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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A legend is reborn


Rob Zombie has dug deep into his ambitiously creative conscious to bring us a completely new vision of the John Carpenter classic, "Halloween". I do not remember anything of the original, and going to see this movie with no basis for comparison was the right thing to do because Rob didn't make this movie as a continuance of the series. Rob wanted to take his love for this classic and put his creative input into telling the backstory of how a killer is created. I have read review after review from audiences and critics alike who insist on comparing this film with the original and by doing so they are not giving either film its due respect.

Upon telling John Carpenter of his intention to do the film, Rob was told "make it your own". As Rob has said in reference to his blessing, "what more do you need?"

What Rob brings to his film, along with many of the actors you either loved or hated in his first two films, is a renewed sense of terror in Michael Myers. Rob felt that the long line of sub-par sequels that followed the original basically stole away his thunder and he succeeded in making Michael scary again, with a very brutal and aggressive tone to Michael's rampage throughout the film.

You see in the film how Michael acquires the infamous mask that he dons as he wreaks havoc, as well as the environment that surrounds him as a child. Seeing that really makes you think about how some kids are doomed from the start and you almost understand how a child could end up like Michael Myers did. Michael's mom in the film, who is a stripper, is played by Rob Zombie's wife Sheri Moon. Apparently in the original there is vague mention of a location called the Red Rabbit Lounge so Rob expanded on that to give Deborah Myers' character some weight as a struggling mother who deals with a mouthy boyfriend and promiscuous daughter (played by Hannah Hall, known as young Jenny from Forrest Gump) while trying to do the right thing for young Michael and a baby, who young Michael refers to as "boo".

The character of Laurie Strode, a babysitter stalked by Michael Myers in the original and played infamously by Jamie Lee Curtis, returns but she is not the same innocent girl she was before. Scout Taylor-Compton plays Laurie, but with a bit of a dark side and a sharp tongue to match the personalities of her friends.

If you saw Rob's first two films, "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects" you'll have fun picking out the returning actors as they turn up in this film. Many of them are in one scene or one portion of the film and a few others are spread out more in different parts. Rob is like many directors these days who find comfort in using familiar faces in his films.

I've seen this film twice now and you can bet that I'll be grabbing the DVD on its release date to go home and watch it again, probably with the directory commentary on to hear Rob guide me through his brilliant vision. I loved this film and I will go rent the original because I want to see the film that Rob Zombie has such high respect for. One thing I will not do, as no one who views either film should, is to use it as a comparison tool.

Rob has said about his "Halloween" film that "it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, that's it". He will not be involved in any sequels that may be made following his film, which he says he's pretty sure will happen. Personally, I don't think this film should be touched. I think this film is a unique instance of a director fulfilling a dream to complete one film that stands alone. Rob Zombie is quickly becoming a serious force in horror filmmaking, but expect to see a departure from that genre as he has revealed that he signed with Dimension Films to direct two more, and they may or may not be horror films.

50 Cent: HANG UP YOUR MIC!

Well, it came as no surprise to this listener of hip hop that 50 Cent would be eating his words after losing an album sales battle to Kanye West.

Upon receiving the news that his album would be released on the same day as Kanye's (Sept 11), 50 Cent promptly offered a challenge stating that he would retire from making solo rap cd's if Kanye's album outsold his. Immediately I knew it was a mistake, as he says that his reasoning was based on previous album sales like his sophomore album "The Massacre" which sold 1.1M albums in the first week. The recording industry is suffering more than ever so for 50 to expect the same trend in sales was ludicrous, on top of outselling an artist with far more widespread appeal.

Kanye West may be the diva of hip hop, with his rants and tirades over being ignored for major awards, but he debuted a huge hit single, "Stronger" to introduce his new album "Graduation". 50 Cent has received very little airplay and an icy response to his singles so far which should have told him that he had a hard battle ahead.

Well, the results are in as 50 Cent's "Curtis" sold 691,000 copies while Kanye West's "Graduation" album sold a far more impressive 957,000 copies. Hey 50, here's some advice: follow the lead of Al Gore and ask for a recount. Of course, in this case it won't matter since it's pretty obvious who the people want to hear more of. If you ask me, I think the sales numbers reveal a clear message that 50's retirement is what people want to see because he basically gave us all the opportunity to dictate his future.

I doubt that 50 will be a man of his word and actually hang up his mic. If he does, it will be about as long as Jay-Z's retirement lasted, which was almost non-existent. I'm sure he'll come up with some excuse like "it was just a marketing ploy" or something like that to keep making records. Since he is under contract with Aftermath Entertainment, I doubt Dr Dre is about to let 50 sit idle when we all know that 50 is capable of selling a lot of records. I'm guessing that 50 will try to bounce back when he releases the next G Unit album, "Locked and Loaded".

In the end, this was just a really good thing for hip hop. Whether it was a marketing ploy or a foolish sense of self on behalf of 50 Cent, a lot of albums were sold and hip hop again made news.
I'm hoping that both artists take something positive from this, namely 50 Cent as he should learn that if you're going to shoot off at the mouth, at least be able to back it up. Kanye didn't need anymore boost of his massive ego, but I think this is sweet vindication for him.

Now the only question is: will 50 Cent keep his word and stop making solo albums? My guess is no, and in two years when he releases a follow-up album I'll be posting again.

Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes

I got this in an email from my mother-in-law and I just couldn't resist sharing this with you. I'm not sure when this was aired but I think everything he's saying is right on the money. If you concentrate, you can even hear him saying it in your head with that unique straightforward delivery of his...........

I don't think being a minority makes you a victim of anything except numbers. The only things I can think of that are truly discriminatory are things like the United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black Entertainment Television, and Miss Black America. Try to have things like the United Caucasian College Fund, Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Television, or Miss White America; and see what happens...Jesse Jackson will be knocking down your door.

Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving to the ball game.

I believe they are called the Boy Scouts for a reason, that is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong in the Girl Scouts! ARE YOU LISTENING MARTHA BURKE?

I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is not a phobia, it is an opinion.

I have the right "NOT" to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off.

When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling, it is the Law of Probability.

I believe that if you are selling me a milkshake, a pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you want to be an American citizen, you should have to speak English! My father and grandfather didn't die in vain so you can leave the countries you were born in to come over and disrespect ours.

I think the police should have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you threaten them after they tell you to stop. If you can't understand the word "freeze" or "stop" in English, see the above lines.

I don't think just because you were not born in this country, you are qualified for any special loan programs, government sponsored bank loans or tax breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop, trinket store, or any other business. We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms, so that decades later they could come over here and tell us our constitution is a living document; and open to their interpretations.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor. I know pro wrestling is fake, but so are movies and television. That doesn't stop you from watching them.

I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny he made and continue to make more. If it ticks you off, go and invent the next operating system that's better, and put your name on the building.

It doesn't take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid; and smack their little behinds when necessary, and say "NO!"

I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want them, but please don't pretend they are a political statement. And, please, stay home until that new lip ring heals. I don't want to look at your ugly infected mouth as you serve me French fries!

I am sick of "Political Correctness." I know a lot of black people, and not a single one of them was born in Africa; so how can they be "African-Americans"? Besides, Africa is a continent. I don't go around saying I am a European-American because my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from Europe. I am proud to be from America and nowhere else.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dog meat: it's what's for dinner?

I just received an email from the Humane Society website because I've added myself to the list of people who wants to try and make a difference.

The email discussed the illegal dog meat trade in the Philippines. Apparently, it was made illegal in 1998 but still occurs because penalties are not stiff enough to prevent people from continuing the practice. Dogs are stolen from owners or grabbed from the street and piled upon each other in cages with their mouths bound shut with plastic rope. The dogs are pulled violently from the cage upon reaching the destination and basically slaughtered for the trade.

I saw a video which, luckily, did not show any of the actual killing of the animals but rather showed them being pulled from the cage and you can see the look in their eyes as they suffocate in a sweltering pile of other dogs around them. Those at the bottom of the cage usually perish from being unable to breath or from heat.

TAKE ACTION!!
https://community.hsus.org/campaign/stop_dog_meat_trade/

There is a pre-formed letter to the president of the Philippines to provide more funding to end this horrible practice. Hundreds of dogs have been saved already, but I'm sure hundreds and thousands more are in danger of turning up in some filthy butcher's kitchen, having been ripped away from a happy family life.

This kind of thing sickens me and saddens me at the same time. I saw a video a while back and wrote about it regarding dolphin slaughter. The video was horrifying and put me in tears and seeing these dogs literally smashed into a cage, visually frightened, is equally upsetting.

People who can commit such horrible and cruel acts toward innocent creatures deserve nothing less than the exact same treatment if they are caught in the act or found guilty of these kinds of activities. In a society that has advanced in many ways, particularly in our justice system, I feel that some punishments warrant some old-world fashion in their delivery.

I'm not an activist and I don't work for PETA, but as an animal lover and simply a decent human being with a soul, I ask anyone who reads this to follow the link above (for both causes) and start paying more attention to the cruel behavior that many people still engage in and do your part to stop it. Problems like this don't just go away, and if you can read about this and go about your business you may as well be one of the people committing these crimes against animals.

Get yourself on the email list for the Humane Society and start helping the cause! What takes you only a few minutes can save many lives of animals who may otherwise die in very inhumane and undeserving fashion.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

He's back!


Spielberg and crew are hard at work on the latest piece of the Indiana Jones saga. At the last VMA awards, actor Shia Lebeouf revealed the title of the film to be "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". Shia has been linked to Spielberg in two previous films, Transformers and Disturbia, both Dreamworks productions. Shia joins Harrison Ford, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Karen Allen who returns as Marion Ravenwood, her character from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Shia Lebeouf is described on the IndianaJones.com website as "one of the fastest rising stars in the world of film." Steven Spielberg himself has said about Shia "His talent has impressed not only his audiences throughout his young career but the directors, producers and fellow actors who have worked with him in his television career and now his film career." Despite the huge buzz surrounding this rising star, he still gets a little starstruck as seen in the video clip HERE. I find it especially endearing that he is so overwhelmed and touched at the thought of the opportunity he has been given.

The trilogy of films that lead up to this anticipated finale are some of my absolute favorite films of all time. "Last Crusade", starring Sean Connery as Indy's father, is a perfect film, touching on all nerves, and rounding out the trilogy very well. The Indy trilogy earned 11 Oscars and grossed more than 1 BILLION dollars at the box office alone. Think about that for a minute, a billion dollars just at the theater. Then you consider all of the video sales and then the people who had to get the trilogy on DVD, which contains a bonus disc with the making of all three films. Then you have to think of Harrison Ford, who has now been a huge part of the two biggest film series of all time, including Indiana Jones and the original Star Wars trilogy. To think that Tom Selleck nearly got cast is almost unthinkable although he may have done just fine. Tom was cast but unable to accept the role as he was previously under contract for a television series called Magnum PI, which ultimately became very successful.

I am confident in assuming that Spielberg and Lucas would not have touched this project unless the script was magnificent. They turned down scripts from Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) and M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Lady in the Water) before giving the green light on a script from David Koepp (War of the Worlds, Spiderman, Panic Room).

Unfortunately for those who loved Sean Connery's part in this story, he will not be returning and made the announcement that "if anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film" and goes on to say "in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun."

The film is set for release on Memorial Day of 2008 which will give filmmakers a hard act to follow for creating a summer blockbuster. I'm hoping that a film of this magnitude sets the tone for a great summer at the movies, rather than casting a shadow over all that follow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The official demise of the MTV Video Music Awards

Britney Spears opened the 2007 VMA's on Sunday night, showing more skin than respect for the show, stumbling across the stage and completely disconnected from the audience. This was no surprise for me, as I've come to expect that her career has been over for a long time. If the pathetic display she put on was her idea of a comeback, she's lost touch with reality in a big way.

I read recent articles on MTV in which the president called Sunday's show a reinvention of the Video Music Awards. Obviously she put a lot more faith in Ms. Spears as she should have because Britney's performance set the tone for the entire evening. Nothing can save this production anymore, as it has deflated itself over the years by relying on cheap comedy and lackluster acts to keep viewers tuned in.

I think back to the early 90's when groups like Pearl Jam were hungry to get noticed and gave jaw-dropping performances to keep the show noteworthy. I used to hook up my stereo to the TV and hear everything in stereo sound, shaking the walls around me before home theater systems were a common purchase. I saw Pearl Jam perform "Animal" for the first time on the 1993 VMA show and that is the performance that started my eternal love for that group. They're not the only group who kept the show going over the years though. For many years, the VMA's were like the hip crowd's answer to the Grammy awards, providing plenty of water cooler chat, from Madonna writhing on the floor during "Like A Virgin" to the kiss heard 'round the world between herself and Britney and then with Christina Aguilera.

Several rock acts got huge career boosts after performing on the VMA's, such as the aforementioned Pearl Jam along with Linkin Park, Foo Fighters, Blink 182 (who performed "All The Small Things" surrounded by little people), The Vines, and semi-regular performers the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In the last few years, rock has all but been removed from the VMA tradition, in favor of hip hop and pop acts who boast more bling and stage presence than talent or artistic merit.

Everyone knows that the VMA's are more about popularity than anything, as the Grammys are the true decider of which acts had the best music from an artistic standpoint. However, hip hop has become a facet of even the Grammy awards, starting back in '88 when Will Smith took the first Grammy award for a rap album, under his "Fresh Prince" persona. Since then, rappers have been receiving honors for their music for years, and sometimes deservedly.

Eminem was up for best rap album and album of the year for "The Marshall Mathers LP" in 2001. While he took home the best rap album Grammy, he was passed over for the album of the year in favor of Steely Dan's "Two Against Nature" which was their first offering of new music in 20 years.

Forgive my sidetrack to the Grammys, back to the VMA's..........

I watched Britney fall on her face (metaphorically speaking) and felt bad for her but at the same time the dark side of me was taking it all in with a smile. Here is a woman who was the pop princess 5 years back, with MTV bowing down to her incessantly. She left the spotlight to raise two kids, or have her nanny raise them, and has lost touch with her audience. People have forgotten about Britney the pop icon, and labeled her Britney the horrible mother.

Rather than give it her all and come out on stage ready to prove herself as worthy of our attention, she gave us her best "deer in the headlight" look as she tried to dance and made no effort in trying to even look like she was singing.

Kanye West has come to her defense, citing that MTV exploited her knowing that she was not ready to return to the stage, in a desperate pull for ratings. West has recently expressed discontent with the network, being that he was told to perform from a suite while many other acts took the main stage. Kanye has never been shy about speaking his mind and says that his "Stronger" should have opened the show as it was meant for stadiums. Kanye is currently in an album sales battle with 50 Cent, who vowed to stop recording solo albums if Kanye's new album "Graduation" outsells his newest album, "Curtis" which were both released on 9/11 of this year.
Early sales numbers show that 50 might have to hang up his mic, if he is a man of his word.

In other VMA news, Pam Anderson's exes, Kid Rock and Tommy Lee were involved in a heated exchange which was broken up. I have no idea what it was about, but I'm sure it will prove to be riveting, as those two always have such intelligent things to say.

This is what the VMA's have become basically, nothing more than a vehicle for backstage antics and lackluster performances by talent of yesterday who are have overstayed their welcome time in the spotlight. I'm guessing next year, Van Halen will open the show with their current reunion lineup, sans original bassist Michael Anthony in favor of Wolfgang Van Halen (son of guitarist Eddie). I figure that performance will set the tone for another show that everyone wonders why they bothered to watch, which has been the trend for at least 5 years now.

MTV, PLEASE JUST STOP THE MADNESS!