Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Original Nirvana!

Still Smells Like Teen Spirit After All These Years!

These are busy days – insanely busy days but I have had Nirvana for company all through last week. Dunno why but Kurt Cobain has been a savior of sorts for me – first during my school, then my confused college days and now in my work life.

And the impact of one particularly magnetic song can never be undervalued. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blasted out of the TV screen in 1991 and literally changed the entire world of music. As my friends and I listened to that song, none of us could really explain exactly why it moved us like it did. The lyrics were hard to recognize. The music was grandiloquent and powerful, but it really wasn't all that world-shattering to anyone already familiar with the Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction, Pearl Jam and others like them.

Still, we were drawn to that song. We took that song, and its struggle to describe the indescribable, and made it mean something more. We wrote into that song all of our own feelings that we just couldn't put into words. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" perfectly captured an angry artist questioning his life and circumstances. It was a song that wanted to ask the big questions but knew that doing so was pointless. The song defined a generation and a decade like few songs before it. Even now, after so many years since its release, I have a hard time explaining exactly what it meant to me.

Like so many other people my age, I eventually became a huge fan of Nirvana. I collected their import singles, tracked down hard-to-find indie releases, traded tapes of shows, and read everything about the band that I could get my hands on. I never saw them in concert though. Maybe I was not lucky enough. I also doubt if I could have endured seeing a crowd full of drunk frat boys singing along with "Come As you Are" or "Sliver."

It's easy to be jaded about the whole thing now, as I look back on how ridiculous things became. Flannel became fashionable, "Grunge" entered popular vocabulary, every half-assed band from Seattle got a record deal, heroin made a comeback, and everything on the radio and MTV or VH1 started sounding a heckuva lot like Nirvana. The copycats all got the basic sound right, they just couldn't add any real emotion or impact. Nirvana was the genuine article, and their music mattered so much more than anyone else's at the time. And that’s what still matters!

Youtube Video Link here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fly Away Home (1996)

An Outstanding Family Classic from the 90s

Hollywood may be a moral wasteland, the epicenter of cultural corruption, a modern-day Gomorrah driven by vanity and venality—but what the heck, it sure cranks out some nice movies (as it did in the 90s – 1996 to be specific).

Fly Away Home (1996) not only reminded that good movies still happen, but, following as it did on the heels of so many fine children's films, it makes me wonder if the early 1990s weren't the richest period ever for family movies.

In 1995, we saw the charming talking-pig movie Babe and the funny, innovative Toy Story. In 1994, there was the magical Secret of Roan Inish from John Sayles, and Gillian Armstrong's remake of Little Women with Winona Ryder—the finest version ever of the Louisa May Alcott warhorse and one of the best films of that year. Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A Little Princess were given visually sumptuous adaptations, the first in 1993 and the other in 1995.

Disney, of course, still releases a major animated film each summer; although it’s recent efforts strike me as more tasteless. And these are just the cream of the crop. Add to those all the satisfying bread-and-butter and also fantastic kiddy films that come out every year, like Kungfu Panda, Smurfs, Rango, Cars, Hugo, Up or the more recent Adventures of Tintin, and we're talking profusion here. For this reason, I don't buy the argument that Hollywood has deserted family or moral values.

If you haven't seen Fly Away Home yet, I heartily recommend it. This tale of a Canadian girl who raises a flock of orphan geese is the kind of family film that functions on an adult level, so don't pass it up just because you don't have kids. At the risk of trashing my hard-earned standing as a killjoy, I have to say that I found the whole experience to be cheering and even inspiring.

The film is directed with complete self-assurance by Carroll Ballard, who, by my count, has directed only 6 previous efforts in the past 30 years. I skipped his Nutcracker (1986), but I enjoyed his other works: The Black Stallion (1979), Never Cry Wolf (1984), Wind (1991) and the superb african adventure Duma (2005).

Each is memorable for its natural scenery perhaps the decisive factor Ballard uses to choose his sporadic projects. One thinks of the magnificent coastline vistas in The Black Stallion, the breathtaking Arctic wilderness in Never Cry Wolf, the seascapes and desert country in Wind. For Fly Away Home, Ballard reteamed with Caleb Deschanel, his Black Stallion cinematographer, and their collaboration has made this film another rich visual experience. From macro photography of hatching eggs to funny ground-level tracking shots of goslings to dramatic aerial views of autumn landscapes in Ontario, this film offers constant visual diversity and some gorgeous imagery.

Composer Mark Isham, whose synthesizer-heavy soundtrack enhanced the otherworldly strangeness of the northern wilderness in Never Cry Wolf, contributes a traditional and enjoyable score to Fly Away Home. Fine performances come from Anna Paquin in the lead and Jeff Daniels as her father. And a special tip of the hat to the special effects team, who, through state-of-the-art composting and digital animation, create the illusion that we're flying alongside a flock of geese.

I find it fulfilling to see a film in which quality special effects are smoothly integrated to support a good story, as opposed to an adrenalized concoctions like Transformers (2007) or Twister (1996) where the effects become the film's raison d’être. This movie simply would not have worked if filmed before the 1990s or now in 2000s, because the crucial flying scenes would not have been convincing. In a time when we can expect to be swamped with films built around the new digital technology, Fly Away Home proved that you could put the digital tools to the right use without superseding the movie’s soul. Highly recommended.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Video Link: VeeHD

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lone Star (1996)

A Engaging, Multilayered Murder Mystery from John Sayles

John Sayles has worked as a screenwriter and script doctor in mainstream Hollywood, but when he creates his own films, he works independently, retaining total control over the writing, directing, and editing. Of the films of his I've seen, I've most enjoyed Matewan (1987), Passion Fish (1992) and Limbo (1999), but they've all been worth a look, because Sayles is that rare commodity: a major independent filmmaker who makes cinema by observing real life, not recycling other movies.

His City of Hope (1991) interwove several plot lines to create a portrait of corruption in big-city politics. Lone Star takes a similar approach, but the result is a more human and accessible film, one that holds our interest better with both a mystery and a love story.

In a modern-day Texas border town, the remains of a former sheriff are found in the desert. The current sheriff, Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper), sets out to investigate this 40-year-old murder, interviewing people from all over town, who in turn flash back to the past and introduce us to a previous generation of characters. The murder mystery serves as the MacGuffin, to use Hitchcock's word - the gimmick that propels the plot, like "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane.

Sayles himself has compared this film to a Raymond Chandler novel, in that the journey of the detective is what's interesting, not who did the crime. As the murder may have involved Sam Deeds's father, Sam's investigation becomes a personal quest. He moves among a myriad of characters--white, black, and Hispanic, past and present--sorting out a complex story and uncovering the realities behind the local myths, even when the truth becomes personally painful.

With just a few quick strokes of his ever-quotable dialogue, Sayles establishes one believable character after another. For the flashbacks, he goes against sepia-toned convention and uses a nifty transition device that emphasizes the immediacy and relevance of the past. As the people and their stories accumulate and dovetail, a mosaic of the small multicultural town emerges. That Sayles can interweave so many characters and story lines and still end up with a movie that hangs together demonstrates some tour-de-force filmmaking.

There's also some thematic unity holding the strands together. In interviews, Sayles has referred to the importance of "borders" in this film. The sheriff's quest takes him across every conceivable border, from the literal Texas/Mexico line to the town's unmarked borders of race and social class, to the symbolic boundaries between the sexes, between parents and children, between past and present, between myth and reality. The journey makes for a rich and fascinating film that rewards a second viewing. Also starring Matthew McConaughey, Elizabeth Peña and Kris Kristofferson.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Video Link: VeeHD

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jerry Maguire (1996) - Show me the Money!

Undoubtedly Tom Cruise's and Cuba Gooding Jr's Best Film Ever!

Continuing my coverage of great movies from 1996, here is my take on the universally loved crowdpleaser - Jerry Maguire by the eclectic Cameron Crowe.

Cameron Crowe, who began his career as a writer for Rolling Stone, made a brilliant screen writing first appearance with the teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), one of the best of its ilk. Later he wrote and directed Say Anything (1989), a delightful romantic comedy about high school graduates, which I enjoyed enough to add to my permanent film collection. Singles (1992), about twenty-somethings in Seattle, was less impressive but still worth a viewing. With the Oscar nominated Jerry Maguire, which he wrote, directed and co-produced Crowe advanced to a thirty-something hero and created his most charming film to date. (I am also rooting to see his forthcoming "We Bought a Zoo" starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church). I haven't seen all the major movies from 1996 yet, but I'm guessing this was perhaps that year's best romantic comedy and a $270 million commercial hit worldwide.

As everyone knows, Tom Cruise plays the title character, a fast-talking sports agent whose life breaks down. He builds a new one for himself, on a fresh set of values, with the aid of Dorothy, an adoring single mother, and Rod, a flashy football player and loyal client. Now, if I were a skeptic, I'd point out that for a story about a slick agent trying to reinvent himself through candor and empathy, Jerry Maguire is an terribly slick film. I mean, any time I see a child actor as drop-dead adorable as little Jonathan Lipnicki, I know I'm being suckered. But in the face of so many amusing lines, funny sight gags, endearing performances, and expertly manufactured heart-tugging moments, how can I resist a movie like this? This is one of those times when I just drop my shields and let Hollywood make the magic. Besides, who can ignore the fantastic soundtrack featuring Tom Petty, Nirvana, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and more.

The often used pitch "show me the money" isn't the only quotable dialogue from Crowe's superb script, and he has assembled a cast that does full justice to his screenplay. This is the most I've liked Cruise since Risky Business, and he gets great support from everyone, especially the Oscar deserving Cuba Gooding, Jr., as his client Rod, and Bonnie Hunt as Dorothy's wisecracking but helpful sister. Cruise, with his fame, glamour, and overblown sticker price, may have garnered the glory, but for me this film's secret weapon was relative newcomer at that time Renee Zellweger. Her performance as Dorothy, the romantic underdog who wins Jerry's affections, is so beautiful it hurts.

Speaking of things that hurt - there's a short-lived Tom Cruise butt shot in the movie. I thought I'd mention that, as I've learned it's important to a lot of you. I sat next to some women at a watering hole the other night, and all they talked about were male butt shots. Obviously, these are vital cinematic essentials.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - BluRay Video Link: VeeHD

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rewind! Replay! Repeat!

Dissecting 3 Fav Rock Songs from 1993

Of late, I have been digging into my gargantuan collection of music and movies from the early 80s and 90s. Converting and archiving them onto my new pool of external hard disks and my cherished favorites onto DVDs and CDs (an extra precaution!)

I wish I could compile all my audio/video assortments into some sort of an exclusive WebSnacker anthology – an omnibus of say “Rock hits of 1990”, “The Best of John Carpenter”, “The Best of Pearl Jam”, “Teen Comedies of the 80s” etcetera. Well, but I never have the time..

Anyway, I was listening to this old dusty audio tape (on whose plastic case, I seem to have scribbled “the Rocketeer set - just don’t remember, what it originally meant?) and 3 first-rate rock songs stood out. I stopped, rewound the tape and gave myself an earful. Nostalgic aural bliss!!!

Has anything like this ever happened to you? I mean, songs that make them stand out in the middle of a TV commercial, or grabs your attention on the car radio while you're driving back home, or makes you listen to your MP3 player that much harder until you drain its battery.

So, what makes a good song? I suppose there's no definite answer because music affects everybody differently. It's about emotional depth, and the songs that sum up your life the instant you hear them. So the songs that make up the soundtrack of one person's soul might mean absolutely nothing to somebody else – your treasure, their trash! But the principles involved are the same from person to person, so I'd like to talk a bit about these three rock songs that have been near the core of my “rewind” music experience the last week or so.

1. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies (1993)

This No.1 Modern Rock hit single from the Canadian folk rock band has an unrepresentatively simple tune that is well put together and still seems wholly absolute. But when you actually listen to the silly lyrics, it becomes a song about the things that just don't fit. It's not just that the verses don't rhyme but they aren't really connected to each other in any reasonable way.

Each verse presents a particularly sharp, distinct image of an oddball. From the boy who got in the accident, to the girl with birthmarks all over her body, to the boy who goes to church, you get peculiar minute details that make each character stand out in the mind. And I always find myself asking what it is about these details - what do they say about their characters? Why does the boy's hair change from black to white? Why does the girl's rebuttal to change in the changing room seem so touching? The song only lets the listener in on certain niceties of the characters, but they are the kind of hazy details that leave more questions unanswered, even as the images loiter in your subconscious. YouTube Video Link

2. "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows (1993)

This is a great hit track from the American alternative pop rock band whose songwriter and lead vocalist Adam Duritz obviously had an eye for impressive details.

Though many critics feel it’s a take on Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man", I interpret it differently. From the opening line, "I was down at the New Amsterdam / staring at this yellow-haired girl," you feel as if you can see the 'narrator' of the song, hanging around in nightclubs, bars and clubs with his companion Mr. Jones. They "stare at the beautiful women" and wish that they had the nerve to approach them. And all the while, the character who is telling us all this, who seems unable to bond with one woman, wishes that he could surpass himself and become so famous that "when I look at the television, I...see me staring right back at me." When he's an image that everybody knows and loves, he dreams, he'll never be lonely again. In the meantime, he keeps looking at women and wondering if one will ever come along that will be right for him.

I guess that if I went into much detail about my personal resonances with this song, this blog post would spawn into maudlin self-pity, but the grand thing about this track is that, in my view, you never get sickened with how apologetic the character feels for himself. He always remains fascinating, probably because we can all identify how each of us, at one time or another, has watched TV or movies, or listened to the radio, and thought to ourselves, "God, I wish I was there."

After all, we live in a world where what's "real," what is often measured to be most significant, is what the media makes omnipresent. For example, never mind whether or not we actually have any real emotional union to the famous celebrity of our choice; we constantly see them, so they are forever on our mind, even when we don’t want to think about them. And sometimes, when making a real emotional connection with a different person just doesn't seem to work, it's easy to think about being connected to everything and everybody and imagine that it actually might mean something, even if it would really diminish you to nobody. YouTube Video Link

3. "Disarm" by Smashing Pumpkins (1993)

Perhaps Smashing Pumpkins’ most popular song, "Disarm," from their hit second album ‘Siamese Dream’ has a unique auditory experience, which involuntarily suggests a sense of poignant rush, of some primitive sentiment which Billy Corgan, the lead vocalist is letting loose - from the low strings to the timpani drum to the sly church bells, the track sounds insistent and forceful.

Merge that with the beautiful lyrics, which seem to portray a tormented young soul on the edge of life and you understand where "Disarm" is aiming for, and something in you suddenly just clicks. The chorus line, "the killer in me is the killer in you," seems suggestive of Jim Thompson's novel “The Killer Inside Me”, but even more than that, it suggests the vein of fatalism verging on nihilism that runs throughout most of Thompson's work, and so much of our in style “dog eat dog” culture.

The character "used to be a little boy," and then things went horribly wrong and now "what's a boy supposed to do?" It's a lingering image that runs through, among other places, even old Elvis songs like "In the Ghetto" and "Kentucky Rain,” Catcher in the Rye, Rebel Without A Cause, hardboiled detectives, Pink Floyd's The Wall, even in the Hong Kong action worlds of John Woo and Yun-Fat Chow

Lets be honest, the void calls to each of us, and yet we all are concurrently attracted to and repulsed by it, and when we are unable to admit this to ourselves, we selfishly revel in watching other folks, especially the fictional, dealing with this crisis. And if, in identifying with these texts, we momentarily blow our staid lives out of proportion. Well isn't that what great music is all about - taking the everyday and making it awe-inspiring, even if its just for a few precious minutes! YouTube Video Link

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Best Halloween Songs of All Time

15 Superb Halloween Inspired Tracks (or Something like that)!!

With Halloween practically over by now, I know this post is at least a full one week late but that should not stop mortal souls like you from downloading this grand, splendid, impressive (well, I cant think of more superlatives) selection of superb Halloween inspired tracks featuring assorted genres.

Included in this truly ‘one of its kind’ (one more superlative) compilation are cool cover renditions of Halloween classics by Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Eurythmics, Ray Parker Jr, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the inimitable Michael Jackson. Watch out for BeatFreakz remix of Rockwell’s super hit “Somebody's Watching Me”, Matt Pond PA’s tuneful “Halloween” and Massive Attack’s eerie “Inertia Creeps”.

Time to relive the Halloween magic!!

15 tracks in playlist, average track length: 4:41
Playlist length: 1 hour 10 minutes 22 seconds

1. Apollo 440 - Don't Fear The Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult Cover) (5:28)
2. Aqua - Halloween (3:51)
3. Crystal Therapy - Welcome to My Nightmare (Alice Cooper Cover) (3:03)
4. Diesel - I Put A Spell On You (Screamin' Jay Hawkins Cover) (4:09)
5. Hoobastank - Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr Cover) (3:02)
6. Ian Brown (The Stone Roses) - Thriller (Michael Jackson Cover) (3:28)
7. Marilyn Manson - Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics Cover) (4:53)
8. Massive Attack - Inertia Creeps (5:54)
9. Matt Pond PA - Halloween (5:02)
10. Michael Jackson - Is It Scary (5:35)
11. Rockwell Featuring Michael Jackson + BeatFreakz - Somebody's Watching Me (3:22)
12. Shadowland - Scared of the Dark (6:07)
13. Trans-Sylvanian Orchestra - Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield Exorcist Theme Mix) (5:15)
14. Washington - Halloween (3:50)
15. Yahel - Fear Of The Dark (Iron Maiden Cover - DNA Remix) (7:23)

Free Mp3 Download - 94.06 MB Single Zipped Folder – Link EXPIRED

THIS IS A NON-COMMERCIAL FAN MIXTAPE. IF YOU LIKE THESE ARTISTS, PLEASE BUY THEIR ORIGINAL MUSIC. You can buy original CDS/DVDs & Mp3s at Emusic, Amazon, Itunes, other online stores or your nearest music retailer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Small Piece Of My Cinematic Mind!

A Little Vitriol For My Detractors

My last post on “From Dusk Till Dawn” received a lot of nasty flak. One intimidating fan who was obviously livid with my review threatened me on email, flooded my Facebook blog page with hostile commentary and then reported it for illegal content! What the heck!

Anyway, to get down to the movie review business, my celluloid critiques are my personal babbles and private insights about the movies I see – I don’t get paid to do it nor do I have a hidden agenda when I rubbish a seemingly great piece of film making!

For those angry, stupid fans – here’s a little piece of advice: Some of you may discover that you've overlooked a great film and maybe, (just maybe), you might just read about it in my blog. You may then perhaps rush out, rent it, stream it or download it and possibly have a fulfilling movie-watching experience, and I'll have the satisfaction of given a little direction to your sad, aimless everyday lives.

Those of you who have already seen everything on my list (an impossibility) can still follow along and see how your bijou opinions compare to mine. You might also find it enlightening to print out my review and make notes in the margins. Next to each review, you could write an A for "I strongly agree" a B for "I partially agree" or a C for "This dumb fuck can’t write shit”.

When you get to the end of the column, total up your score. If you have more A's than anything else, it means you are a amazingly intelligent, perceptive student of the cinematic arts, and I would be glad to have you over anytime to view something from my super secret collection of the world’s most awesomest movies ever made.

If you wrote a lot of B's, you probably believe that Tom Green, Chuck Norris and Carmen Electra are underrated/undervalued actors but still you are not entirely beyond help. Keep reading my column and you should do fine but if you wrote mostly C's, you most likely love all the movies of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the terrible duo behind unfunny spoof flops like the Disaster Movie, Date Movie, Meet The Spartans and other mindless miseries. In that case, you are living proof of humanity’s mental decline and what's known to medical science as a "dim-witted idiot," and I will be sure to alert you if ever I write a critical retrospective of “The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D” – the duo’s upcoming send-up on Avatar to be released in 2012!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Pulpy Hyper Violent Vampire Splatter, Tarantino/Rodriguez Style

The hidden plus point of a drained laptop on a long haul flight is that you get to do something different beyond your usual mundane office work. On a recent trip, I had the pleasure of watching “From Dusk Till Dawn”, the 1996 vampire actioner from that maverick 2 man team of filmmakers called Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Tarantino wrote it while his mexicano pal Rodriguez directed. Now that was a teaming of future titans.

In case, you didn’t know, Rodriguez was the wonder boy who made the tongue-in-cheek independent spaghetti western ‘El Mariachi' (1992) in Mexico for $7000 and then used it as a calling card to land a contract in Hollywood. And what was his first movie after joining the majors? 'Desperado'(1995) - a campy, outlandish rehash of El Mariachi. It starred babe-magnet Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a two-pistol gunfighter who, when he isn't shooting up drug thugs, spends most of the movie glaring idiotically through the long stringy hair that hangs in his face. At least, there was a beautiful Salma Hayek for company! Next, I saw him in Richard Donner's 'Assassins'(1995), opposite Stallone, where he played a two-pistol hitman with long stringy hair (again) hanging in his face. Well, he gets my vote as the least-welcome new sex star in the movies. (Fifty million women CAN be wrong.) Never was there an actor so desperately in need of a comb.

So anyway, Rodriguez then links up with Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood's man of the hour post his transnational success of Pulp Fiction, and this momentous mating of Desperado gives the world...From Dusk Till Dawn.

Beginning in the familiar Tarantino territory of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction - the universe of comically exaggerated film noir - the plot concerns two bank-robbing brothers murdering and kidnapping their way across the border into Mexico. Then, the Mexican truck stop they think represents a safe haven turns out to be a retreat for blood thirsty vampires (with a seductive Salma Hayek as Satánico Pandemonium). And suddenly we're in midst of a tongue-in-cheek bloody splatter film like Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead or Peter Jackson's Braindead - as its unlikable cast of characters sets about dismembering a rampaging horde of wild vampires. And then it flaccidly ends.

While it does have its moments – some genuinely funny and some brilliantly gory, it bugs me to think that two hot young filmmakers, who, for the moment, had complete freedom to make whatever the heck kind of movie they want, could squander the talents of George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Fred Williamson on this no-brainer. To me, it felt like a couple of 10-year-old boys thought it up one night in their tree house over a bag of Lays chips and Oreos.

I will however, say one thing very good about Robert Rodriguez. His film Desperado introduced me to Salma Hayek. And I fell for her! And I still very much do!

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Monday, October 17, 2011

Independence Day (1996)

1996's Helluva Summer Blockbuster!

Last night, I watched (probably for the 10nth time or so) 1996’s biggest summer hit – Independence Day. Apparently, it’s the 31st highest grosser of all time in Hollywood history with total mammoth box-office figures in the tune of $816969000 or more. So this movie was destined to end up among the most lucrative films of all time, in company with the likes of Spielberg's E.T. and Jurassic Park.

I remember rushing to see this in theaters in the first week of its release, and as someone who grew up on a staple of science-fiction and horror flicks as a kid, I found it to be good, old-fashioned fun (in spite of its shortcomings). Besides, there's something charming and pre-Watergate in the mentality of a film that portrays a U.S. president as an inspiring strong leader that the country could rally behind in a grave crisis.

One especially satisfying aspect of this film was the brilliant casting: A great lead in Will Smith and trustworthy supporting actors in the vein of Bill Pullman, Robert Loggia, Vivica Fox and Jeff Goldblum who provide the right support.

I'm guessing the producers wanted to put as much of the budget as possible into the special effects and let the spectacle be the film's big draw, so they chose not to divert $30 million or so just to get Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise above the title. In those days when star salaries spiraled out of control (they still do) and stars gained way too much power, it was great to see someone relatively new like Roland Emmerich to buck the system and score a big hit using nothing but a good idea and a script, the way Spielberg did with E.T.

Independence Day is a real crowd pleaser. And there-in lies my only serious reservation. It was carefully contrived to be a crowd pleaser, full of stock characters, clichéd scenarios, cheap comic relief (think of Randy Quaid's boozy crop-duster), despicable ‘out of this planet’ villains and jingoistic speeches.

As I watched, I couldn't help but imagine what a tougher filmmaker like James Cameron would have brought to it. Avatar was a colossal disappointment for me but in his best work, Cameron goes to great lengths to establish characters with some depth and a realistic milieu for them – think Abyss; as a consequence, when they suffer, you really feel for them. When I saw Independence Day in the theater, my deepest concern during the film's second half was not whether Will Smith and Co would save the world from the marauding alien invasion but whether I should blow more money on a refill of my popcorn and coke.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Friday, October 14, 2011

Phenomenon (1996)

Sugary, Syrupy Romantic Tearjerker!

Phenomenon is an mood upsetting fantasy that exemplifies much of what I adore and what I detest about Hollywood cinema. This movie gets so many things right that it could have been a magnificent little romantic drama, but instead it opts for cheap melodrama and unwanted sci-fi overtones (Maybe Travolta wanted to showcase his Scientology connections!)

First off, it places us in an tempting background - California farm country (Northern California to be specific)- with carefully selected images of rolling hills, morning sun on a barn, the sway of treetops above a farmhouse, the call of coyotes at night…those kind of scenic imagery. Then, we meet George, an friendly auto mechanic and farmer who lives alone, but who has a good friend named Nate who also lives alone with his ham radio and his Diana Ross albums. George has another good friend in the affable country doctor, named Doc of course, who wants to teach George to play chess. More than anything, George wants to get to know an detached woman named Lace who has moved to town with her two children to start a new life following a bad marriage.

Such a sweet and poignant movie seemed poised to emerge from this premise, this superb setting, these pleasant characters. I wanted to see George slowly break down Lace's resistance with his charisma, his graciousness, his handy familiarity with trucks, and the support of his friends.

This movie could have worked on that simple and honest level. But, alas, this is Hollywood we're talking about - the great Lego Fun Factory, where real life is something to make people forget about for two hours rather than embrace, and where John Travolta gets several millions for a movie so by God it better be fabulous. So soon we're off on a silly scheme about George having a celestial karmic experience that expands his mind, makes him brilliant and thirsty for knowledge, gives him amazing telekinetic powers, makes him a pariah in the town, and in an especially inept set-up, brings the FBI down on him. Such a plot is, if you'll pardon my French, merde de taureau (bullshit for those who don’t know French!)

Not that this film is a complete waste of time. As many will agree, on its own terms, it's certainly enjoyable. On the plus side, it has a dependable director - John Turtletaub (National Treasure,The Sorcerer's Apprentice); an appealing cast: John Travolta as George, Kyra Sedgwick as Lace, the always reliable Forest Whitaker as Nate, and Robert Duvall especially as Doc, lending the potency and natural charm of his screen presence to a small role.

The locations are naturally beautiful, nicely chosen and evocative, and the orchestral support comes from Thomas Newman, one of the best film-music composers working right now (son of Hollywood great Alfred Newman). He excels at poignant Americana, as he demonstrated in Fried Green Tomatoes and Little Women, among his many others. Unfortunately, and this is so typical of Hollywood, too, Newman's score is bumped aside repeatedly to make room for the less subtle but commercially more viable pop tunes like Eric Clapton's "Change the World", Sheryl Crow's "Everyday is a Winding Road", Peter Gabriel's "I Have The Touch" and many more.

The film has many effectual moments. There is this one fleeting scene I was struck by: George and Lace are alone, and she asks him what he's feeling. He feels happy and in love, and he tells her to remember back to when she rocked her children to sleep as babies, and she closes her eyes and we see the feeling pass through her and joy spread over her face. A touching flash of solo acting from Kyra Sedgwick, a quick brushstroke of Thomas Newman music, and the filmmakers give us a quiet moment of great beauty.

How I would have loved it if this movie had relied on moments like that - if it had taken the road less travelled and earned my tears with a story I could relate to instead of jerking them with flight of schmaltzy fantasy. That would be a movie I could return to. If only they would forgo the daydream once in a while. Real life is so much more sad, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smells Like No Teen Spirit

Its still Cool to be Depressed!

I just had a harrowing talk with an overambitious ‘depressed’ kid – the 3rd unhappy soul in a row this week (as part of my mentoring gig). I dont mean to be unsympathetic but they’re all young, go to good schools and colleges, come from good families, are well fed, have the latest gadgets, bikes, cars…well, they've got no ‘real’ worries, actually, most of them have no problems at all, but it is supposedly "cool" to act all depressed and sad. What’s up with all these teenagers being depressed? Teen Angst? I don't think so.

Maybe Depression is still a global trend or perhaps people (not just adolescent teens) are drawn to this trend because there really is reason to be depressed in today's world. Generation gaps are indeed widening, we are stuck with fixing a lot of problems the spoiled baby-boomers put off. Divorce is at record highs. The youth tend to be socialists, or at least more liberal... but the world is capitalist, and more conservative than that. The News doesn't exactly have anything nice to tell us about the world (not that we'd watch if they did).

But let’s face it - in the 60's people got off their asses and voiced their opinions. They did something about it. They were active. Now we sit around and look miserable. At least 90% don’t care. Have we lost hope in fixing the problems that are inevitably going to be here?

By not being depressed, I don't mean "just have fun". You can do many other things. Being not depressed doesn't mean you're happy go lucky all the time and unaffected by any catastrophe. It just means that you aren't constantly miserable and self absorbed in your own misery. It means you can look pass whatever miniscule or gargantuan difficulties you have and still find something that's worth living for.

In 25-30 years or so, the kids I know will be all grown up, probably stuck in dead end jobs, in huge debts, with no time to actually have fun. And they'll ACTUALLY be depressed. And perhaps, then they'll look back at their youth, remember my advice and say "god, I wish I didn't act depressed all the time back then, cause I could've had a lot of fun instead. Only if they realize!!

Note: This blogpost was originally titled "Misery Incorporated"!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Agree to Disagree

Living in a Sarcastic World!

I meet a whole dozen of people every week and half of ‘em are just plain sarcastic. Sarcasm it seems is a way to avoid serious discussion and conflict. It humors difficult topics and troubled relationships. I wonder if we are living in a culture oversaturated with scorn. Can’t we even converse with true sincerity anymore? What happened to directness and candor?

Sarcasm, cynicism, whatever you call it - is often highly irrational. It is inherently full of erroneous beliefs, yet the masses tend to be highly influenced by it. We have the penchant to feel that disdain is convincing. Apparently even in ancient Greece, the Sophists were popular teachers of oratory, charging people to learn how to speak convincingly. But what appears persuasive is really just dishonesty, as Socrates often tried to point out. And yes, ancient Greece was also a form of democracy something like our own corrupt democracies.

Look at our Media now. Television, radio, etc. must constantly promote their vile products to its audiences and one of the easiest ways to get people to unreservedly agree with something is to get them to laugh or cry along with them. Thus, we seem to have the most over used device in modern culture - Sarcasm. Television is basically now a fast moving vehicle for mockery and irony. Just hear the news anchors? It is TV’s specialty to place things together so that what you see and what you hear does not jive.

And of course, this has its appalling effects - conversations are now increasingly concentrated with unneeded smart ass comments, people automatically dismiss anything halfway sincere as clichéd. Instead, you must hire someone who's adept at marketing to shield the original sincere idea with a wise-ass sarcastic joke in order for people to think it's not hackneyed.

May be I am over reacting; I'm not so sure if things are different now than they used to be. Obviously, this is primarily based on my own observations, not some global expert survey. Or perhaps, what we see in our culture is a real push for individuality.

Individualism is always the in style trend, and what has come from this is a false impression of what it means to be "open-minded". Often, since we prize individualism, we moralize that people should be tolerant of other people’s differences. Obviously individualism wouldn't do very well unless there was tolerance. But tolerance, at the same time, as been over-exaggerated and many people have caught onto the phrase "you just believe what you want to believe, and I will believe what I want to. We will agree to disagree." Eventually, we all just ignore each others points of view, or simply pretend to ignore.

Just thoughts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mr Brooks (2007) Soundtrack - Ramin Djawadi

A Mesmeric Soundtrack Worthy of Any OST Collection

My favorite Kevin Costner film has to be undoubtedly 2007’s Mr. Brooks – a suave suspenseful thriller in an unusual Jekyll and Hyde setting that cleverly reinvents the serial killer genre.

Though blessed with an exceptionally creative script and top notch supporting show by the likes of Demi Moore, William Hurt, Lindsay Crouse and Dane Cook (in a superior negative role); what makes Mr. Brooks truly stand out is its enthralling hypnotic score by Ramin Djawadi, the award winning German composer of Prison Break (2005-09) and Ironman (2008), most recently heard on Colin Farrell’s horror comedy reboot Fright Night (2011) and Sam Worthington’s 2010 fantasy remake – Clash Of the Titans.

Mr. Brooks’ electronic textured score is a restrained kinetic tour de force with an eerie atmospheric undertone that blends perfectly with the movie's dark subject matter and intricate screenplay. A best seller, this soundtrack received rave reviews fetching Ramin Djawadi a ‘Discovery of the Year’ nomination at the World Soundtrack Awards in 2007.

Watch out for “Hallway Burial”. “Thumbprint Killer”, “Graveyard Standoff”, the mesmerizing “Mr. Brooks” and the magnetic surprise vocal track “Vicious Traditions” by the indie alternative NZ/UK band – The Veils. Mr. Brooks’ is an immensely satisfying soundtrack worth many listens. Download now and take the pleasure in!

16 tracks in playlist, average track length: 2:57
Playlist length: 47 minutes 19 seconds

1. Ramin Djawadi - One Last Question (0:43)
2. The Veils - Vicious Traditions (4:46)
3. Ramin Djawadi - Regrets Of An Artist (2:08)
4. Ramin Djawadi - The Thumbprint Killer (4:44)
5. Ramin Djawadi - Addiction (2:43)
6. Ramin Djawadi - Hallway Burial (2:03)
7. Ramin Djawadi - Detective Atwood (2:24)
8. Ramin Djawadi - Unwelcome Partner (3:16)
9. Ramin Djawadi - Suicide Note (3:05)
10. Ramin Djawadi - Decision (5:01)
11. Ramin Djawadi - Her Story (2:24)
12. Ramin Djawadi - Are We Alone (1:38)
13. Ramin Djawadi - Realization (1:42)
14. Ramin Djawadi - A Clue (3:35)
15. Ramin Djawadi - Mr. Brooks (3:31)
16. Ramin Djawadi - Graveyard Standoff (3:36)

Free Mp3 Download - 62.26 MB Single Zipped Folder –Megaupload Link

THIS IS A NON-COMMERCIAL DOWNLOAD. IF YOU LIKE RAMIN DJAWADI, PLEASE BUY HIS ORIGINAL MUSIC. You can buy original CDS/DVDs & Mp3s on his website, amazon, itunes, other online stores or your nearest music retailer.

If you have not seen Mr. Brooks yet - here's a free VEEHD movie download/streaming link!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Showgirls (1995)

Paul Verhoeven's Bad Piece of Cult Cinema

My T.V is gonna smell like hairspray for a week. That, other things and my saliva. So we know Paul Verhoeven's 1995 cult classic Showgirls (the winner of a record 8 Golden Raspberry awards out of a whopping 14 nominations including worst picture, worst director, worst screenplay, worst debut and many more) works on at least one level, with at least one person. Bull-dumb lust, however, is pretty easy to stir up; the question is whether the movie works in any other way. The answer is, undeniably, no.

The NC 17 rated Showgirls clocks in at 131 tooth-extracting minutes, time mostly spent watching as our agitated heroine Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), for no apparent reason, shoves people and tells them to go fuck themselves. By the time I was an hour into it, I'd been overcome with a rabid urge to reach inside my television and give the paroxysmal Nomi a time-out.

What Showgirls wants to be is another Horatio Alger story gone wrong, where the small- town girl seeks her kismet in a dazzling showcase of the American dream (yes, that would be Las Vegas), only to find that the American dream is hogwash, that she can trust no one, and that before she can find triumph, she must sell her soul.

This is naturally a problem straight out of the gate, since the Horatio Alger myth was pretty well discredited a half-century ago. The Vegas of movies that came out during that time along with Show Girls such as the heartbreaking Nicholas Cage's Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Swingers (1996); or even Tim Burton's hilarious Mars Attacks! (1996) is already a wasteland before the opening credits roll. People come to Vegas to either die, kill themselves with drugs ala Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), profiteer, or score cheap unprotected sex. As a result Showgirls works for two hours to get us to the Vegas these other, better films use as a place of exit.

Our first taste of Nomi's exasperating rage comes before the movie is two minutes underway, when she catches a ride with Jeff (Dewey Weber), the creepy stranger in a dirty pickup most movie females get stuck with when they hitchhike. His predictable advance is really rather harmless, almost unimposing but the volatile Nomi responds by pulling a switchblade on him. Now who's battering whom, exactly?

This continues as Nomi abuses everyone around her, first at the Cheetah, a strip bar, then at the Stardust, the hotel-cum-dinner-club where she gets a popular job as a chorus girl. Several folks the Stardust headline - Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), for one, as well as James Smith (Glenn Plummer), an sober but also corrupt amateur choreographer testify to Nomi's natural dancing talent after watching her thrust her pelvis or kick people in the balls. Nomi takes the compliments none too gracefully by shoving, kicking, or spitting at her fans before calling them bitches, whores, or assholes.

When her frenzied behavior is eventually explained – that she comes from an abusive family and is trying to leave behind a life of drug addiction and prostitution - it's a little too late to be heartrending since you've spent the last hour and a half hoping the movie will somehow punish her. Unfortunately, the Horatio Alger dynamic hinges on your caring about Nomi in some way but because this is so hard, everything else the movie tries to do falls flat.

Those expecting gratuitous nudity or considering a straightforward sex romp into B-movie crapdom or a guilty T&A inspired soft core carnal treat could do better than watching Showgirls, no matter its cult status. Since seeing it last night, I've already shoved two of my office colleagues for no reason I could figure out, and I divine being in a pissed frame of mind for the rest of the day.

To put it another way: Anyone who sees Showgirls can go fuck themselves! Asshole! Now why did I say that?

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Zen and Then

Zen and the Art of Enlightenment

I have been revisiting Zen philosophy lately. The key theme in Zen is that to become the enlightened being, one must know their true self, one’s true character. During my College Days, reading Zen was a frustrating and elusive experience until I realized that my true nature was not to become enlightened. I was not the Zen type you see.

Besides, there is one thing I never liked in reading in Zen beliefs is how often the teachers hit their students. It was very telling in an old tale where the monk asked his master some obscure question and was hit in reply. The master said "If I do not hit you for that question the other masters will laugh at me."

Hitting is part of being a Zen teacher. Being hit is part of being a Zen student. Yet hitting in and of itself does not lead to enlightenment, nor does it not lead to enlightenment. It merely is what Zen teachers do. Part of their true nature, rather their expected role. Pity the poor Zen master.

But there are some nice ideas that you can acquire from Zen. In Buddhist thought, there is this mention of being and becoming - of the action and the object, the thought and the thinker. It all seems to come down to two natures - things and actions which is summed in the two words - being and becoming. Things exist or they are coming into existence, though to be coming into existence is to exist. The action is not the thing and the thing is not the action. Everything is. Also everything does. (Action does not always imply movement.) Confused? Get a Zen primer.

Anyhow the main message of Zen, and most or all religions for that matter, is to grasp your true nature by self- realization. That wouldn't be a bad motto to have sitting on a desk or on the wall to see regularly.

Sometimes I say "know thyself" and sit there with no thoughts and then go, "now what?" But if thinking is imperative (and thinking is part of my true character) then it is always possible to come up with things that are not part of my personality and even some ideas of things that are. The ruse is that these ideas can be effortless and observable, they do not have to be philosophical.

When trying to realize your true nature it is easy to look at the affectations picked up over the years, character traits, and say that is part of my true temperament. While such persona will point to some aspect of our nature (there must be a reason why we have adopted them) they are often shallow. Left long enough, they become part of who we think we are.

Yet it is these basic qualities - are the underlying core that defines who we really are. Our perceptions of ourselves, our social situations and our accomplishments create judgments we bring upon ourselves. But what is it that we really are? Being and Becoming? Food for thought, eh?

Monday, September 19, 2011

A.R. Rahman and World Music

Why World Music Needs More Recognition

On my recent trip to Jakarta, I met a fellow white traveler who had a sack load of CDs with him. In these days of Mp3s and Ipods, I wondered what he was doing with a back pack full of music CDs. Apparently; he was a fusion artist/producer of sorts but with his fancy watch, expensive gadgets and flashy demeanor, I suspect more of the latter. He was one his way to a recording gig with a Gamelan troupe whose name he didn’t remember! Now Gamelan is Indonesia’s most popular form of local music – an ethnic homegrown percussion based ensemble interlaced with flutes, rebab (spike fiddles), other musical instruments and occasional vocals too. We spoke for the entire duration of the flight but one thing was certain – he was no ‘real’ fusion expert but he was talking world music.

That’s the absurdity with world music. It would be naive to think that anybody sitting in the comfort of their Western home or office enjoying a standard of living absolutely unthinkable for more than half the world's population - could possibly be able to perceive the rest of the world's music properly, let alone understand it, realize it, and enjoy it in its relevant perspective, in its lingo or in its specific forms of expression.

I am not criticizing the good intentions of thousands of people in the western hemisphere - artists, producers and fans alike (and my fellow traveler included) who wish to open their minds to other cultures and experiences. However, we are a long way from some people's idea of world music.

The western attitude, marked for centuries by matchless political, military and cultural barbarism and arrogance towards other cultures, cannot pretend that equal values and interests exist with regard to the planet's countless individual regional cultures simply because one aspect has suddenly been opened up.

I have met world music freaks kitted out with all the latest hi-fi music gadgetry, surrounded by hundreds of CDs, DVDs and Memory drives who listen to African music one minute, Celtic music the next, and then Bollywood style Hindi Indian music and when you talk to them about their musical tastes, you realize that they (at least most of them) don't understand the first thing about the music, that they haven't got a clue about the cultural, geographical or the human background. What is more, lots of greedy producers and desperate record labels are churning out a kind of homogeneous world music by throwing together fragments of different musical cultures and blending them with all the available technology of today's studios.

Multiple Oscar, Grammy and Bafta winner - A.R. Rahman is an archetypal example. Post the extraordinary success of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, his varied music produce has been widely heard worldwide but many hardly know anything about him or where he comes from. Many don’t even know that Tamil – his mother tongue or Tamil Cinema (which originally made him popular) do exist! That’s the irony. Perhaps, his inclusion in the Mick Jagger – Dave Stewart’s rock group – Super Heavy is also more for his exotic Indian appeal and his super successful Midas touch than to really bring in a true blue Indian influence.

I don’t mean to be contemptuous but if we are going to be able to truly appreciate the wide variety of music which exists in the world, we should try to forge a deeper understanding of what it is. Listening to live world music can be good start.

Any Music, especially world music should be seen as an inner and outer journey, in which any attempt to approach the various musical genres of the world also has to involve an positive reception of the musicians themselves and the geography and culture he or she belongs to. We are still a long way from achieving that, and it is still far too early—if at all—to talk about music – world music particularly.

Friday, September 16, 2011

9/11 and The Kingdom

Understanding America's Dirty Oil Connection, Hollywood Style!

It was exactly 10 years ago, this week, when America was devastated by the daring 9/11 attacks that killed over 3000 people. But two costly wars later and Osama Bin Laden now dead, many folks - Americans especially still fail to understand the real reasons for the attacks or bother to decipher the intricate dynamics of America's murky involvement in the Middle East since the 1930s.

On the 10nth anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks, here's a stunning intro from Peter Berg's The Kingdom (2007) - a high octane actioner starring Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper that succinctly explains it all - why the US is dependent on Middle East Oil, how Oil has transformed the Arabian political landscape, the growth of Osama, Anti-americanism, 9/11 and more. Its not 100% accurate but the intro sequence does a great job - all under 210 Secs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing about Giant Robot

Secrets of My Clandestine Writing Career

Every so often people ask me why I blog. I am after all a shameless fantasist utterly subsumed by conspiracy theories. Why I write would be appropriate, I guess. Honestly, I just wanted to glue that in my rejoinder because I accomplish both. Ok, back when I began writing rather genuinely – that is some time during my seventh or eighth grade - I guess I wrote simply because I just could.

I suppose I was adept at it, and it actually gave me something better to do besides lazy friends, endless afternoon TV and clumsy science projects. Then, in the ninth/tenth grade, I went into text overdrive. I began writing serious stuff - verbal graffiti, stupid poems and unplumbed essays on anything I could get my eyes on – comic heroes, pirates, UFOs, race bikes, how to guides on making your own fire rockets and plastic kites; narratives on historical figures who caught my fancy - Alexander, Genghis Khan, Asoka and not to forget weekend cartoons and TV series reruns - Spiderman, He Man, Knight Rider, Remington Steele, Star Trek and Giant Robot, that great Japanese cult retro TV show about the heroic Johnny Sokko and his fearsome flying Giant Robot. (originally known as Daisaku Kusama and Jaianto Robo in Japanese)

These influences had two enormous effects on me. First of all, I started writing pompous, ersatz trash that I never showed to anyone. Secondly, it got me hooked to writing as an actual creative outlet. Very soon, I was whipping out pages and pages of self indulgent, arrogant chatter but of barely any worth. However, it at least made me realize that I could write after all!

After Christmas holidays, everything (almost) changed with a concerned but rock-hard reality check at school from my old English teacher. It was my essay on O Henry’s Gift of the Magi - she liked it (or so it seemed) but she critiqued my writing style so deeply that it made me grasp the finer nuances of the English language.

For some strange reason, this episode had a profound life changing impact and so began my rapid metamorphosis – a welcome change from my trite and self-opinionated writings to something more of substance. Many years have gone by since then so let us not turn autobiographical – I will just state that my writing has indeed matured to a pickled perfection from those days and I am unfortunately getting now into serious fulltime adulthood!

Anyway, lets get back to the basics on why I blog/write/put pen to paper. You could say I do it with selfish motives - to add purpose to my muddled existence, to give my restless mind some cerebral work outs and lastly (for all its clichéd notions) - to express my true out of sight thoughts and emotions. Let’s face it – everyone has a diversion – for some, it’s the arts, travel or photography; for some, its music, cinema or books; for many, its collecting stamps and coins or cooking, pets, volunteering…I could go on. For me, it’s a blend of everything above and writing.

So, we could end this with three indispensable reasons - I write for the reason that I can, I write for the reason that I want to and I write for the reason that I really must. Now you know!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

20 Rules To Save Yourself From Serial Killers, Monsters, Aliens and other Assorted Bad Things!

Last night, I watched 3 Horror movies back 2 back – Paris Hilton’s tepid House Of Wax (2005), the Norwegian Dead Snow (2009) featuring resurrected Nazi Zombies and the rather well made, Giallo inspired Italian slasher Deliria (1987). But the one common strand in all the three – were mostly stupid people doing utterly unintelligent things and consequently getting killed, maimed, abused and mutilated or being subjected to even more gruesome ordeals.

So far as I can tell, there are some basic common sense rules which all people (not just pubescent teens) ought to observe, pretty much all the time, in cinema or in every day reality – that can save their lives from demons, ogres, maniacs, psychopaths, serial killers, aliens, monsters and their many assorted kinds

So, here are the Top 20 Rules (you need to remember) to save yourself.

1. Always keep kitchen knives sharpened but out of easy reach of little green things from Mars, monsters and homicidal psychopaths.
2. As a general rule, it is an insanely bad (and very stupid) idea to complete any puzzle named Hellraiser and not expect to open a portal to Hell.
3. Be prepared. Always carry a sacred talisman – like a rosary, a crucifix, a wooden stake or a loaded pistol with silver bullets. There's always someone you can offend or defend yourself from with one or all of these.
4. Dont accept clandestine dates from strangers with unusually pointed teeth and glowing blue eyes, no matter how twilight hot they look or how cool their outfit is.
5. Never wear sexy clothes or lingerie on a night out in the woods unless you wish to awaken sex starved fiends waiting for a soul mate.
6. Don't wear unusable shoes or stilettos to go walking in the woods, especially if the forest is near a mental asylum.
7. Even if you feel sympathetic, don't give a free ride to a hitcher on a deserted highway. It might be your last ride of your life.
8. Flashlights need batteries, guns need bullets, brains need to be used, at least when your survival is at stake.
9. Don’t stay in old abandoned houses or morbid motels which have "a fascinating past" or which are run by guys named Norman, Jason or Freddy!
10. If the creepy, ghostly voice tells you to “go” or "get out!”, pls heed its advice.
11. If the door is locked and sealed with bizarre, mysterious and magical symbols, you probably shouldn't open it, no matter how much treasure you think is on the other side.
12. If the heavy-breather on the phone has a funereal voice, chances are good that he's calling from one. And don't accept collect calls from the dead either: you might be accepting fatal consequences.
13. If the weird noise coming from the window turns out to be your pet black cat, the next one won't.
14. If you have just killed the giant alien monster, do not stick around to check if it’s truly dead: it isn't (unless you plan to do this "checking" with a full can of petrol and a fire match.)
15. Inviting spirits, ghosts in a seance or the Devil on Halloween is serious business best left to Satanists and demonic professionals. Whatever you do, don't ever try this at home.
16. No matter how kinky it sounds, don’t make love in a haunted house. It might be the last orgasm you will ever have!
17. On calendar dates linked with murderous anniversaries like Friday the 13nth - avoid booze, drugs, frat parties and thrill rides. Oh, and don't go swimming, either.
18. Remember, lifeless bodies, statues and objects which suddenly come to life are not scientific phenomenons. Run!
19. Transylvania and Area 51 are real places. Stay away.
20. And please, never buy any doll that has the name Chucky!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Whither Horror Cinema

Why Horror Cinema is No More Scary!

I just finished watching the latest installment of Wes Craven’s slasher franchise – Scream 4 (2011). It was OK but not scary. That's not to say I don't like a like a slasher flick occasionally, but I really am not frightened by screaming, stupid teens in distress, needless bloodletting or pointless gore. Sometimes nauseated, maybe, raised to sarcastic snickering, certainly, but frightened? Nada!

If you ask me, they simply don’t make real scary movies anymore (or don’t know how to make one). Well, Peter Friedkin's Exorcist (1973) and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (1981) petrified me the first time I saw it. Stanley Kubricks The Shining (1980) based on novel by Stephen King creeped me out and so did Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) and Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). That’s what's scary: playing with our fears; hints and memories of things that reduced you to a delirious mass of panic in the past; the things that live in the darkness of your soul and the shunned and shuttered compartments of your mind, nasty things lurking in the dark…

Most recently or should I say after a very long time, Insidious (2010) (only the first half though) gave me nightmares, or rather, it just revived the ones I'd had as a kid. In fact, of all the many horror movies released in the last few years, only a very small number have had an impact on me. Martyrs, Descent, Eden Lake, Rec, High Tension, Hills Have Eyes (remake), Inside, Wolf Creek, 28 Days Later, Them ..are some of ‘em that deserve a mention.

Anyway, coming back to the Slasher variety, I really cannot see why anyone likes them or is ever scared by them. Not a crazy killer with a bloody knife and a bad attitude. Hell, I say shoot the psycho and have done. In fact, shoot him twice, thrice.. with a machine gun.

Besides, the lame storyline is always pretty much the same, every time. I particularly also hate the fact that they seem to dress them up as little morality tales and stick them in: anyone under the age of 30 who has sex or even thinks about it - is going to be the next Seekh kebab on the bad guy's menu. Talk about un-safe sex.... Spare me.

P.S: If you are a Slasher aficionado, here are some great original “slasher” movies that you may have missed - April Fools Day, Burning, Black Christmas, Curtains, Cut, Maniac, Maniac Cop, Mortuary, My Bloody Valentine, Pieces, Prom Night, Prowler, Toolbox Murders...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Curious Case of Dr. Humpp (1969)

Cult 60's Schlocker for the Sexually Curious

The Curious Dr. Humpp was one of the first signs that the carnal upheaval of the psychedelic 60s was getting out of hand in South American filmdom: Better known by its original name, La Venganza Del Sexo is an Argentine (black and white) cult flick that kicks off with a mosaic of virile people making out, smoking grass, performing stripteases, groping each other, getting naked, panting and licking one another and drinking themselves into nothingness.

However, since as is the way with films of this kind - these drooling hedonists cannot relish bodily pleasures without paying a heavy price, all of them suffer a violent retribution. This punishment takes the form of a grotesquely (albeit funny) monster with gray hands and a blinking light on his forehead, who etherizes these luckless sensualists, piles them into the back of a gunmetal station wagon transports them back to the estate of the mad Dr. Humpp, where they are subjected to experiments of a, um, (you guessed it) sexual nature.

An agile young reporter leaps onto Dr. Humpp’s trail (aided by surprisingly carefree eyewitness accounts of a saucer-eyed, forehead lighted creature at the numerous abduction scenes), but a gang of guys in Buck Rogers suits wearing pantyhose on their heads detain him and make him have sex with a couple of stunning models. Meanwhile Dr. Humpp, in the manner of a James Bond villain, tells the reporter everything.

Here’s Dr. Humpp’s problem: another doctor subjected him to similar experiments years before in Italy, and now Dr. Humpp has developed a vampiric addiction and to stay alive must slurp the blood of experimental subjects who have been supercharged with turbo lust. The original doctor is now a respiring brain in a jar, so he’s not doing that great, either. Besides, Dr. Humpp is also working on a way to boost the human race’s collective brain capacity by souping up everybody’s latent libido.

If it was 2011, Doc Humpp might have got a robust grant from the Viagra Foundation but the reporter hero decides, for some reason, that what Dr. Humpp’s doing isn’t such a great idea. And he spends the rest of the movie trying to shut Dr. Humpp’s operation down, and even though he’s the good guy, you will not be rooting for him at all.

I usually try to retain my impartiality and prudence, but in this case I am on my knees, blubbering, begging you to pilfer, commit traffic violations, leap from rooftop to rooftop of tall buildings, swing from jungle vines, do what you have to but see this movie. It is beyond belief (really).

A exasperating mix of genres from horror to sci-fi to pure morality play, The Curious Dr. Humpp absolutely does not give a fuck about conformist film narration and yet spins a untamed yarn with the abnormal lucidity of a paranoid vision or a death-bed vision. What sort of wild world is this where deformed ogres wearing metal boots stumble into strip clubs without eliciting more than a flummoxed nod from the clientele? Where the act of sex becomes laced with dim-eyed horror, and yet captive experimental subjects are actually given pretty nice rooms with telephones and framed pictures on the walls? Where mad scientists create inhibition-addling aphrodisiacs using items found at an everyday pharmacy? And where all this is made to seem prosaic, as though Emilio Vieyra (the movie’s director) was merely chronicling what was happening routinely in the cities of Argentina in 1967?

I don’t know why, but this movie ís truly enthralling. And for those who are after less cerebral pleasures, the erotic scenes are often aggressively arousing. But even if the dirty stuff is all you’re in it for you still won’t be able to help thinking about this one a little bit. When you watch two lesbians make out with bated breath while the monster plays a pulsating song on a guitar-like instrument, all forcefully punctuated with hazy, surreal shots of half-dead people wandering through a garden, you may wonder if Vieyra and not mad Doctor Humpp, is the one touched with a crazy kind of brilliance.

Free Streaming/Download Avi Link: VeeHD
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