Tuesday, August 31, 2010




Tectonic Tuesday: Christina Aguilera

With Ramadan of 2010 coming to an end, we present another danger to the planet more severe than Global Warming. It is one of the women who keeps Iranian holy man Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi up and at night, and who prompted him to deliver this divinely inspired warning to all of us: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

And here's the proof.

Fifteenth Case Study: Christina Aguilera

Born in October of 1980, Christina Aguilera is the second earthquake-causing pop tartlet to emerge from the Mickey Mouse Club, appearing on the television program along side Britney Spears. In 1999, she first threatened the world when she shot to pop music super-stardom and started shedding her clothes in sex-charged music videos. By 2001, even her own grandmother was telling her to find something decent to wear, but it was too late. Aguilera caused the Gurajat earthquake that killed 20,000 people in India as that nation was starting its fifth full decade free of British rule.

By the mid-2000s, Aguilera was becoming a real challenge to Britney Spears in the race to earn the Biggest Skank of the New Millennium Award. Although she ultimately lost the race to the bottom, Aguilera is actually a bigger threat to global stability, because not only was the most immodest of the immodest, but she is also a gifted singer with a fabulous voice... a siren on land who is sure to doom men just as if she was on the sea. And in July of 2006, she brought destruction to the island nation of Java in the form of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami that injured and killed over 10,000 people.

In 2007, Aguilera gave birth to a son, and she subsequently became a little less of a danger to the world. However, it remains to be seen what she still has in store for us, as not only did she release a new album this year, but she is starring in the upcoming film "Burlesque". Will the earth once again tremble because of the immodesty of Christina Aguilera?

'Pieces' is lots of gory fun

Pieces (1981)
Starring: Christopher George, Frank Brana, Lynda Day George, Edmund Purdom, Paul Smith, Jack Taylor, and Ian Sera
Director: Juan Piquer Simon
Rating: SPLIT--4/10 if viewed as a straight slasher film; 7/10 if viewed as a comedy)

Someone is cutting up beautiful college girls with a chainsaw and carrying off pieces of their bodies to create the world's first full-sized, flesh-and-blood person puzzle. The police (George and Brana) are stumped, so rather than conduct a full investigation, they recruit random faculty members to help with investigation and ask a random student to keep an eye on an officer who is sent in under cover as the school's new tennis instructor (Day). Who is the killer? The effeminate anatomy professor (Taylor)? The brutish groundskeeper (Smith)? The randy Big Man On Campus (Sera)? Or the quirky University Dean (Purdom)? Who's got bodyparts and a chainsaw hidden in their closet?

Some films are so bad they become unintentionally funny, and they end up being more funny than supposed comedies. "Pieces" may be an awful horror movie--hence the Four Tomato rating--but if it had been a slasher movie spoof, it would rate Seven Tomatoes. From the most incompetent cops ever put on film (not only do they recruite a possible suspect to watch their undercover officer, but they give him access to police files), to the least subtle serial killer to ever roam a heavily populated area (it's a residential campus, and he uses a chainsaw to kill people), to the Kung Fu fighter who shows up out of no where to attack the undercover cop for no reason what so ever, to the date-rape drug-fueled climax, "Pieces" gets funnier and funnier as it progresses. The lame, wanna-be "Goblin"-style electronica score only heightens the fun. (I'll grant the filmmakers one good scare, though. There's a bit near the end that I didn't see coming at all, and it made me jump.)

Monday, August 30, 2010







The first great 'Rizzoli and Isles' episode

Rizolli and Isles 1.7: Born to Run (2010)
Starring: Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Bruce McGill, Lee Thompson Young, and Jordan Bridges
Director: Matthew Penn
Rating: Eight of Ten Star

Seven episodes in, TNT's new detective show "Rizzoli and Isles" finally delivers something new and unpredictable with "Born to Run," the episode that aired on August 23. They've come closest to excellence previously with "The Boston Strangler Redux" on July 19, but the series debut episode--which started in an odd sort of in medias res place with Rizzoli being haunted by a serial killer who almost cost her life and who scarred her both physically and mentally--and the other ones so far have all had a been-there, seen-that feel to them. Which is a shame, because this show has a great cast.

"Rizzoli and Isles" centers on a tomboyish, tough-as-nails homicide detective from a working-class Italian background (Harmon) and an overly bookish, somewhat socially maladjusted coroner of an upper-crust, Boston First Family background (Alexander), co-workers and best friends despite their different personalities. They are supported by a great collection of actors with been-around-forever Bruce McGill being particularly fun as a gruff veteran detective and Rizzoli's ex-partner who's caused so much trouble that he's on permanent desk assignment.

For the most part, the show plays as an inferior copy of Fox's long-running "Bones," with the odd couple of Rizzoli and Isles being an almost direct rip-off of Boothe and Bones from the other show. The main difference here is that the focus is mostly on the police work, with Isle's lab activities being about as central as Quincy's lab work as on that show. However, the way Rizzoli's family plays into the story lines adds a slightly different flavor to the show... not quite enough to bring it out of the shadow of "Bones," but enough to make it somewhat distinct.

Perhaps if I were familiar with the Jane Rizzoli-starring novels the series is based upon, the differences between this show and "Bones" would be more evident. But a good adaptation means I should be able to come to the series with no prior knowledge whatsoever. And coming to it cold, the show mostly feels like a run-of-the-mill detective show that's copying "Bones" and trying to sell itself on the fact it's got two women as its main characters. For the most part, this hasn't been enough for me. And I was about to give up on the show.

With episode #7, however, the writers finally delivered an episode that wasn't predictable and that didn't make me think of "Bones" every five minutes. In "Born to Run," Rizzoli is badgered by Isles into signing up for the Boston Marathon, so the two can something together as friends. This being a cop show, a couple of runners get shot, and Rizzoli must solve the mystery while trying to keep the shootings secret in order to prevent a mass panic. The story was unpredictable, the setting was unusual, and the way the various characters worked to solve the crime on many different levels, both police-wise and management-wise, was very nicely done. The red herrings subtly tossed into the mix were also nicely executed; I thought I knew who the killers were because of them, but thankfully I was wrong. I also appreciated the way Rizzoli's family played into the story... they emerged as characters rather than just flavoring in this episode.

I'm going to give "Rizzoli and Isles" a few more episodes before I make up my mind. It would be nice to see Angie Harmon in a new series that lasts more than a couple of seasons. She's an interesting and quirky actress who deserves a higher profile than the one she currently enjoys. It's also nice to see Sasha Alexander again... I enjoyed her very much on "N.C.I.S."

"Rizzoli and Isles" currently airs on TNT on Monday nights, with a second airing on Tuesdays.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


'Prey for the Beast' is not worth digesting

Prey for the Beast (2008)
Starring: Ray Besharah, Lisa Aitken, Mark Courneyea, Brett Kelly, Anastasia Kimmett, Amanda Leigh, Sonia Myers, Jodi Pittman, and Lenard Blackburn
Director: Brett Kelly
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Visitors to a remote corner of Canada's grand wilderness are stalked and killed by a cunning monster with mysterious powers. Two groups of campers--one consisting of all-male Beautiful People and one all-female Beautiful People--join forces in order to survive.

"Prey for the Beast" features a great creature. I often knock low-buget horror films like this because they include monsters that look cheap and goofy instead of impressive and scary.That's not the case here. The monster in this film is very made, its attacks are convincing, and it holds up nicely to the extended shots that its featured in. It's a rareity among films at this production level, and I congratulate Kelly and his special effects team of Ralph Gethings (who did the gore effects and make-up) and Matt Ficner (who built the monster suit) for excelling in this area.

The script for the film is also pretty decent. Its characters are a bit on the generic side for the most part, but its got some nice concepts and a climax is well-paced. It also gives the creature a suite of unexpected powers, such as the ability to animate the corpses of victims it doesn't fully consume and a venom that causes paranoia and hallucinations in those who survive its attack. One is also left with the impression that the creature has the ability to teleport itself from place to place and turn invisible at will, but I don't think that was intended by the filmmakers. Rather, I think the creature's amazing ability to stand unseen directly behind its intended victims is a reflection of the Ed Wood Problem as it is manifested in "Prey for the Beast".

"The Ed Wood Problem", so named because it was an ever-present elements in the movies and written by Edward D. Wood Jr., is what occurs when the script calls for a certain kind of location, the actors behave and deliver their line as if they're in that location, but even the most unobservant viewer can recognize that what's on the screen and what the actors are describing or reacting to are two different things. In an Ed Wood picture, this problem would typically manifest itself through characters commenting on how fancy or opulent a room was while standing on a set that made a flophouse look luxurious.

In "Prey for the Beast", the Ed Wood Problem has a script that calls for a wilderness far removed from civilization, a deep, dark forest that is hard to access and in which human feet rarely tread. What we have seems more like a place that's no more than 100 yards from the visitor's center of a national forest or large city park. (The Problem starts maniesting early in the fllm with the film's mail title credits running over stock footage of a mountainous forest and wild giver, intercut cut with four of our soon-to-be-beast-prey charaters pulling across a placid lake in a rowboat; by none of the characters possessing any camping gear worth noting; and by the survivors of the beast attack reaching a road, a shack, and ultimately a picnic area, within no more than half a day's worth of hiking.)

The setting for the film doesn't feel as remote and isolated as it needs to, and this is a major strike against any real suspense and terror being generated as the film unfolds. It also leads to seeral eye-rolling moments of unintentional hilarity when the monster is lurking a mere two-three feet away from its victims, yet they do not see it. This is because the action is supposedly taking place in thick, old-growth forest and not among the thin forest the actors are actually performing in. It keeps the viewer from taking the film seriously and it keeps the film from having any real impact, despite the effective creature design and well-done gore effects.

Actiing that is more suited for stage than film on the part of most of the cast, and illogical behavior on the part of several characters (because if they didn't do something stupid, the monster wouldn't have a chance to kill them) also serves as a drag on the overall level of enjoyment derived from watching the film. The only castmembers who didn't have me cringing at some of their line-readings was director Brett Kelly, Anastasia Kimmet, and Lisa Aitken.

If you're a fan of low-budget monster movies, "Prey for the Beast" is worth checking out for its well-done monster. The rest of the movie is fairly mediocre. There are a couple of jolts here and there, but even at its scant running of just over an hour it feels over-long and there are more than point where you'll wish for the pace to picked up a bit.