history. Its the story of what many would see as, the ultimate road rage moment, a man just driving along in his car on a long stretch of California desert highway, he encounters a dirty looking old tanker truck thats driving very slow and letting out a really large amount of diesel smelling smoke. The man passes the truck to get away from the smell, only to be passed by the truck who gets back infront of him and returns to driving as he was before, the man passes the truck again, and is again passed by the truck, this time letting out a loud blast from its airhorn as it does it. The film follows the two vehicles as they degrade from a simple case of hurt driver's pride, into a deadly game of cat and mouse playing out on the mostly abandoned california highway roads. Its just a brilliant film, and historically important, and one i think anyone who's ever claimed they love films should watch atleast once if you haven't already.

The Cube: This is another of those important made for television movies, this one is a 1969 experiment in live action film making by the great Jim Henson, its important because this is an attempt at live action, which Henson is not really known for. This film is noted as well for the fact in subject matter, its alot darker then you would expect from Henson. The film is the story of a man trapped inside a large white cube, in which many people enter through hidden doors, say thigns to him and advise him that he has to find his own door out. which he doesn't understand. The film, though short, is great in the fact it literally brings you into this man's mind, you don't know who he is, or why he's there, or whats really going on, but, you find yourself as confused an angry and frustrated as he is, as the film messes with your sense of vision, understanding, and conception of reality itself. Henson himself appearing as a Professor who breaks the forth wall (speaking to the viewers or telling the cast they're on television) by telling the man he's on television, and that its all a play made for television, when asked how thats possible, Henson's professor claims "well then your only other option is that you are insane and hallucinating.". There are alot of parallels between this film and a story called "The Squirrel Cage" which has a story thats very similar and follows a story thats almost exactly like The Cube. This film also would inspire the film series "The Cube" which would span Three films from 1997 to 2004. As an added bonus, I've included another of Henson's live action short films, 1965's "The Time Piece", which is another favorite of mine.

Pufnstuf: Now its not a big surprise that I am a huge fan of the work of Sid and Marty Krofft, often speaking of their work in a joyful and iconic view, and looking back at their film based on their most iconic character H. R Pufnstuf is no different. The film continues where the television series of the same name leaves off, continuing the story of Jimmy and his talking magic flute Freddy and their friends on Living Island, as they try to keep Freddy from being stolen by the island's evil witch Witchiepoo, who never really explains why she wants the flute, but, to be honest most villains in the 1960s were vague about that sort of thing. The film isn't anything of any real serious award winning caliber, but then it was never ment to be, it was ment to be late 1960s camp film fun, and thats what it is through out. Its a film of bright colors, cheap looking sets and costumes, and cheesy children friendly as you would expect for the time, but that doesn't hold anything against this film, see, to understand this film, you need to understand the phenomenon that is the Krofft brothers, and more so, H. R Pufnstuf. and really, all you need to understand is fun, camp, unadulterated, low budget fun, no one cares that the creatures and sets are made of foam rubber and look really cheap, or that the stories hardly make any sense or serve as a means to get to a joke of some kind, but again, you don't care because its just so fun. So just turn off your brain and enjoy some late 1960s fun, and leave logic out of it, because, well, lets face it, its good to laugh now and then.

Well tahts it for this week... I hope you all enjoy...



Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fixing American Television

There seems to be a misunderstanding among the people of hollywood's boardrooms, well to be fair there are many, but the one that stands out the most is that they believe that given other countries are literally shoveling them truckloads of American dollars to air their programing internationally, they feel we must be the best at producing television. They assume that because we pioneered and innovated so much in the field, and that our programing becomes “international hits” more often then not, they believe that what they are doing, and what they are producing is excellent, quality programs. When in truth, when compared to programing from around the world, in content, production, quality of acting and writing, things like that, American television most of the time falls short of the mark, and in more then afew cases falls so short of the mark you have to wonder if anyone even attempted to aim for the target in the first place. You see, the problem with it all is, American Television Executives are completely out of touch with those who they are aiming their product at. They seem to be completely unable to reach the common everyday person with 90% of their programing, and the 10% of the time where they do, its either rammed down our throats until we vomit it back up at them, or is canceled after one season, sometimes not even that, you see, it doesn't matter to a network that fans rave about a show, or that critics rave about a show, all they care about is how much money they can make off a program based off how many people are watching it. Because thats their bottom line, to those who dictate what is put on the air these days, money they can make off of something, is all they care about. They no longer care about innovation or quality, all they care is that we will sit down infront of our televisions and watch, they don't really care what they air, as long as you are on your couch watching whatever they put infront of you, no matter how lackluster or mediocre a lot of it is.

Now, don't get me wrong, when we here in America produce a show that goes international and becomes a hit, about three and a half out of five times, its deserving, the rest of the time you end up with mostly badly written programs that are a hit here for some reason, and people internationally clamor for only because they hear the buzz about it coming from our magazines and websites and the like, because lets face it, the American Hype Machine is unmatched the world over, after all, its how horrible excuses for famous people like Paris Hilton and that guy from Twilight keep their faces posted all over every news stand the world over. People in general, myself included, have a habit of keeping up with things just because they feel if they don't their friends will look at them odd for being clueless when talking about whatever they watched the night before, anyone thats ever watched any of the many reality shows the world over know exactly what I'm talking about, no one wants to be that person that gets confusing looks because they didn't watch whatever over the top serious drama or reality show was on the night before, no one wants to be the odd person out, we all feel we need to be in the loop on stuff like that, its important to us all, the whole common ground thing and all that, if we can't relate to what our friends are talking about, then we feel we're left out or will be left out. Its funny because we all know that its not supposed to matter or effect us, but we all know it does, and will continue to do so, simply because we as people care about what others think of us and what we watch. Network boardroom executives call it “Buzz Factor” and count on this to get as many people watching as possible which brings in higher prices for add space, infact many times they blatantly play off of it as a means of making money by making you think you are seriously missing out, buzz factor is what keeps shows like “Lost” and “Law and Order” on the air regardless of if most claim they've become tired lumbering almost parodies of themselves and what they stand for or not.

So the question still remains, how do we fix American Television? Well, there are afew ways, none of which are really all that simple, but at the same time, not all that complicated, they're abit time consuming, but, as the old saying goes, “If something is worth doing, its worth taking the time to do it right.”.

The steps to Fixing American Television is as follows...

Understand Your Subject Matter: take the time, hire writers that are aware of the subject matter they are writing about, look outside of the normal 30 or 40 guys that write on television, look for someone unknown if you have too, but no matter what, find writers that actually are knowledgeable on what they're writing, you can't write a comedy with people that have been writing cop dramas for the last 10 years, and you can't write a drama with sitcom writers it just doesn't work. Example: If you are writing a science fiction series about vampires, that is going to attract many different types of views given how vampires are viewed in today's popular culture, now thats all well and good, but, here is the catch, there are so many different types of belief on vampires out there, and you don't want to exclude one group or favor another because that will make you lose those viewers, so what do you do? You go out and hire one writer who is knowledgeable in each of the different beliefs on the matter and they all work together to mesh the different types together as one, sure there will be some that hate the aspects they don't believe or agree with on the matter, but, they'll still watch the series for what they do enjoy, which is probably as close to enjoyable as you'll get with some fans, especially in certain sci fi niches, where people can become angered and out and out rude and spiteful over certain things. If you need farther proof of this fact, go look at a comic book forum whenever a movie or television show based on a comic book comes out, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.

Now I'm not saying, you need to simply aim at pleasing a niche of fans, obviously the goal of any series is to bring in as many viewers as possible, but what I'm saying is, more people will watch your program if you are aware of, and respectful, to what the subject matter is. Another example; afew years ago there was a series called “Over There” which was based on the current Iraq “war”, it was violent, it was gritty, and it didn't exactly show the united states army in the most holy and pure of lights, it was realistic and true to its subject matter, and though that brought controversy and eventually an undeserving cancellation after only one season, the ratings were so far through the roof it was almost criminal watching this show slaughter anything else in its timeslot. Now, what made this possible is, 3 of the writers on the show, and the show's “Creative Consultant” were former military personnel who had either served in the 1991 Occupation of Iraq or in the case of their consultant, not even home from Iraq just about 18 months before being hired for the job. The show did gain a lot of praise and a lot of hate for its realistic depiction of what things were like over there, but the final facts on the matter are, even though its realism was its downfall, people still to this day 4 years after it was taken off the air talk about it, and how true it really was. Love it, hate it, or not even remember it, all that matters really is, that the firestorm that followed that program, came because the writers knew exactly what they were doing and what they were writing about. Its proof positive that knowledge of subject matter will make a show great.

Cast Your Series Correctly: This has to be one of my biggest issues with television here in America, they don't want to cast for the character, they want to cast to find someone that looks like someone that is already a star, or who has a look that could make them a star. They don't think about the character or the acting ability, they just think about the marketing, and personally I kind of see that as a kick in the crotch to viewers. Its like saying “We aren't strong enough as writers to write a series that you will find enjoyable, so instead, here is an actress who looks like whoever the super hot actress everyone is going nuts for on the internet, we will write around dressing her in sexy clothing and put her in as many vaguely sexual situations as possible just so you will not notice our lackluster attempt at writing.”. They do the same thing with men on shows aimed mostly at women too, except in those cases you can spot the guy their trying to do with with by the fact he's normally wearing an unbuttoned shirt or no shirt for atleast one scene per episode.+ Now some people might think its silly to say that correct casting is important to a tv show, but, you see, no matter how you look at it, casting is the corner stone of any series, it can make or break one. Here in the states a role is cast do to how well they can market them if they become popular, it doesn't matter if the actor or actress can actually act, or more is believable as the role, all they care about is if they can stick you on a poster or a lunch box, or whatever other useless bovine excrement they slap your image on. See, your characters need to be as believable as your plot and your over all story, two years from now, a thin Paris Hilton looking blonde idiot might not seem as great a character on a “fresh and hip” teen aimed drama, that would work on a comedy, where as people would just assume you're making fun of Paris, but you get the idea, you need to think ahead instead of looking at whats outside your door.

You also need to learn what “average” is, more times then not, a character is described as “an average everyday person” or something or another, and yet, they look like the spend all the time they aren't working for a delivery service with an angry fat midget that runs the dispatch, working out in a gym. I'm sorry, I understand the need to make things look “pretty” for television, but take a really good look around at the casting of people in other countries, on other nation's programs, they don't all look that way, you have a nice mixture, much like you would in any average place here in the states. When foreigners watch our programing, many don't understand why on television, Americans are all in excellent shape and attractive, when the average American isn't, that isn't saying that we're all fat and ugly, I just mean that looking at statistics the average American isn't what we see on television, its a falsity. Other countries cast their programs accordingly to how people look where they are, and it pays off. Example; if the Canadian series “Trailer Park Boys” was made here in the states, I doubt that the characters that appear in the series would look as they do, Bubbles, who has thick glasses, lives in a shed with kitties and spouts wisdom wouldn't look as he does, Randy the shirtless trouble making assistant supervisor wouldn't look the same, nor would main characters Ricky and Julian, or the girls, or well the whole cast really. Someone in an American network boardroom would say “these don't look like what we want Americans to think are your average everyday people” or something, and they'd be changed to pretty people who look good on posters and things, except Bubbles, he would be made into a nerd that spends to much time on the internet and constantly spouts off quotes from various cult classic movies. Yeah, the idea of a show like that scares me, but you get the idea, American networks seem scared to cast realistically, if we're to survive and bring our product up in value, we need to get over the “only pretty people on TV” stigma we have here, and do what the rest of the world has done, try and cast our shows so they fit more with how our people really look, so they can identify with them.

Stop Making Formula Sitcoms: I can not stress this one enough, the writers on American television programs have become lazy and unimaginative, and just recycle the same plots and the same episodes over and over again, either on the same program or on different ones that follow the same formula. There is no creativity anymore, and it just has become so painful to watch as this circle repeats over and over and over, its been happening sense before I was born, and it will be happening long after I am dead unless someone stops it. It was once said to me, the sitcom killed television comedy, and in a sense thats true, before sitcoms came along, there were actual comedy series on television, which were filmed infront of live studio audiences, which ment the laughter, was real laughter, there were no signs saying to laugh or cheer or clap, people just did it because they wanted too, because the character was someone they all cared about or because the jokes were actually funny. Now most shows are closed set and the laughter is added in later with what they call “canned laughter”, which pretty much tells you when a joke is ment to be funny. I don't want some moron with a sound effects board to tell me when to laugh, or what should be funny, I want to decide for myself. And I want writers to come out from behind their hiding spots at their desks and own up for how they've done nothing but prostitute themselves for the sake of claiming they wrote on a certain television show, it happens this way in drama too, more so actually, where they try and make everything all super high tone drama all the time, but its just not. Though were a drama can sneak by with the guise of it being ment to be super dramatic, a sitcom can not.

And example of why the “American Style Sitcom” does not work; back in the mid-1990s, New Zealand's then fledgling network TV3 wanted to branch into comedy, so they hired some American sitcom writers and producers to come over and make a sitcom for them, the end result was the series “Melody Rules” which not only is seen as the worst comedy that was ever made in New Zealand, but also is seen as one of the worst sitcoms ever made in the entire world, it actually ranks number 4 on the international all time worst list, it used to be number 3 but was recently moved to its current standing do to an american made sitcom that aired and was promptly canceled ranking above it. The fact that the top three worst comedy programs ever made are american and follow this formula doesn't seem to bother anyone amazingly.. Melody Rules followed the “American Formula” which to those that don't know means this; three cameras to film, very few sets normally a living room/lounge room where most of the show happens, a kitchen, a bedroom, and maybe a hallway or front or back porch, everyone has a catchphrase, there is atleast one “wacky neighbor”, you hear people on the phone or references are made, but you never see them, and no one talks about anyone else they know that is not either part of the main cast or the extended cast and if they do, its because this person who they've known for however many years is going to appear in that episode and then never appear again or be mentioned, they are in a sense in their own little bubble, oh and they use canned laughter instead of live reaction. Melody Rules lasted two seasons, but most claim that was because they didn't want to give up on the show right away, given their lack of a replacement series for its timeslot. When asked why they disliked the program, the general response was that it seemed fake and cheaply made, they seemed to have no real point of plot, and were just poorly written and poorly conceived. This doesn't say that all sitcoms are bad, there has been a rise in recent years in one camera ones that are pretty good, one camera meaning they aren't bound to one location, they can go anywhere and its just needing one camera staying with the characters to film it, plus with those, the world seems more rich and believable because you aren't stuck in a living room or a kitchen all the time, you're able to roam and meet others, and have a big rich cast of extended players, this, though still using absurd plots, makes it seem more realistic and allows you to believe these people aren't just in a bubble where nothing ever happens except what goes on in that main room.

Do Not Use Ratings To Judge A Show's Worth: Its a hard cold fact, more times then not, ratings kill a program long before it should end. See, unlike other countries, which are willing to let a show air for its complete ordered run and maybe a second series, or season, or whatever it is they call first run programing where you are, just to see how much can be done with it, and allow it to properly set up its world and those who live in it, here in America we don't seem to believe in that concept, we believe that if the ratings aren't to a certain level, its not worth the time to air the program, and that we could just replace it with something else, or a rerun of something else in its timeslot till something can be found to fill that space. We seem to forget some programs start out slow and build up steam near the end of their first season, or the beginning of their second one or later. Some stories and characters take time to properly develop and build to what we're expecting them to be before the show can be as great as we're told it can be. Seinfeld was that way, I don't know how many people realize that after its first year Seinfeld was canceled, it was brought back after some boardroom politics and went on to become the series that so many claim to be one of the best comedies ever put on television, in a similar vain Fox's Family Guy was canceled for almost three years, only to come back and become a behemoth of sorts in the world of animated comedy. But in a world where so often you're given just afew weeks to attempt and find and gain a fanbase, cases of that nature are very few and far between, these days at best you can hope for would be a miniseries that concludes everything for you like the series Jericho had recently, or a direct to video finale like the series Prison Break. Or in the case of Guiding Light, the longest running non-news or sports program in american history, you'll just get an end, no real send off, no real fanfair, nothing, just shutting down the set. I mean I'm no fan of a soap opera, but come on, after 63 years or something, you're gonna just up and cancel a program because of numbers? Thats nuts.

More times then not in this day and age, the voices the networks should be listening too, are ignored, what the critics say and more importantly what the people say, a lot of times is completely ignored, and instead the over night and weekly ratings are all that matter. Now, I can understand to some degree where they might dismiss those like me in the critic field, but when you completely dismiss the voice of the viewers? That just seems like idiotic to me, the viewers are what matters, the viewers have all the power in this industry, they are the ones sitting infront of the television to watch a program, that means they are really all that matters. And if you ignore their voices, and just keep churning out spin offs and rehashes of the same thing over and over again, eventually they will leave you. Think about it, why do you think there are so many police and law shows out there? American Networks don't care about giving a program time to grow, to find its place, two perfect recent cases of this were the great dramatic comedy series “Reaper” which was poorly advertised but was incredibly fun to watch and loved by critics and fans, and the american take on the british series “Life On Mars” which, though very well made and well written, might have strayed from its concept slighty, though to be honest, I found it abit more enjoyable then its original version, both were great programs, that had slightly slow starts, and ended up being canceled because of it. Apparently averaging 2.5 million viewers per week isn't good enough to keep a program going, shame that. Also, just because a large amount of viewers appear for a pilot or a movie that will become a tv series, does not mean they are going to always be there, curiosity factor is huge in ratings, and how we end up with piles of crap like the 2008 version of Knight Rider.

Have Faith In Your Programing: This one is sort of a secondary to the ratings one, but is just as important. Sometimes, a television series will go through a small creative slump, sometimes it lasts half a season, sometimes it lasts a whole one, sometimes it lasts afew, but the point is, that doesn't make a tv show bad, its just in a ratings fueled world, a slump puts a target on your back in the entertainment business. Its natural that after a while, a show will have a small slump in writing, after afew years writers get alittle tired, and alittle creatively tapped and are in need of a refill on their creativity, this happens with all tv shows, its the nature of the beast as they say. But that doesn't mean you give up on them. A network should have enough faith in what they are airing that it shouldn't mark a show's demise when it has a slight slump in ratings, if it was always the case that once your ratings go down you're done, iconic series like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, M.A.S.H, All In The Family, Cheers, The Flintstones, and The Simpsons, wouldn't have lasted as long as they did, each and every one of them, to some degree had a slump in ratings, where they'd go from top 10 programing, to top 20, and finally round out somewhere in the top 50 for a time, but they would eventually power back, in most cases they'd do this cycle repeatedly. Infact in the case of The Simpsons, FOX Network owner Rupert Murdoch has stated that the show will only end when those that make the show feel its time to end it, and that he keeps it on to prove a point, that if you're good to your shows, they'll be good to you. Which is kind of ironic because FOX is one of the biggest offenders of canceling a program to do ratings. But my point is, if more networks had enough faith in a program to stick with it through the good times and the bad, and see it through to the light once again, we would have a lot more programs that are of good quality and of good standing with all aspects of the business, specially in a time when making 10 years is a big thing, let alone soon to be 21 years that The Simpsons have been on.

Less Reality Programing: Now, Reality TV is some pretty tricky water to traverse, and before you get the wrong idea, I'm not saying all reality series have to go, there just comes a point when enough is enough. Sure, we all have our own guilty pleasure reality tv shows, there isn't a person alive thats not watched atleast one episode of Survivor, or 3 minutes of the Real World, I have a friend in the UK thats like, super way into Big Brother, I personally am a huge Hell's Kitchen and Extreme Make Over: Home Edition fan, and I'd be abit hypocritical to shout down all reality television when I personally know some of the cast of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. But despite all of the good programs out there that are reality, there is a whole lot of bad ones out there too. Mostly in the “reality game show” market, which in itself is a kind of slippery slope a lot of times, where the good is lost to the background for horribly bad dating game shows like “The Bachelor” and all the rehashes of that, or the ones where they put former or minor celebrities in horribly idiotic situations and record as they whore themselves out for prize money. Reality Television has become the last stop before you fall off the entertainment grid forever, its become a freakshow of sorts, anyone that doesn't understand what I mean by that, google a series called “There's Something About Miriam” and you'll understand exactly what I'm saying about reality tv.

Shorter Seasons Make For Quality Programing: I have said this so many times, quantity, does not always lead to quality when it comes to television, infact 9 out of 10 times it leads to failure. In every other country, and on both subscription and non subscription channels that do original programing here in the states, the most you'll see your average television series is between 10 to 13 episodes a year, sometimes more then that, sometimes less, depends on the show, the network all that. Now this isn't done for cost reasons, though cost does help, its done simply because it allows the writers time to come up with good quality unrushed scripts, that don't rehash or retread things they've already done, or were done by others. It allows them time to carefully write out and create great programing that people will wait all year, or in afew cases over a year, for. This works for the network's favor in two ways, first, you can allow your writers time to come up with the best programming you can for their timeslot, there is a very little pressure situation when you only need 13 episodes of gold instead of 26 episodes, of which 13 or so are gold and the rest is just filler, and secondly, it keeps a buzz going for your series, people knowing they'll have to wait like a year or half a year to see how a storyline progresses, that wait factor and the buzz it causes in a fanbase is the greatest form of promotion possible, its free, its honest, and its truly what the fans are saying, all the magazine adds, television spots, and whoring out of your female cast won't get you the kind of buzz word of mouth does. Plus, 13 episodes a year is cheaper then 26, the money they're saving, could fund another program that might have been great, but passed on because they couldn't find room on a schedule or something, which would be great, because I can't count the amount of times programs have been killed before they ever got the chance to air. I still am upset for shows like Babylon Fields, Pretty Handsome and Global Frequency among countless others that looked so well done, and such good ideas, but were killed because there was no place on the programming schedule for them, with 13 episode per season shows, there could be a chance things like that never happen again.

And my final point i'll make, given that this is kind of becoming a longer list then I wanted it to be in that start, is as follows....

Dissolve The FCC: Next to the RIAA and the MPAA, the FCC is the most harmful organization in entertainment, originally designed as a governing body in the early days of broadcasting as a government run organization that sort of acted like a police force for, at the time radio, it was created to regulate and monitor and keep in line localized and nationally broadcast radio programs, back in the days when american radio wasn't a joke, it was basically a way to witch hunt communists and other groups who were deemed subversive and “a threat to our freedom” by instilling none of them are able to get on the radio and reach the masses. Over the years its broadened its hold to include television as well as radio, and, by most accounts, is the single largest reason why american television has lost its way. The FCC seems to feel its their job to tell networks what is and isn't ok to air, in a sense, censoring content, which, I find very odd, given that each network has their own internal censors called “Standards and Practices”, who's job it is to regulate the nature of content aired on their network. Why we need a Federal organization that does this even after standards and practices has gone through a program, and simply just nitpicks and waters down each thing they show, is anybody's guess really. It all seems slightly redundant to me, if you have an inhouse censor who is versed in the rules of broadcast, who goes through each episode with a fine toothed comb before it airs, looking for anything at all they find questionable and with the new rating system we have here that clearly marks a program's intended viewer group, then why do we need a group like the FCC who really don't seem to do any good at all, and infact, a lot of times will go against their own written rules, I wonder just how many people are aware of The Safe Harbor / Watershed Laws out there.

The Safe Harbor / Watershed Laws are the laws that dictate what content can be shown after what time at night, as the night gets later, we're allowed to do more, these are the laws that let words like “bullshit” and “asshole” be used in dramas after 9pm at night, as well as in the past allowed for naked human rears, and I quote directly here, “side boob” meaning a woman's breast but seen from the side. Basically as far as the time frame goes, by 1am EST, there are no real limitations on what you can air content wise, this is why a lot of cable stations air “uncut” or “uncensored” versions of films at that time of night. Its funny though, even when we know that we're allowed, by law, to say certain words and show certain things after a certain time, the major non-pay networks are still pressured by means of threats of fines and being put off the air, to ignore these laws, and air the same “safe” programing they do otherwise. No one that I have asked in the industry really understands why this is done, but they all know it is. Its just one of the many things the FCC does that people find questionable. And what scares me the most, they've been doing it sense the beginning of television, if not longer, because, well, there aren't a lot of records remaining from the early days of radio, so we can't really guess.

So really, what good does the FCC do now that each network has its own internal monitoring group and willingly submits to its own clearly marked rating system? It does absolutely nothing. It just hinders people, as it always has, and most of its hindering has seemed puzzling in reason. Example, during the early 1950s, the FCC took up issue with now american classic series “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, first complaining about, and I kid you not, young Mary Tyler Moore, who played Dick's wife, wearing “skirts that were tight enough to show more female bottom then they believed wholesome”, when they would later fix this idiotic complaint by allowing Mary to wear pants, they then complained that “women don't wear pants, men do.”. I kid you not, these were their actual claims. They lost the pants issue when the entire female staff of the network showed up for work one day where the FCC was there to discuss it, and they all wore pants. Ironically, not long after this, “I Love Lucy” appeared, and both Lucy and Ethel would wear pants from time to time, many saw this as a jokingly supportive stab at the FCC. There are many other incidents like these, most recently, “nipplegate” as its called, where singer Janet Jackson flashed a nipple on international television for less then 0.7 seconds, the FCC used this incident to go on a media witch hunt of sorts, laying most of its brunt down on radio DJ Howard Stern, though, I'm not exactly sure how an incident that happened on television would lead to issues for radio, but I guess in their minds it was allowed. Anyway, you get my point, the FCC is a joke, its become nothing more then an interest group out to govern what we watch and what we see to their own personal likes and dislikes. Which is wrong, no one group should be allowed to force its ideas on anyone else, regardless of who they are. They're on par with religious radical groups like you read about in the news with their beliefs and really should be taken out of power. Plus, they're watering down and changing of our television programs is the number one thing keeping us from being able to compete with the other countries in quality.

And now, with all of those things said, I leave you with one final thing...

I understand that a lot of people won't agree with my ideas, and thats fine, its your right to do so and I respect that, but even if you don't agree with all of my ideas, think about them, just try to picture them in practice, and if you don't agree still, then I respect your right to think that way. I am just a man who wishes to make a medium he loves just abit better then its becoming, thats all.

I thank you for your time



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm Alittle Worried About The New Doctor Who....

I happened across these pictures today, posted on one of the more reliable sites for news on the beloved british sci fi staple, and I just had to share them... because they make me worried... very worried, for something thats been part of my life sense I was like 5 or 6...









Seriously, what the hell is he wearing? And whats with the shiny new tardis? I worry ever so.... ever ever so...



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Torrent Picks 7/19/09

Well its Sunday, and that means its time for me to do some more torrent picks for all of you to consider downloading, in hopes that you will enjoy as much as I do.. So with out any more delay, lets get to it shall we?

ok then...

Battle Beyond The Stars: Now, I know that on the surface, this film looks like just another Roger Corman take on a popular movie from the time period, this time being Star Wars, but infact, this has to be one of Corman's most brilliant films that didn't involve ridiculously large breasted women kicking people in the throat, you see, not only does this film blatantly rip off Star Wars, but it also rips off not only Seven Samurai, but its american counterpart The Magnificent Seven as well. The basic plot is as follows, think Seven Samurai but in space, and with space Valkyries. A Farming planet called Akir (named after Akira Kurosawa) is being threatened by an evil space warloard who wishes to take them over for no real reason other that he's evil, and in space, a famer from the planet is set out to recruit as many warriors as he can to help defend the little farming planet from rip off Darth Vader, he comes across both space samurai and space cowboys, and a saint who is a member of the race of space Valkyries in total seven warriors, each with their own unique talents, you get the idea, its the same as both samurai and magnificent, but you know, in space, plus there is abit of a let down when you realize that none of the space cowboys are Steve Miller, Jamiroquai or Spike Spiegel. Award yourself 500 geek points if you got that last sentence's references. This film is one of those "its so bad its great" type films, with its low budget and stock footage from other sci fi space films that is common place with Corman's attempts in this genre, and infact alot of the things from this film as well would be used again later, oddly enough the film's space footage was also used to make an early lazerdisc video game as well. As I've said, this film is pretty bad, but its so bad its fun.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
: This is one of those films that falls into the depths of obscurity, only to be found years later by some film lover or critic who will discover it, and raise it to the respect and admiration it so willingly deserves. This film, is one of those kinds of films. Set in California during the great depression in the late 1930s, the film centers around a several week long dance competition and those who are entered in it. The film is dark and unsettling in many ways, each character has their own reasons to be there, and as you go, you see just how far they are willing to go to win. They risk humiliation and, in one case, even death, for $1500.oo USD, which might not see like alot of money now, but in that era that was alot of money. You have your normal mix of people you would expect to find in a contest of this nature outside of Los Angeles CA., a farmer, a would be screen starlet partnered with a would be leading man, a middle aged couple and few others. The film is really a lesson in just how far some will do, risking everything, including their entire being, for money when they have nothing, its almost depressing at points, specially when one of them dies and their partner, so she's not knocked out of the competition, carries his body across the finish line of a tandem footrace they do to "take a break from dancing". In the end you find out that whoever wins, will have alot of deductions taking out of the actual prize and they'll end up with almost nothing for all of their work, but though this isn't widely stated, the competition continues on, and infact by the end, we never find out who actually won the event. Its just so heavy and sad and a perfect capture of the time period and how things really where. Its my hope that at some point, this film will be as praised as many of its late 1960s contemporaries, but who knows, I guess time will tell.

Plan 9 From Outer Space: You all to know this film would be here eventually, and I figured i would get it out of the way early rather then later, specially with so many other "so bad its great" films out there. Here is all you need to know about this film, this is Ed Wood at his worst, Bella Lugosi died during filming, and it stars my late friend Maila Nurmi as a mute zombie. Other then that, don't try and make sense of this movie about aliens and zombies and people blowing up the world, just sit back, and have a good laugh at just how bad this film really is, because that is the whole point of it, to just enjoy how comedically horrible it is, because it really is bad, the second worst movie in most of the lists of the worst ever made, but it goes to fill what I've always said, there are films that are so bad they're good. Like how with Lugosi dying after only filming 5 scenes in the film, he's always filmed from the back or his face is mostly covered, and they keep slicing back to him recoiling in terror for no reason at times, its just brilliantly bad. Its kind of like watching a movie thats the equivalent of Lenard Nimoy of Star Trek singing "The Balland of Bilbo Baggins" repeatedly for two hours, you don't wanna hear it, you know you shouldn't listen too it, but you'll be damned if you find yourself unable to look away from it till the very end. This also holds a special place in my heart, its the first grindhouse film that i ever actually reviewed, back when I was young, so yes its bad, yes its painfully bad, but its a special place in my heart, plus its got my dear friend Maila while she was alive and full of life, even if she was a zombie vampire... it kind of counts.

Where The Sidewalk Ends: I've always been s sucker for a good old fashion detective story, and among the greats, Where The Sidewalk Ends is the story of a detective that hates crime in all its forms, being the sun of a criminal he's able to understand their ways and in a sense, think like one, which makes him feared by them for what he can do, In a small fight with a drunken man, he accidentally kills him, stashing the body in the river, he later is assigned to find what happened to this man, only to wind up in a rather twisting and intriguing film noir style mystery that involves wrongly accused people, clearing others names, mobsters and dames and all that other stuff you read about in old dimestore detective novels that no one ever remembers reading. Its a brilliant film, even if it is abit formula for its genre, but thats the fun of films like this, they are ment to tell the same kind of story, just with different players in each role, its kind of their lot in life, they're theatrical lemmings, and they're just so very awesome at it. Not one person alive will ever admit to not wanting to be an old school trench and big hat wearing detective at some point in their life, its just something we all love deep down, this film will totally rekindle that for you if you've lost it.

Return to Oz: Its never been a secret that I love The Wizard of Oz, and I love the Oz books, I've read them all, of which there are like 45 official and 12 or so unofficial, so its safe to say that when you mention films to me like Return To Oz, I will light up with a bright smiling face and be overjoyed to talk about it. The 1980s somewhat panned and forgotten classic, losely combining the books Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, tells the story of Dorothy Gale returning to the land of Oz as she sees all the changes that her departure the last time caused. The start starts out with Dorothy after she'd returned to our world, she finds herself obsessing constantly dreaming of her time in Oz, so much so that it allow her to sleep, she seeks the help of a doctor who claims he can cure her with electric shock therapy, Dorothy is mysteriously saved from this by a mysterious girl, as the two run, the girl disappears and Dorothy ends up hiding in a chicken coope, while in there, she bumps her head, when she wakes up she's in Oz again, or, whats left of it anyway. The film tells the story of Dorothy, and a chicken that replaces Toto for some reason, as she discovers whats happened to Oz and rallies her old friends and new ones too combat whats happened to her beloved land. Sure its kind of your basic kid story about a kid brave enough to save the world, but come on, its so awesome at being that. Plus its a sequel to the wizard of Oz, which is just great.

Well, thats all for this week, I'll return with more next week.



Friday, July 17, 2009

So Excited, so very very excited....

I was just reading here that the recently completely restored copy of the brilliant Rashomon is going to be sent out to art house and revival theaters, this is so very exciting for me, because I've never seen the film in a *REAL* theater, I've seen it many times on my private movie screen, but thats a whole other thing seeing a film of that importance and that magnitude in a real theater, its like it enhances the magic or something..

As I've stated many times, if you haven't seen Rashomon, you are missing out on a brilliant and beautiful film by one of the greatest to ever direct a film, if you have the change to see it in a theater near you, with out haist, you must go see it! I'm hoping it comes to Boston so I myself can experience the magic it is, the way it was ment to be seen, first hand!



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On a less serious note...

I'm abit too serious sometimes... so i figured, just for some non-stretchy pants related fun, i would go on a nice few minute minute jaunt back to my childhood and share two non-robots that turn into other stuff related moments of awesome..

almost 20 years later, and still completely awesome

god damn I'm getting old



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Torrent Picks 7/12/09

Well its that time again, for my weekly torrent picks, and I'm doing afew special ones this week, based off a conversation i had the other week with one of my most loyal readers, and afew others that I feel are pretty neat.. so with out any farther delay, lets get down too it...

House of Dark Shadows
: Ok anyone thats seen my name here, and most places is aware of this film's connection, and after talking to one of my most loyal readers and explaining the name and the show, and things, i felt this movie and its follow up where to be welcomed addictions here to my lovely random picks of movies. House of Dark Shadows is important to pop culture for any reasons, first, its the very first of only two films to go from television soap opera hit, to movie, the other being Night of Dark Shadows, as well as putting the show's lock on being considered one of the greatest sci fi series of all time. The plot of House of Dark Shadows compresses the television series plot up to right before they go back into the past for the first time on the tv show. It picks up when small time crook and handyman Willie Loomas opens a chained coffin looking to loot it, only to find with in it, the vampire Barnabas Collins, who hs been locked in that coffin for 150 years, once freed he bites Willie in the neck to make him a vampire, and sets out his majestically evil deeds, as all vampires do, you know its their gig after all. The film differs from the series alot, and is also noted for being more graphic as far as the vampiric elements go, this is true Grindhouse and pop culture history right here, if you've not seen it, don't miss out.

Night Of Dark Shadows: Night of Dark Shadows wasn't exactly a direct sequel to the more successful House of Dark Shadows, mostly do to casting issues, the story is losely based on the second timeline of the series, taking place in the modern day, well 1971 anyway, the film, much like the television series second half, passed the superstar torch from John Fridd's Barnabas Collins, to David Selby's Quintin Collins, who would be the star of the series to its end. This film tells the story of Quintin, who gains the estate of Collinwood after the events of the first film, his wife Tracy, and those who they bring with them to the estate to live. It also tells the story of Charles and Angelique Collins, of who Quintin is haunted with dreams of their life. As the film goes on, you are taken on a spooky and violent tale of reincarnation and how love and revenge can reach from one life into the next. The film is notedly more violent then House of Dark Shadows, openingly depicting Angelique's hanging for witchcraft on screen as well as many other acts of brutality both in the past and in the present day, now seen tame by today's standards, these were seen as graphic and horrific by 1971 standards. It also is of note because this was the first starring role for Kate Jackson, who would go on to become one of the cast of Charlie's Angels. This film also allowed those outside of the tv show's viewers to see the beautiful Lara Parker as the beautiful and super sexy Angelique, who though here altered to fit the script was a character left out of the first film, which seemed strange given her being seen as a late 1960s early 1970s sex symbol.

Day Of The Triffids: I've always been a sucker for a good monster movie that defies the conventionality of that genre, sure vampires, werewolves, robots, various other monsters and asians in rubber suits playing monsters are all fine and good, but its important to branch out sometimes too, like the saying goes, you can't eat steak all the time or you get bored with it. For me, Day of The Triffids, is the perfect escape from the every day common plots and stories, it tells the tale of a different kind of alien invasion, its akin to the film many believe it to be the same plot as 1960's Little Shop of Horrors, but instead of the comedic musical spin, it takes a more serious tone and tells the story of what would happen if an alien plant based race actually did come to earth and invade instead of being stuck in a florist shop in the poor part of town where everyone sings, though seen by many as a more brilliant take on the idea, Triffids does borrow many things, even the ending shot with Little Shop, its also very different, in the way it shows the plants are able to move freely as well as attack with their roots and things, something homaged in the 1986 version of Little Shop. Through out the film, which tells the story of whats left of the country of England after a seemingly over night invasion of these alien plants, you are left to marvel at just how good this film really is, so popular infact there is a radio play, a set of audio books and a very popular 6 part tv series from the early 1980s based off it. Sure we look at the plot now and we laugh, but thats only having been in a world that came after this film and its idea, but that shouldn't at all take away from just how good this film really is.

The Commitments: Based on a novel of the same name, it tells the story of a group of out of work music lovers in Dublin Ireland that go on to become the greatest soul band in Dublin Ireland only to have it all crash and burn around them. The film is interesting in the fact that the cast is based on how well they blend musically rather then how they act, given that the cast actually acted and sang the songs in the film, and that each of its stars has gone on to become a major star in their own right, among them being the oldest sister in the group The Corrs. The film really only features two complete songs by the band, thought they sing snippets of others through out the film, the two songs featured, both of which became hits, spawning world wide radio and video play are their cover of "Mustang Sally" by Wilson Picket, and the second is a beautiful cover of a song with alot of personal meaning for me, "Treat Her Right" by Roy Head and The Traits, it being important to me because Roy Head is my second cousin, and the father of former american idol contestant Sundance Head. The film itself, to some might seem boring and cliche, a band of friends start out playing music together for fun, become super successful only to have it blow up in their faces like a box full of TNT, but as it is most times with movies I love, its more about how it goes about telling its story, and how its been shot then it is about the actual story, remember, you can tell a story hundreds of ways, but its all in presentation and actual detail and storytelling that makes it stand out. Plus, if thats not enough, it was voted as the best Irish movie ever made.

Belle De Jour: Among the myriad of sexploitation films out there, 1968's Bell De Jour always stood out for me, its just so delightfully European in its filming, acting, writing, and over all style and content, though we were making more daring drugploitation films here in the states, Europe had the intelligently sexy films pretty much on lock, many see this as possibly the best example of that fact. Belle De Jour is a French film directed by Spanish great Luis Buñuel in the heyday of edgy moderately erotic yet intelligent cinema in Europe, the film itself a sexy, edgy thriller centered around a bored young and attractive housewife named Séverine Serizy, who has rather sexually graphic dreams and fantasies during the day while her husband, a doctor is working, and through a friend, decides to look into a day job at a brothel as a prostitute, using the name Belle De Jour, which translates to "daylight beauty" as well as the term used by the French for a prostitute that conducts business during daylight hours. She agrees to work there only between the hours of 2pm to 5pm so she can be home in time to prepare dinner and be waiting at home for her husband when he gets off work at the hospital. As the film progresses and Belle's self exploration becomes more and more bold, she gets entangled with a young mobster, who eventually threatens to tell her husband of what she does during the day when he is out working. The film is very smart, very sexy and incredibly shot, almost every scene seems as if its a photograph for a movie or pin up magazine, its just beautifully done from start to finish, if you haven't seen this sometimes forgotten gem, you really shouldn't pass it up, you will be missing out.

Well thats its for this week, I hope you all enjoy this week's selection, I personally was rather excited about them. Enjoy



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Go Ask Alice....

When word came down from the movie gods that Tim Burton, the mastermind behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, and several other films that aren't Batman and Robin, I shouted in glee, like literally shouted. See, growing up watching the early 1950s Disney animated version, I then read the actual book, and well, I was kind of kicked in the head on how much differences there were, it was kind of like reading Jurrasic Park then seeing the movie, that kick you in the stomach kind of feeling, but thanks to the genius that is Tim Burton, we will finally get a proper Alice in Wonderland, do in May 2010, I can't really wait, here are some images from it..

All of these except the first one are like super hi-rez if you click them, the first one just takes you to a photobucket account with small versions of the others and like a billion shots of Johnny Depp as the mad hatter.

alice in wonderland 2010 Pictures, Images and Photos

Yeah... kind of knocks you flat on your ass doesn't it? I can not WAIT for this movie to come out, I'm almost drooling with excitement... Plus, Stephen Fry, one of the most brilliant british comedians I've ever come across is the Chesire Cat... seriously... come on May 2010...



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Those Who We Shall Never Forget # 2

You know who I miss? Maila Nurmi

Among those very few who remember who Maila Nurmi was, most of them remember her from the cult classic film "Plan 9 From Outer Space" where she took her famous alter ego, late 1950s Television host and original gothic girl Vampira, to the silver screen for that one and only time. Others know of her from the controversy surrounding Cassandra Peterson's rather blatant rip off Elvira. Or she's remembered as the seller of old hollywood memorabilia and did clothing making and design for some of the most famous people in hollywood through the 60s and 70s, But not me, I personally remember Maila as my friend, I was lucky enough, that via emails near the end of her life, become friends with Maila, an honor I never took lightly. She was amazed at my knowledge of her career, and of hollywood in general. I used to look forward to her emails telling me of times long past, when Hollywood didn't forget who she was, and of her behind the scenes life after her time in the spotlight was over. She was, and still is, the perfect woman.

Maila meeting fans on Hollywood Blvd. In 1955


Most don't know that Maila started out her life in Ohio, she eventually ended up in LA where she modeled while working many different jobs to make ends meet, she even acted when she could get stage roles, infact she was fired by Mae West from a stage show because West believed she would upstage her, she did many other plays, mostly what she called "horror themed midnight shows" in small theaters no one's probably ever heard of, mostly playing the sexy seductress witch or vampire, or often the beautiful dead too soon ghost that someone lusts for, she also spent most of the 1950s posing for pin up magazines, most of which are as pricey to own as those that Betty Page was in at that time.

Maila as Vampira in one of her more known and classic poses....

It was in the late 1950s that Maila discovered her alter ego Vampira, at a high profile costume ball that her agent had gotten the two of them into, Maila showed up dressed as Morticia Addams from the ever popular Addams Family comic strip that ran in The New Yorker by (my personal hero) the legendary Charles Addams. Maila worked the room as you do at a party of that nature, making friends introducing herself, getting business cards, the normal things you do in hollywood in the 50s, her unearthly beauty and unique style caught the eye of Hunt Stromberg, Jr., a man who at the time ran KABC-TV a Los Angeles Television station, he had the idea to do a show that aired horror and sci fi films, but he wanted something different for a host, someone unique and different, someone that could play a character who was just as sci fi and horror as the films they would be presenting, a concept that had never been done before on television, he saw one eye full of Maila and he knew he'd found what he was looking for, and after working to room abit to get her phone number from someone, Hunt got intouch with Maila, who made up the character of Vampira on the spot after hearing what she was being offered, and after fine tuning the character and working on some things she felt would be best suited for the character and the show, on April 30, 1954, at 11pm KABC-TV aired a preview show called "Dig Me Later, Vampira", which garnered incredible ratings for an early television program, and the next night, May 1st, 1954, KABC-TV aired the first episode of "The Vampira Show".

The classic opening to The Vampira Show, careful this gets LOUD

I can only imagine what it must have been like to see that, to see her float down that dark foggy walkway for the very first time, to let out that blood curling scream and then sexy little giggle as she did, just gives me chills thinking about it. You have to understand something at this point, the show that Maila did, that style, had at this point never been done before, there was never a television show that showed a movie of these kinds, with a character who would fit into them as the host, I know that outside of America and parts of Canada this is a completely foreign concept, but shows like Elvira's Movie Macabre and many others that followed the same format are all the children of The Vampira Show, she was the first, and many say, the greatest of a forgotten genre in American and Canadian television. After the intro, Vampira would then sit on her victorian style couch, encrusted with bones and skulls, where she would post seductively while introducing, and mocking the film she was about to show, she would also appear before and after commercial breaks, mostly mocking the film, or she would do a skit, reading fan letters from her mailbag and mostly making fun of them, and encouraging her fans to write for epitaphs, not autographs, nost of her jokes involved wordplay of that nature, switching a common word with a darker more scary word that sounds like it, it was brilliant for its time period, and would be emulated to this day, most noted in HBO's television series Tales From The Crypt, where The Crypt Keeper would speak in the exact same style.

Vampira on her trademark couch in 1955

Though the show became a massive hit, gaining huge ratings inspite of its late time slot, and even gaining Maila articles in Life Magazine as well as appearances on LA filmed television shows that went out across the ground, and Maila quickly gaining fame as the first macabre sex symbol, as well as being friends with such famous people as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and at separate times dated Orson Welles and James Dean, both of whom spoke of her in a mystical and magical way. Inspite of all of this, in 1955, after Maila refused to sell the rights to Vampira the character to ABC, for which they would then be able to broadcast the show nationally, KABC-TV canceled The Vampira Show, after only one year, it would later be revived briefly, its believed that from this revival period is when the only surviving episode of The Vampira Show was aired, the only episode having been restored using the same digital set up that restored such shows as Dark Shadows and other programs that went out live but at the time had no copies made for later airings. After a short while, and creative differences, Maila once again took her alter ego off the air, and quietly returned to life of an ordinary person living in Los Angeles, she was found working as a carpenter in 1961, and would also do plumbing and floor repair, a far cry from her years at the top of the world. Not long after that, Maila would open Vampira's Attic in a prime location on the just starting to come to life Melrose Blvd. where it would become an iconic location and must see destination when visiting Hollywood, Vampira's Attic would be an antique store specializing in hollywood memorabilia as well as selling art and clothing made by herself and other famous people who she knew from her time as a top billed sex symbol and cult icon, she worked there until she was too sick to continue, which she died shortly after, it is to my understanding the store is still open and run by her assistant, to whom she left it.

Another classic Vampira Pose, from which she would encourage people to write in

I met Maila in late 2006, when I sent and email request to do an email interview with her, expressing my fixation and love for Vampira and for her personally for all she's been able to do in life, from that moment on, we emailed back and forth, and became good friends, exchanging emails afew times a week, we would joke and complain about how hollywood has changed so drastically and she would tell me of her days at the top with the lights on bright, and the whole world looking at her, she'd tell me of some of the famous people she knew, in her life, and of how she missed them now that they were gone. She once said to me, "I truly am Vampira, because I am the walking dead, it hits me sometimes, when I hear an Elvis song or when I see Orson on Jimmy's movies on television, that they are gone, but I am still here. Thats a very sad through to hold onto, knowing all of your friends are dead, but you live on.". I never realized just how much she'd gone through till that point, I remember I replied back with "well, I'm not as famous as them, but, I'm still your friend", I remember she thanked me for that. I truly felt as if it made her day. I never did make it out there to see Maila and her store, and to get a tour of "Vampira's Hollywood" as she always told me she would give me, my schedule just never allowed for it, and though looking backI wished I had, but reflecting on that little over a year that I had gotten to know her, and become her friend, I was able to realize just how lucky I was, to touch a legend that time tried to sweep away into the sea of forgotten time, and for her to reach back and touch me as a thank you for giving an aging beauty a chance to relive her long ago time all over again. Maila died 12 days before my 30th Birthday, she had sent me an email afew days before teasing that she had a surprise for my birthday for me, and I would have to wait to see what it was. I never did get to find out what it was. Personally, I'm ok with that.

One of the more sexy poses from the Vampira promotion material

So again, I will say to you, as i did the day you died, good bye Maila Nurmi, my greatest obsession, my greatest teacher, and my greatest inspiration, you taught me that its ok to be darker then the others, and to want to sit in the shadows while the others play in the light, and that just because you are one that moves among the darkness, it doesn't mean you can't do good. So please, rest in peace Maila, I will miss you, and love you for all of time...



Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Look!

I felt the need to change the look of the place after having an issue with the images for the old layout..

I rather enjoy it :)



Torrent Picks 7/5/09

So, Its that time again, for me to drop more movies on you all that i feel you might enjoy be it for their impact, or that they are hidden gems, or if you are looking for a laugh be it remembering a film you'd forgotten, or by laughing at just how bad some of these films are.. and as always, I am glad that i can bring them to you.. so, lets get too it...

The Dark Crystal: My post earlier this week about Jim Henson got me into a mood to watch his older films, and marvel at just how impressive they really were. And though there are many to choose from, I decided to go with the non-muppet related one, The Dark Crystal. The considerably darker then Jim's other work, its the tale of a mystic journey to stop evil and all of that good stuff, and sure its been done and said millions of times before, but never told before or sense with the wonder, magic, joy and care that is a Jim Henson made classic such as The Dark Crystal. Sure by today's standards it seems abit hokey, but you need to look at this film with the eyes of a child of the early 1980s, you need to let that little kid inside you see the magic and wonder that is there. After all, we all deserve to be children again at times.

Hounddog: Remember last week, when I mentioned with Towelhead that I had a similar film in mind for this week? Well this is, the controversial yet ever so powerful Hounddog, a film of a twelve year old girl's decent into a psychological hell and how she is able to deal with the world through her love for the music of Elvis Presley. Set in the late 1950s in the southern part of the united states, you meet Lewellen, who lives with her strict overly religious grandmother and her drunken loser father, who is trying to clean up his life and be a good parent, even looking for a woman that would be a good step mother to his daughter, the film deals with Lewellen being delt one hardship after another, until she finds out that as part of his tour Elvis Presley is coming to her town, she is excited and plans to go, though all that happens between that and when she goes, she keeps her head high knowing that she will get to see her idol. But the film's bad luck doesn't end there, Lewellen is raped the night of the concert, and the rest of the film is spent dealing with the trauma from that added with all the trauma added before it, and how no one is really sure if a 12 year old girl can handle all that is dumped on her. Its a brilliant film and though many raise and eyebrow or question if a film thats climatic turning point is a the rape of a 12 year old girl, but, its just done so well, its so dark and gritty and so very well acted, possibly young Dakota Fanning's best role to date for me.

Chocolate: one market that I seem to overlook alot is the modern Asian film market, and though there are many good films, their staple has always been the action film, and though there are many that are infact very good, I find myself looking past most of them looking for something that stands out. And 2008's "Chocolate" does just that, billed as Thailand's homage to the greatest of the great Asian action films, chocolate does not let you down, ever, its the story of a young autistic girl named Zen, she is the daughter of a boss in a Thailand branch of the Yakuza (the asian mafia), who's mother, the mob boss' wife flees with her before she's even born, she's told its for her and soon to be born Zen's safety, because a rival crimelord called "Number 8" will stop at nothing to kill one or both of them as a show of disrespect and hate for Zen's father. As you see Zen grow, you realize that she is autistic, which if you don't know what it is, its a very strong mental illness, the only thing that seems to keep Zen from lashing out or having fits is either watching kung fu movies or watching the students training outdoors at the Muay Thai Marital Arts Dojo nextdoor to where she lives. Zen eventually beings to mimic the movements she sees in both the movies and from those who train nextdoor to her. Eventually its discovered Zen not only taught herself several martial arts, but has also gained super heightened senses as well, and as her mother is slowly running out of money and her mother appearing to be sick, she and her only friend, a young boy that lives with her and her mother, set out to gain money for them to survive on. The film is jut so beautiful in its portrayal as well as its constant homage to every single star of the asian action cinema not only by the action scenes being exact move and shot for shot remakes of them, but also in Zen mimicking their trademark stances and poses and everything, Zen emulates everyone from Jackie Chan, even doing his legendary fight scene from The Legend of Drunken Master the film most people say had the greatest action scene ever made in it, to mimics of Jet Li in various roles, as well as Bruce Lee, mimicking Bruce down to his trademark yell, attack stance, strange facial expressions and all the sounds he used to make while doing his asskickery, and many others as well, its a beautifully done action dramedy. Even if you aren't a fan of the Asian action film market, you should give this a look its lots of fun.

Magnus: Magnus is an estonian film that personally, I just love, its the story of a young boy who's decided he has nothing to live for, and wishes to kill himself, his father however, has different plans, and wishes to show his young son the joys of life, and that life is really what we make of it, and that if we choose to make it depressing and sad, then it will be depressing and sad, but if we choose to make it fun and enjoyable regardless of anything that comes our way, life can be so much more important then how and when you die. The movie is a delightful mixture of serious and funny, its kind of like if Harold from Harold and Maude had a father that felt the need to show him all that life had to offer instead of letting him attempt to kill himself. It also features one of the funniest scenes I've ever seen in a film, the father looks at Magnus and says "I should take you to a strip club.." and after a short pause Magnus says "I should hang myself..". Its just full of funny little scenes like that, which is partly why I love it, the other reason why I love it, is the actual message behind the film, your life is what you decide it is, if you decide its dark, its dark, if its light, you decide its light, we are the masters of our own choices and our own destiny, we are also sometimes the prisoner of those things too.

If....: This is one of the rarer films from my list of the 30 Best Films Of All Time, and its arguably one of the most powerful of them all. If... tells the story of the class and social structures of a private school in The United Kingdom in the late 1960s, this film serves as an allegory for the entire social structure of The United Kingdom at the time, and of how if the continued mistreatment and disregard for human decency, respect and dignity, it would lead to nothing but violence and the blood of those who hold others down will show just how those repressed and held down really feel. Its the tale of a group of freshmen who are mistreated by their rude, demanding, mentally and abusive upperclassmen who they must "serve" given the school's charter and its social rules. Its the story of how they take as much as they can and then finally decide to do something about it, and set about planning to exact their revenge on the day when parents all come to the school by gunning them and their parents down, its an unsettling film to watch, truly the top of the art house late 60s british films, if there really was a crown to such a title.

Well, thats that for this week, I'll be back next week with more, I hope you enjoy.