Friday, July 25, 2014

Matthew 7:15 or: "The Rise of Gilead"

See You Next Tuesday!
You'll notice I didn't use that crazy-eyes picture of Ms Bachmann for this piece. In fact, I specifically looked for one that was attractive. And there is no doubt, the former Intelligence Committee member (insert your own oxymoron joke here) is an attractive woman. And so is She Who Must Not Be Named. And why is that? Because the Christian Right (which I will forever and ever continue to insist, is neither) is middle America. Breadbasket, small town, Ozzies and Harriets; Beavers and Wallys., who go to work  and school and church and do and believe everything people in authority tell them to do and believe. The people in authority? Well, they'll lie and scare and do anything they can to keep Ozzie and Harriet under their thumbs. The Face of Hate in America isn't a white man under a white hood or a skin-head Neo-Nazi. No, my friends, the Face of Hate in America is Mom. 

Bachmann continues to spread lies about LGBT people (I can only suppose) in the hope that they will get her elected in 2016. They should get her censured, at the least. You can read and /or listen to her most recent offensive comments at Thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, if you are so inclined. Though I must comment on one quote in particular. It is one of the oldest and most proven incorrect lie these hate-fueled dimwits use when trying to justify their hate:

  •  "Also, they want to abolish age of consent laws. We would do away with statutory rape laws, so adults would be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”   

This lie continues to be spread by the Right, even though every reputable therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist refutes it. Of course, how can we expect the the truth (or even anything sensible) from a woman who claimed that the HPV vaccine did the following to a 12 year old girl in FL:  "(she)... took that vaccine, that injection -- and suffered from mental retardation thereafter." Really? So, you are using an archaic and generally accepted as offensive word, while blaming the offensive (to you) condition on a medically sound prophylaxis which has been proven safe and effective? Hmmm... so I suppose when you got your Polio suger-cube, you got Polio? I know I did. NOT! (Yeah, immature, I know - but at least I read).

In Margaret Atwood's chilling 1985 novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," America in 2195 has devolved into a dystopian Christian theocracy called The Republic of Gilead, where women (especially unmarried women) have no say over what happens to them. The central character Offred, is the titular 'handmaid,' basically a baby factory for the ruling class. In Atwood's Gilead, LGBT people are labeled 'gender traitors' and hanged. This is exactly what the Right wants, only they don't want to wait another 170 years. They want it now. And they present it as truth. And the weak and uneducated believe them. Because they look like Mom. And so what if Dad is fruitier than you're Uncle P? He can cure himself with 'Reparative Therapy," praise Jebus! Reverend Shambock says it's so! Of course, neither of your two Uncle Ricks' eating habits are helping... 

Listen, I don't care what you believe. Personally, I wish no one believed (because it would end so many conflicts and so much hatred). And yes, I have plenty of friends who are believers of one faith or another. I don't dislike or shun them because of it. And yes, the vast majority of my believer friends are progressive liberals like Uncle P.

 I do care about your politics, though. But when your politics are based on your dogma, you get a very smelly tire fire that needs to put out well-before even coming close to being a problem.

And while I can't speak for any of you (or however many are left, at this point), I refuse to go back in the closet for June effing Cleaver on Zoloft!



Rant over. Enjoy your weekends! 

More, anon.
Prospero

My Guilty TV Pleasure

Nick Cannon Pranks the Judges
The recorded episodes of my Reality TV guilty pleasure are over for the season. The top 47 of 48 acts have been chosen for the remaining live shows of "America's Got Talent" at Radio City Music Hall (the 48th is still being voted on, online). You can read the full list here, if care to see it. And while it's still early enough that I don't yet have a 100% favorite, I was pleased to see several of my favorites are going into the live rounds at Radio City. I was also sad to see a few favorites not make it. And a couple I'm still not sure about.

Of the male singers to make it through, Miguel Dakota is both talented and adorable. If he would only ditch the stupid knit hat.



On female singers, I'm torn, though I am so pleased that quirky, beautiful and talented Emily West (which also happens to the name of a very talented actor I am lucky enough to have directed).



Damn! That performance was so hot, even I'M turned on! Ms West, regardless of the outcome, is about to become a star!

Magicians are a harder call. Remember, a ventriloquist has won AGT, but a magician has never made it into the finals. Could this be the year? There are several exceptional close-up magicians this year and I am torn:







Musicians and bands? Emil and Dariel are amazing, but I take umbrage at the judge's claims of originality and can't believe that none of them have seen a video of my Croatian hotties Luka and Stjepan of 2Cellos. Personally, I adore the adorable Wills Clan. They are a 21st Century American Von Trapp Family!



Dancers are an easy choice this season. Blue Journey took something we've seen plenty of (dance, shadows, projection) and did something completely new and amazing and totally deserved to be put through before "judgment week."



Kids acts (despite Season 1, when the show was still finding it's feet) don't generally win, though at least one (Jackie Evancho, anyone?) has gone on to a professional career. This year I am loving unassuming Broadway belter Mara Justine. I've never heard a white girl pull this off:



And my life-long love of circus and variety also has me torn between Valo and Bobby:



Or who I think will end up being my favorite until he's booted, the exceptionally adorable Christian Stoinev:



That body! That smile! That strength! That dog!

There are some serious contenders this year and I can't wait to be able to start voting. Do you watch AGT? Who is/are your favorite(s) this season? Oh, and if you haven't seen it, the photo above is from a brilliant prank AGT's producers and host Nick Cannon pulled off on judges, Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel:



I do so love this show, as much as I am loathe to admit it.

More, anon,
Prospero

Monday, July 21, 2014

TV Review "The Strain"

Director Guillermo del Toro and writer Chuck Hogan came up with their own twist on vampire mythology in their trilogy of novels "The Strain," "The Fall" and "The Night Eternal." The first novel pays homage to Bram Stoker's "Dracula," substituting a plane for ship Demeter, but later delves into epidemiology; the logistics of plague and the spread of disease using one of horror's oldest tropes, the vampire. The cable channel FX has developed the trilogy into a TV series, with Del Toro and Hogan at them helm, assuring audiences that the series will be at least as good as (if not better) than their novels.

Hottie Cory Stoll ("House of Cards;" The Normal Heart) is CDC doctor Ephraim Goodweather, who is brought in when a plane from Austria arrives at JFK "dead." All equipment is off, all the lights are out and all but one window shade is closed. Of the 210 people aboard, only four are alive, though by the end of the first episode, it is clear that none of them are 'dead.' Eph is also in the midst of a custody case over his young son, Zach, which serves as both a distraction from his work and a stress-factor in life. Meanwhile, aged pawn-shop owner Abraham Setrakian (Harry Potter's Argus Filch, AKA, David Bradley) knows that an old enemy has come to America and is determined to stop him, at any cost,

Drawing on classical vampire mythology. "The Strain" adds virology to the mix, adding an intriguing (and often disgusting) element to the genre. Del Toro has directed the first three episodes and written (along with Hogan and others) the first 7, staying close (so far) to novels' plot, while adding and/or subtracting for TV audiences. The cast, which includes Sean Astin; Kevin Durand ("Lost's" Keamy) and several other TV vets, seems well up to the task at hand. And the effects are downright disturbing. Blood-sucking worms and supernormally fast & strong creatures are abundant, while subtler motifs ("Papa. I am so cold") abound. Two episodes in and I am totally hooked. Hopefully, the series will not totally rely on all three of the novels, the second and third of which left much to be desired. So far, though, the series is excellent! ***1/2 (Three and a Half Stars Out of Four).



Happy watching!

More, anon,
Prospero

Friday, July 18, 2014

Feeling Old & Young at the Same Time

Uncle P?
In about two and a half hours, I will officially be ** years old. Regular readers have undoubtedly taken the time to figure out Uncle P's real age, though truth-be-told, I sometimes have to look at my drivers' license to know for sure. 

I don't feel or look my age (at least that's what some people tell me). A recent escapade with a a much younger partner had me feeling good, despite the pain in my thighs and glutes the next day (he told me he thought I was only about 5 years older than he was). 

All of my life, I have been genetically blessed. I was first served at a bar at 15 (yes, I know - shameful!) and since then have been confused for much older or much younger than I am. It's the combination of German, Hungarian, Scottish and Welsh genes that keep people guessing. Until my late 20's people have thought I was older than I actually was. In my 30's, people started guessing I was much younger than I was. I always win a prize at the "Guess Your Age" carnival booths. If I am anything like  like my late mother and grandfather, I won't start showing my true age for another 20 years or more. 

Of course, my premature gray hair (which started to develop in my early 30's) is a dead give-away. And I'm not sharing this as a boast. It's simply fact. Only my (shrinking) family and closest friends (and the smartest of my regular readers) know exactly how old I am. And that's okay with me. The old adage "Age is just a number" is true. In my mind, I am perpetually 25. Though in my joints and muscles, I often feel that I am 117. 

Here's the thing: One is only as old as one allows oneself to be. I can laugh at the most immature joke or pun while dismissing the right-wing attitudes of many of my contemporaries. I still love a good rollercoaster ride while decrying the mostly terrible state of modern pop music. I may be yelling at the the neighborhood kids to get the hell off my lawn, though I can still bust a move to a truly great dance song or get it on with a hottie 15 or more years my junior (TMI?). Personally, I have no intentions of giving in to my age, no matter what it may be. I'm just glad to wake up on the right side of the dirt each day! I just know that I'm not ready to retire from work or my favorite activities any time soon and I hope that will be the case for many years to come.

Happy Birthday to Me!



More, anon.
Prospero

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Colera"

A short post about a short film. I'm not sure which Facebook page led me to this, but Spanish director Aritz Moreno's short horror film Colera (via) is actually quite impressive on several levels. 

Shot in a single take (I wonder how many takes it took to get it right), Colerea is reminiscent of so many great 'long-takes.' You know you've seen them: The opening sequence of The Bird Cage or the amazing battle scene near the end of Children of Men* or the brutal slo-mo fight scene in Park Chan-wook's Old Boy (*Some links in this post contain NSFW language).

I'm not sure how they managed to get all of this in one take, especially given some the angles Moreno managed to capture. It's chilling, disturbing and creepy all at once and could even serve as a prequel of sorts to Eli Roth's insanely funny debut film, Cabin Fever ("Pancakes!")*. Add the gruesome makeup effects and you have just under 7 minutes of brilliance. 

Cólera from Sr.&Sra. on Vimeo.

Colera has plenty to say about mob-mentalities; fear of those who are different and the spread of disease, among other things. It's brutal and disturbing and exceptionally well-made. I can't wait to see what Moreno does with a feature length film!

More, anon.
Prospero

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

I really liked Rupert Wyatt's 2011 re-boot Rise of the Planet of the Apes and was very much looking forward to its sequel Dawn of te Planet of the Apes

It's 10 years after the events of Rise and the so-called Simian Flu (a result of the virus used to introduce the drug that made the apes smart) has wiped out most of the human population.  The apes, living in a wooden village in the Redwoods, haven't seen one in the last two years and their leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis) assumes they are all dead. After his son, Blue Eyes (adorable Nick Thurston) is attacked by a bear while the tribe is hunting deer, Caesar warns him to think before acting. Soon, Blue Eyes and his young friend Ash come upon Carver (Kirk Acevedo of "Fringe") who shoots Ash and brings the entire village down on them. It turns out that Carver is part of a team sent to restart a hydroelectric dam in the mountains to restore power to San Francisco, which only has a few weeks of fuel left before the few residents are plunged back into post-apocalyptic chaos. Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty; The Great Gatsby) is Malcolm, who decides to appeal to the apes' intelligence and ask for permission to repair the generator. Along with his wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and son Alexander (Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee) and several others, they make their way and plead their case to Caesar, who agrees to let them try, provided they give up their weapons. Caesar's right-hand Koba (Toby Kebbell) and father to Ash, doesn't trust the humans and after finding Carver hid a gun among his things, heads into San Fran with a team, where they discover the humans' huge weapons cache. Koba advocates attack, though Caesar doesn't want a war, just to be left alone. Gary Oldman is along as the human group's leader who turns out to be a bit over-zealous.

Matt Reeves (Let Me In) directs the effects-laden movie well, enough I suppose. And the cast is outstanding, particularly Sirkus and the rest of the 'apes' who give astonishing motion-capture performances (Sirkus seems to be a pioneer in the field, despite earlier attempts from actors like Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey in films that fail to make their human characters anything but dead-eyed and creepy). The real stars of the film are the effects and the cinematography. We opted for the 2D version and it was still spectacular to look at. Shot on location in the Redwood Forest, there is never any doubt that the apes swinging through the trees are actually doing just that (imagine the opposite of the terrible monkey sequence in Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). 

Sadly, what Dawn... has in effects and performances, it sorely lacks in script. Borrowing from any number of better films including The Lion King (right down to the leader's nemesis having a prominent scar across the left side of his face), it seems cobbled together rather hastily and actually (to me, anyway) dragged at times (though Q didn't think so). Dale and I were mostly entertained while K (as usual) had issues with the noise levels and the themes of Man's (and Ape's) Inhumanity. Unfortunately, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was not THE summer movie I hoped it would be, despite its rather amazing FX work. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language."



Oh, well. There's still plenty I want to see this summer, including director Luc Besson's (The Professional; The Fifth Element) take on the Superhero movie, Lucy, which despite having a flawed concept, looks awfully fun!

More, anon.
Prospero

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TV Review: "Extant"

I don't usually review new TV series until after at least two episodes, but I was so intrigued by the trailers for CBS's new Sci-Fi drama "Extant" and so taken by so much of it (some of it, not so much, but we'll get to to that in a bit). Spoilers ahead.

It's the not too distant future. Technology is obviously advanced and it seems the world is run by tablets. Halle Berry makes her small-screen debut as astronaut Molly Woods, who has just returned home after a 13 month solo mission aboard a space station. Solo? Isn't that a bit dangerous? What if something were to go wrong? Oh, well. Screw logic. Her gorgeous husband John ("E.R." alum Goran Visnjic) is happy to have her home, but their obviously not biological son Ethan is suspicious and knows something's off. Wait... what? Ethan is a robot? Okay, sure. Whatever. It had better be germane. On the same day John is presenting Ethan to a group of investors, Molly finds out that she's pregnant. (Dun-dun-DAH!!). And while John is earnest in what he wants to do, can he really be surprised that no one wants to invest in an artificial intelligence that doesn't follow Asimov's Rules (or at least have a kill switch). Weird things happen: Space exploration is now privately funded The International Space Exploration Agency is run by a nefarious Japanese investor who is obviously up to no good and Ethan throws a temper tantrum, after which he may or may not have killed a bird. So, let's take parts of The Astronaut's Wife; Rosemary's Baby; Alien; and A.I., mix 'em all up with a dash of Starman and a pinch of "The X-Files" and you have "Extant."

Not that it was terrible. There were some cinema-worthy effects in the pilot and some genuine performances from Berry and the supporting cast of TV regulars, including Camryn Manheim; Michael O'Neil ("Bates Motel"); Maury Sterling and Brad Byer. TV Sci-Fi is hit or miss, and this rather obvious-starting show had better have some tricks and amazing plot-twists up it's sleeve because despite the excellent cast, the pilot was so full of cliches, plot-holes and red-herrings I actually groaned more than once. I will give "Extant" a chance, but it had better find somewhere new to go, real fast. **(Two Out of Four Stars).


More, anon.
Prospero