Entertainment News and Views
Judge Brett Cullum's Blog
• Location: Houston, TX
Need a lift? HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
For Mother's Day my mom actually begged to go see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was interested to see what she thought of it, since I had read all the novels back in my formative years and still recalled most of the adventures of that "kneebiter" Arthur Dent.
The movie itself is like a mild dose of nitrous oxide. It kept me smiling throughout the whole thing with some dry very English humor. I didn't notice too many major sins against the book, and they seemed to present it all very well. Special effects were great and seamless. In the end I really enjoyed it, and I'm still singing "So long and thanks for all the fish!" in my head. It's a good pick me up film! Nothing revelatory or even wildly inventive, but a nice solid adaptation of an amusing story.
My mom liked it alright, but said she was not buying the characters as much as I did since she had never read the books. She's a slave to Sci Fi (she's an original Trekkie who forced her entire dorm to watch the first airings of the original Star Trek series when they aired!), and she appreciated the jokes but found it a little remote without the insider knowledge of someone who could fill in blanks from the book. So I gather it's not the best movie for neophytes, but she said she "got it" and was amused.
I'll Stop the World and Melt with You - HOUSE OF WAX
A friend took me to see HOUSE OF WAX Saturday afternoon. My my how bland and blah horror movies have become. It has a quaint drawn out set-up that reminded me of far better slasher flicks from the '80s. I would suggest Tourist Trap as a better flick than this new film which seems to be more of a remake of that movie than the Vincent Price 3-D thriller that bears the same title. Surprisingly Paris Hilton is fine in her role - but devotees knew she was capable after her stint in the horror movie Nine Lives - which again makes a fine rental, and is probably a little better than this new movie. The problem with House of Wax is that it's boring and predictable. It has a workhorse mentality of just going through the motions of a slasher flick without offering much new. There is a nice climax crammed in there with a melting house, but it's a case of too little too late for the most part.
What's wrong with horror these days? It's obviously profitable, but nobody is doing anything new. It's easy to forget the great classics of the genre broke new ground. What we have now are people recycling things over and over - remakes of the '70s greats, remakes of Japanese titles. We need someone to have the inspiration to make something that tries something new rather than melting down the old movies and creating a substandard waxy imitation of something better. I want to be scared, but nothing has worked on me lately. Guess I'll have to just throw in some better ones from my collection, and hope for the best in the coming months. House of Wax certainly delivers in the gore department, but it's about as scary as watching a candle melt.
Back from NYC
I had a business trip/see old friends thing in NYC all last week, so that's why few reviews or posts lately. I live in Houston (4th largest city in the US because of its suburban sprawl and not due to its tiny downtown), so it amazes me when I head to NYC and have to battle my way through an actual city. I actually did wear my tight black shirt and Arctic camo cargo pants when I was running around, but just couldn't bring myself to wear the eye patch (all you John Carpenter fans can start chuckling at me now).
I have a friend who lives there, and he called me up and said "Peter Straub is going for drinks and dinner with us tonight."
I was sorta stunned, "You mean THE Peter Straub who wrote Ghost Story, and those books with Stephen King?"
I tried to be cool the whole night and not let on that I was this ultimate fanboy who had read everything the man put out - Julia, Marriages, Floating Dragon, among many others. He was funny, loud, and more than a little professorish. Here I was basically dressed like Snake Plisken, and he was sporting an Armani suit with no tie he was just casually wearing. My friend took us to an old Irish working man's pub (Blue and Gold I think), a sushi place with hideous green walls that made everyone look instantly sick (Natsori maybe), and then off to trendy bar called NOWHERE. All the while Peter goes on and on about old books he wants to buy (he's an antiquarian nut who is drooling over an original first edition of DRACULA and anything Victorian), music he likes (surprisingly a little of everything), and how someone wants him to rewrite Turn of the Screw when he feels it was already done to delightful excess with The Others. We also talked about how mass paperbacks are dying out and trade paperbacks are all the rage. He mentioned that mob bosses actually used to control book distribution. Funny to think of Guido or Vinnie telling someone "You have to take this shipment of great literature or you'll be swimming with the fishes you rat!".
Scary stuff. I mean I basically learned to read because of him. I was a kid who wanted to read Ghost Story, and I actually plowed through it when I was all of six. I've read this guy all the way through up to now, so I grew up on his books. Odd when you actually get to meet someone like that. So despite my tribute to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, I was more wishing I could run home and watch Ghost Story or Julia instead. Then of course I realized... the movies of those sucked so I should reread the books for the umpteenth time instead.
Get Out! Musings on a new horror remake...
Michael Bay's name seems to be attached to all these '70s remakes, and I wonder if he's planning some sort of nefarious world domination through nostalgia plot. His latest? Producing a remake of The Amityville Horror. I went and saw it Saturday night with a packed theatre including many parents with their small children (of course). Nevermind that R-rating, my real problem with taking kids to see it? It's one of those sadistic horror movies that butchers kids and dogs with little hesitation and lots of glee(which always ups the ick factor for me). I could have done without any of that. The movie is a workhorse of the "boo" moment, and is actually scarier than the quaint original (as in JUMP scary, but the first is still creepier in my book)... and what is with this hoopla about "Based on a TRUE STORY!"? Oh please! They changed so much of the "real" story it was almost unrecognizable other than that iconic house with the "eye" windows. I saw no elements from the original story OR the book. What I did see was a lot of images stolen from The Ring and The Grudge. I almost expected Kathy Lutz to produce a Beta tape and give it to the priest in order to stop the curse on the family. "Here Father, watch this!" Lots of jump scares and little else. I think the title should have been The Amityville Grudge Ring. And what up with that ending? They mixed two legends of the house together, and then made some really implausible stalker/killer climax that made NO sense. Jeesh! It's a good date movie thanks to the jump scares, but other than that it has no staying power. The world's most famous ghost story just got a little more hoarier. Surprise? Nah.
Sequel Hell and more more more!
A friend dragged me to MISS CONGENIALITY 2 over the weekend. I feel bad for Sandra Bullock that this is what she has been reduced to - paltry sequels to pretty insignificant films to begin with. But the real crime is the sequel makes the original look bad - when the first one was okay. That's what I hate about sequels - when they taint your memories of the first film and destroy characters you liked to begin with. I'm sure I could rattle off dozens of "pointless sequels that ruined the first film" -- maybe a good topic for the Jury Room some day.
Another thing that drove me nuts was the theatre experience itself. We headed off to one of those megaplex monstrosities that seem to be popping up everywhere -- 48 screens all filled with multiple showings so you can catch anything you want within 15 minutes of arriving at the theatre. They even NAME each auditorium just to keep you from getting totally lost. Instead of screen 5 you are pointed to "The Egyptian Room" or "The Chinese Theatre". Gag! Naturally when you walk in sure enough the theme is in full effect. I liked theatres when they were black boxes, and not filled with Chinese lanterns or mummy caskets.
To add insult to injury - as if seeing MISS CONGENIALITY 2 in an Egyptian setting wasn't bad enough - the sound was cranked to a Spinal Tap setting of 11. I now know why I stay home with my home theatre system. Sure the decor in my apartment is sometimes "themed" (depending on the time of year), but at least I can adjust the volume. Jeesh! Not to mention the crowd - cell phones going off, teenage girls in for a birthday party, and older patrons asking questions of the person next to them about the original film.
Speaking of rotten sequels and pointless remakes... I picked up that AMITYVILLE HORROR boxset. I had scoured bookstores for the original novel by Jay Anson, and couldn't find it anywhere ... but easily found the movie boxset prominently displayed in Best Buy. Judge Naugle rips the films to shreds in his review posted today on the site. Sure the movies were hokey, but I think what made them scary was the idea they might be true. I have a fondness for the subtle nature of the first flick, and remember it being more creepy than scary. I mainly got it for the History Channel extras which interest me more than the movies themselves. Just the chance to see those crazy Lutz people talk on camera (Kathy complete with breathing aparatus), and the opposing camp crying "HOAX!" was enough to sell me.
An lo and behold - it came with a FREE admission to the remake! So now I can go see it in the megaplex hopefully in the Chinese themed room where I can scream "GET OUT!" at teenage girls while they are talking on their cell phones. Ah! The joys of modern cinema.
Dan Mancini posted a really funny entry about the shock of punk icons like Iggy Pop and Jane's Addiction becoming advertising jingles. Hey, what do you think all those people who listened to the Beatles back in the day when THEY were cutting edge feel like? Yesterday's oldies = tomorrow's jingles. I just don't want to be around twenty years from now when J-Lo and Britney's back catalogue becomes jingles for Coors. THAT will scare me more.
What was ingenious was how the '80s alt rock scene worked - making you think that you "discovered" all these great bands nobody heard about, only to find out twenty years later EVERYONE was grooving out to the same bands. The Cult, Jane's Addiction, even The Cure and Depeche Mode seemed outsiderish and dangerous at one point... and now they're "pop". I knew we were all in trouble when ALTERNATIVE ROCK became a national radio format. The entire scene has mysteriously died. My ALT ROCK station here in Houston sounds like oldies from the 90s now - Collective Soul, Nirvana, ... even the new Green Day stuff slipped in next to their old tunes has a "classic" sound to it.
No, what makes me feel old is that I don't "get" the music scene right now. There is little music I would buy that's new. And once I had to have EVERYTHING. I like some songs now and then, but on the whole I am buying way more DVDs than CDs now. Anyone else doing that? I have a strange feeling you are since this is DVD VERDICT and not CD VERDICT. Lately I bought the latest MOBY, and even that seems middle aged and tame by my old standards. That's what I hate about growing up - you suddenly relate to your parents griping about your music as you look at young teenagers grooving out to stuff you just don't "get" anymore. That makes me feel older than Coors making my youth corporate.
Sin City... The Lesbians... The Housewives
I went and saw the gorgeous and devoutly faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City. Boy is that a handsome movie with a lot of interesting visual design, and tons of celebrity wattage to back it all up. I enjoyed it, but it fell a little flat as if it were too comic book to leap off the screen. I felt no emotional investment in most of the characters, and that was the biggest challenge to me. It was so audacious I didn't mind, but I would have liked to see some depth - especially there in the last act. Still - the most visually adroit film I've seen and a visceral pleasure if not 100% successful as a film. More interesting than anything I've seen lately.
The L Word last night was interesting with Carmyn Manheim as a studio exec prone to throwing physical tantrums - candy, flower, anything in her way went flying. And she's also fond of painful chemical peels. Interesting choice for a series completely conceived, directed, and shot by women to make the girl in the studio system stark raving mad and oh so deliciously psychotic. The show itself still remains one of the most interesting on television. Case in point -- the love scene between Jenny (Mia Kirschner) and Carmen... they start off caressing each other's arms, they then start slapping each other, and Carmen pins Jenny down while she starts to cry (but only a couple of tears down the side). It was an intense exchange that encapsulated pages of dialogue in one fantastic scene.
Not as brilliant on NBC was Desperate Housewives which continued its rather pedestrian mid-season plots which replaced that awesome mystery promised early on. The cast is game, the situation was perfect, and now the writers have blown it all to hell. Can they get it back on track? Gee - I'm watching this instead of following Lost (I only allocate myself a handful of shows to watch - 4 at most at any given moment).
Any fans of Silk Stalkings out there? I somehow ended up with Season Two on my docket. E-mail me or PM me - I'd like to pick your brain if I can. I'm coming into this series after only having seen it sporadically on USA, and these are the CBS years I believe.
I found Elyse Sewell and Amityville
I feel bad for reviewing AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL and not being able to include a blog I found days later for runner-up Elyse Sewell over at www.livejournal.com. So if ayone is looking for what happened to her - head there. She's so funny and smart, and it really seems a shame she's actually trying to be a model (instead of curing cancer). Her entries on the blog are so hilarious and well written. Even if you don't watch the show you should check her out on-line (ever wonder what a smart neurotic model thinks?). By the way... anyone watch last night's episode of the show when the previews promised "One of the girls catches a deadly flesh-eating bacteria!!!!"? Turned out to be a bacteria, but a rather common one that was killed by one round of antibiotics. Reality shows - they milk any little thing to the extreme. And why do I always fall for it?
Speaking of falling for things, anyone see the trailers for THE AMITYVILLE HORROR ? They make it look like the movie is pretty good and possibly superior to the original (not hard) except for the absence of Rod Steiger (who owns that priest role!). I know deep down this will just be a CGI crapfest, and the whole "based on a true story" angle has been debunked almost twenty years ago. In case you never heard the original author of the book and the Lutz family just conspired to produce a moneygrab of a novel back in the day when Amityville mania ruled America. None of it was true, and that's been proven over and over again. Some sad people still cling to "but it WAS REAL!", but those are just people who want to believe in spooks. So really I don't mind if the movie is not faithful AT ALL to any of the source material. All films are fiction anyway (except the documentary and Michael Moore hasn't helped that argument), and the original only seemed good for the atmosphere and a pretty okay role for Margot Kider and James Brolin. Otherwise it was one of the more lame horror movies of the 80s. So this is one remake I am looking forward to... the Michael Bay action-packed haunted house flick. I'm wrong for saying it, but "bring it on!". I've probably been fooled again... it's so easy.
I guess (like Dave Ryan said in his blog) I enjoy abuse.
SIDEWAYS finally and 3-D mania!
I went to Easter services with my mother, and then took her to see Sideways -- finally got around to seeing it. It was strange with my mom there, because I realized how much of a "guys" movie it is. It's almost like a "chick flick" but for dudes, and I should have gone with all my single guy friends. It cemented my strange crush on Virginia Madsen and stirred new appreciation for Sandra Oh. Great stuff, and I'm convinced I am the last person on the planet to actually see it (I was working with Cirque Du Soleil for the last few months, so missed all the Oscar nominated films).
Saturday night I was watching a bootleg of Andy Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein in field sequential 3-D thanks to my Razor accessory that let's me watch 3-D prints (it's a set that has a box attached to your player and glasses). This is a trend that is huge in Asia, but has yet to surface on a large scale in America. I have 3-D copies of Creature From the Black Lagoon, Jaws 3-d, Friday the 13th Part 3-D, Comin At Ya (both the commercial anaglyph copy and field sequential unedited overseas cut), Treasure of the Four Crowns, Space Hunter, Silent Madness, and a slew of other films released in Asia or here for the product. Why do makers of DVD think Americans wouldn't get into 3-D movies here Stateside? I'd never watch many of these movies without the 3-D, and the "colored glasses" stuff hardly ever works (SPY KIDS 3-D was just a headache in theatres and at home). But I love the format! We need more 3-D movies, and it sounds like some are on the horizon.
Relaxing with Relacore!
I've been taking this supplement called Relacore which is supposedly a "cortisol blocker" which a lot of people are claiming will make you less stressed and less prone to fat. I'm not sure I believe any of this, but it does seem to make me more relaxed and less prone to freaking out... well, at least until I get into a really major traffic snarl on the freeway, and then nothing is going to save me. Especially not some herbs and a lot of Viatmin C.
Audtioned for RAISED IN CAPTIVITY this Saturday, a Nicky Silver play I did back in 1997 at Theatre Memphis. It was odd, because we all went in one by one and read a monologue then left. I like it better when you read with other actors - just more fun. I did the opening piece, and I still remembered most of it so I did it from memory for the most part. I was nervous though, and I think I'll never lose that sense of stagefright ever. Not even while on Relacore obviously.
Been watching FANTASTIC PLANET on DVD - the cartoon from 1971 that won top prize at Cannes. Interesting little Sci Fi tale that I had forgotten about. Very cool title to rent if you're looking for something different - it's about a group of humans kept as pets by some large blue fish-looking aliens, and a revolution led by one who learns things on a fluke. Really a satire on communist rule of Czechoslavakia, so deep subject broached by light sci fi (a favorite genre).
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