Category Movies

Stuff I Do When I’m Not Here

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I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell – I loved this book. I read an excerpt, Mithridates of Fond du Lac, on a recommendation by my friend Felix, and was so hooked by Kent’s style that I immediately bought the book. Whether the subject is the gathering of the juggalos, Tom Savini’s school of makeup, or a man who is attempting to become immune to all snake venom, Kent captures them with interest, respect, and care, not mockery, in a fashion similar to another book I loved, Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics by Gideon Defoe – The Pirates! series holds a special place in my heart, and this new adventure with Charles Babbage, Mary Shelley, and Lord Byron is a perfect addition. I cried with suppressed laughter more than once, choking it back so as not to irritate everyone on the plane. Have an excerpt from an argument the Pirate Captain is having with a Swiss banker: The Pirate Captain tossed his beard about and waved his arms. ‘Oh, it’s all becoming clear to me! Shall I tell you what the problem is? It’s that you don’t know what it is to live and laugh and love and run a man through! You’ve never tasted the salty air on your tongue or waved heartily at a mermaid! It would be impolite to call you a shrivelled little bean counter who wouldn’t know drama if it kissed you on the mouth, but nonetheless – I’m afraid that’s exactly what you are. You people have no flair, no romance, no sense of adventure! Everything’s just numbers for you! Well, you can’t reduce passion and flair and eating ham to numbers, sir! Good day to you!’

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson – Jason is a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and he convinced me to try The Way of Kings. It starts off a little iffy, but it didn’t take long for me to get sucked in, and the book later revisits those earlier chapters from a different perspective and by then, you understand what’s going on and it’s much more gripping. By the last quarter of the book, I was saying “What? WHAT?! OH SHIT” about every five minutes and seconds after finishing it, I bought the second book, Words of Radiance, which I’m now plowing through at record speed.

On my TV/movie screen:

Grace & Frankie – I enjoyed the first season of this show but didn’t love it. The acting is phenomenal, but the writing is sitcomm-y and sort of obvious.

Mad Max: Fury Road – I actually was not excited about going to see this from the trailer. But I fucking loved it. LOVED. IT. I would like a war rig for traffic jams, please.

Mad Max –  How did something as great as Fury Road come from something so bad? I fell asleep. Twice.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – I really wanted to love this movie, but it was just OK. I’d listen to James Spader read the phone book, enthralled, so Ultron is not the problem here. The whole thing just came off formulaic, low-stakes, and sadly, a bit boring. I read this post about the movie’s problems later and couldn’t agree more.

Poltergeist – It was a nice homage to the original, but like so many horror movies, suffers from the ubiquitous jump scares. There’s no horror, no existential dread in that style of movie, and that’s a huge shortcoming.

Maleficent – Hated it. I feel it could have had a variety of different subtitles. Maleficent: Portrait of a Stalker. Maleficent: Cottage Creeper. Maleficent: 90 Minutes of Filler.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 – I couldn’t make it twenty minutes into this movie, it was so godawful. I’ll admit to enjoying the first movie, but it didn’t exactly call for a sequel, especially not a straight-to-video sequel.

Game of Thrones Season 5 – I’m loving and I’m hating the show this season. It probably doesn’t help that they’re drawing from my least favorite book in the series, but the substantial deviations they’ve made from the book are occasionally frustrating and upsetting. I’m not going to really get into it here so as to avoid spoilers for those who are not yet caught up with the show.

House of Cards – I’ve watched a few episodes and so far I hate it. Unless the showrunners are winking at the audience and making a show about about a guy who thinks he’s a puppetmaster but isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, I just don’t get it.

Jurassic World – I’m going to see this on Friday and I am so damn excited. Jurassic Park came out at an age when I was primed for dinosaur based adventure, and this one looks like an actually good sequel. I may have shed a tear the first time I saw the trailer.

In my kitchen:

I’m keeping up with my “try at least one new recipe a week” goal (smashing it, actually). It’s been a great way to try new ingredients, use parts of a plant that I might not otherwise (like carrot tops), make the most of what’s been growing in my garden, and increase my low-carb repertoire. Here’s some stuff I’ve been cooking recently: Bora Bora fireballs, velvety carrot soup with carrot top pesto, easy thai shrimp soup, and low carb meatballs. Tonight I’m making asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup!

On the project docket:

I bought a beautiful desk on Craiglist that I’m refinishing; once I’m done with that, I’ll move it upstairs and do some furniture rearranging, which I’m sure thrills Jason to no end. “Help me carry this desk to upstairs to this room and then we can move the desk that was already in there to another room and take the furniture that was in there downstairs.” It’s the endless shuffle of the never-quite-satisfied. I’m also working to finish up a couple of house project loose ends so I can start the new stuff that interests me more. I’ve also been making progress on Jason’s Halloween costume because if I’m going to make two detailed outfits to wear absolutely nowhere, damn it, I need as much time as I can get. Plus I’m out in the garden more often than not lately. Sometimes weeding, sometimes grazing, sometimes battling wasps. You know, the usual.

Kualoa Ranch: Home of the World-Famous Stick

kualoa ranch Before our trip to Oahu, I spent some time researching different things we could see and do, which ultimately led to this conversation. “Honey! There’s a ranch that you can tour and see the famous log from Jurassic Park!” “So you’re telling me that we’re going to fly six hours to go see a stick?” “…yes.” There’s more to Kualoa Ranch than their stick. I opted to take their movie site bus tour, which runs about 90 minutes and was the least strenuous of their tour options, which was unfortunately a consideration because I somehow managed to get sick on vacation again. The worst was behind me so I wasn’t creating a plague bus ground zero situation, but I definitely wasn’t up to anything more difficult than sitting on my ass and listening to someone talk. Luckily, the tour bus driver was serving up exactly what I was looking for, telling us about the history of the ranch, local flora and fauna, movie and TV info, and the occasional joke. The movie stuff was actually the least interesting part of the tour, which I never would have anticipated. While we drove to the first stop of the tour, the bus driver told us about Hawaiian land divisions, or ahupua’a. Land divisions would be determined by a chief, and they would generally go in a wedge shape from the mountain all the way to the water, encompassing all the land in between. In this way, not only did each land division contain all of the things that were needed to survive (and thrive), but it was also ensured that the land was being worked to its greatest potential. Hawaiians didn’t believe in owning land, rather, they were its caretakers. Land divisions were not private ownership, but they did share similarities–each land division would stay in care of the same family, passed down from one generation to the next. Those who cared for the land paid taxes back to the overseer, whose job was to collect goods to support the chief. It’s my understanding that Kualoa Ranch comprises the land that was once a land division. In 1850, an American doctor bought the land from King Kamehameha III. Since then, the land has been home to a sugar plantation, been occupied by the US military during World War II, and is now a cattle ranch, farm, movie site location, and tourist destination. Our first stop on the tour was at one of those World War II bunkers, built and abandoned by the military and reappropriated by Kualoa Ranch to display movie posters and other memorabilia. The bus driver warned us about the wind before we exited the bus, and I still almost lost my hat–I think the only thing that saved it was it getting momentarily caught in the rat’s nest I call my hair which gave me enough time to reach up and grab it. Much like the Pali Lookout and the Vista House at Crown Point, you could conceivably be blown away if you caught the wind just right. pillbox kualoa gorgeous ocean view kualoa ranch It wasn’t the wind that took my breath away, though. Look at that gorgeous water! After we finished walking through the bunker and gawking at the view, we re-boarded the bus and drove into the valley.  On the way, we saw some of Kualoa’s pipi (cows, but pipi is a much cuter name), a wild boar, and a native duck that is now endangered which the bus driver says is a tragedy because it’s supposedly delicious, which may or may not help to explain its endangered status. herd of pipi wild pig One more curve in the road, and we were in the Kualoa valley, filming location for dozens of movies and home to one famous stick in particular. kualoa valley misty mountains fake easter island head jurassic park log There it is, in all its glory! Granted, it’s deteriorated somewhat in the intervening years since 1993, and you could basically throw down any log and tell me it’s the one from the movie and I’d believe you, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to pose with it anyway. Because have you really lived if you went to see a famous stick but didn’t then pose with the stick and maybe photoshop a few dinosaurs into it later? I would venture to say you haven’t. there's a dinosaur gallimimus t rex kualoa After reboarding the bus, we saw some of the tracks from Godzilla (don’t get excited, it was from the Matthew Broderick one)–they had to fill them in substantially because the pipi were falling in at night and getting trapped. We also saw Hurley’s golf course from Lost, and a bunch of stuff from movies that didn’t crack 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. godzilla track hurleys golf course kualoa ranch valley On our way back to the visitor center, we stopped at a spot with a beautiful view of Kamehameha’s Turtle and Mokoli’i, and then we were released and given the run of the ranch–to check out their petting zoo, pat horses, view their educational video, and (of course), press a penny or two. I made sure to do everything, and while their petting zoo was far from the world’s most exciting, I did greatly enjoy their tree goats. And I’ll always make time for horse snuffles. turtle and dragon tail sleepy kitty goatloaf tree goat tortoise The stick may have been what brought me to Kualoa, but if I’m on Oahu again, I’d totally go back. The zipline tour looks fun, and I have it on good authority that the ATV tour is so fun it might make you pee a little. So maybe I’ll pack an extra pair of underwear, too.

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Blood & Guts & Punch & Pie: St Splatrick’s Day

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It blows my mind a little to think that I’ve been throwing parties on nearly every Friday the 13th for the last five years. For the most recent iteration, I invited people over to partake in corned beef, fauxtatoes, Irish cupcakes with three kinds of alcohol, and most importantly, the cult classic movie Leprechaun. Leprechaun, at its surface, is your typical “monster stalks and kills” movie, but it’s also so much more. It’s the story of a “monster” who was robbed of his property, wrongfully imprisoned for years, and his eventual release and his attempts to reacquire that which is his. It’s the story of a “monster” who can’t help but stop to clean a dirty shoe when he sees it, because he knows the importance of grooming and presentation. A “monster” who enjoys riding around in an array of tiny vehicles. I’m going to come right out and say it: the leprechaun is an antihero who got a bad edit.

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Out of everyone in the story, the leprechaun’s intentions and goals are by far the clearest and most relatable. Don’t believe me? Your other options are: 1. A guy who went to Ireland to bury his mother and decided to go gold-hunting instead, shipping his treasures back in her urn, presumably having dumped her ashes somewhere along the way to make room 2. The woman who sees her husband holding a handful of gold coins and telling the story of how he got them, and deciding he’s just some goofball drunken liar despite the physical proof right in front of her 3. A man and a woman who appear to be in a winter-spring marriage situation except the old guy is taking his young wife to a filthy abandoned house in the country instead of, I don’t know, literally anywhere else, and the young wife is insufferably obnoxious with roving eyes and then later you find out they’re father and daughter which is even more strange because what are they even doing? 4. A paint crew dude with a sweet mullet and no personality save for making eyes at the daughter 5. A paint crew guy who appears to spend as much time eating paint as he does actually painting 6. The paint crew’s precocious little scamp kid sidekick who works with them? Or something? And they don’t mind when he hits them with slingshot debris and openly flouts labor laws? I don’t even know.

Actually, now that I look at that list of horrible people, I think I’m going to upgrade the leprechaun to full hero status. These people robbed him, trapped him in a crate, cut off his hand, poked out his eye, shot him repeatedly including in the face,  and he still polished their shoes and gave them so many chances to make things right. Sure, he does some light murdering, and a bit of mangling, but on the whole it’s mostly justifiable. lep-92

Man, I hope Warwick Davis has a stunt double.

The Battle of Five Armies and my Scumbag Brain

The third Hobbit movie comes out a month from today and I am so very very excited! I’ve been stalking the iPic website in the hopes of snagging recliner seats on opening weekend (soon, precious, soooooon). A number of my friends take issue with the splitting of a book you could read in an afternoon into three films and believe Peter Jackson desperately needs a heavy-handed editor, but I disagree because I would probably pay to watch 100 movies of this quality set in that world. If they want to make some pre-prequels, I’m in. I’ll be first in line for Lord of the Rings 17: Isildur Come Home and Middle Earth 9: Honey I Shrunk the Dwarf. Unless Michael Bay takes over on his quest to kill everything I love.

There have definitely been some unintended hilarious moments, though. I edited in what I think EVERY TIME I see this scene from The Desolation of Smaug. Every time.

X-Men: Days of Future Half-Assed

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Jason: So now that we’re married, I feel like I should probably come clean. I have mutant powers.

Mellzah: What powers?

Jason: Basically all of them, only half-assed. Instead of adamantium claws, I’ve got plastic knives, and occasionally a spork.

Mellzah: And your magnetic powers?

Jason: I use larger magnets to control smaller magnets and the occasional small metallic object.

Mellzah:  And your teleporting powers, can you only use those in the game Portal?

Jason: Now you’re catching on! I can also read minds so long as it involves a thought bubble, hold a laser pointer near my eyes and zap things,  time-travel by turning clocks and calendars back, and I can throw playing cards at people.

Mellzah: That’s really more eighth-assed. Quarter-assed at best.

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a unicorn among media portraying time-traveling in that I didn’t hate it. It was set up in such a way that it didn’t result in a paradox or the tired “avoid your past self” business, it established limits to how far and who could time travel so it doesn’t raise questions of “Well, why don’t you go further and do ____”, and there was no “I’m my own grandpa” subplot. I also liked that Peter Dinklage played Bolivar Trask and there was no mention of his stature whatsoever, which is a step forward in terms of putting a greater diversity of people onscreen: everyone deserves to have someone who looks like them represented in popular media without treating them like a token. I like the undercurrent of Professor X learning respect for women. I think the only thing that annoyed me was how they had to show Mystique transform into her blue form practically every time she was onscreen. We get it! We remember it’s her! Frankly, if she was able to maintain her disguise while beating some ass, some of these problems would never have arisen in the first place, because people wouldn’t be like “WHOA, MUTANT”, they’d just think that some garden variety vanilla human came down with a case of whoop-ass. Oh, and that overblown thing Magneto does. That’s annoying, too. You’re already overpowered, dude. No need to bring an atomic bomb to a slapfight.

A Christmas Carol Recap

At some point in your life you’ve been exposed to A Christmas Carol, Dickens’ story of a Libertarian man who believes in self-sufficiency and desperately tries to keep his uneducated entitled workers from sucking him dry, but has a series of nightmares one night and goes completely insane, flinging money away like the free market wouldn’t take care of the poor already if they were deserving and completely forgetting that helping people won’t teach them the importance of bootstrapping. It’s been made and remade approximately half a million times, and you’re sure to find someone’s version playing on TV in the month of December–one year, I recall falling asleep in front of the television with the Lifetime channel on (shut up) and woke up to no fewer than three different versions, my own version of three mediocre made-for-TV spirits which immediately made me regret the mistake I’d made: paying for cable.

For all of the existing versions, Disney realized there was a hole in the market: no version existed that was so definitively creepy that it would haunt your very soul…especially not one made for children, and they’re not one to leave a cash cow unmilked. Today, I’m recapping this version for you. Merry Christmas.

A Christmas Carol: Disney Makes You Fear For Your Soul

The movie opens on what’s probably the cheeriest of all Christmas scenes: a dead scowling body being held together with a tube sock and change to keep you from seeing the maggots swirling around in the eye sockets. Even Mr. Stiff Crotchett doesn’t want to see that, which is why his glasses are perched up on his forehead instead of, I don’t know, in the garbage, because it’s not like he’s ever going to use them again. It makes me wonder if Guy Fieri will be buried with sunglasses perched on the back of his head.

A crusty Scrooge leans over him, decrepit and scraggly in a way that you just know that his breath is putrid. You can see it escaping him in a little cloud of limburger, garlic, and seventy one years of refusing to pay a visit to the dentist.

It smells so disgusting that it’s making the funeral apprentice woozy, even causing a few of his pimples to burst and ooze. After he blacks out, we cut to a scene of swooping over London rooftops and through the city streets to show you just how awful it was to live in the Victorian period regardless of what a steampunk enthusiast might tell you.

For example, child jails had yet to be invented, so wretched little orphans used to heckle hard working citizens through their window grates, after breaking out all of the glass (the better to heckle and let all of the heat out–were they born in a barn?)

Poisoned giblets are flung out in the street in the hopes of clearing out some of the child riff-raff, but the mystery meat is scooped up by Zuul, the gatekeeper of Gozer the Gozerian, for some reason that’s never explained but probably involves summoning some ghosts for later in the movie.

This child is expressing what we all feel at the moment, but hold onto your butts, people, we’re only six and a half minutes in, so you may as well grab a drink and settle in.

Seven Christmas eves later, and we can clearly see that Scrooge has not washed his hair once in this entire time period, making him officially even more frugal than the stockpiling moms in Extreme Couponing. What they don’t show is him scraping off his natural foot oils to use as chapstick, as he considers himself quite the lady-killer and wants to keep his lips moist and dewy for heavy makeouts at any time.

In another brilliantly frugal move, Scrooge has hired an illegal immigrant from the Planet of the Apes to do his books, thus saving him a significant amount in labor costs and payroll taxes. Its fascination with fire, however, does cost him some man-hours.

Mr. Darcy drops in to brood by the fire and to let all of the pining ladies know that not only has he aged terribly, he now also dresses poorly as well, layering coats like a hobo.

The monkey man, however, is still quite turned on by the presence of the Mr. Darcy and leers at him from across the room, basically eye-jungle-trysting him. Mr. Darcy knows it and doesn’t exactly discourage the behavior, enjoying playing the temptress.

Scrooge is immediately jealous as he feels his position as the Alpha Sex Male is threatened, and he in turn threatens his monkey man with a savage beating with a ruler. Love triangle!

“I loved you first” Scrooge whispers to Mr. Darcy, leaning in ever closer, pursing his foot chapstick lubricated lips and fluttering his lashes. I should probably tell you that Jim Carrey was my first ever crush and aside from all of the questionable stuff he’s done lately, this movie is doing an excellent job of killing whatever attraction I’ve ever had. Seriously. I used to have a scrapbook of photos that I’d swoon over, and when I was about fifteen and my family was traveling to California to visit my grandparents, I wrote him a letter and invited him to have Easter dinner with the family, like he’d drive down from Los Angeles, pass the potatoes and fall deeply in love with me in a non-pedophilic fashion and vow to wait until I was 18 so we could get married and say our vows by talking out of our butts at one another, Ace Ventura style. My mistake was not in sending the letter, but in telling my family that they shouldn’t be surprised if we had an extra guest at dinner, and on April first, my grandfather called me over to the phone, excitedly saying “Oh Melissa, it’s Jimmy Carrey on the phone for you!” when in reality it was my aunt holding her nose, pretending to be his secretary and turning down the dinner invitation. My family is nothing if not cruelly hilarious; I may find it in my heart to forgive them sometime in the coming decade.

Getting back to the film in progress, the monkey man is also impressed by the next visitors, the founders of the Extreme Facial Hair Men’s Society, one of whom’s eyebrows are attempting to escape from his face in shame. They’re soliciting donations for facial hairplugs for men who can only grow sad little sex-offender mustaches; little do they know that they’re barking up the wrong tree as Scrooge has been saving his pennies for decades in the hopes of implanting his own facial jungle, so they’re flung out on the street without so much as a “no thank you”.

The workday complete, Scrooge heads home for a night of getting hammered and digging through couch cushions for change, only to have his doorknob turn into the Ghost of SuperCuts past. “HUMBUG!” Scrooge cries. “You might as well have grown it out for free rather than wasting tuppence on that hack job!”

By making a world-class series of kissy faces at it, he convinces the spectre to go away, working better than any “excorcism” the bros from Ghost Adventures could ever attempt.

Scrooge then settles in for his Christmas eve activity: mixing and eating a bowl of cement to coat his intestines to prevent him from absorbing any holiday calories so he can stay trim and still fit into the designer clothes he thifted from Ye Olde Victorian Goodwille when he was twelve.

“I can’t believe it’s not butter!” he exclaims.

Suddenly, there’s a surprise delivery from UPS! Who knew they were working this late on Christmas eve?

“WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?!”

“Why yes, I’d be happy to do my Liza Minelli impersonation!”

“I’m not saying it’s not good, just that I’ve seen better.” Enraged, the UPS man goes on his way.

At one in the morning, Scrooge wakes up with heartburn and realizes that the cement mix must have gone off as he hallucinates his face onto a candle. He can’t help but note with a smirk that even his hallucinations are turned on by his animal magnetism…he sees the little sprig of mistletoe the candle just happens to be holding.

Sure enough, Waxy Buildup Scrooge swoops in for some heavy petting action. “Too soon! Too soon!” Scrooge The Person cries. “You haven’t even bought me dinner yet!”

Still, his touch is magical, and Scrooge The Person is suddenly so filled with infatuation with Waxy Buildup Scrooge that he feels that he could jump from the rooftops and fly. “He’s got the touch! He’s got the power!” Scrooge The Person swoons.

Sky rockets in flight! Afternoon delight!

Look, kid, I know you’re still emoting what we’re all feeling at the moment, but there’s still 2/3rds of the movie left to go, you may as well grab another drink.

After tiring of spying on children, the lovers find themselves late and underdressed for a performance of Riverdance.

Michael Flatley boots them out and they decide to spend the rest of their evening together skydiving.

“That was a hell of a dream,” Scrooge muses. “The skydiving bit must be when I fell on the floor. This will be a fun nugget to share at the office tomor–oh blast, the office is closed. I HATE CHRISTMAS!”

Suddenly, the sitting room fills with light and Scrooge enters to find Scrooge Jesus perched atop a tree in Hugh Hefner’s robe.

Scrooge Jesus is full of the holiday spirit of Christmas mockery, supposedly laughing at Scrooge but mainly laughing at the audience for being fools so easily parted from their money. “You’re only half done, assholes!” he cries. “There’s still plenty more of Uncanney Valley Jim Carrey to shudder at; since we’re paying him a fortune, we’re going to use him as much as possible!”

Scrooge Jesus turns Regular Scrooge’s mansion into a glass bottom boat and gives him a tour of the city, known as the “Point and Laugh at Everyone” tour. Scrooge Jesus also points out all of the places he’s given positive reviews on Yelp. “Their bread? HO HO HO! Five stars! But a child was screaming at the baker through the window so I knocked it down to four.”

We learn that not only has the Monkey Man taken a human bride, but he’s also fathered a freakshow’s worth a children. Here is is with his gargantuan daughter. They breathlessly exclaim that they hope one day that they might be able to taste a turkey, which is how you know they are poor indeed, to be lusting after the Saharan sand of meat.

The human bride, regretting being outcast from her parents’ home for her choice of husband, gets drunk and starts railing about politics at the table, embarrassing everyone.

Their most pathetic child, Little Timmy, has made himself sick with trying to heal his parent’s marriage and stop his mom’s drinking problem, and in one moment he decides he cannot take it anymore, but attempts to cover up his despair with a treacle-y toast. “By god, I hope this glass is full of poison,” he prays. Scrooge Jesus says that if nothing is done to alter this timeline, Little Timmy will get his death wish and kill his parents with guilt.

Regular Scrooge ponders and realizes what he must do–climb the clocktower and take out Little Timmy himself.

Scrooge Jesus pulls apart his robes to reveal that he’s been breeding an army of scrawny Gollums to do his bidding, and Scrooge is so impressed that he forgets all about the clocktower business and Little Timmy. These two are named Ignorance and Want– Pestilence, Complaining, Itchy, and Honey Boo Boo are all off on a field trip somewhere.

Suddenly, all of the meat lover’s deep dish pizza Scrooge Jesus has been eating rushes straight into his heart and he collapses and dies, and god dammit, he’s left the caretaking of all of his monstrous mouths to feed to Regular Scrooge.

“La la la, there must have been some mistake in the will and if I don’t heeeeear you I certainly won’t have to spend the rest of my summer vacations and discretionary income at EuroDisney.”

In a stroke of genius, solving his own personal problem and a major problem of the city’s, Regular Scrooge invents child prisons and wipes his hands of the whole matter. “I’ll be back. You can’t keep the Liberals out of the House of Parliament forever. And when they get in, I’m back on the streets, with all my criminal buddies!”

On what is to be forever remembered as the Night of Too Many Drop-In Guests And Seriously Have They Never Heard of Calling Ahead, Skeletor pops by to loom ominously and chat about the fate of He-Man.

I’m beginning to think that this movie should have a subtitle. “A Christmas Carol: Scrooge’s Upskirt Shots”, perhaps, as they seriously never miss an opportunity to show you up his nightgown. I get it, I get it, scrawny old man legs.

Or maybe “A Christmas Carol: One Hell of a Bad Acid Trip”.

After what feels like twenty more minutes of Scrooge upskirt shots, Skeletor finally shows Scrooge something of import: his grave. Scrooge is appalled at the poor kerning and mourns not developing a better relationship with his typesetter. “Can this future not be changed? Can we not find a better font than Comic Sans?” Skeletor laughs and shoves him in the grave.

Scrooge awakens in yet another strange position and thinks “Hot DAMN this will be a great story to tell at the office toda–DAMN IT, I keep forgetting the office is closed today! I guess I’ll have to go bore people at their homes with stories of my dream interpretations. You see, the flying is representative of my hopes and aspirations, and the grave is clearly my insecurities about my knobby knees and…”

After yelling at a child to go buy the biggest turkey in town, Scrooge smiles with joy. It’s so easy, winning the love of the poor! Once he stuffs them full of Tryptophan, knocks them out, and drinks their love and admiration filled blood, he’ll live forever! Foolproof plan!

Someone other than the audience gets an upskirt shot for once, and from the looks of her face, she got an eyeful of the twig and berries and will be filing a sexual harassment claim as soon as Human Resources is open again.

However, Scrooge sees the lawsuit in her eyes and threatens to pull out her remaining front tooth, Chompy, if she dares to tell a soul.

Scrooge takes his newfound madness out into the street and tells the founder of the Extreme Facial Hair Men’s Society that as soon as he gets an opportunity, he’s going to slice off his skin and wear it as a mask so as to relieve his facial hair shame. But not today, because he’s got to go force his company upon his long-suffering relatives.

Suddenly, the monkey man steps out of time and becomes a narrator of things yet to come. “No moral, no message, no prophetic tract: Just a simple statement of fact. For civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own; for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to The Twilight Zone. Also: It was Earth all along.”

Merry Christmas to us all, every one!

“Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow! Bright Blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow!”

Now that The Hobbit is in theaters, I’m sure there will be some new omission to complain about (although with a book so short spread across three films, I’m fairly certain that even Tolkien’s toast crumbs on the original manuscript will appear in at least one of the three films, and maybe even have a starring role!), but there are some among you (nerds, mostly) who have never gotten over the fact that Tom Bombadil never appeared in the Lord of the Rings films. Well, prepare to have your elfin hair blown back, nerds, because in my pre-Hobbit rewatching of the trilogy, I caught a flash of…something out of the corner of my eye:

TOM. MOTHERLOVIN’. BOMBADIL. On his way to bore your tits off.

Peter Jackson, we never should have doubted you.

“Bring me my legs.”

This year is turning into “the year of the movie in the theater” for me. Usually, my drive to see a movie is lower than my drive to avoid being surrounded by humanity and their cell phone lights and rustling wrappers, but not this year: Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, The Expendables 2, The Hobbit, Snow White and the Huntsmen…and Piranha 3DD. This last one I had fully intended to see on Sunday when I discovered that it was not playing in a single theater near me. And not “not playing in the theater five minutes from the house” near me: not playing within 80 miles of me. Not playing at all, anywhere in this state. All in all, Piranha 3DD is only playing in 75 theaters nationwide. In order to see Piranha 3DD in the theater, I’d have to grab a passport, hop on a ferry, and watch it in Victoria B.C.: Canada coming through where the United States has clearly failed me.

Now, I almost considered it–a ridiculous trip for what was sure to be a ridiculous movie, plus Canada has delicious candy, but I also took a moment to investigate any other options. If I had Comcast, I could watch it via OnDemand, but Jason and I both think it’s stupid to pay for cable tv when it’s mostly comprised of wretched made-for-TV movies, 30 year old movies with anything remotely interesting edited out, home shopping, commercials, and infomercials. I could pay to watch it through Facebook or YouTube, but watching it on a relatively small screen with notifications blinking at me felt less than ideal. Then Jason discovered that we could stream it through Xbox Live: WE HAVE A WINNER.

It was worth every second of hassle. I truly don’t understand why it’s getting such negative reviews–yes, critics are practically required to hate horror-comedies because the genre doesn’t beautifully depict the human condition via a plastic trash bag blown to and fro by a capitalist wind, but that’s not the job of the horror-comedy. The horror-comedy’s job is to beautifully depict the human condition via the juxtaposition of blood and fake boobs. Sex, death, and fart jokes: the holy trifecta.

Piranha 3DD hits every single one of its targets–ridiculous monsters, great gore FX, delightfully stupid people, and a number of moments in which I was desperately sad that we weren’t watching in 3D as this is a movie that hearkens back to classic 3D tactics, none of this tasteful Avatar 3d where “You forget that you’re watching a 3D movie.” NO. This is campy magic, and I’m sure it’s even more magical when it’s thrust into your face. Riotously funny, at one point I commented to Jason that I was having difficulty deciding whether this was the movie of the year or the movie of the decad-BAM. Annoying child decapitation: MOVIE OF THE CENTURY.

The Shining vs The Shining vs The Shining

The Shining: A novel written by Stephen King in 1977, adapted to a film in 1980, and remade as a miniseries in 1997. Remembering very little other than the Simpsons parody of the movie, I decided to watch and read all of them over the course of a week in order to better compare and contrast the contents. I did this in a very specific order, watching the movie first so as not to punish it for any dissimilarity to the book, then reading the book, and finally watching the miniseries, which I recall being hyped as completely true to the book. What I learned is that while each version contains the same basic elements, they all end up telling a very different story.

The Movie

The movie is first and foremost a story about Jack Torrance. Jack Torrance has been hired to be the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. A former teacher, he considers himself primarily a writer and is looking forward to the long winter ahead in order to have more time to write. It is revealed that he has had problems with alcohol in the past, though it’s not a primary concern. It’s further revealed that a previous winter caretaker developed a severe case of cabin fever and killed himself after murdering his wife and two daughters with an axe. Jack’s five-year-old son, Danny, suffers from seizures over the course of which he sees glimpses of the present and the past. A shy boy, he communicates any sad or negative feelings with his mother, Wendy, through the use of “Tony”–a growly voiced (though polite) finger puppet. He also talks to himself via Tony in order to discuss current events, compartmentalizing his personality so he can better deal with his strange abilities. Neither parent openly acknowledges Danny’s abilities, and they are concerned that Tony is a sign of being mal-adjusted. When the family first arrives at the hotel, they meet a cook, Hallorann, who shares Danny’s abilities, and he tells Danny that if they run into any trouble over the course of the winter, to call him telepathically and he’ll come on the run. Danny occasionally sees remnants of bad things that have occurred over the course of the hotel’s history, while wandering the halls. The winter isolation is harder on Jack than he imagined it would be; his writer’s block is not alleviated by all of the free time, and because writing is his primary focus, the frustration becomes paramount. He begins to take out his frustrations on the family, first emotionally punishing them, and then falling so deeply into self-induced delusions that he attempts to murder his family with an axe, which he believes is the key to removing his writer’s block. Jack has disabled the CB radio, so Danny telepathically calls Hallorann, who indeed does come on the run, but is immediately murdered by Jack upon his arrival. Danny escapes outdoors into the hedge maze; Jack becomes lost and freezes to death while Danny and Wendy escape.

The Book

The book is first and foremost a story about the Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic with a bad temper who learned both habits from his father, has lost his teaching job after beating up a student for slashing his tires. A former drinking buddy has gotten Jack the winter caretaker position at the Overlook, for which Jack feels both grateful and resentful. Grateful for the opportunity, resentful that this friend should have so much more power than he, even though they both have been sloppy drunk together. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, is not pleased about having to hire Jack, as he loves the hotel, and has looked into Jack’s history and deemed him a poor candidate for such an important job. Jack’s five-year-old son, Danny, can read minds and has glimpses of the past/present/near future. Neither parent openly acknowledges Danny’s abilities at first, and are unsettled by them. When the family first arrives at the hotel, they meet a cook, Hallorann, who shares Danny’s abilities, and he tells Danny that if they run into any trouble over the course of the winter, to call him telepathically and he’ll come on the run. Danny is concerned about his parents’ marriage; he can see them contemplating a divorce, centering around his father’s temper, especially after doing “the bad thing” (drinking). He knows that going to The Overlook is a bad idea, but he also knows that there is no choice–his father needs a job. While at the Overlook, Jack discovers a scrapbook detailing all of the juicy, scandalous, hushed-up history of the hotel–gangland murders, etc. The hotel fuels an obsession in him; the ghosts and negative energy of the place becoming stronger day by day, slowly taking over Jack’s persona. Jack makes a last-ditch effort to save himself from the effects of the hotel by calling Ullman and letting him know he intends to write a tell-all book about the hotel, attempting to get himself fired so he can take his family and leave. Instead, he enrages the manger, who calls Jack’s drinking buddy, who impresses upon Jack that he must never write such a book, and leaves him feeling like a scolded child. Jack’s self-loathing takes hold and manifests into visions and memories of his abusive father; Jack loses hold of reality as the ghosts take over and ply him with manifested alcohol. While possessed by the negative spirits, thoughts of what his father would say, and his old nemesis alcohol, Jack destroys the CB radio and cripples the snowmobile, leaving them with no contact with the outside world and no means of escape. The hotel also begins stalking Danny in virtually every instance in which Danny is alone, attacking him with a woman who had died in the bathtub, regenerating wasps in a previously empty nest in Danny’s room, animating the hedge animals, sending a dead child after him in a snow tunnel, even animating a fire hose which menaces him like a venomous snake. It’s important to the ghosts in the hotel that Danny dies there, as his “shining” abilities make them much more powerful and able to manifest in physical form. The bits of Jack that remain in his near-shell of a body are tortured by feelings of inadequacy and a need to prove himself; he is enraged by the idea that the hotel might want his son more than it wants him, and thus he attempts to kill his family with a roque mallet to prove his worthiness. Danny calls Hallorann telepathically, who comes on the run. Hallorann finds Wendy severely beaten though not dead, and in his shock and horror, Jack sneaks up on him and hits him on the head with the same mallet, blacking him out. Jack then begins the search for Danny, and finds him on the third floor. Danny sees there is very little of his father left, that he’s nearly wholly possessed by the spirits of the hotel, and bravely informs the spectre in front of him that he knows the hotel has used his father. The last human part of Jack comes forth for a moment, encouraging Danny to run away because he loves him, but Danny doesn’t leave. The hotel spirits take over again and try to kill Danny, but Danny says he knows what his father has forgotten–that he hadn’t dumped the boiler that day, and that the hotel is about to explode. The spectre runs off to the boiler room, screaming that it can’t be too late, while Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann escape the building. The boiler explodes, the hotel goes up in flames, and in a last-ditch effort, the spirits attempt to take over Hallorann and have him kill Danny. Hallorann manages to shake it off, and it ends with Wendy and Danny trying to start a new life across the country.

The Miniseries

The miniseries is first and foremost a story about Danny Torrance, a seven year old boy with supernatural abilities. He can read minds, he sees glimpses of the future via a friend he calls Tony; he knows things that have happened without having been present. Hardly a minute passes without Danny using his powers to see something spooky. His parents are aware of and occasionally utilize his abilities when it’s convenient; for example, Wendy asks her son if his father got the job and celebrates when he answers in the affirmative. When Jack gets home, he acknowledges that she already knew he had the job from “the little Kreskin”. However, when Danny sees a bloody roque mallet sitting on his father’s front seat instead of groceries, no one is concerned enough to ask him what he might know about the hotel. Jack Torrance is a man who suffers from alcoholism and violent mood swings, going from loving father and able caretaker to enraged abuser in seconds. When the family first arrives at the hotel, they meet a cook, Hallorann, who shares Danny’s abilities, and he tells Danny that if they run into any trouble over the course of the winter, to call him telepathically and he’ll come on the run. Jack lost his teaching job after beating up a student for slashing his tires. A former drinking buddy has gotten Jack the winter caretaker position at the Overlook, which he accepts as he wants to use the time to write his play. While there, Jack becomes obsessed with the sordid history of the hotel, and as he reads about it, the spooky activity of the hotel increases. Danny begins to tell his mother about the spooky things he sees at the hotel, but she doesn’t believe him, as it’s convenient to the plot. Jack becomes lost in the psychic side of the hotel for a time, envisioning himself at parties filled with characters from the hotel’s history, but then he’ll look up for a moment and everyone will be gone, save for a bottle of alcohol. It leads one to believe that Danny is creating all of the negative things that are happening at the hotel with his abilities, and has thus driven his father over the edge. Danny believes that the hotel wants him, and that he has had a part in creating these monsters, but that they’re out of his control. Jack smashes the CB radio and the snowmobile with a roque mallet, preventing the family’s escape; Danny telepathically calls Hallorann to come save them. Jack attacks Wendy and then Hallorann with the mallet, eventually coming after Danny, who says he knows what his father has forgotten–that he hadn’t dumped the boiler that day, and that the hotel is about to explode. The spectre runs off to the boiler room, screaming that it can’t be too late. It wasn’t too late, but Danny manages to telepathically connect with his father to convince him to allow the hotel to explode, redeeming himself, while Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann escape the building. It ends with Danny graduating high school–his high school self is the spitting image of Tony. Oh, and the Overlook is being rebuilt.

So what does this all mean?

It’s impressive that given the same overall framework for the story, they all manage to be so different. The book and the movie each have their own merits–the book a commentary on the breakdown of a family unit, how alcoholism and abuse can be a vicious cycle, and like wasps, these things can hurt you over and over and over again. The movie is full of iconic imagery–the blood-filled elevator, Jack sitting at an empty bar that comes to life around him. The miniseries, which I began to call “The Shitting” after the first few minutes, isn’t worth watching. Stephen King was unhappy with the film because he felt that Kubrick had had missed some of the major themes, one of which was alcoholism. So, given the opportunity to make a miniseries, King decided to rectify this by making sure that the audience knew that Jack Torrance was the king (wordplay intended) of alcoholics. “This guy is such an alcoholic, I don’t know if we’ve told you yet, but he loves alcohol, he’s in AA, let’s make sure he attends at least one AA meeting over the course of the miniseries, because it would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that buddy, does this guy ever have a problem with alcohol!” They then picked the most annoying child possible to play the role of Danny, a boy who people who don’t even like children are supposed to like, so his casting was a complete backfire. He was too old to play the role, so they revised the character’s age up to seven, but forgetting that doesn’t work with the boy being very bright and learning to read before his time, so now he comes off as kind of slow. The special effects were terrible–the stalking hedge animals looked like a mess of lumpy green blobs, and the overall effect was one of hilarity instead of creeping menace the way it was in the book. (I know this was 1997, but the technology did exist to make them look better than they ended up, even in that time period.) For something that repeatedly claimed in its advertisements to be completely true to the book, it seemed that every thing Kubrick got right from the book, they got rid of (to eliminate comparisons) and everything Kubrick missed is what they put in. Potentially due to pandering to a TV audience, they added a lot of “supernatural spooky things” to remind viewers that they were watching something scary because the menace of alcohol wasn’t enough, they need doors opening and closing on their own, and chairs falling off of tables, and fires starting in fireplaces! They also added the horrible TV ending cliche of the bad guy redeeming himself at the last second, which is NOT in the book, regardless of what’s written on the Wikipedia entries. Jack’s rage also plays a bigger role in the miniseries–he struggles with rage in the book, but for TV, they had him screaming at every opportunity, which makes him utterly unlikeable and serves to render his moment of redemption worthless. “I know daddy was a mean, drunken, abusive shitbag this whole time, but this whole ‘saving you’ thing makes up for it forever, right?” Nnnope. Stephen King is a fine novel and short story writer, but when it comes to film, he falls too far in love with his words to know what makes for a cohesive short experience, which is why he needed someone like Kubrick for the film–someone removed from the writing, who can see the big picture. I recently read King’s “On Writing”, where he advises writers to not be afraid to kill their babies in order to make the overall story better. When it comes to film, King needs to take his own advice.

Winners: The Shining, The Shining

Losers: The Shining, Me

Monster Movie Madness: Michael Jackson’s Ghosts

Less a movie than a 38 minute long music video, Michael Jackson’s Ghosts portrays Michael Jackson as a loner living on the outskirts of town who enjoys entertaining the local children and who is about to be run out of town by a lynch mob. This was in no way inspired by real life events, right? Said angry mob is lead by the town’s mayor, who bears a striking resemblance to the lead prosecutor in the child abuse case against Jackson in 1993. In fact, if you watch it with a thought toward Jackson’s history and public opinion about him, it’s actually quite sad, as he was no doubt aware of all of the people who thought he was a freak, and it comes through crystal clear in Ghosts*. For maximum entertainment value, it’s probably best to enjoy it on a superficial level.

On a superficial level, this “movie” features: the worst angry mob I’ve ever seen, pretty great makeup effects, decent CG, MJ shooting ectoplasm out of his hands, and a moonwalking skeleton. Worth the watch for the moonwalking skeleton alone!

*However, if Michael Jackson entertained his guests by screaming “HOOOOO!” every few seconds, I’m glad I was never invited to Neverland.