Friday, January 23, 2015

2015 Horror Movies

I see you shiver with antici.....




...pation!

Sorry. It was very late when I thought of this post and I didn't want to forget to do it. 

Whatever regular readers I have left know about my love of Horror movies, good and bad. And I'm always on the lookout for some interesting, original and startling works. And 2015 seems quite promising for this jaded genre guru. 

Four upcoming Horror movies have particularly caught my attention with some rather intense trailers. And while I'd love to talk about Guillermo del Toro's Gothic ghost movie Crimson Peak, there isn't any footage from the closely-guarded film to share just yet. Still, these four upcomings movies are pinging high on my personal radar!

 First up, a film from writer/director Adam Green (Hatchet; Frozen - no not  the Disney one). In Digging Up the Marrow, genre veteran Ray Wise plays a man who claims to have discovered an underground realm in which real monsters reside. 




New writer/director David Robert Mitchell makes his wide-distribution debut with It Follows, an interesting take on "Tag. You're It!" Starring no one you know, the very atmospheric trailer seems like it could be the start of several careers.



Chris Sparling, writer of the claustrophobic Ryan Reynolds movie Buried, directs The Atticus Institute, about an attempt by the military to weaponize demonic possession. It's one of the most insane movie concepts I can imagine and I can't wait to see it!


And while this last movie is actually a prequel, I'm still very excited to see it. James Wan's Insidious was one of the most effective Horror movies of the last 10 years, though it's sequel disappointed. Wan's long-time writing partner Leigh Whannel makes directing debut with Insidious Chapter 3:



I know there will plenty more Horror movies in the coming year. What movies are you looking forward to seeing in 2015?

More, anon.
 Prospero

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why "Selma" Won't Win

Click Image to Embiggen
"Racism is dead in America." ~ Anne Coulter.

By now you should know how I feel about Awards shows in general. Admittedly, I'll watch the Oscars this year, just to see NPH (loved his lunacy on "American Horror Story" this season). Like most Americans, I have seen very few of the nominated movies. I've seen Boyhood (which I didn't care for enough to even bother reviewing) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I did review and honestly wanted to like more than I did). With the exception of Birdman, I honestly have no interested in seeing the other nominated films. Not that you shouldn't see them or that they shouldn't be seen. And while I guess if was a professional critic, I would have seen them all, but probably grumbled about seeing more than one. Oddly, the rest of the nominees are all biopics... American Sniper; The Imitation Game; The Theory of Everything; Whiplash and Selma are all real-life stories. Fictionalized, of course, for dramatic interest. 

But it is Selma in particular, which seems to have generated the most controversy. First, it was reported that the movie was historically inaccurate and portrays Lyndon Johnson as opposed Dr. King's march in Alabama and the Voting Rights Act. And then the Oscar nominations came out. And while Selma is nominated for Best Picture, not one of its cast were nominated. In fact, not a single person of color was nominated in any performance category. Not a single Black, Latino, Asian or multiracial person on the list! No Inuit; Pacific Islanders; Native Americans; Maori or Aboriginals, either. That's just... I mean, how does a film get nominated for Best Picture, without a single nomination for any actor that's in it or the director who made it? One might also ask how The Color Purple didn't win a single one of its 11 nominations. Or why Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash. Oh, wait, wasn't Crash about racism? Sure, but in a really awful, hit-you-over-the-head way that went way out it's way to prove a point. Plus, it didn't have any icky man-on-man kissing. 

Hollywood, that supposed bastion of liberal hedonism, is racist, sexist and homophobic. Now, I know I'm not saying anything new here. But the Oakland Tribune headline up on the right just put it so succinctly and hilariously, that I had to comment, especially when the country is about to enjoy a three-day weekend in celebration of Dr. King's birthday. It's like the Academy voters are saying "We like the idea of civil rights; we just don't like the people who are asking for them."

Selma doesn't have a chance of winning Best Picture on February 22nd. Because the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. 

For what it's worth, here are the trailers for this year's Best Picture nominees:

















So, I guess... Yay, White People!? Ugh! Oh, and by the way... F*ck You, Anne Coulter!

Uncle P used to participate in a charitable event every MLK weekend as my Day of Service, but they and I parted ways a while ago and I focused my volunteering on the JTMF. Of course, JTMF is all but dead (only our Facebook page remains), though a last gasp may be at hand with a project I'll be talking about (and directing again!) soon.

If you are lucky enough to be off, enjoy your holiday. Don't feel obligated to do a Day of Service because it's MLK Day. You should always fee obligated to do service whenever you can. But if you need a special day for it, so be it. 

More anon,
Prospero

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dear Leelah

Leelah Alcorn
Dear Leelah;

Why didn't you ask for help? Why didn't you seek out those who understand? Why were you afraid?

The answer is simple: Superstition.

My heart is broken, once again. I cannot understand a parent who does not truly unconditionally love their children (or those who do not truly grasp the definition of that word).

We've all experienced emotional pain in our lives. Uncle P has seen his own struggles with it and I can remember more than one time when I registered higher than a 7 on the Suicide Scale. But I recognized the need for help and sought it. Even now, I have to say that counseled therapy was the best thing I ever did for myself. Of course, I was well above the 'Age of Consent' when I did so. Still - there can be no justification for anyone taking their own lives because their religion or their families tell them that they are somehow defective, wrong and/or evil just because of who they are.

Leelah was just 17 when she took her life by stepping into traffic on an Ohio highway. last month. She was still considered a minor and by Ohio was bound to follow her religious parents rules and preconceptions. Her parents, while still claiming to have loved her 'unconditionally' have still refused to acknowledge Leelah's own gender identity.

Reach out. Offer an ear or a save haven. Make sure that those who need help, get it! STOP this horrific epidemic!

Share anti-suicide information. Support The Trevor Project; The Tyler Clementi Foundation and/or your local anti-suicide charity. Too many lives have been wasted, Too much potential has been lost.
 


I can't wait until I never have to make this rant again.

More, anon,
Prospero

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Hope

First post of the New Year! 

2014 was a very mixed bag for Uncle P. Plenty of great stuff happened: I met someone amazing; I was in an exceptional show (Bluebird); I completely redecorated my living room and kitchen; I got a new washing machine; I got a new vacuum; I got to visit San Francisco again and went to Vegas for the first time. 

Conversely, plenty of other stuff sucked: I lost two very sweet and talented friends; my washing machine, chest freezer and vacuum all went the way of all things; I found out that my father's second wife's children might have a claim to my house* and there's a ton of taxes owed on the property I inherited and I have no idea how I'm going to pay it; I found out my mother fell victim to the mortgage frauds perpetrated by Fannie Mae and Bank of America in the first decade of the 21st Century and taking on a an unwanted (but needed) boarder has proven difficult (he's a bit of an irresponsible slob - though he's working on it) and not as financially beneficial as I'd hoped. 

This year, I already have two potential shows (plus a special tribute show to one of those lost friends) lined up and I am determined to find a way out of the financial mess Mom left me (I loved her dearly, but am angry at how much she kept from me). I am hoping to continue to repaint and redecorate the rest of my house while continuing to write plays, screenplays and this blog.

I am thankful for the loving and supportive people in my life (both online and IRL) and the steady paycheck from the Day Job (no matter how much I may complain about our clients, it's still a great place to work). 

My wish for all of you in 2015 is prosperity; good health; solid relationships and the kind of astonishingly loving and supportive network of friends I am lucky enough to have. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to 2015 being better than 2014!



More, anon.
Prosper

*They've since all agreed to sign off on their claims. It would have cost them more in legal fees than they might possibly have gained, anyway.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Uncle P and the Mystery of the Creepy Peeps

Among my friends there are two distinct camps when it comes to this story: those who, like myself, find it hilarious and fun and those, like my BIL, who think Uncle P is being stalked by a serial killer. I'll let you decide.

Last November, just about a month after my mother passed away, I came home to find an Apple box stuffed in my mailbox. When I pulled out the tissue paper and ribbons, I found the nightlight you see to your right. And yes, the bulb inside is red. There was no card or note. Nothing on the box but the Apple logo. When I posted it to Facebook, the two camps immediately made themselves apparent. Of course, my friends and regular readers know my taste for the odd (indeed, the macabre) and unusual. And they also know I tend to have a rather dark sense of humor. I thought it was hilarious and plugged it into a kitchen outlet (it gets too hot for practical use, but is fun to switch on when I have guests). In the months that followed, people would occasionally ask me if I ever found out who sent it, but I almost forgot about. Until...

Just around my birthday this year, I came home and opened my screen door and a box tumbled out onto the mat.  Inside was not only the green planter below, but a note!

"Dear Brian,

"The psychic creepy doll network has determined you and your red eyed nightlight needed a friend.

"Therefore please welcome this new addition to your home. We trust you will admire and enjoy it.

"With much love, a shared sense of humor and best wishes,

"Your mystery/anonymous creepy peeps."

The box was a sturdy gift box from the Frenchtown Metalworks, an art jeweler in New Jersey. 

How exciting! Contact had been made! But how much was to be believed? Is this the work of more than one person? Do they live in or near Frenchtown? He, she or they obviously know where I live and when they can deliver packages when I'm not home. More friends freak out. I laugh and hope that all will be revealed, eventually. Speculation continues.  

Next - right before Halloween, I came home to find a bag on my kitchen table. My boarder had brought it in (whew!) after finding it hanging on the doorknob, outside. In the bag was a square box, also from Frenchtown Metalworks. It had a black ribbon and written on it in orange and black markers was "Happy Halloween!" And in the box was the delightfully odd electric tealight holder you see below.

Cozy, isn't she? The yellow flickering eyes in the very pink head are far more effective than the red bulb in the nightlight, don;t you think? No note this time but I didn't need one.

Most recently, I came home from picking up my Christmas Eve dinner from Wing Wah, to find a USPS Priority Mail package sitting in my carport. My sister's package had already arrived, as well as a package from friends who couldn't wait to see me to give me my gift. I looked for the sender only to see "Santa" with no return address. I knew immediately who it was from.

I ate my dinner, opened the rest of my mail and then set to the package. Inside was a letter and the most elaborate dolly of all. Wrapped in a blankie and painted yellow all over; her hair cut off and phrases, slogans and bits of poetry written all over her, she is quite magnificent! 



The letter reads: 

"ho ho ho Brian!

   "I fear you've not been naughty enough this year so was tempted to not deliver this wee child to you for the holidays.

   "Alas your creepy peeps network has informed me that exists (sic) in you a certain scorn for the Christmas merriment... the stories behind the story as it were.

"That has set you in my good graces and so I bestow upon you your very own baby - one of poetry for your reading pleasure as you sit by the fire.

   "So master yourself an icy cold martini, sit back and enjoy the season.

"All my best,

" Santa, the creepy one

"PS... my supply of treats for you has run low... but I have my sources and so perhaps we shall continue this adventure into yet another year"

The font colors are theirs. So they also know that I am an atheist and enjoy an icy cold Sapphire martini now and again. The plot thickens. Or does it? Loads of folks know that. The doll itself, is fascinating. She reminds me of something out of a Clive Barker movie.

On her face is: LETS DO EMPTY OUR POCKETS AND DISAPPEAR * MISSING ALL OUR APPOINTMENTS AND TURN ING UP YEARS LATER UNSHAVEN OLD CIGARETTE PAPERS STUCK TO OUR PANTS LEAVES IN *** OUR HAIR Her torso reads: LET US NOT WORRY ABOUT THE PAYMENTS ANYMORE LET THEM COME ND TAKE IT AWAY WHATEVER IT WAS WE WERE PAYING AND US WITH IT  On her left arm and side: I AM A SOCIAL CLIMBER CLIMBING DOWNWARD AND THE DESCENT IS DIFFICULT  On her right arm: THE UPPER MIDDLE CLASS IDEAL IS FOR THE BIRDS AND THE BIRDS HAVE NO USE FOR IT
On her left leg: LETS CUT IT OUT LETS GO TO THE REAL INTERIOR OF THE COUNTRY WHERE HOCKSHOPS REIGN MERE UNBLIND ANARCHY UPON US THE END IS NEAR BUT GOLF GOES ON. On her right leg: LET US ARISE AND GO NOW TO WHERE DOGS DO IT OVER THE HILL * WHERE THEY KEEP THE EARTHQUAKES BEHIND CITY DUMPS LOST AMONG GAS MAINS AND GARBAGE. On top of her head: JUNKMAN'S OBBLIGATO On the back of her head: LAWRENCE FERLING HETTI (the artist, perhaps?) MY BODY IS HUNG UP TOO LONG IN THE STRANGE SUSPENDERS GET ME A BRIGHT BANDANA FOR A OCKSTRAP (sic) On her back: LET US NOW YOU AND I LEAVING OUR NECKTIES BEHIND ON LAMPOSTS (sic) TAKE UP THE FULL BEARD OF WALKING ANARCHY LOOKING LIKE WALT WHITMAN A HOME MADE BOMB IN THE POCKET I WISH TO OESCEN (?) IN THE SOCIA (?) IS LOW On the back of her right arm: LOSE THE WAR WITHOUT KILLING ANYONE

So, Uncle P's question for you... Would you be freaked out, or just as amazed and amused as I am? That a friend or friends would go this far and long without cracking is just awesome. I know there will be a grand reveal, eventually and I will be face-palming myself for not figuring it out. Until them, I very much love this game!



More, anon.
Uncle P

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: "Into the Woods"

Adapting stage musicals into films is very tricky in the 21st Century. If one thing doesn't work, the whole thing falls apart. For every Chicago there's a Nine or Rock of Ages. Even Les Miserables, the biggest stage musical in the world, didn't really work on film; it's theatricality lost in closeup after closeup. And don't get me started about the last time someone adapted Sondheim for the screen. The less said about Tim Burton's grim and humorless version of Sweeney Todd, the better. So I went to see Into the Woods with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Yes, director Rob Marshall made the amazing Chicago but he also made the very-less-than-amazing Nine. I was encouraged by the trailers and knew I had to see it (I adore the show). So tonight, I met a Facebook friend for first time IRL (Hey, Michele!) and went to the 7:15 at an AMC I usually avoid, because it was central to both of us.

Let me start by saying that if nothing else (and there is plenty else), Into the Woods is a truly gorgeous movie to look at. It's almost like the first time you're old enough to realize that The Wizard of Oz goes from sepia to full color. Even though the majority of the action takes place at night, it's just stunning to look at. Director Rob Marshall assembled an amazing artistic team which includes his go-to cinematographer Dion Beebe who works wonders and costumer Coleen Atwood whose gorgeous pieces are truly magical. James Lapine's screenplay (based on his original libretto) does a nice job paring the show down to just over 2 hours without losing any of its emotional impact though the very amusing character of the Narrator is reduced to a few minutes of voice-over. If you aren't familiar, Into the Woods is about what happens after 'Happily Ever After' and combines the stories Jack & the Beanstalk; Cinderella; Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood by introducing us to a childless Baker and his Wife. When a witch bursts in and offers them a way to lift the curse that has kept them childless, everyone is off and running.

For the most part, the casting is perfect. Anna Kendrick uses her fine voice at its best as Cinderella and though new to American audiences, adorable Brit James Cordon is terrific as The Baker.* Daniel Huttlestone's Jack sounds exactly like his Gavroche and Lilla Crawford, making her feature debut, is perfect for this version of Red. The most surprising voice belongs to Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, whose sweet tenor in the duet "Agony" with Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince is lovely in a brilliantly staged scene amidst a rocky waterfall. There are also some really terrific supporting performances by Tracey Ullman as Jack's Mother; Christine Baranski as Stepmother; Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard as the step-sisters and screen legend Frances de la Tour as The Giant. Happily, Johnny Depp has only one number and few minutes of screen time as the Wolf. The man should never be allowed to sing on screen again. The truly overt sexual overtones of "Hello, Little Girl" were watered down, I imagine because of Crawford's age - Red is usually played by an adult and the Wolf's choreography, makeup and costuming are more suggestive on stage - though the lyrics weren't changed.

But I quibble, because all of them are simply outshone by Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife and Meryl Streep as the Witch. In the original Broadway production, these roles were played by Theatre Legends Joanna Gleason and Bernadette Peters. They were iconic, indeed signature, performances. Happily, Blunt is more than up to the task as the story's most sympathetic character, with a sweet singing voice and total commitment to the role. Streep, of course, is always amazing and she takes the part and makes it her own. Her rendition of "Stay with Me" actually made me cry.

If you don't know the show, Rob Marshall's excellent adaptation is a good place to start. If you know and love the show as I do, then I think you'll be very pleased by it. Finally, film justice for Stephen Sondheim! A perfect Holiday Movie for Families and Musical Theatre Geeks alike! **** (Four Out Four Stars). Into the Woods is rated PG for "thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material."



*Corden will soon be taking over for the departing Craig Ferguson on the "The Late, Late Show." 

More, anon.
Prospero

Silent Night


Merry Christmas!