Saturday, April 30, 2005

I'd like quite a few Singapore Slings, if you will

"Singapore Sling" (n English with Greek subtitles)

An in-depth review as inspired by my various responses to this film:


Friday, April 29, 2005

Oh Ricky

I like martial arts films. I’ve been a fan since the days when my high school friends and I would take the el (elevated train) from the Bronx, transfer to the subway and head on down to 42nd and Times Square to catch the latest Bruce Lee flick. We all began studying various forms of martial arts at the time and my friend, Paul, even went on to own his own martial arts school and became something of a celebrity in the field of Tai Chi Chuan. Back then, you didn’t have the “wire-fu” productions that have since become (rightfully so) so popular, here, in the United states (finally!). Bruce Lee was great, I’ll grant you – but none of his films were any match for a spectacle like “Hero”. Sometimes change is a good thing.

Sometimes, it’s not.

Enter “RIKI OH the Story of Ricky”.
I had heard a lot about this film. Mostly, that it consisted of an over-the-top, cartoon-ish approach to the martial arts genre. The story revolves around a young martial arts master who is sent to prison for killing an opium dealer. The opium dealer had kidnapped Ricky’s girlfriend and to get away, she decided that the most intelligent thing to do would be to leap to her death from the building she was held captive in. Yes, that’s exactly what I would do. When faced with a threat, one should always consider jumping off a building.
Anyway, while in prison (which appears to be privately owned), Ricky becomes involved in a conflict with the evil warden (of course) and his “gang of four” (martial arts masters – of course). It seems, not only is ridiculous brutality used to control inmates, but the prison itself is an opium factory. Ricky, being the valiant hero, takes exception to this. This is when all the “fun” begins. There are no words to describe the level of violence depicted. Personally, I love a violent film. I’ve always been that way. But seriously, strangling your opponent with your own intestines? Alrighty, then. We also have the infamous “head crushing” scene shown on “The Daily Show”. Yowza! I’ll admit, the scene where a blow from a fist punches in somebody’s skull shown in “x-ray vision” is pretty cool, but most of it just had me staring in stunned disbelief. As the movie draws to a conclusion, the violence escalates to a point where I just had to stop and say, “What the hell is this?” This movie is in a class all by itself. Some movies are just plain repulsive. But others can keep you glued to your seat in shock until you realize you’ve just spent a couple of hours looking at something you had no intention of wasting your time on . Bravo Ricky!

Next up "Singapore Sling"

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Extreme? Why yes, it is.

So there I was, contemplating a new direction in movie entertainment. I had felt like branching out and the usual fare of 1950’s, childhood “Chiller Theater”, take me home country roads B-movies just weren’t doing it for me. I needed a break. I needed something new. Hey, what’s this I’m hearing about “Extreme Japanese Video”? I had never heard of anything like that before. The video site said “unusual”, “experimental”, “not for everyone”. Hey I’m not everyone. I’ve seen just about everything this world has to offer in my oft-times jaded, but never dull life. Forget that – I’m from New York City, dammit! Netflix is bound to have the one I just read about. Hey, it does! OK, sign me up.

The DVD arrived in 3 days. I came home from work about midnight. Poured myself some adult refreshment. Made myself some popcorn, inserted the DVD into my computer (using headphones, of course – I didn’t want to wake the family) and fired up WinDVD. I sat back and passed the bowl of popcorn to my viewing partner on the right. Unfortunately, it turned out that my viewing partner happened to be Mephisto.

Now showing – “Visitor Q”.

It’s an interesting commentary on our society that we keep pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. Obviously, when one considers that a relatively tame film such as Todd Browning’s “Freaks” could actually have been banned from viewing altogether for many years, we know that we have made several quantum leaps on our tolerance meters. Is there a limit to what should be filmed and is there a relationship between skillfully crafted films and a cut-off point where the costs outweigh the gains? Yes, of course. In my opinion, that cut-off point lies well within “Visitor Q”. The insidious thing about a film like this is that an argument could very well be made for the brilliance of it’s technique and the guts of it’s director, Takashi Miike for pushing the limits of cultural mores in order to realize his vision. You betcha.

The story, in a nutshell revolves around a TV show reporter who’s career has taken a nose-dive. In his panicky endeavor to create a documentary depicting violence and sex among the current Japanese youth, he begins to use his dysfunctional family as material for his project. Enter Visitor Q. Here we have a character that says and does very little. However, his actions have a profound effect upon the direction and focus of each of the four family members. The family, consisting of the father, mother, son and daughter each have some serious issues that break just about every Japanese (and non-Japanese) taboo regarding incest, drug use, violence and compulsion. This is not for the squeamish.

The most bizarre aspect of “Visitor Q” is how it makes a technically skilled attempt to turn the horrendous into twisted humor. The greatest horror that the movie evinces is the soiled feeling many are bound to experience when they finally have a chance to contemplate exactly what they may have momentarily found amusing. Afterwards, I had to watch 3 showings of “The Neanderthal Man” (1953) before I felt like I was back to a healthy state of mind. And that’s saying something.

Next up: "RIKI-OH The Story of Ricky"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I'm Back (Whew!)

Well, that was a long spell of frantic work and sleep. Oh yes, that’s right – eating. I did get some meals in there, as well. I think. Now, that I have budgeted my time, I can still work the insane hours and still have time for a microscopic semblance of a life until the rest of this typhoon blows over. The only really tough part is coming up with things to write about. It certainly won’t be about too many things current, since I’m not sure how interesting a diary of daily work issues would be (unless my name was Scott Adams – which it’s not).
My wife, Cheryl, has a distinct advantage over me in that she’s worked in psychiatric nursing for a number of years. There was a time, there, when just about every day she came home with some bizarre anecdote involving some patient and their “alternate” view of reality. Sitting here in the relative quiet of an after hours time in my cubicle, I’m reflecting back to a conclusion that I'm sure many folks share. Namely, we’re all insane to one degree or another. It’s mostly a question of functionality. How often have you been associated with an individual and just wanted to say, “Do you realize how crazy you actually are? I don’t mean as in a ‘wild and crazy guy’. I mean as in Hannibal Lector crazy.” No lie – I’m amazed at how some people function. It’s as if the world is providing this amplified buffer. As long as you can avoid ending up on a street corner talking to that interesting person who just isn’t there (and having that meaningful argument), chances are you’ll be OK. You’ll find work, of some sort. Find a mate and by golly, reproduce. Then your brood can trundle off to infiltrate the world and assist us all by providing us with fast food selections we neither ordered nor wished to try. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Next up, movies I wish to all that’s holy, I had never sat through.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No Blog for a Couple of Days

My commitments at work has increased my hours to over 12 per day for the next couple of days. I'll be back to my old routine soon, though.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


It's Sunday - my day to take it easy and get some rest.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Star Bore

Well, here we are. Another beautiful day, outside, while finding myself in the dungeons of work. I'm seriously looking forward to Saturdays off, again. It's especially tough at springtime. The winter has worn everyone down and now things are beginning to feel new, again. Maybe if this place had a few windows. I've come to cherish the memories of places I've worked that gave me the opportunity to look out a window on a brilliant, sunny day. Maybe I'm getting old, but I feel like life's come to a sudden halt and I find myself on an endless treadmill. The hamster and the wheel scenario.
Or maybe it's because I decided to watch "The Star Wars Holiday Special", again, last night (yes, you got that right. I said "again"). Man, what a depressing bit of crap that was. I keep getting drawn to it like a masochist to the whipping post. It's like watching a very long, drawn out train wreck with body parts a-flyin'. Although, I have to admit a certain fondness for Diane Carrol's number. There's something about that song that I find extremely haunting. The rest of the show is just plain wretched. You know you're in for some pain when you're watching something that involved Carrie Fisher singing (!). Was she high or what? I guess she decided to get coked up after reading the script. Not to mention the fact that she seems to have left her bra at home. The horrors of type-casting. Just ask Anthony Perkins (well, if he wasn't dead, that is). One minute you're in a hugely successful movie with pastry buns affixed to the sides of your head. A year later, there you are - strung out, braless and embarrassing yourself by singing a bizarre version of the "Star Wars" theme. Badly. With pastry buns affixed to the sides of your head.

Friday, April 15, 2005

People - You Can't Live Without Them

Ah yes, Friday – and it’s tax day. Actually, it’s not really “Friday” for me, since I have to work tomorrow. Oh well, I’ll make the best of it, I guess. People are amazing. I was just called down to the floor and I thought "another problem". But it wasn’t. Everyone gathered around me to express their condolences on the death of my father. Then they gave me a card with $314 they had collected amongst themselves! We’re talking about factory workers, here. They don’t make much money. I was truly touched. I think that’s all I’m going to write for tonight. For me, today, this pretty much said it all.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Money for Nothing, etc.

All righty, then. I just received 4 DVDs from Netflix ahead of schedule:
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (Angela Lansbury and George Hearn, of course)
Mr Sardonicus
Victor Wooten: Live at Bass Day 1998
Donnie Darko: Director’s Cut
I’ll review these as I watch them, of course. Although, I ‘ll admit that I’m already quite familiar with Victor Wooten’s work through his association with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I had the opportunity to see them live, in Seattle, a few years back. It was an excellent venue – small college auditorium, which gave it a nice intimate feel. Bela even came out into the audience to play. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always preferred small jazz concerts to large “big name” extravaganzas. There are a few exceptions, of course. I seriously enjoyed Santana when he played on Mud Island (Memphis, TN) as part of his “Supernatural” tour. I also wouldn’t trade my experience at a Grateful Dead concert (more on that some other time).
I’ve also seen “Sweeney Todd”, as well, but it was on an old VHS tape (long out of print at the time I purchased it on Ebay for a million bucks). Who knew it was coming to DVD with amazingly better sound quality. Oh well.
Not only that, but I found out that I’ve acquired a $1000 raise in pay. Talk about strange. I’m able to access my pay stub on-line (a day before my actual payday) and I picked up on the fact that my pay was going to be more than usual. When I did the math I came up with a figure that was exactly $1000. Then it hit me – my boss mentioned that he submitted a good review for me (just as he was leaving to work for another company). So I put two and two together and deduced that I had been given my annual pay raise. Nobody bothered to say anything but that’s ok, I’ll take the money, thank you. So it boils down to this – with the addition of another supervisor to back me up, I’m making more money for less work. It doesn’t get any better than that. Pass me one of those meat pies, Mrs. Lovett. Uh, maybe not.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Back Again

I’m afraid that my writing has been a bit sparse as of late. As I had mentioned in my previous blog, my mom had called me on Friday to inform me that my dad had just passed away. It wasn’t really unexpected, though. He was 96 years old, suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had just been hospitalized for pneumonia. They set up a hospital-type bed at their home in Albuquerque and enlisted the assistance of Hospice which sent an RN three times a week plus nursing assistants for bathing, etc. and a housekeeper once a week to help my mom (she turns 80, this month) with cleaning. Even so, when these things happen, they tend to hit you as a bit of a shock since you’re dealing with the subconscious, at that point. It really wasn’t the grown up, “been there, done that” experience hardened man that my mom was talking to, at that moment. But rather some hidden small kid that hangs out in the innermost recesses of my subconscious thoughts and who only comes out in dreams (or when I feel irrationally pissed off at something). Anyway, I’m back at work and things are normal, once again. There was no funeral service. My dad who, in the end, reasoned that all of his friends were dead and his aging family members would’ve had a hard time making the trip from the east coast to New Mexico stipulated that. So he went for the straight cremation / no service route. A seriously impressive move, in my opinion. He still amazes me. Tomorrow – back on track ...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sad News

I just received a call from my Mom. My Dad passed away. The blog may be on hold for a bit...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Standing on the Shores of Slumber

Darkness has descended, but the bustle of activity around me is ceaseless. It’s as if I was standing on the shores of a restless ocean under the springtime moon. Everything lit by its fluorescent glow as the waves crash in front of me. Each harsh sound folding into the next as the tempo stretches across time to a place beyond all thoughts of home. People scurry unseen – but they’re there. I can hear them. A cornucopia of dreams and a distant southern cemetery of cast off hopes. All huddled and bustled. Regulated and ricocheted from one task to another as the clock ticks away the dollars to fill meager coffers. The dream becomes a bed – a place to sleep with stomachs fat from grateful meals of bread and meat. The prayers, the closing of leaden lids and the welcome darkness while flying towards dreams of home and those long lost and those now held dear. The sweet saccharine quiet until sunlight taps those sleep encrusted lids open. The new day. The old day. The march towards the familiar huddles and soothing sounds of another epoch at work...

You know – I think playing “Painkiller” before bedtime has really mellowed me out.

Speaking of Godzilla – I was over at correspondent Cullen’s site where he’s busy posting capsule synopsis reviews of the various films that this famous halitosis-challenged dinosaur has appeared in. I’ve always been a huge fan of the original film (“Gojira”) and I feel that it’s the best one ever made (let’s face it, some were downright silly). My tastes, recently, have turned more towards the experimental although I’ve always leaned a bit in that direction (“May”, “Audition”). This is one of the primary reasons why I’m so grateful to Netflix. As I snake my way through the labyrinths of various Internet movie sites, I find myself slowly composing a formidable list of heretofore unknown (to me) treasures that I can instantly add to my queue (which currently sits at 114). This is truly one of the great joys in my life. Man, have I become pathetic, or what?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Stormy Weather

Moving right along in the recovery department, I’m still climbing my way out of the pit of infirmary. There’s just a residual annoying cough, now, and I have lots more energy. Things are going well except for the weather. A huge storm woke me up around 4:30 AM. You know you’re in for it when the flashes of lightening and thunder share the same moment in time instead of the thunder arriving fashionably late. No damage to the house, though, which is more than some of my fellow Mississippians (cringing – I’m from New York, dammit) can claim. People. When will it become apparent that trailer homes are to storms and tornadoes as Godzilla is to Tokyo. You might just as well strap a lightening rod to your head and toss all your belongings in the nearest creek. Okinawa is the poorest prefecture in Japan, yet no one lives in a trailer home. Why? One word – “typhoon”.
Well. I was recently adding to my collections of obscure and/or cult films. In this case, “El Topo” (not to be confused with that mouse on "The Ed Sullivan Show") and “David and Lisa” (the DVD – I already had a copy of it on VHS) and it occurred to me that I might practice my writing skill by attempting a few reviews. It’s always a challenge approaching something like this since most films have already had extensive coverage. Therefore, the trick is in the subtleties of perspective, which requires a good deal of thought. Needless to say, this will have to begin after I come off this current overtime schedule at work. But, there’s hope. I have, just today, been authorized to hire an additional 15 technicians along with some extra support personnel so that we can catch up on our backlog. This will allow us to wind down to a 5-day workweek. It’s strange to think of something like that as a forgotten luxury. You can be assured that I will be overseeing some intensive training to get us where we need to be as soon as humanly possible. Tonight, after work – “Painkiller” and the B-movie de jour.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Well, not quite Dead Man

Ah yes, that’s a little more like it. I’m feeling a bit better, today. Still some congestion but, thank goodness, no fever. There’s still a general feeling of malaise that will usually accompany such spirals in health. At least I was able to get some much needed rest, which I’m sure will be a more obvious benefit in the next day or two. Finding myself completely waylaid and bedridden was like a scene out of “Dead Man" (Johnny Depp). I’ve viewed that film a few times and I can never get over the genuine attempt at realism in terms of presenting images of the old West. It occurs to me that most moviegoers really don’t want to see the filth and insanity of that place and time. They would rather maintain a fictionalized view more in keeping with the notions of traditional “heroes” and villains” (with the occasional crossover). I’ve read enough about the old West to have a pretty decent understanding of the danger and squalor lurking on every street and back alley. So, when I see a film like “Unforgiven”, I can appreciate the vague stab at authenticity at some level. However, to equate that view of the West with true authenticity is seriously laughable.
One of my favorite scenes in “Dead Man” involves Depp traveling by train from the East to the far reaches of the frontier West. This was done in brilliant fashion and gives us the sensation of slowly leaving civilization while heading straight to an outlying suburb of Hell. Average, everyday people begin to give way to ruthless primitives as Depp's character heads to a promised accountant job in the nightmare town of "Machine". Watching Depp’s character initial introduction to the town is, probably, the most realistic vision of the extreme frontier that you’re ever likely to see on film.
Depp’s subsequent encounter with an enigmatic Native American named “Nobody” and his alternating horrific and hysterical adventures serve to illustrate the effects of the barbarism of the old West and it’s ability to wear away one’s veneer of civilization. Add to this a highly appropriate and haunting soundtrack by Neil Young and you have a film that tends to stay with you for quite some time. Although it occasionally tries a little too hard to be “meaningful” and cutting edge, it certainly is a solid cult film. I recommend it highly.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Bit Under the Weather

I made it in to work, today, but only for a brief amount of time. I became pretty ill, yesterday, and it continues throughout today with congestion in my lungs and a slight fever. I took some medication and forced myself in to check emails and to make sure things got off on the right foot on 2nd shift. I’ll certainly be leaving early. Needless to say, this makes for a short blog entry. Hopefully, I’ll be on the mend by tomorrow.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

It's Sunday

My day for resting up for the new week. I'll be back on Monday!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Man's Home...

Here it is, Saturday, and things are turning out pretty much like yesterday. I saw an interesting movie, last night. It’s called “Castle of Blood” (1964) and it stars the legendary horror film hot chick Barbara Steele. The original title is “Danza Macabra” since it’s an Italian film and “Danse Macabre” in France. The plot revolves around a writer who accepts a bet that he cannot stay an entire night in a supposedly haunted house. The original was censored for content (including a modest lesbian reference – remember, this was 1964) when released to the United States. The copy I have has those scenes restored, but they remain in the French with English subtitles. It’s a bit jarring to go from English to French pretty much in mid scene with a completely different film quality and then back to English again. Therefore, I only recommend this particular version to someone who has already seen the US release and is interested in the edited scenes for artistic reasons. Actually, there is some interesting dialog from the Edgar Allen Poe character in the French version that would have enhanced the US release. I imagine they thought that it was a bit long winded for the short attention spans of Americans, at the time. The movie, itself, is one of the best Italian horror films I have ever seen and it builds a highly effective creepy atmosphere. Barbara Steele is in excellent form, as usual, and so is rest of the cast.
I see in the news that Pope John Paul II has passed away. In my opinion, he was a phenomenal religious leader. In reading his biography, I’m actually stunned by all of his accomplishments. He’ll certainly be missed. Interestingly enough, it’s been spoken that there will only be two more popes. The next one will preside over the Catholic Church for only a brief time and then the final pope will herald the end of times. Food for thought.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Culture of Whatever

Here it is, another Friday. This would be a special day if not for the fact that I’m working tomorrow, as well. My energy fades as the week comes to a close, so I really don’t have too much to say, at this point. I’ve visited all the usual blogs that I check on a daily basis and made the rounds, here, at work. As I was telling a co-worker, some evenings, after I finish all of my reports, I turn into nothing more special than a glorified baby-sitter. That, in and of itself, would not be much of an issue if something really happened that needed my attention. But, for the most part, these last few days have been uneventful so the evening just drags.
Last night I did get to watch some “Night Gallery” as I had mentioned in my previous entry. An altogether satisfying affair. Tonight, though, I’m so tired that I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get home. Maybe I’ll get to bed early. I think, that in some strange way, the events in the news have been tiring me out a bit with their somber depression. Unlike George Bush’s vision of America, I have to disagree and say that, lately, there’s been a Culture of Death. First with Terry and now our death watch over the pope. This is supposed to be spring, yet it feels like winter. I guess it could be worse. Whenever I find my thoughts turning towards the morbid, I try to visualize scenes from “Requiem for a Dream” (which I own on DVD). Now there’s a depressing movie. It’s broken up into seasons – summer, autumn and winter (no spring – therefore no “hope”). I highly recommend it. I picked it up in a set along with “Pi – Faith in Chaos” which is another excellent film. Well, that’s about it, for now. Maybe I’ll be more energetic tomorrow. Yeah, right.
About a half hour after I wrote this, I had to solicit Security to assist me in escorting an employee off the premises for obvious intoxication. See what I mean about "baby-sitter".