Wednesday, April 30, 2008


PUSHING DAISIES
Season 1 Episode 9
“Corpsicle”
Written by Lisa Joy
Directed by Brian Dannelly
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

After an opening sequence where we witness the day of Chuck’s da’s death (during which time Ned’s mum also died, twice), we discover that after Ned’s blurting of the awful truth last episode (like “word vomit,” as he puts it later on to Emerson), Chuck disappears.
As it turns out, she’s hiding out at Olive’s, and she’s so despondent that she feels the need to tell someone about her dark secret, even if that someone won’t believe her.
So she tells Olive.
And Olive doesn’t believe her.

Later on though, Chuck finds out that Oscar Vibenius is still intrigued by her unique smell, which he’s discovered is the same smell he picks up from Digby. (Oscar’s actually shaved off some fur from Digby’s bum to confirm his suspicions; poor Digby!)
Still needing to confide in someone who isn’t Ned, Chuck eventually gives Oscar some of her hair, so he can uncover the truth she’s been keeping to herself.
Eventually though, Oscar returns her hair, wanting Chuck to tell him the truth herself. By that time though, Chuck feels she can safely see Ned already without hating him, so she takes back her hair, and tells Oscar, You should’ve checked out the hair when you had the chance.

Ned and Chuck finally reunite at her da’s grave, where she actually asks Ned to bring back her father, if only for a minute, but Ned refuses, telling her, I can’t bring your father back, then kill him again. I couldn’t do that to you…
It’s a great, sad scene, as Ned wants to comfort her by embracing her, but of course, he can’t…

Meanwhile, since Chuck isn’t spending time at the Pie Hole, she asks Olive to bake a pie for her aunts, and gives her the happy juice she doses her pies with. (Olive is her unsuspecting homeopathic drug mule…)
Thinking it’s vanilla and taking a taste of it but not finding it particularly strong, Olive decides to use the entire bottle.
Later on, Lily eats the whole pie, and in her drugged-out, blissful state, she blurts out to Olive that she is, in fact, Chuck’s mum! (Which is where the episode ends…)

The whodunit portion of the finale involves the murders of Uber-Life Life Insurance adjustors. Notable bits in this subplot include a Blood Simple reference, Bobo the banobo, and Emerson admitting that he has a daughter (which surprises us all, including Ned).

Thus do we close what Bryan Fuller has come to think of as the show’s “teaser season.” Now, due to the strike—and the subsequent time afforded to Fuller to re-think the narrative thus far—the reveal of Lily being Chuck’s mum (a plot development which was originally meant to be resolved mid-season), will apparently “inform much of [Pushing Daisies’] next season’s direction.”
At the Paley Fest ’08, Fuller also confirmed that Chuck will find out who her real mother is next season: "It's going to be interesting to see how she reacts to that information, and how the Pie Maker tries to control her trajectory and how that will complicate their relationship. There are going to be some nice surprises."
Fuller also said that the interruption caused by the WGA strike, "… gave us a chance to look back at the nine episodes and [figure out] what was working and what was not working. The arc of the first nine was a soft, romantic arc. In the second season, we want to do something a little harder and a little more aggressive in the style of storytelling. We learned a lot of lessons."

If you’ve been following these recaps, you’ll know that I love me my Pushing Daisies, and I do think it’s the best new show that emerged from the past strike-truncated season. (Chuck’s a close second.)
I’m looking forward to fall, when Daisies returns, and hopefully, between then and now, people who haven’t tasted of its bittersweet humour and whimsical visuals can catch up on the web. (Or, the Season 1 DVD set, which hits stores in early September.)

Parting shot: At the Paley Fest, Fuller fielded a question regarding the chances Ned and Chuck have of conceiving a child: "I think her egg would die when his sperm hit it."
He also confirmed that Ned is a vegetarian, because if he ever ate meat and it made contact with his insides, the meat would come back to life “and crawl out of him.”

(Image courtesy of pushing-daisies.com.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008






SOUTHLAND TALES
(Review)

“I wanna shine on in the hearts of men,
I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand…”
-- The Killers
“All These Things That I’ve Done”

When I first laid eyes on Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko just as were entering this brave new millennium, the damned thing simply blew me away; it was a fantastic movie that had brains and a heart, it sported the most excellent Mary McDonnell, featured Jena Malone and October Sky’s Jake Gyllenhaal, and introduced me to his sister, Maggie.
As the dust settled around me, the facts sunk in: not only did Kelly apparently have a keen eye for casting, he was also clearly a vital, imaginative force to be reckoned with and a name to watch out for.
So it was with some excitement that I greeted the news of his follow-up, Southland Tales. Yes, I was a tad dubious; among the cast were names like Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock), Sarah Michelle Gellar (a.k.a. Buffy), and Justin Timberlake (a.k.a. That Dude From That Boy Band).
But this was Richard Kelly, so I took a deep mental breath, and trusted him.
As it turned out, I had quite the wait before Southland Tales finally saw the light of day.
Though the 163-minute cut that screened at Cannes in 2006 was met with some derision, it was subsequently picked up by Sony, on the condition that Kelly return to the editing room for some celluloid surgery.
Now, two years later—and twenty or so minutes less—and Southland Tales is finally with us.

Southland Tales is a sprawling apocalyptic epic set in 2008, on the eve of the Presidential elections, in a totalitarian, post-nuclear attack United States exploring alternative energy sources in light of the Middle Eastern conflict. The ambitious, tentacular narrative follows a diverse band of characters—which include an apparently amnesiac movie star (Johnson), a porn star poised for a complete career make-over (Gellar), and a host of Venice Beach-based Neo-Marxist revolutionaries (played by everyone from Christopher Lambert to SNL alumnae Nora Dunn and Amy Poehler)—all struggling to either topple the government, or maintain the status quo.
And while all that socio-political jockeying is going on, the fate of the cosmos lies in the balance…

If you’ve seen Donnie Darko (and if you haven’t, you really ought to), you’ll know that Kelly loves the heady stuff.
Well, Southland Tales certainly delivers on that score. One could, in fact, argue that there is perhaps, too much of the heady stuff. From time travel to T.S. Eliot to the fourth dimension to a perpetual motion drug called Fluid Karma, there is a blazing surplus of cerebral concepts that are certainly not the staple of your average Hollywood movie. Throw in a healthy dose of New Testament Revelations, as delivered to us courtesy of Timberlake (as movie star/disfigured Iraq war vet, Pilot Abilene), who supplies the film’s narration, and a dance number involving Johnson, Gellar, and co-star Mandy Moore, and this one gets truly, truly wild. This is the drugged-out master's thesis to Donnie Darko’s high school explorations of wormholes and time travel.
Little wonder then, the long delay Southland Tales experienced.

What surprised me though was, no matter how bizarre and convoluted things get in Southland Tales (and they do get noodly, believe me), Kelly always manages to smack me with some amazingly moving bits, sometimes when I least expect it, other times when the emotion is enough to help me get past a bit where my brain isn’t sharp and quick enough to process the narrative tics as they’re unfolding.
Among those amazingly moving bits: Timberlake lip-synching to The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done,” and Rebekah Del Rio (who also appeared in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive) singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Again, if you’ve seen Donnie Darko, you’ll know that Kelly has a flair for the Musical Moment, and though the song choices here are arguably not as strong as those in Darko, Kelly more than makes up for it by roping in Moby for the film score. I honestly think Moby’s music had a lot to do with grounding the loopy on-screen action in a potent emotional context.

But what could very well be the best hook Southland Tales has is its truly insane cast, which also includes Seann William Scott, Miranda Richardson, Kevin Smith, Zelda Rubinstein, Bai Ling, Wallace Shawn, Curtis Armstrong, Donnie Darko alums Holmes Osborne and Beth Grant, and Jon Lovitz. Sadly, Janeane Garofalo’s General Teena MacArthur is virtually cut from the proceedings, though you will see her once or twice as the film winds down.
And if you don’t blink, you’ll see Eli Roth die on the crapper…
It’s also a noteworthy thing that though the ultimate effectiveness of the performances of both Johnson and Gellar are up for debate, they do gamely toy with—and in some instances, skewer—their very own celebrity. (And I’d like to think that’s precisely the reason Kelly cast them in the film.)

In the end, I can safely say, I love Southland Tales. Not as much as I love Donnie Darko, mind you, but I love Kelly’s sophomore effort just the same.
It’s messy and strange and moving, and I may not be able to explain to you exactly what’s going on (particularly in the film’s climax), but it’s a fun, revelatory ride that makes the end of the world look like a party you wouldn’t want to miss.
Yeah, I had a nice apocalypse.
I hope you have one too.

“Over and in, last call for sin,
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won,
With all these things that I’ve done,
All these things that I’ve done…”
-- The Killers
“All These Things That I’ve Done”

Parting shot: Kelly has indicated that he has intentions of releasing a longer cut of Southland Tales (as he did with Donnie Darko) on DVD. Hopefully it’ll be the original 163-minute Cannes cut.
A prequel saga to Southland Tales is also available in comic book form. (And it appears that what’s contained in them could shed some light on the more bizarre—and apparently inexplicable—bits in the film.)
Meanwhile, Kelly’s working on his third movie, The Box. Based on the Richard Matheson short story, “Button, Button,” this one features Cameron Diaz, and Superman Returns co-stars James Marsden and Frank Langella.
Of The Box, Kelly had this to say: “[It] is still in my crazy wheel house, but I’m deliberately trying to see if I can make a film that is very easy for a studio to release on 3,000 screens at once, as opposed to platforming it and waiting to see how the public digests it.”
Looking forward to that one…

(Southland Tales OS courtesy of impawards.com; UK quad courtesy of empireonline.com.)

Monday, April 28, 2008




BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Season 4 Episode 1
“He That Believeth in Me”
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Michael Rymer
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

Twelve Cylon models
Seven are known
Four live in secret
One will be revealed

It’s been just over a year since that shocking use of “All Along The Watchtower” and the shattering reveal that the Chief, Tigh, Sam, and (to a far lesser degree of “shattering”; “vaguely surprising”?) Tory, were four of the Final Five.
Oh, and Starbuck’s return from the (apparent) dead and her claim that she’d just found Earth…
After that year-long wait, we’re rewarded with the Season 4 opener, which is basically broken down into three main subplots: how the four newly revealed Cylons are reacting to their epiphany; the repercussions of Starbuck’s return; and Baltar’s finding himself at the centre of some loony cult.
It’s that last one that I’m still kind of iffy about, but let’s cover the first two first.

The Secret Cylons.
That scene where the four are assembled and make an unspoken pact that should any of them sense any of the others (or themselves) about to turn bad, that the solution would be the gun was both very potent—reinforcing Tigh’s climactic Season 3 pronouncement that he is the man he has always believed himself to be and not some damn toaster—and vaguely amusing (in a very nice way, mind you), as they didn’t seem to be anything so much as a Cylon support group, Toasters Anonymous, if you will.
There were some powerful scenes in this subplot: Tigh’s vision/delusion/anxiety of shooting Adama while “Watchtower” played maddeningly in the background; Sam’s reluctance to get into his Viper and the Chief’s impromptu pep talk for him.
And then there were all the little looks, the tiny asides, and of course that Raider scanning Sam, and subsequently bugging out, taking the entire Cylon fleet with it…
(Did it just scan Sam, or could it have downloaded some secret message or code through Sam’s retina, right into his toaster brain? Or am I falling for the same paranoia that may—or may not—be plaguing our Secret Cylons?)
I love this subplot!

Starbuck’s Resurrection.
The polarization caused by Kara’s return is amazing. Most, of course, think it’s all some sort of dirty toaster trick.
Kara’s back after two months (she believes it’s only been about 6 hours) with some muddled story about finding Earth (she can’t remember how she got to Earth, nor how she got back to the fleet, but she does have some pretty pictures to corroborate her story), in a ship that looks impossibly pristine, as if it just rolled off the assembly line, with a totally blank nav comp (so we conveniently can’t determine where the ship has just been).
This subplot is particularly potent when we witness the different reactions the characters have towards Kara’s return: father and son Adamas want to believe it really is Kara (and Lee is more inclined to accept this), President Roslin thinks it’s all a Cylon deception and insists on keeping Kara under watchful guard, while continuing to follow the course apparently dictated by the Eye of Jupiter.
The thing is though, they seem to be jumping farther away from Earth, and Kara warns that if they keep on getting farther from Earth, that she’ll never be able to “feel” her way back to it.
Which all leads to the episode’s truly evil cliffhanger, as Kara determines she needs to talk to the President, so she overpowers her guards and cold cocks Sam, makes her way to Adama’s quarters (where the President is staying while she’s getting her cancer treatments), and points a gun at the groggy (and we can assume, weak and medicated) Roslin…
We also get some great moments in this subplot, with Kara putting forward the theory that she’s some sort of Starbuck clone created by the Cylons (they did steal her eggs, right?), and Sam trying to convince her that, Hey, if you were, I’d still love you, and Kara going, Well, you’re better than me, ‘cause you know, if I ever found out you were a Cylon, I’d shoot you in the head.
There’s also a great Adama family moment as Bill offers Lee’s wings back, but Lee says he thinks he can do some more good in the government as opposed to the cockpit. I just so wanted Adama to say he was proud of his son right at that moment (yes, despite all my trash talk about Apollo last season, I’m a proven sucker for good father and son moments), whatever he chose to do, but of course, ol’ StoneFace doesn’t give any indication of that at all…
Oh, and Roslin visits Caprica Six, wanting to know if she thinks Kara is one of the Final Five; Caprica Six tells her, The Five are near. I can sense them.
Ohhh, yeah!
(I do have one gripe though about this subplot: if we’re really in serious doubt about Starbuck and we don’t want to endanger the fleet without any substantive proof that the Earth she’s ready to lead us to isn’t some sort of Cylon trap, then why don’t we just let her go off alone on her merry way, then get in touch with us once she’s found Earth again? Once that happens, when she’s actually on a very real world that could or could not be Earth, then we can decide whether we risk the “it could be a trap” scenario.)

Baltar the Holy.
So he’s spirited off by some loony (and conveniently enough, predominantly female) cult, being kept in some unused compartment on Galactica, and though I think I can scent where this plot thread could eventually lead (Baltar the Martyr, anyone? Dude does need to redeem himself, after all), what troubles me in this episode is that initial moment of selflessness as he prays for God to take his life instead of the boy dying of viral encephalitis.
That instance of self-sacrifice honestly seemed to come out of the blue for me.
Of course, once that takes place, it seems pretty clear that the boy will recover, and, lo and behold, a miracle! Granted though that this opens the way for Baltar to begin to preach the Cylon’s brand of monotheism to this cult seemingly disenchanted with the Colonies’ gods, so I’m willing to cut this one some slack, to see how this works itself out.
There is also one particularly potent scene, as Baltar is given a much-needed shave in the head, where he and his cultist helper, Paulla (Lara Gilchrist, who voiced Sue Storm on the animated Fantastic Four!) are accosted by a man whose little boy died on New Caprica.
The bereaved father is about to slit Baltar’s throat while his friend is choking Paulla to death, when the woman breaks free and goes totally postal on the two attackers, clubbing both of them bloody with a pipe. Messy.
Like I said though, I need to see some more of where this is going for me to truly say whether I’m crazy about it or not.

At any rate, fantastic episode, and it’s just brilliant to see the show again.
It truly is one of the bigger crimes that BSG’s cast has not been recognized by the award-giving bodies. I mean, people. This is one of the best ensembles working on TV at the moment (and, ever, for that matter), in one of the best shows on TV at the moment (and, ever, for that matter).
And I know that isn’t hyperbole.

The fact that this is the final season has also made each and every remaining moment rarefied, so, as with Lost, I’ll be instituting this here as well…

COUNTDOWN: 19.

(Images courtesy of SCIFI Channel and twitchfilm.net.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sgt. Doakes

DEXTER
Season 2 Episode 11
‘Left Turn Ahead’
Written by Scott Buck & Tim Schlattmann
Directed by Marcos Siega
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

So the gross, English titty vampire finally gets into the spot I had a feeling she’d manoeuvre herself into. She just took her sweet, loony, co-dependent time to get there.

Dex’s epiphany last episode—that Harry walking in on one of his kills, and the subsequent horror of knowing Dex was his creation, and what that creation was truly capable of, was the cause of his suicide—puts him in a very shaky place.
Conversations with Doakes then put Dex in a suggestible state, and Lila swoops in with her ploy to make it look like Angel roofied and date raped her. Dex realizes his plan to frame Doakes isn’t any different from Lila framing Angel for something he didn’t do.
Dex wonders if the evil and the cancer that Doakes was talking about works this way, by seeping into the fabric of all those around him.

Meanwhile, Doakes manages to escape, but runs into a couple of Hispanic goons who can’t speak English, but when Doakes says he’s police, they knock him out and bring him right back to the cabin.
Fortunately, Dex happens to have just gotten to the cabin and seen the evidence of Doakes’ escape. With Dex’s help, they overpower and kill the goons, and Dex puts Doakes right back in the cage.
However, Dex also tells Doakes that he’s decided to turn himself in, but that he needs a day to get his affairs in order.

So he takes Rita and the kids out on the boat, and gives Rita the Mommy Mobile. Then he whips up a living trust, leaving everything to Deb, should anything happen to him. He also tells Lila to drop the charges against Angel, since he really won’t be around in a few days (as he thinks he’ll probably be in jail by then).
This gets Lila’s knickers in a twist and she steals the GPS thing-a-hoo from the Mommy Mobile, which tells her all the locations Dex has driven to in the recent past.

And while Lila’s sniffing around Dex’s affairs, LaGuerta makes her way to Haiti and talks to Doakes’ contact there. She finds out that Doakes wanted to have the blood slides analyzed, and that on two occasions when Doakes was on Special Ops missions, two of the Bay Harbor Butcher’s victims were killed, thus making it look like Doakes isn’t the killer after all.

Deb meanwhile, in her crusade to get Angel off the hook, discovers Lila’s name is an alias, and lifts some fingerprints off Angel’s microwave (which Lila used to nuke some popcorn). It turns out that Lila is actually Lila West and she’s in Miami on an expired visa.
So Deb drops by Little Miss Pardon My Tits’ studio and tells her she’s reported her bony a$$ to Immigrations and she wants Lila outta Miami, pronto.

Later that evening, Dex has some beer and steaks with Deb, prepared to tell her everything. But they talk about Deb and how she’s gotten her sh!t together after that whole Ice Truck Killer thing, and that it was Dex who helped her get through all that.
When Dex asks her how she did it, Deb says all she did was decide who she was and who she wanted to be and stuck to her guns.
It’s then that Dex realizes, if Deb can believe in him, then he can certainly believe in himself. He knows who he is, he’s known all along. He just has to stick to his guns.
So he decides against turning himself in, and reverts back to the “let’s frame Doakes for the Bay Harbor Butcher crap” plan.
But Deb gets a call on her cell: they’ve found Doakes’ car and the search pattern is homing in on the Everglades.

At the same time, the gross, English titty vampire uses the GPS thing-a-hoo and finds her way to the cabin…

(Image courtesy of sho.com.)

Friday, April 18, 2008


LOST
Season 4 Episode 6
“The Other Woman”
Written by Drew Goddard & Christina M. Kim
Directed by Eric Laneuville
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

Flashback time, and we see Juliet a week into her Island stay, when she meets her therapist, Harper Stanhope (Rescue Me‘s Andrea Roth) for the first time.
In short order, we understand that Ben has what appears to be a not insubstantial crush on Juliet (as Harper makes mention later on, because Juliet looks “so much like her,” which I can only assume means Annie; so that sexual vibe I picked up on before between Juliet and Ben actually turns out to be one-way unrequited lust, sort of), and after Juliet first meets Goodwin—a very loaded meeting, considering that we already know they end up being lovers—that Juliet doesn’t think very highly of Harper, and that Harper is Goodwin’s wife. (Apparently, Goodwin doesn’t think highly of Harper either, as he says later on that he’s been sleeping on the couch for a year now…)
And thus do we have a double meaning to this episode’s title…

At one of their sessions, Harper confronts Juliet about her affair with Goodwin, and then warns Juliet that if the affair continues, there will be consequences. Harper goes on to say that she doesn’t want to see Goodwin get hurt.
Juliet says, I would never hurt him.
Harper says, I’m not worried about you; I’m worried about Ben.
And thus, Ben’s reasons for sending Goodwin off to infiltrate the Tailies also becomes awfully clear.
True enough, we see a repeat of that fateful day (where we slyly edit around having to hire William Mapother on for another guest shot by showing reactions shots of the Bizarre Love Quadrangle), soon followed by Ben getting Juliet to his place under the pretense of a dinner party, when it’s actually a candlelit date. (Ewwww.)
During the dinner, Juliet says that maybe Goodwin can come back, now that the children (Zach and Emma?) who were on the list were abducted from the Tailies.
Ben claims though that Goodwin is continuing his deep cover mission since he thinks Ana-Lucia might be turned to join them. (And there’s something gleefully evil about how transparent Ben is in trying to get Juliet jealous.)

Later on, Ben brings Juliet out to the spot where Ana-Lucia left the impaled body of Goodwin, and Juliet breaks down of course, then asks, Why did you bring me here?
Ben counters with, Why you and not his wife?
Juliet says, You knew this would happen. That’s why you sent him out there.
Ben says, Don’t you understand? You’re mine. (Double ewwww.)

Now, onward ho, to the present!
At the Barracks, we once again get a clear view of Valis, as if the writers are really trying to tell us something. (Dang, why do I not have my own copy?)
We get some verbal sparring between Locke and Ben, the result of which is a deal being struck: Ben says let me sleep in a bed, eat with utensils, walk around free, and I’ll tell you what you’d like to know.
Namely: Ben shows Locke a surreptitiously shot video of ol’ Charlie Widmore beating a blindfolded someone up. According to Ben, Widmore has been searching for the Island for a very long time, in order to exploit its mysteries. The man he’s beating up: one of Ben’s people.
Again, according to Ben, that freighter off shore belongs to Da Widmore, and he gives Locke a file on Charlie W.
Locke then asks, So who’s your spy on board?
Ben says, All right, but you might want to sit down for this.
When next we see Ben, he’s looking smug and walking free around the Barracks with fresh linen, much to the shock of Sawyer and Hugo.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, Daniel and Charlotte sneak off, and Jack, Juliet, Jin and Sun search the jungle.
While Juliet is looking around, she suddenly hears that pesky whispering, and who should pop up but Harper, who tells Juliet that she was sent here by Ben to tell Juliet that Daniel and Charlotte are off to the Tempest, where they will purportedly release some deadly gas which will kill everyone on the Island. (Apparently, this is what Ben did once before, when he slaughtered the Dharma people.)
Juliet asks, How does Ben know all this when he’s a prisoner?
Harper says, Ben’s exactly where he wants to be.
She then says Ben sent her here to tell Juliet to go and intercept the strangers and use her gun to kill them both. Jack arrives, holds Harper at gunpoint, but the whispering starts up again, distracting both Jack and Juliet, and when they look back, Harper’s gone…

Meanwhiler, Kate runs into Daniel and Charlotte, and when she starts asking too many questions, is knocked unconscious by Charlotte (the b!tch). When Jack and Juliet find her, Juliet is obviously affected by the very evident emotion Jack has for Kate, so she sneaks off to the Tempest (a power station for the Island, as she quickly explained to Jack) herself.
Kate of course, is one of the Island’s best trackers, so despite her aching, bleeding noggin, she tracks Juliet and Daniel and Charlotte.

At the Tempest (which isn’t so much a power station as it is a poison gas factory), Juliet finds Daniel in full protective gear, trying to override the computer, with a recording (you know, you’ve heard the one) warning of imminent contamination.
Juliet holds Daniel at gunpoint (there’s no sign of the b!tch), but Daniel keeps on tapping at the keyboard. Juliet rips off his gas mask, and he says he’s trying to render the gases inert.
Charlotte sneaks up behind Juliet, and an all-out brawl ensues, where Juliet takes some nasty hits from Ms. C.S. Lewis. B!tch. On the plus side, Juliet does manage to rip off the b!tch’s gas mask too.
The automated countdown gets all the way down to 1, we all know this drill, before it stops, Daniel apparently saving the day. Yahoo! Go, Faraday!

Jack and Kate arrive and the b!tch explains that they were here to prevent Ben from possibly using the gas against them. Kate is unconvinced (and rightly pissed off), so she goes inside the Tempest with the b!tch to check the veracity of her claims.
Outside, Juliet tells Jack, Ben sent me here to kill them both.
Juliet then goes on to say, These people are here to wage a war on Ben, and he’s going to win.
She then goes on to say, And when Ben wins, you don’t want to be anywhere near me, Jack.
And why is that? Jack asks.
Because Ben believes I’m his, and he knows how I feel about you, Juliet says.
Jack says, He knows where he can find me, then proceeds to liplock with Juliet. (I kept on half-expecting to see Kate catch them, but she never showed up. Of course, they were kissing right in front of the open Tempest doors, so all anyone had to do was look out, and voila. But I guess Kate was too busy being pissed off at the b!tch. I so wanna see Kate smack Charlotte around some…)

So this episode basically answers the question, What exactly is the deal between Juliet and Ben, that “history” between the both of them that was alluded to by Mr. Friendly before, and re-begs the questions, What happened to Annie?
The episode also puts forward Charles Widmore as the (or at least, a) baddie. But of course, this is all The World According to Ben, and we all know he speaketh with fork-ed tongue, so, all we really see is good ol’ Charlie wailing on some poor, blindfolded schmuck.
I suppose we’ll have to wait and see…

And that whole Harper appearing (and disappearing) in the jungle to a chorus of whispers, sort’a smells like one of those Island apparitions. Is this Smokey in the form of Harper? Or Jacob?

Oh, and on the con side, the whole countdown to gassy Armageddon (all the way to 1, mind you) was a tad tired.

And speaking of countdowns…

COUNTDOWN: 42.

(Image courtesy of ABC and fanpop.com.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008




THE EYE
(Review)

First, a few words regarding my thoughts on the Pang Brothers’ original Khon Hen Phi.
Though it did have its moments, I have two main problems with it.
One: there were several stretches of the film where the tension was not quite at a level that could sustain the narrative and maintain my interest in the on-screen proceedings.
Two: that climax seemed rather jarring given all the largely low-key bits that had come before it. I always considered that sequence a little too Hollywood a capper for this otherwise very Asian horror film.
So it seemed rather appropriate that an English-language remake would spring into being. And though I was looking forward to it when Hideo Nakata’s name was floating around the property, it eventually fell into the laps of French directing duo, David Moreau and Xavier Palud. Now, their Ils (Them) grabbed enough of my attention to at the very least warrant my interest in their redux, so it was with, what I termed in my Ils review (located in the Archive), “a healthy sense of anticipation,” that I approached The Eye.
What I got was a mixed bag: though The Eye has, like its predecessor, some moments, and that Hollywood climax seems slightly more at home here, the problem of the narrative sustaining its own tension is, sadly, still evident.

Now, as I’d expected, both Alessandro Nivola (as Patrick Faulkner) and Parker Posey (as Helen Wells) carry their own weight here, though Posey flies in and out of the narrative pretty quickly. (Appropriately enough, she’s a stewardess.)
What came as a surprise is that Jessica Alba (as blind violinist Sydney Wells, whose cornea transplant suddenly gives her both normal, and second, sight) actually delivers a passably effective performance, probably the best I’ve seen from her.
Though she does miss a beat here and there, it’s still commendable that she’s clearly stretching here. So long as she steers clear of any future Fantastic Four malarkey, there could still be some hope for her.

It was, however, disappointing that Moreau and Palud couldn’t capture that same sense of tension they nailed in Ils.
I actually had the same reaction to Alexandre Aja’s follow-up to Haute Tension, his remake of The Hills Have Eyes, that it wasn’t as taut as his previous film. Of course, in both cases, the set-up for Ils and Haute Tension is such that the majority of the on-screen action—of the stalk and slay variety—occurs in a rather short amount of time.
Now, while in The Hills Have Eyes, the tension seemed to dissipate since it became spread out over a number of different characters, in The Eye, it ended up defused by the nature of the narrative itself.
There just doesn’t seem to be an adequate amount of atmosphere and suspense to tide the audience over and keep them on the edge, even during the slow bits.
I do however, give props to Patrick Lussier, whose editing, though not exactly brilliant, is quite effective in a number of spots.
Though having mentioned Lussier, I do have to mention something else.

There was talk that floated last year about re-shoots for The Eye that did not involve Moreau or Palud, and that in fact, Lussier was the man who came in to handle them.
It’s a distinct pain that this is becoming a frequent practice, particularly when the film is the first Hollywood project for a foreign director (it’s reportedly happened to the Pang Brothers’ The Messengers, Oliver Hirschbeigel’s The Invasion, and Xavier Gens’ Hitman, to name a few).
To be fair though, The Eye is certainly better than either The Messengers or Hitman. It’s also not as severely compromised as The Invasion. In point of fact, if the Frenchmen were indeed not involved with those re-shoots, then it isn’t plainly evident where those new bits are in the overall picture.
As far as the film’s stand-out moments go though, they don’t quite measure up to the original’s.

If it’s two things I took away from Khon Hen Phi, it was the long-tongued ghost licking obscenely at some meat (sadly gone in this version) and the floating elevator dude (present here, though I do recall finding the original’s take far creepier).
And though I did say the climax felt a little more at home here, this version of the sequence also went whole Hollywood hog with the idea, complete with incidental car chase. Also, as I recall, in Khon Hen Phi, there were some casualties. (Weren’t there? It has been awhile since I’ve seen it…)
Here, Sydney apparently gets everyone out alive.
Sure, this is post-9/11 America, but I suspect it’s really because of one thing: this is Hollywood, people, so the victories have to be grander, don’t they, the triumphs more complete and all-encompassing.
As it is, we’re lucky they still kept the “blessing in disguise” outcome, so the climactic victory still came at an apparent cost.

Ultimately, The Eye is an acceptable English-language remake, and though I can’t really say it’s significantly better than the original, neither is it particularly worse. All in all, a passable way to while away some time. On the heels of what Moreau and Palud achieved with Ils though, this is, admittedly, a bit of a let-down.

Parting shot: Reviews of Ils, both Fantastic Four installments, The Messengers, Hitman, and The Invasion can be found in the Archive.

(The Eye OS, banner, and image courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com.)

Monday, April 14, 2008


AFTERTHOUGHTS (62)
CLOVERFIELD DVD AND THEN SOME...


With Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield laying siege to store shelves on April 22, Paramount is giving you your choice of four U.S. retail exclusives…


Suncoast and FYE offer the DVD in limited steel book collectible packaging, while Best Buy offers a bonus disc (TJ Miller’s Video Diary), for those of you who can’t get enough of Hud.


Meanwhile, Target’s Deluxe Edition will include a music CD (Rob’s Goin’ To Japan Party Mix), the track list of which includes:

OK GO - "Here It Goes Again"
Goldfrapp - "Ooh La La"
Coconut Records - "West Coast"
Scissors for Lefty - "Got Your Moments"
The Vapors - "Turning Japanese"
Parliament - "Give Up the Funk"
Of Montreal - "Wraith Pinned to the Mist"
The Blood Arm - "Do I Have Your Attention?"
Bright Eyes - "Four Winds"

And finally, Kmart and Sears offer a free Cloverfield ringtone with the DVD.
So take your pick and bring Cloverfield’s beastie home. You know you want to…

Parting shot: A review of Cloverfield can be found in the Archive.

(Cloverfield DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com; steel book packaging image and TJ Miller’s Video Diary cover art courtesy of cinemablend.com; Rob’s Goin’ To Japan Party Mix cover art courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com.)


CLOVERFIELD
(Review)

When J.J. Abrams, Lost writer Drew Goddard, and Felicity co-creator Matt Reeves, get together with the intention of giving America its very own iconic monster ala Japan’s Godzilla, that’s just something you have to pay attention to.
And when the film itself is surrounded by a cloak of secrecy, preceded by a trailer that sparked fanboy insanity and birthed crazy-a$$ rumours that stretched from Voltron all the way to Cthulhu, and hyped by a viral marketing campaign that supplied a fascinating back story, well, Cloverfield was simply something that had to be seen.


We open in darkness. Color bars slam onto the screen. Text indicates that what we are watching is a tape recovered from an incident site of something code-named “Cloverfield,” a tape that is now property of the Department of Defense.
When the tape proper begins, it’s a quiet New York morning, following a pivotal night in the lives of Robert Hawkins (The Black Donnellys‘ Michael Stahl-David) and Elizabeth McIntyre (Odette Yustman, soon to be seen in David S. Goyer’s upcoming The Unborn), and right off the bat, Abrams and company slam us with two very potent realities.
One, there’s an immediate and overpowering sense of voyeurism, as we are acutely aware that this is a tape that has been seen and analyzed by the U.S. military and government. And two, there’s also the immersive feeling of being part of the action, of looking out through the camera’s viewfinder and being in that room, in the middle of these people’s lives.
All throughout the film’s running time, as we bear witness to a day at Coney Island—used subsequently as a potent emotional counterpoint throughout the film—then Rob’s going away party (he’s off to work for Slusho! in Japan), and the bizarre catastrophe that mars the evening’s proceedings, we never quite escape this double-headed contradiction, and this intriguing mixture of these two opposing feelings is merely one of the many things that makes Cloverfield work so fiendishly well.


The fact that Goddard’s script and Reeves’ direction exploits the first person handheld shaky cam narrative convention Cloverfield chooses so effectively, is also another reason why I was so impressed with the film.
To begin with, I wasn’t terribly enamoured of The Blair Witch Project, which used the same DIY documentary aesthetic and left me with a case of motion sickness and an overall sense of dissatisfaction at having spent so much time with a group of boring and uninteresting ciphers.
Given my less-then-stellar experience with Blair Witch, I was understandably anxious about this aspect of Cloverfield, despite my excitement at the film’s creative pedigree. So when the first 18 or so minutes managed to suck me in so completely that there was actually a part of me that got annoyed at the sudden shift in tone when the attack begins (I really wanted to chill out some more with these people), I knew that Reeves and Goddard had me.
And when the remaining hour or so shapes up to be a tightly wrought, adrenaline-pumping, emotionally-wringing cinematic experience, well, that’s just brilliant, isn’t it?


Naturally, the film’s depiction of an attack on New York, and the resultant fear and panic and shock that accompanies it, evokes the reality of 9/11, and actually shunted me back to the pivotal moment I saw the towers’ collapse on CNN (which I had stumbled upon completely by accident as I was channel-surfing).
It was an unsettling echo of that overwhelming sense of being witness to the real-time unfolding of a catastrophe that you could do nothing to stop, while simultaneously feeling a part of the tragedy by your being its witness.
And while Cloverfield presents a fictional situation, the first-person POV nonetheless slams you right in the middle of the action, making the resultant experience a very raw and visceral one. And getting us to care for Rob and his friends only manages to raise the stakes higher. (Even during his Felicity days, Reeves already displayed a sharp eye and ear for characterization.)


At this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the excellent cast here, who all give naturalistic performances that belie the inherent over-the-top craziness of the whole monster movie milieu: these are just people who suddenly find themselves at the heart of a devastating catastrophe.
Yes, it’s being caused by a monster running rough shod over New York, but the damage to both property and people (and the shock and trauma that serve as accompaniment) is still very evident and undeniable.
It helps, of course, that not only are these actors well-cast, they’re also not recognizable marquee faces, thus contributing to the authenticity of the experience. Most are TV faces—Stahl-David; The Class’ Lizzy Caplan; Carpoolers’ T.J. Miller; and Jessica Lucas, from Life As We Know It and Edgemont—while Mike Vogel, who plays Rob’s brother Jason, starred in Poseidon and The Deaths of Ian Stone.


And while they’re all commendable, the stand-out amidst the supporting players has to be Miller, who plays Rob’s goofball best friend Hudson “Hud” Platt. Hud’s a tag-along dopey sidekick who finds his calling as designated documentarian of Rob’s going-away party and takes it to heart, as it’s a very important job, or so Jason tells him, as he fobs off the thankless task to Hud.
It’s a testament to Miller that he performs the majority of his role off-camera—since he’s the one supposedly shooting—and still manages to leave an indelible mark on the film’s proceedings.
It’s also because of Hud’s manner that the idea of him dumping the camera—and thus shirking off his perceived responsibility as the evening’s documentarian—smoothly becomes something inconceivable, even when all the mayhem breaks out. Hud is someone who needs to have something to talk about, something to do, and the camera is quite possibly the one thing that keeps him focused and sane as the city around him ignites in creature feature insanity.
Which is a particularly good thing, as one of the other things that bugs me about this approach is why in the hell the camera guy never seems to just hurl the damned camera at whatever’s chasing him (thus effectively lightening his load and truncating the film’s running time).
Miller and Goddard’s script admirably address this concern, and Cloverfield is all the stronger for it. (The going-away testimonials which Hud eagerly records early on also serve as the smart set-up for the Blair Witch confessional moment you just know is gonna come around sooner or later…)


In fact, the only (admittedly not that major) rupture in my enjoyment of the proceedings is quite possibly when the gang runs into the military, since, a) the grunts are taking orders from a recognizable genre face (Twin Peaks’ Chris Mulkey); and b) they don’t seem to bother confiscating the camera, which military types are usually prone to do in this sort of situation, right?
Well, I guess they were just too busy mounting the big attack.
And like I said, not that major.


Now, as to whether Abrams and company were ultimately successful in their initial goal, of giving America its iconic movie monster, I’m not entirely sure. The thing is, it’s pretty freaky-a$$ looking.
Let’s face it, some dude in a green rubber reptile suit vomiting radioactivity (or even a giant ape scaling the Empire State Building) is a lot more pop culture-friendly than this bizarre, misshapen (and nameless) monstrosity.
But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, right?
In the meantime though, following in the wake of Bong Joon-ho’s Gwoemul and Frank Darabont’s The Mist, Cloverfield is clearly another towering entry in the annals of creature features, a pulse-pounding monster movie for our post-9/11, YouTube world of instant documentation, upload, and access, where creatures can exist and wreak havoc on both the silver screen and the World Wide Web.
And with any luck, in the collective pop culture consciousness as well.


Parting shot: Cloverfield hits DVD on April 22, and you can check out Afterthoughts (62) in the Archive to see your choice of U.S. retail exclusives…

Parting shot 2: Reviews of Bong’s Gwoemul and Darabont’s The Mist can be found in the Archive, along with episodic recaps/reactions to Lost.

(Cloverfield OS courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com; images courtesy of 1-18-08.com, empireonline.com, filmz.ru, and wired.com.)


Sunday, April 13, 2008






reVIEW (46)
SARINUI CHUEOK
(MEMORIES OF MURDER)

Before Korean director Bong Joon-ho made a decidedly bigger splash with his creature feature Gwoemul (The Host), he had already made a significant impression on the global cinema stage with his 2003 serial killer procedural, Sarinui Chueok (Memories of Murder).

Set in 1986 and based on a real-life unsolved case, Sarinui Chueok chronicles the predations of a serial rapist and killer in the Korean countryside, and the unfolding investigation as local detective Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho, seemingly ubiquitous in the best of Korean cinema, whom Bong would again collaborate with on Gwoemul) is made to work with city boy Inspector Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung), who’s just arrived from Seoul to help crack the case.
Despite a premise that sounds like a very run-of-the-mill serial killer thriller, what makes Sarinui Chueok stand out as a shining exemplar of the genre though is the manner in which Bong grounds the narrative in the time and place of its setting.

This is 1986, in the Korean boondocks, where crime scenes are routinely disrupted and compromised by unruly children, curious gawkers, the press, and runaway tractors; a pre-Internet Korea, without even the technology and equipment for a standard DNA check. It’s Grissom’s worst nightmare…
This low-tech procedural aspect, Bong’s film shares with David Fincher’s Zodiac, another brilliant serial killer thriller of recent vintage. But what makes Sarinui Chueok even more fascinating is how the narrative is truly of Korea, how the plot and script can’t simply be transplanted to, say, an American setting for an English-language remake.
This is Korea, where civil rights advocates will frankly be horrified at the manner in which suspects are treated and confessions extracted, making this the worst nightmare of any of the dozen or so Law and Order casts as well…

It’s this very particular national identity though that serves to make Sarinui Chueok Exhibit A in the case that you can always approach what seems to be a dead horse of a genre with new and vital eyes (something Fincher also managed to do with Zodiac and Showtime is doing with Dexter).
It’s also Exhibit A in the case of never making the mistake of aping the wrong conventions of a foreign film when you’re clearly not making one. (Think Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha, which tried so hard to be an Asian art film, when it clearly wasn’t.)
In this latter case, Sarinui Chueok also shares its commendable distinction with Exhibit B, Sebastian Cordero‘s Cronicas (Chronicles). Produced by Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, Cronicas is likewise based on a real-life serial killer case, this time, in Ecuador. Though I do admit to finding Sarinui Chueok a far more absorbing film, Cronicas is nonetheless a very non-Hollywood approach to the genre that is very grounded in its Ecuadoran setting.

What also makes Sarinui Chueok such a memorable and distinctive entry in the annals of serial killer thrillers is its sense of humour; this is going to sound strange, but Sarinui Chueok is the funniest serial killer thriller I’ve ever seen.
Again, Bong takes that very particular Korean setting and sensibility, and finds strains of amusement in the proceedings, without overstepping the boundaries of good taste. Though there are chuckles and guffaws to be found here (mainly in the manner in which the investigation is conducted and the rural circumstances that surround it), we never truly forget that this is a gruesome case, whose details and deviant minutiae were alien, not just to the provincial townsfolk who were intimate with its disturbing leavings, but to the country as a whole.

And if you’re not totally convinced, then consider that Sarinui Chueok was the most watched film in South Korea in 2003, and is currently the fourth most viewed film in South Korea of all time. It also won Korea’s Grand Bell Awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Leading Actor (Song).
So if you’re looking for something different on the serial killer thriller front, or discovered Bong Joon-ho through Gwoemul, you should really check out Sarinui Chueok.
It’s effective, lyrical, and yes, funny, and that’s not something you can say about most serial killer thrillers.

Parting shot: Though the narrative is elegantly compressed in this film, the real-life case also mirrors the actual Zodiac case in that this was a terribly protracted investigation which was ultimately left unsolved: ten similar murders occurred between October 1986 and April 1991, and over 3,000 suspects were interrogated over its course.

Parting shot 2: Reviews of Bong’s Gwoemul and Fincher’s Zodiac can be found lurking in the Archive, where episodic recaps/reactions to Dexter also reside.

(Sarinui Chueok OS courtesy of soju22.net; images courtesy of seoulselection.com; Memories of Murder DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.)




AFTERTHOUGHTS (61)
LOOKING THROUGH THE PRISM

The nominees for the 12th Annual PRISM Awards—which honour “outstanding accomplishments in the accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction in film, television, interactive, comic books, music, and video entertainment,” as well as responsible and realistic depictions of mental health issues—have been announced, and among those singled out are:

Control (The Weinstein Co. / Northsee Ltd. / EM Media / IFF-CINV / 3 Dogs and a Pony / Warner Music UK)
Feature Film – Limited Release

Lars and the Real Girl (MGM Pictures / Sidney Kimmel Entertainment)
Performance in a Feature Film (Ryan Gosling)
Mental Health Depiction Award

Lost (ABC Entertainment / ABC Studios / Bad Robot)
Drama Episode (“Through the Looking Glass” Pt. 1 and 2)
Performance in a Drama Series Episode (Matthew Fox)

Congratulations, one and all. For the complete list of this year’s nominees, go here.
As noted on the official PRISM Awards website (http://www.prismawards.com/), “… winners are selected through a submission and review process by members of the creative community and scientific experts. They are selected for their entertainment value, accessibility of their message, and scientific accuracy. The production in each category that best exemplifies these three objectives is presented with an award.”
The awards will be handed out on April 24, 2008, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and will be taped for telecast on FX.

Parting shot: A review of Control can be found in the Archive, along with episodic recaps/reactions to Lost.

(OS’s courtesy of impawards.com; Lost images courtesy of abc, atnzone.com, and aol.com.)


reVIEW (45)
DANS MA PEAU
(IN MY SKIN)
(Review)

When the French want to make you squirm, they really don’t kid around.
In recent years, films like Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, Fabrice Du Welz’s Calvaire, and Kim Chapiron’s Sheitan have played like violent, visceral assaults on their audiences.
Somewhere amidst all of that grueling cinema lands 2002’s Dans ma peau (In My Skin).

Directed and headlined by frequent Fran├žois Ozon collaborator, Marina de Van, Dans ma peau introduces us to research analyst Esther, ambitious, hard-working, and in what appears to be a healthy relationship with Vincent (Calvaire‘s Laurent Lucas).
For all intents and purposes, Esther is normal.
But after she gashes her leg badly in a fall, an injury she doesn’t even notice till much later, Esther is gripped (and gradually overwhelmed) by an inexplicable compulsion to cut herself.

Given its grave subject matter of self-mutilation and the unflinching manner in which de Van approaches the material, Dans ma peau is one of those cinematic experiences that feels more like an endurance test than anything else, the kind of film I grow hesitant to view a second time.
Bereft of a traditional Hollywood cause and effect plot, and with its distinct refusal to shed light on the psychopathology of Esther’s dysfunction, Dans ma peau is clearly not for everyone, and is the sort of film that will repulse, revolt, and alienate many a viewer.
De Van disturbs, and ultimately, terrifies, her Esther gradually transforming over the course of the film into a single-minded obsessive, as we bear witness to the impact her newfound tastes have on her job and her relationship. (The dinner at around the midpoint of Dans ma peau has to be one of the most bizarre and unsettling ever committed to celluloid.)
Esther’s journey to reconfigure her psyche by carving into her own flesh has the lingering aftertaste of Cronenberg, a nightmare journey through the tantalizing realm of the organic. It also recalls Takashi Miike in its atrocious regard for the human body.

As I said, this certainly isn’t for everybody, but what is perhaps undeniable is the potent piece of transgressive cinema de Van has produced here.
I’m almost afraid to see what she comes up with for her feature length follow-up, Ne te retourne pas, with Monica Bellucci and Sophie Marceau…

Parting shot: A review of Chapiron‘s Sheitan can be found in the Archive.

(Dans ma Peau DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.co.uk; In My Skin DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008




LOST
Season 4 Episode 5
“The Constant”
Written by Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse
Directed by Jack Bender
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

Meanwhile, on the helicopter, in taking the exact coordinates Daniel gave him, Frank flies directly into a thunderhead. But the turbulence makes them veer just slightly off course, and suddenly, Desmond is 8 years in the past, during his army stint, and he believes he’s just had a particularly vivid dream involving a lunatic Island and a helicopter.
He’s doing some military exercises in the rain when suddenly, he’s back in the helicopter, and he can’t remember Sayid, and doesn’t understand why he’s on a helicopter…
While Sayid keeps a panicked, struggling Des away from the controls, Frank clears the thunderhead and lands the helicopter on the freighter, where the other Boat People seem none too happy to see them.
Des is taken to the infirmary, where he’s locked in, and he meets Minkowski (Fisher Stevens), who’s in four point restraints. Des is freaking, not knowing why he’s here, or who these people are, and Minkowski says, It’s happening to you too.

Back on the beach, Jack and Juliet are having a discussion with Daniel and Charlotte, wondering why it’s been a day and they haven’t heard word from Sayid when the trip to the freighter should have taken all of 20 minutes.
Daniel starts to talk about perception of time, and Charlotte says, We don’t want to confuse anyone.
Juliet says, Well, talk really slowly and maybe we’ll understand. (Yeah! Score!! You go, Ju-ju, take that snotty Brit b!tch down…)
Daniel says, So long as Frank follows the exact coordinates I gave him, everything should be fine.
Jack asks, And what if he doesn’t?
Daniel: Then there could be some side effects…

Thus does the episode shuttle back and forth between 2004 Island (or in this case, Freighter) Des and 1996 Army Des, as we tag along with Des’ 1996 consciousness as it ping pongs back and forth across the time continuum.
Poor Des gets a break though, when Sayid trades his gun for Frank’s NaomiPhone. Sayid rings the Beach, and talks to Jack, telling him about Des’ wonky condition.
Armed with his journal, Daniel jumps in and things really get interesting.
Daniel talks to Des and quickly determines that Des believes it’s 1996, so Daniel says, looking through his journal, All right. When you get back to where you believe you should be, go to Oxford and look for me. Tell me this (numbers, oscillate, 11 hertz, mumble mutter), and if I don’t believe you, tell me you know about Eloise.
So Des jots this down on the palm of his hand, but when he finds himself in 1996 again, his palm is of course, devoid of any writing.
Luckily, he’s got a good memory, as he tracks down a long-haired Daniel, who initially thinks it’s a lame prank (“Time paradox,” he scoffs), but when Des lays down the numbers and the Eloise bit, Daniel takes him seriously.

Daniel shows Des Eloise, who as it turns out, is a lab rat. Daniel uses the figures to irradiate Eloise, to make her “unstuck in time.”
After the radiation bath, Daniel lets Eloise into a maze, which she travels through to the other end, unerringly.
Daniel is jubilant, and Des doesn’t get it. Daniel says, I just finished this maze. I’m going to train her to run through it an hour from now.
Des then spends about 5 minutes back on the freighter, and when he finds himself back in 1996 (where much more than 5 minutes have passed), Eloise is dead.
Bastards!
It seems Eloise had an aneurysm since the poor rat’s consciousness was shuttling back and forth between the future and the present, and as the condition progresses, it gets harder and harder to return, especially if there is no anchor, no constant, something (or someone) important who exists in both time periods.
And of course, we all know who Des’ constant is.
So Des needs to make contact with Penny in 1996 and 2004, or he’ll wind up just like poor Eloise.

Des calls Pen in 1996, but her phone’s been disconnected, so he meets Pen’s da (Alan Dale, who plays bastardly patriarchs like nobody’s business), and asks for her phone number. (Incidentally, Da Widmore’s at an auction for a log of the Black Rock!)
In a swanky bathroom, Da Widmore gives Des Pen’s address (and wastes a whole lot of water, the d!ck).

In 2004, they find they’re in sort of a pickle, as the communications were trashed by some mystery someone, so they can’t call Pen.
Given a paper clip and spit, Sayid can, of course, fix anything, but they’re locked in the infirmary! Suddenly though, the door isn’t locked anymore, is in fact, open, so they get crazy Minkowski to bring them to the communications room (where Des sees a calendar that indicates it’s almost Christmas).
All the while, Minkowski’s nose is bleeding, and he winds up very dead, just like poor Eloise. (And I thought, That’s the extent of Fisher Stevens’ role? Oh well…)
Sayid does his best to fix the comm stuff, but they still need that phone number.

In 1996, Des goes to Penny’s, and though it’s painfully clear she doesn’t want anything to do with him, Des all but pleads, just give me your phone number, and I’ll call you 8 years from now, on Christmas Eve, 2004.
Pen says, If I give you my number, will you leave me alone?
Des says, Aye.
So Pen gives him her number (…; if I was Des, I’d be so screwed), and as he memorizes it, she asks, If it’s so important, why don’t you write it down?
To which Des replies, It wouldn’t matter.
And Pen kicks his arse out.

In 2004, Sayid fixes the comm line, just in time for Des to return with the number in his noggin. Sayid warns him the battery may go belly up at any moment, so be ready for that.
And Des makes the call.
And the phone rings for what seems a brutally long time.
And Pen answers!
And they talk and cry (and I’m beginning to bawl too), and Des can’t quite believe she’s at the other end of the line, and Pen says, I’ve been looking for you for the past 3 years, and Des says, I’ve been on an Island, and Pen says, I know all about the Island, I’ve been doing research, and when I got to talk to your friend Charlie, I knew it was all true, and they profess their love for each other, and the battery goes belly up.
Sayid apologizes, but Des says it’s all right, and he seems to remember his 2004 self now.
And back in 1996, as Des walks away from Pen’s, he smiles, as if instinctively knowing that everything’s all right, no imminent aneurysm, for now…

Back on the beach, Daniel’s looking through his journal, and he sees this: If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant.

Okay, brilliant episode, once again getting into the nature of time in the Lost-verse (as with Season 3’s “Flashes Before Your Eyes”), while cranking up the waterworks with the whole “must search for my constant” thing, as if to say love really can save your life, if only you let it.
The question that will occur to the time police though, is evident: why don’t either Des or Daniel remember the 1996 meeting (which gave Daniel the key to unlocking the secrets of time travel)?
Well, let me get it straight first.

When the helicopter veers off Daniel’s coordinates, the consciousness of 1996 Des is suddenly downloaded into 2004 Des. It’s this consciousness that gets shunted back and forth between the two time periods for the rest of the episode.
By the episode’s end, Des apparently remembers Sayid, but is this still the 1996 Des consciousness (which technically would have no memories of the 8-year gap) or did the 1996 consciousness somehow fuse with the 2004 consciousness when Des contacted his constant?
Or (and this seems the most likely), did the veering off-course jog the consciousness of 2004 Des back to its 1996 condition, which then caused it to take the place of the original 1996 consciousness, back in 1996?
So technically, the consciousness we were tagging along with was 2004-thinking-it-was-1996. Thus, when everything is set to rights, the 2004 consciousness gets toggled back to its proper setting.
Which would mean that it took Des over for that period of time in 1996, which, for his original 1996 consciousness (which was evicted to God-knows-where for the interim), would seem like a blank, a hole in his memory, as if he’d experienced a blackout of, what was it, a weekend?
Thus, no memories, other than, Gee, you know I lost a couple of days back in 1996?

And as for Daniel, when we see him in the episode 2 flashback, he did strike me as someone who may have had some sort of nervous breakdown in the recent past.
So maybe something happened to Daniel that caused him to have a breakdown, thus eradicating his memories of that encounter. (And maybe that also has something to do with that memory test Charlotte was giving Daniel with the cards in a previous episode; I think I may have neglected to mention that before.)
Checking out the official podcast and some interviews, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have indicated that in the Lost-verse, the universe “course corrects” itself to avoid and eradicate any potential paradoxes caused by futzing around with time, either through time travel, or attempts to avoid inevitable futures. (If memory serves me right, this is also what Mrs. Hawking explained in “Flashes Before Your Eyes.”)
So maybe the breakdown (if Daniel indeed had one) was the universe’s way of course correcting, obliterating memories that Daniel should never have had in the first place.
Ah, but then Daniel wrote that note to himself in the journal…
Smart.

Whatever the case with that theory though, I do sincerely hope we see more Daniel flashbacks in the (heh) future.
I also hope the whole “aneurysm threatening to go pop” thing is safely over now. I mean, I wouldn’t want Des to just drop stone dead the moment he hooks up with Pen. My friend Karen will so not like that.
(Honestly, after his phone call to Pen got cut off, I kept on thinking, Okay, he’s gonna keel over right now, isn’t he? But he shakes Sayid’s hand, and seems fine. So let’s let it be that way, huh? Des should get his happy ending with Pen, shouldn’t he?)

What also just struck me now (and really should’ve long ago, given that Alan Dale has played that sort of shady father figure in other shows before) is that maybe, Da Widmore is a major player in all of this.
I mean, it can’t be mere coincidence that he’s interested in the Black Rock log. Could he be trying to find some indication of the Island’s whereabouts in the log?

And is the Boat Person who smashed the comm stuff Ben’s spy? Could it be—as all indications seem to point to—Michael?
And if so, was it Michael who unlocked the infirmary door? Or was that Frank, who did claim to Sayid that he wanted to help?

Oooh, questions, questions…

COUNTDOWN: 43.

(Images courtesy of abc, sparklies.org, abc.go.com and aol.com.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008


JOSHUA
(Review)

George Ratliff’s Joshua is a measured and terribly assured psychological thriller that follows Brad and Abby Cairn and their son Joshua, as their lives transform overnight with the birth of the couple’s second child, Lily.
Ratliff’s script, co-written with David Gilbert, takes a realistic approach to the idea of the bad seed and becomes the solid foundation to what is perhaps the most unnerving entry of this lot, which includes films like The Omen, The Good Son, and of course, The Bad Seed.
And not only are Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga exceedingly effective as the Cairns, but young Jacob Kogan as the nine-year old Joshua is a fantastic find.
Practically from the get-go, there is an alien otherness to his Joshua, some element in his performance that never once makes you forget that there is simply something wrong with this child.
Rockwell is the father who tries gamely to hold his family, his marriage, and his job together, while Farmiga (who already held her own with some formidable co-stars in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed) is the mother who struggles to keep her head above the treacherous waters of post-partum depression. Their performances and that particular plot point ground the film in a very real and tangible way, which makes things all the more tragic when the narrative takes its turns into “Good Heavens, what an evil child” territory.


Joshua is a chilling look at the changes that are wrought by the arrival of a new child into an already established household. It’s also a disturbing study of just how alien and removed a child can be from its parent.
Though we never get to see what life was like before Lily (the film basically opens with her birth), we do get a sense of how the new infant has managed to encroach on Joshua’s territory, and it’s really only in the light of this fresh arrival that the Cairns become acutely aware that their first child isn’t at all like a regular nine-year old.


I’ve mentioned this ‘round these parts before, that I’ve long been fascinated by serial killer cases. Thus, I’m well aware of the early warning signs of a sociopath in the making. (As are most movie-going types these days, I imagine, given the surfeit of serial killer thrillers out there.)
Still, when the beats are done here, there’s a genuinely troubling nature to the occurrences (some on-screen, many off-) that serve to magnify the cold and calculating threat that lies at the heart of Joshua.


Making quite a stir when it screened at Sundance last year, Joshua didn’t make a whole lot of money in its theatrical release, and I can sort of see why.
It isn’t a comforting film, Joshua. It’s disturbing in a far more insidious way than a movie like, say, The Omen. Stripped of any supernatural horror movie conventions, Joshua’s terrors play as frighteningly real and actually possible; we can’t all be the parents of the AntiChrist, right? But an intelligent sociopath is far more commonplace.
Joshua also plays into that fear of course, that you could do your best to raise your child reasonably well, give him everything you think he wants and needs, never lay a violent, abusive finger on him, and he’ll still turn out to be a sick little psycho.


This disturbed me a whole lot more than I thought it would, and that’s mostly on Farmiga and how her performance becomes this really painful journey to watch. There are several moments where you just want to scream irrationally at Rockwell’s character, “Can’t you see there’s something horribly wrong here?! Look at your wife, man!”
This is award-worthy stuff, but sadly, there’s that stigma horror films are unjustly saddled with, so this will join the ranks of Brilliant Performances in Horror Movies That Will Ultimately Be Ignored By Oscar And His Ilk.
If anything though, Joshua points to a dazzling future for Farmiga.


The other aspect of Joshua that simply gets beneath the skin is the final reveal, when the motivation for Joshua’s actions becomes icily clear. It’s certainly been there from the early sections of the film, constantly hovering in the background, and yet when it does rear its ugly head (in a flat-out disturbing rendition of Dave Matthews’ “The Fly”), it comes at you like an avalanche of maggots.

So if you like your psychological horror undiluted by any modern Hollywood safety standards, Joshua’s the boy to see.
Just be prepared, because he has no concept of the term “kid gloves.”


(Joshua OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com; DVD cover art courtesy of dvdactive.com.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008



reVIEW (44)
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

Having watched Nicholas Roeg’s classic “psychic thriller” Don’t Look Now last night, I decided to make a mini-Donald Sutherland festival of it, and booked a return trip to San Francisco circa 1978 to watch, for the umpteenth time, the pod people take root, in Philip Kaufman’s awesome Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

1978.
I missed seeing Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers with my family because I had to stay home, sick. The next day, my older brothers regaled me with some of the film’s highlights, including of course, the bit with Pooch, and that nasty, nasty last shot. (Even back then, the term “spoilers” was alien to my brothers.)
I got to see the film later on, and it’s to the credit of Kaufman and everyone else who was involved with this second cinematic adaptation of the Jack Finney novel, The Body Snatchers, that the movie still worked like gangbusters, even if I already knew some of the vital beats of the narrative.
Over the subsequent years, Invasion of the Body Snatchers would remain the solid core of my Kaufman Three, to be joined by 1983‘s The Right Stuff and 1990’s Henry & June.
And even now, three decades later, the film still gets me.

Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) is an employee of the Department of Public Health, who, along with co-worker Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) and some friends, gradually uncovers an insidious invasion of our planet, by alien pods that duplicate humans, producing identical replicas that possess the memories of the original, though stripped of all emotion.
While the first film adaptation—Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956—was an allegory for an America under the shadow of the Red Scare and the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Kaufman’s spin on the material is a wildly effective exercise in urban paranoia, and the fear of conspiracy.
In the film, the city that is arguably the most free-thinking and liberal in the United States, San Francisco, becomes ground zero for this creeping, unseen invasion whose ultimate goal is total conformity. Utilizing the trappings of civilization—the vast, faceless bureaucracy; the daily workings of a bustling metropolis—as both mask and tool, this sort of take over, a cultural and societal cancer, if you will, is far more disturbing than the death rays-a-blazing gambit of other science fiction invasion films like Independence Day or War of the Worlds.

Aside from the effective leads, Kaufman also drafted Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright (as Jack and Nancy Bellicec), as well as Leonard Nimoy (as psychiatrist David Kibner), who deliver some excellent supporting performances.
Kaufman also gathered some great behind-the-scenes personnel, including pioneering sound designer Ben Burtt, who provides some truly unnerving aural effects (one can never truly shake off the pod shriek), and make-up effects wizard Tom Burman (fourth on my list of Best Special Make-Up Effects Dudes, Ever),* responsible for the major creepfest which was the multiple pod births in the garden sequence.
And the cameos…
Kevin McCarthy runs out of the 1956 version, right into this one, and Don Siegel trades in his director’s chair for the driver’s seat of a cab. Priceless.

As I mentioned above, this film is 30 years old, and it’s still as powerful and disturbing today as it was back then. Kaufman hit this one dead on, succeeding where the third and fourth adaptations (Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers and Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s The Invasion) ultimately failed.
In point of fact, in this post 9/11 age where all—even governments—are suspect, and where racial profiling is a questionable exercise since skin colour cannot genuinely reflect a person’s inner ideology, Kaufman’s grim vision of a society changed overnight is perhaps even more chilling today than it was in 1978.

* Number one: Rick Baker.
Number two: Rob Bottin.
Number three: Tom Savini.
Tom Burman has been keeping busy recently working on TV’s Nip/Tuck and Grey’s Anatomy. Back in the day, he also did notable make-up effects work on Oliver Stone’s The Hand, Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People, the Michael Myers-less Halloween installment, Season of the Witch, Brian De Palma’s Body Double, and slasher fare like My Bloody Valentine and Happy Birthday To Me.

Parting shot: Aside from all its other strengths, Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers also sports the cruelest use of “Amazing Grace” outside of an American Idol audition show that I’ve ever seen.

Parting shot 2: Reviews of the fourth film adaptation of The Body Snatchers, The Invasion, as well as Steven Spielberg’s take on War of the Worlds, can be found in the Archive.

(Invasion of the Body Snatchers OS courtesy of impawards.com; DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.co.uk.)