10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is what I like to call an “Oh, come on!” movie.  Because at various points, you either think to yourself or say out loud, “Oh, come on!”.  Believe it or not, it’s an actual line of dialogue, the only time I laughed.

A sort-of sequel to the overrated 2008 found footage shockumentary Cloverfield, it drops that often contrived gimmick in favour of a more conventional narrative.  The result is the same, though.  Like its predecessor, it isn’t scary.  Put simply, it’s bullshit, which I also thought and said out loud more than once.

The heavenly Mary Elizabeth Winstead has spent her entire life running from scary situations.  In the opening scene, she quietly dumps her fiance (an unbilled Bradley Cooper) after an unseen, unexplained fight, leaves behind her engagement ring, packs up her stuff and moves out.  When he tries to call her from her car, she picks up but says nothing.  Then, because this is a horror movie, she gets into an accident.  You see it coming a mile away.

When she wakes up, she’s pantsless, barefoot (she never wears socks the entire movie, for some puzzling reason), banged up, groggy, handcuffed and locked inside what appears to be a basement.  Then John Goodman enters her room.  It turns out he’s a paranoid conspiracy theorist who claims that there’s been an attack.  They’re not in his house, though.  They’re in his underground bunker.  He’s been preparing for this moment for years.  It’s why he built the place.

The second we meet him, we have an immediate problem.  Goodman isn’t creepy enough.  (Kathy Bates, he isn’t.)  He’s the absolute wrong actor to pull off this role.  With the exception of one scene, I never felt intimidated by him.  This serious miscasting negates the few positives the film has going for it, like the terrific set design.  (We really do feel like we’re in a bunker.)

The movie also suffers from Tarantinoitis:  too much annoying small talk.  That becomes most evident when John Gallagher Jr. enters the story.  Unlike Winstead, he willingly wanted to come here.  His left arm in a sling, he too suffers from extreme fear.  He tells a story about being a great Track star in high school.  But because he was a shitty student, he wasn’t brave enough to go to college with all the smart kids even though he had a full scholarship and a ticket to ride.  Whatever, Nancy.

On more than one occasion, he deeply irritates Goodman with his constant yammering.  After a while, you wonder why he’s been tolerated for so long.  You get the feeling Goodman is looking for any reason to off him.  He’s a little too patient.  Considering Goodman’s intentions towards Winstead, it makes little sense why he keeps him around.

Upon waking up in her room, Winstead immediately plots her escape.  (I like how she sharpens the wooden end of one of her crutches into a shank, even though that plan doesn’t work out too well.)  But Goodman is determined to keep her indoors.  He insists it’s just not safe to go outside.  (I always thought he was lying about these potential threats, maybe even overselling the danger, but sadly, he isn’t.  It’s clear I’d forgotten about this movie’s predecessor.)  There’s a scene where the clever Winstead, easily the smartest character in the film, comes thisclose to leaving when suddenly a woman, Goodman’s neighbour, pounding on the other side of the door, demands to be let in.  She has very noticeable red open sores all over her face.  She’s in a state of panic.

Just moments before she literally pops in the frame (cheap horror gimmicks die hard), Goodman points out his dead hogs with the same condition (he has a farm), screaming at Winstead to reconsider.  Faced with her biggest fear yet again, Winstead realizes she’s stuck.  She doesn’t open the door.

Winstead later reveals to Gallagher that she’s a survivor of child abuse.  This explains why she chooses to stay in the bunker (better the devil you know than the devil you don’t) and her impulsive decision to dump Cooper after their fight.  (It’s not clear whether their argument was ever truly violent.)  She recounts a big regret.  While in a store, she witnessed a father not unlike her own repeatedly yanking on his daughter’s arm.  When the kid accidentally tripped, he punched her.  Winstead wishes she had intervened.

Faced with the very real prospect of never getting out of here, Winstead tries to make the best of it by doing puzzles with Gallagher and reading Goodman’s dead daughter’s old magazines.  (She wears some of her old clothes.)  They watch movies from his own personal VHS/DVD collections.  (He loves Pretty In Pink.)  She tries to decorate her bedroom to make it less gloomy.  And they eat dinner together like one awkward family.  These scenes of faux tranquility drag the movie’s already languid pacing down considerably.

But when the air filtration system gets jammed (she’s the only one who can fix it), her determination to flee returns with a vengeance.  She accidentally steps on a pair of blood-stained earrings, the same earrings Goodman’s daughter is wearing in a photo he has of her.  But when Gallagher sees the picture, he knows it’s not her.  It’s his sister’s former schoolmate who went missing two years ago.  Just before she finds the earrings, she also spots an alarming message scraped into a window.  Goodman hasn’t been fully candid.

Desperate for a solution to her dilemma, she figures out a way to protect herself should she ever manage to get past Goodman.  But once she escapes this nightmare, a more ridiculous one awaits, lest we forget this is a Cloverfield movie and if you’ve seen the first one, you know to a certain extent what that involves.

I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of women-in-peril movies.  I’m also growing bored with alien invasion flicks.  10 Cloverfield Lane, Goodman’s home address in the movie, is half the former and half the latter, so it’s doubly tedious.  Long before his confession and a bit before she figures it out herself, it’s abundantly clear that Goodman’s motives toward Winstead are not altogether altruistic and her injuries are not at all accidental.  She’s a make-do replacement for a huge hole in his life that someone else once reluctantly filled.  It’s a bit too reminiscent of Don’t Breathe, which is only slightly better than this movie.

I have to admit, though, her makeshift hazmat suit would make MacGyver proud.  And as it turns out, it’s absolutely necessary in one scene.  How convenient, though, that she just happens to have a talent for designing clothes.  And how fortunate that Goodman doesn’t scoop up that bottle of liquor from her back seat.

In the final scene, Winstead has a decision to make.  Will she go to Baton Rouge or head towards Houston?  In other words, will she play it safe as always or take yet another risk?  Considering what she has just been through and in spite of what she tells Gallagher, it’s not believable she would make that left turn.

Dennis Earl
Hamiton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 28, 2017
5:33 p.m.

Published in: on May 28, 2017 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eddie And The Cruisers/Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!

In 1963, Eddie Wilson and his backing band, The Cruisers, had the number one song in America.  Just a year later, he disappeared without a trace.

In 1983, a TV journalist starts contacting the surviving members for an anniversary report on her show, Media Magazine.  20 years after The Dark Side topped the charts, the absence of Eddie is felt stronger than ever.

Eddie And The Cruisers are not a real band but a fine fictional one first conjured up by novelist P.F. Kluge and then adapted for the screen by Martin & Arlene Davidson.  (They co-wrote the screenplay, she executive produced and he directed.)  The charismatically brooding Michael Pare plays Eddie as a likeable, loyal yet ruthlessly ambitious rocker with strong Springsteenian vocals.  (John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band provided the original tunes.)

After the rejection of The Cruisers’ experimental second LP, A Season In Hell (inspired by the famous poet Arthur Rimbaud who heavily influenced Patti Smith), Eddie takes off in his beautiful red convertible and is never seen again.  His car is found dangling perilously over the edge of a bridge.  No body was ever recovered.

It’s that lack of finality that lingers depressingly in the minds and hearts of the remaining Cruisers two decades later.  Despite trying to get on with their lives, they remain married to their happier past.  The lack of true closure cuts deep.  Lingering wounds still won’t heal.

Tom Berenger plays Frank, the affable former keyboardist who turned Eddie onto Rimbaud and fell for his feminist back-up singer/girlfriend Joann (Helen Schneider) which causes temporary tension but not expulsion.  The Wordman’s lyrics are needed too much.

Frank’s now a popular English high school teacher who shares his love of poetry and Joann sings in Vegas.  When they eventually reconnect all these years later, the chemistry is still there.  Buried desire won’t die.

Meanwhile, Sally (Matthew Laurence), the stubborn bassist who we also like, has assembled his own nostalgic version of the Cruisers complete with an Eddie soundalike.  They’re good but it’s not the same without the original frontman.  They play the way he wants, rather than Eddie’s approach, to appreciative boomer crowds in hotel restaurants.  (They can’t let go of the past, either.)  Doc (Joe Pantoliano), the band’s former manager, is an impatient oldies DJ.

After Berenger’s trailer home is ransacked (other former band members subsequently experience the same thing), he gets a call from Doc.  While visiting him at his radio station, he learns that the master tapes of A Season In Hell, the rejected second album that Satin Records wouldn’t release, are missing.  Plus, he heard there might be a movie in the works.  Maybe they’ll get hired as consultants.

At the same time, Maggie (Ellen Barkin), the curious TV journalist from Media Magazine, tracks down the surviving Cruisers one by one for interviews.  Only Frank is initially reluctant.  But inevitably, he opens up, too.

In between the effective modern-day scenes where the conflicted band members reestablish contact and Frank reminisces about their heyday with the sympathetic reporter, we get sharply observed flashback sequences that reveal key moments in The Cruisers’ timeline.  Frank’s introduction to the band before one of their early pre-stardom gigs.  His ill-fated romance with Joann (he also turned her on to Rimbaud).  Eddie teaching a pitchy Frank how to rock out on the keys while working on The Dark Side.  The tragic death of their sax player Wendell (Michael “Tunes” Antunes).  And the fateful moment when a cruel dismissal leads to an impulsive ride.

Critics weren’t too thrilled with Eddie And The Cruisers during its lacklustre theatrical run.  The film didn’t find an audience until 1984 when it hit home video and HBO started airing the film relentlessly.  As a result, The Dark Side, which peaked on the real Billboard Hot 100 in the mid-60s during its first release, ended up in the Top 10 in its second.  (It was the number one Album Rock Track for five consecutive weeks, as noted by Wikipedia.)  Another song, Tender Hearts (also the name of the fictional band’s hit first album but also a John Cafferty original from 1980), eventually hit the Top 40.  The soundtrack has since sold three million copies.

That’s as close to self-actualization as this movie will ever get.

Despite being a work of fiction, Eddie And The Cruisers are a credible band with a number of entertaining songs that pass a key test:  they hold up on repeat listens.  I like the way the film is structured, as well.  We don’t get the full faux-historical details in those flashbacks, just important snippets which preserves the mystique of the band, most especially Eddie Wilson, who is correctly positioned as a supporting player, rather than the lead.  When he talks about his hopes for the band’s music, it’s smart, endearing and believable.  He wants to be one of the greats even if his bandmates don’t believe they can live up to that perhaps impossible ideal.  We only get a taste of the Season In Hell album but the one song we do hear is as good as any of their previous cuts even though nothing quite tops The Dark Side.

I also like watching how the dynamics of the band play out.  Witnessing the members argue over whether to use dramatic pauses in the vocals to add more tension and seeing them pep up Frank’s much slower version of The Dark Side is fun and insightful.  It makes you appreciate how difficult it is to produce something everyone can live with that can somehow attract mass appeal.

I’m not sure the money-conscious weasels at Satin Records, the mostly unseen villains of this story, would keep A Season In Hell under lock and key for 20 years long after Eddie’s disappearance.  Why wouldn’t they have tried to shamelessly cash in right away?  Nevertheless, once we find out who has the tapes and who else has been trying to secure them, we understand both their motives.  It makes sense.  The past can become the present again.

Which brings us to the controversial ending.  As Maggie’s report wraps up on TV, there he is, the mystery man in disguise watching himself in his prime.  No one notices him, especially when he walks away with a knowing smile on his face.  Personally, I like the ending.  It’s jolting.  And let’s be clear about one thing.  It’s not a cheat.

Eddie And The Cruisers is about the difficulty of divorcing yourself from your greatest period because you never wanted it to end.  Notice how all the surviving characters struggle with this, even the enigmatic singer at the heart of this story.  The music they created together in the 60s is so embedded into their DNA they can’t escape it.  The past defines their present more than anything else.  All of their current jobs keep them deeply connected to their firmly planted roots.

All throughout the film, there is considerable doubt about the fate of Eddie Wilson.  The lack of a body, the intuitive sense that he never really left.  So when we suddenly see his reflection on that TV screen, it’s not as though we weren’t warned.

Because he didn’t truly die, six years later, we get the highly deflating Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!, which is a bit of a misleading title.  (We’ll get to why later.)  Pare returns as Wilson, now a construction worker named Joe West who somehow resides in Quebec.  (The movie was made by French Canadians.)  During a coffee break with a couple of co-workers in a local pub, he is transfixed by his old image on TV as Martha Quinn talks up his most famous song, then plugs an upcoming lookalike contest featuring contestants who look nothing like the real thing.  (Maybe that was the point.)

The Tender Hearts album has been rereleased and has gone platinum in a month, which is remarkable considering what was actually popular in 1984 (Van Halen, The Police, Michael Jackson), the year this movie is set.  It’s also a wink and a nod to the belated success of the original Eddie And The Cruisers soundtrack.

Wilson drives back across the border to check out the show without anyone noticing his presence, which seems hard to believe considering his less than brilliant disguise.  (Someone on the Internet later wrote that he looks like a longhaired Robert Goulet.)  He starts getting emotional as the crowd repeatedly chants “Eddie!  Eddie!” and we think for a moment he might out himself.  But he doesn’t.  This eventually establishes one of the fundamental problems with the movie.  His constant second guessing about his inevitable return to the spotlight.  (We learn early on that he never stopped writing songs, pages of which he later tries to burn to no success.  He has bad aim.)

Back in Montreal, while attending a Habs playoff game, he encounters aspiring artist Diane (Marina Orsini) who wants to paint him.  He’s not interested.  Their eventual, predictable romance has zero heat and ultimately becomes a major distraction.

While in another bar one night, Wilson checks out an uneven local band led by Colin James doppelganger Rick Diesel (Bernie Coulsen).  He befriends their sax player Hilton (Anthony Sherwood) who he once saw playing with Ike & Tina Turner and is later challenged by a skeptical Diesel to shred with his band.  In the middle of jamming, Wilson suddenly bolts during Hilton’s improvised solo.  Now thoroughly convinced of his skill (but strangely unaware of who he really is), Diesel seeks him out and eventually convinces him to critique his soloing on a lousy song he’s written.  Wilson complains that he isn’t letting the music breathe.  But when he tries his own solo, honestly it doesn’t improve the song at all.  It’s clear Diesel is too Eddie Van Halen for Wilson’s liking.  He’d rather he play more economically like The Edge.  Personally, I’d rather hear The Dark Side again.

Here’s a depressing observation.  Eddie Wilson in Eddie Lives! is just not a likeable character anymore.  He’s irritable, irrational, contradictory, needlessly jealous and out of touch with modern music.  Not only that, he stalls too much and is annoyingly indecisive.  He bluntly tells Diesel to quit his band only to help him form a crappy new one.  (In a thankless role, Platinum Blonde’s Mark Holmes becomes their new bassist.)  The material they generate is not fresh or innovative.  In fact, it sounds more like New Country, especially in the final concert scene when this new group, Rock Solid, opens some Quebec music festival with their grooveless stinkbombs.

Calling this Eddie And The Cruisers II is a bit fraudulent since the film isn’t about a long awaited reunion.  (Sally is the only Cruiser who returns from the original.)  It’s really a reluctant attempt at a second act with a different set of musicians.  (We really don’t care about their struggle to make it.)  The problem is that Wilson has to be dragged kicking and screaming back into the public eye even though this is what he really wants!  There really is no reason for him to act this way other than to draw out some contrived tension and create some kind of artificial suspense.  I mean do we really think he’s going to pull another disappearing act in the finale?  Please.

Satin Records, the label that refused to release A Season In Hell in 1964, finally does so to great success (come on) and also starts playing new unreleased Eddie Wilson singles that don’t feature The Cruisers and are instantly forgettable.  (There is no way any of them would be hits.)  Hearing these songs triggers Wilson’s temper and plays into his insecurities.  The weaselly executives play up the possibility that Eddie didn’t die to increase sales not realizing of course that they’re right.  They keep upping a reward for anyone with proof that he didn’t drown in that river.  No one comes forward.  But a couple of kooky broads go on Larry King to claim he fathered their kids, one of a small number of unfunny references to the discredited “Elvis is alive” conspiracy.

Another big problem with the film is Wilson’s weak explanation for how he managed to survive that crash.  First he says he doesn’t remember much.  But then he says when he hit the water he thought about Wendell, The Cruisers sax player who died of a heroin overdose, and decided to keep swimming.  (All the way to Canada?)  While I can understand walking away because of screwy record label politics, I can’t sympathize with the way he abandoned his bandmates by faking his death.  Let’s face it.  He’s a despicable coward.

There’s a scene where he approaches Sally on the beach (when did he become a father?) looking like he did 20 years ago.  The former bassist (who apparently isn’t doing the nostalgia circuit anymore) is royally pissed.  But after a few “I’m sorrys”, they embrace and all is instantly forgiven.  Sally later sends him a brief supportive telegram before the festival gig.  How convenient.

Like its predecessor, Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! was not loved during its 1989 theatrical run.  Unlike most critics in 1983, I’ll defend the original and its nervy ending.  I can’t defend this.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 27, 2017
3:07 p.m.

Published in: on May 27, 2017 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hot Persuasion

You scream liberation without making a sound
Everywhere you walk becomes sacred ground
A sensuous revelation unencumbered by guilt
Hot persuasion so magnificently built

A human furnace on the coldest of days
A refreshing breeze in the hot summer rays
I’m always hypnotized by your enchanting spell
You could easily replenish the driest well

Skin so inviting I can’t help but stare
I’m looking at a beauty so incredibly rare
Sweet and kind, a delightful nerd
You can awaken the dead with a whispered word

You arouse the curious by shedding your clothes
You demand attention with your seductive pose
A bright young goddess with a creative flair
I can see it printed on your underwear

A lust for blood on the silver screen
An enthusiasm on par with the most passionate teen
A gamer, a lover, a delectable peach
A promising future is within your reach

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 26, 2017
11:29 p.m.

Published in: on May 26, 2017 at 11:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Some Unanswered Questions About The Numerous Investigations Into The Trump Administration

1. Why did Michael Flynn accept the job of National Security Advisor when reportedly he didn’t really want it in the first place?

2. Who really hacked the DNC’s email servers?

3. Why won’t Flynn agree to testify under oath in public?

4. Are there really secret recordings of private conversations between President Trump and James Comey?

5. What will be the focus of Robert Mueller’s investigation?

6. Will Flynn get immunity in order to compel his sworn testimony and relevant documents in his possession?

7. Is there a coup being planned by the national security state to remove Trump from the Presidency?

8. Why did Trump need the recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he had already made up his mind he was going to remove Comey from his position as FBI Director?

9. Why was Mueller named Special Counsel but not Special Prosecutor?

10. Where is the evidence Russia interfered in the 2016 US Federal Election, therefore tipping the vote towards Trump?

11. Will Democrats accept the final results of all these investigations if they all conclude that the election wasn’t rigged by Russia or anyone else?

12. What is President Trump so afraid of?

13. Why did Sessions not mention his contacts with Russian government officials during his confirmation testimony or on his SF-86 form?

14. How much does Vice President Mike Pence know about all of this?

15. Why didn’t Flynn previously disclose during the campaign that he was a foreign agent paid by a businessman with ties to the Turkish government?

16. If Russia wanted all of Obama’s sanctions against them lifted, what did The Trump Administration want in return?

17. What is the extent of Trump’s business interests in Russia?

18. Will Trump’s tax returns be subpoenaed by any of the numerous ongoing investigations?

19. Who is leaking all this damaging information about The Trump Administration?

20. Was Carter Page paid by the Russian government to infiltrate and spy on the Trump campaign?

21. Does the Russian government have any actual leverage over The Trump Administration?

22. Will Mueller’s investigation interfere with all the other ongoing probes?

23. When will the FBI submit the Comey memos to investigators?

24. When Comey was still the FBI Director, if he felt Trump was pressuring him to drop the Flynn investigation, why didn’t he come forward to say so months ago?

25. Did Trump really ask Comey three times if he was under investigation?

26. Why is Trump still loyal to Flynn when he has caused so much trouble for him politically?

27. Did Trump ever meet Carter Page and if so, what was the nature of their conversations?

28. Why did The Trump Administration allow a Russian photographer into the Oval Office during his May 10 meeting with two Russian officials when they didn’t want the US media to know about it?

29. Will Trump be impeached?

30. Why did Trump wait 18 days to fire Flynn when he was told by Obama officials well before then that the former head of the DIA might be compromised and possibly susceptible to Russian blackmail?

31. Why was Comey, a Republican, so secretive for almost a year about the Trump/Russia investigation which he eventually acknowledged in sworn testimony this year while being very open about the Hillary Clinton private email server inquiry?

32. Does Trump really like watching sex workers piss on a bed?

33. How many Trump officials will be resigning, fired or prosecuted when all is said and done?

34. Do the Russians really have compromising material on Trump and his aides?

35. How long are all these investigations gonna take and will they uncover the whole truth whether we accept it or not?

36. Is there really an Israeli spy embedded undercover with ISIS?

37. How deep is Jared Kushner’s involvement in all of this?

38. Does Trump regret firing Comey?

39. Who will be the new FBI Director?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 26, 2017
4:19 a.m.

Published in: on May 26, 2017 at 4:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Bird On A Wire (1990)

I have this test for a certain kind of actor.  If you can make me forget you’re an asshole in real life for two hours, then I have to admit you’re scary good at your job.

For a long time, Mel Gibson passed this test.  A raging xenophobe & homophobe and a violent misogynist off-screen, he could turn on the charm rather easily on-screen.  It helps explain why he got away with being a terrifying abuser for so long.

Take his role in Bird On A Wire, for instance.  In the film, he plays a paranoid pacifist hiding in plain sight through the FBI’s witness relocation program.  15 years ago, while seeking Acapulco Gold with a pal in Mexicali, he got entangled with a couple of crooked federal drug agents.  They roped them into doing a major drug deal which went horribly wrong.  One of the narcs (David Carradine) killed his friend and a federal agent.  After three months in jail, Gibson testified against him and he’s been moving around the country with different names and accents ever since.  (Apparently, he briefly ran Columbia Pictures, a funny inside joke.)

When we first meet him, he’s a bored, isolated, prank-lovin’, pony-tailed Southern mechanic in a Detroit gas station.  One rainy night, his past begins to catch up with him.  A customer in a BMW pulls up and the minute they lock eyes, he knows his cover’s been blown.

Goldie Hawn, a high-powered corporate attorney, is the driver.  Thinking they were on the verge of marriage 15 years ago, she was led to believe he died in a plane crash.  She even went to his memorial service.  When confronted, Gibson plays dumb, pretending he doesn’t have a tattoo and he’s a Vietnam vet.  Hawn knows better.

In a panic, Gibson tries to re-connect with the FBI agent who has overseen his case.  But he’s retired now and, as it turns out, rather senile.  So, he’s put in touch with Stephen Tobolowsky, the worst possible guy he could talk to.

Shortly thereafter, a now paroled David Carradine (yeah, that’s believable) and an indicted Bill Duke (who escaped during the ill-fated drug deal debacle) pay him an unexpected visit.  (They need to eliminate him so they can get back to smuggling.)  But because Carradine is gabby, Gibson survives with only butt pain, thanks to Hawn’s impeccably timed return.  (Hesitant villains with bad aim are the lamest villains of all.)

For the rest of the movie, the formerly devoted couple alternate between bickering, laughing, running, driving, flying, starving, ogling and, inevitably, screwing, all while continually tipping off their whereabouts and yet implausibly avoiding serious calamity.  (Gibson gets shot three times but never in a dangerous area.)  Hawn is pissed about being kept in the dark all this time but, even though she has a new boyfriend, she never got over Gibson.  Despite having a fling with a gun-totin’ veternarian (Joan Severence in one of her better performances), he feels exactly the same about Hawn.

It’s a delicate balancing act trying to make a funny action film, let alone one with a dickhead leading man, and Bird On A Wire can’t pull it off.  The chase sequences mostly lack genuine excitement and consistent comic ingenuity.  There’s a really funny moment, though, when Gibson makes a cheeky observation about Hawn as they’re climbing up a ladder, but that’s a rarity.  Most of the gags just don’t work.

Gibson and Hawn have such an easy, natural chemistry that when they argue, to a certain extent it feels a bit phony.  Shouldn’t she be more relieved than angry he’s still alive?  And even though he’s an old-school hippie who still sings Dylan at the top of his lungs and she’s now a loaded capitalist stuck in a dead-end relationship with some overworked nerd, their oppositional tension isn’t believable, I don’t care how many times she mumbles.  When they spend the night in a crummy motel (which inspires a couple of laughs), all it takes is a dick joke and one night of intimacy to make Hawn let go of her mostly contrived grievances.

All the while, Carradine, Duke and Tobolowsky continue to stalk them until the expected final confrontation.  After finally reconnecting with the now-retired FBI agent, Gibson and Hawn are advised to make their way to a nearby zoo.  Gibson used to work here during a past identity and he’s expecting to find a cache of weapons in the control room.  Good thing he knows how to unlock cages.

I first watched Bird On A Wire on my 15th birthday during its 1990 theatrical run.  I kinda liked it (I still love The Neville Brothers’ catchy Leonard Cohen cover) and was blissfully unaware of Gibson’s real-life dark side.  Now in my early 40s (and knowing a lot more about his general awfulness), I understand today why critics were not as enamoured.

There aren’t many surprises here except maybe the denseness of the heroes.  As paranoid as Gibson is in the film, he’s not very smart.  After being wrongly accused of murder early on, he doesn’t exactly keep a low profile.  In fact, he doesn’t change his appearance at all.  Plus, he drags Hawn to some of his former stomping grounds.  Tobolowsky and company correctly anticipate his next moves because they know all his former identities, and it takes him forever to finally realize that.  Hawn isn’t much help to his cause.  At one point, she makes it worse.

Even though Gibson is far from truly hateful in the film (he’s more of a reckless, harmless goof than anything else), he does offer an unnecessary impression of a sissy hairdresser, a tired stereotype.  I have to admit that when he gets beaten up and shot at, I wasn’t terribly upset, even though his character is more principled than the actor who plays him.

There’s an unwritten rule in Hollywood that assholes are often cast as heroes and actual gentlemen play the nastiest villains.  There are exceptions, of course, but not in the case of Mel Gibson.  If Bird On A Wire had been a lot funnier and smarter, the charm con that he long specialized in would’ve prevailed once more.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 30, 2017
6:40 p.m.

Published in: on April 30, 2017 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cat People (1942)

Irena has a secret.  And it’s slowly destroying her will to live.

French actress Simone Simon plays the Serbian beauty, an enigmatic artist who doesn’t believe in her own talent.  At a zoo, she meets Oliver (Kent Smith who looks like Sting in certain shots), a corny, overbearing designer of ships and barges for a construction company.  She’s been trying to sketch a caged black panther but keeps throwing away her efforts.

One such crumbled toss attracts his attention.  (She misses the garbage bin so he throws it in for her.)  After pointing to a poetic sign as a way of flirting with her (insert eyeroll here), he makes his move, doing the old “I never met an artist before” routine.

Within minutes, he’s walking her home, wondering if he could write her a letter to ask her out.  (Really?  You’re talking to her right now.)  She’s not feeling it.  So he suggests a second letter.  (Red flag, toots.)  But then, she suddenly invites him in for tea.  After making it up the stairs to her apartment, she says he’s her first friend in America.

They’ve been talking for three minutes.

So begins the original Cat People, one of the weirdest horror films I’ve ever seen.

After noticing her peculiar perfume, Oliver sits quietly in the dark with a lit cigarette as his new lady friend starts humming for some reason.  As he goes to put it out, a lion from the nearby zoo roars.  Irena doesn’t mind.  Like the darkness, the noise soothes her.  But don’t get her started on those lady panthers.

When she finally turns on the light, he lights another cigarette (Jesus, buddy, think of your lungs) and notices an unusual figurine on her table, a man on a horse holding a stabbed kitty by the sword.  Irena returns to tell him quite the tale about that very man.

Long story short, her village people were enslaved and the guy on the horse rescued them. But he discovered “dreadful things”, like those who were worshipping Satan.  Plus, “the wisest and most wicked” managed to flee.  What she doesn’t mention is that she can somehow turn into a cat.

In no way does any of this turn off Oliver who shortly thereafter decides to buy Irena a kitten.  Because nothing says love like giving someone unnecessary responsibility.  Unfortunately, human cats and actual pussies do not get along too well.  So, it’s back to the pet shop to make a substitute.  But none of the other animals in the store like her, either.  Oliver ultimately gets a bird.  Not a smart choice, as it turns out.

Within the first ten minutes of this movie, Irena and Oliver are already declaring their love for each other.  (I’m pretty sure they’ve only had two dates.)  And despite not even swapping spit a single time, the domineering fellow already declares they will be married.  (Gee, have you ever heard of asking, pinhead?)

At their restaurant reception following the unseen ceremony (where pig heads are prominently displayed in the window), one of his work buddies notes to Alice (Jane Randolph), a fellow co-worker, that Mr. Impatient is now suddenly having second thoughts about the marriage because, get this, he thinks Irena is “odd”.

Gee, what tipped him off?

Meanwhile, as the movie drags on, Alice (who I originally thought was a lesbian), suddenly declares her love for Oliver after he confesses by the water cooler at work that this Serbian chick with the French accent is ruining his happy streak.  He’s so white he’s never been miserable.  Eventually, he admits he loves her, too.  But after a late night work session, when they part, they shake hands!  What a perv.

By this point, Irena has seen a shrink who thinks she’s full of shit (Oliver also doesn’t believe her village people story) and feels threatened by the presence of Alice.  You see, two things turn Irena into a murderous cat: a sex drive and jealousy.  She can’t consummate her marriage because it’ll turn her into a killer.  She also starts stalking her romantic rival on foot and on the phone.  In other words, if she can’t have sex with her husband, no one can.

When she’s not doing that, she’s hanging out at the zoo confronting that same black panther from the opening scene.  Feeling similiarly imprisoned, albeit in a more metaphorical sense, she makes a fateful decision that explains that one sketch left behind outside its cage.

Cat People has an undeserved reputation as a horror classic.  It’s not scary, it’s ridiculous.  Were it not for its magnificent black & white cinematography and set design, it would be much worse.  Because it only runs for 73 minutes, the relationship between Irena & Oliver is expedited to the point of absurdity.  Despite its groggy pacing, the movie rushes through their courtship to get to the love triangle with Alice.  The actors try their hardest to sell this nonsense and to their credit, there are no unintentional laughs.

The filmmakers really want us to suspend our disbelief but that is an impossible task.  Irena’s nightmare involving cartoon cats will never be scary.  Neither are the stalking scenes which lack genuine tension.  (We never feel Alice or her husband are in any serious jeopardy.)  And we could care less about the unsympathetic Oliver and his dilemma about whether he should get an annulment or have his wife institutionalized so he can finally hook up with the other woman.  (You can’t divorce an insane person?  Really?)  Why is he hanging around Irena when he has horny Alice at the office?  Why is he drawn to someone who doesn’t want to fuck?

Like The Blair Witch Project many decades later, Cat People asks you to be scared of something you can’t see.  It had to go this route because the budget was small.  As it turns out, so is its imagination.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, April 27, 2017
3:56 a.m.

Published in: on April 27, 2017 at 3:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Revealing Quotes From Bill O’Reilly’s Keep It Pithy (Part Two)

“…Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote that ‘it takes a village’ to raise children.  My parents and their friends thought it takes parents.  They were sorry that some of my friends had maniacs for parents, but they didn’t interfere.  And they didn’t want anyone poking their nose in our house, either.” (SEVEN, pg. 76)

“…can I say that my father was always looking out for me?  No, I can’t…my father had demons that intruded on his parental duties…my father set a terrible example by inflicting unnecessary pain on his children.  He did not do this on purpose.  He simply could not control himself.” (SEVEN, pg. 77)

“…these kids have been taught one lesson very well in their twelve years of so-called schooling: They are not going to be held accountable for failure.  When you have a lot of people believing that, you’re in real trouble.” (SEVEN, pg. 78)

NAMBLA’s website, as of this writing, is still up and running.

You don’t want to go there, I’m guessing.” (SEVEN, pg. 80)

[from O’Reilly’s Ten Commandments of Effective Parenting, first seen in Who’s Looking Out For You?]

“3. Parents who are looking out for their children will be under control in the house.  There will be no random violence, intoxication, sexual displays, uncontrolled anger, or vile language…If it is a chaotic mess, the parents are not looking out for the kids.

[snip]

7. Rules will be enforced but explained.  Parents who truly look out for their kids understand that there are rules in society and that high standards of behaviour are the key to a successful life.  Rules are good.  But rules must have a logical objective…

8. Parents will be honest at all times.  Lead by example.  No lying, no cheating, no nasty gossip, no cruelty, no manipulating…”

9. Parents will be respectful of their parents.  Grandparent abuse or neglect is among the worst possible things a child can see.  This is a very important commandment.  You can’t effectively look out for your kids if you don’t look out for your folks.  (Even if they don’t deserve it.)” (SEVEN, pgs. 81-4)

[from O’Reilly’s lame, satirical “secular Ten Commandments”]

“ONE: Thou Shalt Not Make Any Judgment Regarding Most Private Personal Behaviour.  Man/Woman Is the Master/Mistress of the Universe and His/Her Gratification Is Paramount.” (EIGHT, pg. 89)

“Thanks to increased competition, you are now much more likely to hear all sides of a story.  Sometimes that’s more information and more scandal than you might want to hear, but it’s your right and your job as a citizen to face up to it.” (EIGHT, pg. 90)

“The reason that we wretches [journalists] are under so much suspicion is that we are perceived as being arrogant.  That charge is tossed my way often.  I’ll let you make the call.” (EIGHT, pg. 91)

“We have an obligation to report on school principals like the one in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, who refused to publicly discipline two students who engaged in oral sex on a school bus in full view of other young students.  I mean, what kind of message does an educator send when he believes disgraceful public conduct is a private matter?

The fourteen-year-old girl and the sixteen-year-old boy who humiliated themselves and corrupted other children most likely got their oral sex education from the entertainment media (or President Clinton).  We have an obligation to scrutinize show business and so-called ‘celebrities’ who behave disgracefully.  We have an obligation to hold the corrupters personally accountable.

But we are not doing it.  And because of this cowardice and apathy, the forces of darkness are allowed to go to the bank unchallenged and, at times, even glorified.” (EIGHT, pg. 91)

“You will rarely see an article written about me that does not describe me as ‘contentious,’ ‘bombastic’, ‘a blowhard,’ or ‘bullying.’  While that assessment may be accurate… (EIGHT, pg. 92)

“…you can go ahead and hose people all day long, amassing great wealth and power, but what, exactly, does that mean?  Nada, that’s what.  Note to the greed-heads and evildoers: You may be remembered for your misdeeds, but only as objects of ridicule or revulsion.” (EIGHT, pg. 93)

“…most bad people, out of cowardice or self-interest, attempt to disguise their evil.  Some get justice, but some do not.  For me, that’s the most frustrating part of life: seeing evil individuals continue to harm people with impunity.” (EIGHT, pg. 94)

“Sex is supposed to be a private activity between consenting adults who are honest with each other, sharing pleasure and affection, and then shut up afterward.

Men, if a woman shares her body, take it as a gift of affection, not proof that you’re stud of the month.

Ladies, if you said yes without being forced, then don’t brag to your coworkers or your homegals.” (NINE, pg. 98)

“Dykes on Bikes?  Take a hike!  Can’t you ‘express yourself’ without throwing it in our faces?

…I don’t want to have to try to explain why Jack is dressed up like Jill or Jill is wearing a buzz cut.  The kid shouldn’t have to be dealing with any sexual ideas at all, much less a couple of thousand folks marching around in drag or half-naked in order to ‘celebrate your sexuality.’  Give us all a break.  Express your sexuality where the rest of us do, if we have any sense: at home, with the blinds drawn.” (NINE, pg. 99)

“Like Ann Landers, I’ve come up with a little manual for dealing with the opposite sex…Bring on the cheek-to-cheek, the heavy petting, and the home runs, but not ever with any of the following prohibited, ridiculous lines:

He says,

[snip]

‘Look, I just want to talk to you.  Nothing will happen if I come in.’ Lock the door.

[snip]

She says,

‘Let’s be friends.’  Fine.  Date her best friend.

‘My sister’s got two beautiful kids.’  Whatever you do, do not have sex with this woman.

‘I’m not that kind of girl.’  Get the telephone number of her best friend right now.” (NINE, pgs. 103-4)

“I don’t tolerate victimizers or charlatans or liars or manipulators.” (NINE, pg. 109)

“…I have instituted the two-call rule…If I call a person twice and don’t receive a call back, that relationship is over.  I leave a short message saying that I will not be calling again.

[snip]

“I want to deal only with people who are respectful of others, even in a casual setting such as a restaurant.  Be aware of how others are treating you and question that treatment if you feel it isn’t square.” (NINE, pg. 110)

“If you have to convince someone to be your friend, the concept of friendship falls apart.  Like love, you can’t force it.” (NINE, pg. 111)

“In my early years, I had no idea that I would rise so high in my career; nor did my friends.  They were betting on the penitentiary.” (NINE, pg. 111)

“For people like me…disaster is always in play, constantly present on the horizon…both my mother and father were possessed by a nagging fear that stuff would inevitably go wrong.

“..Americans born into wealth and power usually do not have that fear.  That’s because things always seem to work out for them.  Money buys security from harm and often can mitigate difficult situations.  Power, as we’ve discussed, leads to opportunities.” (TEN, pg. 118)

“Ms. [Rosie] O’Donnell demonizes anyone she disagrees with, and her musings are not to be questioned.” (TEN, pg. 119)

“Burt [Reynolds] took full advantage of Dallas [in 1977 while shooting Semi-Tough] with hot and cold running babes in his hotel suite and fleets of limos…I kind of liked him…But even I had enough smarts to see that he was headed for a fall.  He was too cocky to the wrong people…” (TEN, pg. 123)

“What kind of power does Oprah wield?  Well, Parade magazine reports that she makes $260 million a year.

[snip]

Having that kind of money can literally drive a person crazy.

[snip]

With everything almost instantly available, everything becomes rather ordinary.  For that reason, the ultrawealthy, if they are not ultracareful, can become bored, jaded, or, even worse, sadistic or self-destructive.  The awful behaviour of some celebrities and power brokers illustrates that point beyond a reasonable doubt.  Just ask Caligula.” (TEN, pg. 127)

“I know that sometimes I come off as ‘all about me.'” (ELEVEN, pg. 142)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 23, 2017
2:42 a.m.

Published in: on April 23, 2017 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Revealing Quotes From Bill O’Reilly’s Keep It Pithy (Part One)

Four years before he would be shit-canned for being publicly exposed as a creepy serial harasser, famously self-absorbed and thin-skinned Bill O’Reilly released a silly, contradictory book called Keep It Pithy: Useful Observations In A Tough World.  (Spoiler: it’s mostly useless.)  At less than 150 pages, it’s also a shameless recycling of highlighted passages from five of his previous books (with occasionally new but brief comments on those same passages).  Basically, it’s a written version of The O’Reilly Factor, his once long-running Fox News Channel program that just got cancelled.

When The New York Times revealed a few weeks ago that O’Reilly and Fox had privately settled with a number of female employees who complained about his abusive, lecherous behaviour at work and on the phone (resulting in 13 million in payouts), following the departure last summer of the channel’s co-creator Roger Ailes who had his own legal problems with women, it set in motion a chain of events that led to the end of an era.  Hopefully, it will also end O’Reilly’s book career.  The man’s a fucking self-parody.

Looking back on it today, among other things, it’s hard not to notice the blatant hypocrisy of a man who claims to be a faithful Catholic who’s just “looking out for the folks” with the reality of who he actually is, a gross, lying, adulterous, cowardly, violent, overpaid bully who can’t keep his hands to himself or even live up to his own self-described “traditional values”.  (When he criticizes others, he’s really criticizing himself.) I mean, on page 30, there he is defending Bill Cosby’s now discredited “morality” lectures against the Black community right next to a photo of the comedian himself.

At any event, here are the most revealing quotes from Keep It Pithy (the bold passages are the new bits O’Reilly wrote as comments, lead-ins and exits to his previous words):

“Many publishers have asked me to simply reprint my past stuff.  I’ve always said no.  That’s because some of what I’ve written is obsolete.  Dated.  Not relevant to anything anymore.  That happens because life passes quickly and seasons change, to say the least.  What was fascinating five years ago may be very boring right now.” (INTRODUCTION, pg. ix)

“…Please keep in mind that in order to move forward, you have to look backward.  We all must understand what has happened in our lives, in the country, and in society in order not to repeat mistakes and, most important, so that we can find the most moral path to happiness and prosperity.”  (INTRODUCTION, pg. xi)

“Back in 2006, I had fun imagining in my book Culture Warrior a future State of the Union speech by a U.S. president named Gloria Hernandez.  Here’s a summary of that imaginary pol’s goals and philosophies:

“…a ‘one-world’ approach to foreign relations that would prevent the U.S. government from imposing a policy that would benefit America first…a touchy-feely vision of our society that places individual self-expression and rights over self-sacrifice and adult responsibility.”  (ONE, pg. 3)

“The brilliant men who forged the Constitution…also believed for both moral and practical reasons that the greater good must always take precedence over individual selfishness.” (ONE, pg. 4)

“Most of these quotes from my writings will require no explanation.  My core values have not fundamentally changed.

Too late now!” (ONE, pg. 5)

“The sad truth is that most high-profile media people are looking out for themselves and themselves alone. On any given day in Manhattan, you will see them dining in incredibly expensive restaurants with other powerful people.  You will see them at swanky parties and black-tie charity events.  You will see them at their lavish vacation homes in the Hamptons, Aspen, or Loudoun County, Virginia.  You will not see them at Wal-Mart.” (ONE, pg. 8)

“To this day, I keep these lessons close:

  1. Keep a clear head.  [That means avoid getting hammered as much as possible.]
  2. Don’t compromise when you know you’re right.
  3. Give most people the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Don’t fear authority.
  5. And definitely have a good time.” (ONE, pg. 10)

“…I know that true, unrepentant evil exists. And I firmly believe it will be punished…” (ONE, pg. 16)

“Many letters to The Factor give me clear road maps to the devil’s den – and suggest I’m headed there.” (FOUR, pg. 42)

“[The Catholic Church’s] leadership is made up primarily of elderly white men who have spent their lives playing politics and currying favour with the conservative zealots in the Vatican…[They’]re all men of guile, power players who enjoy their wealth and influence…who play the same kind of callous game – that is, amassing power and money while completely forgetting the mission that Jesus died to promote.” (FOUR, pg.43)

“With such leadership [in the Catholic Church], it should come as no surprise that the clerical sex scandal broke wide open.  With a few exceptions…Catholic leadership in America is made up of venal, self-absorbed men who embrace the daily philosophy of ‘cover my butt’.  When Cardinal Law learned of abusive priests, did he leap up in outrage, throw out the perverts, and call the cops?  No, he did none of those things, according to his own sworn testimony.  Instead, he kept the situation quiet so it wouldn’t hurt his standing in Rome.  Thus his solution to child molestation by his priests was to pay the victims off and have them sign a nondisclosure agreement…That policy, of course, led to the brutalization of hundreds more children, but did Law care?  He dodged and weaved and attacked the press until finally the evidence became so overwhelming that he was publicly humiliated…But even after the crimes and payoffs became public, the Vatican refused to take aggressive action against Law and the other perversion enablers.  And so the reputation of the Catholic Church in America arrived where it is today – completely down the drain.” (FOUR, pg. 44)

“My last word on religion is a practical one based on timeless logic: If you live your life subject to the rules of Judeo-Christian tradition…then you will do more good than harm on this earth.  You will love your neighbour and help other people out.  You will not do things that hurt others or yourself.” (FOUR, pg. 45)

“In helping me to determine right from wrong, good from evil, and trying to correct injustice, my Catholic faith is invaluable.

[snip]

“Religion has been a very positive thing in my life.  Without it, I would never have been motivated to expose bad guys and celebrate heroism.  Most media people are self-interested and cautious.  But I see my job as much more than a big paycheck and a good table at the bistro du jour.  I am on a mission.” (FOUR, pgs. 46-7)

“Greed is the destroyer of success.  You cannot be creatively successful and greedy at the same time.  I’m talking about both material and emotional greed here.” (SIX, pgs. 57-8)

“The true heroes of America are not the new Internet billionaires or the overpaid sports stars and movie actors or the wise guys who jack up their companies’ stocks…The true heroes of America…go to work for a modest wage, fulfill their responsibilities to their families and friends, and are kind and generous to others – because that’s the right way to live…

But the rich and powerful have forgotten or never learned that bedrock truth.  Or they simply don’t care.

But forget them. 
Each of us is, to a large degree, in control of our own lives.
That includes me…” (SIX, pg. 59-60)

Self-indulgence, and especially harmful, debilitating self-indulgence, is not going to give you what you want.  It will keep you from getting what you want.” (SIX, pg. 60)

Kids seven to ten years old in Palmdale, California, were required by the school district to take a very disturbing sex survey.  Sample question: ‘How often do you think about sex?’  That’s not a misprint, folks.” (SIX, pg. 64)

Remember ‘Captain’ Lou Albano, the wrestler?  He always said, ‘This stuff is fake.  Don’t try it at home.’

So listen to me, someone whom you know from TV, when I say, ‘Be careful what you let your kids watch, and what they start to believe, if they fall for everything they see on TV.” (SIX, pg. 65)

“People basking in the spotlight – and I don’t just mean politicians – are forever presenting terrible examples to the children of America.” (SIX, pg. 66)

“…when they see other kids harming their bodies by drinking, smoking, taking drugs, or engaging in irresponsible sex, explain that these losers do not value themselves highly.  They’re doing themselves in because they’re unhappy about their lives; they don’t feel popular enough or attractive enough, so they fall for the short-term illusion of substance-induced kicks or cheap sexual thrills.” (SEVEN, pg. 73)

“History clearly demonstrates that without structure and accountability, human beings have a tough time staying on the rails…An effective person must incorporate discipline into his or her life, and a just society must demand responsibility from its citizens.” (SEVEN, pgs. 74-5)

“You can hope that you’ve raised someone who will join the forces of good in America, not a candidate for an entry-level job in the porno industry.” (SEVEN, pg. 75)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 23, 2017
2:11 a.m.

Published in: on April 23, 2017 at 2:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Blair Witch

It’s clear right from the beginning that the cast of Blair Witch haven’t seen The Blair Witch Project.  As a result, they make the exact same mistakes as the doomed characters in the earlier film.

Strike that.  They do see the ending online, thanks to a couple of rednecks who post it on YouTube.  In no way, however, does watching this footage discourage them at all from what they’re about to do.

The fate of Heather Donahue’s character has long been an obsession of her paramedic brother, James (James Allen McCune).  Because her body was never found, he dumbly believes there’s still a chance she’s lost somewhere in the seemingly vast Black Hills Forest.  He was only four when she decided to make a documentary about the mysterious Blair Witch of Maryland.  Now a grown man, he foolishly decides to conduct a search party of his own.  The authorities were unable to locate her and her two fellow crew members, along with numerous other victims over the centuries.

His longtime pal, Peter (Brandon Scott), convinces mutual friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who’s making a documentary of her own, to come with them and cover the search.  Peter’s girlfriend, Ashley (Corbin Reid), tags along, as well.

Rewriting history a bit, we learn that the footage of Heather’s demise was discovered by Lane (Wes Robinson who looks like the love child of Miles Teller and Sean Penn) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry), not law enforcement.  The foursome make a stop at their house before hitting the forest to find out where exactly they made their discovery.  Curious themselves, Lane & his gal, who have lived in Maryland their entire lives, won’t divulge the location unless they get to join the party.  Peter, a black man, isn’t too thrilled with the idea especially after spotting the couple’s Confederate flag proudly displayed in their living room.

Despite clearly seeing someone else in the Heather video, James’s friends are highly skeptical of this Blair Witch business.  As Lane and Talia take them deep into Black Hills, they offer a little background.  One such story makes Peter laugh out loud.  Guess who the witch kills first.

As they make their way through a cold creek, Ashley steps on a piece of glass.  But even after her foot gets the first aid treatment, the cut never heals (in fact, it spreads up her leg) and she eventually falls ill.  After spending the night in their makeshift camp site, they awaken to discover those mysterious branch symbols from the first film and that it’s 2 p.m.  Freaked out, they all decide to leave, the one and only sensible decision they make.

But once Lane confesses that he and his gal pal made the symbols themselves, Heather’s brother and his friends suddenly aren’t so scared anymore and stupidly decide to go back.  The rednecks decide to bolt on their own.

But, of course, once you enter Black Hills Forest, you can never leave (unless you’re law enforcement or discover raw footage, apparently).  The original foursome learn this the hard way when they make a second attempt to leave.  Their hours of walking bring them right back to the camp site.  Eventually, the sun stops coming up.

A starved, fatigued Lane and his equally starved, fatigued girlfriend suddenly return at one point claiming they’ve been wandering around the forest completely lost for almost a week.  (It’s only been a day.)  Inevitably, the gang gets separated as one by one they disappear into nothingness.

Like The Blair Witch Project, all roads lead to the witch’s decrepit abode, the same place Heather discovered before she went missing.  (On a dark and stormy night, it curiously materializes out of nowhere.)  In fact, Lisa relives part of the original’s ending shot for shot before literally bumping into Heather’s brother who runs in first hoping to somehow find his sister in this rundown, wooden labyrinth.

Blair Witch is the third and hopefully final chapter of this disappointing series.  The overrated 1999 original was followed by a conventional dud called Book Of Shadows in 2000.  It’s clear the only reason we have number three nearly 20 years later is because the found footage horror genre, which The Blair Witch Project helped popularize, has long since gone mainstream mostly thanks to Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield.

With the notable exceptions of The Visit and The Last Exorcism, I have not been a chief supporter of these types of films.  They’re often contrived, not terribly scary and stupid.  Blair Witch very much resembles that remark.

Yes, the technology has advanced quite a bit since the original.  Instead of just camcorders and walkie talkies, this time around we also get earcams with GPS and even a drone that predictably gets stuck in a tree.  What we don’t get are interesting, intelligent characters and a clever story.

The movie isn’t as bad as it could’ve been because of a welcome lack of gore and the effective art direction.  But by God, how many false jump scares do we need to endure?  How many shaky, POV shots?  In order to have this ill-fated trip to the forest take place, the characters have to be mostly ignorant about the events of The Blair Witch Project.  If they do have a strong sense of history, we have no movie.  Smart people wouldn’t set foot in Black Hills.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 16, 2017
3:05 p.m.

Published in: on April 16, 2017 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Liberal In Denial

A flamethrower with really bad timing
Out of touch with the angry masses
Stunned to once again be kicked to the curb
Impotently ranting as his time passes

Foiled by the shifting of the winds
Stuck in the past that will never return
Struggling to understand the new reality
Foolishly thought that it was her turn

An absolute master at collapsing bridges
So many relationships severed and torn
A downfall caused by pitiful decisions
A satisfying defeat that no one will mourn

Completely convinced of his own acumen
As arrogant as Margaret Thatcher
Two failed attempts to acquire modest power
You couldn’t even get elected dog catcher

Fatuous and lame, predictable and fake
A liberal who’s not very progressive
Dangerous positions rejected by most
Time to reach for that anti-depressive

When it all goes to shit you blame someone else
A sure sign of your chronic immaturity
How you long for a hero as dull as yourself
One who meets your criteria for purity

Racist and sexist without acknowledging such traits
Is the very definition of denial
Projecting your flaws onto those who oppose
You’re not noble at all, just vile

Contradictions abound when you lack consistency
Sometimes I wonder if you’re drunk
The glory days are over for you, I’m afraid
There’s no escaping this monumental funk

A verbal assailant who lives for the joust
But crumbles when challenged with facts
You can’t win with silence or petty retorts
You’re running out of retaliatory acts

Stop believing you’re on the inside
Such delusions make me laugh and cough
Some words of advice you need to hear
Do us a favour and kindly fuck off

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 15, 2017
4:00 p.m.

Published in: on April 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment