Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers

I’ve been debating for a while now whether or not I should post this review from 1995.  Every time I read it I feel differently.  After much contemplation I’ve decided that it’s worth showcasing here but with some slight changes.
 
I’ve rewritten parts of the opening and closing paragraphs and have performed some other necessary excisions and revisions.  All in all, this version is superior to the original, which I’m glad was rejected by The Satellite, Mohawk College’s student newspaper. 
 
With Halloween just a day away, I thought it would be appropriate to dust off this old previously unseen review of the 6th Halloween film.  I saw it at the Centre Mall Cinemas on September 29, 1995, right after Seven (which is a good, creepy thriller worth checking out).  I can’t say the same about this dreadful sequel. 
 
When I was a kid I watched the TV version of Halloween and have never been the same since.  One of these days, I would love to screen the original theatrical cut on widescreen DVD and then go through the next 4 films in the franchise.  I want to know if the movie that scared the shit out of so many filmgoers in 1978 can have the same effect on me today.  When I’m ready I will find out.
 
Incredibly, The Curse Of Michael Myers was not the final film in the Halloween franchise.  (I can tell you’re shocked, too.)  Since its release, there have been 2 more sequels and, as I mentioned in my piece on Unstoppable Film Franchises, a remake of the original is being prepared for a theatrical run in October 2007.  Like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Chucky, it’s likely we’ll never see the end of Michael Myers any time soon.    
 
One more thing.  At one point in the piece, I say, "Oh my gaw, Amy, he’s cursed!!!!!"  That’s an inside reference to a girl named Amy McGaw who was an intern at Mohawk’s campus radio station, the then-CHMR Mohawk Cable FM (now C101.5 FM).  She was in high school at the time, very cute and seemed to have a thing for me.  Too bad she had a boyfriend at the time.  We became pals fairly quickly but never progressed further than that, unfortunately.  One time we rode the bus together and as a joke (I think she meant it as a joke), she blurted out, "Can you imagine us being married?"  My response?  "Ew."  Yeah, needless to say we never had a romantic relationship.  She was a little wacky but funny, sweet and very sexy.  I would’ve loved to have gone out with her but I don’t want to be married to anyone, let alone her.
 
During another bus ride, my old friend Dave got into an argument with her about The Beatles song Don’t Let Me Down.  They couldn’t agree on whether or not the song was on Let It Be.  (For the record, it didn’t make the album.)
 
I last saw her in 1997.  Her hair went from being long and brown to short and black, but she was still cute.  She took food orders at one of those fast food takeout places at the Centre Mall.  (I can’t remember now the exact name of the place she worked at.  It might’ve been New York Fries.)  When she saw me she would give me free drinks which was sweet.
 
A few years ago, I found her email address and contacted her, hoping to get together with her for my birthday.  It had been so long since I saw her in person and I thought it would be nice to get reacquainted.  (We always got along so well.) 
 
She wrote back saying she had no idea who I was and ultimately, didn’t want anything to do with me.  We haven’t been in contact since.
 
After reading that, I thought about that incident on the bus and wondered if that was the reason she "pretended" not to know me.  I’ll never know. 
 
 
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS
By Dennis Earl
 
Is it just me or should Michael Myers be dead by now?  This guy has taken a pasting in almost every Halloween film thus far and yet, he still lives.  What gives?  So what if he’s "evil incarnate"?  When he gets shot several times and falls out of a window in the first movie, how is it possible that he can run away and still be able to cause mayhem in sequel after sequel?  Let’s face it.  The guy shouldn’t have lived past October 31, 1978.  Case closed.  Unfortunately, this is just wishful thinking on my part.
 
In the latest Halloween bloodfest, subtitled The Curse Of Michael Myers, once again, Mikey’s hometown anticipates yet another arrival from their least favourite son.
 
The movie opens with a ridiculous birthing sequence located in what looks like the B-movie version of a monastery.  The mother-to-be is terrified as these unexplained hooded characters steal her baby after he’s born and paint the dreaded "P" on his belly.  Ooooooo. 
 
Somehow – in the middle of the night, no doubt – she finds her baby and gets the hell out of that cheesy hellhole.  But what she doesn’t count on is the re-emergence of Michael Myers and this time, he’s learned how to run!  (He only does that once, though.)  She manages to get as far as the local hospital before he kills her with great restraint.  Meanwhile, her baby is hiding out in the bathroom, unbeknownst to our anti-hero, and yes, he still has that dreaded "P" painted on his belly.  Oh my gaw, Amy, he’s cursed!!!!!
 
The next day, the baby is found by some guy who survived a previous Halloween massacre but never mind.  Who cares, really?  He tells the now-retired Dr. Loomis (a dying Donald Pleasance, in more ways than one, sadly) about the baby and his past and our old pal Loomy is startled.  (It’s too bad a visibly ill Pleasance couldn’t even convey that emotion in what ended up being his last film role.)
 
As expected, Mikey returns, pissed off as usual, to continue his lifelong mission:  to kill new actors who are seeking fame and fortune.  Actually, he just wants to kill his family, pardon me, his "bloodline".  What a model citizen.
 
In between the disgustingly violent sequences (and those annoying False Alarms) comes an absurd explanation about Mikey’s violent streak.  He was chosen by the gods, or something, and has that dreaded "P" tattooed (that’s what it looked like to me) on his right forearm.  I hope I’m not the only one left perplexed by all of this nonsense.
 
The Curse Of Michael Myers is a joke, plain and simple.  This isn’t a horror film.  This wouldn’t even pass for a film school assignment.  The sets are dimly lit (one moviegoer in the packed crowd I attended the movie with one night wondered aloud why the Myers’ house didn’t have any lights on, much to everyone’s amusement), the acting is abominable, the pacing is too slow and the story is just so silly.  Sometimes, it seemed that the movie wasn’t taking itself so seriously but there weren’t many of those moments.  (There was plenty of unintentional humour, though.)
 
He’s been set on fire, beaten up, hit in the head many times by a fire extinguisher, fallen through windows, fallen down stairways and as I said earlier, shot several times.  And do you know what’s the most appalling thing about all of that?  Mr. Myers keeps on trucking, the indestructible son of a bitch. 
 
Quite easily, this is one of the year’s worst films.  Like I needed to tell you that.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 30, 2006
8:50 p.m.
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Published in: on October 30, 2006 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

U2: The Neglected Hits

It was 30 years ago this month that 5 Irish lads gathered together to form a group called Feedback.  Paul Hewson, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and Dik & Dave Evans probably had no real sense of what they were beginning back in October 1976.  If any representatives of the media had been in attendance for that first cacophonous band session it is unlikely any of them would’ve been impressed with what they heard.  Only 2 of the members had any kind of musical training.  Larry had been playing the drums for 6 years up to that point and Dave had a little bit of piano training.  Everybody else had to figure out what they could do in the band.  Paul, who couldn’t play anything, ended up being the singer.
 
The name Feedback would only last one gig.  By the time of the second gig, they were known as The Hype (which was what David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars back-up band was called initially).  Paul was rechristened Bono Vox (or “Good Voice” in latin) which was the name of a neighbourhood pharmacy and Dave was renamed The Edge because of his pointy chin. 
 
2 years later, Dik left the band in the middle of a gig never to rejoin them in the future.  It has been the only line-up change in the 30 years that U2 have operated.  (Oh yes, by that point, on the advice of a fellow musician, they made their final name change.)
 
Incredibly, U2 were established during punk’s formative years and 4 decades later, they remain the most important band in music, outlasting all their contemporaries including The Sex Pistols, The Clash and countless others.
 
To commemorate their special anniversary, the band has a new coffee table book out called “U2 by U2” (Could there be any other possible title?), which is already a Bestseller.  I would love to have my own copy.
 
All through the year I’ve been thinking about U2’s legacy.  I believe they are the greatest band in music history.  I would gladly put their catalogue up against anybody else’s and that includes The Stones, The Beatles and even Bob Dylan.  I have all their studio records and am only missing that elusive Passengers CD from 11 years ago.  (I’m still on the hunt for that one.)
 
I don’t think it’s remotely possible for me to pay fitting tribute to the band on my site with a thoroughly detailed analysis.  So instead, I’ve decided to dip into my archives and showcase a previously unseen piece about the band’s second greatest hits package.
 
This was written in 2002 with The Hamilton Spectator’s YourPlace page in mind.  It was never accepted by the editor of that page which is too bad because it’s not a bad article, if I do say so myself.
 
The Best of 1990-2000 didn’t include every hit single the band released during that period.  There was no Night & Day (from the Cole Porter tribute album, Red Hot + Blue), no Elevation or Walk On (from All That You Can’t Leave Behind), no Please, If God Will Send His Angels, Last Night On Earth or Mofo (from Pop), no Lemon or Zooropa (from Zooropa), and no Zoo Station or Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses? (from Achtung Baby).  Because I only had about 700-750 words to work with for the article, I only mentioned 4 missing singles.
 
It’s amazing.  U2 have so many hit singles from throughout their career they could probably put out another greatest hits package and even include tracks like Bono’s duet with Frank Sinatra (I’ve Got You Under My Skin) and Larry and Adam’s underappreciated reworking of the Mission: Impossible theme.  It’s a shame they’re not putting any new CDs out this year because I’m suffering from withdrawals.  Apparently, they’re hard at work at another studio album which is supposed to be released next year.  I can’t wait.
 
I’ve had to make some slight changes.  I used to dislike the Pop and All That You Can’t Leave Behind albums but after years of not listening to them, much to my eternal delight, I thoroughly enjoy them now.  Pop doesn’t have a single bad song on it while I have strong feelings for 8 of the 11 songs off Behind.  (I still don’t care about Stuck In A Moment (You Can’t Get Out Of), Peace On Earth, and Grace.)
 
As a result of my change of heart about those albums, I’ve had to scrap some lines.  I originally said of Last Night On Earth that it was “[t]he best single off the disappointing Pop album…” and that “I would much rather hear this one over and over than the lackluster Staring At The Sun.”  Today, I think Mofo is the best single from Pop and while I would still rather have had Earth on the second hits package instead of Sun, I don’t think it’s lackluster anymore.  It’s grown on me considerably. 
 
Even though I like the band’s 2000 album now, I still think it’s overrated in comparison to its much stronger, earlier releases, which is why that line remains intact.   
 
If I had a larger word limit to work with 4 years ago I would’ve focused on all the rejected singles from Best Of 1990-2000 and not just the 4 that I do talk about.  Anyway, it’s a good piece and I hope you enjoy this revised version.
 
 

THE NEGLECTED HITS:
The U2 Singles left off the new compilation
By Dennis Earl

It’s a dilemma all of us would love to have: deciding which hit singles to put on your greatest hits compilation. In the case of U2, there have been enough to put together 2 such releases.

In 1998, they unleashed the first one, The Best of 1980-1990, a wonderful collection covering the energetic early days and the more compelling breakthrough accomplishments of the late 80s. Still, it was odd that they didn’t include every hit single they had during that period. Where were Gloria, Two Hearts Beat As One and Bullet The Blue Sky? There was plenty of room on the CD to include those successes as well.

And now comes the sequel, The Best of 1990-2000. 2 months before the first pressing hits stores (which includes a limited edition second disc of re-mixes and B-sides plus a DVD), we know what’s going on the album: 2 new singles and an impressive list of familiar radio staples from the last 11 years. (The inclusions of both Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me from Batman Forever and Miss Sarajevo, the collaboration with Brian Eno and Luciano Pavarotti for the one-album Passengers project, were both pleasant surprises, even if the latter is an edit.) Unfortunately, the upcoming album doesn’t include every big single. Here are the ones that didn’t make the cut:

1. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?

The final single from 1991’s Achtung Baby is not scheduled to appear on the new release. Neither the abbreviated re-mixed single nor the full 5 minute album version have been included. True, it wasn’t as huge as say The Fly or Mysterious Ways, both of which did make the cut, but it was everywhere in early 1993. The album version is deeply moving despite its murky, challenging arrangement. U2’s best songs create atmosphere not only in the music but in Bono’s poetic lyrics, and Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses? is a good example of that, documenting a turbulent, often lusty relationship that prevents the protagonist from ever fully escaping the woman who continually drives him crazy. This might be U2’s most tortured love song.

2. Lemon

U2’s brilliant re-thinking of what makes the ultimate dance song only appears in a re-mix version on disc two of the limited edition first pressing. The best version has always been the full 7-minute cut on the band’s best and most underappreciated studio album of the 90s, Zooropa. A brilliant musical melding of electronica, disco, classical and pop, it might be the most exquisite dance number of the last decade. Lyrically intriguing with its tale of a film director who lives only to capture his beautiful leading lady on film in the best possible light, it is simply a great piece of musicmaking. On paper, it shouldn’t work. But U2 make it come to life.

3. Last Night On Earth

One of the best singles from the Pop album was foolishly excluded from this second greatest hits package. With its wonderful, goose pimply electronic opening to The Edge’s always confident guitar playing to Bono’s empathetic read on his own lyrics, this was one of the standouts. 

4. Walk On

This is probably the biggest and most surprising omission.  A recent Grammy winner, U2’s follow-up to its best single in years, Beautiful Day, which did make the cut, was certainly a sure bet to get on the track listing.  You would think, right?  But you would be wrong.  In its place, we get the slow-moving Michael Hutchence tribute, Stuck In A Moment (You Can’t Get Out Of) which isn’t nearly as emotional.  Walk On had to grow on me but my patience is rewarded with a nice, stripped-down arrangement and a moving, inspiring lyric about letting go of personal insecurities and electing to move on in a world filled with naysayers and non-believers.  Best part of the song:  the last-minute sing along which inspired the name of the overrated album it was a part of, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 30, 2006
7:54 p.m.
Published in: on October 30, 2006 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: The Crying Game’s Legacy

In late 2002, The Hamilton Spectator had a special name for their Saturday entertainment section.  It was called The Magazine and it was loaded with articles about the arts every week.  On October 1, 2003, however, it was rechristened Go Saturday but its function remains the same.
 
The Magazine featured 4 of my pieces between December 2002 and February 2003, including this article on the 10th Anniversary of The Crying Game.  It was originally conceived for the YourPlace page which was found in every weekday edition of The Spec’s entertainment section.  (As I mentioned previously, it no longer exists.)  The editor, who liked the piece, couldn’t print it because it was too long (a frequent complaint), so he passed it on to the editor of The Magazine who contacted me and, ironically, said it needed to be longer.  (In the end, it was still too short and they ended up adding things I never wrote to fill up the space.  I couldn’t win.)  
 
I was hoping the piece would be printed in November 2002 since the movie first debuted in theatres that month back in 1992 where it slowly built momentum as an art house favourite (and ended up grossing over 60 million dollars after it exploded into the mainstream).  In fact, I originally opened with the line, "This November marks an important anniversary."  Unfortunately, by the time The Spec was ready to publish my article, the anniversary had quietly passed. 
 
The Magazine editor felt that I didn’t write enough about the women of The Crying Game so she asked me to add a couple of names to the article.  (All of this back and forth banter was done via email (there were no phone calls) which probably was the best way to communicate.)  The original piece focused exclusively on the main players responsible for the film and unfortunately, Miranda Richardson was the sole female important enough to warrant a mention.  But wanting to get my piece into the paper I followed the directive from the editor and added a couple more women to the article, none of whom played an onscreen role in the movie.  It ended up making the article more entertaining, even though they excised some of the better bits. 
 
I told The Magazine editor that the piece needed a new intro since the anniversary had passed.  I laid out how it should sound: "Ten years ago this month, The Crying Game was playing on more than 1,000 screens in North America."  The movie went into wide release on February 19, 1993, according to boxofficemojo.com, 10 days after it received 6 Academy Award nominations.  (I erroneously said it was 5.)  Unfortunately, the article was published on January 25, 2003.  Also, it was playing at 735 theatres across North America.  Eventually, it would play on over 1000 screens.  D’oh!  I’ve decided to re-insert the original intro regarding the film’s November debut and corrected the mistake about the number of Oscar nods the film received.
 
"The Crying Game’s Legacy", as a Spec headline writer dubbed it (not the original title), was published on pages 16 and 17 of The Magazine under the banner "Cinephile", which allowed outside writers a chance to be showcased in The Spec in the same manner as YourPlace.  Pictures of Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent (from Nicholoas Nickleby) and Forest Whitaker surrounded the text of the article.  It would’ve been nice to have had stills from The Crying Game published instead but for some reason The Spec didn’t have photos of the movie in their archives.  (I guess they clear out their archives every few years because whenever I talked about older films in my pieces they couldn’t find the appropriate photos to publish alongside them.  Oh well.  I was only responsible for the articles, anyway.)
 
I was never happy with the way the article appeared in print.  I felt they cut out a number of interesting tidbits that should’ve remained intact.  As a result, I’ve decided to re-edit the article to my personal satisfaction.  I’m now happy with this version which is the fifth try I’ve attempted.  (I have 3 other drafts on disc.  The printed article is version 4.)  Basically, this is an improved mishmash of all the previous drafts I wrote.  It’s out of date but still an interesting read.
 
I’ve decided to reinstate parts of the article that were excised due to space restrictions.  The sections on Stephen Rea and Susie Figgis have been fleshed out a bit, thanks to the restoration of important lines (and in Rea’s case, a newly discovered fact I decided to throw in because I thought it was cool). 
 
I’ve also decided to reinsert the original opening paragraph instead of relying on the heavily edited version that appeared in the paper.  (It also had to be changed because of the aforementioned errors I made.)  While I have kept some of the Spectator edits, I’ve restored a number of other lines I felt were integral to the piece. 
 
The Spec made some changes I wasn’t pleased with.  Instead of correctly referring to Miranda Richardson as a "sexy British star", they changed it to "accomplished British actress".  That she is, as I point out in the piece, but it wasn’t what I wrote.  In this posted version, she’s back to being a "sexy British star" again.  Also, they added this at the end of her section:  "She also played in The Hours, which won several Golden Globes last weekend."  You have to remember that my piece was written in the summer of 2002 and a reworked version finally ended up in the paper in late January 2003, hence all these late add-ons.  That being said, I’ve dropped the Golden Globe line about The Hours because I don’t consider it a real award and I don’t want to take credit for something I didn’t write.
 
Apparently, I didn’t have enough info on Forest Whitaker so they added this at the end:  "He also plays the host in the remade TV series, Twilight Zone, and recently shot the TV movie, Deacons of Defence, in Toronto."  The Magazine editor gave me a head’s up on many of these changes so it wasn’t a complete shock.  That being said, I’ve cut those lines about Whitaker since I didn’t write them and they had nothing to do with his film career which I felt was more noteworthy.
 
Despite my dissatisfaction it was nice to complain about how your work ended up on the pages of The Hamilton Spectator, a cool accomplishment regardless of how things turned out.  And receiving 40 bucks for it wasn’t too shabby, either.  It was nice to be a paid writer for a change, even if it was just an "honorarium".  Better than nothing, I say.
 
One of the stars I mention who is still thriving today, without question, is Forest Whitaker.  Many are talking about his performance as Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, in the new film The Last King Of Scotland.  An old friend of mine saw the picture recently and believes it will be a crime against humanity if he’s not nominated in the Best Actor category next year.  Incredibly, it’ll be his first nomination if it happens.  He’s been acting in the movies since 1982, almost 25 years.  I’ve seen him in great movies like Platoon, good movies like Phone Booth, Panic Room and Body Snatchers, and absolute crap like Battlefield Earth (for which he received a Razzie nomination in the Worst Supporting Actor category).  I hope to get caught up with the rest of his vast body of film work some day.
 
If you want to know more about the other people I mention in this article, check out the Internet Movie Database for the latest info.  And while you’re at it, check out The Crying Game.  It’s a great movie.
 
 
THE CRYING GAME’S LEGACY
Where are the people behind the film that stormed cinemas a decade ago?
 
By Dennis Earl
Special To The Hamilton Spectator
 

This coming November marks an important anniversary.  10 years ago, Neil Jordan’s acclaimed film, The Crying Game, began its surprisingly successful theatrical run. 

Distributed by the then-independent Miramax Films, The Crying Game slowly started a buzz that spilled over into the new year, resulting in one award after another and ample press coverage.  The buzz led to 6 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.  While it would only win one Oscar for its screenplay, The Crying Game was a huge breakthrough for independent cinema. 

It inspired other filmmakers to throw in unexpected twists in their films.  I can’t imagine The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense or Memento being made were it not for The Crying Game, one of the best films of the 1990s.  What happened to some of the film’s key players?  Here’s an update on their subsequent projects and where they are now.

Neil Jordan (Writer/Director)

Irish filmmaker Jordan would see his small but powerful film earn as much as 62 million in North America after its world premiere at the 1992 Toronto International Film Festival.  His next film was the long delayed adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire.  Finally released in November 1994 after almost 20 years of setbacks it was a critical and financial blockbuster. 

Jordan then directed Liam Neeson in the 1996 drama, Michael Collins, about the controversial IRA leader.  He ended the decade by directing two films in 1999, In Dreams with Annette Bening and The End Of The Affair with Julianne Moore who received an Oscar nomination for her performance.  His latest film is The Good Thief (originally titled The Honest Thief), a remake starring Nick Nolte which premiered at Cannes last May and also played the Toronto International Film Festival in September.  It opens in limited release in April.

Stephen Rea (Fergus/Jimmy)

Fergus was the IRA terrorist who befriends his British hostage (Forest Whitaker) and learns of his lady love, Dil (Jaye Davidson), who he later pursues as "Jimmy".  Fergus, along with everybody else, is stunned when he learns of Dil’s true identity. 

After receiving an Oscar nomination for his great performance, Rea collaborated with Jordan on a number of films including Interview With The Vampire, Michael Collins and In Dreams.  Some may remember him from Angie (1994) where he played Noel, an Irish attorney who fancies an Italian woman played by Geena Davis.  Other credits include Ready To Wear and Princess Caraboo, both from 1994, and a number of TV projects.  Last year, Rea appeared in 3 films.  By the way, Rea in real life was once married to a former IRA bomber and was thanked in the liner notes of Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary Of A Madman album.

Jaye Davidson (Dil)

The most important character in the movie, without question, is Dil, the mysteriously seductive hairdresser Fergus befriends after the botched hostage situation.  Davidson received an Oscar nomination for the performance but what happened to him?  Well, he appeared in one more hit movie, Stargate (1994), playing the villain, Ra, the sun god, a role which earned him a million dollars.  He was last seen in the 1995 documentary, Catwalk, working as a fashion assistant, the job he had before starring in The Crying Game.

Jim Broadbent (Col)

The veteran character actor played a small role as Col, the bartender at a nightclub where Dil occasionally sings.  At one point in the film, he nearly blurts out Dil’s secret to Fergus (who at that point calls himself Jimmy) but is interrupted by her appearance on stage.  Since The Crying Game, Broadbent’s career has boomed.

In 1994, he appeared in Princess Caraboo with Stephen Rea, Widows’ Peak (which had an unexpected plot twist of its own) and Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. You may also remember seeing him in The Borrowers and Little Voice (both in 1998) and in Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy.

Without a doubt, 2001 was Broadbent’s most successful year in the business.  He was Renee Zellweger’s father in Bridget Jones’s Diary, the MC in Moulin Rouge and the husband of a writer suffering from Alzheimer’s in Iris.  He stunned everyone by winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Iris. 

Look for him in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York as well as in Nicholas Nickleby.

Miranda Richardson (Jude)

This sexy British star played Fergus’ fellow IRA conspirator and lover. 

Remarkably, this was one of 3 successful films Richardson acted in in 1992.  Besides The Crying Game, she played Rose in Enchanted April (which also featured a funny Jim Broadbent performance) and played Jeremy Irons’ betrayed wife in Damage, for which she received an Oscar nomination.  Another nomination followed 2 years later for her portrayal of Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the mentally ill wife of T.S. Eliot (Willem Dafoe), in Tom & Viv.  She co-starred with Robert Duvall in The Apostle (1997) and won acclaim for her work in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.

Richardson has also done voice-over work for animated features.  She was Anna in The King And I (1999) and Mrs. Tweedy, the wicked farmer, in the delightful Chicken Run (2000).  She’ll be appearing in 5 films from now until 2003.

Forest Whitaker (Jody)

Jody was the doomed British hostage entrapped by the sexy Jude and befriended by Fergus.  Whitaker’s career was going just fine when he was tapped to play this crucial role in the film. 

Previously, he was probably best known for appearing in Good Morning Vietnam (1987).  Since 1992, he has been extremely busy in numerous high-profile features.  He played John Travolta’s best friend in Phenomenon (1996) and Travolta’s right hand man in Battlefield Earth (2000), to name a couple.  He’s also batting 1.000 as a director thanks to his work on Waiting To Exhale (1995) and Hope Floats (1998), both box office hits.

In 2002, Whitaker enjoyed more success playing one of the determined burglars in the hit thriller, Panic Room.

Anne Dudley (Composer)

A member of the on-again, off-again experimental rock group, The Art Of Noise, Dudley has found great success composing films.  (Believe it or not, her first credit is the 1987 comedy, Disorderlies, which starred The Fat Boys.)

In 1994, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (better known as ASCAP) gave her an award for writing the music for The Crying Game in the Top Box Office Films category.  Her greatest triumph, though, came in 1998 when she won an Oscar for scoring The Full Monty.  Her other composing credits include Buster, Say Anything, American History X, Pushing Tin, Monkeybone and the upcoming Vin Diesel film, A Man Apart, which opens on April 4.

When she’s not working on movies, she finds time to put out solo albums.  Her most recent effort, A Different Light, was issued in 2001.

Susie Figgis (Casting Director)

Born in Kenya before moving to England in her youth, Figgis has been responsible for casting many of the more acclaimed films of the last 20 years.  As a result, she’s considered to be the best casting agent in the United Kingdom.  First-time director Ben Hopkins, who worked with Figgis on his 1999 film Simon Magus, essentially described her job in an interview with FilmFour.com by saying that she "comes up with lists and suggestions of people who might be good.  And if you don’t know their work you go and find out."

Beginning with Gandhi in 1982, she has also worked on Local Hero, The Killing Fields, The Mission, Cry Freedom, Scandal, The Piano, Rob Roy, The Full Monty, Sleepy Hollow, and 4 Neil Jordan films: Mona Lisa, Michael Collins, The End Of The Affair and the upcoming release, The Good Thief. 

In 2000, it was widely rumoured that she quit her job casting the film Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone in protest after learning that a young American actor was in the running to play the title role.  She was reportedly insistent that the role be played by a Brit, as did Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.  A source told ABC News, though, that she quit to go on a month-long vacation.  At any event, she was replaced by an American casting agent who, indeed, cast British newcomer Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Harry.

Susie Figgis also worked on the 1994 remake of The Browning Version, directed by her cousin, Mike Figgis (Internal Affairs, Leaving Las Vegas, Time Code).

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 29, 2006
10:21 p.m.
Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 10:20 pm  Comments (3)  

Unstoppable Film Franchises

Before I post my first previously published Hamilton Spectator article, I want to showcase another rejected piece from this period.  Unstoppable Film Franchises focuses on 5 film series that show no sign of ending any time soon.  Written in 2002 in consideration for the YourPlace page (which was part of the Entertainment Section and has since been discontinued), I was very disappointed it never made it into the paper. 
 
It’s been 4 years since I wrote it and as a result, I’ve had to make some updated revisions to make it more timely for 2006.  With the next James Bond film, Casino Royale, coming to theatres next month, this is a perfect time to present an article on long running (and neverending) film franchises.  I hope you enjoy it.
 
UNSTOPPABLE FILM FRANCHISES
5 long-running movie series that show no sign of slowing down
By Dennis Earl

When is the right time to pull the plug on a movie franchise?  When all creativity is spent or when the money stops rolling in by the barrel?  In most cases, it’s usually the latter.  But even after a movie series’ commercial and creative peak has long passed, leave it to greedy old Hollywood to keep beating its dead cinematic horses.  The following franchises, with some exceptions, arguably might want to re-consider assisted suicide:

James Bond

2002 marked the 40th anniversary of the most successful ongoing movie series in history.  4 years later, the 25th chapter in this enduring franchise (a serious remake of Casino Royale), is ready to go with Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Road To Perdition) becoming the sixth actor to play James Bond on the big screen.  5 actors have previously played author Ian Fleming’s macho British spy in 24 films which have collectively grossed almost 3 and a half billion worldwide.  Sean Connery is considered the best 007, appearing in 7 flicks, while George Lazenby, who only made On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, is the least liked Bond (which is unfair because he was effective in that disappointing film).  The first film in the series, Dr. No, debuted in the UK in October 1962 and, in my view, was a terrible film.  It wasn’t until From Russia With Love, the second movie, that the series understood what James Bond is all about.  (It’s held up remarkably well along with Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.  I recommend all three as a terrific Sean Connery/007 triple bill.)  It remains to be seen what the overall reaction will be to this second and apparently darker version of Casino Royale.  (The 1967 original, which starred David Niven of all people as Bond, was played for laughs.)  Pierce Brosnan was hoping to reprise his most famous role again after 4 successful stints as the great British super spy.  But apparently, the producers wanted to go in a different direction, which is crazy considering how audiences worldwide warmly embraced the Irish actor every time he played Bond.  (Die Another Day, his last entertaining Bond film, made almost half a billion dollars internationally.)  The filmmakers are taking a risk on Daniel Craig who is a good character actor as he proved in Road To Perdition when he played gangster Paul Newman’s son.  But does he have what it takes to play a beloved super spy?  I withhold judgment, as always, until I see the film (which probably won’t be for a long time, knowing me).  All the Bond films made from 1962 to 1989 were based on actual Ian Fleming novels.  Since 1995’s Goldeneye (the name of Fleming’s self-build residence where he wrote the books), all the Bond films have been original stories.  That is until this upcoming remake of Casino Royale.  From what I understand, the James Bond that Ian Fleming wrote about was very different than the one that appeared in the movies.  He was very much a cold fish and not really a ladykiller and I’m wondering if that’s the direction they’re going to be taking Bond in from here on out.  It all depends how well the movie is received by audiences.  Casino Royale opens in theatres on November 17. 

The Pink Panther

It might not have been as successful or prolific as the Bond pictures, but this on-going comedic franchise is only 2 years younger.  Following The Pink Panther in 1964, there have been 8 sequels.  Peter Sellers played the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in 6 of the 9 films, easily making him the definitive actor for the part. (Alan Arkin played him in Inspector Clouseau (1968).) In the last 20 years, at least one Panther movie has appeared.  In 1983, Ted Wass (Soap, Blossom) played moronic NYPD Sgt. Clifton Sleigh who is assigned to find the missing Clouseau in Curse Of The Pink Panther.  And 10 years later, Son Of The Pink Panther was released.  Director Blake Edwards originally wanted Gerard Depardieu for the role of Clouseau Jr., but Roberto Benigni was cast instead.  (6 years later, Benigni won a couple of Oscars for his overrated hit, Life Is Beautiful.)  In 2006, after much delay, the tenth Pink Panther movie hit theatres.  This was a remake of the awful original with Steve Martin becoming the third actor to play Clouseau.  He was cast in the role after Mike Myers and Kevin Spacey both turned down the opportunity.  The movie was a surprise hit this past February earning 82 million dollars during its run in North American theatres.  (According to the Internet Movie Database, though, it cost roughly 80 million to produce.)  As a result, an eleventh film in the series is scheduled for release in 2008.  It has no title and is currently in development, according to the IMDb. 

Halloween

John Carpenter’s Halloween was a surprise indie smash in 1978 and it has inspired 7 less successful sequels.  The anti-hero of the series, Michael Myers, a masked homicidal mental patient, has appeared in all but one of these films despite being shot, beaten and burned in movie after movie.  The last sequel, Halloween: Resurrection, was issued in the summer of 2002 and once again, Jamie Lee Curtis made an appearance.  (She has been in half of the movies, thus far.)  Now, as was the case with The Pink Panther, the franchise lives on with an upcoming remake of the original, which is considered one of the scariest and most influential horror movies of all time.  Rob Zombie, who has found a second career as a horror movie director, is the brave soul hoping to tackle this impossible project.  I wish him well.  He’s a talented musician whose previous film work I’ve yet to see but he’s got his work cut out for him taking on a highly regarded film like this one.  As of right now, the ninth Halloween movie (the remake of the original), is due to be released theatrically on October 19, 2007. 

Star Trek

10 years after the original TV series signed off prematurely, Trekkers were clamouring for the debut film which made 139 million worldwide despite being a snoozefest.  Before 2002, the movie franchise was an enduring moneymaker, despite some critical misses and the replacement of Kirk and company with The Next Generation stars in the 1990s.  After the release of the tenth film, Star Trek: Nemesis, reality set in.  The film was a commercial failure and more importantly, not a good movie.  Still, it was an improvement, for me, over Insurrection, the 1998 stinker which was the worst chapter in the series since the original.  It’s been 40 years since the original voyages of the Starship Enterprise and there are no new Star Trek TV series on the air.  Enterprise, the fifth series following Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Next Generation and the original Star Trek, went off the air in 2005 after a 4-year run.  But an eleventh feature film is in the works for 2008.  Spearheaded by red-hot filmmaker J.J. Abrams (M.I. III, Lost), the film is reportedly focusing on the early years of Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his Vulcan pal, Mr. Spock.  One of the most influential franchises, in more ways than one, hopefully this new film will come up with some freshness that the series has been lacking since they killed off Kirk in Generations (for me, the best Star Trek movie).  The movie, which doesn’t have an official title yet, is tentatively scheduled for July 2008.

Friday The 13th

Like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees is incapable of dying as long as movie fans want to see him slash more victims.  Inspired by the success of Halloween, Friday The 13th was originally released in May 1980 and came across as Psycho in reverse.  (You know what I mean if you’ve seen the film.)  It made a nice profit for its distributor, Paramount Pictures.  (37 million on a $700,000 budget. )  Jason didn’t officially start killing people, though, until Part 2 which was released in 1981.  He didn’t start wearing the infamous hockey mask until well into the third movie which was filmed in 3D.  Unsurprisingly, since then, there have been even more sequels as well as premature “finales”.  On at least two occasions – The Final Chapter (part four) and Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (number nine) – the filmmakers have gone so far as to promise the audience the true end of Jason, only to revive him once again in a later sequel.  The fifth installment, A New Beginning, (a false title if there ever was one) didn’t actually feature the true Jason, only an imitator.  But apparently, the real Jason is brought back to life in Jason Lives, the sixth movie.  (I will know for sure when I screen the movie soon.)  Jason has been revived two more times this decade.  In 2002, he moved from Crystal Lake and Manhattan to outer space in Jason X and the following year he battled Freddy Krueger, the indestructible villain from the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise in Freddy Vs. Jason.  Now, it’s been announced, that there will be yet another film in the franchise.  According to an online report, it’s going to be a prequel and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being called Friday The 13th: The Beginning.  It’s coming in 2007.  Oh goody.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 29, 2006
5:33 p.m.
 
Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Margolis Nails It

He’s done it again.  Eric Margolis has captured the zeitgeist of American national politics with his latest column for Sun Media.  In the piece, he talks about the upcoming midterm elections and how they should spell disaster for the ruling Republican Party (and even a large number of complicit Democrats).  
 
He notes at the beginning that, under normal circumstances, midterms are “humdrum affairs that usually produce low voter turnouts”, but 2006 is different.  A lot is at stake.  Americans are angry.  Really angry.  Congress’ approval rating is 16% (as he points out in his column).  President Bush is a widely despised President and justifiably so.  His approval ratings are routinely in the 30 to 40% percent range.  Vice President Cheney’s approval ratings are in the teens.  CNN has been producing a series of documentaries under the title “Broken Government”, an unthinkable proposition 5 years ago.  CNN personality Lou Dobbs (the host of Moneyline) frequently introduces a series of reports by CNN correspondents under the banner “War On The Middle Class”.  He also rails against the Administration for its lack of concrete action on illegal immigration, a pet issue for Dobbs as well as Pat Buchanan, among others.  Rolling Stone Magazine has declared President Bush the worst President in history and recently documented why they believe this particular Congress is the worst it’s ever been, singling out the ten worst offenders (9 of which are Republicans).  Media conservatives who refuse to tow the Republican party line, like Andrew Sullivan, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, John Dean (Nixon’s official Counsel) and a growing list of others have written books about Republicans losing their way.  Others have publicly advocated the defeat of the Republicans so things can get better.  Liberals, for their part, have also been highly critical, most notably Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.  Like Margolis, they’ve been pointing out the flaws and deceitful actions of Bush and company, since 2001.   
 
If the Democrats manage to take over both The House Of Representatives and The Senate, there’s a very good chance that we will finally get to the bottom of a number of scandals that the Republicans are responsible for.  Then again, maybe not.  CNN reported that there was a secret Congressional, behind-closed-doors “gentlemen’s agreement” that had occurred after the Bill Clinton Impeachment fiasco in the late 1990s.  We were told that both Republicans and Democrats agreed to not prosecute each other in the future.  It’s time to reverse that secret policy. 
 
There’s more to be disillusioned about.  As Margolis has pointed out time and time again in the last 5 years, the American media is a timid animal when it comes to consistently holding the Bush Administration to account.  Perhaps it’s because of all those ridiculous, frequent and unproven accusations of “liberal bias” hurled at them by conservatives.  It’s a clever tactic to use when you can’t defend yourself with facts and for some reason, it’s convinced otherwise talented and hardworking journalists to question their instincts and not ask elected officials the tough questions and demand honest answers from them, most especially if they stonewall.   
 
I tend to think that the media choose to simply parrot Republican talking points (as Margolis, Media Matters For America, Crooks And Liars, Daily Howler, The Huffington Report, Bill Maher and countless others have reported breathlessly and endlessly for years) because they have a commercial interest in seeing this Administration survive every rotten scandal they’ve gotten themselves into.  People forget that Corporate America is much more conservative than creative artists.  A lot of that has to do with tax policy.  (Yes, like everybody on this planet, CEOs and other Corporate bigwigs hate to pay taxes and will do anything to get them as low as possible (or preferably non-existent) so they can make as much money as possible with as little legal interference as possible.  As Bill Maher has pointed out often, Republicans are the party of the rich.)          
 
But this is a capitalist country where greed is a natural impulse.  With Fox News’ ratings in decline (overall viewership is down almost 20%), perhaps from a moneymaking perspective it would be better to focus on government malfeasance rather than Paris Hilton’s latest sex video.  Keith Olbermann, one of the few strong, dissenting voices on MSNBC, has seen his fortune rise thanks to his acclaimed and critical coverage of The Bush Administration.  (They’re also up because of his entertaining feud with the increasingly dishonest and desperate Bill O’Reilly.)  He’s not number one in his time slot but within the next two years, if he continues to grow his audience and remain critical of corrupt Republicans, he might become the most influential newsman on TV, bringing back more sincere (and less histrionic) coverage of politics.
 
But back to Margolis.  He levels American politicians so effectively in his October 29th column I can’t see any of his Sun colleagues effectively refutting any of his spot-on criticisms.  From the beginning he opposed the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts and was villified for both by foolish readers and fellow columnists like Peter Worthington and the now-deceased Bob McDonald.  Both Worthington and McDonald supported these illegal, immoral and ultimately, ineffective conflicts (as well as The Toronto Sun Editorial Board) to the point where if you didn’t see it their way, you were “pro-Saddam” (in the case of Iraq).  (The Editorial Board, rightfully, never crossed the line like that.  They said that dissenters were “honourably opposed” (their phrase regarding Iraq War opponents) even if they thought they were wrong.)  Both have made predictions about the wars that have been so off the mark you wonder why anyone trusted them in the first place.  Margolis, for the most part, has been the complete opposite.  He’s been right on the money so many times Artie Lange is thinking of betting on him from now on. 
 
He is the voice of reason in a sea of insanity.  He puts up with a lot of bullshit for getting the truth out to readers.  If he is ever let go for any reason, it would cause calamity at a newspaper chain that has enough problems (like keeping an editor-in-chief in Toronto for more than 2 years, for instance).  He remains the only Toronto Sun columnist who is willing to consistently criticize conservatives as strongly as liberals.  I wish there were others like him. 
 
More than any other writer at Sun Media, Eric Margolis has proven that if you don’t pay attention to what he writes, you end up like The Bush Administration:  living in a permanent state of denial.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 29, 2006
2:13 p.m.
Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 2:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

How To Avoid Bad Movies

On July 2nd, I wrote a blog entry entitled Coming Soon To The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  In that piece I laid out what I hoped to accomplish during the summer.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see most of those ideas come to fruition. 
 
That’s going to change right now. 
 
From time to time, I post older examples of my writing as part of my “From The Published Archives” series.  So far, I’ve focused exclusively on the work I did during my high school and college periods.  I’ve tried to showcase the best of my writing from those years but one thing is clear:  I’m a much better writer today than I ever was in school.  Still, it’s fun to look at these old opinions again and provide some freshly-written perspective so you can understand the context in which they were all written.
 
I’m now ready to show you more of my previously published work.  Starting today I’m planning to present some of the writing I did for The Hamilton Spectator, my hometown newspaper.  Of all the published writing I’ve done in my short life, I’m most proud of the Spec stuff.  The fact that they published 9 of my pieces proved to me beyond any doubt that my writing was finally worthy of a healthy, mainstream audience.  It was the first time my work was seen and read by those not attending Delta Secondary and Mohawk College.  It was a major break for me. 
 
In 2002, my Mom was reading the Entertainment section of the Spec when she stumbled upon something.  The paper was putting together a special page called YourPlace and they wanted to feature writing by teenagers and twentysomethings.  When she brought it to my attention I couldn’t believe I didn’t notice it myself.  I soon began thinking about entertainment-related topics I could write about.  Once I knew what the word limit for each article was going to be, it was all a matter of being as succinct as possible.  I must’ve written about a dozen pieces for this page but only 4 ever made it in. 
 
How To Avoid Bad Movies was submitted to the paper during this period but was quietly rejected.  (With one exception, whenever the paper wanted to use an article I had written they just went ahead and published it without letting me know beforehand.  It was always a delight to flip through the pages of the Entertainment section and suddenly see my by-line in the paper.  I gotta tell ya, that never gets old.)  I was trying to think of a way to help moviegoers and videophiles avoid all the numerous examples of cinematic junk that Hollywood never gets tired of flinging our way.  I ended up focusing on 5 different areas of mediocrity, as you’ll soon discover.  I could probably add more today, come to think of it.  (“It’s a remake.”  “It’s a horror franchise.”  “It stars Jean-Claude Van Damme.”)
 
Maybe the paper didn’t think it was as strong as my other pieces, hence the silent rejection.  But after going through it again (and making some updated revisions) I think it’s worth presenting on my website.  I stand by my opinions of all the crap films I mention seeing in the piece.  Enjoy.
 
HOW TO AVOID BAD MOVIES
5 ways to save money
By Dennis Earl

Are you tired of seeing bad movies? Are you fed up getting your hopes up only to be disappointed time and time again?  Feeling it in the wallet, are ya? Well, I know exactly how you feel and the best part is I’m here to help you.

Sometimes, Hollywood can deceive you. A brilliant trailer can make you salivate for a new film’s release.  Then, you see the film and realize you’ve been had.  (I’m talking to you, Basic Instinct.) Well, don’t let the ad wizards fool you anymore.  In fact, forget everything you know about movies and keep reading.

I’m going to save you money and heartache by revealing a small list of ways you can tell that new movie you’re excited about seeing might not be so great after all:

1. It’s based on a TV show.

Excluding The Fugitive, Star Trek, South Park and possibly a few others, no one can make a decent film out of a beloved Television series. Remember The Beverly Hillbillies, The Flintstones, Flipper, The Brady Bunch Movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, The Avengers, The Saint, Sgt. Bilko, Bewitched, Fat Albert, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, I Spy, Thunderbirds, and Charlie’s Angels? All craptacular. Let’s face it. Even bad programs can inspire terrible films. (Think Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and the first 3 Pokemon films.) If you despised Scooby Doo (like I did), now you know why.

2. It’s based on an SNL skit.

Roger Ebert noted that Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels has a suspect track record when it comes to producing big screen versions of famous SNL skits. With the exception of the wonderful Wayne’s World films (which actually created a world for our heroes outside the basement where they broadcast their cable access show), everything I’ve seen that Michaels has produced has been dreadful. There was The Waterboy (based on Adam Sandler’s Canteen Boy) which I’m sure Henry Winkler and Kathy Bates would like to forget; The Ladies Man, an astonishingly unfunny full length extension of the much funnier TV sketches featuring Leon Phelps, the character created by Tim Meadows; Coneheads, (also a short lived TV show in the early 80s) the needless re-teaming of original aliens Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin. And I’m sure there are those who will add Superstar (Molly Shannon’s saucy Catholic klutz, Mary Katherine Gallagher) and A Night At The Roxbury (Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell’s head-bopping strike-out kings) to this growing list of SNL stinkers.

3. It’s a sequel.

Sometimes, a follow-up film to an entertaining original can be just as fun. (White Fang 2, Scream 2, Shrek 2, Free Willy 3 and Jurassic Park 3 come to mind.) But 9 times out of 10 you’ve wasted your money if you bought a ticket to see movies like Another Stakeout, Free Willy 2, Home Alone 2, Nutty Professor 2, City Slickers 2, A Very Brady Sequel, Urban Legends: Final Cut, The Ring Two, Next Friday, Poltergeist II and III, Rocky II through V, Grumpier Old Men, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Mummy Returns, Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Look Who’s Talking Now, Alien: Resurrection, Jeepers Creepers 2, Rush Hour 2, Beethoven’s 2nd, Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, The Next Karate Kid, Scary Movie 2, Scream 3, Son Of The Mask, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Neverending Story II, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Friday The 13th Parts 2 through 5, Police Academy 2 through 7, and countless others.

4. It wasn’t screened for critics.

If you want to avoid bad films, read the papers. From time to time, word leaks out that a film is so bad the studio distributing the bomb won’t screen it for the critics in advance of its release. That’s what happened to Mo’ Money in 1992 (which still had a decent opening weekend) and Autumn In New York in 2000. If the studio won’t even let the critics look at it for free, why would you pay to see it?

5. Its release date keeps changing.

Another sure sign that a studio is harbouring a bomb. Car 54, Where Are You? was filmed for the troubled Orion Pictures in 1990, was supposed to be released in 1991 but then the studio went backrupt. Despite that, they were also delaying the inevitable. Later, the movie was supposed to be out in 1992, then ’93. Finally, it was dumped without much fanfare in January 1994 where it was rightly and quickly forgotten. Forget Exit To Eden, this is the film that Rosie O’Donnell should regret the most.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, October 28, 2006
2:34 p.m.
Published in: on October 28, 2006 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers

On May 15, 1992, another edition of Delta Secondary’s student newsletter, Om-Lette, was published.  On the back page, right there on the upper right hand side, was Student Council President Andie Gallagher’s latest update on recent student-run activities.  It mentioned the first Airhead competition.  What’s an Airhead competition, you ask?  It’s very simple.  It’s karaoke with a twist.  Instead of singing along to an instrumental track that everybody hears, you sing along to a song that you can only hear through your headphones (or earphones) on your portable music player.  Back then, we only had Walkmans and Discmans for this.  Today, if they still do Airheads at Delta (and elsewhere), I would imagine Ipods would be the portable music player of choice.  If you’re ever bored and looking for something to do with your friends (or as Drew Carey would say on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, "if you’re at a party with no chicks or booze"), try singing to music no one else can hear.  It’s a hoot.
 
I only mention this because I won the first Airhead competition (I sang Van Halen’s Finish What Ya Started from OU812) and I don’t think I realized I won until I saw my name in that newsletter.  (There was no prize.)  Also, interesting to note in that President’s Report was this:  "Will we have a good council next year?  Who will take the mighty job of following this year’s president’s footsteps[?]"  The short answer to those questions, which were answered almost immediately the following autumn, were "no" and "me".  (For the long answer, I highly recommend you check out Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President Parts 1-8.) 
 
To the left of that Report, right at the top, was my review of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, a guilty pleasure that I snuck in to see at the Centre Mall Cinemas.  The film had been out for about a month so I was surprised that my assessment of the picture made it into that edition of Om-Lette.  (I screened it on April 30, 1992.) 
 
The film is noteworthy for a couple of reasons:  Mark Hamill’s cameo as a cop and the fact that the film was written directly for the screen by Stephen King.  I don’t remember any other critic writing a positive review for the film which is too bad because I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s not entirely surprising but I felt it tried to be different and succeeded for the most part.
 
Since we’re about a week away from Halloween it makes sense to showcase this previously published review for those looking for something scary to watch this week.  (I’ve made slight changes to the published piece but it’s essentially the same review.)  Whether today’s audiences will eat it up remains to be seen.  Regardless, I stand by my recommendation.
 
    
SLEEPWALKERS
*** (out of 4)
Centre Mall, Upper Canada Place
Starring:  Brian Krause, Alice Krige,
Madchen Amick, Mark Hamill and
Stephen King.
Restricted.
Opened Friday, April 10, 1992
 
It’s been a month since Stephen King’s last silver screen adaptation, "THE LAWNMOWER MAN", invaded movie screens and now…HE’S BAAAACK!  This time, King has written an original screenplay about a group of part reptilian, part feline creatures known as SLEEPWALKERS.  Brian Krause (Return To The Blue Lagoon) is great as Charles Brady, a teenage SLEEPWALKER who needs to feed his mother (Alice Krige), who continuously whines about being hungry.  SLEEPWALKERS are people who feed on beautiful and intelligent (that’s a twist) virginal females.  Once the male literally sucks the life out of the virgin, he passes the lifeforce to the female SLEEPWALKER through sexual intercourse.  That’s why people at the Centre Mall were showing their disgust when Charles and his mother made love to each other.  But this incestuous relationship doesn’t feed the mother and so, Charles discovers a beautiful and intelligent woman named Tanya Robertson (a good performance by Madchen Amick of Twin Peaks fame) who he meets at a movie theatre.  The two teens start to open up to each other and their relationship intensifies during a romantic road trip.
 
SLEEPWALKERS is a very entertaining yet disgusting movie which is highlighted by gore and impressive performances by the three main characters.  There are even a couple of decent cameos.  Mark Hamill (Star Wars trilogy – remember Luke Skywalker?), in the beginning of the movie, plays a cop investigating several SLEEPWALKER-related murders.  Horror master Stephen King plays a caretaker who asks too many questions.  Except for a few predictable scenes, SLEEPWALKERS is a very good chiller.  Until next time, this is Dennis Earl, the movie critic for OMNIA/OM-LETTE, saying, "later", and I hope you don’t come out of the movie theatre saying THAT WAS DUMB!!!!!
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 23, 2006
9:07 p.m.
Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Plot To Kill

Here’s a very silly short story from my high school period.  It was written February 7, 1991 during Grade 10 Advanced English.  All of us were asked to write a short piece of fiction, then have a fellow classmate proofread it.  Finally, after all of that was taken care of, we got to read our stories out loud right in front of the entire class.  I thrived on assignments like this.  Any chance to get laughs in front of an audience I gladly took.

Half of my life has passed since I wrote Plot To Kill (I still love that title) and I still marvel at how much I’ve changed as a writer since I was a teenager.  Anyone reading this today will instantly note that it was written by a very silly boy who loved movies about gangsters and tough cops.  (One such famous movie cop makes a surprise guest appearance at the end.) 

I’ve decided to post it, despite its numerous shortcomings, because it’s fun to read.  (I remember the Grade 10 English class liked it.  A friend in the class, who I haven’t seen in years, enjoyed the different voices I gave the characters.  I’ve since forgotten how I did that, but the compliment was nice.)  It has some funny parts (one of which is completely preposterous) but clearly, looking back, there were some missed comic opportunities.  Then again, I was only 15 and not a genius.  I still like the idea for the story, though.  Maybe something better can be done with it in the future. 

The story ended inconclusively but there was never any intention to write a follow-up.  (It was just an assignment for English class.) Still, I’ve dropped the "TO BE CONTINUED…" bit that originally ended the piece.  I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I’m not done working with these characters.  Quite the contrary.  I have no desire to do a sequel. 

 

PLOT TO KILL

Harvey Bergman was a construction worker and a damn good one at that!  He had 5 kids and a wife who didn’t appreciate all the things he did for his family.  One day, while he was waiting for the bus, he saw two suspicious men with slicked-back hair and ponytails start moving towards the bus stop.  They were chatting very loudly about something that he couldn’t quite understand.  "Hey Cloe," said the first thug, "What are we going to do about the family business, eh?"

"I don’t know.  Just because someone knows something about our business doesn’t mean he’s gonna squeal!" said the second thug.

"Well, if you say so!" whined the first thug.

While this was going on, Harvey thought to himself about what the consequences were gonna be because he was hearing some weird conversation. 

Well, it’s New York City at 10 o’clock at night.  What the hell did he think this was?  Hamilton, Ontario, Canada?  Obviously, it was not.

After waiting for the bus for 10 minutes, it finally arrived, and not a moment too soon.

Harvey let the two men go on the bus first.  That was so they wouldn’t be able to put a gun to his back and then pull the trigger.  Then he went on the bus and put $1.25 in the fare machine.  "Damnit!  How the hell did the bus fare get so high?" he said out loud.

"Well, for one thing, they increased the price by a quarter way back in January!" replied the bus driver.

After Harvey found a seat at the back of the bus, he continued to listen in on the unusual conversation that drove his curiosity bonkers.

"You know, Vincent," said Cloe, "I think that it would be appropriate to discuss termination of this Frank Caprelli character!"

"I don’t know, Cloe, " Said Vincent.  "I think we ought to discuss this with the boss first before we do anything else!"

Harvey could not believe his ears.  A plot to kill someone?  That was absolutely horrible to even think of.  The two thugs started whispering which made it hard for Harvey to listen to.  So, out of a moment of desperation, he went into his pocket and found his Whisper 2000 set.  He then put a blank cassette in it so he could tape the conversation and present it to the police when he had the chance.

They continued their conversation.

"I don’t think we’ll have to consult with Danny Dangerfield on this one, Cloe."

"You mean we should go ahead and murder this guy without planning ahead?"

"Yes, and I think we should get off on the next stop since that’s where Frank Caprelli lives.  Once we get off, we’ll go to this house and kill the bastard!"

"That’ll teach the bum to snoop around our place, eh?"

When the two thugs finished their conversation they made their way towards the side door of the bus.  Harvey went to the front door so he wouldn’t be in the way of the two would-be criminals.

Once all three men were out of the large vehicle, they all progressed down the street where Frank Caprelli was supposed to be living on.  The two thugs were chatting again to each other as they quickly approached the house of Frank Caprelli.

"There it is!" said Cloe.

"Well, what the hell are we waiting for?  Let’s go kill that son-of-a-bitch!"

As soon as they went into the house, Harvey darted furiously to the nearest pay phone.  He quickly dialed 911 for the quickest reply from the police.

"Hello, police?  I’d like to report a murder that’s gonna happen at 225 Vine Street!"

"I’m sorry, what was the address?"

"225 Vine Street.  I saw two guys go in the house with guns and they’re ready to kill some guy because he knows something about their crooked business."

"I don’t know if that’s enough evidence for the police!"

"Then listen to this!"

Harvey played the tape of the conversation to the police officer who immediately reacted by saying, "Stay where you are.  We’re coming there immediately!"

The police officer then rounded up his men and said, "It’s time to kick ass!"

It only took a few minutes for the police (NYPD) to arrive on the scene.

"Are you the guy that called?"

"No, I’m just standing here because the New York Yankees want me to impersonate Roseanne Barr singing the Star-Spangled Banner.  Of course I’m the one who called.  And they went in that house."

"Thanks a lot!" said the policeman.

Meanwhile, in the house of Frank Caprelli, the two thugs had just found Frank and threatened to kill him if he didn’t keep his mouth shut.

But then, Inspector Dirty Harry Calahan arrived on the scene and shot both thugs right between the eyes with his 44 Magnum and it only took one bullet.  It was a gruesome sight.

The police then covered the bodies and came out with them under their arms.

Dirty Harry thanked Harvey for his quick thinking but Harvey still had one thing on his mind that he wanted to clear up.

"Harry," he said, "I thought you were a cop in San Francisco!  What gives?"

"Go ahead, make my day!" replied Harry.

After these series of events, Harvey Bergman was honoured as an honourary detective of the NYPD.  He then quit his job and became known as Harvey "The Squealer" Bergman.

As for Danny Dangerfield, his business is still running though.  But not for long.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 23, 2006
8:09 p.m.
Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Long Overdue Changes

It’s been a while since I talked about what’s going on with my website so I thought I would offer an update.
 
Originally, this site had a movie theme to it.  I miss it terribly.  Unfortunately, I had to make a change when the contents of my blog became invisible.  After sorting all of that out with the then-MSN Spaces Technical Support, I decided to follow their advice and go with a very simple, bland pattern theme.  I’ve never liked how it looked but I put up with it all these months so my blog wouldn’t pull another disappearing act.  And it hasn’t.
 
After going through the other choices I’ve settled on this cool space design.  I think it really sets a mood for the reader to get into some interesting writing.  I’ll stick with it until I get sick of it.  Besides, the change was long overdue.
 
My profile has been altered again.  First of all, my pic is different.  Well, not really.  It’s the same pic, only in black and white.  I think it goes really well with the new background design.  Secondly, I’ve decided to call myself a writer, rather than an unemployed writer, even though the previous description was more honest.  But think about it.  I am a writer.  I just don’t get paid for it at the moment.  Someday soon, I hope that changes.  I mean does any writer refer to themselves as being “unemployed”?  Exactly, hence the change.
 
I have a new email address:  dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com.  I had to add my middle name, unfortunately.  No worries.  If you ever want to get in touch with me for whatever reason (feedback about the site, job offers, shameless flirtation), feel free to contact me through that address.  I check it regularly.  The time was right to have something more professional sounding.  I am 31 now, after all.
 
I have a new favourite quote.  Originally, I used a line from Everybody Loves Raymond.  (“Suck it up, Nancy!”)  I’m thinking of changing that part of my profile from time to time to keep it fresh.  I have no idea now where I found the new quote but I love it, so I made the change there.
 
I’ve dropped a couple of lists.  I believe you can only have 20 lists on your site and I’m thinking of adding more movie and music-related lists, so I needed to make some room.  I got tired of looking at the names on my Dispicable Hypocrites list.  Maybe in the future I’ll just write individual articles about the names that were on there instead.  I already have one on The Sex Pistols (which was one of the first pieces I posted on here).  Also gone are My Allergies.  I’m thinking it would be a better idea to write an entry on that rather than have a list.  It would put everything in its proper context.
 
I’ve made some revisions to the Recommended Websites list.  Antonia Zerbisias is gone (mainly because she hasn’t written in over a month) as well as Rolling Stone’s official site.  I still recommend those sites but I want to showcase other sites that are worthy of your time.  Also, I haven’t been on the RS site in months.  I’ve been checking out Crooks And Liars for quite a while now which I have finally added to the list. 
 
Before MSN Spaces became Windows Live Spaces, if you clicked on an entry on my blog list (The Writings Of Dennis Earl), a new window opened up so you wouldn’t lose your place on my site.  Now if you click an entry you go from the home page directly to that particular bit of writing.  If you want to open it up in a new window, right click and go to Open In New Window, the second option.
 
I finally reached 100 blog entries on September 23.  So, right underneath The Writings Of Dennis Earl blog list is The Writings Of Dennis Earl 2 blog list.  Already I have 10 entries in that second list.  When I reach my limit in that list, I’ll start a third one.  I want everyone to be able to navigate the contents of this site as simply and as conveniently as possible.
 
Earlier in the summer I mentioned that I was thinking about adding some of my Year-end Top 10 movie lists.  So far, I’ve added 4.  (The years 1992-5.)  I have one for 1991 and as soon as I find it, I’ll post it.  I also will post a couple of Worst 10 lists.
 
Speaking of movie lists, Sin City is now the second best film of the decade.  After seeing Paul Haggis’ Crash, I felt it was the stronger of the two films.  That’s why it’s number one.  Whenever I see more great movies from this period of time, I’ll update the list.  So far, there haven’t been any worse films than the 10 titles on the Worst of the Decade list.
 
I’ve added a few more of My Favourite Musicians, I’ve found more sexy women to acknowledge (now onto its second list) and added a few more funny people.
 
And that’s about it for the new stuff on my website.  I thank you all for visiting and reading.  I strongly encourage you to email me or to leave a comment.  I still have only received one comment since I started all of this in February.  Let’s hear some more opinions about my work.  I’m a big boy.  I can take it.  And leave some contact information so I can get back to you.  I’ll write a reply in the comment section, regardless.
 
I haven’t abandoned all of the ideas I was thinking about a few months ago.  It remains to be seen if any of them will come to fruition before the end of the year.  I’m still looking for a way to make money with my writing on a full-time basis so maybe some of them will be saved for magazines and newspapers rather than this site.  I’m not sure and I don’t want to make any promises.  Then again, it’s really difficult to break through in those markets.  Perhaps this site will be the best way to sell someone on my writing.  We shall see.
 
One more thing before I sign off.  My book list (“Recommended Books For Sale”) still won’t connect to Amazon.ca and I haven’t heard from the Windows Live Spaces Technical Team in quite some time about it.  The last I heard, they were still trying to figure out why I keep getting error messages.  As soon as that’s all sorted out (and I sure hope it’s solved before next year), I’ll make an announcement and hopefully, convince you to support this site by buying terrific books from the Canadian off-shoot of Amazon.  All the books on that list I have read and enjoyed. 
 
That’s all the latest.  Once again, thanks for visiting The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  Come on back.  I’m updating constantly.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
1:03 a.m.

UPDATE:  Paragraph 5 has been revised because of a necessary change that’s, ahem, long overdue.  My original email address has been marked for extinction and therefore won’t be mentioned in any capacity on this site any longer.  Originally, in that paragraph, I mentioned two email addresses which readers could use to contact me; only one of which sounded professional.  (The other inspired countless snickers.)  After much contemplation, dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com will be the sole address I’ll be using with regards to this website.  Thank you for your understanding.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, October 29, 2010
3:30 p.m.
Published in: on October 10, 2006 at 1:07 am  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Sleeping With The Enemy

Let’s go back 15 years to another previously published film review.  This was first seen in Om-Lette, Delta Secondary’s student newsletter, on February 22, 1991.  Even though I could’ve done a better job explaining why I didn’t think the film worked, it’s one of my better critiques from the Delta Years.  Looking at it again after all this time it’s not a fabulous review.  (I’ve long maintained that I wasn’t one of the stronger writers in my high school.)  But it’s not terrible, either.  Slowly but surely, I was getting better at being a teenage film critic.  (I don’t think I was ever a natural writer.  I always had to work harder than anybody else to get better at it.)  It’s only by rereading these early pieces that I realize how much I’ve learned since then.  Compare this review with the ones I’ve written this year about Sin City and Man Of The House and it makes me wish I was as articulate then as I am now.
 
In the early 1990s, Julia Roberts was the top female star in America.  By 1991, she had two Oscar nominations and was expected to have hit after hit in theatres.  Sleeping With The Enemy was not a very good movie but audiences ate it up and it was one of her biggest hits.  Its best known moment is probably the scene where she’s trying on all those hats with Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl playing memorably in the background.
 
The movie was based on a novel by Nancy Price which came out in 1987.  I’ve never read it and probably never will.  I have no idea how similiar the movie is to that book.
 
After my review of Enemy surfaced, I remember a classmate of mine coming up to me in the hallway and let’s just say she wasn’t pleased to see me.  "Your review sucked!  Sleeping With The Enemy is a good movie!" she huffed while walking past.  I never lost sleep over her outburst.  It’s the only time she said anything disagreeable to me.  We got along fine the rest of the time.
 
I find it amusing that her only complaint was the fact that I didn’t like the movie.  She didn’t say anything about the quality of the writing.  It was an important lesson to learn as a budding film critic.  When people get upset over something you’ve written, usually it’s because you don’t see things the exact same way they do.  No biggie.
 
I’ve decided to make some slight changes to the original text.  I misspoke when I wrote this line, "Her past three movies, Steel Magnolias, Pretty Woman, and Flatliners were all superb movies."  I meant to say that they were all hits.  Inarticulation is the curse of rookie critics.  The word "popular" now replaces "superb".  For the record, I’ve seen Pretty Woman 3 times and enjoyed it thoroughly every time, I hated Steel Magnolias when I finally screened it in 2001 and I need to re-screen Flatliners.
 
The other changes come at the end.  The first line of the final paragraph read, "The only reason to see this film is the superb ending."  I’ve added a second reason:  "the three lead performances".  Originally, the last line read as follows:  "You’re better off reading the novel rather than paying 8 dollars to see the film."  I’ve decided to cut it since it’s an unnecessary line and because I don’t know now if one would have a better time reading Sleeping With The Enemy than seeing the film version. 
 
Despite those changes and other minor edits, the review remains virtually the same as it did all those years ago.  I gave the film **1/2 out of 5.
 
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
**1/2
Centre Mall, Odeon, Showcase
Starring Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson
Adult Accompaniment
Opened February 8th, 1991
 
Julia Roberts has, over the past couple of years, proven that good acting, not good looks, are the key to Hollywood success.  Ever since the amazing box-office success of Pretty Woman moviegoers have been flocking to any movie that headlines the pretty actress, regardless of what the critics say.  Her past three movies, Steel Magnolias, Pretty Woman, and Flatliners were all popular movies.  Unfortunately, Sleeping With The Enemy does not live up to the expectations of this film critic.
 
The film starts off quite chillingly as we meet Laura and Martin Birney (played superbly by Patrick Bergin).  They live by an ocean and have an exquisitely architectured house.  Their marriage starts off very tenderly as they go to parties while spending time on their honeymoon.  But once the honeymoon is over, things start to change.  One day Laura sees Martin talking to a man with a sailboat, whom Laura had talked to when Martin was out-of-town on business.  When Martin returns he appears to be jealous and starts abusing Laura.  Later that night, Martin, Laura, and the other man go sailing.  After the sail falls off the boat the two men discover that Laura has disappeared, presumably drowned.  We find out that Laura had faked her death, packed her bags and left for the state of Iowa.  She changes her identity and meets a college drama teacher named Ben (played by Kevin Anderson).  He’s the opposite of the abusive Martin.
 
I won’t tell any more of the story because it’ll spoil the so-called intensity of the film.  Don’t get me wrong.  The three main actors are great but most of the screenplay is not very successful.  I feel many improvements are needed for this film but the list would be too long to mention.  Overall, this film is pretty pitiful, but it is not a total loss.
 
The only reasons to see this film are the three lead performances and the superb ending.  Forget about the rest.  It never gets off the ground.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
12:07 a.m.
Published in: on October 10, 2006 at 12:16 am  Leave a Comment