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16 Sep

A Blip of a Movie Review: “Possession”

Alternative Title: “What’s in the Box, Bitch?”

Short Plot: Supposedly based on a true story, a young girl from broken family finds a cool box at a garage sale, it starts talking to her, she opens it, moths fly around, she changes, dad is confused, mom is pissed, the girl gets freaky, and Matisyahu tries to save the day.

Pros: Sad to say, not much positive here. The girl who gets possessed (Natasha Calis) is very good. She goes from adorable to demonic in a flash. The high points of the movie are when she is on screen. If this had been an excellent film, I think there would have been valid comparisons to Linda Blair’s “Exorcist” performance. Unfortunately, she will get overlooked because the movie is just not good. And the box is cool, called a Dybbuk box, it is said to hold a Jewish evil or demon. Look for one at your local garage sale…

Cons: With Sam Raimi producing, I was hoping for something good and scary. Didn’t happen. When you find yourself chuckling in scenes that are supposed to be intense, it’s a sign that this is not working. Plus, the dad is a macho-assed basketball coach who flips from not knowing what is going on with his daughter to fully believing she is possessed within a matter of minutes. And the mother’s character is just as bad in believing her ex physically abused his daughter and then all of a sudden unites with him over their daughter’s possession. And the exorcism itself is practically laughable especially when it takes place in a hospital basement physical rehab room where no one goes and no one can even hear the screams and other stuff going on. Girl, please.

Verdict: For me, I know when I’ve seen a good horror film when I’m nervously trotting from my car to the house in the dark, or when I get up for something in the middle of the night and I avoid looking outside or in mirrors, or if thoughts of the movie keep me awake – especially days later. After this film, I slept peacefully and never gave it a second thought. If you are going to make a possession/exorcism film these days you should automatically know it will get compared to “The Exorcist.” So you better bring something new to the table in order to stand out. Alas, nothing here except big disappointment.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Blips

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24 Jul

Headline: Titanic Exhibit Sank!

A couple of weekends ago we went to the Henry Ford Museum to see the Titanic exhibition which featured stories and artifacts from the doomed ship. I was quite excited because we have some (very) minor family history with Titanic. The story goes that my grandfather, who was emigrating to America, was offered a ticket on the Titanic. This ship left earlier than the one he was already booked and I believe he was going to do some work on the ship as well. He ended up declining the ticket, yet his friend decided to go ahead and went on the Titanic. Of course, as a 3rd class male passenger, the guy didn’t survive. However, my grandfather made safe passage on Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympia, a few weeks later. It is odd to think about because that one decision is the reason our family exists. Had he gone on the Titanic, we would most likely not be here. Life is strange.

So we got our tickets and stood in line for our time slot. They give you a “boarding pass” that has the name of a Titanic passenger along with some history about the person, which I found interesting. Once we got in, the disappointment started immediately. First thing while you start to file into the first room is they have a bow of a ship by a green screen and you can go up and get your picture taken – people usually do something corny like the Kate/Leonardo pose in the movie “Titanic.” Of course, it costs you money. Nice commercialism on a disaster exhibition. It was kind of downhill from there. It was basically room after room of artifacts from the ship (which were very interesting) and there were some plaques on the wall describing some passengers, or how the ship was built, or about some areas of the ship. Overall, there was very little rhyme or reason to the layout or to any theme. The flow was awful. People were following kind of an imaginary trail, but then there were things in the middle of the room and elsewhere, so a line didn’t make sense. It was chaotic. There were even things that were just plain, well, stupid. Like in the darkened room where you are supposed to “experience” the night of the sinking, there was a big chunk of ice that people could touch. Why? I think we all know what ice is.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I had thought there would be a specific theme and a story along the way where you can see the artifacts and somehow try to experience or put yourself there. I really wanted a moving experience but all I really got was a barely moving line. At the end there is a large wall with all of the crew and passengers names listed by class. Here is where you are to look at the person on your boarding pass and check for their name on the wall to see if they were a survivor or not. The concept of this was quite interesting, but there was no follow through within the exhibit. Some of the best parts of the exhibit were recovered artifacts that specifically belonged to a passenger. Some were really amazing that they survived – even paper items. Shoes and clothes were quite chilling as were personal objects like combs or jewelry. Or even corked bottles of liquor or perfume that still contained the original liquid. Had they set it up where artifacts from the person on your boarding pass were present along with a story about them along the way – even where they might have been on the ship during the voyage with artifacts from those rooms – something to really connect you with the ship, it might have been a terrific experience. Instead, it ended up like most any other museum exhibit where you look at stuff and move on. Highly disappointing.

And to top it off, there were tons of kids there. Why? Most of them have no clue what this was or is and from what I could tell they have never even see the movie. Kids were running around, yelling, making fun of things and being overall pains in the ass. It was disrespectful and made everything worse. For the most part, I don’t blame the kids, I blame the parents. Most parents were not even explaining anything to the kids or interacting with them at all throughout. As far as the kids cared, they were dragged there and were killing time waiting to get out. The worst of the worst is when you go to the final board to see the names of all the passengers. Kids were running around and screaming “mine’s dead! Mine’s dead!” Meanwhile, the parents were doing nothing and discussing what they were going to do for dinner. Lovely. So glad you came.

Overall, it was the worst exhibit of this type I’ve ever been in – and most disappointing because I really wanted such a great experience and to really be respectful and in awe of the people who did and did not survive that awful, historical night. Instead, I got a tossed together, commercialized exhibit attended by a bunch of uninterested and rude people. Oh, I think I forgot to mention there is another pay photo op on the grand staircase replica and a whole gift shop where you can buy everything from a Titanic bottle opener to replica china sets! Ah the commercialism of a disaster. How sad. Can’t wait to get to New York and buy a 9/11 shot glass! Pah-thet-ick.

Afterwards we toured around the Henry Ford. I had not been there since I was a kid and it was far, far more interesting than the Titanic exhibit. The cars were really incredible and I actually learned quite a bit along the way. I’d go back again too – just as long as the Titanic exhibit has moved on to it’s next unfortunate destination.

Categories: Commentary, Review Tags:
13 Mar

One Nation, Under Music

Last week, two of my favorite artists release CDs on the same day. What was strange is that neither of them have much in common, yet they approached similar subject matter in their music – the current economic state and world view of the US. Both artists have covered similar social subjects before, but launching on the same day gave rise to comparison in message and approach.

Bruce Springsteen has done his share of musical commentary on the state of our country and/or explored the state of the human experience. From “Nebraska” to “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “The Rising,” he has covered some territory normally reserved for the Woody Guthries and Bob Dylans (neither of which he is) of the new musical order. His views are rarely pointed and are typically either wrapped up in bombastic anthems or stark guitar meditations. That has all changed with “Wrecking Ball,” a charged-up mass of spit that is probably his biggest and loudest political statement. Just the titles alone can make you either sad or angry – “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Shackled and Drawn,” “Death to My Hometown,” and “This Depression” to name a few. Each song has a message and Springsteen pushes it down your throat in 8-cylinder “Born to Run” fashion. The thing is, the disc is really great. Sonically charged, driving, fist pumping, etc., it is probably his most vibrant disc in a very long time. And some of the old magic from him and the band hits its apex with “Land of Hope and Dreams,” complete with a banging’ piano riff and one of Clarence Clemon’s last sax solos. It rocks. Still, for me he just kind of says he’s angry with the current state of our world and economy and that the days of “My Hometown” are over and don’t it suck. I guess it is fine, but this coming from a multi-millionaire who probably wears $1000 boots and designer jeans and having it all wrapped up in a high-sheen studio gloss seems a little too much to swallow. As much as he thinks the fat cats and politicians are out of touch with the people, he has to realize he’s not really “one of the people” any longer either. It’s like he hasn’t realized that he has moved into a world where his nickname, “The Boss,” means something different. I think it’s a great record and love hearing it, but the message portion just doesn’t equate for me.

On the other hand, Todd Snider has been making sly commentary on the world around us for a long time now. His self-described “peace hippy” personal has played well and has turning him into a kind of modern folk hero. The new collection, “Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables” brings to life some of the same subjects Springsteen covered, but in a more observational and less confrontational way. By comparison, his titles like “New York Banker” and “In Between Jobs” are more subtle and less in-your-face and his approach is more real – as if he walked in a studio and plugged in a guitar and mic and just started a song. It is a more appropriate setting for the subjects and his lyrics make you pay attention and want to hear what he has to say. Some of his lyrics are pointed, but done in a more ironic or humorous approach. When he strums along and sings about “good things happen to bad people,” you kind of just nod your head and say “I hear ya, bro.” And it feel natural. He’s a hard scrabble cat still just trying to make his way in the world and we can relate to him. It’s a terrific disc.

Snider and Springsteen are worlds apart. Which suits your world better?  You can look at it this way: if you love your Miller Lites, are mad as hell and don’t wanna take it any more, and dig raising your fist in the air, you need Bruce. If you like a bit o’ Jack, are wishing everyone would just have some common sense and get along, and like to see the world through a little bit of haze, seek out Todd.

 

Categories: Commentary, Music, Review Tags:
03 Jan

A Blip of a Movie Review: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Alternative Title: “Un-Material Girl (Don’t F**k with Me)”

Short Plot: I dunno if there is a short plot for this one! But I’ll try. Investigative journalist Blomquist gets hired by an old wealthy corporate guy to track down what happened to his niece many years ago – and who killed her. On a side story, Lizbeth is a chick with attitude – and rightly so as she has been a ward of the state since she was 12 and not treated well. Some bad things happen to her, she seeks revenge, and then the paths of Blomquist and Lizbeth cross and they work to solve the decades old murder mystery. That is about as quick as I can state it.

Pros: It’s a David Fincher film, so you know it will have style and it will have awesome opening credits (which it does), it is more in-tune with the book than the original Swedish film, the leads (Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara) are oddly well cast, the pace is really good – especially for such and involved story, it flows better and is easier to understand over the choppy Swedish version, the plot changes from the book are slight, and it is the second really good Christopher Plummer film of the year (the first being “Beginners”).

Cons: For David Fincher, I thought certain scenes were rather tame in comparison to the Swedish film and that was disappointing as the scenes are extremely important for the Lisbeth character, Lisbeth was less anti-social than she should be, the relationship between her and Blomquist was made much more cozier/friendlier that the other film or book, Rooney Mara made a great Lisbeth but Noomi Rapace in the original had the right tone and attitude, and Daniel Craig looked pretty haggard (although he should for this part as that is what it calls for, but c’mon, it’s Daniel Craig for cripes sake!).

Verdict: I have talked to a couple of people who prefer the original Swedish film, however I like this version better. Mainly for the more coherent and more thorough storytelling. It hits a lot of points in the book that the original film either changed or ignored. I wasn’t sure if I really liked Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, but as the film went on, the more I dug her – however, the character needed to be more gruff and imposing as in the book. But I think that was more of a writer/director choice rather than from Mara. I was very impressed with Daniel Craig. Again, I was not happy about the casting but I think he really fit the bill of Blomquist. Overall, I thought this was a terrific film and I’m pleased to hear that the next film is already in the works for the trilogy.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Blips ••••

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15 Oct

A Blip of a TV Review: “American Horror Story”

Alternative Title: “HGTV’s Scream House”

Short Plot: Psychologist Dylan McDermott is caught doin’ tha nasty with a chick and gets caught by his wife. Instead of divorce, he opts to uproot his wife and daughter and move across country to an eerie house. Tension is high between all three as they start to adjust to the move and try to heal their wounds. They find out the previous owners died in the house (murder/suicide) and they also encounter strange folks who become fixtures at the house – specifically the bat-ass crazy neighbor Jessica Lange and her Down’s daughter. A housekeeper who has worked there for years also shows up and basically forces her services on the family. Odd things occur, McDermott treats a disturbed kid who may have a connection to the house, and whatever you do…don’t go in the basement.

Pros: Really quite creepy, we get to see odd things as a viewer that the family is not, the cast it terrific, it is quite gruesome and the language is appropriately salty, and Dylan McDermott shirtless a lot of the time.

Cons: A side story about the guy’s young affair chick being pregnant doesn’t seem to fit in the time line (or maybe I missed something), not sure how long a series about a haunted house can sustain – seems like the family would bolt out of there (especially after the 2nd episode), it is pretty dire – the family isn’t loaded with laughs (although the side characters can be very humorous), and it could go the way of shows like “Twin Peaks,” where it is brilliant to begin with and then just totally fizzles.

Verdict: Hands down my favorite new show of the season. The creepiness reminds me of some of the scary “X-Files” episodes that I used to love. I like how the story is progressing and it has already opened up a lot of doors to be explored. But the best part of the show has to be Jessica Lange. Casting her was brilliant and she plays the part of the very strange neighbor to the hilt. She was stunning in the second episode in a scene where she punishes her daughter (who has Down’s Syndrome) in a very odd and cruel way. Also, did I mention that Dylan McDermott is pretty much unclothed for good chunks of these shows?  Just making sure…

Even the opening credits can give you the chills….excellent.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Blips ••••

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