Category Archives: Reviews

The lessons of Krull

Krull, the 1983 action/sci-fi spectacular, is a film that can be watched simply as an unparalleled piece of entertainment, yes, but the attuned viewer will pick up some terrific lessons as well, guidelines to help him or her live a happy, full life. Krull is a film that, like The Bible and the books of Hermann Hesse, was written with ideas in mind, very powerful ideas that the author not only wanted to share, but maybe on some level felt compelled to. Here are a couple of my favorite Krull lessons. What are yours?

  • Good warriors do not make good husbands — Yes, really: this saying, which is by now a well worn, widely trusted maxim of western culture, actually began with Krull. Lysette, the princess, is told by her cranky yet obviously quite wise father that… well, you know what he tells her. And of course he’s right � Prince Colwyn, about whom the wise king warns his daughter, is a very solid warrior and, we have to assume, turns out to be a really terrible husband. Of course exactly how he’s bad is beyond the scope of the film, which ends shortly after the two young lovers are re-united, but certain very obvious hints are dropped that leave little doubt in a viewer’s mind what kind of husband Colwyn will be: at one point, after camping in the swamp with his motley band of crusaders, Colwyn refuses to help pack up camp, asserting that his time is better spent practicing his sword moves, honing his bow & arrow moves, practicing his wrestling, or, at worst, shining his sword, bow, and arrows; another time, during the long perilous trek to find the Dark Mountain and his princess, Colwyn totally spaces the birthday of a fellow crusader because he’s too focused on how their tiny squad of scrappers will overcome the massive Slayer army and its leader, The Beast; and finally on one telling occasion Colwyn is asked to watch his brother-in-arms’s three and five year-old kids for 10 minutes while he [the brother-in-arms] spends some rare quiet alone time with his [Colwyn’s] wife [just kidding, it’s the brother-in-arms’s wife], but Colwyn gets distracted by some maps he wants to look at, gets all caught up in speculating aloud to himself on the possible location of the Dark Mountain, and totally misses the fact that the kids are sinking in a nearby pool (pit? patch?) of quicksand, even though they’re screaming for help, and so the kids die, or possibly go to live in the wonderful world below the quicksand, as Colwyn tries to explain to his brother-in-arms, but as the brother-in-arms tearfully argues, that seems like a real longshot.
  • The future will be a tasteful blend of cool new stuff and really old stuff — I think Krull is right on with this. Is the future going to be like Minority Report or Bladerunner? With essentially all the same stuff we have today but just developed and improved at a pretty consistent rate? So there are still cars, but they’re faster and safer and sleeker; and there are still houses, but they are all glass and steel and have robot butlers; and there is still Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford, but just slightly younger? No, I think Krull‘s vision is far more interesting, far more revolutionary. The future will have a couple of totally new things, like a really sleek, metallic main gate on the castle, and bad guys that fly around through space in mountains, mountains that can also teleport. But in the future we’ll have moved away from some of the stuff that we currently think of as useful: it’ll be back to horses and bye-bye to cars, hello again to Robin Hood-esque clothing made of leather and rope-belts, and lots of city planning based on a castle in the middle and houses spiralling out from the castle walls. Jesters will probably come back into vogue. We’ll return to hamfisted plays full of exaggerated archetypes instead of complex tableaux of human drama like Krull.
  • If you used to be the Spider Woman’s lover, she will pull certain strings to protect you from the huge murderous spider — A valuable thing to know. Let’s say, for example, that you learn the Spider Woman has a wonderful type of candy in her room, and you want to get some of this candy, to taste it, yet you know that the Spider Woman’s room lies at the center of a massive web that is the hunting grounds for a huge, huge murderous spider. How will you get at the candy? If you used to know the Spider Woman — I mean, like, know her — then you should go to the edge of the web and call out to her some telling bit of carnal knowledge to identify yourself (“You used to purr like a monkey when I slid a cherry popsicle between your glasses and your eyebrows!”). Once she realizes who it is, she’ll turn over an hourglass with roughly 2 minutes of sand in it. The huge spider knows not to attack you while that sand is running � hell, he’s a spider, not a monster! So you’ll be able to safely get across and root around in that bowl of candy like a hog in a truffle patch (pile? plot?). When you’re ready to go the hourglass trick won’t really work, so you’ll need to beam out of there or something. Maybe just shoot the spider. Something.
  • After defeating your main enemy, get the hell out of his lair fast, because it was his life force that was keeping the roof from collapsing and the walls from crumbling — This is something that only fantasy movies seem to be onto, and yet it’s something that D.E.A. and F.B.I. agents and various military personnel probably need to be told. The fact is, if you are going to kill a person on their property, you need to be ready to run like crazy the moment that person takes his last breath, because everything is going to start coming apart at the seams as soon as the bad guy’s life-force isn’t holding his house’s bricks and beams in place. Notice what happens to the Dark Mountain when Colwyn kills the Beast: it not only crumbles to pieces, but those pieces are sucked up into space. So yeah, you killed the main bad guy; now you can just sit there and gloat . . . in space, idiot!

The Chronicles of Riddick having seen the preview many times but never the actual film [spoilers!]

Coming at the end of an embarrassing string of cruddy action poops like XXX and XXX 2: Bat Poison, The Chronicles of Riddick is probably Dave Riddick�s last shot at wearing the heavyweight title that he would inherit from those action fixtures of the 80�s and 90�s of whom he seems a watery amalgamation: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis. Alas, the film announces not a victory, but instead Riddick�s intention to downclass to middleweight, to sprint and punch and stutter along with the Jean-Claude Van Dammes of the world, the Steven Seagals, the Dolph Lundgrens. Perhaps the problem is that all the good action scripts now draw talent like Tom Cruise and Will Smith, leaving guys like Riddick only ill-reasoned, dialog-tarded, proto-CGI fests. That said, Riddick and his emponymous film leave you with little doubt that Dave Riddick is here to stay, if only to fight his way through ten more years worth of high-action, low-concept films that will continue to be sufficiently entertaining to a certain demographic.
The year is 201704 A.D. (or whatever it was in Pitch Black), and the Necromongers, a warrior society intent on cosmic domination, are battling their way across the universe, leaving in their wake a scatter of scathed planets, their cities razed, their water supplies fouled, their nuns tempted. On each conquered world, the Necromongers plant half a dozen mile-high statues, effigies of the ruthless Necromonger High Commander, Pat. These serve both to remind the 19 people left living who it was again that erased their entire culture, and also to be scaled and swung from during theoretically harrowing fight scenes involving Riddick�s character, Vin Diesel.
It is by absent-mindedly running over a tiny model ship with their big model ship that the Necromongers first encounter Diesel, who is shown prior to the running-over in a shot that implies he�s on the tiny model ship, even though there�s no way even a cat could wedge itself into the tiny ship � by comparison, maybe five cats could comfortably hang out in the Necromongers� ship. Diesel looks on with his kind-of-wide-eyed facial expression, bathed in fire-colored lighting, as the tiny model ship that he�s make-believing he�s on is run over by the Necromonger ship. In the next shot, he�s a prisoner of the Necromongers, who all dress in armor, except for Winnie (Thandie Newton), who dresses in three small patches of fabric the same color as Necromonger armor. Winnie is High Commander Pat’s daughter and the wife of Zantor (Mathew McConaughey), second-in-command and first general under Pat. Winnie and Zantor both take an immediate liking to Vin Diesel, who impresses them as both a prime physical specimen and a person with shiny silver eyes. Also, as a purveyor of bon mots such as �Be my guest� and �You�ve got to be kidding�, he�s a hell of a funny guy to be around. Many happy interludes are had by these three burgeoning compadres. Zantor even offers Diesel a taste of Winnie�s ass, to which Diesel replies pithily, �I�m into guys.�
All is well until, 90 seconds after arriving on the Necromonger ship, Diesel tells his hosts that he�s ready to go, and that they should provide him with a ship since they smashed his little model ship. Winnie shoots Zantor a look that says �We can�t just let him walk out of here,� and her mouth says the very same thing, leaving little doubt in Zantor�s mind as to where Winnie stands on the issue of �Should Vin Diesel leave the Necromonger ship? Further, should we give him a small ship to leave on?� Zantor implores Diesel to stay, to share and assist in building the mighty Necroneptor empire, but Diesel declines by punching three Necroneptor soldiers in quick succession and driving a small ship out into space. Zantor and Winnie send the cr�me de la cr�me of their royal guard after Diesel, and turn their attention to the next planet they are �visiting�.
After several days of travel, Diesel stops off at a space station to refuel. Nature calls, and he rents out four lily white twelve year-olds and gets a room at the space station hotel and drills the children�s back ends into pudding, then settles in for a good night�s sleep. He wakes in the middle of the night with the gentle suspicion that he�s being watched; indeed, his bed is surrounded by the cr�me de la cr�me of the Necroneptor royal guard, and there is a pile of dismembered twelve year-old parts in the corner, right where he left them. Though he fights like a bobcat in a burlap sack, Diesel is ultimately no match for the bobcat that the royal cr�me put him in a sack with, and with a look on his face that says �I can�t believe this is happening,� and a mouth that says the same, he is hauled back to Necroneptor HQ, where he is tortured and his eyes are removed and surgically installed in Winnie, silver eyes being what she has always wanted and what, in fact, the Necroneptors have been scouring the universe for all along. And so the deadly wave of Necroneptorian destruction rather abruptly reaches an unforeseen high water mark and recedes back to its origin, never to be heard from or worried about again. The Necroneptors leave the statues behind as remuneration for �any damage [they] might have caused.� Also, they no longer have room for the statues on their ship, for they have picked up tons of souvenirs.
What I liked most about Riddick was its refusal to trade in moral certainties, a rare bravery in the action/sci-fi genre. Though we identify with Diesel, with his bald head and flaring muscles, we aren�t quite sure what to make of his homicidal pederasty and blanket sadism and slavish addiction to chocolate. Likewise the Necroneptors, though we can�t easily agree with their means, ultimately show themselves to be sensitive, thoughtful collectors of silver eyes. In telling a story like Riddick, the filmmakers had to make a pact with themselves, a promise to avoid compromise at all costs. They held rigidly to this promise, and while Riddick is stylistically clich�d and the dialog is horribly underwritten and the acting is for the birds and the set pieces are ugly and the action sequences are confusing and unbelievable, still it has an undeniable authenticity of the sort that is all too scarce in mainstream movies.
Riddick, then, is ultimately a colossal, consummate failure; however it is not without a final scene in which Dave Riddick has his eyes flipped out by Dame Judie Dench�s sorbet spoon.

The word 'hear'

Have you noticed that ‘hear’ has the word ‘ear’ in it? Creepy.

The Color of Snack Cheese

The color of snack cheese (think Doritos) is hunter orange. Hunter orange being the blazing fluorescent color that hunters buy their clothes in so that other hunters won’t mistake them for anything remotely deer-like. And it’s the color they choose because it has never, in the history of our planet, occurred in nature. The wavelength of light that comes off a hunter’s vest and tells your eyes to show your brain hunter orange is a wavelength of light that was literally invented in 1972 (or whenever DuPont invented it). Light waves of that length had never existed, since the formation of the universe. Which makes it weird that Frito Lay would decide on this color for their chips. As though they need their chips not so much to look appetizing as to stand out against any possible background.
To most people, snack cheese=hunter orange. Doritos, Cheetos, Kraft Macaroni: all occur in hunter orange. And I’m willing to bet it’s not just people that have learned this association.
Nature has been reduced to an archipelago of well-spaced theme parks. Even standing in the middle of Yosemite or Arches, it’s an absolute triumph of the imagination to feel like you’re “in the middle of nowhere”; you could use the spinning pointer from Twister as a compass and within half an hour you’d run into either (a) a freeway, (b) a town, or (c) Chicago. There’s no border anymore between civilization and wilderness; animals that can live amongst us — birds, chipmunk, racoons, possums — do so, and the rest, the wolves and bears and lions, live in zoos or on preserves. Given this overlap of habitats, it’s safe to assume that animals have by now eaten plenty of Doritos and Macaroni out of dumpsters; or hell, from the hands of two year-olds sitting in the car with the window down while mom pays for the gas. And they’re starting to learn, some of them, that hunter orange is the color of snack cheese. So how fantastic is it going to be when packs of wild dogs and deer and coyotes start attacking hunters because they think they’re big delicious cheese mummies.

Honeymoon

The song Honeymoon, by French rock band Phoenix, is so, so freaking awesome. This is maybe the sexiest song I, as a white person, am capable of hearing.
What it’s got:

  • An earnest French vocalist smoothly delivering empty-romantic lines like “My mind aches/You bust my real thoughts” and “Feelin’ without knowing the other/Tonight, let me handle this affair/Let me handle this affair.” I know, what the fuck does he mean? His American accent is so polished, you forget he’s French and you start wondering what he’s talking about, and about twenty seconds into wondering, you realize he doesn’t speak a damn word of English and he’s not saying shit. “I watch the fireworks/It’s no matter of time/I feel the midnight crush.” What the…fuck?
  • A harp that arrives in the second verse and starts arpeggiating your very mind; in the bridge, the rest of the band drops out and lets the harp solo. Wise move. I’m pretty sure it’s a harp, anyway. Otherwise it’s one harped-out guitar. Hugely sexy.
  • All kinds of miscellaneous sex-appeal, reminiscent of Van Morrison or Marvin Gaye — not in sound but in feel, in vibe. In steez. Not the horny sexuality of your Madonnas or your Bloodhound Gangs, but the relaxed, sex-is-good-and-it’s-assured-so-there’s-no-reason-to-have-an-anxiety-seizure variety.
    Roughly a minute into his first listening of Honeymoon, Michael Tapper opined in one or another Caribbean accent, “Ooo, mon! Girl come in my space, this song on da discmon? Me she gon’ get dat happy time!” He didn’t put it quite like that, but the gist is all his.
    This is a feel-good, sensual-ass song. It plays in the elevator as you and your prom date – fingers entwined, gazes meeting shyly in the mirror walls – rise toward the 17th floor, toward room 1706, which for about 8 minutes will be the center of the known universe.

  • Vampires

    Vampires. Like all of us, they have their positives and their negatives. Here those are:
    Key: ‘*’ indicates a pun

      Positives
  • Can use pointy teeth as a fixed compass, comparing distances on blueprints or treasure-hunt maps.
  • Ability to become mist allows them to ogle girls showering.
    • Negatives
  • Taste in films is shit, shit, shit.
  • If you are a guy in a relationship with a vampire/vampiress, they basically can’t give you oral sex. It basically can’t be done. Which blows*. Which just sucks*, you know?
  • Bogus, Lying Assholes

    I’ve met and in many cases maintained friendships with many, many very cool people, people who exemplify many positive traits. But then you have these bogus, lying assholes. What a bunch of pricks. These are the people who, if you ask them a straightforward question, will invariably serve up a lie in response.
    One much-favored technique of their’s — the bogus, lying assholes — is to gild a festering, malicious lie with a sweet cocoon of truth, then serve it to you on a doilie and take great pleasure from your eagerness to gobble down what looks like a sour-apple Jelly Belly(TM). These scum, they are filth. Your innocence, your ingenuousness is to them like sun on the face of an albino, or a vampire, or even, god help you, a vampiric albino: it burns; god how it burns.
    Here’s something to try next time you encounter one of these assholes, these bogus fucking liars. After he finishes feeding you a line of particularly unsavory and malignant bullshit — something intended to trick you into going into a back alley with him where you can be secretively robbed and stabbed by his cronies, or something to get you to fall into an uncovered manhole for his entertainment — smile at him thankfully, say “what wonderful advice!”, and offer him your hand to shake. When he takes it, make sure you have one of those hand-buzzers in your palm, but set to “kill” instead of “stun”. Fry that bogus dick. Shirr his lying parts so they fall away from the bone like the ashen, cylindrical remains of a cigarette giving up its cohesion and snowing down to the sidewalk.
    Or heal him with love, this bogus, lying shithead. Say, “My brother, I can appreciate that your very nature compels you to lie constantly and maliciously, that mendicating is to you as masticating is to a cow: a long, never-finished duty that forms the defining core of your everyday actions. However, my poor fallen brother, you must get a handle on it, lest the next fellow you jest with in your peculiar way shirr you with his goddamn handbuzzer. For will not the world cheer when, charred unto cinder, your body falls away from its frame like dust blown from the face of an ancient tablet by Indiana Jones?”

    The deli where he gets his lunch most days

    Pax is the name of it, and it is, for all intents and purposes, the best cheapish food option in the area where I work, which maybe isn’t but SHOULD be notorious for it’s incredible dearth of decent cheapish food options. There are none, save Pax.
    A person would be tempted to say that Pax has a very good selection; good to very good. They certainly have a lot of stuff — from salads, sandwiches, and soups, to entr�e-style plates of chicken, salmon, grilled veggies, and the like. But something I’ve just seen proves that estimator far too generous.
    I am standing at the the sandwich section of the ordering counter — this was two hours ago — waiting as my order is assembled, and next to me stands a mother and her two young daughters. I imagine them to be tourists from Cleveland; at any rate their appearance suggests they aren’t from New York City. But so, when one of the very friendly, smooth-shaven, more-Spanish-than-English-speaking sandwich assemblers asks the family how he can help them, one of these little blond girls asks, hopefully, “Um, do you have baloney?” It was incredibly cute, but this is no time for reflection. The Pax man is confused; he doesn’t appear to have heard of baloney. He has the look on his face of an 8th grader who does not — simply does not — know the answer to the teacher’s question, but knows one is required, and so is kind of searching his mind with a half-expectancy inspired by his teacher’s full expectancy. The mother sagely deciphers his look, then less-than-sagely rephrases her daughter’s query, framing this second effort with an amicable, matter-of-fact, just-between-us-adults shrug and a hand gesture possibly meant to emulate a slice of baloney lying flat on a counter. She says, “Do you have any baloney?” But it works, actually, he understands her. Either the hand gesture, which firmly placed baloney in the category “flat things”, was revelatory, or the little girl’s vocal register differed by so many octaves from anything he’d heard that day that the Pax man couldn’t really hear what she said. Maybe both. Anyway, he can now confidently state that no, no baloney.
    Which of course we knew all along, you and I, cuz this is a Manhattan deli. But that doesn’t make it right. And I found myself standing there very much wanting a baloney sandwich instead of the salmon and cream-cheese on pumpernickel I’d just been handed.
    Email Pax at info@paxfood.com and request that they begin carrying baloney (and baloney-related products such as white bread) at their sandwich counter.

    Brand Strategy for Cadbury Eggs

    In 2004, the percentage of people who in some way limit their diet for health reasons is substantial; many are vegetarians or vegans and refuse to eat eggs. Obviously these people don’t make an exception for any particular *brand* of egg, but, if you think about it, there’s one brand that really should be exempted from herbivorous prohibition: Cadbury.

    See for yourself. Check the ingredient list for a Cadbury egg and you’ll find, as I did, that these are not actually ‘eggs’ in the strictest sense of the word. They are, basically — and no disrespect toward Cadbury or their products or the nutritional value of their breakfast products is intended — just candy. Syrup, chocolate, goo, etc. And yet this is neither widely known nor actively advertised. As far as John B. Consumer is concerned, Cadbury Eggs are just one among many entries in the chicken egg category. What happens if we change that?
    I say let’s find out. I’m guessing the effect will be major. Make the large vegetarian/vegan subculture aware that there’s an egg on the market that they can actually eat, and you’re bound to see a huge surge in sales. Veggies *want* to eat eggs! They just can’t because it grosses them out to know that they’re slurping down little undead baby chickens. Offer them a meat-free egg, though, and they’ll go nuts — completely, totally fucking nuts.
    I’m envisioning a TV spot with two friends at a diner. One of them says to the waitress, “Gimme two eggs scrambled — Cadbury — with hashbrowns and wheat toast. And coffee.” The waitress leaves, and Friend B says derisively, “Hey, I thought you were all Veggie-Man these days,” throwing scare quotes around ‘Veggie-Man’. Friend A, generously but with a touch of condescension: “Bro, it’s *Cadbury*.” Cut to the waitress setting the plates down on the table. Friend B’s eggs are standard yellow gross-outs; he takes a bite and kind of gags and chokes down the scrambled undead baby chickens. Friend A scoops up a big forkfull of steaming, chocolatie-brown Cadbury scramblers, smiles, and consumes them with a look of total ecstasy (eyes rolled up in his head, big grin on his face, fingers clawing the vinyl bench). Super runs over a shot of Friend B looking with revulsion down at his plate, his lips twisted tightly into a moribund sneer, his eyes welling with tears: “Cadbury Eggs: No chicken, just chocolate. Ain’t no lie.”