Room 237

“The way to criticize a movie is to make another movie,” Jean-Luc Godard famously asserted.

The makers of Room 237 have taken that advice to heart.  This intriguingly obsessive documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining will make you look at the epic horror film with very different perspectives, even if some of these bold arguments are a little out there and unpersuasive.

As disembodied voices dissect various elements of the film (we never see them on-camera as they talk), Room 237 rotates between clips of The Shining (including behind-the-scenes footage) and various other Kubrick movies to old newsreel footage and moments from numerous other titles, with some clever amalgamation of some thrown in for good measure.

Let’s be clear about one thing.  You need to see The Shining first.  Thankfully, I’d seen it on Christmas Eve last year so it was still fresh in my mind.  (It is genuinely unsettling.)  As the disembodied voices take us through specific scenes – sometimes in real time, sometimes in slow motion, sometimes in freeze frames, sometimes repeatedly – they point out unusual things you may very well have missed.

For instance, there’s a scene where Danny Torrance, the little boy with the imaginary friend, is playing with his toys in the lobby of this fabulous resort his parents have been assigned to look after during the winter off-season.  All of a sudden, a ball rolls toward him.  Notice the pattern of the carpet.  When Danny stands up, now notice the carpet again.  The design has been flipped in reverse.

Here’s another example.  After we first meet Danny, he’s brushing his teeth in the family bathroom.  As the camera slowly moves towards him in the hallway, you see his bedroom door.  There are stickers all over it.  Take particular notice of Dopey, one of the Seven Dwarfs.  In a later scene, when he’s being examined for illness, look closely at the door again.  No Dopey.

There’s more, way more.  Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, the troubled, abusive alcoholic novelist trying and failing to write a new manuscript (he only manages one line repeated endlessly), has an unusual typewriter.  It’s German with an eagle symbol.  At one point, without any warning or notice, it changes colour.

When Jack goes in to the office for his job interview, the employee sitting next to him is wearing solid pants.  Then, in other shots, he wears striped ones.

What’s going on?  Did Kubrick get sloppy with continuity or did he have something else in mind?  The movie convincingly argues for the latter.  The Torrances are trapped in an actual nightmare where marvellous improbabilities abound.  (Where’s the cord on that TV?  Does it run on batteries?)  Certainty is an illusion.

Before The Shining, Kubrick made the war epic Barry Lyndon.  One disembodied voice asserts that he was a “bored genius” when he made that film, that it was too straightforward and pretty.  It didn’t challenge him as a filmmaker.

So, when he decided to do a very loose adaptation of Stephen King’s novel (the famous maze was an invention for the film), he went out of his way to know everything about Colorado (where the film is set) and added so many layers of details that decades after the movie’s original theatrical release, obsessives are still spotting curious things they missed during earlier screenings.  (The movie begins with a big-ass disclaimer pointing out that nobody associated with The Shining including Warner Bros. who released it endorses any of the views expressed.)

He also became fascinated with subliminal advertising even going so far as to seek out information directly from those who employed this technique in their commercials.

Here’s my favourite example used in The Shining.  At the end of the film, there’s a dissolve of an old framed photo shown in two different close-ups.  If you pause the transition at just the right moment, it looks like Jack Nicholson is sporting a Hitler moustache.  One overly imaginative invisible commentator suggests with a straight face that you can see Kubrick’s face in the clouds during the breathtaking opening credits sequence but I think he’s full of shit.  I sure as hell didn’t spot it.

As recounted in The Shining, The Overlook Hotel was built on sacred Native American land, a burial ground.  There’s an infamous recurring scene where a river of blood suddenly pours out of an elevator and into the lobby.  The hotel manager notes early on that the workers had to fight off pissed off Indigenous warriors in order to finish the construction.  One commentator suggests that the blood is coming directly from the dead buried right under the hotel whenever the elevator goes all the way to the bottom floor.  Because of how you see the river being released (it squeezes itself out of the side) it also serves as a vivid metaphorical reminder.  Though we may try to ignore the genocides of the past, they can never be truly concealed.

When Room 237 is not asserting that the film is about the bloody legacy of American settler-colonialism (hard to argue with that when you consider all the symbolism), it’s pointing out weird connections to The Holocaust.  I mentioned the German typewriter earlier.  The eagle symbol was appropriated by the Nazis.  The more Jack Torrance types on it, the more genocidal he becomes.  I wouldn’t dare spoil all the other fascinating details of this particular theory.

However, I have to mention this other one which is nuts.  One commentator who might require a thorough mental examination believes that Kubrick faked the footage of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, even though he believes the mission itself was real.  How does he arrive at this conclusion?  Well, there’s the 2001 connection.  Plus, he thinks the Apollo footage was done through a technique called “front projection”.  (He claims experts back him up but they’re not named nor do they appear in the film.)

Furthermore, in The Shining, Danny is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater.  The ball that gets thrown to him leads him to Room 237 which he argues is the “moon room” based mainly on two things:  1. the distance between Earth and the moon is 237,000 miles and 2. the tag on the door that says “ROOM No.”.  He finds the small “o” to be curious.

There’s much more but it’s obviously nonsense.  Near the end of the film, the invisible commentator reveals himself to be rather paranoid.  I don’t think the IRS gives a shit about your crackpot assertions.  That said, you can’t say his misguided comments aren’t humourously imaginative.

Perhaps the most surreal moment in Room 237 is an experiment.  One commentator decided to have the beginning and the ending of The Shining playing simultaneously through a technique known as superimposition.  The results of this crazy idea are fascinating and spooky but also suggest a lack of a social life.

There are so many far-out ideas and revelations in Room 237 (The Shining’s connections to 2001 and other Kubrick films, Disney’s animated Three Little Pigs and other fairy tales, the number 42, that skiing poster, Jack reading Playgirl in the hotel lobby) that it manages to make you appreciate Kubrick’s achievement that much more, even if he didn’t necessarily intend what the commentators believe he did.  Although The Shining got terrible reviews during its initial release (pause that article to read a brutally succinct assessment of Shelley Duvall’s deeply underrated performance as Mrs. Torrance), like 2001 which initially faced similar resistance from professional critics, it has since become a towering influence on cinema and pop culture in general.  (For instance, when I was a college DJ, on our playlist there was an actual alternative rock band called Mrs. Torrance.)

Unlike the two survivors in the film, those who repeatedly watch The Shining looking for alleged secrets not yet exposed, like the mysterious, passionately devoted commentators in Room 237, will find themselves trapped in a “dream world” they can never truly escape.  How fitting that a perfectionist filmmaker obsessed with every small detail has inspired the most devoted of his supporters to excavate them with the same dedication.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2018
7:21 p.m.

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Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Warm Bodies

When we first meet R, the hero of Warm Bodies, he’s having an existential crisis.  In the midst of an 8-year apocalypse, his days are filled with boredom and loneliness as he lumbers around an airport all day with all the other “corpses”.  When he’s not wandering around aimlessly imagining what life was like for the people he encounters he retreats to an airplane where he chills out to old vinyl hits like John Waite’s Missing You & Guns N’ Roses’ Patience and looks at all the items he’s collected and treasured.

He’s been in such a state for so long he doesn’t know who he is anymore.  He has no past.  (He doesn’t even remember his full name, just the first letter.)  But little does he realize, he does have a future.

As played by a grown-up Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy), he is internally thoughtful and neurotic (with considerable effort, he can only say a couple of words out loud at a time) but sadly not terribly funny or charming.  For you see, Warm Bodies is a zombie comedy and not a very good one.  Yes, there are a few laughs here and there (who knew R liked US Weekly?) and at least one good scare, but not nearly enough of both to sustain your full interest.  Zombieland is better.

R’s life changes forever when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), a pretty blonde trained as a soldier by her stern, emotionally detached father (John Malkovich) ordered to go on a mission to retrieve pharmaceuticals in a dangerous part of town with a team that includes her indifferent boyfriend (Dave Franco).  R & his very hungry band of corpses (zombies who still look and sort of sound human) unexpectedly barge in the lab as they’re gathering materials.  Unbeknownst to R, his actions put Julie back on the market.

Corpses don’t sleep and have no memories, but if they eat the brains of their victims, they can visualize their memories.  It’s because of this R gets some sneaky insight into Julie’s previous relationship and ultimately feels tremendous guilt.

Suddenly very protective of her, he basically kidnaps her and tells her to stay put in his airplane because it’s not safe out there.  She doesn’t listen and tries to flee.  His methods of courting are seriously flawed and awkward but he wasn’t lying about the dangers.  This isn’t the only time she attempts a foolhardy escape.

If it isn’t clear right away, it will over time that R is short for Romeo and Julie is his forbidden love with a disapproving father who wants to kill him.  For God’s sake, there’s even a goddamn balcony scene!  Her last name isn’t Capulet (it’s actually Grigio) but it might as well be.

As R draws closer to Julie, who becomes more comfortable once she realizes she’s in no real danger (even though she eventually succeeds in leaving him), he starts to feel and gradually become more human.  His fellow corpses collectively share a similar experience when they look at an airport photo of a couple holding hands.  Now if he can only convince his unlikely love interest and her stubborn father that while “boneys” (skeletal zombies) can’t be “exhumed” (they’re the cheetahs of the zombie world), there is hope for corpses.

Warm Bodies is the first zombie film I’ve seen where love, not an antidote in a needle, is seen as a cure, a potential reversal of population decline.  That’s a compelling idea, a rare bit of positivity in a genre that thrives so much on despair and doubt.  But the execution is lacking.  Hoult and Palmer simply aren’t believable as a couple (the irony of her having a closer relationship with a corpse compared to a living human being is a bit too obvious to be clever), especially once she learns why she’s suddenly single.  Shouldn’t she be, oh I don’t know, a lot more upset than she says she is?

The attempts at humour are mostly weak, although I have to admit Rob Corddry (who plays fellow corpse Marcus) gets off a funny line while trying to cheer up his best pal R.  Some of the musical choices achieve a similar result.  But the action sequences where the remorseless boneys square off against anybody in their way lack wit, not to mention urgency and excitement.  They’re not scary, either.

Because of the couple’s names, there’s little doubt how all this will resolve itself.  And because their relationship is forced, odd and not at all sweet, there’s no emotional pay-off in the end.  For all its admirable ambition, Warm Bodies is nonetheless too committed to its various ripped-off formulas to be truly, compellingly original.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2018
6:49 p.m.

Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lost At Sea

Spare a thought for those lost at sea
They’re further away from tranquility
Sailing on a forgotten path
Never escaping its relentless wrath

Waves of doubt have thrown them all off-course
They ebb and flow with unrelenting force
Hanging on with just a sliver of hope
Quickly running out of ways to cope

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 15, 2018
8:24 p.m.

Published in: on February 15, 2018 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just Cause (1995)

In Just Cause, Sean Connery plays an elderly law professor who hasn’t tried a case in 25 years.  A fierce opponent of the death penalty, he’s much happier in the classroom than the courtroom.

After he smokes colleague George Plimpton in a brief, entertaining debate on the subject during a college event in Boston he’s approached by a desperate Ruby Dee.  Her grandson, Blair Underwood, is on death row for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl down in Florida.  She gives him a letter he wrote.  He says he’ll read it later.  She insists he look at it now.

She’s convinced he’s been railroaded because of racism and police brutality.  Predictably, he turns her down.  If he changes his mind, she’ll be at the bus station in a few hours waiting to go see another respected law professor in New Jersey.

Inevitably, Connery will indeed stop her before she leaves Boston.  That’s because his much younger wife Kate Capshaw, a former lawyer herself now trying to help juvenile delinquents, insists on looking into the case.  We find out why much later on.

Eight years ago, Underwood was taken in custody by a redneck cop who then proceeded to beat him during an interrogation.  His superior, Laurence Fishburne, then forced a confession out of him by improbably employing a technique famously used in The Deer Hunter.  It takes quite a while before we realize why.  This whole sequence feels more cartoonish than brutal.

Upon visiting him in prison, Connery is immediately suspicious.  After Underwood pretends to act ignorant before revealing his highly educated self, the professor asks him point blank, “What’s your game?”

Unfortunately, Connery’s justifiable scepticism fades rather quickly as Underwood recounts his 22-hour ordeal in police custody, already covered in his letter.  No nourishment, no liquid refreshment, no lawyer, no permission to use the bathroom.  Connery is shocked that the cop that forced him to cop is Black himself.

When Connery meets Fishburne, his redneck partner, and later Ned Beatty, the shoddy lawyer who gave Underwood a pitiful defense, and the coroner, his doubts about Underwood’s guilt grow.  There’s no evidence of rape, no murder weapon, no DNA, no physical evidence whatsoever.  Beyond the forced confession, all the police have on Underwood is that his car was spotted outside the school where the young girl was snatched.

Then, Connery encounters Ed Harris, a genuinely scary death row inmate who Underwood claims is the real killer.  Harris is basically another Hannibal Lecter, whip-smart and depraved, a master of manipulation who hooks the foolish Connery right from the start, but with one notable exception.  Whereas the most famous character from The Silence Of The Lambs was always calmly in control, the super religious, compulsively artistic Harris has sudden, loud outbursts of rage.

Harris gives Connery an important clue which eventually leads to the discovery of the murder weapon, a knife.  The fact that the police and dozens of volunteers could not find it in 1986 when it wasn’t exactly cleverly hidden is embarrassing and puzzling.  They just weren’t thorough enough which feels highly unlikely.

Harris likes to write the families of the victims he tortured describing his long list of crimes and sure enough, Connery conveniently spots a letter to the parents of the 11-year-old murder victim.  When it’s read out loud in court in front of them during an appellate hearing, it does what it’s supposed to do.

But the movie has only been running for an hour which can only mean one thing.

I missed Just Cause during its modest theatrical run in early 1995 and never found time to catch it on video later that year.  Now that I’ve finally seen it more than 20 years later, I have a lot of problems with it.

Let’s start with Fishburne’s character, the shady cop who profiled Underwood based on next-to-no evidence and a pure hatred of his leading man looks.  His consistent hostility towards Connery makes him highly suspicious for a while which turns out to be an annoying red herring.

When Connery visits him at his house, he discovers that the murder victim was friends with his now adult daughter who wants to become a lawyer herself.  (Fishburne later admits the white girl was like a daughter to him.)  He spots a framed picture of them as kids in the living room.  That’s a pretty big ol’ conflict there.  How was Fishburne allowed to lead the investigation without raising any red flags?  Why no demands for recusal?

Also, without coming right out and saying it, once all is eventually and predictably revealed, it’s as though the film is trying to belatedly justify Fishburne’s unlawful treatment of Underwood which isn’t exactly discredited.  Fishburne may downplay the violence but he doesn’t outright deny it, either.  By the end of the movie, this is all magically disappeared.  How can he say he can sleep well at night with a straight face?

Then, there’s Kate Capshaw’s involvement in Underwood’s history.  It turns out he’s been arrested before.  Capshaw was able to get him locked up for an extra day so she could quickly attempt to strengthen her case.  But she couldn’t so he was freed.  That’s a pretty big secret to keep from your dopey husband who couldn’t bother to investigate this himself.  I mean how do you not think to do a criminal history search?

Besides the huge age gap, the Capshaw/Connery pairing is awkward.  (A young Scarlett Johanssen plays their daughter.)  When we first meet her, we find out a troubled teen she’s been trying to help punched her in the face.  Connery asks her how she explained this to the judge since she’s trying to get the kid into some rehab program and she claims she said her husband beat her.  Is this supposed to be a terrible inside reference to Connery’s infamous Playboy interview where he seemed to justify domestic violence?  Horrible.

And what about the moment where it looks like he headbutts her as they embrace?  That’s just weird.

Blair Underwood’s a fine actor but the absolute wrong guy to play the central figure in this story.  From the beginning, his character is not very warm or trustworthy and once we know exactly what’s going on, it’s just not believable.  The inevitable heel turn doesn’t pay off.

Despite Harris’ effective performance as the malicious child minister, his motivations are questionable, as well.  I mean what does he care about Underwood’s dilemma?  He’s gonna die anyway.  Is he looking for some kind of twisted redemption or something?  It makes no sense.  Also, what’s the story with his parents?

And what the hell happened to Ruby Dee?  After Connery meets with her at the bus station following their impromptu meeting in the college auditorium, we never see her again.  Why?

Just Cause never hooks us with its convoluted, overly twisty story because we’ve seen it many times before and it lacks absolute conviction.  Connery’s character is remarkably naïve for an experienced law professor.  His bullshit detector malfunctions constantly.

There’s a strange scene where his car gets vandalized and as he’s looking inside the front seat he gets mysteriously whacked in the head with a baseball bat.  Is that supposed to explain his stupidity?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
5:17 p.m.

Published in: on January 31, 2018 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Volcano (1997)

In Volcano, Los Angeles is a city of contradictions.  Beneath its warm and sunny exterior lies an ongoing class divide and stubborn racial segregation.  While working people of colour complain about an old church being turned into a mini-mall and protest those who oppose the extension of a subway system into their neighbourhoods, rich white folks can test drive fancy vehicles, build tall apartment buildings and have their pick of plastic surgery options.

Meanwhile, quietly bubbling under the La Trea Tar Pits is a disaster in the making, one that the city is seemingly ill-prepared to contain.

Tommy Lee Jones, the director of the Office of Emergency Management in LA, is supposed to be on vacation.  He’s recently separated and babysitting his needy 13-year-old daughter (Gaby Hoffmann).  But his “Midwestern work ethic” can’t keep him away from work.

Soon thereafter, an earthquake hits.  A construction crew working on the subway extension take bets on its epicenter.  In the middle of looking after a recently admitted gunshot victim, an ER surgeon (Jacqueline Kim) has to keep an important piece of equipment plugged in.  And several maintenance workers have died mysteriously of severe burns while working in an underground sewer.

Even though charismatic geologist Anne Heche correctly deduces that all this is happening because there’s a previously undetected underground volcano on the verge of multiple eruptions, her lack of absolute certainty fails to convince a skeptical Jones to take preventive measures beyond clearing out a local park.

Very early the next morning, she takes along a doomed colleague to go into that underground sewer to collect samples.  But something goes horribly wrong confirming her suspicions.  (She could’ve just asked Jones about his own experience down below since he was there first.)  It isn’t until “lava bombs” start flying through the sky hours later that Jones himself finally gets the message.  But by that point, the damage is done.  Power is out throughout the entire city.  Traffic jams are everywhere.  Buildings are towering infernos while a slow-moving pool of glowing lava is making its way through Wilshire Boulevard.  When the disaster ends, 100 people will have died and thousands more will be injured.

Heckuva job, Jonesy.

Belatedly using his authority to coordinate as many law enforcement, emergency and military teams as necessary, he first has to figure out a way to stop the lava flow from going any further.  Then, when Heche tells him a second, much speedier eruption is heading towards a hospital that has so many patients many have to be treated outside, he has to determine how to redirect its mighty hot contents safely towards the ocean.

I have to admit it’s fun seeing balls of fire flying around causing serious damage to empty buildings.  However, it’s far less exciting following this hokey story.  Part of the problem is that it’s overplotted.  So much information comes at you in the first 10 minutes or so laying the groundwork for payoffs that never arrive.

Consider John Corbett’s character, a racist land developer improbably married to Jacqueline Kim, the compassionate Asian-American ER doctor.  He’s deliberately built his new apartment building directly across from a different hospital he wants his wife to work in.  He would rather she treat “tennis elbows” than gunshot victims.  Not only is it hard to accept their relationship (which is thankfully minimized to just two scenes), it’s also not convincing that she would encourage his 100 million dollar venture knowing full well that money would be better served improving her current workplace, an issue that’s never discussed.

Corbett is front and center at the subway protest complaining about the planned extension.  His rationale for opposing this sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump’s infamous campaign speech when he decried Mexicans.  But after this scene’s conclusion, it’s never addressed again.  And when his brand new skyscraper becomes part of the spontaneous plan to redirect the second round of lava to the ocean, he’s nowhere in sight.

There’s an awkward subplot where a Black man gets arrested by a much smaller white cop right in the middle of the developing disaster.  The man simply wants his neighbourhood looked after during the worsening crisis.  But the much wealthier white areas of the city, including a museum, get prioritized.  It isn’t until his considerable strength is called upon that he’s uncuffed and, thanks to his spontaneous service, suddenly allowed to ride a fire truck back home.  He’s never seen again and we never do find out how bad the damage is in his area.

Even more awkward is the scene where a small child notices that everyone looks the same when their faces are covered in volcanic ash.  I guess that’s supposed to pass for a kumbaya moment but it feels very forced, much like the moment where Heche admits she likes Jones which, thankfully, never develops into anything.

Because the movie is all over the place with its narrative, graphics are frequently used to tell us the time and place of almost every scene.  Did I say frequently used?  I meant excessively used.  (I think we can clearly see the Hard Rock Café sign, guys.)  Also excessive are the number of reporter characters who offer unnecessary play-by-play of what’s happening.  Instead of letting the clearly defined images tell the story we get Michael Cole wannabes (future TMZ jerk Harvey Levin and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith among them) stating the obvious over and over again.  (Only those with sight issues will appreciate the descriptions even though they’re not that colourful.)

Back in 1997, Volcano had the misfortune of arriving in theatres two months after Dante’s Peak, another bad disaster movie with a similar story that ultimately made more money.  Despite the strong cast which also includes a sometimes funny Don Cheadle as Jones’ second-in-command at the OEM, the film lacks genuine tension and palpable fear.  Plus, we’re simply not given enough good scenes with the characters in order to care about them and their dilemma.

Not nearly as bad as some critics like Roger Ebert believed (I don’t agree that the special effects are cheesy) but not nearly as good as the guilty pleasure Airport ’77, Volcano is disappointingly ordinary.  And yet there are moments that suggest a better result.

After Heche climbs out of the underground sewer, a bunch of poor folks start looting closed businesses.  (Remember, much of the movie takes place during early morning hours.)  At one point, she removes some of her scientific equipment and leaves it on the hood of a car.  As she tries to process the tragedy that happened just moments before, a looter runs by scooping up her shit.  She’s too sad to notice.

It’s the biggest laugh in a movie that should’ve been funnier.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 26, 2018
2:48 a.m.

Published in: on January 26, 2018 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  

How You Can See All The Movies Nominated For The 90th Academy Awards

Tough break, James Franco.  Better luck next time, Gal Gadot.  Sorry, Bob Odenkirk.

The 90th annual Academy Award nominations are out and as usual, there were some notable surprises. (Logan for Best Adapted Screenplay?  I did not see that coming.)

While The Disaster Artist snagged a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, Franco, its star, did not get invited to join the exclusive Best Actor club.  Did the recent allegations of sexual harassment play a crucial role in the snub?  We’ll never know for sure.

Speaking of which, Kevin Spacey is probably royally pissed right now.  Why?  Because Christopher Plummer, the man who replaced him as billionaire J. Paul Getty in All The Money In The World, received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  Would Spacey have achieved the same result if all his bad behaviour (allegedly) had remained the subject of old, forgotten Gawker articles?  Again, we’ll never know.

It also wasn’t a good morning for Zionists.  Steven Spielberg, a two-time Oscar winner for Best Director, wasn’t recognized for helming The Post.  And Gadot, the star of Wonder Woman, was shut out for Best Actress.  In fact, the entire movie was completely ignored for consideration in all eligible categories.

Speaking of The Post, I was personally surprised that Odenkirk didn’t get singled out for Best Supporting Actor.  I’m sure others thought Tom Hanks would secure a nod for Best Actor.  In the end, Meryl Streep is the only star from the film to get recognized for her performance as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.  She’s up for yet another Best Actress gong.

In the meantime, there’s a more pressing concern to discuss.  How can one see all the nominated features?  Easy.  Below is the complete list of titles.  Next to each one is either the date for its upcoming home video or theatrical release or whether you can see it on DVD, Blu-ray or at a theatre near you right now.  (Some films are in release limbo so their home video debuts are “to be determined”.)  As always, updates will be added when new information becomes available.  Until then, happy screenings.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

All The Money In The World – Now playing in theatres, on DVD & Blu-ray June 30

Baby Driver – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Beauty And The Beast – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Big Sick – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Blade Runner 2049 – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Boss Baby – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Breadwinner – March 6

Call Me By Your Name – March 13

Coco – February 27

Darkest Hour – February 27

The Disaster Artist – March 13

Dunkirk – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Faces Places – March 6

A Fantastic Woman – Opens in theatres February 2

Ferdinand – March 13

The Florida Project – February 20

Get Out – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Greatest Showman – March 6

Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

I, Tonya – March 13

Icarus – Now playing on Netflix

The Insult – Now playing in theatres

Kong: Skull Island – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Lady Bird – March 6

Last Men in Aleppo – March 27

Logan – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Loveless – Now playing in theatres

Loving Vincent – February 20 Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Marshall – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Molly’s Game – March 1

Mudbound – Now playing in theatres

On Body and Soul – Opens in theatres February 21

Phantom Thread – April 10

The Post – Now playing in theatres

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – February 13

The Shape Of Water – March 13

The Square – January 30

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Now playing in theatres

Strong Island – Now playing on Netflix

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – February 27

Victoria & Abdul – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

War For The Planet Of The Apes – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Wonder – February 13

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
8:13 p.m.

UPDATE:  Best Actor contender Gary Oldman’s critically acclaimed turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour can be seen on DVD & Blu-ray starting February 27.  On March 6, look for the home video debut of Best Animated Feature nominee The Breadwinner.  Another film from that category, Ferdinand, will be out March 13 as will Best Picture nominee Call Me By Your Name and I, Tonya which features Best Actress competitor Margot Robbie.  Meanwhile, All The Money In The World will hit home video on June 30.  All these dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
10:01 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  You don’t have to wait until February 20 to see Loving Vincent on home video after all.  After a trip to my public library today, there it was on the express rack on DVD.  Speaking of February 20, that’s when The Florida Project will be out on DVD & Blu-ray.  Also, look for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri on February 27, The Disaster Artist and The Shape Of Water on March 13, Best Documentary Feature nominee Last Men In Aleppo on March 27 and Phantom Thread, supposedly the last film of Daniel Day-Lewis, on April 10.  All the dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
9:53 p.m.

UPDATE 3: Best Animated Feature favourite Coco comes out on home video February 27 while The Greatest Showman and Best Picture nominee Lady Bird both drop March 6. The dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, February 9, 2018
3:52 a.m.

UPDATE 4: Strong Island and Icarus can be streamed on Netflix.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
2:48 a.m.

Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Happened To The Best Of OMD CD I Ordered From Amazon.ca?

For the last three Christmases, a good friend of mine has given me an Amazon gift card.  In order to redeem it you have to have an active account.  Since my old one was apparently discontinued (probably because of a defunct email address and years of inactivity), I had to start a new one.  (I should clarify that my parents were the ones who used the old one and not very often, at that.)

No problem.  It takes two seconds to sign up.  Adding a gift card balance is just as quick and simple.

After searching Amazon.ca for music long coveted on my CD wishlist, I was able to spot some elusive titles I had been unable to nab at local record shops for years.

Back in early 2016, you only needed to purchase $25 worth of merch to get the free shipping & handling deal.  So, I bought a couple of titles right away.  And then, when I discovered they accept a Visa debit card, I was able to buy two more later on in order to use up the rest of the balance, also with free shipping.  Anything over my limit would be withdrawn from my seriously depleted account.  (Hey, experienced blogger looking to get paid over here.  Offers welcomed.  Send email or a DM.)

Just a few days after ordering, all my requested items showed up at my house.  Fantastic.

The following Christmas, Amazon.ca jacked up its free shipping & handling minimum to $35, so I ordered everything I wanted in one shot.  All my requested CDs showed up relatively quickly although my Matthew Sweet hits compilation could not be opened without breaking the case.  I don’t know how it got so stuck but once my dad got it open, I discovered the liner notes, the back cover and the disc were in perfect shape.  Thankfully, I had a spare case to replace the broken one.

That brings us to December 27th of last year.  Three days earlier, my friend once again generously gave me an Amazon gift card.  I ordered 4 CDs.  Two arrived on January 2 while another showed up the following day.  The fourth, The Best Of OMD, was scheduled to be delivered on January 4.

It never arrived.

So I vented in a tweet on Twitter which was spotted by the helpful folks who run the Amazon Help account.  They asked me if I had been sent an email about this.  Sure enough, in my in-box, was this notification:

“We recently learned that we may miss your delivery promise for your Amazon.ca Order…and apologize for the inconvenience. You’ll still receive the item and you can track the status of or make any changes to your order under Your Orders on Amazon.ca…”

When the disc didn’t arrive on January 5, I was told by the Amazon Help folks to sign in to my account and talk to someone with direct access to my order.  It took a few tries but I got on the live chat there.  I was told the following:

It seems, the shipment was possibly delayed by the carrier due to huge holiday deliveries. The carrier has apologized and states that ‘We’re working hard to process and deliver record holiday parcel volumes as quickly as possible. In some cases, customers may experience a delay in delivery. We continue to devote extra resources to serve you and apologize for any delays’. Usually this does not happen, please accept my sincere apology for this bad experience with us and I hope you can understand our limitations as well as of the carriers.”

I was then informed that I would receive a $5 “courtesy credit” that will go towards my next purchase.  And also this:

“I have requested a redelivery of your order on priority. The maximum time carrier would require is till Monday.”

To make sure I understood completely, I replied, “I appreciate that. So, just to be clear, [the CD] should be here no later than Monday?”

“Yes, correct. Thanks Dennis for understanding.”

It didn’t arrive on Monday.

After trying for over an hour to get back to the live chat (I later got an email from an Amazon rep who had seen me sign in even though I couldn’t see anything on my end), I gave up and wrote an email.  Just before bed late last night, I received an apologetic message from a different rep:

“As the estimated delivery date is already passed at this point, we can only presume that the package was lost during shipping. I sincerely apologize for the incorrect update.​”

I was to receive a full refund for my order (which was confirmed today).  They couldn’t replace the disc because The Best Of OMD was only sold through MegaHitRecords Canada (a third party) and not through Amazon.ca.  (They only “fulfilled” the order.)  I could always try again and re-order the CD (Ha!) or if the original disc magically appeared out of nowhere one day, I could let them know and just pay for the damn thing.  I could also refuse it (why would I do that when I want it?) and have it returned.

At any event, while I appreciate the credit, the restored portion of the gift card balance and all the apologies, I still would like to know what the fuck happened to this CD.  Because there is a Canada Post tracking number for the delivery, you can also track its progress on their site.  But much like Amazon, there’s no further update beyond December 28.

According to Canada Post, “The shipper [MegaHitRecords Canada] has created a shipping label for this item and has sent us electronic information.”

That’s followed by this alarming notice:

“If no additional updates are showing in Track, it means we have not yet received the item. We will track the item once we receive it.”

Wait.  Canada Post didn’t acquire my ordered disc?  (They only got the label to put on it?)  Then, where the fuck is it?

I’ve sent a message to MegaHitRecords Canada and hopefully they’ll have some answers for me soon.  (I’ll update if I hear anything back.)  What’s so puzzling about all of this is that 2 of the other 3 discs I ordered that did arrive as scheduled were also fulfilled by Amazon through other 3rd-party sellers with zero difficulties.

Furthermore, MHR has a 99% approval rating on Amazon.  One pleased commenter wrote yesterday, “fast delivery all good!”

Don’t tell Bernie but I’m part of the 1%.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
6:55 p.m.

UPDATE:  MegaHitRecords Canada responded yesterday apologizing for the undelivered CD but didn’t provide an explanation for why this happened in the first place.  (It remains a baffling mystery.)  I was told it was Amazon’s problem now since they fulfilled the order.

Originally, I was going to wait things out and see if the CD would actually show up within the next few business days.  After all, my most recent Internet bill was late.  Usually, I get it about a week or so before the payment is due.  Instead, it arrived on January 2nd, two days after the due date.  (I paid it immediately.)

But after thinking about it and discovering there was only one copy left of The Best Of OMD on Amazon (which is now curiously sold directly through them, not MHR Canada as before), I broke down and decided to buy it.  Thanks to that $5 credit I received and another helpful Amazon rep who made sure I still got the free shipping, I used my gift card refund to pay for it.  Now I should still have close to 4 dollars left on it (right now it’s zero) but at this point, all I care about is finally getting this goddamn CD in the mail.  I got the two-day shipping so it should be here on Monday.  Here’s hoping.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 12, 2018
1:16 a.m.

UPDATE 2:  Great news!  The second copy of The Best Of OMD CD I ordered arrived earlier this afternoon at my front door.  I am so relieved.  Many thanks to Amazon’s excellent customer service and all the folks running the @AmazonHelp Twitter account for all their assistance.  As for what happened to the original copy I ordered, it looks like it will forever remain missing.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, January 13, 2018
4:54 p.m.

Published in: on January 9, 2018 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Point

“You missed the point by a goddamn mile”
Her politics don’t matter, just her beautiful style
Don’t you dare focus on those women getting hurt
Doesn’t she look fabulous in her elegant skirt?

“You missed the point by a goddamn mile”
No discussion of oppression in this fashion file
Who cares about liberating these damaged souls?
Nothing’s more important than achieving #FemmeGoals

“You missed the point by a goddamn mile”
You mention her Zionism, I change the dial
Freeing Palestine can wait another day
Did you see that dress? Didn’t she slay?

“You missed the point by a goddamn mile”
Throwing truth in my face is unspeakably vile
I just don’t care about their endless plight
They’re not glamourous icons who happen to be white

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 8, 2018
10:14 p.m.

Published in: on January 8, 2018 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Banquet Of Desire

I enter you slowly
You squirm with delight
Flat on your back
Skin so milky white

The pace quickens
You sigh at every thrust
Heels flying in the air
An expression of lust

Glistening bodies
Intensifying heat
Vanishing problems
An impossible feat

You roll on your side
I climb aboard
Hands are exploring
As you slide on my sword

You take the lead
Now you’re on top
Grabbing and squeezing
With no wish to stop

Feeling the grind
As this foundation shakes
The sighs are now groans
As every part aches

Time to get vertical
The space soon tightens
Pounding like a juggernaut
So fierce it frightens

We’re close to the end
A shortness of breath
A banquet of desire
Then a little death

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 4, 2018
7:47 p.m.

Published in: on January 4, 2018 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2017, My Twelfth Year Of Blogging

This was a terrible year.

America elected an idiot as its President.  Radical Buddhists are raping, torturing and murdering Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.  The US military is supporting Saudi Arabia’s barbaric destruction of Yemen which has led to a severe humanitarian crisis, mass famine and a huge cholera outbreak.  The US occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan & Libya remain disastrous and bloody.  The Syrian civil war continues to wreak havoc on its remaining citizens who are unable to flee to safety.  As a result of all of this, we’re facing the biggest refugee crisis in more than half a century.

Mass shootings remain an American epidemic.  White supremacists are making an undesirable comeback.  US police killed over 1000 people.  Muslims face abuse and murder at levels much worse than in the time after 9/11.  Trans folks, especially WOC, are beating beaten, discriminated against and murdered.  So much ice is melting in the Arctic that permafrost is being exposed for the first time in a long time.  The Korean War is still going on.  And the Republicans just gave themselves and their super-rich benefactors an undeserved Christmas bonus that will continue for many Christmases to come.

There were so many horrors unleashed on the world these past twelve months that I incessantly tweeted about almost all of them.  Unfortunately, all that tweeting didn’t inspire a lot of blogging.  In fact, for the most part, I steered clear of covering all this depressingly bad news in this space.  Why?  Well, with so many capable journalists covering these thankless and unforgiving beats with typical thoroughness, what could I have added to these important conversations beyond short statements?  Even having a large platform as an unpaid Huffington Post Contributor didn’t provide motivation for me to join in.  (I haven’t submitted any pieces in two years.  That’s going to change soon.)

For much of 2017, I wanted to escape and not just from the endless supply of downbeat news.  I also wanted to escape from my own life (no job, no woman, still at home) and the best way to do that is to watch movies.  A lot of movies.  For the first time in 15 years, I screened more than 200 of them in a single twelve-month period.  More than 40 of them I enjoyed, which was roughly the number I wrote about here.  Most of my selections were not released this year.  In fact, I went deep into the archives for much of 2017.

Whether it was horror (Cathy’s Curse, Alien: Covenant, Neon Maniacs, Class Of 1984, 31, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Tales From The Hood, It Follows, Wolf Creek, Wolf Creek 2, Vampire’s Kiss, The Wolf Man (1941), Cat People (1942), Blair Witch, The Exorcist III, The Entity, The Purge: Election Year), comedy (Hudson Hawk, The ‘Burbs, Miami BluesBooty Call, Bird On A Wire, Beverly Hills Cop), musicals and concert films (Head, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Pink Floyd The Wall, The Song Remains The Same, Katy Perry: Part Of Me, Eddie & The Cruisers, Eddie & The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives, Purple Rain, Step Up, Step Up Revolution), science fiction (Star Wars: The Force AwakensInterstellar), action (Over The Top, The Marine), animation (A Cat In Paris, The Transformers: The Movie), drama (Fifty Shades Darker) or documentary (Dirty Wars), for the most part, film was my welcome refuge from the growing global storms.

But you can’t ignore them completely, especially now that Donald Trump is the American President.

With Robert Mueller replacing James Comey as the man in charge of investigating alleged collusion between Trump loyalists and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, here’s hoping all of these questions I posed back in May will eventually get answered.

Trump’s shocking rise to the White House did not come out of nowhere.  It was the result of decades of shameless enabling from powerful dolts in the media.  During his two-year campaign for the Presidency, few were as publicly and privately devoted to his candidacy as Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.  In June, when the hosts of Morning Joe suddenly turned against him, I noted how they couldn’t just run away from someone they had dumbly championed for quite some time.

Another on-again/off-again loyalist is Anthony Scaramucci, who initially and quite adamantly opposed Trump’s Presidential run.  Once Trump secured the GOP nomination, however, he turned into an insatiable suck-up and was eventually hired to run the struggling Communications Dept. in the White House replacing a disgruntled Sean Spicer who quit his other job as Press Secretary in protest.

But days before he was to officially start, The Mooch called Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker and cut promos on all his enemies, most notably racist media mogul Steve Bannon.  The most infamous comment from that impromptu phone interview inspired this song parody of a single famously covered by Simply Red.

Trump trolls were aggravating Bernie Sanders supporter John Cusack so much, he decided to mass block them on Twitter.  Unfortunately, I was blocked, as well.  (I wasn’t the only Trump critic to get caught in the net.)  A very nice lady on the site tried to get his attention with the hope that he would unblock me.  But as of this writing, I still can’t see his tweets while signed in or interact with him anymore.  I have to say as someone who has defended him for years and even had a couple of positive exchanges with him, this is a bummer.  When I wrote about this back in the summer, I even pinned the article to my Twitter page, hoping for a resolution.  I’m not sure what it will take to get him to correct his mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, Howard Stern’s interview with Harvey Weinstein on his Sirius/XM radio show back in 2014 was a missed opportunity to expose the formerly feared Miramax/Weinstein Company executive long before the flood of terrible accusations hit like a nuclear bomb beginning in early October.  As he admitted once the stories came out, Stern knew then what we all know now.  Why didn’t he confront him about this when he had the chance?  Let’s face it.  He blew it.

Six months before Weinstein’s shocking plummet from the heights of Hollywood power, Bill O’Reilly himself was in deep shit.  In April, The New York Times revealed a number of secret settlement payments to women who worked for Fox News.  We’re talking millions in hush money to protect the most popular broadcaster on the network from serious accusations of harassment and abuse.  The outrage was so palpable, in order to put out the growing inferno, Fox paid him a year’s salary ($25 million) to get rid of him for good, although he did return once to make an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show.

Remembering that O’Reilly had written (or rather, had someone ghostwrite for him) a bunch of books, I decided to rifle through one in particular, a greatest hits package, if you will, of previously published comments.  Keep It Pithy is a collection of shamefully recycled “wisdom” that in the wake of his downfall offered unexpected revelations.  He was hiding in plain sight this entire time.

These weren’t the only prominent figures who kept terrible secrets for decades.

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was one of the most flamboyant superstars in professional wrestling history.  Just before the national rise of the World Wrestling Federation in the mid-1980s, he murdered his extramarital girlfriend Nancy Argentino who he regularly abused.  For over 30 years, he avoided facing serious charges until he was arrested in 2015, thanks to renewed journalistic interest in the faded story.  Unfortunately, it was too late.  The case was dismissed on humanitarian grounds late last year.  Snuka had developed dementia and was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer which ultimately killed him back in January.

Cancer had also ravaged the body and voice of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, one of the greatest stickmen of all time.  The manager of numerous superstars (Ric Flair, Curt Hennig, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Andre The Giant, Rick Rude, Nick Bockwinkel and many others), he was an even better colour commentator, especially when he teamed with close pal Gorilla Monsoon who died nearly 20 years earlier.  When Heenan died in September, the loss reverberated beyond the world of professional wrestling, a testament to his sharp comic timing and insight.

Let’s shift gears now and focus on poetry.

Stubborn Young Fool was inspired by a Twitter fight with porn star Eden Alexander who didn’t care for my criticisms of Hillary Clinton.  We had been friendly for years but apparently, I crossed a line pointing out uncomfortable truths.  She blocked me.  The poem’s harsh tone summarizes the whole infuriating experience.  If I learned anything, it’s this.  Arguing with Clintonistas is a waste of time.  They prefer to live in denial.

Another public figure I used to be friendly with was Warren Kinsella, the overrated Liberal strategist.  He was the subject of three poems this year.  The Prince Of Dumbness, a goof on his Prince Of Darkness moniker (which he stole from Ozzy Osbourne), was inspired by a Huffington Post piece where he declared he was now a feminist while also admitting to being a shitwipe to women in the past without being terribly specific.  (Does he have anything to worry about, I wonder?)  A well-known “liberal” Zionist, I also roasted him for being a PEP, progressive except for Palestine.  Liberal In Denial covers similar ground and also focuses on his bad neoliberal politics and references his many political feuds.  Fake Progressive is pretty self-explanatory.

The Acquiescence is a play on #TheResistance.  It’s all about the Democratic Party’s ongoing civil war pitting out-of-touch Hillary Clinton acolytes against pissed off Bernie Sanders supporters.  Thanks to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democrats are now more in tune with the needs of Corporate America than ordinary citizens, most especially the poor.  The poem is rightly cynical and scathing about it ever being a true opposition party without serious structural reform.

The other poems I wrote this year were more personal.  Hot Persuasion is a tribute to a beautiful horror movie fan I’m friendly with on Twitter who often posts provocative pics of her incredible body in various forms of undress.  (They were apparently too spicy for Instagram who removed her account.  She had to start a new one.)  I’m still too shy to tell her that I wrote it in her honour.

Plunge Into Darkness addresses the seductive nature of negative thinking while Alone In The Shade bemoans my sexless, jobless existence.  Disappear The Silence is a rare non-rhyming experiment that initially started off as a fictional slice of horror.  I was imagining a stalking-type situation.  But as I kept writing it, I realized it was really about having a panic attack and the crucial importance of having a support system to calm you down.

Because I only wrote a little more than 60 pieces in 2017 and didn’t offer anything new to The Huffington Post, hits were down for the second straight year.  By the time the new year begins, The Writings Of Dennis Earl will have accumulated almost 25000 hits in the last 12 months.  It was 30000 last year.

So, obviously, I have some work to do.  That said, nearly half of the page views were for my Seinfeld trivia pieces which continue to attract attention years after they were first posted.  (The earliest stories are almost 10 years old now.)  Also remaining popular is this CM Punk article which has been seen almost 13000 times and What’s Really Going On With Shannon Tweed & Gene Simmons?, which had already passed the 30000-hit mark last year.  It remains the most widely read of all my blog entries.  If only my new stuff attracted as much interest.

Speaking of old entries, it was beyond flattering to have this Woody Allen story linked in this People Magazine article, something that doesn’t happen too often.  And in another Woody Allen piece, a reader wrote one of the nicest, most thoughtful comments I’ve ever received.

So it wasn’t all bad news in 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 31, 2017
10:24 p.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2017 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment