Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
Or How I Taught My Friend Annie To Do The Time Warp

Ok so I need to explain alittle of why I'm doing this first, as you all know, its Halloween time here in America, and that ofcourse leads to many a thing, office pranks, long drawn out discussions about what each of your friends is gonna dress as, incessant whining by people that aren't dressing up because its silly or stupid, the debate that Batman really is just a middle aged man in a halloween suit, guys marveling how its the one time a year all your female friends you wish should show off the goods, show off the goods, and ofcourse, the greatest tradition in american halloweening sense giving candy to little kids wearing a mask and a teeshirt that says the name of the person the mask is on it, I'm speaking ofcourse, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film and tradition that I was amazed to discover that my friend Annie, my authority on musicals, dance, and all things theater, had never heard of in the country she lives in, and though I understand that traditions and cultural things that are common place to us here, I felt it'd be fun for me to kind of write up abit about this Grindhouse classic, and the traditions around it that we Americans love and cherish.

So Annie, this one's for you, welcome to the grindhouse...

The Rocky Horror Picture Show started out in the early 1970s in England as "The Rocky Horror Show" an early outsider alternative theater production aimed at the British counter culture that was starting to rise out of what was the rebellious youth culture that was the hallmark of the late 1960s in The UK. The Rocky Horror Show had elements of all the things hallmark of this rise, drugs, open sexuality of all sorts (Heterosexuality, Bisexuality and Homosexuality), cross dressing, rebellion against the older ways, and ofcourse, rock and roll just to name afew of the themes deemed controversial by mainstream society, which ofcourse, for all of these reasons, shunned and defamed it in the general media of the time. It became sort of a cult theatrical event, large groups going on a Friday or Saturday night to a midnight or late evening showing, which would later spin over into the midnight showings of the film combined with the stage show.

The film, much like the play, really isn't a super complicated or tightly held together plot, its been called by many "barely coherent" and "almost non-existent at times", among other things, but what I don't think many understand is, the play, and the film, though obviously an allegory for its creator, Richard O'Brien's inner and outward mental struggle with his own issues with sexuality, its played out over the background of the classic sci fi and horror films that are referenced almost constantly with in the film's soundtrack and feel, with opening theme "Science Fiction Double Feature" referencing many characters, actors, directors and actual films themselves spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s, and "Don't Dream" is an ode to actress Faye Wray wrapped in a song about coming to terms with gender confusion and sexuality. Its brilliant on O'Brien's part really, to create a masterpiece that expresses what he is feeling and grappling with inside, as well as a love letter to the old world style of sci fi in hollywood, and if you look at the play, and the film as this, then you will come away with a true understanding of what this story is really all about.

For those that don't know, here is the plot of the story, with out really giving away all that much of it; it all begins at a wedding, where two uptight young lovers, Brad Majors and Janet Wiess, have just seen their friends go off to a life of married bliss, overcome with emotion and feeling finally brave enough to do so, Brad, in song ask Janet to marry him, she happily and gleefully accepts in song ("Damnit! Janet!"). They decide to drive back to thank the man that was the cause of them meeting in the first place, a former teacher named Doctor Scott. As they're driving to visit said doctor, it starts to rain, they, as happens in old films, break down in the rain, and decide to ask those who live at a nearby estate if they can use their phone, in song ("Over At The Frankenstein Place"). From there, they're taken into a strange and confusing world thats completely unknown and unlike anything they have ever come close to understanding in their sheltered little lives, its a sort of a mix of Frankenstein, Dracula, and just about every mad scientist movies ever made, each scene designed to show their minds twisting just abit more, ofcourse all done in song, and by the end, you never really know if you've truly understood what you've just seen, or if you ever will, but all you know is, you rather liked it, because deep down, you wanna be dirty.

The story though, is never really why we all clammer to watch this film, its ofcourse the music, the music and the characters. From Riff Raff the creepy hunchbacked Butler, to his twincest-y sister Magenta, to the strange flapper girl talking chorus girl dressing Columbia, to Eddie Scott the motorcycle riding greaseball that Columbia is fixated on, to Brad and Janet, and ofcourse Dr. Frank N Ferter, the bisexual transsexual transvestite mad scientist from transsexual Transylvania, and his tragic creation, the title character himself, Rocky Horror. We all understand that O'Brien wrote them to all represent parts of himself and in turn parts of all of us (O'Brien himself always playing Riff Raff), and we all love them all for that very fact, and they stick with us for years after watching the film, they've all become parts of pop culture in their own right, just as, if not bigger then the film itself in the case of atleast Frank N. Ferter, and some could argue that Brad and Janet could be the archetype of most nerdy, clueless, sheltered younger people in most movies and television shows.

And as much as we love the characters, still we all love the music just as much if not more. A simple search of any of the songs from the film will turn up many many covers of them, the most iconic song is ofcourse "The Time Warp", you haven't been to a wedding in America in the last 35 years and not either done, or laughed, or watched on in horror as your friends and loved ones all did the time warp (again!), and you can't go to a drag queen show with out seeing a dance number or fashion show to "Sweet Transvestite", often sung in the outfit of Frank N. Ferter. And though you don't really hear them as much, the most covered songs from the score are, ofcourse the theme "Science Fiction Double Feature" (my personal favorite), "Don't Dream It, Be It", "Superheroes" and now and then, if you come across a band with a sexy female lead singer, you'll find a sexed up cover of "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" that can be either really really good, or really really bad. All of these facts, and just that its just amazingly catchy and at times seen as the perfect soundtrack (if I remember I ranked it number three of all time on my list), make this story one that has been fused into american pop culture for 35 years.

So the final question is ofcourse, the tradition itself, well see, as amazing as the film is, when it first screened here in america, it was a bomb, we're talking on the level of such bombs as Ishtar, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glitter, and just about anything made by Uwe Boll, one enterprisingly smart theater owner in New York City decided for the fun of it, to air the film as one of his weekend midnight showings, and thats where it all began. See, there were, until atleast the mid 1980s, what were called "midnight movies" at most grindhouse theaters, alot of the time this is were you'd see the films that are more drug, sex, shock value or violence oriented, alot of theaters would also air the films of of the young (and oddly at this point seen as art house) pornographic film industry as well. As the film's cult following grew, other elements would become added to the tradition of the midnight showings, the "shadow players" who would act out the play on the stage below the movie screen in perfect sync with the film, and ofcourse, audience participation and cosplay as the characters would soon become added to the way the film was viewed, though sadly, given the damage and clean up that audience participation brings with it, many theaters these days do not allow for it, but still still show it, its not the same, but, its still a fun show, even if you don't get to toss toast and rice at people or aim your water guns at the most well dressed, or dressed in white, woman in the theater for the rain scene.

And I think really, its the fun and out there insanity that keeps us all coming back for more when it comes to Rocky Horror, sure the film itself might not be the greatest, and a must miss if you can't take alittle goofball insanity mixed in with transvestites singing about satanic mechanics, or odd voiced hunchbacks singing about pelvic thrusts, or if you are offended by transvestites singing about how a mental mindfuck could be nice. But if those things don't bother you, and you're among those that haven't ever seen it, and you wanna have a truly awesome experiance or maybe see what happens when Grindhouse meets Musical Theater in a back alley somewhere, then seriously give it a look. And if you're one of the many that are like me and grew up with this film as part of your culture, then go watch it again and relive some great memories, or remember things you'd forgotten.

But in either event, have a happy Halloween.

Oh and just for the fun of it, here's my favorite song from the film, the great ode to old world sci fi, "Science Fiction Double Feature".



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fun With Netflix

Ok so, the other month after helping out a good friend, as a thank you because they couldn't give me gas money or like order some take out or something to pay me back for my help, they gave me a one month free trial for Netflix.

For those of you that aren't aware of what Netflix is, its one of the services that basically put the video rental business out of business. Direct to your home via mail and then mail back rental service that allows you to pick any movie regardless of genre, or country or any of that awesome stuff, you can also get tv too, and now, you can also instantly stream movies and tv to your television via dvr or video game system or your computer as well. I use my PS3 because, well, my PS3 is awesome as can be and lovely at streaming things.

So anyway, I've been testing it out, sense I'm lazy and sometimes don't wanna spend the money to buy a blu ray I'm gonna only watch once or twice, I figure 10.99 a month for one at a time discs plus unlimited streaming over the net isn't a bad deal at all. Its actually pretty good till blu ray becomes more common place I think anyway. Plus, again, unlimited streaming, you can't beat that with a stick, a sharp pointy stick with dog doo or a fish head on it, or both even, but really thats just the stick related stuff of the major leagues, not the minors like so many of us are only worthy of.

I find myself using the streaming more then anything though, I just love the idea of it all. I watched the entire first season of Rocky and Bullwinkle and all their godzilla movies in one day, it was pretty epic around the old homestead. They have a great library really, its totally worth checking into, you'd be amazed what they really have included in their online set up. Some of which I'm gonna do some review of, now that I've got the blog working again.

Anyway, thats it for now, just really enjoying this and felt the need to share, back soon with more!



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our First Look At The US Remake Of Shameless

So bouncing about the net today, I happened across a link to Showtime's Youtube page, they normally use it for boring things like letting that woman that created Weeds talk about each episode, which would be fine if she didn't look like Julia Louie Dreyfus and Bruce Velanche's love child, but today, they decided to give us all a treat, the very first preview of the much debated american remake of the monster british hit series Shameless.

For those of you that don't know what Shameless is, shame on you for being under that rock you live under! And also shame on you for probably also watching Jay Leno. But anyway, Shameless is the story of the Galligar family, headed by Frank Gallagher, possibly one of the best written characters in British television, its the story of him, his children and the people around them as they live their lives in a fictional estate outside of Manchester (england, england, across the atlantic sea), in its seven or so series on the air, its evolved from a simple dark comedy about life for the lower class, into a wildly funny, sometimes dark and dramatic commentary on life, the large expanded cast are just as important and interesting as the main characters, its kind of like if The Simpsons was live action and weren't scared to take on dramatic situations to balance out the goofball and make it seem realistic. If you haven't seen it, you really should its so very good. Also, if you go through my archive and look through my "Telelvision Shows Everyone Should See" lists, its on there.

So I'm sure you can all understand that when you have a show of this caliber, acclaim, respect and cult status, when word comes around that its going to be remade for another country, instead of just importing it, there will be a giant uproar demanding it be kept as it should be, or not made at all. After all, fans are rabid beyond belief. Seriously, every fanbase is rabid beyond logic no matter what, don't believe me? Go find a fan forum for The Magic Roundabout and look how rabid they get... go on, I dare you. Or if you're to scared to do that, go piss off the 6 people that liked the British version of The Office and see what happens, and don't let them tell you "Hot Love On The Hot Love Highway" makes the show redeemable, thats commie talk.

Anyway, before I say anything else, here is the trailer...

Now, lets get the obvious out of the way, there is almost no way to compare it fairly to the original material, yes, its set in Chicago's Cabrini Green amidst all the urban renewal, which is as close as you're gonna get to a British estate here in the states, we don't have low rent homes, we have housing projects that are all apartments, so they've done the best that can there, its not a huge issue, but I know its one the fans will bitch about, simply because fans bitch about everything. Secondly, William H. Macy is probably the perfect choice for the american version of Frank, if you aren't aware of just how awesome William H. Macy is, go watch Pleasentville, and then go watch Mystery Men to punish yourself for not ever seeing Pleasentville and also for doubting how great an actor William H. Macy is. He'll do an incredible job as Frank, though I have to admit, I miss the original character's thick accent, with it being Chicago I was kind of hoping for either a thick Chicago accent or an Irish one given the city's large Irish population, but no problems really. The rest of the cast seems pretty well suited, I was kind of pissed off Ellen Paige passed on being Fiona, I felt she would have made a better one, but we shall see. I am abit leery as to why late on in the first series that horribly bland girl that plays the horribly bland Bella in the horribly offensive to the world Twilight films will be showing up, but I guess as long as the rest of the cast keeps their caliber of acting up, I won't really care all that much.

So on a whole, I'm alot less iffy on this version of the series, I'm optimistic, I'm not willing to deem it the next All In The Family or anything, but I'm feeling less sickly about it then I was before.

So, fans, thoughts?



Halloween Movie Marathon

No no no, I'm not gonna sit down and watch all of the halloween films going back to the original, that'd be silly and kind of boring... But instead, here is my list of the films i'm gonna spend Halloween watching, sure I bet alot of you don't care, but well, I needed to find a good filler post till I get around to reviewing Piranha, Predators, and afew other things this week...

So with that said.. here we go...

The Car: For those of you that don't know by now, I have a sort of special cult classic love for this little film about a demonic Lincoln that drives around the south west pissing off James Broland and murdering French horns. Its goofy, its horribly written and horribly filmed with lazy editing that lets you see the damage done to the stunt car half the time, but still, I love the hell out of this film, its a great laugh at the lighter side of Halloween film.

Frogs: I always loved how they literally made a horror film for EVERY animal ever, seriously, there an animals gone wild and start killing people film for every animal you can imagine, cats? yep. bears? yep. snakes? yep. moles? yep. rabbits? yep, you get the idea. And the fact its just so completely silly and idiotic of an idea is why I plan on watching Frogs. The film were a mega corporation dumps toxic ooze in a frog filled swamp and the frogs get mad. Which is weird because I always always under the impression that if you were a creature in an area where toxic ooze is dumped, you become humanlike and automatically know kung fu...

Killer Klowns From Outer Space: ... clowns are fucking scary yo.

The Beast Of Yukka Flats: I've spoken at length about just how horrible this film really is, and believe me, its horrible, horribly acted, horribly made, horribly edited, you get the idea. The only redeaming factor in this is that has one of the very first nude scenes that show full frontal female nudity in film, which sadly, has nothing at all to do with the story at all, it was just tossed in there "because the director felt maybe some breasts would make the viewer forget how horrible the film really is.". Oh well, it inspired Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create The Incredible Hulk, so, i guess call it a win?

Kazam: Because seriously, this film is one of the scariest films of all time, Shaq's acting is just so very very horrible, I'm not talking like tolerable cuz its funny how bad he acts like it is with William Shatner and Sean Connery, I'm talking everytime he opens his mouth and uses that flat, monotone, modulating voice, it just assaults your ears and mind at such a violent pace that by the end, you kind of feel like you just got your ass kicked by a large black man that talks like a muppet. But, I ain't hating on Shaq, he can still take it to the rim yo.

Santo Vs. Dracula: A Halloween themed movie Marathon can't be complete with out atleast one visit down mexico way and spending some time with the legend himself, El Santo (called sampson in the english dubs of his films), El Santo, sometimes teamed with his long time friend The Blue Demon, El Santo fought the likes of vampires, werewolves, witches, and nazis, lots and lots of nazis, which might seem goofy to some, but ironically over 40 years later in some cases, these movies could pass for storylines for the next big pay per view wrestling event. My favorite of the bunch was, and always will be, El Santo vs. Dracula, the first one that I'd ever seen in the series, and possibly the most enjoyable of them all in a camp value way, plus you get to see Dracula use his little known lucha libre wrestling skills.

The Song Of Norway; This is one of those films thats so bad you sometimes wonder if its really just torture used for getting info out of foreign combatants or something. The Song Of Norway is a musical from 1970 and stars Florance Henderson of the Brady Bunch in a singing role. Yes, you read that right, Mrs. Brady singing while dressed like an old world Norwegian, while singing. The story is something about some famous composer from there, and for some reason actually tries to make him out to be an action hero, which is, well, yeah not right. This film is so bad it kind of makes piles of shit like The Room look good by compare, it even makes The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia, the musical about incest that has nothing at all to do with the southern gothic blues song of the same name, which has the likes of Dennis Quade and Kristie McNickle singing horribly about a brother and sister that get their Flowers In The Attic on while trying to become country music stars, look like a masterclass in how to make a musical. Its almost to horrible even for me to watch...

And thats my halloween marathon, sure maybe its not the most scary, but I find things scary that others don't, lots of times slasher and stuff just aren't at all horrifing and bore me because they're just gore... so I figure why not just do some stuff thats scary because its just so bad...

anyway, till next time, which hopefully won't be to long assuming blogger lets me post with out errors...