Friday, February 29, 2008

Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green

Better photography than most of the series. More or less plausible plot. Watson is still the clown but a hypnotist had to go out of his way to make him ridiculous. Bonus points that someone actually stuck up for him, even though it was the villainess. DVD had colorized and original tone versions. For a lark, I glimpsed at the colorized version but it is no more successful than any other colorizing effort.

Nanook of the North

Famous as the first documentary but is far from being the least or ar at all amateurish or clumsy. Excellent photography and compelling portraiture. Nanook and family are utterly deft and free. Title cards are patronising but not unseemly so. 1998 score does not age a tenth as well as the footage.

LEGO Indiana Jones truck chase set is spiffy


ye ancient crockpot

I have no memory of when this crockpot entered my life. I hardly ever use it, but it seems so practical. I am making baked beans from scratch. Note to other bean-bakers: the cost in electricity is greater than the cost of buying it in a can. YMMV. Recipe? Some molasses, some brown sugar, some vinegar, some mustard, some ketchup, no onion because I didn't have one, no bacon (ditto), pepper, salt. Tastes just like home made!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Patterns in coffee grounds


Looked a million times more interesting in person. I had a hard time getting a decent light into the cup for a macro shot. Guess I better get a microscope.
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I have Rod Serling's gooseneck lamp

Sure, perhaps a bobabojillion of those lamps were made, but when was the last time you saw two at once separated merely by thousands of miles and decades of time? Eh?
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Road to Eldorado

I totally missed this movie when it came out. Wonder of wonders: The Rosie Perez character did not make me want to run away and cover my ears. It's cute.

Destry Rides Again

Another triumph for the cinematic year 1939. The world may have been going to Hell in a handbasket but Hollywood was accomplishing much. There may be one or two too many songs but at least they are worked into the setting more or less naturally. Brian Donlevy essays another thoroughly evil but manly villain. If one hasn't seen Destry Rides Again one know exactly nothing about Marlene Dietrich. There is nothing predictable about her performance - it's as if she is unaware herself what she may do from moment to moment. I get a real Klaus Kinski vibe from her although maybe that is just the accent. Supporting parts are given ample, if not excessive, screen time.

Sherlock Holmes in Terror by Night

Particularly anemic adventure set on a train to Edinburgh. Watson disables the foe without getting his butt out of the chair.

The Phantom of the Opera

As a musical it isn't any worse than Les Miserables. It looks fantastic. It's a shame it wasn't done by Baz Luhrman.

The Phantom of the Opera

Claude Rains is no Lon Chaney, but there is more than enough gothic unease to go around. Quirky comic relief provided by Nelson Eddy, as well as a lovely bust of the leading lady.

Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman

Holmes almost outwitted by Gale Sondergaard. Her scheme is undone through the usual expedient of a rococo execution method.

Children of the Damned

Under-appreciated sequel to Village of the Damned. Creepiness has been replaced by mere panic and a Great Big Message. The alien invaders are still children and are indeed a bit demonic, but mostly they are misunderstood. Things go terribly didactic by the last reel. Commentary by screenwriter is especially entertaining.

Village of the Damned

English countryside invaded by ill-mannered alien demons. Their fiendish plot of taking over the wombs of innocent women and their addlepated men is allowed to proceed unhindered! The Soviets handle their parallel situation with considerably more Putinesque flair. George Saunders great as usual. Creepiness is undermined by lack of dramatic tension. But there is indeed creepiness, delivered for the most part by the leader of the evil, evil children.

Criss Cross

Burt Lancaster and Dan Duryea are unable to redeem this potboiler although they provide journeyman performances. Burt's wardrobe is the real star. Be sure to check out the two tone jacket. One of the tones is tweed!

Sherlock Holmes In Pursuit to Algiers

Odd outing for Holmes aboard an ocean liner. Watson sings.

Mary of Scotland

Katharine Hepburn displays her improbable posture to interesting effect. Movie is free of plot and even showy direction and flashy performances failed to keep my attention. Interesting design and costume. Frederic March hams it up as if he's never seen a movie camera before.

Sherlock Holmes: Dressed to Kill

Better than the usual McGuffin. One of Watson's old friends turns out to be his equal in stupidity.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Water Horse

"Perfectly acceptable family entertainment." This is, you understand, the darkest possible fate for a movie: an eternal limbo for the competent but dreary. Technically unassailable, there is isn't enough vim in the plot or characters to keep anyone (and by anyone I mean the lad in the seat in front of me that resorted to hitting himself to stay awake) in the least involved. Reviews have noted the plurality of (generally better) movies that are evoked: E.T, Free Willie, Das Boot, The Secret of Roan Inish, Whale Rider, etc. There is not, in short anything original going on, even though it looks nice. Emily Watson is totally wasted and did not, apparently, receive the memo that actual acting would not be required. Behind her eyes you can sense a whole other movie that was probably pretty good.

My scenario for Water Horse: Home Defence troops billeted in your mouldy old manse? Ghosts are not evoked as a throw-away line but are part and parcel of the otherworldly goings-on to follow. Haunted? You bet! By the guilty souls of the ancient family that have controlled the monster in the loch. When the owner was called away to war (as the commander of the ship of the boy's father, natch!) the frayed, druidic fabric that kept the ancient fury in check finally fails. The billeted battalion is not going to mistake Nessie for a U-Boat! They're your allies, not a flaccid plot complication. And to make it more interesting for them, they're party to a tontine as well, or maybe a State Secret that the Ancient One of the Lake actually won the war. (Instead of a bulldog named Churchill har har, we have Churchill as a character.) Let's give the beast a reason to feel betrayed by the little boy (one of many subplots left to rot by the movie). He plays with toy boats and submarines, a U-boat presumably killed his dad, a u-boat is mistaken for a friend by Nessie, Nessie, lets the u-boat into the loch ... Nessie will be crushing u-Boats, to be sure, but also luring them into dangerous reefs and grinding rocks with songs that are sonar (if they had sonar), and sending dreams into the Hun foreheads of the captains that the sea is the beginning and the end of all sea-faring men and that they just might be better off home in the arms of their floury fraus. Emily Watson is still the mother of the little boy and instead of an informed performance of a woman in quiet grief raising a pasty brat she becomes the real danger to the water horse. Not because she doesn't believe or won't believe but because she is going to ride the magic monster to the sea-deep grave of her sailor husband and wrestle him away from his watery bed so that HE can raise their pasty-faced annoyance. Oh and the charming, heroic, handyman veteran that shows up to be proxy father and husband? He's toast in some way or another, probably undone by the messy engines of widow's grief that she cobbles from the submarine stone henge in the loch and the howitzers on the shore that she will use to break the water horse to her will. He'll wish that Jerry's shell had torn his arm off after he is witness to her Caledonian machinations against the domain of the dead. Because she's a witch! It was she who contrived to send the laird to war and to his doom not realizing that she cursed her own husband to drowning. (they are completely ignorant of this and are even pals or at least sympathetic to each other .. sidelight). Unless Brian Cox is cast as a druid or heavy-water engineer I'm afraid he's off the picture. Perhaps it is Brian Cox that has to re-establish the sensible order of constrained monster after the war is won. Appropriate eldritch terror. Who will have to sacrifice happiness or life? There may be a sequence in which Picts commandeer a PT boat. JFK may or may not be present.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

unnamed matoran

The instructions for Makuta Spriah are a bit of a puzzle. Spiriah is not a set per se, but a combiner. A sort of emergent toy that results when smaller sets are combined. All canonical combiners fail to use all the parts from the component sets, but Spiriah is egregious in its squandering. Four sets are used to produce a figure that is only slightly more imposing and involved than any singleton.
In any case, a companion figure is indicated in the instruction, but is not identified. The design is less thorough than the typical Bionicle and seems to be an afterthought. Rather than be party to LEGO's ploy to buy more toys I have cobbled together this incidental figure from spare parts. The main difficulty was reproducing the torso, the one element I did not have in supply.

Here is the part in question:

and here is my attempt to reproduce it:

and together:

The result is clearly imperfect but given the lackadaisical original design, I think I can forgive myself.

PS: It turns out that the parts can be rearranged to produce a better result. Here is the assembled imp:

Monday, February 11, 2008

the rocks above the blasted heath in the far north beyond the savage lands

A little scene between two field agents on a mission to the universe that also contains the Toa Maiden. They may be from the future.

Here is the yellow gnome that Red refers to.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

RIP Roy Scheider

Roy Scheider has died.

Bread Gone Mad

I made a large loaf of plain white bread. Unlike most loaves, this one rose to the top of the machine. Here it is as the bake cycle started.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tunes of Glory

Good script, good performances, good direction, good all around. They do not make movies like this any more. Susannah York's first movie. Alec Guinness sports red hair.

John Mills' character was driven to complete mental destruction by (I did not see this one coming) waterboarding, which he describes in harrowing, clinical detail. You know, waterboarding: that torture that isn't torture when George Bush says it isn't. Except in the character's case, the waterboarders weren't security subcontractors in Mesopatamia, but the Nazis.

Hitler probably didn't have time to pretend that torture wasn't torture, seeing as he was busy driving his country to utter ruin and bringing war to countless millions ... Which means that George Bush isn't even as honest as Hitler.

Adopt sharia law in Britain, says the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams

Wha? Is it possible that Andy Kaufman is not dead and is in the midst of his greatest performance to date?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Panic in Year Zero

I had no idea that Ray Milland was Welsh.
The qualities of the movie are not readily visible while some flaws are all too obvious. The more inexcusable failure is the inappropriate score attributed to Les Baxter. The same thumping big band tune plays under scenes no matter what the situation is. Loading a trailer for a fishing and camping trip? Ba-dum-de-bum! Nearly run off a mountain road by the fleeing population of Los Angeles? Ba-dum-de-bum! Hiding bodies in the barn? Ba-dum-de-bum! One expects Perry Mason to heave into frame any second. Les Baxter knew his trade, so I suspect that there was some type of shenanigans related to the low budget. The other glaring deficit is the presence of Frankie Avalon. Otherwise, the matter at hand (merely worldwide thermonuclear war) is handled pretty realistically if a tad optimistically. A special effect of a mushroom cloud over L.A. was unexpectedly convincing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear

Watson is in an especially doltish mettle this go around. Sheesh, just put him in a home already. Also mystery solved - sort of. Worth renting for the performance by Sally Shepherd of Mrs Monteith.

The Last Man on Earth

Curious mishmash of filmed elements with various cameras pointed at Vincent Price. If someone claimed that the entire production had been done by students toying with exquisite corpse, I would not be able to refute based on the evidence of the movie. Sanguine interview with Richard Matheson documents his attitude toward the result: "I wouldn't be paid if I took my name off it." Not in the same class of cheapness as Target Earth.
I have not seen the Will Smith movie because I did see I, Robot.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Metal Tree in SAM's sculpture garden

The site itself is pretty cool but the selected works are underwhelming. The prissy "Do Not Touch" signs are exactly what I expected in Seattle, so not a disappointment beyond the mere aggravation of the condescension. I should have got a pic of the explanatory card for Bench, which is a block of cement shaped like -- I blush to say it aloud -- a bench. How ineffably droll!

My Flip camera produced frames which I stitched (thanks, Autostitch!) together to produce this pic. It's a metal tree and was a big hit with the kids.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Not cute!

Patronizing jerk!
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Grr! Another broken DVD

Something tried to fold the DVD, or rather, did fold the DVD:

This time, the crack goes all the way across.

With a side order of delamination.

There is a crease in the sleeve and the shipping envelope. (the stitched photo is full of errors - apologies)
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