Wheels On The Road

Wheels on the road to redemption
“Look where you want to go,” they say
But I can’t see past all this blinding shit
It bulldozes through my wall of illusion
Forcing me to connect in the midst of escape

It’s a lonely path to an elusive reward
But I must persevere through the raging tears
Discarding the denial and embracing the truth
Shedding the hate for a cleaner skin

Wheels on the road to emancipation
Driving to the light while chained to guilt
A loosening grip as I take the wheel
And ride on through the pelting storm

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 27, 2016
9:45 p.m.

Published in: on November 27, 2016 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Out Of The Ruins Of Endless Despair

Stabbed in the eye by your lustful stare
A violent awakening, an instant scare
You can smell the restoration in the air
Out of the ruins of endless despair

Jabbed in the heart by your penetrating flair
Squeezing so hard it pumps out everywhere
A painful release once impossible to share
Out of the ruins of endless despair

Grabbed in the moment with just seconds to spare
A thunderous reaction, a burgeoning pair
A softening resolve, a disappearing glare
Out of the ruins of endless despair

Nabbed by the living embodiment of care
A sophisticated vixen with flame-coloured hair
Escaping the shadows through a provocative dare
Out of the ruins of endless despair

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, November 25, 2016
9:17 p.m.

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Donald Trump’s Secret “Inspirational” Playlist

The 2016 US Presidential election is less than two weeks away.  If polls and news reports are to be believed, Hillary Clinton will be replacing Barack Obama as the head of the American federal government in late January 2017.  Feeling embattled at every turn now, her Republican opponent Donald Trump is perhaps desperately clinging to the ever fainting hope that he can still pull off the impossible.  To keep up his spirits, he frequently turns to this secret playlist for much needed inspiration.

1. Hard As A Rock (AC/DC)

2. Moist Vagina (Nirvana)

3. Lick It Up (Kiss)

4. I Feel You (Depeche Mode)

5. She’s Tight (Cheap Trick)

6. The Bad Touch (Bloodhound Gang)

7. Can I Touch You…There? (Michael Bolton)

8. Grab Them Cakes (Junkyard Dog)

9. Feel U Up (Prince)

10. I Wanna Touch You (Catherine Wheel)

11. I Can’t Wait (Nu Shooz)

12. Squeeze Box (The Who)

13. Squeeze Toy (The Boomtang Boys)

14. Kiss You All Over (Exile)

15. Butterfly Kisses (Bob Carlisle)

16. Tongue (R.E.M.)

17. Slide It In (Whitesnake)

18. Kiss On My List (Hall & Oates)

19. I Wanna Be Your Underwear (Bryan Adams)

20. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)

21. Devil Inside (INXS)

22. Jack U Off (Prince)

23. Tiny Girls (Iggy Pop)

24. Breaking The Girl (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

25. Crash Into Me (Dave Matthews Band)

26. Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)

27. Up The Hill Backwards (David Bowie)

28. She Ain’t Pretty (Northern Pikes)

29. Witchy Woman (The Eagles)

30. Evil Woman (ELO)

31. Nasty Girl (Vanity 6)

32. It Wasn’t Me (Shaggy)

33. Wrong (Depeche Mode)

34. Bang And Blame (R.E.M.)

35. Today I Hate Everyone (The Killjoys)

36. Break It Down Again (Tears For Fears)

37. White Lines (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)

38. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (The Smiths)

39. Burning Down The House (Talking Heads)

40. White, Discussion (Live)

41. Don’t Let It End (Styx)

42. Don’t You Forget About Me (Simple Minds)

43. I Wanna Be Adored (Stone Roses)

44. Don’t You Want Me? (Human League)

45. I Alone (Live)

46. Waiting For A Miracle (Bruce Cockburn)

47. Things I Do For Money (Northern Pikes)

48. White Riot (The Clash)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, October 27, 2016
1:51 a.m.

Published in: on October 27, 2016 at 1:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Did Donald Trump Get His Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric From Howard Stern?

On a Tuesday morning in mid-June last year, Donald Trump stunned the world by announcing in a longwinded televised address that after decades of endless teasing, he was officially running for President of The United States of America.

Only smart, observant viewers took him seriously.  Everybody else (including me) thought it was a joke, a transparent publicity stunt.  But more than a year later, Trump is the Republican nominee having cleaned up more than enough delegates during the 2016 primaries.

The most memorable moment during his instantly infamous speech was this:

“When do we beat Mexico at the border?  They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity.  And now they are beating us economically.  They are not our friend, believe me.  But they’re killing us economically.

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.

[snip]

…It’s true, and these are the best and the finest.  When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.  They’re not sending you.  They’re not sending you.  They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.  They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people.

[snip]

Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening.  And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

For decades, Trump has been a favoured guest of Howard Stern.  In recent months, his appearances on the long running morning radio staple have been fodder for numerous media reports as the Republican Presidential candidate’s routinely awful comments about women first made on live radio and long forgotten have suddenly been disseminating widely.

Although he’s said to be a Hillary Clinton supporter, Stern has often defended Trump throughout this endless campaign.  As recently as last week, as noted by the invaluable MarksFriggin.com, he claimed that much of what his longtime friend says can’t be taken seriously because “he’s doing it for fun.”

In his 1993 memoir Private Parts, Stern praised Trump as being “always one of our best guests”.  On pages 307 and 308 of the paperback edition, the radio comedian laid out what he called “My Immigration Policy”.  See if some of this sounds familiar:

“Wherever I’m born, I stay, that’s my rule of thumb.  I don’t try to go anywhere else.  I’m happy where I am.  The problem is, nobody else feels the same.  Take the Mexicans.  They’re nice people.  I got nothing against Mexicans, but if they’re Mexicans, they should be in Mexico.  And the ones who come here are so angry.  Of course, I’d be confused and angry, too, if I had dark skin and white people’s hair.  Speaking of hair, how do you like those Hispanic chicks who dye their hair blond?  That’s an attractive look.  No wonder some Spanish guys are ready to rape any white woman who comes along.

Look, if it was up to me, I would open the world’s borders to everyone so they could go anywhere.  The only problem is that the United States is the only good country in the world.  I don’t see the Japanese opening their borders.  The Germans try to rout anyone else out.  Even Australia, a nation of criminals, keeps immigrants out.  We take everybody’s trash.  We used to have an immigration policy in this country.  During WWII a boat of nine hundred Jews tried to get into this country and we turned them away.  Now no one’s turned away.  We used to get lawyers and professors coming here, fleeing intolerance.  We got German rocket scientists, the crème de la crème.  Now we get guys who aren’t fit to be janitors.

We’re bankrupt because it costs a fortune to assimilate all these immigrants.  We’re spending a fortune on social programs for people who come here with no skills, no jobs, and nothing to do.  They have to be put on welfare.  And we have to hire special bilingual teachers.  Then they want signs in Spanish.  Excuse me, this is America.  We speak English here.

It’s not just the Mexicans.  A lot of people who come to this country don’t want to assimilate.

[snip]

When my grandparents came here, this was a huge, underpopulated country.  Now it’s filled up.  But people still come and it’s the fault of the damn French.  They gave us that stupid Statue of Liberty to trick us.  Some gift.  Look at what it’s attracting.”

By the way, those “German rocket scientists” Stern praised?  They worked for the Nazis.

At any event, if you think he’s evolved on the issue of immigration, I direct you to a MarksFriggin.com write-up of a Sirius/XM Satellite radio broadcast from November 16, 2015.  Through site owner Mark Mercer’s reporting, here’s what Stern said in the aftermath of the Paris massacre:

“Howard said the first thing they should do is immediately cancel all visas to this country.  Howard said put a moratorium on it for a while.

[snip]

Howard said his idea is to cancel all visas.  He said no one comes in.  Howard said then the people who are here on visas are thrown out if they have expired…Howard said no one comes in right now.  He said we’re under attack so we keep people out for a year or year and a half…Howard said go study in your country.

[snip]

Howard said he’s not sure why people are so anxious to take in refugees.  Howard said they should throw them back into Syria.  Howard said then clear out that viper’s nest.”

By the way, Stern’s guest that morning was former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.  As Marksfriggin reported, “Howard said Ray was into stop and frisk and he doesn’t understand why they stopped it. Howard said it seems like a great way to know what’s going on and develop intelligence.”

In early December, just a few weeks after this broadcast, Donald Trump announced that he was advocating for a temporary, unconstitutional ban on Muslims coming to the United States.  Nine months later, he publicly supported the largely abandoned and mostly ineffective & discriminatory Stop and Frisk during his first debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

In Private Parts, Trump is quoted as saying, “I tune into Howard to hear what you rarely get these days – straight talk and very close to the mark.”  Has he been getting policy ideas from his show?

What will Stern say about Trump’s recently exposed remarks from a 2005 Access Hollywood shoot where he claimed his fame gave him immunity from violating the boundaries of women he found attractive?  When he comes back from vacation next week, claiming “he’s doing it for fun” when Trump has been accused of the very things he bragged about in that video isn’t going to cut it.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
3:05 a.m.

Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Tron

There’s a whole cult of denial surrounding Tron.  It failed to attract much support during its original theatrical release in the summer of 1982 because, the conventional wisdom goes, it was way ahead of its time.  People weren’t willing to open their eyes and embrace these early technological advances, they argue.  They were too scared to see the possibilities.  Plus, the special effects are great, they claim with a straight face.

As someone who enjoyed the film as a young child (my family rented it for one of my birthday parties), it does not please me in any way to report that more than 30 years since I first excitedly watched it with my equally excited friends on full-screen Beta that it is not this timeless gem die-hard supporters just can’t get enough of.

No, it is not a good film at all, not even on Blu-ray.

It takes 20 minutes for the basic purpose of the film’s plot to even emerge.  Jeff Bridges is a disgruntled ex-programmer relegated to running an arcade after being pushed out by rival David Warner who has managed to get a major corporate promotion for taking credit for five video games he didn’t make.  The only way Bridges can get compensation for any of his shitty creations – Space Paranoids? Give me a break – is through whatever meagre percentage of profits he can squeeze out for housing the machines in his arcade.

When we first meet him he’s trying to hack into his former company’s system to try to retrieve some mysterious, elusive file which he claims is the only evidence that can prove he’s the sole author.  Some quick, obvious questions.  Before writing a single line of code, didn’t he draw the tanks and Recognizers on sheets of paper so he’d have some idea what he would be animating?  Didn’t he generate any paperwork whatsoever?  Is it really believable that he wouldn’t prepare beforehand for the possibility of being ripped off?  I mean, honestly, this guy’s a computer genius?  By the way, he’s been trying to get justice….for three years!  Good God, man, have you ever heard of legal representation?

As he types commands into an old-school PC (always fascinating to watch in real time), the computer version of himself (who sounds more robotic and has a very girlish scream) is shown in one of those tanks ultimately failing to fight off said Recognizers, the least intimidating video game vessels ever created.  (They’re no Tie Fighters, that’s for sure.)  No longer able to hack on his home turf, he has to be snuck into his former employer’s building by former girlfriend Cindy Morgan and her current boyfriend Bruce Boxleitner who wears painfully nerdy glasses.  Boxleitner himself has been shut out of Encom’s computers because Warner is well aware of Bridges’ unauthorized hacking and is apparently operating from the Nixon playbook, which strangely doesn’t arose any suspicion from the company whatsoever.

But instead of deleting the evidence that would prevent Bridges from fully making his case against him, the Master Control Program, which apparently is the real CEO of Encom and is an unapologetic information addict (shades of the modern-day NSA), decides to just hide the fucking thing so it can’t be retrieved.  Oh right.  He dangles the possibility of its exposure to Warner in order to keep him in line.  Still, with Bridges determined to continue hacking, is it really worth keeping it for blackmail?

During his second attempt to infiltrate the system, MCP actually warns Bridges that if he persists he will make another dumb decision.  He’ll suck him into the computer world and force him to participate in crappy sports not realizing that Bridges is the Michael Jordan of video games.  (In an early scene, he sets a new record for the ho-hum Space Paranoids which features those same Recognizers he’ll be encountering throughout the movie.)

It’s within this dull, not so inviting world that Bridges meets a couple of “programs”, one of whom is Tron (also played by Boxleitner without the ridiculous glasses), one of the key elements to defeating the dopey MCP who rules this world like a dumb Hitler.

And this of course leads to the famous game sequences that have not aged particularly well.  There’s just no suspense.  After Bridges survives his electronic scoopball challenge, he refuses to finish off his opponent.  So Sark (the computer version of David Warner in a ridiculous costume) does it for him.  And just when he’s about to do the right thing by eliminating the victorious Bridges as well, the fucking moronic MCP stops him!  He reminds his overeager underling that he wants to give the “user” more false hope before he gets killed in action.

That’s right.  If Sark had just pressed that goddamn button sending Bridges plummeting into nothingness below the electronically collapsible game grid never to be heard from again, MCP would have nothing to worry about for the rest of the movie.  But no.  He lets him live.  For fuck sakes!

After Bridges, Tron and another program named Ram escape during the lightcycle game (it’s just not that impressive anymore), they become fugitives on the run.  Eventually, they hook up with Yori (Cindy Morgan’s computer program) who is hot and heavy with Tron which is meant to mirror Morgan and Boxleitner’s offline romance but makes zero sense in the computer world.  (Programs have sexual feelings?)  When Tron needs to communicate with the real-life Boxleitner they meet with Dumont (Barnard Hughes) who lurks all alone in a tower, twirls around while sitting in what looks like a giant bowl and wearing a very silly pope hat.

Inevitably, there is yet another opportunity for MCP and Sark to be triumphant over our plucky neon heroes but they fuck up yet again and well, I don’t have to fill in the blanks here.  You know how this all ends.  And it’s terribly underwhelming.

The cult of Tron truly believes this movie was robbed of a popular run back in 1982, that it even deserved an Oscar nomination for Visual Effects.  (Ha!)  But 1982 had much better science fiction offerings with superior technical achievements which have held up a whole lot better.  Consider the second Star Trek movie and the immensely popular E.T. for starters.  Then move on to John Carpenter’s creepy, underrated remake of The Thing before ending with one of the greatest films of all time, Blade Runner.

I mean just compare the stunning visuals of Ridley Scott’s dystopian, futuristic film noir masterpiece alone with the very dated and limited appeal of Tron’s harsh, primitive, angular computer graphics.  It’s no contest.  While the Blu-ray does a superb job of bringing out the reds and blues of these scenes (they have never looked more vivid), they also expose a considerable lack of imagination.  And because it’s a Disney movie, there isn’t much intensity in the action and torture scenes.  There’s also not much doubt how it will all turn out, either.

Throughout the film, I could not understand the motivations of MCP.  What is its actual purpose?  Beyond collecting international data & computer programs and making David Warner’s life difficult, why does it exist?  More importantly, it never feels like much of a threat to the world at large.  At one point, it casually mentions wanting secret information from the Pentagon.  Why?  To launch an attack?  Why is it acquiring all this knowledge electronically without any clearly stated objectives?  And what’s with all these fights to the death?  If these programs are such a threat, why not just delete them permanently?  Why the video game charade?

As for Warner, how is he able to get away with stealing Bridges’ creations without producing any new games for Encom?  It’s difficult to accept that his blatant fraud would remain undetected for so long by so many within the company.  A whole lot of idiots must be looking the other way the entire time.

None of this matters to Tron fans who care more about the film’s overrated look than its story which has been recycled and parodied for decades.  Falsely seen as some kind of cinematic oracle for the future, it’s really a routine story about a copyright dispute with uneven, less than dazzling effects and weak-ass action scenes.  Even the naturally affable Jeff Bridges is not enough to justify its unwarranted cult reputation.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, September 29, 2018
4:01 a.m.

Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 4:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Death Wish: The Face Of Death

The villain in Death Wish:  The Face Of Death looks so much like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper I wonder what the real Hot Rod could’ve done with the same role.  God knows he would’ve been an improvement over his inept doppelganger, Michael Parks, who can’t generate heat to save his life.

Mild-mannered architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson collecting an easy paycheck) is now a professor with a changed last name (he’s in the Witness Protection Program presumably because of the mostly hilarious events of the ludicrous Death Wish 4:  The Crackdown).  Once again, he’s found love.  This time, he’s fallen for British fashion designer Olivia (the lovely Lesley-Ann Down).  But she’s trouble.  Her ex-husband Tommy O’Shea (Parks) is a notorious New York mobster who won’t let her go.  He’s hijacked her entire operation and has his cartoonish goons shake down her competition for “protection money”.  (Shouldn’t they just buy them out of business?)

Tired of his meddling ways, she agrees to testify against him in a possible court case.  (Preposterously, he has already eluded the authorities for 16 years.  Trust me, he ain’t that clever.)  Somehow, one of Tommy’s hired assassins, a cross dresser with a dandruff problem (I’m not kidding), brutally rams her head several times into a restaurant bathroom mirror just moments after she accepts the cursed Kersey’s marriage proposal during a dinner date.

Realizing that it’s a bad idea to call the district attorney (the always good Saul Rubinek in a nothing role) because someone is always listening in, Kersey tells him over the phone that Olivia’s changed her mind.  But when he makes a surprise impromptu visit to his home, he tells the D.A. she will still take the stand.

Unsurprisingly, the word still gets back to Tommy and you can guess what happens to poor Olivia.  With her young daughter Chelsea (Erica Lancaster) now back in the custody of the impotent crime boss (which partially explains why his marriage fell apart), Tommy absurdly keeps his ex-wife’s fashion line going.  Two words: stripper wear.  His attire is no better than Olivia’s less than spectacular designs.

Now thoroughly pissed off, Kersey springs back into action.  God knows the cops aren’t getting anywhere.  (When one of Olivia’s bullied factory employees wears a secret wire to try to get some incriminating comments on tape, the results are predictably disastrous.)  One by one, Tommy’s pathetic henchman get dispensed with rather easily.  The most fitting method:  death by cannoli.

As Tommy and his men keep going back to that same church for funeral after funeral, it takes him a ridiculously long time to finally view Kersey for the serious threat that he is.  His idea of setting a trap is so transparent, though, Kersey has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Neither does Chelsea who has no problem escaping the clutches of her deadbeat dad.  (She’s one of the only female characters in this series who doesn’t need the protection of a man.)  Tommy O’Shea is such a weak heel (like numerous other moments in the film, Parks is laughable at times) it’s extremely difficult to accept him as an intimidating toughie.  He’s supposed to be this scarily violent, misogynistic racist but Parks is too sleepy to bring out the character’s edge.  And why is this Irish-American trying to sound Italian?  Who’s he trying to impress, exactly?

Death Wish:  The Face Of Death has the dubious distinction of being Bronson’s final movie.  (He would end his 50-year career with a trilogy of TV movies.)  I’ll say this for it.  It’s not as bad as Death Wish 3.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 11, 2016
4:12 a.m.

Published in: on September 11, 2016 at 4:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Death Wish 3

How stupid is the villain in Death Wish 3?  At any moment, he can dispose of the hero.  Any moment!  But what does he do instead?  He talks and threatens.  And waits.  And waits some more.  By the time he has the hero in a very vulnerable position, instead of finally pulling the goddamn trigger already, he just can’t shut up about his precious bulletproof vest.

Roger Ebert famously called this cliche The Fallacy Of The Talking Killer.  God knows it’s been employed by lazy screenwriters for decades.  Maybe it’s time to retire this overused technique for good.

In the original Death Wish (a good, challenging film worth seeing), mild-mannered architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson in his most famous role), a lifelong pacifist, sees his happy little world completely shattered after a band of thieving rapists assault his family in their own apartment.  His wife murdered and his daughter institutionalized, he can’t track down the assailants (one of whom is played by a pre-stardom Jeff Goldblum) because he doesn’t know what they look like.

Instead, armed with a powerful Wildey Magnum he receives as a gift from a friend, he lures other would-be muggers into a trap and blasts them, turning him into an unlikely folk hero for the public and a constant frustration for law enforcement.  By the end, a deal is reached.  There won’t be a prosecution if Kersey leaves town.

In Death Wish 2 (a terrible movie), Kersey relocates to Los Angeles where another band of thugs (one played by Laurence Fishburne wears sunglasses from the Jesse Ventura collection) steal his wallet and then break into his house to assault his maid who is never seen or heard from again.  By the time he arrives on the scene with his now mute daughter after a day of bonding, they attack him and kidnap her.  After she is again assaulted, she accidentally kills herself while trying to escape.

Because he actually saw their faces (and apparently has an incredible memory), he systematically tracks them down over a series of nights and assassinates them.  (He doesn’t believe the cops will ever arrest them.  Kersey refuses to cooperate with the investigation.)  After murdering the last one in a mental hospital (yep, the same one that once housed his traumatized daughter), his once skeptical new squeeze Gail (Bronson’s real-life wife Jill Ireland), a radio journalist who believes in criminal justice reform, quietly breaks off their recent engagement.

Which brings us to number three.  When it begins, a stone-faced Kersey returns by bus to New York City to visit an old friend who is in the process of being beaten up by, you guessed it, another band of violent thieves, who demand money for “protection”.  It is such an unconvincing scene, one of many in what is easily the silliest chapter in the Death Wish saga thus far.  (Would you believe one of them is played by Ted’s future pal Bill, Alex Winter?)

After arriving in his friend’s apartment in the slums, Kersey is wrongly nabbed by the cops who think he killed him.  (Yep, they’re not too bright, either.)  Once back at the precinct, they start beating him up for some reason until their boss calls them off.  He gets a cheap shot in, as well, and then recognizes Kersey.  (He was using Kimble (an obvious Fugitive reference) as an alias.)

Temporarily thrown in one of two holding cells filled with stereotypical toughies, he encounters Manny Fraker (Gavin O’Herlihy), a gang leader who looks like David Carradine with Road Warrior Hawk’s haircut.  He also has an equal sign with a red line through it on his forehead, the lamest gang sign I’ve ever seen.  (All his followers have it, as well.)  Among many dumb mistakes he makes, he calls out Kersey and even orchestrates an attempted assault on him that doesn’t exactly go well.  Oh yeah, and then after he’s released (how in the hell does he have a clean record?), he foreshadows what he’ll do to an old lady on his “turf”.  It’s one of the only times O’Herlihy’s performance is genuinely scary.

The rest of the time he’s a complete moron.  After Kersey makes a deal with the anti-Constitutionalist police chief who is now suddenly super friendly (why the initial suckerpunch, motherfucker?), Fraker is stunned to see his new enemy move into his area of control.  (Why did you pick a fight with him, you dope?)

But does he have him immediately killed?  Nope.  He calls him to offer a warning.  Why?  For Christ’s sake, why?  I mean, he knows Kersey is there to take him down.  He knows this!  (Kersey has free rein to do what he pleases.  Plus, Fraker’s goons killed his friend.)  He has many loyal members in his gang willing to do his bidding.  In fact, one is sent to Kersey’s old friend’s apartment (where our hero is temporarily residing) to spy on him (but not kill him).  Unfortunately, he’s as discreet as Anthony Weiner.  Which means the next time he sneaks in through the bathroom window, Kersey has left a rusty surprise for him.  Should’ve looked down before taking that first step, dumb dumb.

As the neighbours in this dilapidated hellhole get shaken down for their money and their belongings (while the women here get routinely harassed and assaulted including Marina Sirtis, the future Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation), because he can’t get to Fraker (he’s always surrounded by his loyalists) Kersey can only take out a few of his goons at a time.  For instance, he rents a car using it as bait to attract a couple of thieves who get blown away the minute one of them threatens his life.  (Like Kersey’s life is ever seriously threatened in these movies, rare stab wounds notwithstanding.)

In another, he dares an elusive mugger to steal his camera which he dangles temptingly over his shoulder.  With his trusted Wildey Magnum brought out of retirement, The Giggler is no longer laughing.  (He really did enjoy his mugging.)  His stupid nickname inspires unintentional laughs when his fellow gang members mourn his death.

All the while, Fraker takes forever to attempt to extinguish Kersey’s life.  None of them are ultimately successful because he has remarkably shitty aim and he fucking talks too much.

Oh, I forgot to mention Deborah Raffin.  She plays Kersey’s public defender who meets him once at the police precinct early on and then takes a cab all the way to this shitty war zone later on just to ask him out.  (Really?  An instant attraction with old stone face after a 30-second conversation?  She must have a thing for vengeful psychos.)  Unlike Jill Ireland in number two, she’s no reformer.  Tired of defending unrepentent scum in court (well, someone has to do it), she wishes for a tougher system.  (If only she knew about Kersey’s methods.)  What ultimately happens to her is predictable and I have to say, laughable.  Gratitituous explosions in dumb action films have that effect on me.

What’s puzzling about Death Wish 3 is by the time we reach the inevitably violent conclusion, where the gang call in reinforcements for their escalated war with the neighbourhood, we learn that these traumatized residents could’ve protected themselves right from the start.  (On the other hand, what was stopping the gang from kicking everyone out of their apartments to avoid all of this?  Why do you prefer to live in absolute squalor, idiots?)  I mean what’s the point of having guns in your apartments if you never use them?  Yes, the cops confiscate one such weapon from the nice, elderly Jewish couple but they have a spare we only know about once it’s retrieved from its hiding spot.

Speaking of that, are the cops in cahoots with the gang?  It’s never fully explained why they let the gang do what they want (but give parking tickets to the law-abiding residents) until things get way out of hand.  Then, they suddenly start caring.  (Remember, this movie was released in 1985, well before the NYPD’s implementation of Broken Windows.)

Kersey learns through a local he befriends that his old war buddy (the one killed off in the opening scene) hid a couple of giant war time machine guns he was somehow able to slip past customs.  As it turns out, only one of them still works.  And, as you can imagine, unintentional hilarity ensues.  The whole time he fires, Branson somehow maintains a straight face.  I couldn’t.

As the war rages on in the third act, Fraker slips into Kersey’s friend’s apartment (what happened to the board of nails?) in what should be a successful assassination mission.  His bulletproof vest he’s so goddamn proud of initially saves his life.  But then he starts yakking.  Less chitty chatty and more bang bang, dipshit.  I mean you had one job, one fucking job, Manny!  Jesus.

The Death Wish franchise began during a high crime period in the mid-70s and ended two decades later during the year Joe Biden wrote a destructive “tough-on-crime” law that over time would institutionalize America’s already heartless mass incarceration state and target the most vulnerable populations, mostly for drugs.  Only the first one cleverly captures the hopelessness and paranoia of a time where citizens had legitimate reason to fear for their lives and their loved ones.  It’s a skillfully made thriller.  I understand Kersey’s rationale even if I don’t necessarily agree with his actions.

Death Wish 2 is a simple-minded urban revenge fantasy that transforms the once likeable Bronson character into a despicable assassin.  He’s no better than a mob hitman.  As Entertainment Weekly correctly pointed out 20 years ago, it blatantly recycles the set-up of its superior predecessor.  Any attempts to challenge the idea of vigilantism are minimized without further discussion.  The radio reporter barely gets any time to make her case for sensible, non-violent reform.  As she’s about to do a story on it, the film completely cuts her off.

Death Wish 3 is an unintentional howler, a self-parody of an action film, a cinematic wet dream for right-wing drug warriors who refuse to see the undeniable connection between their racist “justice” policies and the severe poverty that results from them.  In Death Wish movies, violent, rapey, drugged out degenerates are everywhere, especially in this particular neighbourhood, and it is only with ruthless, unapologetic force that they can be stopped.  To hell with their Constitutional rights.

As the real-life Wars on Drugs and Terrorism stumble on years after they began, we now know that’s no solution at all.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 5, 2016
4:00 a.m.

Published in: on September 5, 2016 at 4:00 am  Comments (1)  

What Daniel Bryan Should’ve Said To The Miz

Last week, Talking Smack lived up to its name.  Airing right after Smackdown Live every Tuesday night on The WWE Network, the show allows wrestlers a chance to further their storylines outside of the ring and vent if they so desire.  (They must’ve gotten the idea from The Talking Dead, the wrap-up show that follows The Walking Dead on AMC.)

During last week’s broadcast, The Miz was a guest.  One of the hosts, Daniel Bryan, made a pointed criticism about his in-ring work.  The former four-time World Champion claimed that the current InterContinental Champion was “soft” (or did he mean “sawft”?) and that he seemed less than eager to take bumps, particularly punches to the face.  He bluntly called him a “coward”.

In the past, when he was knocked for any number of reasons, The Miz would simply laugh off and diminish such negative views as the work of “haters”.  He even turned it into a T-shirt.  In all the years I’ve been watching him in the WWE, he has never let this get to him.

But judging by his ferocious reaction on Talking Smack, Bryan clearly touched a nerve.  Shaking so much with rage, The Miz passionately defended himself, claiming in his decade-long run with the WWE, he had never gotten seriously hurt.  He went on to hammer Bryan for telling the fans he would return but then retiring instead.

The Yes Man had a very good reason for ending his pro wrestling career, as Miz well knows.  He accumulated so many concussions, among other serious injuries, the WWE would no longer clear him to wrestle.  As he noted to The Miz, he would be back if the company would let him.

That wasn’t good enough for the star of Christmas Bounty.  The Miz suggested that if he was serious about coming back, he’d return to the “bingo halls” where he got his start.  Sticking the proverbial knife ever deeper, the IC Champ claimed that he loves the WWE fans (he’s currently a self-absorbed heel) and would make his title (which he has won on four previous occasions) mean something again.  (Bryan’s last title run in 2015 was with the same belt.)

Daniel Bryan eventually walked off the set which added even more fuel to The Miz’s venom.  With a very noticeable vein bulging out of his shiny forehead, he pointed out the obvious.  When vigourously challenged, ironically, Bryan was the one who showed fear.

But was The Miz right about everything else he said?  Is his “safe” style of wrestling, as Bryan derisively called it, the best way to work?

Bryan could’ve easily demolished his argument but because he abandoned this heated conversation while an agitated Miz was still lashing out at him in mid-sentence he missed a glorious opportunity to do so.  There are so many things he could’ve said instead of just walking away in disgust.

First off, he could’ve asked the IC Champ if he had ever had a classic match?  The Miz would probably respond with his two main event matches with John Cena for the WWE Championship back in 2011.  To which Bryan would’ve noted that his match with Cena at SummerSlam 2013 was better than both of them put together.

Miz would’ve countered that he was Champion that night for just a few minutes thanks to Randy Orton cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase with a big assist from Triple H.  Bryan would’ve reminded him that the only reason he remained WWE Champion at WrestleMania 27 is because of The Rock.  And that Miz only became the champion in the first place because he cashed in his own MITB briefcase on a fallen Orton during a November episode of Monday Night Raw in 2010.  The only way he was able to keep the title in a 2011 Royal Rumble rematch with The Viper is because of the interference of CM Punk.

Miz would likely go on to mock Bryan for losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in the opening match of WrestleMania 28 in less than 20 seconds, to which Bryan would note that his loss led to his eventual babyface push as the fans began enthusiastically chanting “Yes!”, his once purposefully obnoxious catchphrase, in protest that night.  When Miz would take credit for that success, as he did in an interview in 2012, Bryan would argue that despite his love of the fans, they didn’t love The Miz back during his own ill-fated, mercifully brief babyface turn.

The Yes Man could list a whole slew of great matches in his career.  A Money In The Bank ladder match in 2011 (which led to his first world title push), the 2012 Elimination Chamber match for the WHC, the three WWE title bouts on pay-per-view with CM Punk (including one that featured Kane) during the Spring and Summer of 2012, his Royal Rumble 2014 match with Bray Wyatt and that stellar encounter with Triple H at WrestleMania 30 which directly led to him regaining the WWE Championship in a 3-way with Orton and Batista in the main event of that same show.  Both encounters lasted 30 minutes apiece. Could The Miz have accomplished any of this with his “safer” approach?

Bottom line, Daniel Bryan can easily say he had more memorable, important matches in his six years in the WWE than The Miz has had in his entire career even if he did suffer serious physical setbacks that ended his wonderfully inspiring run all too quickly.

As for the IC Champ’s assertion that he’s never been seriously hurt, I can think of two instances where things went wrong at his expense.  The original finish of the Cena match at WrestleMania 27 ended in a double count-out where Miz hit the back of his head hard on the concrete while taking a bump at ringside.  If memory serves, I do believe he suffered a concussion from that.

And then, there was the Raw match he had with Kofi Kingston where he got struck so forcefully with the Trouble In Paradise (basically a spinning kick to the head), you could hear the loud thump of the impact.  Miz looked dazed for a bit after he was pinned.

Interestingly, if Bryan had brought up these instances during their Talking Smack interview, Miz could’ve used them as proof he can take a serious bump and not lose his spot.  To which Bryan would’ve instantly countered that these were rare, unfortunate accidents and he doesn’t handle genuinely safe but tough-looking bumps on a regular basis.

On this week’s Smackdown Live, The Miz delivered another blistering heat-seeking promo that seemed slightly inspired by CM Punk’s brilliant “pipe bomb” promo in 2011.  Once again sounding very defensive, especially when he was booed, he talked about how great a team player he is for WWE.  Whenever the company needs him for PR work, he’s there, dignity be damned.

Daniel Bryan’s promised direct response to last week’s Talking Smack segment, on the other hand, was a huge letdown.  Bryan and The Miz never actually had a follow-up face-to-face encounter which is baffling.  In fact, as Bryan noted on this week’s Talking Smack, it was decided by WWE management to keep them apart on-camera from this point forward.  (Ridiculous.  Talk about poor creative judgment.)  For his part, Bryan apologized for abandoning co-host Renee Young during a hot segment and for pissing off The Miz, although on Smackdown Live, it was more than clear he stands by his original criticisms, as he should.

It’s such a shame he didn’t go further last week because had he done so, he would’ve won the argument.  Handily.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
7:34 p.m.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Boy (2016)

There are two key questions at the heart of The Boy:

1. How far will one couple go to appease their psychotic child?
2. How much of a ruse will an abused woman tolerate in order to flee her tormenter?

The answers?  Too far and too much.

Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a Montana native so desperate to escape her violent ex-boyfriend she takes a babysitting job in the UK.  But she’s not looking after an actual child.  No.  She is tasked with caring for a doll that resembles a child.

This obviously requires an explanation.  The eccentric Heelshires (the very good Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) have never gotten over the loss of their 8-year-old son, Brahms.  So, as a way of coping, they pretend the aforementioned doll is him.  (Greta lost her own unborn child after her ex beat her.)

They clothe him, sit him at the dinner table, read to him, play his favourite classical music quite loudly and give him goodnight kisses after they put him to bed.  They’ve been performing this charade, this meticulous routine for 20 years.  Greta isn’t the first babysitter they’ve hired.  (They instruct her to follow 10 typewritten rules altogether.  She ignores pretty much all of them at first.  Not smart, as it turns out.)

As if that wasn’t strange enough, the replacement Brahms seemingly disappears without warning.  On her first night alone in the Heelshires’ sprawling mansion (they’re taking a much needed vacation), completely creeped out by the thing, she covers his snow white face with a blanket while she reads a magazine and guzzles red wine.  At one point later on, she notices the blanket is off.  Did he remove it himself when she was out of the room or did it just fall?

On a different night, she hears a child crying.  When she goes to investigate, she notices a tear falling from the silent doll’s eye.  But then, a drop of water from the ceiling hits his face.  Did that cause the first tear?

Going back to the very first day she arrives at the mansion, after removing her boots and getting a small tour & instructions from the family, when she goes back to retrieve them, they’ve disappeared.  Mrs. Heelshire blames Brahms.  “He can be playful,” she says matter-of-factly.  Later on, when Greta opens her bedroom door, they magically return.  When she closes it and opens it again, he also leaves her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  (She made one for herself earlier in the kitchen.)  At times, she can see movement in the small space underneath her closed door.  Mr. Heelshire tells her he’s “too timid” to do this while being watched.

Greta’s only company is a flirtatious grocer, Malcolm (Rupert Evans), who arrives every so often to awkwardly hit on her and deliver food.  Their gradual bond is awfully convenient for what’s to come.  When they eventually give in to their supposed attraction, a jealous Brahms cranks up the classical to interrupt their abbreviated, spiceless makeout.

When they make plans to go out to a club, after taking an impromptu shower, Greta notices all her clothes and jewelry are suddenly missing.  That leads her up to the attic where she inevitably gets locked in and can’t get Malcolm’s attention when he arrives for their date.  Despite dropping in constantly unannounced in other scenes (the obligatory False Alarm scares that seem half-hearted in their execution), on this occasion he curiously drives off.  Shortly afterwards, she spots a shadowy figure (a shot so poorly lit it took me a few times to actually see it) and passes out.

Meanwhile, as the days go on, she keeps hearing unexplained noises and Brahms never seems to stay in place.  She also starts having nightmares about the damn thing, one of which inspires the scariest moment in the film, which isn’t really saying that much, honestly.

For a little over an hour, The Boy wants you to think you’re watching a rip-off of Annabelle, the hokey spin-off of The Conjuring, itself one of the most overrated horror films of the decade.  But then, something terrible happens to the doll, and suddenly the last half hour becomes another Halloween-style slasher flick complete with a masked villain.

Which leads us back to those two key questions.  As it turns out, Brahms the doll is not possessed by any demonic spirit.  He’s a prop for a sinister scheme cooked up by the Freeshires who have so much guilt over their dark secret, they pull a Nicole Kidman in The Hours without informing Greta of their plans.  How far will they go to appease their son?  They’re willing to recruit a potential victim for him.  Sick and truly puzzling.  No wonder their chauffeur eyes Greta so closely in the opening scene.

Greta’s violent ex (a generic heel who lacks intensity), who’s been stalking her sister’s family back home in her absence, eventually learns of her whereabouts.  Greta is stunned to see him playing pool in the mansion one night.  (Like Malcolm, he doesn’t believe in knocking.  Does she ever lock the front door?)  He asserts their break-up didn’t count and insists that she’ll be leaving with him first thing in the morning.  How desperate is she to shake off this misogynistic loser?  She buys into the idea that Brahms the doll will take care of this problem after she commands him to do so.  Things turn out not quite like she expected.  In fact, they go from bad to worse.

The Boy really wants to be an M. Night Shyamalan movie, quiet for the most part with unexpected swerves.  Unfortunately, it’s so wrapped up in its mysterious, highly contrived plot it forgets to be consistently scary.  It fails to build enough tension to properly pay off the twisted Brahms portion of the story alone.  It’s all foreplay with no climax.

The maternal Lauren Cohan is an appealing lead who deserves a smarter character to play.  Her initial instinct that someone is fucking with her is absolutely correct.  But sadly, she doesn’t stick with it.  She foolishly buys into the idea the doll is alive.  In fact, she actually bonds with it.  Much like the Heelshires, she uses the doll as a conduit for her buried, unresolved feelings towards her dead fetus.

I had misplaced suspicions about Malcolm because he kind of resembles an adult Brahms.  Despite that, I wasn’t charmed by his lameness.  For instance, pretending to be able to sum up a person’s history through their chewing gum is weak.  He’s only useful when he fills in some of the blanks about the Freeshires’ troubled history.  Why neither of them don’t just run for zee hills well before the third act is beyond me.

By the end, the filmmakers are clearly hoping for a second chapter.  The ultimate fate of Brahms, the real one, is purposefully ambiguous.  Who is that person walking around and making repairs?  But how would they accomplish this without relying on the same bogus conceit?  And why bother with a sequel when they didn’t get it right the first time?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
7:06 p.m.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

How shameless is Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2?  Well, if you missed the original Silent Night Deadly Night, not to worry.  Number two gets you right up to speed.

In its first 40 minutes.

That’s right.  Nearly half of its 88-minute running time is devoted to completely rehashing the earlier film.  It unapologetically recycles half of the footage from its predecessor.

It’s fairly obvious why.  Part 2 doesn’t have nearly enough material to justify being a feature.  In fact, it’s one of the silliest horror sequels I’ve ever seen.

At the end of the first film, poor, tormented Billy, the kid who saw his parents murdered by a thief in a Santa costume, comes very close to getting revenge against the sadistic nun who put horrible ideas in his impressionable head about punishing the naughty at an orphange she ran.

His little brother, Ricky, who was just a screaming baby when they suddenly became orphans, witnesses his final moments and inevitably follows in his slasher footsteps.

As Part 2 begins, we catch up with him again as an impatient, chain-smoking adult in a mental institution as he’s about to be interviewed by his 13th psychiatrist, a mild-mannered widow who has no idea what he’s in for once he hits record on the reel-to-reel machine.

Eric Freeman, who plays the demented Ricky, overacts constantly with his eyebrows.  His glare is not even close to being intimidating.  Sometimes, he turns his head slowly and robotically like The Terminator.  His line readings are routinely forced.  After he needlessly recaps his brother’s story in full, he delves into his own troubled history.

Adopted by a Jewish couple who gave him a good life, like Billy, he had traumatic flashbacks as a child. Two nuns walking down the street freaked him out.  Seeing red fabric brought up more bad memories about Santa.

After his stepfather died, he started going for long walks in the woods.  In one flashback, he spots a drunken man attempting to rape his girlfriend.  (A blatant rip-off of a similiar scene in the first film.)  Once she successfully fights him off, he retreats to his truck to get another beer.  By the time he discovers Ricky in the driver’s seat, it’s too late.  The aftermath leads to an unintentional laugh, one of many.

When he turned 18, Ricky became a busboy at a restaurant.  We see him throwing out trash one night as he overhears an argument between two men.  One is owed money and a beating is in progress.  When it ends, Ricky prevents the thug from leaving and after no-selling a few punches Terminator-style, he stabs the man with an umbrella.  And yes, it opens up.

Then we find out about his girlfriend, a cute blond he met after she literally bumped into his motorbike with her car.  (There’s a genuinely funny scene when they go to the movies (a clip from Silent Night Deadly Night is shown in full screen, for some reason) and are bothered by some loudmouth in the back row.)  He lost his virginity to her but when he found out about her obnoxious, overbearing ex, well, he became a fan of “slut” shaming.

And that’s when Freeman’s already laughable performance devolves into full-on camp.  It’s hard to tell if he gave up trying to be scary.  After he escapes the mental institution to track down the evil Mother Superior (sadly played by a different actress who isn’t nearly as effective), now retired with strange bumps on the side of her face (does this happen to stroke victims?), Ricky starts channelling Jack Nicholson from The Shining.  Badly.

At no time is any of this scary.  How can it be?  It’s so over-the-top you can’t take it seriously.  (That electrocution special effect is particularly noticeable.)  I mean right from the very begininng there’s a big credibility problem.  During Ricky’s interview, he’s not in a strait jacket or handcuffs.  He’s not shackled at all.  He’s free to roam around the entire time.

Um, guys?  He’s killed half a dozen people!  Doesn’t that make him dangerous?  Shunning good judgment and common sense, the dumb shrink (it turns out 13 isn’t his lucky number) shoos away an orderly who rightly eyes the occasionally smiling Ricky with suspicion.

Can you believe they made 3 more sequels?  Thank God none of them played in theatres so I don’t have to see them.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
6:23 p.m.

Published in: on August 24, 2016 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment