Sunday, March 30, 2008

Season 4 Episode 4
Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff & Greggory Nations
Directed by Stephen Williams

Back at the Barracks, Locke is still out of sorts, uncertain what his next move should be. He’s so desperate he actually tries to get Ben to tell him what needs to be done, something Ben crows about of course, observing Locke’s more lost now than he’s ever been.
Locke acts all cool but once he’s out of the room (but still within Ben’s hearing distance), he smashes some plates against the wall.
(Why does Locke always do that? Act all cool and unruffled, then break some stuff when Ben can still hear? He did that back in the hatch too.)

Kate meanwhile, is actually living with Claire, while Sawyer is roomies with Hugo. Sawyer tries to woo Kate to stay with him, but she’s more interested in Miles.
To talk to Miles.
Kate tries to get Miles’ whereabouts out of Locke, but he keeps his lips sealed, and reminds Kate Jack isn’t in charge here and that this isn’t a democracy. (What did I say before? Locke can be just like Ben…)
So Kate finagles Miles’ location from an unsuspecting Hugo, and when she gets there, she asks Miles what he knows about her. Miles says he just wants one minute with someone, then he’ll tell her what she wants to know.
Kate asks, Who?
Miles says, You know who.

Kate then asks Sawyer for help to break Ben out so she can hook him up with Miles. (Ewww. That’s even more disturbing than Kate being interested in Miles.)
Oh, and Xanadu’s playing in the background…
Sawyer then shows up at Locke’s for a game of backgammon, during which time Locke seems to be fishing for what the popular vote is regarding his leadership. Sawyer says all the others are sheep, except maybe for Kate. Sawyer then tells Locke about Kate’s earlier request regarding Ben. Locke says, Whatever Miles has to say to Ben, I want to hear too.
So they head on off to the boathouse where Miles is being held, only to find him gone. (Cue Sawyer’s act of having been bamboozled by Kate…)

Kate brings the mountain to Mohammed, and can the angry young ghost whisperer get any sleazier? It turns out he wants $3.2 million from Ben, in exchange for Miles telling his employer that, Oh, you know what? We found Ben, but he was dead.
Miles wants the $3.2 mil in cash, in two days. Ben points out how that might be difficult given his current circumstances. So Miles gives him an extension: a week.
Kate then asks the idiot (oh, sorry, angry ghost whisperer) what he knows about her, and Miles tells her he knows about her fugitive status, as does the public at large, and that unless she wants to end up behind the bars just as soon as she’s rescued, she should probably just stay on the Island.
Locke then arrives and breaks up the party.

Locke visits Claire’s later on to have a chat with Kate, and asks her what Miles’ chat with Ben was all about. Kate tells him, then Locke promptly banishes her.
Kate goes to Sawyer’s, and tells him Locke’s decree, but Sawyer unbanishes Kate, and says he’ll take care of her. They start rasslin’ on the bed…
The next morning, Sawyer initiates some more rasslin’, but Kate’s having none of it (as she apparently had none of it last night as well). Sawyer thinks he gets it, and says, Oh, you’re still worried you’re pregnant.
Kate says, I’m not.
Sawyer’s relieved, though Kate just seems upset. Then she says she has to go. Sawyer says, You were just waiting for an excuse to leave, and now you’ve got it. Then he says, Fine. In a week, Jack’ll do something that’ll get you pissed off at him and you’ll come running back to me, to which Kate’s reply is a stinging slap.
Then she leaves.

Meanwhile, Locke, ticked off about the whole Kate-Miles-Ben thing (again, ewww), decides to leave a live grenade in Miles’ mouth…
Man, Locke is really flying off the rails…

Back at the beach, there’s a nice scene between Sun and Jin, with Jin looking a map of the U.S. over, picking places for them to live once they get off the Island, all of which meet with disapproval from Sun (“too hot,” “too many people,” etc.).
Sun asks, What’s wrong with Korea? (Uh, duhh, your shady criminal father lives there?)
Jin says, I learned English for you, so we can live in America.
Sun says, I want to raise my baby in Korea.
Jin says, Don’t you mean “our” baby?
But that conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Jack with Daniel and Charlotte.

Later on, Jack, concerned he hasn’t heard anything from Sayid, gets the Boat People to ‘fess up about the other emergencies-only number, which they ring up on their NaomiPhone, and which is answered by the still unseen Regina.
Daniel asks about the helicopter. Regina says, I thought the helicopter was with you…

Oh, and before we leave the Island this week, there’s one little scene that takes place in the Barracks, as Claire and Kate are hanging the laundry out to dry. Aaron starts to make a fuss, and Claire asks Kate, Can you pick him up and just rock him a little?
Kate looks really hesitant and says, I’m not very good with babies.
Claire says, Okay, and picks Aaron up herself. Then she says, You should try it some time…

And… onward flash-forward, ho!
Kate’s on trial for the gazillion and one crimes she’s wanted for, and when the prosecutor asks that she be held in custody for the duration of the trial, the judge agrees, and Kate’s cuffed and hauled off to jail.
Man, that was a surprisingly strong scene… You can see the whole “I can’t stand being tied down” vibe that just oozes off Evangeline Lilly.

Later on, Kate’s lawyer says, We’re in trouble, and your sick mother’s the prosecution’s star witness. He says, Let’s make this about character. Let’s bring him in.
Kate says, No. I’m not dragging my son into this. (Wait for it…)

In court, Kate’s lawyer brings in (without conferring with Kate first) Jack!
On the witness stand, Jack flat out lies: 8 people survived the crash; I almost died; Kate saved me; Kate saved us all…
Kate stands and says, Stop. This is my trial. What happened back there doesn’t matter.
Kate’s lawyer says, Fine. I got my answer.
And the prosecution pounces: Do you love Kate Austen, Dr. Shepard?
Jack: No. Not anymore.

Later on, Kate’s lawyer wheels Kate’s mum into a room so mother and daughter can talk.
Kate doesn’t want to, but she’s not really given a choice.
Momma Austen asks, Was what that doctor said true? That you saved all of them?
And she goes on to say, Things changed since the last time we saw each other (you know? That time I screamed bloody murder and called the fuzz on your a$$, baby girl?); things changed when I thought you were dead.
I didn’t want to testify against you.
Kate says, Then don’t.
Momma Austen says, Let me see my grandson.
Kate says, That’s what this is about? You wanted to make a deal?
Kate says, I don’t want you anywhere near him. Then, We’re done here.

At the following court date, the prosecution claims their star witness can’t testify due to medical reasons. Judge calls for a recess. Prosecutor Lady talks with Kate and her lawyer.
It turns out Momma Austen doesn’t want to testify against Kate anymore, and thus, their case is badly compromised now.
Plea bargaining ensues.
Kate will not take any prison time, so the deal is, Ten years probation, and Kate can’t leave the state. Kate says, Fine. I just want this over. I’m not going anywhere. I have a son. (Wait for it…)

Just as Kate is leaving the court house, Jack meets her.
Kate says, I’ve heard you tell that story so many times now, I’m starting to wonder if you believe it yourself.
Jack says, What I said up there? That wasn’t true.
Kate asks, You want to follow me? You want to see him?
Jack says, evasively, I actually have to get to the hospital, but can we meet for a coffee sometime?
Kate says, I understand why you don’t want to see him, but until you decide that you can, then there won’t be any meetings for coffee.
And Kate gets in her cab and leaves.

And she gets to her house…
And she greets someone who I assume is her housekeeper…
And she goes up to her son’s room…
And I’m thinking, What? Will he have Sawyer’s stubble and a conniving mind, or Jack’s bad hair and obsessive nature?
And Kate’s son turns out to be… Aaron…

I told you to wait for it…

So this episode slows down the Lost mythology a tad, as what we get is basically a story that puts the whole “shouldn’t Kate be rotting in jail after getting off the Island?” clamour conveniently to rest.
A little too neatly? Perhaps.
But they do smack you upside on the head with that cliffhanger.
So what happened to Claire? Did she get left back on the Island? Did she (gasp!) die?
But what about Des’ future-flash, of Claire and Aaron getting on a helicopter? Did Claire stupidly fall out of the helicopter? Or, distraught at Charlie’s death, plunge to a watery grave to join the ex-junkie rocker? (I kid, I kid…)

Seriously though, I am concerned about Claire’s welfare. I’d also like to think that Charlie’s sacrifice wasn’t for naught; after all, it was Des’ vision that was Charlie’s driving motivation to go diving to the Looking Glass.
And since the child Jack so obviously didn’t want to see is Aaron, that means he doesn’t want to be reminded of Claire. The important question at this point is, of course, does Jack already know that Aaron is his half-nephew?
After all, knowing about the biological connection could go either way: if Jack doesn’t know, then it’s simply because he’ll be reminded of Claire; and if he already knows, then Aaron will just remind him of his half-sister, making things even worse.
Then again, if Jack knew about the blood connection, he could get all obsessive-y as he sometimes does, which he clearly isn’t, as far as seeing Aaron.
Jack isn’t the easiest person to figure out…

All that, and we get a couple of scenes that feel like set-ups for subsequent episodes: the “what happened to the helicopter” scene is obviously an Island cliffhanger, and the Sun-Jin scene also feels like foreshadowing for some future episode.
Will we see Sun off the Island? Please, please, please let her be one of the Oceanic Six. Don’t let the bad sexist Island have its way with her and the baby…
And speaking of the Oceanic Six, we’re still looking at Jack, Hugo, Kate, and Sayid. (Ben and Aaron being part of the Six seems iffy to me at this point.)
So two more…
Can Sun be one of those two?


Parting shot: Incidentally, the edition of Philip K. Dick’s Valis, which Locke brings to Ben along with his breakfast (of the last two eggs in town), is the exact same edition that I got to read from a friend’s library once…
I loved that book, and now have cause to hunt it down in the bargain bins, if only to read it again, to see if I missed something… (I may not like Locke a lot these days, but it does pay to listen to him once in a while…)

(Image courtesy of ABC and

Friday, March 28, 2008


Laura (Mar adentro‘s Belén Rueda) was once a ward of the Good Shepherd Orphanage, and now she’s returned with her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and son Simon (Roger Princep), with the intention of turning the sprawling structure into a home for special needs children.
But Simon makes some new invisible friends (the imaginative tyke already has two when they move in, Watson and Pepe), who may not be imaginary after all, and who’ve been lonely for a very long time…

Produced by Guillermo del Toro, written by Sergio Sánchez and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, El Orfanato is an exquisitely melancholy ghost story that operates in the same spectral realm as Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and del Toro’s El Espinazo Del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone). And depending on one’s particular reading of the film, El Orfanato also shares certain narrative characteristics and themes with del Toro’s El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth).
Given these apparent commonalities, it’s interesting to note that Sánchez points to both J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw as his main (literary) influences for El Orfanato, while Bayona looked to Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind as his narrative template.
Moreover though, it’s a comforting surprise that El Orfanato is the feature debut for both Sánchez and Bayona. The certitude and confidence that clearly informs the film seems to have come from practiced, veteran hands. The fact that it stems from two newcomers not only makes the film even more astounding, it also effectively underscores the importance of El Orfanato as a magnificent harbinger of better, brighter things to come from the pair.

Sánchez is not only poised to write another script for Bayona (for what he calls a “sci-fi love story”), he’s also writing 3993 for del Toro, which will close the director’s Spanish Civil War trilogy (alongside El Espinazo Del Diablo and El Laberinto Del Fauno), and looking to direct his third feature film screenplay, The Homecoming, which he’s described as “a fantasy film, a horror story about the end of the world.”
Given how fantastic El Orfanato has turned out, all these various projects look very promising indeed.
To return to the matter at hand though, El Orfanato is an expertly crafted and surprisingly moving film that is, perhaps, more creepy than it is outright scary. But then again, this terribly effective exercise in quiet horror isn’t really about the sudden shocks.
It’s about loss, and fear, and perception, and just how far a mother is willing to go to be with her child.
It’s also about the difficulties involved in going home, because in El Orfanato, it isn’t exactly true that you can never go home again, but rather, that though it is possible to return home, the price for that return ticket is an awfully steep one.

Parting shot: Among the numerous honours bestowed upon El Orfanato, were 7 awards (out of a field of 9 nominations) at the Barcelona Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Actress (for Rueda), and Best New Director.
At the Goya Awards, the film took home 7 out of an astounding 14 nominations, including Best New Director and Best Screenplay – Original.

(El Orfanato OS courtesy of; images courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

Season 1 Episode 11
“Chuck Versus the Crown Vic”
Written by Zev Borow
Directed by Chris Fisher

“I saw the world crashing all around your face,
Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace.”
-- Modern English
“I Melt With You”

The whole kiss-right-before-the-supposed-bomb-was-gonna-blow-up and the Bryce-coming-back-from-the-dead thing has made Chuck ultra-conscious now of what Sarah has to do to get the job done (in this case, get as close to billionaire/counterfeiter/money launderer Lon Kirk as she can, “whatever it takes”), while Sarah’s decision to stay with Chuck (and her current mission, of course) is also taking its toll on her, as she attempts to distance herself from Chuck and the emotions she has for him.

And even though the Morgan-Anna subplot ties into the main plot a little too conveniently (causing the lovebirds and Anna’s parents to be put into jeopardy), this still turns out to be a good episode.
Cap that off with Modern English’s “I Melt With You” being played at the Buy More Christmas (sorry, Holiday) party—what can I say? I’m a sucker for well-placed Musical Moments—and I’m sold.
The fact that the song plays not just over Chuck and Sarah deciding to make peace and be “friends” (and dance, instead of kiss beneath Jeff’s handy mistletoe) and Casey getting the news that the beta version of the Intersect is nearly up and running (and as mentioned in a previous episode, reminded that when that time comes, he’s to “take care” of Chuck), are some sweet nuts on an already yummy fruitcake.

I just hope that when that eventuality comes, that the potential conflict is treated (and resolved) in a creative and mature way. Please, no cop outs.
We’ve all seen what Casey’s capable of (he shot Bryce, twice), so when time comes, he should be just as cold and ruthless. Or maybe he really has come to give a rat’s a$$ about Chuck.
Then again, after what Chuck did to Casey’s beloved 1985 Crown Victoria (of this episode’s title), Casey may very well be out for blood…

“I made a pilgrimage to save this human race,
Never comprehending the race had long gone by.”
-- Modern English
“I Melt With You”

(Image courtesy of; “I Melt With You” 12” UK 4AD single sleeve art courtesy of

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Before I get into this, one thing: Frank Darabont has balls of steel. Nay, adamantium.
Balls of adamantium.
Indeed, he does.

I was first swallowed by Stephen King’s The Mist way back in 1981, in the truly exceptional and in many ways, groundbreaking, horror anthology, Dark Forces.
Mr. King’s The Mist left an impression for a number of reasons.
One: at 130 pages, it was the longest story in Dark Forces, and it introduced me to the literary form known as the novella, something too long to be called a short story, yet too short to be called a novel.
Two: it had an ending that was definitely not a happy one, and unlike, say, The Omen’s ending, where we see the main character bite the dust in his vain effort to slay the AntiChrist, The Mist’s ending was more open-ended. It presented a vague sliver of hope, but allowed the reader to decide the remaining characters’ fates; King basically left you to decide what shade you preferred for that downer ending. (Though a part of me was irked since King opted not to present a firm resolution to the story, I eventually came to understand that this was simply another way in which to end a story.)
As far as King’s novella was concerned, it ended with a choice: optimists could choose the greyer-shaded ending; pessimists, the blacker-.
In writing the screenplay for his film adaptation though, Darabont gives us a definite ending all right, and it’s certainly not a gentle one…

The day after a sudden, violent storm, David Drayton (a fantastic Thomas Jane) and his son Billy (Babel’s Nathan Gamble, soon to be seen as Jim Gordon’s son in The Dark Knight), along with a host of other townsfolk buying emergency supplies, get trapped in the local grocery when the strange titular mist comes rolling in.
People want to get home, of course. To loved ones left alone to clear up the post-storm mess, like David’s wife, Stephanie (Kelly Collins Lintz, from TV’s Surface and One Tree Hill). But no one can leave the Food House though.
There are things in the mist, see. Hungry things.

More so than being a monster movie—and it is that, a rather exceptional one, to boot—The Mist is really about the desperation and insanity that can grab hold of people who are suddenly faced with the disastrous and the inexplicable.
People get scared, irrational, unpredictable. Dangerous.
Throw in Mrs. Carmody, an unstable, religious fanatic (played by the supremely awesome Marcia Gay Harden), and an already dire situation quickly escalates into a vicious exercise in staying alive and sane.
This poor collective may have barricaded themselves in, but not all the monsters are out there in the mist…

King’s characters are brought to celluloid life by an across-the-board amazing cast which also includes Infamous’ Toby Jones, The X-Files’ Laurie Holden, Homicide‘s Andre Braugher, frequent Darabont collaborator William Sadler, and veteran actors Frances Sternhagen and Jeffrey DeMunn. Also in roles pumped up a tad from the novella, Reunion’s Alexa Davalos and Battlestar Galactica’s Sam Witwer.
The exceptional performances are then magnificently supported by some wicked creature design and effects by genre stalwarts, the KNB EFX Group.

But this is all brought together by the Man with the Adamantium Balls himself, Mr. Frank Darabont, who captures that sense of bubbling tension trapped in the confines of the grocery like some toxic gas, inexorably building up to some horrible apex where the worst in the human condition either simply deteriorates into a rank hopelessness, or combusts into raw, savage violence.
Then, of course, there’s that ending.
Hoo-boy, that ending!
Save for a handful of bits either excised from the original source material (an adulterous liaison) or added on (as per some characters getting their roles expanded from the novella, or new scenes to further flesh out plot or character dynamics), Darabont’s The Mist is pretty much the novella skillfully transfigured for the silver screen. The story’s major beats are virtually intact: Norm the bag boy, the pharmacy, what Ollie Weeks does right before they attempt their great escape, dot dot dot.
Those familiar with the novella’s generally bleak climax though, will still be chilled at the uncompromising coda Darabont chooses to close the film with. It’s brutal, people, and his The Mist is one of those emotionally potent and wrenching horror films that doesn’t hold back on its gut punches.

Coming out of a field where any weak link isn’t readily apparent, the MVP is still most definitely Darabont, who, in hijacking a substantial portion of The Shield crew during their hiatus (camera operators, D.P., editor, script supervisor, all of whom Darabont enjoyed working with when he directed an episode of the TV show) and making what he describes as a “very direct, muscular kind of film,” he’s crafted what I feel is, alongside Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil, the best Stephen King film adaptation I’ve ever seen.
Yes, I love (to varying degrees) Stand By Me, Carrie, Pet Sematary, and Misery, but The Mist is something else entirely, and so unlike Darabont’s previous King adaptations, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, it’s astounding.
I was hoping this would be good, but I certainly didn’t expect Darabont would kick me in the a$$ quite so convincingly; he took a 27-year old story and made a riveting horror film rife with tension and emotion, that is startlingly relevant to our post-9/11 world. (He also gets to sneak some Dead Can Dance and Drew Struzan in there, so, really, what’s not to like?)

Is it terrifying? Yes.
Is it comforting? Frak, no.
But does it say something?
Yes, it does, and anyone watching The Mist will hopefully see beyond the otherworldly beasties to learn something about the very ugly, and very real monsters that live under our own, very human, skins.

“On the one level, it’s meant to be a really cool, intense, scary creature feature. But if it were just that, I wouldn’t have wanted to adapt that story. What it does give is something somewhat subversive, which I think all the best horror is.
“Really, it’s an examination of people in a pressure cooker. What does a climate of fear make you do? What mistakes does it compel? How far off the precipice do we sail? Which speaks to the ending as well.
“I just find that absolutely fascinating, because we’ve been nothing if not living in a pressure cooker of fear and the exploitation of fear, the fear of fear, so far in the 21st century. That seems to be defining our behavior, so that makes it really fantastic material to dive into.”
-- Frank Darabont on The Mist

(The Mist OS courtesy of [design by BLT & Associates]; images courtesy of,, and

(Frank Darabont quote from an interview.)

Monday, March 24, 2008


Dr. Philip Lacan (Stephen Rea) runs the Zurvan Clinic for the Study and Treatment of the Psychologically and Physiologically Unique. Some three years ago, he was involved in the deaths of two patients, and was indicted for conducting irresponsible procedures on children. Though he was ultimately found innocent of the crime, Village Spectator reporter Grace Collier (Chloe Sevigny) is convinced he’s up to no good at his clinic, and is rapidly crossing the border into harassment in her investigation of Lacan’s affairs.
That’s the basic premise of Douglas Buck’s Sisters, a loose remake of the 1973 Brian De Palma film. And there are certainly a number of elements in Sisters that come straight out of the De Palma psychological thriller playbook. Sadly though, for the most part, Buck’s effort comes off as a pale and limp echo of far better films of this stripe.

What makes this an even more resounding disappointment is the presence of Oscar nominees Rea and Sevigny, who seem all but detached from the narrative and their characters. And who can blame them when the script (by Buck and John Freitas) is a muddled affair at best.
We are given brief glimpses and allusions to Grace’s troubled past, but far from the deep insight we would require for the film’s climax to be narratively sound. There is also a particular moment in the film that, given the story’s outcome, becomes both illogical and impossible, as well as a separate plot point involving a television set that I’m not at all certain is even possible, given elementary physics.

All in all, there’s very little here to recommend, despite the presence of The X-Files’ Cancer Man, William B. Davis, and Everything’s Gone Green’s JR Bourne. Even Joshua’s Dallas Roberts is here, though in an ultimately thankless role.
I so wanted to like this one, what, with its Persian mythology reference in the Zurvan Clinic, as well as what could be a Cronenberg reference in Somnafree University (in The Brood, Oliver Reed’s Hal Raglan runs the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics; actually, even the whole name of the Zurvan Clinic sounds rather like a Cronenbergian construct), but the film itself is terribly flawed and not at all engaging.
If this was meant to aim for the heights achieved by early Cronenberg and De Palma, this misses the mark so badly.
What it has done though is make me curious to see De Palma’s original, it being one of his films I have yet to see. Maybe De Palma found the intriguing story in the premise that Buck so clearly failed to uncover here.

(Sisters OS courtesy of; image courtesy of

Saturday, March 22, 2008


59.1 CRUISING TRIBECA 2008 (2)
The line-ups for the Discovery and Midnight sections of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival have been announced, and the films that have piqued my interest are:

La Habitación de Fermat (Fermat's Room),
directed and written by: Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña. (Spain)
The walls are closing in—literally—on four brainiac mathematicians with shadowy pasts in this muchotense debut. A sexy virtuoso, a hardheaded hottie, a doleful drunk, and a middle-aged merrymaker have all been brought together by the mysterious Fermat to solve their most profound equation yet: Why is someone trying to kill them?

Sita Sings the Blues, directed and written by Nina Paley. (USA)
Using a variety of colorful animation techniques, writer-director Nina Paley wittily interweaves the story of Sita, the leading lady of the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana, with the story of a modern American woman struggling to keep her marriage afloat.

The Wild Man of the Navidad, directed and written by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks. (USA)
Based on real-life journals, this intelligent retelling of an old urban legend, shot in a ’70s-style B movie aesthetic, focuses on a Texas community terrified by a mysterious creature inhabiting the nearby woods.

The Cottage,
directed and written by Paul Andrew Williams. (UK)
A kidnapping plot goes horribly awry when two brothers and their potty-mouthed hostage stumble into the wrong farmhouse in this gory horror-comedy.

Dying Breed, directed by Jody Dwyer, written by Michael Boughen, Rod Morris, and Dwyer. (Australia)
Inspired by the legends of a 19th-century cannibal and an extinct tiger, this brutal horror-thriller centers on four friends who find out that something—or someone—murderous lurks in the rain-slogged Australian bush.

From Within, directed by Phedon Papamichael, written by Brad Keene. (USA)
Evil comes from within in this smart, supernatural thriller, set in a small extremist evangelical town that is mysteriously afflicted with serial suicides.
Up-and-coming cast includes Elizabeth Rice, Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Laura Allen (Dirt), and Rumer Willis.

Killer Movie, directed and written by Jeff Fisher. (USA)
A reality TV director copes with a spoiled celebutante and a show gone haywire when a masked killer starts bumping off the crew in this slasher-movie satire from a director who did time working on The Simple Life.

You can find the complete lists of the Discovery and Midnight sections of the 2008 TFF here.

Those of you who frequent the Iguana probably know that I love me my Hideo Nakata. One of his films that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see though, is Joyû-rei (Don’t Look Up; a.k.a. Ghost Actress).
Apparently, though Nakata was approached to helm an English-language remake of Joyû-rei, the man now taking the director’s chair is Fruit Chan. I guess things didn’t work out with Nakata, which is, on the one hand, sad.
On the other hand though, I love me my Fruit Chan too, so I’m looking forward to this one; Chan directed my favourite segment of Saam gaang yi (Three… Extremes), “Dumplings,” an extended cut of which was also released as the feature film, Gaau ji. (Try and catch both, if you’re able.)
In the English-language Don’t Look Up cast, one Henry Thomas, who once upon a time, bicycled across the face of the moon with E.T.
Shooting begins April 14 in Los Angeles.

(The Cottage UK quad courtesy of; The Cottage image courtesy of; Joyû-rei OS courtesy of; Three… Extremes OS courtesy of; Dumplings DVD cover art courtesy of

Friday, March 21, 2008

Angel Batista

Season 2 Episode 10
‘There’s Something About Harry’
Written by Scott Reynolds
Directed by Steve Shill

This one’s a fascinating installment, as Doakes spends the entire episode locked in the cell in the drug cabin, alternating between goading and debating with Dex, and in the final portion, trying to talk reason with him.
But it’s not all Doakes, though. There are still the subplots.

Rita visits Dex and begins to tentatively reach out, not yet willing to start dating again, but maybe, just to hang first, with Dex and the kids, at the beach.
Meanwhile, Angel gets to have his daughter for a day, and wanting her to have some fun (“… ideally more fun than she has with her mother…”), tags along on the beach outing. That however, puts a crimp in Lila’s plans of having Angel finish re-painting her walls. So the gross, English titty vampire gets Angel to her place later in the evening, has wild sex with the guy, then secretly takes some roofies she bought on the sly, which conks her out cold in the bathroom. She bashes her head and Angel finds her unconscious, forehead bleeding, and he calls an ambulance.
Crazy bee-yutch is up to something…

On the Deb-Lundy front, there’s a little scuffle as Lundy casually blurts out that he won’t always be around, particularly once the Bay Harbor Butcher case is closed. This pisses Deb off, as the hope she had for their relationship lay in her not knowing what would happen when the case was wrapped up.
Lundy, on the other hand, understands that this is what he does: he catches serial killers, and they don’t all live in Miami. He also thought that as soon as the case was closed, that Deb’s fascination with him would shrivel up and die, which strikes Deb as the sweetest thing any guy’s ever said to her. Their conversation is interrupted however, when they get a hit on one of Doakes’ aliases (used during his Special Forces days), and a car rental.

So, at the cabin, Dex drugs Doakes and gets his fingerprints on some kill tools, which he dumps in a place he knows they’ll be found quickly.
Meanwhile, his conversations with Doakes bring up some Harry stuff, and he finds out that Harry didn’t die from his heart disease, but rather from ODing on his heart meds.
Trying to work this all out, Dex’s plan for Doakes is put on fast-forward when some goon who had a deal with the late Jimenez starts to text the drug dealer’s cell, which Dex now has. When it’s clear that the goon is about to show up at the cabin, Dex intercepts him, and brings him, drugged, to the cabin.
Dex then proceeds to kill the goon, while Doakes tries to convince him not to. The sight of all that blood makes Doakes quiet and all he says to Dex is, “Stay away from me,” which triggers a memory.
Three days before Harry’s death, he walked in on one of Dex’s kills, and for the first time, he saw the reality of his Code and the training, he saw exactly what he’d made Dex into, and after throwing up, all he could say was, “Stay away.”
And it dawns on Dex: it’s his fault Harry committed suicide. He caused his adoptive father’s death.

(Image courtesy of

Thursday, March 20, 2008

reVIEW (42)

After first hearing the buzz on Shallow Grave (1994, Talking Movies, if memory serves me right), then seeing the trailer, I immediately thought this looked like a crackerjack thriller that I needed to see.
And when I did, a bunch of names quickly barged their way onto my Need To Keep Tabs On list: among them, director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, and actor Ewan McGregor.

An impressive feature film debut for all three, Shallow Grave tells the story of three friends and flatmates, Alex Law (McGregor), Juliet Miller (Kerry Fox), and David Stevens (Christopher Eccleston), who, at the top of the film, are interviewing prospective flatmates, in a humourous montage that highlights both the insularity of their clique, and their individual characteristics: the pushy smart-a$$ Alex, the coolly detached Juliet, the exacting David.
Soon however, they find themselves in possession of a suitcase stuffed to the brim with money, and the film gradually enters dark territories, where they are forced to navigate the slippery slopes of morality and sanity, with a suitcase full of temptation making the journey all the more difficult.

Like a blackly humourous version of one of Boyle’s subsequent films, Millions, Shallow Grave is a clever, smartly-told thriller that, through a great script by Hodge, becomes a showcase of not just Boyle’s keen directing talents, but also of a trio of excellent performances.
McGregor, of course, would go on to become the breakout star (largely in part due to his second collaboration with Boyle and Hodge, Trainspotting), one of today’s most charismatic performers, and that potential is already evident here. His Alex is that certain someone we all know who thinks he’s funnier, and more charming, and smarter than he actually is, who constantly runs off at the mouth, quite possibly to mask his own insecurities.
For all his flaws though, Alex is a charming devil, and the on-screen presence McGregor has is plainly evident. As such, the performances by Fox and Eccleston may perhaps be overlooked by some, but they’re just as informed and effective as McGregor’s. Eccleston does wonders with a torch, and Fox, well, she just subtly exudes “manipulative b!tch” like it was the latest scent from Dior.

Also, just as McGregor may have outshone both of his co-stars, Boyle himself may have served to eclipse the significant contributions Hodge made through his script, maintaining the thrills while giving us real people with palpable personalities to (perhaps) care about. The writer-director tandem would go on to collaborate in three subsequent features, Trainspotting (for which Hodge would be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars), A Life Less Ordinary, and The Beach, and it would only be in the last, in that disastrous Leo-starrer, that the team would disappoint me sorely.*
Cinematographer Brian Tufano is also present on Shallow Grave, and he would then go on to shoot both Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary for Boyle, as well as provide additional photography for Millions. An excellent cinematographer is always a key element of Boyle’s creative arsenal, the reason why his films look so great.
Paired with editor Masahiro Hirakubo (who would edit Boyle’s films till The Beach), Tufano shoots dynamic film that alternately crackles and simmers with energetic imagery. (Though admittedly, Tufano’s true skill with the camera would be displayed more conspicuously in his two latter collaborations with Boyle.)

Slamming out of the gate with the compact and effective Shallow Grave, Boyle would go on to genre-hop like mad (drug cinema, screwball romantic comedy, zombie cinema, science fiction), in the process becoming one of modern cinema’s most inventive and interesting voices.
It all starts here though, in a flat in Edinburgh, with three friends, and a suitcase full of money.
You never really know, do you? The inauspicious beginnings of greatness…

* Sadly, for whatever reason, Hodge and Boyle would cease to collaborate following the 30-minute short film, Alien Love Triangle (originally meant to be part of a discontinued anthology feature), which was done after The Beach.

Parting shot: Shallow Grave was honoured with the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film at the 1995 BAFTAs.

(Shallow Grave OS courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Xavier Gens’ Hitman (based on the Eidos computer game) opens to the strains of Schubert, as we are treated to a montage of bald kids being tattooed with bar codes and raised and trained to be killing machines (like something out of Dark Angel).*
Then, within a framing sequence involving a grown-up Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) and Interpol operative Michael Whittier (Dougray Scott), we flash back three months and enter a rogue assassin thriller we’ve all probably seen before.

In Hitman, we are treated to two of the genre’s stock scenarios: the “assassin is assigned a hit, which turns out to be a set-up,” and the “assassin is assigned a comely target of the opposite gender, whom the assassin doesn’t kill, and ends up on the run with (romantic/sexual entanglement optional).”
It’s probably this decision to utilize these painfully familiar riffs that make Hitman a rather disappointing film. The plot elements that could have provided some fresh ground to cover—notably The Organization, who, in the film, turn orphans and unwanted children into single-minded assassins; and just who is 47 (he is a genetically engineered being in the game, with 47 chromosomes in his DNA, though nothing of the sort is even implied here)—are basically ignored in favour of the pedestrian scenarios used in Skip Wood‘s script. Wood (who also penned the script for Swordfish and is responsible for the screenplay for the upcoming G.I. Joe) just doesn’t deliver anything particularly original or even interesting here.
Sad, since some of Hitman’s action is actually serviceable.
Of course, the cast leaves much to be desired anyway, so maybe this was all a lost cause to begin with.

Olyphant made me pay attention to him after his work on Scream 2 (he really didn’t do much in Danny Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary). He also impressed me in Doug Liman’s Go. And Dreamcatcher being a bad movie really had nothing to do with him, so when Vin Diesel stepped out of 47’s suit (Diesel still retains an executive producer credit on Hitman), I was looking forward to Olyphant’s take on the role. Sadly, though, there are moments where there seems to be something vaguely non-committal about Olyphant’s performance, as if his Agent 47 doesn’t quite know who he’s meant to be.

And while Prison Break’s Robert Knepper (as Russian secret service dude Yuri Marklov) only serves to distract, since I couldn’t quite shake T-Bag from my head, Olga Kurylenko (as comely female target turned fellow fugitive Nika Boronina) is unconvincing; Kurylenko appeared in Vincenzo Natali’s “Quartier de la Madeleine” segment of Paris, Je T’aime and will be seen in the next 007 film, the funkily-titled Quantum of Solace.
Sure, she’s sexy and hot (thus, her date with 007), but she didn’t really act here.
Lost’s future vision-stricken Desmond, Henry Ian Cusick, also has a disastrous turn as arms dealer Udre Belicoff. I’m honestly not sure if it was just me, but that looked like some awfully dodgy looping on Cusick’s part. I’m not even certain if that was Cusick’s voice at all; if it wasn’t, then the bad performance wasn’t entirely his fault. (And to be fair, the script didn’t give much for the character to do other than end up in 47’s sights anyway, in which case, the fault would lie on Cusick’s agent’s head, for fobbing this role off on him.)
Scott probably gives the best consistent performance in the lot, but at the same time, this also isn’t the best performance I’ve seen from him.

As I mentioned above, some of Hitman’s action sequences are actually all right—the hotel and subway sequences come to mind—but whatever tension and suspense they may engender are undermined by the narrative’s structure: since we see both 47 and Whittier at the top of the film, then flash back three months, we know that both will survive any possible life-threatening situations they may encounter in the main bulk of the film itself.
Why get worked up about the character’s chances of getting out alive, when we already know they are alive in three months’ time? Thus, the only genuine tension we can hope for is at the tail end of the film, when we exit the flashback, and return to the framing sequence.
Admittedly, this tack sometimes works—David Fincher used it to excellent effect in Fight Club (I never got to read the novel, so I’m not sure if this was also the narrative structure used by Chuck Palahniuk there)—but a lot of the time (recall J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible 3), it doesn’t.

In the end though, if it’s any consolation, Hitman isn’t a heinous film.
And more to the point—at least perhaps for some—Hitman isn’t a heinous film adaptation of a video game.
It is, however, not particularly impressive either.

* The end credits, in fact, acknowledge the use of clips from Dark Angel, though I don’t recall seeing any (like on a television set or movie house screen) during the film’s proceedings.
At least, I recall seeing that Dark Angel credit…
Though I did get to see some episodes of it, I was never a Dark Angel fan, so I can’t really say for certain, but were those opening shots actually from Dark Angel? (Because if they were, why did Gens choose to recycle them and not shoot his own material? Or was this a decision made after the reported Hitman re-shoots and subsequent editing by Nicolas de Toth, which supposedly did not involve Gens? Is Hitman yet another casualty of studio interference?)

Parting shot: A review of Paris, Je T’aime can be found in the Archive, along with episodic recaps/reactions to Lost.

(Hitman OS courtesy of

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Anthony Minghella
January 6, 1954 – March 18, 2008

(Image courtesy of

Season 4 Episode 3
“The Economist”
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
Directed by Jack Bender

So this episode’s flashforward had me going, “Noooo, he’s gone over to the Dark Side!” with the occasional “Bad! Bad!” throughout its running time.
But first…

As Sayid attends to Naomi’s body, he sees a bracelet, with an inscription that reads, “N. I’ll be with you always. R.G.” (Or was it R.C.?)
Sayid then comes up with a plan: to go get Charlotte back from Locke, and if he can get her back in one piece, he asks to be brought to the freighter. Frank agrees. Miles goes off with Sayid, and Jack suggests Kate go along as well (as Jack doesn’t trust Locke, and he knows Sawyer won’t allow Locke to do anything bad to Kate). Of course, you can sort of see that Kate feels she’s being taken for granted by Jack, but she goes along with the plan anyway.
Meanwhile, since they find the DesPenny pic on Naomi, they decide to call Des over from the beach, and Juliet goes off to do the fetching.
Oh, and apparently, Miles has no idea why Ben’s such a hot ticket. All he knows is he’s being paid a lot to find the guy, so find him he will.

Meanwhile, Locke goes to where the cabin should be (and that protective circle of ash is there), but it isn’t.
Ben of course, taunts Locke for being Jacob’s b!tch and not knowing what to do.
Hurley then starts to argue that maybe handing Charlotte over would be a good thing to do, but Locke will have none of that sort of talk. (The man can be just as monomaniacal as Ben…)

At the apparently still deserted Barracks, Sayid, Kate, and Miles find Hurley tied and gagged inside a closet, and he claims that Locke’s lost it and that he got left behind after he started to disagree with Locke.
They head on over to Ben’s house, and while Sayid finds a secret room with oodles of cash in different currencies and lots of passports and suits and stuff, Kate finds Sawyer.
It turns out that Hurley was bait, and Locke confines Sayid and Miles. Sayid gets locked up with Ben, and when Locke visits for a chat, Sayid says, Give me Charlotte, and I can get to the freighter, and I can see what’s going on. Locke says Ben has a spy on board, but when Sayid asks who it is, Ben of course keeps mum.
As an aside, Sayid says, The day I trust [Ben] is the day I sell my soul…
Locke then says, Why should I give you Charlotte for nothing, and Sayid says, You misunderstood. I never said anything about taking Charlotte for nothing…

Over with Kate and Sawyer, Kate asks why Sawyer is here, and he says he doesn’t have anything to go back for and that he’d rather stay on the Island.
Kate asks how long can they play house here, and Sawyer says, Let’s find out.

Meanwhile, Daniel conducts an experiment, and seems to discover that on the Island, time (or maybe distance, or perhaps space; or perhaps all three) doesn’t quite work the way it normally does. Whatever. I ain’t no loony physicist. (Note also that last episode, he observed that light doesn’t scatter normally on the Island.)
Anyway, if memory serves me right, there’s a time differential of 31 minutes on the Island.
Juliet then arrives with Des, who starts to question Frank about Penny, but he doesn’t seem to know what Des is talking about, so Des says that when the helicopter leaves for the freighter, he’s on it.
Then Sayid arrives, with Charlotte. Apparently, he traded Miles for Charlotte, and Kate decided to stay at the Barracks. (Damn, girl! Make up your bloody mind!) There is, of course, a flicker of emotion on Jack’s face when he hears why Kate is absent.
Ahhh, what a Valentine’s Day episode…

Jack then tells Sayid to go to the freighter, so off he goes with Des.
Before they leave, Daniel pulls Frank aside and warns him to stay on the exact same bearings they took on their way in, and to not deviate from them in any way.
And since there’s an extra seat on the helicopter, and Daniel and Charlotte opt to stay on the Island to start running whatever crazy-a$$ work and experiments they need to, Sayid says they should bring Naomi home.
The helicopter takes off…

And in the future…

Sayid plays golf! And shoots a man dead!
Before he shoots the poor schmuck though, Sayid says he’s one of the Oceanic Six, which gets the schmuck all bothered and scared.
Then he shoots him.
Then I start with the “Noooo, he’s gone over to the Dark Side!” whinging and bleating, unwilling to wrap my head around the fact that Sayid’s gone stone cold kill crazy.

Later, in Berlin, Sayid meets Elsa (the gloriously named Thekla Reuten, seen recently in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges).
She says she works for an “economist” who dabbles in “emerging markets,” and that she’s on call 24/7, and if she’s ever needed by her employer, that he’ll page her. (Yes, a practically obsolete, low tech device. Hmmmm.)
He says he’s a headhunter, a corporate recruiter.
They go out to dinner. (Before that though, Sayid gets on a disposable cell phone and tells the person on the other line—who may sound familiar if you listen closely—“I’ve made contact,” then tosses the cell in a dustbin.)

The affair with Elsa progresses, and it’s clear that Sayid is here for the “economist,” so he needs to dilly dally (and get all randy) while Elsa waits for that magic page.
At one point, Elsa asks why Sayid is still in Berlin, and shouldn’t he have left already. He says the job he’s on is taking longer than he’d thought. She says, Oh, I was hoping you were still here because of me.

At a later point, Elsa says, I don’t know anything about you. I understand you don’t like to talk about the Oceanic 815 crash, but what about your life now?
I don’t know anything about you, she says. Tell me about yourself, she says. Isn’t that what people in love do, she asks.
Love, Sayid repeats.
Then he says, All right. No more secrets. What do you want to know?
Naturally, the pager goes off at this point, and Elsa says she has to go.
As she’s dressing up though, Sayid says, Get out of Berlin now, because something’s about to happen to your boss and you shouldn’t be around to answer any questions.
This is about my boss, Elsa asks. You’re here to kill him, she says. You used me, she accuses.
Then the b!tch shoots Sayid (roundabout the shoulder).
While she thinks Sayid is suitably disabled, she gets on the phone and speaks German to whoever’s on the other end. The page was a ploy to smoke Sayid out; she’s been on him for awhile now, maybe even from the start.
Sayid of course, our once-and-perhaps-still-could-be-hero, recovers and shoots Elsa dead. He’s clearly shaken though, and takes a bracelet from Elsa which looks awfully similar to the one Naomi was wearing.

Sayid then staggers off to what appears to be a veterinarian’s clinic, and at first I think maybe it’s Juliet there, but of course, it’s Ben.
It seems Ben’s Sayid’s boss now, and he’s gotten Sayid to play hitman to ice whoever’s on his list. As Ben attends to Sayid’s wound, Sayid’s crying, and Ben asks, Are you crying because it hurts, or because you allowed your heart to get in the way again?
Do you remember what happened the last time you used your heart instead of your gun? Ben presses.
You used that as leverage to get me to work for you, Sayid accuses.
Ben says, I have your next target.
Sayid says, But now they know I’m after them.
Ben says, Good.

Aarghh! Sayid’s Crying Freeman for that manipulative lunatic! Nooooo!!!
Presumably, Ben’s now after whoever was behind the Boat People, though I dread to imagine what could have been that pivotal event that got Sayid to end up working for the sleazebag.

And what is up with Kate?! (I refuse to say any more on that matter at the moment.)

Oh, and who is R.G. (or R.C.)?
And can we safely assume that R.G./C. is the mysterious Economist (if the two bracelets in the episode are related, of course)?
And why does the Economist have a thing for low tech, just as Jacob apparently mistrusts technology?

Some great little bits: Daniel’s experiment, and Hurley’s staying clear of Sayid after he sold them out to Locke (“I saw what you did to that guy’s neck with that breakdancing move you did with your legs”).

Parting shot: So we know that Jack, Hurley, and now Sayid are officially part of the Oceanic Six.
We also know that Kate and Ben got off the Island, though whether they’re publicly known as part of the Six is still uncertain.


(Image courtesy of

Monday, March 17, 2008

reVIEW (41)

After Paul Schrader’s Exorcist prequel failed to impress studio heads, the film was shelved, and Renny Harlin was brought in to come up with a new version, Exorcist: The Beginning (see reVIEW (40) in the Archive).
But after The Beginning failed to impress audiences, Schrader’s Dominion made the festival rounds, where the critics embraced it, eventually leading to a limited theatrical release.
And after I got to see it, it was obvious that this was the better of the two prequels.

Opening in Holland in 1944, Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist kicks off with a harrowing sequence that serves to establish why Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skaarsgard) has strayed from the faith. We then pick up years later, as Merrin (on “sabbatical”) is excavating an ancient church which seems to have been buried just as soon as it was completed.
For anyone who’s seen The Beginning, this is the same basic premise found there, though in Harlin’s version, Merrin’s wartime trauma is parceled out as a series of flashbacks running the course of the film.
In hindsight, it’s clear what the studio heads chose to do with Schrader’s Dominion: inject traditional horror elements into the narrative, a gambit that still failed in my eyes, as I point out in my review of The Beginning that it “… ends up neglecting the horror film side of itself.”

See, I honestly don’t think Schrader (and screenwriters William Wisher, Jr. and Caleb Carr; yes, that Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist) intended Dominion to be a horror film in the traditional sense. In point of fact, it isn’t even a horror film in some of the senses that The Exorcist is a horror film.
That theme of evil as external supernatural force as opposed to internal natural instinct, the juxtaposition of the horrors of the Holocaust with the evil that embraces the African village, things that I felt The Beginning could have explored but didn’t?
Well, they’re all here. Apparently, they were diluted and dispersed in the transition to The Beginning. There are some provocative themes and ideas in Dominion, and they’re delved into in a satisfying and adult manner.
Aside from what I’ve mentioned above, Dominion also underscores the manner in which an alien entity (whether a foreign military presence or foreign religion) can exacerbate a local problem. There’s also an excellent sequence towards film’s end that suggests that any large-scale public display of violence is merely the symptom of an internal struggle with evil.
Merrin’s re-conversion here is also more palpable and logical, without the heavy-handed symbolism resorted to in The Beginning.

Now, after what—if memory serves me right—is my third viewing of Dominion, what occurs to me now that didn’t years ago when I first saw it is, Why did the studio heads greenlight Dominion in the first place, only to shelve it and cobble up the Frankenstein’s Monster that was The Beginning?
It had to have been all on the page in the screenplay, didn’t it? The veritable non-existence of traditional horror film elements in the narrative, the final confrontation as philosophical and moral debate? These and other bits like it that scream, This is not a horror film the way most people define that term.
They had to have seen it as early as then, and still they went through with it, only to back-pedal and shelve the film, then to back-back-pedal and release it anyway, all the while spending more and more money.
And admittedly, Dominion isn’t as scary as The Exorcist. In the end though, neither was The Beginning.
What’s particularly damning at this point is, at least Dominion didn’t even attempt to operate on the exact same playing field as The Exorcist, which The Beginning was possibly aiming for with its botched infusion of horror movie stylings.

In the end, Schrader’s Dominion is a fascinating treatise on the nature of evil, and God and man’s positions in relation to that evil, a treatise that just happens to be set in the world of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.
It’s also an effective back story for the character of Lankester Merrin, a disturbing snapshot of his first encounter with Pazuzu.
And ultimately, that’s what a prequel is. A back story.
Not another excuse to make some more money off a franchise that shouldn’t have been one in the first place.

(Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist OS courtesy of

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Season 1 Episode 8
“Bitter Sweets”
Written by Abby Gewanter
Directed by Allan Kroeker

This one’s another winner, as Dilly Balsam (ex-SNLer Molly Shannon, who also voiced Patience the Vampire in The Amazing Screw-On Head), co-owner of Balsam’s Bittersweets Taffy & Sweets Emporium, moves in across the street, intent on crushing her perceived competition, The Pie Hole.
Ned, now officially Chuck’s boyfriend (and preoccupied with his guilt over inadvertently causing her father’s death), is hesitant to engage in the war, the hostilities inadvertently pushed into overdrive by a welcome gift of Georgia peach pie. Olive and Chuck have no problem in getting down and dirty though, and are ready to do so.
They get their chance when Dilly gets health inspector Andrew Brown (Steve Hytner, from The Bill Engvall Show and Roswell) to pay a surprise visit to The Pie Ho (its sign “inexplicably” malfunctioning). Brown discovers the locked room stocked full of rotten fruit (which Ned uses for his ingredients, of course) and shuts the Ho down.

In retaliation, Olive and Chuck break in and release a pack of rats in the Emporium. Unknown to them, Dilly’s brother Billy (Mike White, who starred in The Good Girl and The Stepford Wives, and recently worked with Shannon in his directorial debut, Year of the Dog) is already a floating, taffied corpse in one of the shop’s vats.
When Ned finds out about the rat problem, he goes next door to try and clean the mess up, but instead touches Billy’s corpse by mistake. But Billy can’t talk with a mouthful of taffy, and when the cops bust in, Ned touches Billy again, and he’s caught red-handed, with Billy’s now permanently dead, taffied body.

With Ned in jail, Emerson is forced to sleuth the old-fashioned way, and with Chuck’s (and the coroner’s) help, they find out that Billy bit off one of his killer’s fingers before dying. Sadly Billy’s stomach acids eradicated all trace of a fingerprint, so Emerson and Chuck go to the scene of the crime, and with the help of some flour, lift a pair of handprints (with a grand total of 9 fingers) from a marble countertop.
It turns out that Billy’s killer was Brown, who was rudely demanding to be paid for his “surprise inspection” to The Pie Ho. A scuffle takes place, and voila, dead, taffied Billy.

With Ned in the clear, there’s a welcome back do at the Ho, courtesy of Olive and Chuck. Later that evening, and despite having decided otherwise, Ned confesses that he caused Chuck’s dad’s death. (Dang that cliffhanger!)
There’re also a couple of subplots involving a “carpool doll” (think Lars and the Real Girl), and the return of traveling salesman Alfredo Aldarisio, who is still smitten with Olive, and whom Olive doesn’t realize is right there in front of her, until it’s too late.

At episode 8, we’re winding down on the interrupted freshman season of Pushing Daisies and it’s still going strong. With yet another Hitchcock homage in this episode, “Bitter Sweets” keeps the winning streak going.

Parting shot: We also discover that Dilly is capable of murder, as we see her getting rid of Brown‘s body, which could actually be yet another Hitchcock nod. (If only that 4-fingered hand had been shown sticking out of the trunk of a car as it sank into the muck, then the reference would be undeniable…)

Parting shot: Reviews of The Amazing Screw-On Head and The Stepford Wives can be found in the Archive.

(Image courtesy of

reVIEW (40)

Renny Harlin is in a most unenviable position.
When the original director for the prequel to the classic horror film, The Exorcist, Paul Schrader, delivered a film that the studios deemed unhorrifying, Harlin was tasked to take the project over, basically starting from almost-scratch, with a reworked script, which of course, needed to be shot, all over again.
Never mind that William Friedkin’s harrowing The Exorcist is a particularly tough act to follow. Forget the fact that the first two sequels, Exorcist II: The Heretic (directed by John Boorman) and Exorcist III: Legion (directed by Exorcist author William Peter Blatty) aren’t exactly highly regarded in the annals of horror history.
There’s money to be made from the franchise, and besides, this isn’t a sequel (dirty word, that); this is the prequel, the story before the story.
Of course, with all that history before him (and replacing Schrader, a director who’s undeniably far better than he could ever be), coming into the game, Harlin’s already in the con column, but, to be perfectly fair, we need to see the film first, before making any judgments.
And in the end, as a film, it’s not as bad as one might expect. As a horror film though, it’s not very good.
Down to the brass tacks…

The year is 1949 and an ancient Byzantine church is discovered in the Turkana region of Kenya, a church that shouldn’t exist, in a place it shouldn’t be. Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skaarsgard) has turned his back on the Church and exchanged his priest’s collar for an archaeologist’s khakis (some dark secret that occurred during the war—a secret gradually divulged to us through a series of flashbacks running through the film—having caused him to lose his faith in God). But it is in his capacity as an archaeologist that he is called in to investigate the enigmatic church; a church that when uncovered, is pristine, as if it had been buried the instant construction was completed.
The premise itself is intriguing, and as one would expect, the church (like Merrin himself) has a deep, dark secret trapped within, awaiting the chance to emerge into the light.

What sets Exorcist: The Beginning apart from the sequels, is that it clearly aims to be more than “just” a horror movie, striving as it does to juxtapose the horrors of the Holocaust with the horror that embraces the African village as the story unfolds.
But it never truly succeeds in its lofty aim, in part because the Evil is never as all-encompassing and pervasive as William Friedkin was able to make it seem in the original Exorcist.
Mood and atmosphere are virtually non-existent here; what we have is just a straight-forward presentation of the cause-and-effect plot which appears in the script. It just never really feels like this is the ultimate Evil Merrin is facing.
Additionally, the script (four screenwriters are credited; never a good thing, that) doesn’t quite take the idea as far as it could go either. To have made some kind of statement about evil as external supernatural force as opposed to internal natural instinct, seems logical, given the milieu we are presented with, and yet, no point of that sort is made.

Even approaching the film from the angle of a story of a man’s redemption, of his rediscovery of his faith in the face of strife, it still doesn’t quite work. Given that we see Merrin as a priest once more in The Exorcist, his return to the Church is a foregone conclusion. And while the foundation of the spiritual crisis Merrin is faced with is indeed a weighty and potentially soul-shattering one, the moment(s) of conversion aren’t played out well enough for the resultant end to be credible.
Symbolism at this point gets a tad heavy-handed as well, as we see Merrin crawling through a tight tunnel, ending up in a womb-like cavern, which he then leaves through another tunnel, large enough now to stand in and walk down, all the while being obstructed by the possessed, as if the Devil were reluctant for this soul to be reborn into the faith. This particular sequence ends with Merrin digging his way out of the ground, transfigured by the crucible of evil he has just emerged from.
Symbolism 101, anyone?

In aiming high—and not quite hitting the mark—though, The Beginning also ends up neglecting the horror film side of itself, and save for a couple of disturbing shots of the possessed (achieved through CGI), and the parallel event that occurs in the village when Merrin uncovers the church’s secret, there aren’t much chills to be had here.
Even the locust imagery (one of the truly unsettling elements in the otherwise horrific mess The Heretic turned out to be) is abandoned, replaced by flies, hyenas, and ravens. (And with the hyenas, the CGI stumbles, so a sequence that might have been a high point of the film, turns out to be a rather mediocre affair.)

Ultimately, The Beginning could have been so much more, but is, when all is said and done, a film that attempts to be more than your regular run-of-the-mill horror movie, but is definitely not a landmark in horror cinema, the kind of film the original certainly was.

(Exorcist: The Beginning OS courtesy of [design by The Cimarron Group]; DVD cover art courtesy of

(The above is an altered version of a previously published review entitled “False Start.”)


In an interview with Empire, Bryan Singer has confirmed that he’s currently “in the development phase” of the sequel to Superman Returns, which he describes as “an opportunity to up the threat levels.” Action, kiddies! Action!!
Sadly, Superman Returns screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty won’t be returning, and though there was a rumour that floated that Transformers’ Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman would be penning the sequel’s script, that bit has since (thankfully) been quashed.

The line-ups for the World Narrative and World Documentary Feature Film Competitions for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival—taking place April 23 – May 4—have been announced, and the World Narrative entries that quickly snagged my attention…

Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In), directed by Tomas Alfredson, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist. (Sweden)
Based on Lindqvist's best-selling novel, this beautifully touching tale tells of the first romance for bullied 12-year-old Oskar and the girl next door, Eli. . . who also happens to be a vampire.
Swedish with English subtitles. A Magnet Release.

Amor, dolor y viceversa (Love, Pain and Vice Versa), directed by Alfonso Pineda-Ulloa, written by Alex Marino. (Mexico)
This stirring and moody psychological thriller finds two strangers subconsciously linked when their recurring dreams begin to topple their reality. Featuring strong performances by the sizzling Bárbara Mori (La mujer de mi hermano) and Leonardo Sbaraglia (Intacto).
Spanish with English subtitles. A Panamax Films Release.

And in the “Encounters” section of the festival…

Idiots and Angels, directed and written by Bill Plympton. (USA)
Oscar®-nominated animator Bill Plympton sketches a Lynchian dark comedy about a morally bankrupt man scrabbling to hide the good in himself—which manifests itself in a pair of angel wings that just won't go away.

The Objective, directed by Daniel Myrick, written by Mark Patton, Wes Clark Jr., and Myrick. (USA)
The [co-]director of The Blair Witch Project brings his singular brand of suspense to an exhilarating integration of war and mystery, revolving around a precarious CIA mission in Afghanistan.
English, Berber with English subtitles.

Terra, directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas, written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Tsirbas. (USA)
A dazzling sci-fi animation about an alien girl on the idyllic planet Terra. When the last remaining humans exhaust Earth's resources, she must fight against the Earthlings who want to inhabit her planet!
Featuring an all-star cast of voices, including Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox, James Garner, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, David Cross, and Luke Wilson.

Also part of the World Narrative Competition, Shane Meadows’ follow-up to This Is England, Somers Town.
And, returning to The Objective for just a bit, I’ve probably made mention ‘round these parts before that I wasn’t particularly enamoured of The Blair Witch Project. I’ve always wanted to see what Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez could do with an actual script and no vertigo-inducing shaky cam.
Since I haven’t had the opportunity to see any of Myrick’s post-Project work, I figure The Objective is as good an opportunity as any…

For a look at the complete press release, go here.

(Superman Returns IMAX OS courtesy of; Let The Right One In OS courtesy of; Idiots and Angels image courtesy of

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Dave Stevens
July 29, 1955 – March 10, 2008

(Image courtesy of

Monday, March 10, 2008

Season 2
Volume Two: Generations
Chapter Eleven: “Powerless”
Written by Jeph Loeb
Directed by Allan Arkush

So this is a far more effective volume ender than last season’s Kirby Plaza showdown, but that’s getting ahead of myself…

Let’s kick off with Peter and Hiro’s face off, as they argue back and forth about whether Kensei/Adam is a goodie or a baddie, till Peter zaps Hiro unconscious.
K/A then takes his sword back…

But first…
Micah finally gets home to Niki but needs to rush back out again to save Monica. Of course, Niki being virused and all, doesn’t have her super strength at the moment, so Micah ropes her in to drive. (Though can’t he just “tell” a car to drive him wherever he wants to go?)
Using his cell phone to locate Monica’s cell, Micah and Niki track Monica down to the shop that the hoods who’ve taken her have been hired to torch. (Thus, St. Joan is about to be burned at the stake in New Orleans…)
They get there just in time for Niki to pistol whip the fleeing hood, and rush into the burning store to save Monica.
But Niki’s powerless at the moment, and though Monica gets out, the shop explodes, apparently taking Niki with it…

Back at the Company, Bob is ticked off with Elle and blames her for Claire’s decision to go whistle blower on their a$$. Bob suspends her from any more field duty, so Little Miss Sociopath turns to Mr. B in his cell.
I was never really a Veronica Mars fan, but the scene between Kristen Bell and Jack Coleman, particularly the beginning of it, with Bell’s fidgety eyes following the ball, is great.
Elle asks Mr. B to tell her what Bob did to her when she was just a little girl, and he begins to, but Bob arrives and tells Mr. B that the Company will have to do something to stop Claire from going public…

… which she’s busy preparing for, putting together all the files Mr. B amassed regarding the dastardly deeds of Bob et al.
Mrs. B tries to convince her otherwise, but Claire has her mind set. Even West tries to tell her he prefers his secrets rather than this going public deal. So Claire gives Flyboy his file, and the break up is official.
It looks like Claire’s got something new to cry about, when who should walk through the door but… Mr. B!
With the Bennets alternately relieved and confused, Mr. B drops the bomb. Claire’s plan to expose the Company’s misdeeds is “unacceptable.”
Instead, he’s made a deal: his family gets to live a quiet, normal life (the only thing he’s ever really wanted for them), and he comes back into the Company’s arms.
Mr. B doesn’t stick around for any discussion. He steps out the door, and tells Bob, “It’s done.”

And even as Mr. B leaves home, the man who shot him dead, Mo, arrives home, to find Maya cooking breakfast and Sylar powerless.
(So I’m wearing the dunce cap this time out, as I really thought Sylar was temporarily powerless due to the trauma his body underwent from the Kirby Plaza wounds. I should have suspected that the Company had actually injected him with the virus. With that turn of events though, why didn’t they just kill him when they had the chance, given how dangerous he’s proven to be… I mean, if he’s gonna die from the virus anyway, right? And actually, while on that train of thought, they should have just killed Kensei/Adam too. Just taken his blood and killed him a long time ago…)
Okay, sorry for the cold blooded digression. I should just take Bob’s job and be done with it.

Back in Mo’s apartment, it becomes all too clear to Maya that Sylar is not the Gabriel she fell for. And, having seen Mo’s data on his laptop, Sylar sees that the cure for the Shanti virus lies in Claire’s blood, and that in theory, this should give him back his powers.
So it’s off to the lab!
At the lab (which of course used to be Isaac’s loft, where Sylar ate poor Isaac’s brain), Mo discovers that Sylar’s been injected with the strain that’s killing poor Niki, and Molly helps Maya “find” Alejandro, only to realize that he’s no longer anywhere to be found, and that Sylar killed poor Alejandro.
So Maya’s about to get all black teary-eyed when Sylar shoots her. Then, before he gets injected himself, Sylar wants to see the vaccine in action, so he has Mo inject Maya first, and Claire’s blood heals her and brings her back to life, just as it did Mr. B.
Sylar takes that as his cue to scamper off with the other vial, even as Elle arrives and starts zapping.
(Elle, by the way, was snooping around Bob’s office, to find the files on her… gone. She then checks the surveillance monitors, to see Sylar terrorizing Mo. So off she goes to make Daddy proud.)
Sadly—and how many times must this happen?—Sylar escapes. With the vial meant for Niki.

Meanwhile, Parkman reports to Granny P and Nathan that Victoria Pratt is dead. (So that’s where Parkman was, while Molly was left alone to be used as a bargaining chip by Sylar… Bad Parkman!)
Nathan tells Granny P that Peter’s still alive, and that he’s apparently in cahoots with Kensei/Adam, as their fingerprints were all over the crime scene. Granny P tells them that they’re after the virus and that it’s in Odessa.
She also says that she actually helped K/A once (did she sleep with him too?), but stopped before it was too late, when she realized that K/A was mad, mad, mad. (And she wasn’t for wanting to blow New York up. Hmmm…)
Before they go, Granny P shoots off a thought in Parkman’s direction: if you can’t stop Peter, you may have to kill him. Bullet in the head. Only way to be sure. (Go, Granny P!!!)

Amusingly, we see the tail end of Nathan and Parkman’s flight to Odessa, as they land, and vow never to talk about what went on, ever again. Parkman also tells Nathan what Granny P “thought” him earlier, about just maybe needing to off Peter if he should prove a stubborn handful. Nathan says, “… nothing good ever came from listening to my mother,” and “… leave my brother to me.”
Conveniently, they touch down at Primatech just in time to be met at the door by Hiro. The three then rush in to find Peter having already TK’d the vault door open. Hiro tries to stop K/A, but Peter TK’s him, slams him to the wall, and looks about to telekinetically throttle him, when Parkman arrives and does the Jedi mind trick: K/A is using you, go deal with him.
But Peter fights back with his mind, and is quite literally sweeping the floor with Parkman’s a$$ when Nathan arrives and the brothers stand face to face. Nathan (bless his soul) talks reason to Peter, asking him, “Can you really trust K/A?”

While all that psychodrama’s going on, Hiro steals into the vault and has his own face to face with K/A. Heartfelt and bitter words are exchanged, and Hiro ‘ports them both away.* But even as he does so, K/A drops the vial containing the virus (which he was holding behind his back).
Luckily, Peter arrives in time to telekinetically catch it before it hits the floor. He then incinerates it between his palms, using Ted’s nuclear power.
Standing in a vault containing a whole lot of other mysterious items, the current generation realizes they’ve had enough of cleaning up their parents’ messes. Nathan decisively announces that he’s going public, about everything (ironically, what he once argued with Simone would be the wrong thing to do). He even tells Parkman to make sure people listen to what he has to say.
Of course, a hidden surveillance camera catches this pivotal announcement…

… and at the press conference, I get the sense of what’s about to happen as Nathan gets into a weepy speech, accompanied by shots of episodes past.
Just as he’s about to say, “I can fly,” he’s shot.
In the panic, we see someone walk away, though said someone is too far away to identify. (Parkman though should have been able to catch the killer’s thoughts, right?)

Granny P then gets a call on her cell, and she replies, “It was inevitable.”
She then says, “You do realize you’ve opened Pandora’s box, don’t you?”
End of Volume Two.

We then get a tease for Volume Three, entitled “Villains.”
Sylar injects himself in some back alley, like a heroin junkie.
First, his wounds heal, then, he uses his TK to pull an empty tin of spinach across the alley into his hand.
The big, bad brain eater’s back…

* We see later on that Hiro actually ‘ported Kensei/Adam into a coffin, buried in the same cemetery Papa Sulu’s grave is found. Once again, these people leave a dangerous fellow alive…
Will they ever learn?

Parting shot: So that’s it for this volume, and as fallout courtesy of the WGA strike, that’s it for the season too; Volume Three will be with us in the fall.
I’ll be back soon with the first installment of something I’ve decided to call In-Between Seasons, where I’ll give my assessment of a TV show’s recently completed season (including my thoughts on the finale), and give my two cents on where we should go from here…

(Behind the scenes images courtesy of