Thursday, December 31, 2009
The economy still sucks...I know that better than most, but again things are hopeful.
We lost a lot, too...especially people we didn't expect to lose so soon. Brittany Murphy was our most recent loss. People are still feeling the absence of Michael Jackson, some more profoundly than others.
I could go on and on in a testament about the past year, but that's okay. Many others are doing that better than I ever could. All I can say is I hope 2010 is a truly better year for everyone...to Yen, Geri, Patricia, and many more friends I know online and this is even to those who I don't know:
Happy New Year! :)
And yes, I will make more posts more often...one way or the other, I'll get more online time!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Anyway, my most vivid memory from this night was that we were there to see a monster movie. I was a preschooler at the time. I wasn't aware enough to keep track of stuff like plot and character motivation in movies, or even the concept of a good story. I couldn't retent memory very well at the time either, like most kids. But I did know that it was a monster movie, and the word 'monster' lit up my interest in a way only a few other things can to a kid.
The movie in question was "Godzilla Vs. Megalon". It was part of a double-bill that night at the drive in; the second film was "The Giant Spider Invasion", and at least that stuck in my head, too. I remember feeling disappointed that dad and mom decided to leave the drive in just after the second film started. I wanted to stay to see if Godzilla would take on the giant spiders. I couldn't keep track of the plot of the first movie...I didn't give a shit about character motivation and things like that...I thought about how Megalon looked dumb instead of scary, and I forgot Gigan and Jet Jaguar.
What kept my attention directed to the film was GODZILLA...and like all kids who encounter him, I wanted to see him again and again. If you've seen Godzilla as a child, you know how amazing it was to see a green (originally gray), fire-breathing dinosaur taller than most buildings lay the smack down on the asses of less worthy monsters. As I'd come to realize in the time I had as a child before I grew up, the big guy wasn't just a monster, he was nothing more or less than the no-shit KING of the Monsters! For kids like me in America and across the world, Godzilla was as appealing as Santa Claus.
Godzilla took hold of me, and he hasn't let go since.
Growing up, I watched the King of the Monsters fight foes like Hedorah and Ghidrah. I watched him have a fight with an oversized lobster and lead a huge all-out brawl on Monster Island, and he teamed up with the likes of Rodan, Mothra and King Caesar. I saw the dumb Saturday morning toons with a Godzilla that wasn't nearly as cool as the 'real' one because not only did he look like crap and had that silly (yes, silly even for a kid) nephew Godzooky, he didn't have that roar. As I matured, I understood things I couldn't have before in that bittersweet way we all do as we mature. I became more aware of Godzilla's history and how he was the figurative creative fallout of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, which ended the Second World War. Godzilla was both the living embodiment of atomic destruction and nature's mutated fury woken up to punish humanity for unleashing the nuclear genie. I saw the very first black and white film in which Godzilla was anything but kid-friendly and truly horrifying as Raymond Burr could only watch and offer his testimony to the firestorm of destruction the monster wrought upon Japan. However. I won't even go into the bullshit that was the American iguana version of the King made by the guys who made "Independence Day".
I finally, after all these years (sigh, I'm old!), got the 1954/56 original on DVD today. :) I watched the version I remember best first, the American edit with Raymond Burr giving an American face (or better to say white face, and this isn't a trashing of him...it's how things were in allegedly 'liberal' Hollywood back then) to the earth-shaking proceedings. Just like back in the day, it was freaking awesome. Godzilla was a scary monster in black and white, capable of terrible damage with even a simple flick of his tail. The undercurrent of his being an allegory to nuclear destruction was downplayed in favor of the spectacle, and any sympathy for the monster being awoken and mutated by H-bomb tests is given brief lip service and emphasis was purely on saving Japan and maybe the world. The English dubbing of the Japanese principal actors is scattershot, taking place now and then only to interact with Burr's character or translate a truly important scene. Yes, even with the mix of good and bad, it was great! I can't wait to have the spare time to see the original Japanese version subtitled, and see it in the way Godzilla's creators wanted people to see it.
I'm not too surprised there's still a part of me who doesn't want to grow up, the same inner child who will never leave us all, and still (I can't think of a better emotion to describe it) loved Godzilla. It didn't matter whether he was a primal force of destruction neither good nor evil, a sympathetic victim, or a kid-friendly hero defending the world against much nastier beasts. I honestly thought the inner child left me for quite some time, but nope, the kid's always been there. Proof of that is my renewed interest in the King of the Monsters. Maybe it's just nostalgia...maybe it's just the fact that seeing Godzilla beat the motherlovin' crap out of other monsters to reassert his dominance will always be damned cool! It was curiosity more than anything else that made me pick up a collector's set of the King's last three movies not long ago. All three were reimaginings of previous installments in the series, bringing improved special effects to the table and yet Godzilla and other monsters are still pleasantly in rubber suits.
All three films are great, and for a lot of reasons...nostalgia is one of the chief ones, I'll admit. "Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla", for instance -- inspired by the classic "Godzilla Versus Mechagodzilla" -- was amazing in that it brought back the ORIGINAL King from 1954 and made him into a cybernetic Mechagodzilla to do battle with the Godzilla of the most recent generation! Try wrapping your imagination around that. Seriously. "Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S." was much more solemn in tone, but was also in part a remake of a fan favorite, "Godzilla Versus Mothra". But 'over-the-top' doesn't even start to describe "Godzilla: Final Wars", the last film in the franchise (so far!) that was a runaway roller coaster of a remake of the original monster mash, "Destroy All Monsters". This was a film that was clearly made by Godzilla fans for the fans, taking every film and generation of the series and bringing it all together into a brouhaha that has to be seen to be appreciated...and yet strangely, it feels like there isn't enough focus on the King himself. I don't know. Maybe the kid in me was a little disappointed not to see more of Godzilla in "Final Wars".
Damn, some things really haven't changed! :D
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
One of the most recent culprits -- yes, sadly, only ONE OF -- was the "Friday the 13th" reboot. I'm not here to rail on the flick harshly, except to say I should have known better to think a remake would be as good or better than the 1980 original. My curiosity as a fan of the franchise almost demanded I check it out, and I did. I wasn't too disappointed. The remake was, very simply, all right. It was competent. I hadn't seen anything truly different from the many slasher films I had seen before. There was nothing truly creative about it.
And that last sentence, boys and girls, is the problem.
If any creativity had been applied in this instance, there wouldn't have been a remake. We wouldn't even have seen the newest installment of "Friday the 13th". We would have seen something different...and note that I'm not saying something ORIGINAL. Creativity isn't the same as originality. Hell, there hasn't been a legitimately 'new' idea in storytelling for a very, very long time.
Creativity can go a long way. Ask George Lucas. Or better yet, don't. It would have been better to ask him back when he was honestly fucking creative. He didn't give us anything new, but he did make films that became lasting testaments to American culture. Films like "American Graffiti", "THX 1138" and, naturally, "Star Wars". They had an impact because he had a vision very few had -- borrowing from many sources, granted, but still a vision. "Star Wars" alone created a modern mythology and revitalized the Science Fiction genre.
And dammit, it could only go downhill from there.
Was there anything in the "Star Wars" prequels Lucas directed that had creativity? Was there the slightest amount of gravitas in any aspect of his filmmaking between 1999 and 2005, any part of the new trilogy that had even a FRACTION of the impact of what he accomplished in 1977? No. If it was just the case he hadn't directed a friggin' film for 22 years before "The Phantom Menace", that would be one thing. But he lost his creativity as well as his talent, it seems. There is a significant creative deficit in Hollywood on the whole, and remakes are only one symptom of the problem. (And they're a damn big one. Think about it. Did anyone want shit to come to theatres like "Starsky and Hutch" or "The Dukes of Hazzard"?)
Hollywood knows this, of course. They have to...they would be enormously stupid if they didn't, and you have to have some kind of intelligence to make money. But I'm beginning to wonder if they think we, their audience, are the stupid ones because they think we'll go to the theatre for one remake after another or something else that screams out loud, "WE ONLY GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MAKING MONEY, NOT ENTERTAINMENT!" And there's a remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" coming soon. That's damned scary.
The second thing I have to say is this: Hollywood, you're showing how greedy you are pushing the Blu-ray on us so damned hard. I could care less about what one study or another says about them being getting more and more popular. We're not in the best of times right now, economically speaking. Maybe you ought to limit yourselves to getting the word out about standard DVDs, which as far as I'm concerned are just as good. Maybe it has to do with the fact Hollywood will make more money from consumers with Blu-ray, and that's shameless with things so unsure. Maybe it's just me.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Anyway, it's just about the time to give thanks, and I wanted to give well wishes to everyone, especially dear friends like Geri and Yen. Happy Thanksgiving again, and I hope your holiday is a truly great one! :)
Speaking of those who should give thanks, I submit Will Ferrell. Much as I like the guy, and he can be truly funny at times, Forbes Magazine listed him as #1 of the top ten most overpaid actors in Hollywood. (Which means, he's very highly paid in spite of the fact his movies, especially recently, haven't made a profit.) Some would call that distinction of most overpaid harsh, while others would say that's like calling the sky blue. I'm somewhere in between. I don't have a high opinion of the creative powers of Hollywood...to be more blunt, there isn't a helluva lot of creativity in the movie capitol of the world these days. Will hasn't exactly added to the lack of creativity, but he hasn't brought a lot of creativity to his films, either. Showing my age, I'd call him the new millenium's take-it-or-leave-it talent, like Chevy Chase. (Will and Chevy don't just have Saturday Night Live in their histories, they're mostly plain vanilla when they don't show flashes of genuine brilliance...or is it better to say they've only been ALLOWED to show flashes of brilliance?)
Anyway, let me get to another actor on the Most Overpaid Top 10. No, I'm not about to talk about Tom Cruise. I mean Samuel L. Jackson, which might be a surprise to many of you. It wasn't to me...I'll explain in a moment.
Sam Jackson entered into the millenium as the modern King of Cool, thanks mainly to his performance as Jules 'Bad Motherfucker' Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (1994). I'll grant that was one helluva movie, and Sam earned all the praise he got. And yet he never won an Oscar for his performance. Go figure. But here's why his standing as King of Cool is threatened and he earned his place in the Most Overpaid list...he hasn't exactly set the world on fire since.
Think about it, and notice I'm not for a moment taking away a thing from Sam Jackson. Name me one movie after "Pulp Fiction" that has been as enduringly popular or a role he played that was as...well, cool. The "Star Wars" prequels? Fans of the original films, and I'm among them, think the prequels are total wastes of time outside of their ushering in the digital age of filmmaking. Sam's Mace Windu was one of the few saving graces of the trilogy from George 'I'm cashing in on the legacy of better movies!' Lucas, and holy shit, HE HAD A PURPLE LIGHTSABER! Only Sam Jackson could pack a PURPLE LIGHTSABER and remain cool. Still...he wasn't in any of the movies enough to redeem them. The "Shaft" flick from 2000? Even fans weren't exactly knocked out of their socks...I sure wasn't. "Snakes on a Plane"? The online meme it created was HUGE, but when the movie came out...it fizzled out, maybe from too much overexposure. Or it just wasn't as good as most hoped for, in spite of Sam, and word got out about it's lack of greatness fast. It's been the same for most of his films since..."Unbreakable", "XXX" and its sequel, "Coach Carter", the list goes on...he's been worthy enough, but such films have been deemed categorically unworthy as time passed.
A previous generation's King of Cool, Steve McQueen, earned his reputation with truly cool roles in great movies. So did Samuel L. Jackson for this generation...but where Steve passed away and therefore left the throne empty, the man currently taking his seat there has a different peril from death to threaten his reign. That peril is the lack of creativity in Hollywood, but like death, I don't know how Sam Jackson can fight that and keep his throne.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Happy Halloween, by the way! :D
Written by Charles Spencer
The Monster Mash was in full swing over the P.A. system by the time Chris got to the pay window.
He paid for tickets by credit card to get into Horror Town, a haunted attraction in the sticks, this Halloween Night...it was about fourteen minutes before midnight. Chris paid for his own way, along with his girl Janice and their friends Drake, Tim and Deirdre. The last two were romantically joined at the hip, like Chris and Janice...in Tim and Deirdre's case literally joined, it seemed, their arms around each other; they kissed every few minutes deeply as they waited in line. Janice could only shake her head and giggle at the sight of them, they were so into one another. She and Chris were, as well, but they had been together for much longer...time helped them restrain themselves in public. Drake, who was without a girlfriend at that moment, considered Tim and Deirdre with a longing expression. (He'd always had a crush on Deirdre.)
The group arrived at Horror Town early, but they were still almost too late to beat the late-night rush. Chris, Janice and the others beat the main throng of thrill seekers and 'scaredevils' (Tim's pet name for himself and anyone else looking for a good fright), but there were dozens already there even before the pay windows opened. It was the most popular attraction of this holiday in the region, taking up over a hundred square acres of flat undeveloped property, divided into sections representing a town in and of itself. Horror Town, true to its name, was different from any other town in the sense it was populated by any and every form of nightmare creature and unfortunate soul that could be dreamed of by the brother and sister who created the attraction almost ten years before. It had grown in size along with popularity over the years, and got big enough and upgraded enough to qualify for township status.
As they milled forward, Tim said eagerly, "This is gonna be the shit, guys. I was here last year -- !"
"We know, Tim," Janice said coolly. "You've told us enough times."
"But what they got this year's supposed to be bigger and better." To Chris, Tim began to sound like one of Horror Town's radio commercials. "I know they're gonna have things in there that'll fuck you guys up -- !"
"Please chill, man, and tone down the freaking cussing," Chris said, looking at him hard.
Janice chimed, "Thank you!" She wrapped an arm around Chris' waist.
"Think about younger ears, all right?" Chris nodded to the family of four ahead of them...a father, mother, and their son and daughter. The kids looked like they were still in Kindergarten, and they were giggling, most likely because of Tim's overly-enthusiastic testimonial. The father looked behind him to spare Tim a brief but dark warning glance.
Even in the area where customers waited and paid, the employees of Horror Town who took the money and acted as ushers for the crowd were dressed for Halloween. So were many of the customers, but it seemed no expense was spared to help them look good enough (or bad enough, depending on the point of view) to scare the crap out of people by sight alone. Some were simply Goth in appearance, their skin pale with grease paint in stark contrast to the obsidian black of their clothes...others were in the typical neo-horror style made famous by George Romero and some Japanese video game makers; they looked like undead, condemned unfortunates who reflected various degrees of gruesome, blood-stained glory. One of them, a guy who was made up to look like he had a few bites taken from his neck and chest, stalked forward and shouted, "BOO!" at some of the customers, scaring a few silly...but he got an enthusiastic "Arrooo!" in response from a customer wearing a Chewbacca mask.
The usher who took the tickets from Chris, Janice and their friends was pure Goth: she was an ethereal beauty who looked like Wednesday Adams might if she had the chance to get past puberty. In spite of her looks, her good nature shone through as she smiled and said, "I'm Mandy, and thanks for visiting Horror Town! You guys ready to get scared?"
Again, full of enthusiasm, Tim said, "Hell yeah!"
He wasn't exactly the spokesman for the group. Drake gave him a look and grunted, "God, give it a rest."
Chris shrugged and said to Mandy, "We'll see if we get scared of not."
Mandy's smile got brighter considering Chris. "Ohhh, okay! You think you've seen it all, huh?"
Chris nodded and said, "If I haven't, then there's something I missed." That was the truth. Chris, like many Americans, liked to be scared and were constant consumers of the more grue-drenched aspects of pop culture. He didn't consider himself an authority, but Chris had seen a lot. He'd seen so much he sometimes wondered if he got desensitized to the gore and violence, like some political assholes left and right said.
Mandy asked, "What do you think you're gonna see in there? I won't spoil things with an answer, but I will tell you if you're close or not."
Chris grinned. "Okay...a haunted town? I'm thinking Black Falls."
Janice gave Chris a mock expression of disdain and groaned, "Oh, my God!" Black Falls was one of the most popular video game series to come from Japan, and Chris (among many others) played it religiously, so to speak. The games concerned an unassuming town that was in fact a nexus to Hell itself. Janice never understood how her boyfriend could enjoy playing games like that.
Tim said quickly, "Naw, man, it's gonna be bigger and better than that!" Then he gave Mandy a look and asked, "Right?"
Mandy looked at them all, her smile mischievous. "You're thinking 'The Town That Takes Your Soul,' huh? You're wrong...mostly." She added that last word almost hesitantly, but she was honest. "You'll also find some Eli Roth and Wes Craven, and of course Roger Corman among other influences. I prefer Vincent Price, though. You know what they say: there's no such thing as an original idea, only new spins on old stories. But give Horror Town a chance, okay? You might be impressed."
Chris nodded. "If I wasn't willing to give it a chance, I wouldn't be here." He looked at Janice, his eyes soft. "But I can't have a good time anywhere without you, baby."
Tim couldn't help but say, "Tooty fuckin' fruity!" A pop culture joke in response to Chris' pet name for his girl that made everyone laugh. Janice smiled warmly at her boyfriend, and her arm around his waist tightened adoringly.
"Lovebirds, huh?" Mandy's mischievous expression was in high gear as she nodded to another usher, who opened the entrance gate to Horror Town for the group. "Just remember our Golden Rule. Our actors won't touch you, but they will do their best to scare you out of your minds...so don't touch them, for any reason, or you're out on your butts. And no running, remember that...you might be tempted to while screaming your heads off, but don't for safety's sake. Outside of that..." Mandy gestured with a flourish to the open gates and bowed...her voice shifted into one of (almost) genuine menace when she declared, "Have a good scare, you poor fools."
Full of enthusiasm and nervous anticipation...they entered Horror Town. It was nine minutes before midnight.
The first portion of the attraction was Old Horror Town, and it was like a surreal step backward in time. They crossed through an old gold mining camp, which thanks to an ominous voice that spoke over a local P.A. speakers scattered through the area, was the beginning of what would become Horror Town. This place already looked like a refuge for the damned, though, with actors who appeared to be ghouls slinging their pickaxes not into the earth in search of gold, but into gory lumps on the ground. Blood sprayed from them as a result, much to Janice and Deirdre's shock...the guys in the group, though, grinned at the over-the-top nature of the spectacle. Two more ghouls were singing a song in voices slurred by death as they roasted a human leg on a spit over an open fire. One ghoul with a pickaxe over his shoulder stalked toward them and groaned, "You got some treasure? Show me your treasure!" The closer he got, the quicker the pace of his steps became, and he readied his pickaxe. "Show me your treasure, fools! Let me dig your treasure out of you! Let me dig at your INSIDES!" He was only two feet from them as he shouted that last, and Drake took a step back reflexively with round eyes as the girls screamed and hugged their boyfriends. All laughed nervously when they realized that was as close as he'd get to them, and they continued on as the ghoul yelled behind them at another group for whatever treasure they might have.
Chris, Janice and the others realized they were moving forward in history, too, with each step they took. Just beyond the mining camp was a ghost town that was much more in place with what one would imagine of the American Old West. As they walked down its dusty main street, which to their discomfort was stained red in many areas, they saw that to call it a ghost town was wishful thinking, considering the sights they took in.
Chris felt something suddenly...it felt like a wind, but that wasn't quite the right way to describe it. At the same time, Drake was looking at the bright LCD of his watch and said, "Hey guys, it's officially midnight. The Witching Hour." But he said it quietly, as if suddenly distracted.
Janice looked at Chris with sudden worry. "Honey, did you just feel...?" She stopped, unsure...Chris thought she looked exactly the way he felt. They looked at Tim and Deirdre holding each other, and they looked back with equal disquiet.
Something happened...but they had no idea what. Not yet. Not knowing how to act on what they were afraid to accept was something they all felt, they continued down the main street.
This Wild West version of Horror Town was a bleak, deadly sight. The storefronts were bleeding in some places, and undead roamed to and fro. Some were gunslingers, or once were...one unfortunate had no arm above where he holstered his Colt .45. (The makers of Horror Town clearly had a good grip on the concept of irony.) A couple of ladies of the evening stood at the threshold of a cathouse...both seemed to be drenched in blood, and took a lot away from the fact they were wearing only corsets and lingerie. One called out, "Hey, boys! You looking for a good time? This is the place you'll find it, sure enough!"
The other said, "You ladies look classy! Maybe you'd like some meaningful employment?"
Deirdre called back, "Yeah, right! No, thanks!"
The first prostitute invited again: "So how about it, boys? We'll give you entertainment, guaranteed!"
Her fellow added, "We'll entertain you as much as you want, anytime you want! But you gotta stay awhile!"
"We'll make sure you stay awhile, cause you'll never leave!" Her voice had become more hungry than inviting. "We'll make sure you stay forever!" And yet...there was an uncertainty under the actor's tone, a disquiet in her eyes that was echoed in her fellow prostitute. They looked at each other, and they seemed to want to be somewhere else.
Chris, Janice and the others felt the same way. Before, it was genuinely fun...bloody and morbid, but it was Halloween Night. They were here to be scared, to feel more alive as a result. But their enthusiasm and anticipation of what Horror Town had to offer...it was like it was drained from them. And it seemed to be affecting the actors here in turn. Across the street from the cathouse was the Town Jail, where a U.S. Marshall stood in front as tall as Matt Dillon, except he didn't have a face, only a bloody skull's visage...instead of a gun, he held a scythe in both hands. But he was out of his role, too: he was looking around, and his mannerisms expressed nervous confusion. He actually asked out loud to himself, "Did something happen? What just happened?"
Chris, Janice and the others heard him, and knew exactly how he felt. They felt that way since it turned midnight. It was The Witching Hour...
...and something had changed.
They heard a screaming then, coming from far away...from the direction of where they entered Horror Town. But it wasn't just a single scream: many were screaming, and terribly it wouldn't stop...more voices added to the collective sound of what must have been unthinkable agony and terror with each passing moment. Chris, Janice and the others thought of the dozens, the hundreds who had to still be there waiting to pay to get in, and to a soul they were paralyzed with true fear.
They saw figures approach from where they came, from the mining camp.
There were dozens of them, and Chris immediately recognized Mandy among them even from a distance, her black dress flowing frantically with her running figure. The throng of people she was a part of startled the already-frightened ghoul prospectors as they ran past, and some felt the need to run with them, for they were much, much closer to the screaming. Then explosions resounded from the direction of the entrance, thudding sounds that made Chris, Janice and the others nearly jump out of their skins.
One of the prostitutes, the first one who spoke who wore red lingerie, looked across the street and cried out, "Carl!" She ran across then, followed quickly by her fellow lady of the evening who wore black (barely), to the undead Marshall. He'd dropped his scythe, took hold of the hand of the lady in red, and the three of them ran. Away from the unending noise of the screams, further into Horror Town.
They're heading for the exit, Chris thought. All things considered, it seemed to be an excellent idea. But he turned back to the mob of people running to them...and then they ran past, following the undead lawman and the cathouse girls. Mandy had lagged behind by the time she got to the group, but not for lack of trying. Chris stepped in front of her path and stopped her as gently as he could, shouting, "Whoa-WHOA! What's going on -- ?!?"
He realized Mandy's black dress was covered in blood, which made it gleam in the lighting of this portion of Horror Town. It had a plunging neckline, and her skin was stained in blood up to the nape of her neck. Her eyes were horrified and frantic as she cried, "You've got to run!" Mandy turned so quickly to Janice and his friends Chris thought she might give herself whiplash as she continued, louder, "ALL OF YOU, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"
"HOLD IT!" Chris had lost his patience as he gripped Mandy's shoulders hard. "Tell me what the hell is going on first! What -- ?!?"
Then the thing blasted out through the false front of the saloon a few doors back and landed among those running.
It quickly stood erect, over ten feet tall, and began attacking those frightened people it landed amongst. This hideous, malevolent...being that seemed to be a solid, living shadow that was almost ape-like in its form was definitely not part of the scares Horror Town had to offer. Its huge paws that tapered to sharp talons literally tore through every innocent it swiped into. Blood and gore misted in the air from the power of its blows.
"Holy fuck," Tim said neutrally.
Mandy took one look at the thing, and looked back at Chris...her eyes were wide, reflecting the clear and present terror within her. She screamed, "We have to GO! RIGHT NOW!"
Chris wasn't stupid enough to argue. He looked at Janice and took her shaking hand as she looked back at him not comprehending what was happening, not wanting to comprehend. As screams began to issue from the mining camp now for those who were unfortunately much slower, he yelled to the others, "Let's go! C'mon!"
They began to ran then, all of them...except one. Tim quickly figured that out as he ran holding Deirdre's hand and he stopped -- forcing his terrified girlfriend to stop with him -- and Tim turned to see that Drake hadn't moved. He was looking at the thing. The thing stopped its slaughter not far away from him and looked back at Drake in turn...it looked back with bright, incendiary eyes. In spite of Deirdre, Tim ran back to Drake, not daring to look at the being, and grabbed his arm. He screamed, "MOVE, YOU FUCKIN' DUMBSHIT!" Tim pulled Drake with him as his other hand held Deirdre's and they raced after Chris, Janice, Mandy, and many others.
They kept running into the main square of the more modern portion of Horror Town, which looked like the center of any small American town...except it was blasted, ruined and dead in more ways than one from some supernatural apocalypse. Chris saw clear and present echoes of Black Falls here...he also saw influences from other Survival Horror games, and of course, films. He wanted to like this place because it felt so...familiar. But he shrugged such thoughts away violently; he had the greater imperative to survive. He slowed down and shakily yelled, "Everybody stop! HOLD UP!" Janice, Mandy and his friends stopped with clear reluctance as others ran past there were fewer and fewer people running by. Chris didn't want to know what happened to those who couldn't get away, but...he looked at Mandy and said, "Listen, if we're going to have a chance, we've got to fuckin' understand what's going on! What happened back at the pay windows?!"
Mandy was crying, not wanting to stop for anything. "Please, we've got to keep going, we've got to get away -- !"
Chris said roughly, "Just tell me how this shit started, right now!"
Janice gave him a harsh look. "Chris, for Godsakes, look at her -- !"
"Baby, please!" He kept looking at Mandy. "Just keep it simple. Please...tell me what you ran from."
"They..." Mandy's expression broke with renewed horror and grief as she forced herself to think back. "They came out of nowhere not long after this girl in line said something about The Witching Hour..."
Chris' eyes narrowed. "Just after the clock hit midnight."
"I-I think so...they just came from everywhere, from under the ground, from the shadows..." Mandy reflexively placed her hand over her heart; she was trying to will herself to calm down. But new tears fell down her cheeks as she groaned, "They weren't like that...th-that beast in the Wild West town. They were smaller, they were...like rats, but that's not right. They...did things to people when they attacked...y-you don't want to know the things I saw...what they did to...make the screaming...oh God, it was horrible..."
Chris could only stare at the crying girl...and he felt close to crying himself. He shook his head, trying to accept the unreality of it. He managed to say, "What the hell...?"
Slowly, they all turned to Drake. None of them paid much attention to him, to each other, since they started running. The others couldn't help but stare at Drake now...Drake, who had always been more introverted than the others, who was always the square peg in the round world. He had their attention because his eyes were vivid with something close to insanity. But it was worse, because it was understanding...an understanding that issued from him as he spoke: "Guys, you don't know. None of us did. We never had a damn clue."
Tim stared at Drake. "What're you talking about, man?"
He looked back at Tim, and he started smiling. "You've got so much shit between your ears...we all did. We forgot so much. We forgot everything, man. Everything."
Tim shouted back, "What the FUCK are you talking about?!?"
"I looked in that thing's eyes, man! I looked, and I saw what it felt...I saw what it was thinking!" He looked at them all, and he looked at them like they were brain-damaged. "We all forgot so damn much...but most of all we forgot to respect them! We stopped fucking respecting them and where they came from!"
Deirdre voice came out as a moan: "What're you saying!? What did we forget?!? I don't understand!"
"So much shit...between our ears." Drake laughed. "We thought we were it...we thought we were hot shit, the top of the food chain. But there are things over us, below us, beyond us. Them. Everything we look for to scare us these days...one way or the other, it all came from the same place. From the legends and myths, from fucking vampires and metamorphs and demons and zombies and ghouls and all the shit that goes bump in the night! They were all real, man, they were real for thousands of years!" His eyes, insane, KNOWING, widened further, and so did his smile which turned into a grin. "But where do you think those things came from? Huh?! GOD didn't fucking make them, that's for damn sure! They came from Hell, man! Their ancestors or the fucking black magic that made them possible could only come from Hell!
"So what did we do, in a world of fucking logic and reason? Huh? Where we think we're such hot shit? We didn't just forget where they came from, what made them possible...we made them into...into novelties! We took all of that shit and what they came from for granted! We forgot to respect them, just as much as we're supposed to respect love, order, justice and all of that shit! Evil deserves as much respect as anything, right? Well, I looked into that fucker's eyes and I saw how much it hated us! They ALL hate us, the demons and dark powers of Hell we made into...into JOKES!
"THEY'RE HERE TO REMIND US NOT TO PISS THEM OFF!"
Mandy screamed then...not from the words of a young man driven insane by Truth, but by the scores of beings that slithered and glided toward them from where they came. Janice and Deirdre screamed, too...Tim, meanwhile, pissed his pants. Chris barely managed to contain himself when he saw them. They seemed to be part of the shadow, part of the night itself. Chris understood numbly why she called them rats...but not quite. He thought strangely of the Slinky because that's how pliable they appeared to be...they flowed through the world. But they flowed over the ground as they approached, he realized. Minor Daemon, Chris suddenly thought. And he didn't know why.
Chris thought, Am I being reminded? Am I...starting to remember?
Too little, too late, he feared.
Chris screamed to them all, "RUN!" He thought of Edgar Allen Poe, of Bram Stoker, of them and other mortals who had creative power in this world who once held respect for the darkness in their works of horror and darkness. But what was that creative power turned toward now? To novelty. To commodity. He began to realize how much the elder forces of Hell must have hated those of this mortal Earth as he and the others ran to escape death. To escape Evil itself. Again, however, one didn't run. Drake just stood there, smiling at the horde from Hell, and for better or worse because of the fear of his fellow mortals, he was left behind.
Drake's scream followed them as they ran, and that scream lasted for too damn long.
They ran out of the other side and onto a new, wide path...it led to the final attraction of Horror Town. (There was another attraction, the Town Hall itself which was the place's house of horrors, but for understandable reasons they bypassed it.) Then. Tim twisted his ankle on the path that wasn't quite level. No running in Horror Town.
Tim collapsed on his face, and the others stopped. Deirdre fell on her knees next to Tim and urged him to get up, if she loved him get up! Chris felt like he remembered something else...so long ago, long before Jesus Christ was followed by his disciples, the only ones who had the knowledge to defeat the dark forces in this world brought here by the will and power of Hell were those who knew Witchcraft, those who could appeal to the very elements and so much more to serve them. He knew there were witches in the modern day, Wiccans, and yet they had forgotten so much of their own history, their heritage and knowledge as a faith but not so much because of time but because they were hunted and persecuted and executed by the brutal stupidity of those who hated and feared who and what was different, and he knew they would be as helpless as he felt as he saw the Minor Daemon approach like a living flood, and he moved to Deirdre as Tim begged her to go, to leave him behind, but she said she loved him and would stay with him but Chris hated himself as he grabbed her around her slender waist and picked her up and began to drag her away and Janice helped him take hold of her and there was so much sadness in the eyes of the young woman he loved, and Deirdre screamed as Mandy could only stand there screaming, too, screaming they had to run as Tim shouted to Deirdre he loved her so much and it was okay, just RUN!
Then the flood of Minor Daemon reached Tim, and Deirdre couldn't look and turned from the one she loved. She screamed like her very soul was wounded, as Janice and Mandy took her by her arms and urged her to run again. She did so, they all ran, but only Chris looked back to his friend. He wished he didn't as Tim screamed, and would continue to scream as he saw the Daemon flood into him and through him eagerly. Chris realized the fuckers were turning Tim inside-out slowly but violently and his mortal blood was suddenly everywhere as a result. But Tim didn't die immediately, the Daemon wouldn't let the mortal know the blessing of a quick death. He knew in comparison he'd rather let that big bastard he saw in the Wild West version of Horror Town -- djinn, he remembered -- kill him before facing these. And he ran.
They all ran to the last attraction of Horror Town: Base Omega, a simulated military base which according to the attraction's fanfare was built outside of the city, but couldn't escape its curse. Horror Town made this base a part of it, and its soldiers who once served God and Country were driven insane and cannibalistic...the high brass of the base authorized all manner of hideous experiments, and those experiments as the advertising said continued to lurk and stalk through the corridors and on the grounds. They continued to run, ignoring the novelty of it, staying on the set path that would take them through it and to the exit. They ran into the cavernous main hangar drenched inside with fake blood and adorned with idiotic props and through it...they continued further into the HQ where animatronics of undead soldiers and alien-demonic things waited. They rushed past them and between them.
In the HQ's mess hall, they found the boy.
They almost missed him because he had hidden himself under one of the tables. His whimpering cries, however, got their attention...Mandy managed to coax the boy to come out, it was okay. The boy's eyes were wet and haunted...they had seen too much. Chris recognized the boy: he was part of the family of four he and Janice and the others were behind. Chris asked softly, "Are you okay? Where's the rest of your family, pal?" The boy broke fully into tears again, and Chris realized he shouldn't have asked. He knelt next to the boy as Mandy placed her hands gently on the child's shoulders. Janice could only look at the boy awkwardly, in tears herself.
Deirdre still cried, as well...but she had calmed considerably. She looked at nothing as she leaned on a corrugated steel wall of the HQ stained in fake blood. Chris looked at her, and asked himself if they were out of danger.
He quickly got his answer.
Something slammed HARD into the steel Deirdre leaned on behind her...and through her: a piercing shaft of darkness suddenly lanced through her just above her bosom. The others screamed and Janice cried out her name as she looked back at them, as she felt herself die, and it didn't hurt that much, she thought. Deirdre had time to say simply, "Oh, dear."
Then something pulled, and she was wrenched through the wall as it was rent outward. Chris picked up the boy and stood, and he knew he was screaming along with the young women as they watched the djinn, and it stared at them with eyes that had seen Hell itself. It then looked down and considered the dead mortal body impaled by its substance that it fired from its paw like a harpoon. It looked at her beautiful mortal face, and was offended by it...and its other paw reached up, closed about her head and face, and crushed her skull like it was a ripe grape.
The others ran in grief and terror as their fellow mortal was ripped to pieces.
They continued to run...Chris continued to remember little things that the rest of his mortal race had forgotten. He wondered if Janice and Mandy were remembering, as well. He wondered what the boy thought, if he had been reminded.
He wondered, above all, why they even bothered running.
Then they saw light through an open gateway...it was the same in appearance as the entrance. They ran to it.
Finally, collectively, they stopped...and Chris looked back as he stood at the edge of a parking lot, he looked back at the dark maw of the exit to Horror Town, but he didn't feel relief. Far from it. He felt shellshocked and hollow from everything he'd seen. But he couldn't think of himself...he felt Janice cling to his arm, her cheeks wet with tears that mixed with blood from someone. From Deirdre just now? From someone else? The boy he cradled was trying to bury his face in his chest, trying to escape...everything. Chris wondered absently where this kid could be taken, if he had any relatives besides the family he lost. Mandy looked back into the darkness with a blank stare...her lips parted hesitantly, and she wanted to hope. She asked softly to no one in particular, "Did...did we get away? Is it over?"
Chris wondered that during this Witching Hour...if this was simply the world changing because of those they offended and made hateful. Or maybe this was an end, that those that reigned in Hell wouldn't be satisfied until all of his fellow mortals were dead. He wondered...and then he noticed something. They all did.
They heard screams in the darkness...screams that wouldn't stop...they were distant, but they seemed to be coming from everywhere.
Chris wondered how much time they had....
This story is the copyright (2007) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
To say the least, I have mixed emotions about it.
The primary reason for my mixed emotions is a reason anyone who hits forty can relate to. I'm forced to say to myself, "My God, I'm in the middle of my damned life!" That alone could be good or bad. Good if I honestly got a lot accomplished, if I'd met the goals I set for myself before this time. But it's bad in my case because I haven't met most of my self-assigned goals. I know a lot of folks would look at themselves in this stage of their lives and say the same thing. I've seen it, I've read about it here and there, fiction and nonfiction, the unmistakable aura of not feeling fulfilled.
Now I'm feeling it.
At this stage of my life, I'm not where I want to be. Because of my own failings? Yes and no, because in a crazy world like this, things can happen...my path can criss-cross with the paths of others who might decide how easy or hard things will be for me. You know what I mean. I must say without a doubt, I feel like I'm ten years behind on the goals I set for myself.
Am I being too self-indulgent in being critical of my life, what I have and more importantly what I desire to gain? Am I a failure at this 'halfway point' not living the life I truly want to live? Is my own personal cause, the life of Charles Spencer, hopeless?
Not wanting to be a failure, wanting the things I want so much before I reach the end of my life, I can only answer those questions with the following:
Yeah, I'm not just another year older, I'm damned forty years old. For me, it's not exactly a cause for celebration...or maybe it is if I don't want to be defeatist. And maybe I haven't gotten to where I want to be, I haven't accomplished what I want dearly to accomplish, but I've still got at least another forty good years in me. (If I'm lucky!)
Life doesn't end at forty, and I've still got a lot to do. :)
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I have one word to say to all hackers and virus makers out there who get a giggle at wrecking other people's computers:
Anyhow! I'm back, with some more thoughts that hit me recently.
1) President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Uh...what world-improving thing did he do in the little time he's been on the global stage? I've been watching the news, and I never heard of him doing anything really amazing enough for a Nobel Prize. Anyone? A little help?
2) The Aussie rock band AC/DC kicks ass. It's a fact, but I'm reminded of that every time I hear one of their songs. Anyone who says they DON'T kick ass never heard their music.
3) Michael Moore is an idiot. He says, "If nobody pays any attention to me with my new movie, I'm not making any more documentaries!" Like nobody ever paid attention to him before with his hot-air projects. Like the news doesn't make some kind of deal out of him every time one of his films come out. It's not the fact he wants attention, he just wants more of it, and that makes him a plain, simple whiner.
4) Come to think of it, that describes politically-minded morons in a nutshell...they think they and their causes are important, and turn into bitchy little whiners when they're not.
5) We lost Patrick Swayze. Damn. At least he got to do films he wanted to do, unlike most stars who make a given film in order to keep themselves popular and therefore highly paid. A lot of them were also films folks wanted to see. His star should have risen rightfully after "Dirty Dancing", which I can't recommend because it's WAY too syrupy and illogical, yet it was still a hit...but that never happened. "Roadhouse" may be on the illogical side too, but I recommend it because it was a movie built for the audience to have fun watching! Rest In Peace, Patrick.
6) It's been too long of a day to type much right now. That, and I still want to put a hit out on hackers too much. Be careful out there, everyone, because you can get hit when you least expect it, too.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
But something is going on that still baffles the correct in this world. Know what it is? John Wayne is still popular, even all of these years after he left us. Those who watch his films and truly enjoy them (and I number among those folks, I’m glad to say) may not be as vocal as the haters, but we’re out there, and we’re everywhere. And no, Correct Ones, we’re not just limited to those with Caucasian skin. Or guys. And I know for a fact that as I get older, my appreciation and respect for the man and his legend will only grow, and I’ll pass that appreciation on to my heirs one day. If they’ll listen, dammit.
Let me explain why...no matter what those who are so achingly correct would have you believe, John Wayne needs no defense.The reason for that is because any criticism toward The Duke is so clearly, unmistakably self-serving. It’s a classic reaction from the low to want to tear the mighty down. And what better meat would there be for those who think of nothing but themselves and their self-interested agendas than to tear down a legend? It started in the 1960’s, of course, when the cultural revolution America went through at the time was not only motivated by a need for social justice...it was spurred in the protest rallies and sit-ins and whatever the hell by self-indulgent, preening kids who just wanted some friggin’ attention. They tuned in, turned on and dropped out only because it was the 'popular' thing to do, to stick it to 'The Man'. I seriously doubt most of the so-called activists of that day honestly cared about their causes as much as they cared about going one toke over the line. The only reason we’re reminded of that period of time and those protests and told it was so 'important' was because those kids grew up, and many are now the Powers That Be, and yes, they’re still self-serving. Here’s a question I want a concise, honest answer to...what the hell was so important about Woodstock? I was born in 1969, and that might have a lot to do with my lack of understanding. Or my refusal to buy into the Sixties nonsense.
No change, positive or otherwise, happened in the Sixties because of a bunch of ignorant hippies! The change happened in the courts, because laws were changed! That’s all there is to it! I’ve never bought into the B.S. so many people make of the 1960’s, and I never will. If you do, go ahead and see "Across the Universe" again.
Strangely enough, those who insist on waxing nostalgic about the good old days of 'peace, love, dope' feel the exact opposite about John Wayne. Why? Because of politics...because, supposedly, of his politics.
What were The Duke’s politics, though? Outside of being a Freemason, he was politically speaking a patriot and a hawk. So he loved his country. So he believed a country with a strong defense is a safer country. What difference does...oh, wait! We’re supposed to believe in this day and age that it’s wrong to be conservative in any way. (Does that include environmental conservation? Really, really think about that.) We Americans are supposed to make apologies for ourselves instead of feel any pride. How dare we! The correct get their feathers self-righteously ruffled and squawk, "But John Wayne is on record as saying he hates blacks! And Native Americans! He’s a racist!" I keep seeing people who don’t know what they’re talking about say this kind of shit online.
Fact: The Duke was never a bigot...people keep referring to his 'infamous' Playboy interview, but it’s a classic overreaction of the overly-sensitive and self-righteous. In the case of Native Americans, The Duke didn’t make any apologies for our colonization of the continental United States because basically we needed the land, and so we took it. The worst he could be accused of is being insensitive to Native Americans...isn’t it a bigger insult for a certain sports team to insist on calling themselves the Atlanta Braves? And his statements about African-Americans can be boiled down to simply this: people have to earn their way anywhere in America, starting first and foremost with education. Even in the Seventies, that was amazingly forthright, but typical for John Wayne. Didn’t Bill Cosby say virtually the same thing once? And oh holy shit, how The Cos got raked over the coals, too! Who raked both John Wayne and Bill Cosby over the coals for being so old-fashioned? By politicians who got where they were exactly because they keep promising one indulgence or another to those they want votes from!
The Duke wasn’t a bigot. He was married three times, each time to a lady of Hispanic descent. That fact, of course, was subject to vocal confusion by many in Hollywood. It’s telling how self-serving it was of them to bring up that fact, and that they thought it was strange an American icon like him would marry women from a ’minority’. Right here, right now, I’m calling those 'progressive' and 'liberal' assholes out not only for being so damn arrogant, but a lot worse...THEY WERE MAKING THE IMPLICATION THAT THE DUKE’S WIVES WERE SOMEHOW 'LESS' AMERICAN. Yeah. Really think about that one, too.
Case closed...we have as much of a right to condemn John Wayne for anything he believed in as much as we have to judge his personal life, which is none; such things weren’t any of our damned business, and they still aren’t. Draw a parallel with former President Bill Clinton, Correct Ones. You didn’t want anyone judging him for his views or what he said or did, right? Once and for all, proof that such judgments are politically motivated...two men, definitely not perfect, yet one is lionized and the other is condemend because each have different politics. I’ve mentioned before I hate politics, sometimes with a passion that should be reserved for a significant other.
We’re almost supposed to give every respect to another legend, the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson...why should The Duke be any different?
It’s of interest that about the same time that people started criticizing The Duke in the 1960’s, much ado was also made about the genre of film he’ll forever be associated with: the Western. There was a classic line said in one of John Wayne’s most enduring classics, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", and it held true for the Western itself in his day...when legend becomes truth, print the legend. However, there was a growing movement that showed disdain for the genre and its empahsizing the romantic legend of the Old West more than the harsher historic realities. (As a result, strangely, ignoring the basic purpose of films to escape reality and be entertained.) In response, naturally, the political and profit minded in Hollywood responded with a new brand of revisionist Western. The unrelated but strikingly similar Spaghetti Westerns from Italy had a romantic vein in them, but their grittiness and the moral ambiguity of characters like The Man With No Name on the surface tended to overshadow that vein. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Spaghetti Westerns as much as the romantic ones.) Still, these new approaches to the Western steadily took prominence even as the genre on the whole began to decline to obscurity, and it finally did in the late 1970’s, ironically as The Duke’s health increasingly failed him. Before that, John Wayne’s hero in the white hat was forced to compete with Clint Eastwood’s more rugged and mercenary antihero. The Duke seemed to barely outlive his own legend, as his character John Bernard Books did in his last movie, "The Shootist" from 1976, a few years before he passed away.
But...it only SEEMED that way.
In his own lifetime, John Wayne had indeed become a legend...an archetype of the American cowboy and gunman of the Old West that should have been, and almost could have been; indeed, since about the time of "Rio Bravo", he simply performed as himself because his very screen persona had become indistinguishable from his public one because he’d been the cowboy for so long. Those who admired The Duke believed in him and his toughness, his take it or leave it honesty, and his embodying of the best of what a man could be. He virtually was machismo, and his words spoke with as much power as his actions because there was no such thing as 'pretense' in John Wayne’s heart and soul. Little wonder, when you think about it, that in this day and age when politics rule and moral relativity is stressed over what is right and wrong, that so many would rather his legend not endure. But it has...and so has the American Western, romantic and revisionist. 1985 saw their triumphant resurgence with the rousing "Silverado" and the gritty "Pale Rider".
The Duke’s legend and all he represented, and at least all that he was on the silver screen, won’t ever fade away. Why? Because of those who watch him and believe in him, like me, past, present and future. Those who watch him and believe in him will, one way or the other, pass on their admiration to the next generation, just as they had in the past. The would-be 'correct' have tried their level best to reduce his legend, and the sheep who follow such politics will decry him without really knowing about who they want to condemn. But politics and the hunger of the selfish are not only shallow but clear and present...their obviously self-serving judgments might just make them be judged in turn. John Wayne once said this: "I’d just like to be an image that reminds someone of joy rather than the problems of the world." He is and he still does, and in the end that outweighs any and all verdicts of the self-interested. That’s part of why he’s a legend, Pilgrim.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Without a doubt, like the 1930's, the 1980's were a major decade for movies. Take the formation of teen comedies like "Sixteen Candles" that I described before, thanks to John Hughes...the crystallization of the 'bigger and better blockbuster' usually tailor-made for the summer months, thanks mainly to Steven Spielberg ("Raiders of the Lost Ark", made ironically on a relatively low budget) and Geoge Lucas (the "Star Wars" sequels)...and the popularity of horror films, especially slasher flicks like "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" that pulled viewers in to see one creative screen death after the other. The profit motive, which I won't condemn in regards to the film industry -- but I will condemn the nearly mercenary drive for profit in certain other arenas, mainly health care -- took a naked, unbridled prominence over creative expression. But then, it would only take someone really dumb to honestly think that those in Hollywood don't care about making money.
But there was a uniqueness to the 80's for another reason...in that decade, there was nothing bigger or better than the action movie.
The decade and its films can be better described, and with more wit, at this little site I know called Ruthless Reviews. (I have no problem plugging them here, even though their political rhetoric can get exhaustingly dumb, just like CNN and Rush Limbaugh. I hate politics, as I've said before, and I refuse to make them core to my existence and worldview.) Team Ruthless has even devoted an entire section to action films from the 1980's, and homosexual undercurrents aside, their reviews are spot-on as hell. Check out their Guide here...
Around the middle of the decade, almost in parallel to the formation of the Girls With Guns sub-genre of Hong Kong action films, something funny happened and I was lucky to be there. A certain breed of films started to explode across the screen, and they could be traced back to three sources. The first was the 1974 cult classic "Death Wish", the seminal revenge film in which Charles Bronson goes hunting -- literally -- for the scum of society. The second source was "Conan the Barbarian" from 1981, which catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to fame.
The third source was John Rambo.
1982's "First Blood" established the blueprint for the action films of the decade that followed thanks to Sylvester Stallone (who co-wrote the film), director Ted Kotcheff, and its source material, a novel written by David Morrell. In a nugget, Stallone starred as John Rambo, a troubled, world-weary Vietnam Vet who drifts across the American countryside without direction until he's confronted by a small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) who gives Rambo problems just because he's an outsider...ultimately, Rambo is arrested for nothing, and after mistreatment from one of the sheriff's deputies, Rambo suffers a flashback and loses it. Rambo escapes, thinking the 'enemy' law enforcement officers no different from the Vietnamese he fought years before, and war is declared. You'd think that even a small-town sheriff would know better than to fuck with someone trained to kill people for his country, especially someone trained to kill with psychological problems...but that's life.
"First Blood" became very popular, and set the stage for action films to follow not long afterward. It's telling that Sylvester Stallone said that his greatest influence was the legendary John Wayne, who now and forever is the symbol of the Western genre of films. The Duke also influenced Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the current Governor of California and Stallone became the undeniable standard-bearers of the action films of the 1980's. 1984 was when the ball really started rolling, with "The Terminator" and "Missing in Action", and that ball turned into a politically incorrect train rolling full steam ahead one year later.
"The Terminator" aside, action films of the 80's could be boiled down to one thing that drove their action: revenge. Revenge was core to the three sources of 80's action, as well...Bronson's Paul Kersey wanted revenge for his family; so did Conan; and Rambo wanted revenge on the entire damn TOWN he saw as enemy territory. Sometimes the concept of unfinished business rivaled revenge, like the real issue of whether or not there were still American prisoners of war in Vietnam at the time. More often, though, real rising crime rates and the frustration that law-abiding citizens felt became fuel to such movies.
These films were essentially moving comic books, pure visceral entertainment that sometimes had substance, but any substance was there alongside revenge to drive the action. The basic blueprint was that the hero would be wronged in some elemental way, and then he'd spend the rest of the film killing his often numerically-superior enemies...the one-against-many scenario. Knowledge of heavy-caliber weapons were a must for the hero, naturally, along with a love for the good old U.S.A. (Guns were to the 80's action hero what superpowers were to comic book heroes...a lot could be written about that.) An exception to the gun rule was Jean-Claude Van Damme, who let his feet do the talking in martial arts films like "Bloodsport"...he became the 80's equivalent to Bruce Lee. The inherent patriotism in most of these movies sometimes lapsed into jingoism, though, as in "America is better than ANYBODY!" I love my country, but I dislike arrogance as much as I do politics. At their best, these films were celluloid crack for those looking for entertainment, big and loud fun...at their worst, they had the capability to kill a viewer's brain cells from dumbness. The worst were often from Cannon Films, which gave us flicks from the aforementioned "Missing in Action" to "Invasion USA" to a lousy David Carradine effort (R.I.P., seriously), "P.O.W.: The Escape". Yes, I saw that one, unfortunately. Cannon ceased to be in the early 1990's, most likely because they spent too much money on "American Ninja" sequels. By the way, what started that trend in Ninja movies?
The 80's action film blueprint still rears its head in Hollywood, but not as often as it used to in that decade. The most notable recent example came from Sylvester Stallone and his triumphant comeback in "Rambo" in 2008, where he basically decimates a damn army to rescue some Christian missionaries. Yes, you read that right. John Rambo killed people for MISSIONARIES! Thankfully, it's better than it sounds...it may be one of the bloodiest films ever, but go see it anyway!
Want to shut off your brain and just have a good, exciting time? Even enjoy some 'rah-rah!' patriotism, which you don't even have to be American to get infected by? I recommend three movies I know and love from the 80's action heyday for anyone to see, all of which also score high with Ruthless Reviews. All three of these films coincidentally come from the year 1985. And if you're politically correct, you'll hate 'em.
First is "Bloodsport", wherein Jean-Claude Van Damme might just have the true grit to be the first Westerner (meaning American) to win a secretive annual martial arts competition in Hong Kong. Then there is the Arnold Schwarzenegger epic "Commando", where he must go to war with an island full of mercenaries to save his daughter (Alyssa Milano, who I've had a crush on since she grew up) from a would-be South American despot played by Dan Hedaya. But as exciting as Jean-Claude was, as high as Arnold's bodycount was, the guiltiest pleasure you'll have of this decade and maybe any other is from "Death Wish 3".
Forget "The Magnificent Seven" and even the original "Death Wish"..."Death Wish 3" unofficially sealed Charles Bronson's immortality as an American icon in films. The only reason it's unofficial is because it's obvious not enough people have seen this film. Paul Kersey's war against crime is turned literal here, as he and the film earn a death per minute rating -- yes, PER MINUTE! -- that is only rivaled by "Commando". There's barely a hint of a story and revenge is the only thing that matters as Bronson's conflict with a street gang big enough to start their own country escalates until there's chaos in the New York City streets unlike anything ever seen in cinema. And Charles Bronson is there marching through those streets with a big-bore handgun built for shooting big game (I shit you not) with Ed Lauter as a disgruntled cop by his side. Dumb? Of course! Shallow? Yep! Violent? Duh. But this movie is still undeniable fun, and impossible to take seriously even for a second, just like most action films from the 80's.
Besides, the only thing we should take seriously is life outside of movies, right? I'd have to honestly work at crafting a story as low in intelligence as many of the films I just talked about. These movies are as far away, in substance, from a John Wayne Western as you can possibly imagine...yes, The Duke gave us great times, and great stories to go along with them. That's beyond dispute. Strange again he inspired the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, whose best-known and loved films emphasized visceral thrill over substance. Yet for sheer fun designed to take us from any real problems at least for a short time, like Hong Kong Girls With Guns films from that same decade, American action films fit that bill just fine...logic is not necessarily included, but that's okay. Just watch "Commando" at least, and you'll see what I mean!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This is long overdue for one of my truly dear friends here online. I met Geri Ahearn on MySpace while getting the word out about "Hell Knight"...not only is she a fellow author, she's reviews other writers' works. I can't start in enough about how much she was willing to take a chance on a mature-rated book written by a guy she didn't even know. Talk about taking a risk!
Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about with my writing passing muster for Geri. She enjoyed "Hell Knight", and she's been helping me promote it ever since. I've been doing the same for her in return on a regular basis on MySpace, but that ain't enough! Even though I haven't had much of a response even due to Geri's glowing testimonials, I owe her a lot and I want to get the word out about her too, and not just where we met.
So consider yourselves being put on notice here, buckaroos. You want to know more about my fellow writer, book reviewer and all around classy lady? :) Here's two links for you to get to know more about Geri Ahearn and what she does...now go check them out!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
A gentle challenge to Mister Glickenhaus. I've got degrees in film and video production. Give me, oh, ten million dollars, and I'll bet you I can make a movie just as good -- if not better -- than anything you've ever done, from "The Exterminator" to "Timemaster". If I succeed, we split the profits. If I don't succeed, I'll clean your exotic cars.
That same challenge goes to Uwe Boll, by the way.
Now, back to my newest installment of Women Warriors. (Finally!) I focus now on the lady who helped Yukari Oshima start the surge of Girls With Guns films in Hong Kong cinema, Moon Lee.
Moon, classically trained in dance, got her start in television and quickly gravitated to a higher profile in movies. She was undeniably talented, amazingly cute, and yet there was nothing really remarkable about her roles for a while. Moon left an undeniably positive mark in films like "Zu: Warriors From the Magic Mountain", "Mr. Vampire" and the previously mentioned "The Protector" in the early 1980's. (I've seen those films, so I should know.)
But it was the lack of anything remarkable in those previous roles, maybe, that made Moon decide to co-star with Yukari and another talented lady, Elaine Lui, in 1987's "Angel"...and begin her undeniable reign as a princess, if not THE princess, of the Girls With Guns.
The affect Moon has on a viewer of "Angel" and other action movies she starred in usually goes something like this: "Whoa, she's cute! Cheerleader-cute! Wait, this is an action film, right?" Then the action hits...then MOON hits...the viewer's jaw then drops and one thought comes to mind: "Holy damn, she kicks ass!" Without a doubt she did, Pilgrim, and in almost thirty movies. But she didn't just kick ass, often going toe to toe against or fighting with Yukari Oshima, she could sing, do comedy, and naturally, dance. Try to watch "Nocturnal Demon", a comedy-slasher movie (yes, you read that right!), without at least getting a smile on your face because of Moon being so adorable and funny, even when she's busting heads.
Moon Lee got married and retired from acting in her early thirties(!), and she's been missed by fans ever since...at least I miss her, a lot. The Girls With Guns films had seemed to run their course not long before that, so maybe she felt it was time to move on to better things? But Moon is still amazingly cute...and I don't doubt she can still kick ass with the best of them. :)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I've been feeling older since I found out filmmaker John Hughes passed away. Like Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, I grew up with him and what he brought to moviegoers. And like Farrah and Michael, he left us too soon.
I appreciate John Hughes in a way different from how I appreciate Farrah and Michael...John was more a creative force, never really a celebrity, even though his name became a recognized one. But he was recognized and respected in the same way filmmakers like Steven Spielberg are for the quality of his films. He'd been a writer for films like "Mr. Mom" and "National Lampoon's Vacation", but it was when he started directing he really began to cast an influence in Hollywood. The films he directed in the 80's are time capsules to that decade, and touched young teenaged film fans in a way no filmmaker has ever since. I know they influenced me...I was a teen in the 80's, and to say the least it wasn't the best of times. (It was because of his films along with many others at that time that inspired me to write and hopefully, one day, be a filmmaker bringing stories to everyone on the silver screen.) Hell, he all but revolutionized the teen comedy subgenre. More importantly, those films and many others he produced and wrote were successful in a huge sort of way that set the standard for comedies to follow. His brand of comedy could get crude, to be sure, and even politically incorrect in a way that would scare the hell out of Hollywood today, but it always had a soul that most comedies these days that pander to the lowest common denominator can only dream to have. Look at anything from the rude and crude brands of comedy in American cinema or television...can it honestly even be called funny? Even Hughes' "Home Alone" -- take it or leave it -- while punctuated by Tex Avery-style violence (I'm talking several degrees above The Three Stooges), had an undeniable moral center that was in counterpoint to the crudeness.
My favorite of John Hughes' films, just edging out the nearly magical "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the way-over-the-top "Weird Science", was the first film he directed...1984's "Sixteen Candles". The main plot of the film was of a teenager, Samantha (Molly Ringwald), suffering higher-than-average angst for two reasons...first, even though the film starts on her Sweet Sixteenth birthday, her entire family has forgotten that important milestone(!); second, she's trying to figure out how to at least tell an uber-handsome jock in school she's smitten with him. To say the least, the day doesn't go very well, but it isn't boring!
All manner of characters bounce around Samantha's orbit, from her clueless family to the overconfident Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), a Freshman who wants to score with her...to Long Duk Dong, a foreign exchange student who goes on a trip to find America that's as surreal as the one Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper took in "Easy Rider"! Just to get the shit out of the way: Gedde Watanabe's 'The Donger' isn't even CLOSE to being as offensive as Mickey Rooney's bastardized version of a Japanese guy in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (one of the Top Ten Most Overrated Films). Sure, the guy is even squarer than Farmer Ted and his version of Engrish has to be heard to be believed, but Gedde and John Hughes make sure to give Long honest to God humanity and a bewildered, fish-out-of-water charm that's impossible to resist or take as truly offensive. 'The Donger' could never be called a stereotype, but he's definitely on the wrong side of correctness. "Sixteen Candles" on the whole is incorrect in a way that would make mild-mannered filmmakers of the current day crap their pants! Pawing Freshmen, drunk teens and a house party that leaves the house standing only sorta, trash talk, sex between teens (that the participants can't remember), and a girl's panties put on public display are only a few of this film's many offenses to the over-sensitive. And it's hilarious!
But even before the dust settles, the crudeness is tempered by the film's clear and present heart, thanks to Hughes. In one of the best scenes in the movie, Samantha and her apologetic dad (Paul Dooley) have a heart to heart that touches on so many levels. As the chaos dies down, every other element takes on new and surprising orbits. I won't spoil things for you; as Farmer Ted says, "Buy the book!" (Or in this case, see the movie!) But in the end, Samantha's birthday wish comes true and we even get a fairytale ending. And could we want or expect anything less?
"Sixteen Candles" was typical of all of John Hughes' films...sure, the 80's pastels of teen wear in this film will tempt you to shield your eyes, and its soundtrack typical of the New Wave Pop of the decade will make you wish for electric guitars. The humor gets rude and often incorrect in a way that will leave many laughing, and others fuming. But the setting of the film is Mid-America, USA (itself to some politically incorrect), and its characters were ones anyone -- especially teenagers -- can relate to, even in the 21st Century and maybe beyond. We could relate to them because they were characters with real emotions and, granted, sometimes unrealistic dreams, but if they stayed with their respective quests through even the most chaotic situations, they might find their destination and their happiness. And isn't that what we all do in reality?
Rest In Peace, John, and thanks for bringing your films to us!
Monday, August 3, 2009
One thing I noticed and couldn't ignore was the fact that some online media outlets (I'd only name them if they friggin' paid me) are offering us something truly ridiculous this day. They're placing a self-imposed ban on themselves of any and all Megan Fox coverage. Uh-huh. No matter what she says or does that day, they won't cover it.
Okay, we're all fascinated by Miss Fox. I think she's truly attractive, and with time and experience she'll have the acting chops to match her beauty. She's gone through plenty of exposure; one could say she's been overexposed and analyzed to the point it's a little strange. (Other celebrities have gone through the same thing, of course. Madonna could tell her stories about living in a fishbowl.) The only criticism I'd have of her is she has too many tats. Yes, there is such a thing as too much body art.
A little too much has been ado about what Megan Fox says and does, meanwhile. This story and that can only loosely be referred to as news, too. So she (accidentally!) snubbed a younger fan. So she talked a little out of turn about Michael Bay and Angelina Jolie, and called herself and her fellow actors in Hollywood 'prostitutes'. So there's something weird about her thumbs. SO WHAT? Most everything that we hear and see about her from those who decide it's 'newsworthy' can't be called news, and we haven't suffered burnout from it all. Yet.
However. These online media outlets who seemingly don't tire of dishing us this tidbit or that about Megan Fox supposedly say they ARE tired of it all? And they're going to 'bless' us with a Fox-news-free day? How nice of them! I've heard too much about her, too! What a pleasant change of pace!
What a bunch of bullshit!
These oh-so-generous online media outlets are the ones who decide to bring us the stories about Megan Fox in the first place! They and those like them have been profiting from sticking her in a fishbowl ever since everyone became aware of her! To say they'll abstain from doing what they've (gladly!) been doing again and again ad nauseum about Megan Fox or ANYONE famous is self-serving in the extreme. In fact, it promotes...yep, you guessed it...themselves!
The whole thing is so stupid, it's funny. I have no doubt Miss Fox has had a good laugh now and then about how so many make her 'news' and profit from her accordingly. The only unfunny part about it is that the certain media outlets will get right into it again (with every other damn media outlet) after this day is over the next time she says or does something.
Burnout might not be far away, and Megan Fox might be relieved to see it!
Monday, July 27, 2009
In the world of comics, Clark Kent aka Superman asked simply, "What's so funny about 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way?' when his own old-fashioned worldview (thanks to his old-fashioned, adopted mom and dad) was not only questioned but attacked by some would-be 'new-fashioned' heroes who didn't give a rip about anything or anyone but themselves. (Interestingly enough, he had a similar dispute with an up-and-coming African-American superhero, but it was more about the black guy having a problem with Superman's whiteness...I guess the fact Superman is the last son of Krypton, which also makes him a so-called 'minority', didn't make much difference.) I have to ask the same, what's funny -- or wrong, according to some assholes -- with a little old-fashioned Red, White and Blue? I guess I'm not SENSITIVE enough. I guess I have to be part of some historically-marginalized so-called 'MINORITY' to understand and therefore be more correct accordingly. Bullshit. By the way, I hate when someone else is described as being part of a 'minority'...that, boys and girls, is marginalizing.I don't have a damn thing to apologize for, and I never will...I'm not responsible for this historic wrong or that perpetrated by SOME LEADERS of my country in the past, or in more contemporary times. (Yes, even our current President Obama might do something wrong while he's in office, or at least make a mistake that would affect many, many others.) Besides, isn't blaming my country and everyone who's a part of it for the wrongs some in power committed through history the same as blaming all African-Americans for gangs on the streets? Discuss THAT point if you have the guts, you PC-bandits.
I'm also a geek...that means besides growing up with George Reeves and then Christopher Reeve as Superman, I got hooked to watching "G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero" on TV. How the hell couldn't I? A growing American boy gravitates naturally to sci-fi, good-vs-evil action in toons, and what set this toon apart from similar adventure shows from "The Transformers" to "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" was its clear and present flag-waving. You could almost smell fireworks from the Fourth of July when every episode started with an announcement of "G.I. Joe's" basic premise...
G.I. Joe is the code name for America's daring, highly-trained special mission force! Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world!
One also has to take into account this was the 1980's I'm speaking of...the decade the most correct of us supposedly hate so much because of President Ronald Reagan, and it's painfully obvious how politically motivated correctness is. It was also the decade when we Americans were honestly encouraged to take pride in our joined identity and our home. After that, the correct started to get their hooks in us and told us we should make apologies and obsess over how others see us instead of be proud. Again, I make no apologies.
Seriously, what's wrong with being patriotic? I love my country and my fellow Americans...that means I love ALL of my neighbors, no matter where they're from or what color their skin might be. So-called 'minorites' are bitter over historic wrongs which they're taught for some damn reason is a part of their ethnic identities, and so I'm supposed to be bitter, too? Or sorry for wrongs I never committed? There's no sense in that...furthermore, one more time, bullshit!
There's no harm in being patriotic...and "G.I. Joe" was harmless, flag-waving fun. In a conceit toward its young audience, no one ever got killed -- except for a dark two-parter in which an alternate reality was portrayed where most every Joe was K.I.A. and Cobra took over the world(!). There was the threat of harm, sure...plenty of tanks, jet fighters and shit got turned to scrap metal every episode, but like "The A-Team", its violence was bloodless and entertaining. For crying out loud, each episode had a public service announcement geared to the kids at the end of each episode! How harmful is that?
The villains of the show were even portrayed to comedic effect more often than not...Cobra Commander was a whining bitch of an incompetent, Destro was as much bluster as he was smart, and the Baroness was so serious even a member of the Taliban would say, "You take this terrorist shit too seriously!" The bad guy twin brothers, Tomax and Xamot, I couldn't take seriously even if you threatened me with a gun. The good guys were colorful in their own right...Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Roadblock (Mr. T wannabe!), and more have a welcome place in my pop culture consciousness. :)
I loved "G.I. Joe", from the toons to the comic books, back in the day...MANY from my generation did, and there's nothing wrong with that.
That's why the kid in me is ready to see the new "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" live-action movie coming soon, which is looking to make its own mark...like the "Transformers" film from a couple of years ago, I'm not expecting a perfect echo of days gone by. I've even braced myself for the likelihood that the correct powers that be will tone down the patriotism always at G.I. Joe's heart considerably. I just want it to be good and at least half-true to its source material. With the steady creative downturn in Hollywood in recent years, though, I seriously have to wonder.
I want it to AT LEAST be as good as the recent web series "G.I. Joe: Resolute". Unlike the coming film, this toon doesn't reboot things to Square One and how the conflict between the Joes and Cobra started. In fact, written by Warren Ellis, "Resolute" is a much more mature nod to those of us who grew up with and know the Joes so well. In short, Cobra Commander acknowledges his cartoon-comic roots by wanting to send the message that those kid glove days are over, and he's not afraid to kill Joes or an entire damn CITY to conquer the world. And even in the first chapter, he does just that! The Joes keep it real in retaliation, and they're ready to shoot to kill if need be. And it's all good! :)
Hopefully for those of us who grew up with the Joes, the new movie can even measure up to "Resolute". Yo, Joe!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Rep. Carolyn Maloney Apologizes Over N-word Slip
by Mary C. Curtis
It's a simple rule for politicians: Never start your campaign with an apology. And another good one: Refrain from using racial epithets, even when you're quoting someone else. It's never going to come out quite the way you intended.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, is apologizing for using the n-word while retelling a story intended to damage her opponent. All she's managed to do is damage her own chances.
"I apologize for having repeated a word I find disgusting," Maloney said in a statement. "It's no excuse, but I was so caught up in relaying the story exactly as it was told to me that, in doing so, I repeated a word that should never be repeated."
Maloney's aides say she will proceed with plans to formally announce her candidacy next week for the U.S. Senate seat held by (fellow Democrat) Kirsten Gillibrand. City Hall, a biweekly publication and political Web site, quoted Maloney criticizing Gillibrand in a story dated July 17:
"I got a call from someone from Puerto Rico, said [Gillibrand] went to Puerto Rico and came out for English-only [education]. And he said, 'It was like saying n-r to a Puerto Rican,' " she said, using the full racial slur. "I don't know -- I don't know if that's true or not. I just called. I'm just throwing that out. All of her -- well, what does she stand for?"
Gillibrand's aides say she opposes English-only education, a controversial issue, particularly among Hispanics.
Though there is no good time for this sort of gaffe, Maloney's came not long before her Monday night New York fundraiser, attended by former President Bill Clinton. At that event, when asked about the incident, Maloney told the New York Daily News, "I issued a statement and the statement speaks for itself."
She also noted, "We are a multi-racial country and we are all working together, moving forward."
No one is accusing Maloney of being a racist, not even the Rev. Al Sharpton, who nevertheless said in a release: "No public official, even in quoting someone else, should loosely use such an offensive term and should certainly challenge someone using the term to him or her." Then again, Sharpton has formally endorsed Gillibrand's Senate bid.
It is fair to question Maloney's judgment, especially since she said in the interview that she didn't know if the story told to her was true or not. And the Senate race hasn't really started yet.
First off, that's a word I'll never use...whether when talking to people, or writing stories.
But this situation makes me ask some measured, thoughtful questions about the state of politics today. Keep in mind that I hate politics. The questions are as follows...
1) Why is wanting English-centered education racist when we're talking about those from Puerto Rico? Or any non-white ethnicity, for that matter?
2) Something Miss Curtis didn't focus on, but should have, was Maloney's statement -- which in her words speaks for itself -- and Maloney also saying that SHE DIDN'T KNOW IF IT WAS TRUE! So not only was Maloney saying something deliberately inflammatory, the odds are good she was wrong, or worse lying?
3) If Maloney is part of the supposedly progressive, liberal Democrats, why not open a straight, thoughtful debate with fellow Democrat Gillibrand? I guess because Gillibrand has some conservative, supposedly intolerant views, Maloney thought she had an opening?
4) Why do people supposedly progressive and liberal insist on saying we're a 'multi-racial' country? We're a multi-ETHNIC country...there is no such thing as racial dividing lines in a single human race. If liberals insist otherwise, why the hell are they still considered progressive?
5) If Maloney says we're all working together -- or should be -- why did she do exactly the opposite with as much class as a rabid pit bull?
And last but not least:
6) Why aren't we seeing as much of an uproar from the media about a Democrat saying that word as we would if a supposedly less enlightened, conservative Republican had said it, even as a quote? You don't think it has to do with the fact that those in the news media, most of them 'progressive' Democrats, would only focus on the kind of news that would make Republicans look bad? Again?
I already know the answers to those questions, of course. I'm posing them here for anyone who'd care to read them, and hopefully have the common sense to know the answers like I do. Then you can figure out once and for all why I hate politics.