Saturday, August 30, 2008

Scooby Doo (2002) and
Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)

When I first saw Monsters Unleashed, which may or may not have been before I saw the 2002 release, I was mostly confused, and only slightly entertained. Granted, I saw it dubbed in Spanish in a little theater in Bolivia, primarily because we were in the city (as opposed to the orphanage where we were living/working), it was really hot, we had just bought delish hierba from some boy shoe-shiners in the park, and the only other goddamn movie playing in the whole city, for a least a month straight, was that fucking Passion of the Christ. Oh, the Catholics. Hence, Scooby Doo 2. I was lucky enough to understand most of the concepts and all of the CGI, but I missed the most absolutely essential, makes it all worth it, saving grace for these films: Matthew Lillard is a genius! In all fairness, I may have an unnecessarily special place in my heart for Señor Lillard, but I just can't help buying movies that he's been in. Mostly because he's so god-awfully ugly (I'm totally right, right?). SLC Punk was good, no es? And what about...Wing Commander, or Thir13een Ghosts, Hackers. Or what about Summer Catch and She's All That (damn, how many movies have Lillard and the Prinze been in together [according to imdb triva: 5]?)? But of all these movies, the Scooby Doo's are a whole new level of Lillard spectacularity. I don't know if he's acting, or if he could ever act in the first place, but there's no denying that he does the best Shaggy I have ever seen or heard in my life. It's uncanny! It's like the animated Shaggy just stepped into real life and started eating things! I mean, the other characters, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr (They actually married in 2002, so I guess they met on the set of the first movie. Man, it's so iconically teen king and queen, all-american couple!), and some no-name, are just exaggerations of stereotypes encouraged by the audience (Fred is arrogant and doing Daphne, who's always getting captured, but simultaneously can kick ass [how could they not take advantage of those hard-earned Buffy skills?: besides, who wants to see Sarah Michelle when she's not fighting off monsters with battle axes?] and Velma's getting left-out, but works for NASA and has her own fan club [she also gets to do it with Seth Green in the second one {so many high school dreams coming true all at once!}.]). As for Shaggy: he's dead on. As I said, it's really uncanny (You know, Warner actually pushed for a Golden Globe: he def. should have won!). Check it out for yourself. You will have a new-found respect (or just some to begin with) for the Lillard and his Shagster. The rest of the movie is pretty predictable. In fact, I can encompass both live-action pieces with the same descriptive phrases: Color coordinated outfits, guest appearances (Mr. Bean, Sugar Ray, Seth Green, Isla Fischer, Alicia Silverstone, etc), tons o' CGI, bright colors, food and fart (and weed) jokes, monsters, lots of teenagers (or people who can't leave behind their glory years) and a ridiculously "hip" soundtrack. It's Scooby Doo for the new ADD generation! And I'm totally cool with it. I like ridiculosity and shiny objects and when the good-guys always win. I also love Sarah Michelle Gellar (you can track her post-Buffy aura with the Scooby Doo trivia: the first movie is all about her, but the second one has little to say [on anything for that matter; I guess people were just over it {her and the movies}]), and I really really like children's movies. So this one pretty much settles nicely. Ahh, the simplicity of romantic idealizations. And while it's definitely new and different from the original (beware all those hard-core 'stick to the classics' fans), it can definitely help you escape from reality on a Thursday night (or any other night for that matter).

Final Judgment: "How can you go wrong with CGI, a classic concept, and all that 90's star power?"

Africa: Witchcraft and Ritual Music

Recorded in Kenya and Tanzania by David Fanshawe, a prolific and exceedingly exceptional ethnomusicologist, this 12" was released in 1975 on Nonesuch Records. While it may be a little difficult to pick up such a prime piece as this vinyl LP that I have recently acquired, does carry the cd, under a slightly different title, in mp3, downloadable, stock. The music itself is pretty fucking incredible, and includes, but is not limited to, the Mwari Initiation, the Pokot Witch Doctor and the Coconut Pickers Song. Fanshawe dilligently collected a series of pertinant information to accompany the tracks and his time and effort really contribute greatly to both the anthropological interest and overall enjoyment of the album. In addition to attempting to glean as much as is visually possible from the photo of the back cover, I strongly urge you to check out Africa: Ceremonial and Folk Music and Spirit of African Sanctus, also by Fanshawe.

Final Judgement: "So good, it must be magic!"

"In this recording, I have tried to capture the spirit of a musical heritage now nearly extinct. The music on this album comes from a part of East Africa whose musical traditions remain largely unknown to the rest of the world. Particularly fascinating is the manner in which music and medicine are combined in the indigenous practice of witchcraft; music takes on the power of medicine, and medicine becomes associated with the healing sound of drums, interwoven with beautiful threads of melody.....
I am deeply indebted to the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for sponsoring my research in Africa, and to all the Government departments concerned who assisted me in the field. I would also like to thank the missionaries (of all denominations), teachers, and guides - and, of course, the African musicians themselves who made it all so worthwhile. - D.F."

The Blues Brothers (1980)

I like to think that this classic isn't really obscure or underrated. But for those few of you out there that haven't seen it, or haven't watched it since adolescence, you better get on it: at least 78.5% of the jokes that you made in the past year are derivatives of this fantastic feature. Also, it has an awesome cast of musicians filling in for Aykroyd and Belushi's passable yet 'not quite enough to keep a major movie afloat' singing. The greats that appear are none other than: James Brown,
Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, and the unforgetable Chaka Khan (who is she again?). Not to mention that the film boasts other "special" appearances by the likes of Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, Twiggy, and the elusive John Candy. With all of those names, how could you go wrong?: The answer is, you can't. So iconic (and ideal for Halloween costumes)! And what cute faces they have!

I deem it: "Delicious gravy with a side of jive turkey."

Don't forget: They're on a mission from God.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Well, as I sit here, pondering what wondrous things I can say about movie involving vampires, werewolves, mutant crossbreeds of the two, and buckets and buckets of blood, I have come to realize exactly why I love Underworld and its evolved sequel so much: it's because even though I watch them over and over again, I never actually seem to remember what the fuck happened. I mean, I saw this movie, what, a week ago?, and yet it has already slipped away from my brain, hidden in glamorous and gory mystery, waiting to be plucked from the shelves again. Finally, a DVD that's worth it's price (oh wait, didn't I only pay $4 for this thing?: what, no vamp-dog audiences [you've dropped the ball Disney old friend]?). It's a movie miracle! No, this miraculous state-of-being is not a bad thing; it's quite a good thing, even a great thing! How many nights have I yearned for an emotionless blood-fest sci-fi/fantasy orgasm and yet turned away from my 600+ VHS collection unable to find even one blissful film that I can depend on without knowing the plot back to front before I can get past the FBI warning (I'm sorry Lethal Weapons and Die Hards...)? Too many is the answer: way too many. And here-in (Evolution that is...or is it just 'evolution?') lies the solution. I'm not sure if it's because the plot is so convoluted and poorly explained, or because absolutely everything (except the, actually about half of everything) is a blue-gray steel color, scene after scene, without fail. It could have something to do with the fact that the sequel depends on the first (which, of course, I can't remember the plot to) when it absolutely shouldn't, and then manages to succumb to its own twisted fate. Or maybe it's just the shininess of Kate Beckinsale's ass in vinyl (ahh, my two favorite things) that has blinded me into amnesia. Either way, I love vampires. I love lycans. I love mutants with slashing wings. I especially love Kate Beckinsale. Oh, and guns and high-powered cross bows and other means of destruction. For all of these things, I can (literally) watch Underworld: Evolution time after time and always leave feeling satisfied. Mmm tasty.

I deem it: "A salvation from, or tumble into, mind-consuming cinema."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Little Piece of Bollywood

If you have 3 minutes and 45 seconds, and would like to taste a golden piece of awesomeness, check out this hipshakingly amazing video.
Mehbooba. Oh Mehbooba.

Top Secret! (1984)

Banana Bonanza, what a classic! This is actually Val Kilmer's first film, believe it or not. I was bewildered myself, seeing as his singing and dancing is perfectly concocted, and it makes even the most chided and chaste melt in their seats. And then he came out with Real Genius, quite possibly one of my favorite (meant-to-be) comedies of all times, just one short year later. Ahh, the days of a hot Val. Now he just looks like a bowl of pudding made of silly putty, and only the most moronic of children will eat that shit. But this movie takes us back to his prime (rib). Written and directed by the guys who did Airplane!, another self-exclamatory film, Top Secret! draws on the same sense of parody with outlandish jokes and schemes. While the most recognizable giggle-inducer may be the infamous cow in rain-boots, I think the humor of the songs themselves shines most brightly. You can also look forward to everything from Alfred as an imprisoned physicist, blatant references to cultural events of the time (eg. Blue Lagoon), a lot of bathroom humor, endless gags (and not the gross kind), skeet shooting, mockery of the Germans (and why are they speaking in Yiddish?), flaming hog balls, massive French stereotypes (oh poor Latrine!), singing donkeys and the infinite, and typically omnipresent, hypo-humor. What is hypo-humor you ask? Why, let me tell you! Hypo-humor is the concept that I just made up on the spot to describe jokes based entirely around hypothetically possible, though completely unreasonable, alternate endings to commonly used scenes, events, phrases or other traditional stand-bys of the rule-abiding studios. The 'what-if's' if you will (no if's, and's or butts!). Por ejemplo, when the bad dude draws out a 'lay-of-the-land' in the dirt, and then we see that there is an entire model prison set-up, including trees, moving cars, a steam-stack, and of course, cows, for him to reference. Or when the spies use ridiculous code phrases or when a man is shot after being attacked by drug dogs, only for the audience to realize that he was simply carrying a bag of dog biscuits, you are experiencing the enjoyable phenomenon (Travolta and Kilmer in the same post? It's a battle of the moobs!) known as hypo-humor. And I love the scene shot entirely in reverse! While this may sound a little slapstick, with a few hits and a can of Mountain Dew, you may finally be able to laugh again (at least on cue).

Final Judgment: "You can trust anything that ends in exclamation!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Miracles (1989)

Or is it 2003? Or '61? Okay, let's straighten this out. The movie was written in 1961 (A Pocket Full of Miracles), Jackie Chan directed and starred in it in 1989, and the US finally recognized the value of the Chan currency and re-released in 2000. In addition to a random amalgamation of dates (ahh John Rhys-Davies), this film also has a variety of name associations. Mr. Canton and Lady Rose, Black Dragon, Ji Ji and The Canton Godfather are just a few of the literary designations, although Miracles may actually be the most appropriate. As in: there are many miracles tied directly to the visual integration of this piece. 1) It's a miracle I made it through this movie (and the original version is a half an hour longer!). 2) It's a miracle that Jackie Chan confesses that this is the favorite film of his. 3) It's a miracle that somebody paid 64,000,000 HKD for this mess (that's 196725189 New Mozambican Metical, 318896821.50 Haitian Gourdes, 28554.277 ounces of Aluminum or just over 8 million US buckaroos [for all those traditionalists out there]!). 4) It's a miracle that the imdb reviews are so nice. 5) And, in my opinion, most obviously, it's a miracle that someone actually birthed Jackie Chan. I mean, did anyone actually see it happen? He can't be real. He must be some sort of alien god from a land of righteousness and appreciably more flexible joints: it's the only explanation! Well Miracles is by no means a terrible movie. It's not even bad. What it is is A) confusing B) set in the 1930's (what a look into time and fashion traditionally handed to me on American soil; dang, is that the anthropologist in me starting up?) C) not necessarily filled with good morals D) did I mention confusing? and E) totally and utterly unlikely. I mean, we're talking sci-fi, super-hero, action extravaganza unlikely but without any of those things. Just Jackie and a few fight scenes. The rest of the movie is spent in some sort of poverty, class war, Hong Kong gang, tale of goodness and deceit (all at the same time) fairytale. Also, Jackie Chan had some weird Brit fancy-pants voice dubbed over him. Hawt. Oh, and I know that that second poster isn't really associated with the movie, but it's the second thing that came up when I entered 'miracles' into google images. Man, oh man.

Final Verdict: "Confusing and Chan-olicious"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oh the glory that is dead monkeys!

Well, I have been gone for many days. In New York actually, working behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History. Whether that sounds boring or awesome, there's no denying that I got to see some pretty smooth shit while I was there. Check out my flickr page for more disturbingly delicious pics!