Wednesday, May 27, 2020

From Beyond 1986 Movie Review


Macabre 80s Cult Campy Horror!

In 1986, the famed team of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna that brought the 1985 Horror hit ”Re-Animator” returned for another bizarre sci-fi horror shocker, ”From Beyond” based on one more H.P. Lovecraft story and starring Jeffrey Combs again. 

This one is about a Resonator, a futuristic machine that's a two-way window to the soul and allows you to see entities from another dimension;  but they can see you too, and they're hungry unleashing all manner of evil creatures and enabling individuals to indulge their most sinister desires and depraved fantasies. This film lacked some of the ghoulish original humor of Re-Animator, but its script is better thought-out, and there are lots of scary, campy moments and spectacularly gruesome special effects.

23 years later, an indie filmmaker Blair Erickson released ”Banshee Chapter” in 2013 starring Ted Levine and Katia Winter, rebooting the original story. Both movies are a good quarantine watch but ”From Beyond” takes the prize for being more interesting and more satisfying.
A cult classic of menacing design and blood-curdling execution, From Beyond is a perverse head-trip of horror.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

River's Edge 1986 - Movie Review


Probably the Darkest Teen Movie of its time

Inspired by the sensational real-life murder of 14 year old Marcy Renee Conrad on November 3, 1981, in Milpitas, California by Anthony Jacques Broussard, a then 16-year-old high school student, this controversial crime drama is a grim watch about dissociated youth and the moral malaise that affects society. Ironically, even after 34 years, River's Edge has not lost its social relevance.

Remember "Stand by Me", the Rob Reiner directed, Oscar-nominated 1986 adventure drama? A young little Jerry O'Connell asks River Phoenix and his other buddies: "You guys want to go see a dead body?" In "River's Edge", Samson Tollet, "John" (Daniel Roebuck)  to his white trash posse, kills his girlfriend and leads his friends to see her nude corpse, on the river's edge. "Dude! I saw it! I poked at it with a stick." Of course, John has a motive for his crime. "Why did you kill her?" "She was talking shit.", he says nonchalantly.

If "Stand by Me" based on the Stephen King novella was a sweet coming of age cinema, "River's Edge" coincidentally also released in 1986, is like its strung-out somber antidote version; a social drama and a dark satire all wrapped up in a horrific teen movie camouflage. 
 
John's friends, led by Layne (Crispin Glover) decide to cover up the murder for him. But Layne is the only one really committed to the plan. He buries the dead girl and nobody helps, not even John. "I'll be expecting a sixer for this," says Layne, dumping the body in the river. "You'd think I'd at least rate a Michelob," says Layne, when John gives him a sixer of Bud.

One gets to gawk at the Pre-"Speed" teaming of Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper too. Keanu, a relatively unknown star then plays Matt, the burn-out with a conscience and Hopper plays Feck, a nutso shut-in with a stash of premium weed, which he gladly gives to Layne and his friends whenever they visit, as long as they talk nice to his inflatable girlfriend, Ellie. Feck had a real girlfriend once, but he had to kill her. So he and John have something in common. 

Their psycho bonding time goes like this! "I killed a girl once, put a gun to the back of her head, blew her brains out the front. I loved her." Feck "I strangled mine." John "Did you love her?" Feck "She was all right." John 

Matt's little brother Tim (Joshua John Miller) is the evilest kid since The Omen's Damien. He drowns his little sister's doll. When Matt beats him up, he hatches a plan to kill Matt and tells his Asian punk friend, "Go get your nunchucks and your dad's car!" Watch your back, Matt! Eventually, somebody narcs to the cops. Furious, Layne drives around in his jacked-up VW Bug trying to figure out a plan. Meanwhile, Matt gets together with Layne's girlfriend, played by Ione Skye. He also has a big fight with his mother's boyfriend, who lives with the family. "You just stay around here to fuck my mother and eat our food. Mother Fucker! Food Eater!" 

The alienated kids spend a lot of time wondering why they don't feel worse about their dead friend. Maybe it's because they're jealous of her? Maybe it's our morally bankrupt society? Maybe it's just ennui? "Sometimes I think it would be a lot easier being dead." "That's bullshit. You couldn't get stoned anymore."

Film Critic Emanuel Levy wrote that River's Edge "addresses the alienation and moral vacancy among American kids growing up in a drug-oriented, valueless culture. River's Edge has the disturbing quality of a collective fear - the cherished, eagerly awaited adolescence is presented as confusing and vacuous. Unlike most 1980s teenage sex comedies, this film doesn't glamorize youth, instead depicting it as a bleak, aimless coming of age, a time of boredom, stupor, and waste." However, Levy writes that the film does share in common with its peers the manner in which it presents adult figures, as "irresponsible and indifferent".

Watch this movie for a much more insightful look at 80's disconnected youth. The added bonus is Keanu Reeves and the Heavy Metal soundtrack (if you are a Metal fan) featuring the likes of Slayer and Agent Orange. And in case you were curious, Anthony Jacques Broussard, the original murderer now 55, is still in prison.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dead Man 1995 - Movie Review


Revisiting the underrated surreal Western

Jim Jarmusch called his 1995 Johnny Depp starrer ”Dead Man” a psychedelic western. Believe the famed independent filmmaker, ’Dead Man’ is indeed a brooding post-modern western or as a film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum called it, a trippy authentic ”Acid Western”.

Johnny Depp shines in this hypnotic movie that seems even more trippy to watch it again. Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop, Alfred Molina, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Lance Henriksen, Gabriel Byrne, Gary Farmer and Robert Mitchum add to the star quality while Neil Young amplifies the surreal weirdness with his guitar-driven soundtrack. Even though this strange movie flopped on release, it divided critics and has now become a cult Western. 

I personally like it because of Johnny Depp, the character of Nobody, and William Blake's poetry: 
'Oh why was I born with a different face 
Why was I not born like the rest of my race? 
When I look, each one starts 
When I speak I offend 
Then I'm silent and passive 
and lose every friend.' 

Watch it. The film is also achingly beautifully shot by acclaimed Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller in crisp black and white, which adds to the minimalist gritty feel.



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Its the Last December of this Decade


I Know Things that Google Doesn't

Every December brings dread and uncertainty. Even though its the busiest time for me work-wise, its also the time when Murphy's law takes an entirely new dimension in my life. No matter how much I plan and prepare for the worst, I get bogged down with problems of all kinds - work, family, health, weather, money and even matters of the heart and mind. Sometimes, I feel like a victorious but battered Hercules by the time the New Year dawns.

This December is singularly unique. It's the last December of this decade. Did you even think about it? And this got me thinking about the last 10 years of my life. My age especially. I am into prime adulthood now, and while I've been blessed with good genes and a youthful appearance (I think), I have done my share of coping with aging and all those weighty issues that come up in the process. Like watching my body change and trying to hold back the visual signs with lazy exercise and bad diets. Suddenly, you start noticing everyone around you is fitter and younger than you. And damn, those awful grey hairs. 

I discovered grey hairs when I wasn't even 30 yet. I don't think I need to expand on the horror of making that discovery, now do I?  So, after I mentally sobbed for a while, ate a dozen jelly beans, and wondered if I were going to have to start dying my hairs, I just calmly plucked those grey ones right out and decided not to worry about it. That was many years ago but now, it's an impractical solution unless I intend to go bald in a painful way. 

This winter, my thirty-something friend's 26 years old pretty cousin came to stay with her. A model in the making, she seemed obsessed with her body. While anyone would admire her young, gazelle-like body, shapely limbs, and svelte hour-glass figure, we would listen to her bemoan the agonies of her new adulthood. She would rue her back was too broad, her legs too short, her teeth too big, her ass too flat. We assured her that she looked lovely and she was simply overreacting but to no avail. 

Then, my friend and I jointly recalled how utterly confusing it was to navigate the new and harsh realities of adulthood, and we instantly knew there's no way we can alleviate her cousin's pain. She's going to have to go through what I call the "horrible 20's" and figure it out for herself. 

I've come to understand that twenty-something adversity, as annoying as this may sound, is actually good for us. It's how we deal with it that determines our future character. I can only hope she has the resources and the dexterity to come through it all and end up in a good place - physically, mentally and sexually.

Speaking of sex, adulthood has its remarkable charms too. Not to sound too self-flattering, the 30s can also be adventurous. How else would you define being pursued by young women in their 20's and 30's? While I've long ridiculed the shallow puerile carnal fantasies of virile young women connecting with an older "wise man", I sometimes have found myself drawn to these younger women's zest for life and impressed with their intellect, warmth, and ambition.

My friends envy me, especially those younger than me but no matter, how you look at it, there's a stark reality to it. After a couple of days, weeks or months, uncustomarily filled with various encounters with these young women, you are inevitably, again reminded of the dark painful issues that make their existence known, and the often mediocre sex that fills the 20's and the boasted quantity of sex rather than quality. With a few exceptions, of course!

Maybe now when I feel impatient with the baggage that the term "wise man" brings relevance to my life, it'll be tempered with knowing that those young women are no less burdened themselves. Rather, they're simply in the stage of cultivating that baggage, and a whole lot more confused about it too!

So what does all this mean to me (and maybe to you too)? It means that I have a new appreciation of the innate balance of life and where I've arrived at this current age. When my jealous young friends of the google generation express their bemusement over me getting hit on by more women than they get, I console them that I can but never regain the beauty of youth that they enjoy now. Black hair for example.

There's still a silver lining and a distinct advantage that I don't tell them. That I now have a richer kind of life experience, knowledge and wisdom they don't and cannot possibly yet possess. If their envy is indeed true, my desirability probably comes from the confidence I exude. And isn't it nice to know that they also have to earn it? That they have to do the hard work of self-challenge, self-growth, and persistent optimism that this kind of desirability requires. And also be prepared to weather the adversarial surprises adult life is certain to throw their way too?

So, this December, I feel less dread and actually positive. Maybe, it means that I am better equipped with more awareness and insights I have earned this decade. Maybe these nuggets of sagacity borne of life and observation have made me more adept in navigating the uncertainties of adult life, my migraines and a tiny bit closer to welcoming the new year with grace and acceptance. Maybe one day I'll even be able to hear the term "wise man" without cynicism -and then again, maybe not!! So, do a little introspection and make this last December, worth enough to remember. 


Monday, September 23, 2019

But Why?


Searching for answers for questions that have no answers 

My aunt died. She was just 57 years old. She was asthmatic but definitely hale and healthy. An active lady devoted to charity and social causes or engrossed with her grandchildren. The day before she suddenly died, she spoke to me over the phone. To me, she sounded fit and happy and yet, the next unfortunate morning, I get to know she's dead. She was gone, rather inexplicably. 

And this week, a 'talented' friend of mine who lives in Seattle lost his job. Again. This was his third attempt at full-time employment since January. His wife deserted him last year and filed for a successful divorce. Poor chap, he can't even afford the alimony. If you ask me, he is really a "nice guy" deserving of a great job and a good wife or at least a girlfriend, but he ain't lucky. 

Constant unfortunate episodes like these, including my own personal misfortunes, makes me often wonder why do these bad things happen? Many folks think I am lucky and I shouldn't be greedy for more. Maybe I am but I still don’t really understand the concept of luck and how much is dished out to whom and why? If you believe in god and fate, you also believe that a person’s life is already planned out and everything happens for a reason. God's reason, apparently or blame it on the stars, your parents, your ex or your last life... How convenient?

I don't get it. I don’t understand how or why certain people are lucky than others and how some are also more extra happy than others. And why some people seem forsaken all the time, wallowing in perpetual suffering all through their sad lives. And why some die so soon while others live as if forever. It's truly illogical. 

I know that no one has a perfect life, and bad things happen to everyone, but something that seems bad and terrible to one person could just be all right to another. One person's job loss opens up a new opportunity for another. Even your ex, the person who caused you so much sadness will paradoxically bring so much joy to his or her new suitor. Or one woman could have a bad boyfriend or a bad husband problem but another woman, typically single though actively looking would probably think, "she’s lucky to even have a boyfriend", and the awful problem for the other woman would seem so completely trivial for her. Strangely right?

Or think why are some people blessed with awesome lives, while others experience one bad turn after another? Some say, "God doesn’t give you more than you can handle." I don’t really believe in God but the statement makes me question why do some people have to be constantly pushed to the edge and struggle hard to where they are or will be pushed over the cliff? 

Take the case of a poor kid I know who died last month. Why did that 13-year-old boy have to die of cancer? Why did his life have to be so short? Why was this kid born into poverty, struggled to escape, but never quite made it? I don’t understand. Throughout the 13 years of this kid’s life, was it always set up that he would die, and everything he would achieve and all his dreams were meant to disappear? Like, he was always going to die at 13 and it was going to happen no matter what. Unlucky 13? 

Maybe everything does happen for a reason, but I am constantly pondering and seeking answers as to why they still happen? Especially, why so many people, particularly kids and young adults who die too young, It's almost like the daily news. 

Today, I read about a 20 something black artist who died of a drug overdose. Whether it was intentional or accidental, no one will ever know but everyone will still make their own conclusions. Racial prejudice will do its part while some will find a noble purpose because it can make people rethink about drugs, and then hopefully change them for good. That could save a person’s life. But if you knew the person who died, you would constantly ask yourself, “Why her? Why did she have to die? Was that a planned out suicide or was that an unexpected move? 

Misery and pain can make make a person stronger, but other times it will only end up driving them into a deep abyss. Face it, some of us have pretty decent lives. Pretty happy, and sometimes pretty damn good. But many others live a shitty and painful life that never really breaks its vicious cycle, and with a sudden good moment, they die or they suffer into sad obscurity. I wonder if it’s all in their cards. 

Why do some people live that way, while others live pretty happily? Why can’t some people ever really be happy, and why do so many people experience so much pain and so much grief? Why the heartbreak? Why divorce? Why suicide? Why die? Why the problems that keep the unfortunate souls up at night? The whys' are endles...

No matter how bad one's situation is, or how shitty your life really is, there is always someone worse off than you, and why does it have to be that way? Is their miserable existence our consolation? To compare and feel better? I don't know. It's already more than a week since my aunt died. Life goes on but I still have so many questions that will never be answered. Why? Just why?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Writing about my Writers Block


The Hiatus is over, I think!

Maybe it’s the result of my ongoing cruise vacation. My impromptu hiatus is over, well, kind of... because finally after 3 long months, I feel the bad vibe of not being able to write is gone. Really gone, I mean and the credit (again) in addition to my cruise, largely goes to my dedicated readers. 

It's a sweet insight because, unknown to me, my blog (in spite of my sheer negligence) has become something of a staple reading routine to many, and the proof is the countless letters I continue to receive that still surprise and pleasantly overwhelm, especially when I take long breaks.

So, I wanted to sincerely thank all you kind folks out there who have ever been here - whether it was once or a bunch of times especially those who email me often or leave supportive messages om my Facebook page and Twitter inbox. You people really help me in so many ways more than some of you will ever know. Thank you.

Needless to say, this blog has been a personal endeavor and I have come a long way in my own healing and rediscovery, nurturing this blog. A blog where I could really be honest, could honestly write from the heart and also get honest feedback... but this has also been the blog that has made me feel so gutless at times that (sometimes) I keep all references to *me* out of things while reading blogs of other brave men and women out there who were willing to own their problems. 

Maybe, this confession of my recent inability to write is a proactive step in the “write” direction. My next step is to prioritize this blog in my always bizarre scheme of things and attempt to write regularly. At least once a week. 

I also promise that this blog will continue to be its own animal, propagating its stance of complete openness to all expression of my ideas, be them controversial or mundane and of course, personal bits of me and you will find a whole lot more of that as well. So thank you again for all the love you send. In the meantime, if there’s something I should know or something you want to ask? Let me hear it. It's the least I can do to thank you.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Romantic Passion Demystified!


Romantic passion, according to my fav Brazilian alchemist Paulo Coelho 

Passion makes a person stop eating, sleeping, working, feeling at peace. A lot of people are frightened because, when it appears, it demolishes all the old things it finds in its path. No one wants their life thrown into chaos. 

That is why a lot of people keep that threat under control and are somehow capable of sustaining a house or a structure that is already rotten. They are the engineers of the superseded. 

Other people think exactly the opposite: they surrender themselves without a second thought, hoping to find in passion the solutions to all their problems. They make the other person responsible for their happiness and blame them for their possible unhappiness. They are either euphoric because something marvelous has happened or depressed because something unexpected has just ruined everything. 

Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it - which of these two attitudes is the least destructive? Or is it the best thing that can happen. I don’t know.
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