Saturday, May 31, 2008

Roujin Z

Cocoon meets Iron Giant. Moderately sly script gets a few decent digs in between nutty action sequences. Never fully devolves to sentimental mush, which was a welcome surprise. Design of robots was inadvertently echoed in my Lego MOC documented here and here.

Warning Shot

The smoke-bomb fog is an immediate clue that this is a TV movie. David Janssen's presence cements the conclusion. Outstanding cast and decent story actually made it possible for this to be released in theaters, but there is no mistaking this for a regular movie. Thin veneer of topicality is worn away by the second act.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Alexander Courage, RIP. Ditto Harvey Korman.

The Seattle P-I reports that Alexander Courage died on May 15. He was 88. Thanks for the music.
Harvey Korman died today after. He was 81. Thanks for the many laughs.

Bird Cam


A bird made a nest in a bat-house that I neglected to put up. Next step is to weather proof the camera, 'cause this bringing home the insect action is great!
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JYW identified the species in about 5 seconds from my description. It is a Bewick's Wren.

Storm Trooper helmet doodle

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Black Friday

Boris Karloff plays mad scientist who impulsively saves his best friend's life with a brain transplant. We would say brain implant today and save a few reels of confusion. The result is a certain improvement on the Jekyll and Hyde theme as the mild mannered professor transforms into a ruthless gangster. Stanley Ridges completely steals the show from Karloff with his Kevin Spacey grade transformations. Bela Lugosi is also present in a thoroughly thankless role. (There is some small irony that Karloff is playing the mitteleuropean immigrant.) Paul Fix has a small speaking role. Universal-style horror is tinged ever so slightly with noir touches.

The Black Cat (1941)

Oops, I thought I had ordered The Black Cat (1932). What I got was an instance of haunted house mystery farce, that mainstay of high school theater. Slickly produced with grade A character actors but no particular panache. Very mild diversion suitable for elders laid up with broken hips.

Ransom (aka The Terrorists)

Amateur hour in Norway. Apparently Norway is where B movies went to die in the seventies. There's nothing wrong with the movie except that it is totally lifeless. It's also obvious to the point of near parody. The jaunty Jerry Goldsmith score is odd in that it does not seem to match the tone of the movie. I suspect editing room shenanigans amplified the tepid tone. Compare and contrast Goldsmith's music during the fjord plane pursuit (the most interesting sequence in the movie) with the opening of The Edge. Sean Connery does get to belt Ian McShane a couple of times which is satisfying.

Eolomea

East German space thriller. In spite of technical limitations, the model work was pretty good, just below the Space: 1999 level. Lots and lots of 2001-style cloud-tank effects. There is the usual loopy and oblique dialog striving for great depth but manages to serve the story for the most part.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Atomic Submarine

I really hope that people don't look at my love for Star Trek the way that I look at people who love Atomic Submarine. Commentary track is worth two of the movie. Alien monster is dead ringer for Kodos (or Kang)! I would have watched it for Tom Conway in any case.

The Invisible Man's Revenge

It should read An Invisible Man's Revenge as the plot has nothing to do with any of the preceding movies. The whole premise is turned inside out: crazy guy (it's not clear whether trauma-induced amnesia caused or prevented his psychopathic tendencies) incidentally finds a means to be invisible. But then he decides to be visible.
Some just barely interesting parts are thrown away: an off-screen African diamond-mine adventure, for example. And John Carradine's sympathetic but vicious invisible dog is not used to any kind of thrilling effect because he is made visible. A visible revengeful hound is just an annoyance but an invisible Hound of Vengeance is awesome! I mean, the title is not Visible Man's Revenge, is it? How hard is this? Some of the invisibility tricks are pretty good except for the wire-work in the second half.

Invisible Agent

Potentially great premise is frittered away. Supporting cast outshines nominal principals. Look fast for Keye Luke. Nazi airfield scenes work well.

Flowers and Jays

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drums Along the Mohawk

John Ford's first color movie is a doozy. Nicely composed although the print is not perfect. Not a Western, but it is Westerny.

The Man From Earth

Jerome Bixby script realized by ensemble populated with Star Trek graduates is not quite just a rehash of Requiem for Methuselah. Doesn't escape its TV genesis.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Books books books

A Welcome Development

Hooray for the correction! All praise to the overdue correction!
A recent study by online house-pricing service Zillow.com found that less expensive houses appreciate more than costlier and presumably larger homes. If that continues, the ubiquitous McMansion may turn out to be the real estate bubble's biggest booby prize.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Topaz

Rather workaday Hitchcock shows oddly refracted influence of 2001. Maybe it's just the Cold War milieu.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dune (extended version, aka TV version)

David Lynch, understandably, had his director credit removed from this messier version of his colossal mess. It's an entertaining mess, but is more like an artifact than a movie. Brad Dourif, lord of the twitch, manges to seem out of place in a universe of genetically twitchy characters. Odd. There are a few scenes of interest but most of the extended running time is to shoehorn in an attempt to provide enough back story so that a lay person can have a chance to understand what is going on. I think the exposition just adds more incomprehensible words and behaviors and so just makes the confusion worse. Although the score is unremarkable, it sometimes rises to the level of not annoying but there are a couple of sequences where the Toto-ness of the source is all too apparent.

Ladyhawke

What should be a perfectly good popcorn flick is thoroughly marred by brain-dead score cobbled together from the corpses of Alan Parsons Project rejecta. Pfah! An adequate but imperfect remedy is to program iTunes with a selection of better music (i.e. any music) and turn the DVD sound off and subtitles on. It really is too bad as it is an attractive movie.

McCain Predicts Iraq War Done by 2013; President Obama says, "Thanks!"

McCain has disqualified himself on account of doddering. He may be perfectly justified in his prediction but he is going to be roasted alive for enunciating such a distant date outside of his own head before the election. He has given the election to Obama, which is pretty awesome.

Joseph Wiseman is 90 today

Thanks for Dr. No and Lawman.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

At the Earth's Core

What if Sid and Marty Kroft re-imagined the first two Planet of the Apes movies as Victorian Cthulhu mythos? At the Earth's Core! Not nearly enough X-10 Crust-Crawler action. Papier-mache parrot heads top rubber suits of winged, telepathic overlords. Astoundingly this does not violate any inner consistency. Compare and contrast celebratory rave dance to that in the Matrix under similar subterranean circumstances. Allay loo ta nuv, Doug McClure, allay loo ta nuv, indeed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Divers find Caesar bust that may date to 46 B.C.



What a cross bear!

Indiana Jones and the Planet of the Apes


Heh.

Lawman

This western lies on the continuum between 3:10 to Yuma and High Plains Drifter. It is superior to the latter just as it is inferior to the former. Eastwood's High Plains Drifter isn't a patch on the Lawman, killer of men. Amusing cast overlaps make the connections in the continuum manifest. The score by Jerry Fielding is another asset although it may be a tad too glossy for the on-screen action. Some of the photography, close-ups of Burt Lancaster especially, is self-conscious, busy or both.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cube

 
 
 
 
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High Plains Drifter

This seemed better when I was a teenager. Now its mostly an imposition on my patience and definitely undeserving of its reputation "Revenge Western," pfft. In the right frame of mind, it might rise to the level of scary campfire story. It wishes it was a movie version of a Weird Tales story, but it's not quite that good.

Late Autumn

Having picked up Late Autumn on a whim, I was unprepared for his idiosyncratic, non-Hollywood style. The audience-as-camera was especially disconcerting. The relentless white light and formal geometry of the compositions put me in mind of what life as a Lego minifig might be like. The gentle story is slight and deeply funny at the same time.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Improved" CD Covers

Picasa SlideshowPicasa Web AlbumsFullscreen


Sometimes the CD covers that iTunes finds are not correct. Sometimes they are correct but they are not exactly the same as mine. Sometimes they are just plain ugly. So I cobble together my own. This slide show contains CD covers I have made since 1999 or so. Some were made on spec as it were, before the CDs even came out. Some of them are for CDs that never existed.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Devil Rides Out

Hammer horror pits Christopher Lee against Charles Grey. Black magic, sacred circles, roadster races, Four Horsemen, etc, ensue. That's all well and good but listen to the commentary with Christopher Lee for pure geeky entertainment. Fascinating stuff.

Really great sketch of Mathilda from 'Léon'

Erica Henderson's sketch blog

Out of the Past

Reptilian alien overlord (Douglas) hires wholly human agent (Mitchum) to retrieve genetic weapon (Greer) that has liberated herself and is on the loose in Latin America. Wholesome folk of the countryside are relieved as juggernauts destroy each other, leaving the cities to the cockroaches as they breed the citizen-gods of the shining future. "You're like a leaf blowing from one gutter to another," is one of dozens of excellent speeches. Re-made, approximately, as Against All Odds, which isn't nearly the entertainment as Out of the Past.

This started out as, "Mad genius (Douglas) hires bladerunner (Mitchum) to retrieve advanced replicant (Greer) ..." but realized that it's too accurate to both movies to illuminate either. Dickie Jones would be the parallel to William Sanderson.
I'm still not happy with it ... the point is that the past is a greasy, primitive, lawless wasteland and the future is an agrarian, toga-wearing paradise of equals in harmony with self and the land. No room for tyrants, even petty ones like the Kirk Douglas character.

Bionicle teaser from Brickmaster

Mysterious Bionicle entity advertised in recent Lego Club Magazine. Although I think that to the lay person, everything about Bionicle is mysterious, if not actually impenetrable. ("Not Karzahni the sentient plant, but Karzahni the being named after Karzahni the place. Duh!")

Brickmaster is a premium service that includes a subscription to a set of small models that are sent bi-monthly. It's a reasonable value for the pan-Legoista. this ad was the sole Bionicle mention in the entire magazine which was cover-to-cover filled with licensed products: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, SpongeBob and Speed Racer.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Phantom Menace

Much has been written of the prodigious failings of the fourth, first, whichever Star Wars movie. But it's not all Jar Jar and midifloradorians. A list in roughly chronological order:
Overall design is attractive
Ewan is a jaunty young Obi Wan
Liam makes for a redoubtable Jedi knight
Melting the blast door was actually really good - shades of Forbidden Planet
Various droids and their equipment are cool
Monsters of the deep are always welcome although the pacing of the planet core sequence is clunky. (Oops! Look on the bright side!)
Jar Jar excepted (excepted with extreme prejudice), the Gungans are perfectly typical Star Wars aliens
Astromech droid garage. Recalls Huey Dewey, and Louis from Silent Running.
Natalie Portman!
Watto's doorbell
Darth Maul's makeup, Darth Maul in general
Pod race arena quoting Ben-Hur
Darth Maul's speeder bike
Terence Stamp!
Samuel Jackson!
Dinosaurs and force-fields: go great together.
Pistol packing Princess Padme
The Duel of the Fates. The best lightsaber fight ever.

Lego set: Jungle Duel

Not as awesome as the previous small sets, this one has its charms. The collection of red ants is amusing as is the breakaway camp table. The tent is an even more sophisticated use of the stiff cloth/paper used in the truck chase set. The movie will no doubt explain why there is a spinning display case full of edged weapons in the jungle. I am afraid that Mutt's monogrammed leather biker jacket is self-explanatory. Lego has provided Mutt with a standard issue minifig knife. I bet money with myself that this will turn out to be a switchblade.

20080505_indylego

Whole Grain Popcorn


Well, yeah! As opposed to that fancy-schmancy stone-ground popcorn that you get at the snooty movies with Gwyneth Paltrow. What are you thinking, Orville?

Magic Beans

I traded the family cow for these magic beans:

Friday, May 02, 2008

No Mercy for Radicata!

To enter the house of Kyle is to enter the house of pain!

There is the ovening:


There is being ovened:


Introduction to Monsieur le Choppy!


The business end of Choppy:


Cozy in the steel bosom of Choppy:


Chopped!


Pulverized!


Let that be a lesson to the rest of you weeds!
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Make Your Own Demotivators

Dandelion with a Stout Root

It's not the biggest dandelion I have ever come across in my yard, but it may be the one with the thickest root. It is not really a dandelion either, more along the lines of catsear. My first thought when it came out was that it looked a lot like a turnip. A Google search turned up this page on the OSU site which has more information than I really needed. It is an invasive species to this continent. The OSU page mentions the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Ohio specifically which are, coincidentally enough, the same areas of North America that I have invaded. Dunh, dunh, du-u-u-h!


The bad news is that it can best be controlled by hand weeding. As if I did not know that already. The worse news is that it is a perennial, so it will keep on giving and giving until I do weed it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pale Rider

Clunky, cringe-inducing and artless self-parody is ridiculous mess. Would benefit from being dubbed into Russian.

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Glenn Ford and Van Heflin may have both provided their best performances in this movie. I'm pretty sure that the ending is not the one that was originally written and even if it is, it doesn't ring true. Luckily, the rest of the movie has already done its job and the ending isn't that critical to the psychology. Which psychology, by the way, escapes mere mortal's grasp at about 2:45, but Heflin pulls it off with aplomb.

May Day

This page on eskimo.com has much May Day trivia. Absurdities galore! Note especially the different causes that have been consecrated to the month of May. Historywiz.com has a page, too.

Apple(b)logue archive