Monday, June 23, 2008

Burnt Offerings Will Not Leave You Cold

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Many years back, I read the novel Burnt Offerings and was entranced. In my opinion, this was definitely an interest to ladies, in the sense of the subject being a house and its contents. As someone who occasionally felt the need (then, as well as now) to fix up, display, and fawn over household items, I could relate to the main character. It is a woman who is obsessed with renting a particular old house for the summer to restore it back to beauty. As she brings it back to life, however, the house takes life, and does so from her aged aunt, the health of her husband, and the mental stability of her son. She, however, does not see any of this and eventually becomes the house, in a sense.

It is common for me to enjoy a book more than the movie it gets made into, and I think that is the case for most people. One tends to relate more, especially if the book is written in the first person, because there is no clear image in mind of the main character or supporting cast. Yet, when the reader views the action taking place, if the characters do not look like pictured, or if they can not relate to the main character image, the story loses personalization. Since most of us can not claim movie star looks, we tend to see most movies a stories we witness instead of our own escape to another life.

In my opinion, Karen Black, the lead of this 1976 movie, was perfect in her ability to follow direction to portray the character with a saccharine, fake persona, but it did get to me after the first 20 minutes or so. Her husband was well portrayed by Oliver Reed; everyone could relate to his incredulity and exasperation with the change in his wife and family dynamics. Bette Davis was as superb as usual in the role of the aunt who ages about 30 years after living in the house for a month. (Her death scene was one of the highpoints; this is true acting of the highest professional degrees. Other actresses, especially young ones concerned about how they look, would never have been able to pull it off.) The only other major character was the young son (Lee H. Montgomery), and although he was not a bad child actor, the screaming and crying required of him became quite annoying. That poor kid faced harsh roughhousing by his possessed dad, almost drowned in the once calm pool, nearly died from gas inhalation, was attacked by trees, and witnessed his dad falling to his death through a window. It was little wonder that his lines were limited.

If you genuinely enjoy being scared, you will like this movie, although you probably will figure out what is going on long before the final moments. Ms. Black wanted to rent the house cheaply, and her caveat for doing so was to do take three meals a day to an upstairs room and leave it for the elderly relative of the owner. This chore also keeps her from being able to leave once things turn spooky. The first few days, she worried about the food not being eaten; then it becomes a non-issue. She began to spend hours in the upstairs room, gazing at the hundreds of old photos of faces that fill every space, at least when she is not dusting, cleaning, waxing or scrubbing. Her husband and son really do very little, but the aunt takes her easel outside to paint every day, at least until the house stars sapping her energy. The logistics of grocery shopping, community involvement and friends for little Davy are conveniently overlooked, but, hey, this is, after all, a horror movie.

There are some spine tingling moments, like seeing the greenhouse plants come alive, and the pool repair itself, but nothing tops the repeated images of a chauffeur from the past, always with the motor running on his hearse. This is the stuff of nightmares.

There is not any noticeable profanity, or clear nudity, although one scene may be questioned by kids under age eight or so (when Ms. Black has, for lack of works, a headache). Some of the gory scenes in the last five minutes may be too intense for young children. Heck, they may even be too intense for a good many adults.

Although over 30 years old, this movie is indeed timeless, and still succeeds in packing a punch.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hitman


Do you like gore? Meaningless gore? Excessive gore? Do you like plotlines that you can’t follow and don’t even want to? Do you like lame sex scenes and pointless topless screenshots? Then Hitman might just be the movie for you!

Maybe the reason why I’m so irreversibly pissed off about this movie is that my hopes were so high. Don’t ask me why-I should have seen the galumphing, gas-leaking, rickety and falling apart train wreck of a movie for what it was from the get-go. But on the contrary-I felt cheated by the movie. The opening credits were so cool, and then, the aforementioned train wreck took place.

Through creepy, mystical music, the names of the movie director, the producer, and the starring actors floated onto the black screen-and now I saw rows of blue-coated orphans executing martial arts moves in perfect synchrony. On the backs of their heads, bar-codes glowed in the eerie luminescence emanating from the TV screen. Man, I thought, this movie is going to rock. I already knew what it was going to be about. A futuristic, totalitarian government, using the martial mastery of children, estranged from their parents at a young age, to bring the merciless and raw power of the government down upon insubordinate heads. A hero amongst the orphan mercenaries, who rises above and sees the evil of his government; forms a revolution and overthrows the dictator-but in doing so, falls prey to greed and temptation and descends into darkness.

Boy, was I wrong.

As the opening credits drew to a close, the scene opened on a darkened living room. As a mysterious looking man entered, he found himself face to face with another mysterious looking gentleman (the mysteriousness didn’t last, in case you were wondering). Mysterious man 1 inquired if mysterious man 2 was going to kill him. The second man replied that if he was going to kill him, mysterious man 1 would already be dead (or some variation on that inevitable line). Okay, I thought, it’s a little cliché, so what? This movie is still going to rock the house down.

Man 2 (this is about when they stopped being mysterious) then inquired when it was right to kill. For a movie that posed such a deep and profound moral quandary, it didn’t show a whole lot of respect for the living-I didn’t notice any qualms or internal struggles when 47 (yes, that is the name of the main character) blew the brains out of a politician with a sniper rifle, to say nothing of the massive body count the movie accumulated.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. No, wait-I’m actually not. For reasons best known to himself, 47 felt the urge to assassinate a politician. Don’t ask me why, as far as I can see it never tied in with the rest of the movie. Cool, cool, I thought, when he aimed at the guy’s head. So it’s fast paced, there’s nothing wrong with that.

It didn’t get any better. I wasn’t particularly excited about the brains and blood splattering, and then, at the secret agent guys insistence, replaying the tape several times-rewinding it, even, to figure out some other hidden mystery, so I saw the whole gross ordeal over again.

It was at this point that the intricate ice sculpture that was my fantasy of this movie began to melt. There was no intelligent plot. 47 poured machine gun bullets into his enemies with an eagerness that was probably supposed to be cool. It wasn’t. I just found myself wanting the fight scenes to be over. Well, no, not quite true. When the fight scenes ended, a new element of the movie arose that was even worse: the love story. Actually, ‘sex story’ would be more fitting here-I don’t feel it was worthy of being called a love story, whatever it was.

After a few minutes of crying over all the unspeakable (but I’m sure manly and necessary) violence that 47 was committing against her associates, the lover declared that he was "actually quite charming when he wasn’t killing people." Whatever charm she detected was lost on me; however, that appeared to be all it took-five minutes later she was topless and straddling him.

It was at this moment (another sign that this movie must have been a serious bore) that I crumpled backward onto the floor. My ornate ice sculpture of darkness, glory and political intrigue had been sledge-hammered; what remained was a slush of gore, sex, and crappiness.

I don’t even remember what happened in the final third of the movie. Except the grand finale-that was pretty hard to miss. The movie wound down with a heroic shot of 47 hefting a gun, off to blow the brains out of more politicians, and ruin an hour and forty minutes of more innocent movie-goers lives.

Review submitted via our Submit A Review page.

Kung Fu Panda


Contributor: Jason Lutterloh
Contributor URL: http://www.compjason.com

I have seen Kung Fu Panda twice since its release and immediately fell in love with it within the first thirty minutes of the movie. How can you not enjoy watching a chubby panda wish he was a kung fu hero amongst all other animals?

Going into the movie, I figured it would be one of those cute kiddie movies that are only entertaining for, well, kids. I’m glad I was wrong. This movie would be great for kids but teens and adults as well. My abs got a good workout by the end. How can one not be amused at the power of the “Mushu (or wushu, not really sure) Finger Hold” or the scene at the end where Po (Jack Black) thinks Shi Fu (spelling?)(Dustin Hoffman) is dead? (You’ll have to see the movie to know what I’m referring to here.)

While the movie lasts a mere hour and thirty minutes it is full of gut-wrenching humor and a cute storyline about an unlikely hero. wait, what? You say you’ve seen enough movies about unlikely heroes and underdogs? Go see one more. This one can’t compare to some great sports movies like “Remember the Titans” but its a good relief from everyday stress or a good way to get out of the sun for a while.

I strongly encourage you to go see this movie with your family, friends, or whoever. It’s good, clean, fun entertainment. That is something we lack in America, and it was refreshing to see this movie. If you have any other questions or comments, please respond.

“Skidoosh!”

Review submitted via our Submit A Review page.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Super Size Me



Welcome to McDonald’s, how may I help you? The answer to this question is varied. Out of the millions of Americans who journey to the highly prophesized golden arches some may order a hamburger, others a McChicken, and still others the fabled Big Mac. And would they like fries with that? Of course they would. Would they like something to drink? Most likely they want some sort of soft drink or sugar loaded, caffeine filled refreshment. Would they like to super size their order? They will super size it in a heartbeat. In his documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock goes where many people have gone before. He goes to McDonald’s. At first glance, making the not so strenuous journey to the closest McDonald’s seems quite simple. There are four McDonald’s per square mile in Manhattan. And even if it just is not in his schedule to walk to the restaurant, he can always get it delivered, for free. To many Americans this seems like a paradise. McDonald’s everyday for every meal, for one entire month seems too good to be true, or is it? Spurlock’s trips to McDonald’s are meant, not to bring more people to McDonald’s, but to keep them out. He questions the highly accessible fast food diet and puts it to the ultimate test; he will eat only McDonald’s and film himself while doing so.

Please, pay at the first window. At first glance Spurlock’s documentary might seem a bit over the top. He spends more money on his food than a family of three would. But to achieve the ultimate effect, he has to go a bit overboard. Spurlock risks his own health, and life, to show the public the deadly affects of fast food. His message is initially interpreted as a call to stop eating fast food, but it is much more than that. Spurlock effectively derides fast food, no exercise, and finally the people who purchase the food themselves. These are the ones who give the fast food companies the money to stay in business; they encourage the production of unhealthy food.

It is true that Spurlock’s very documentary can be at times a bit disgusting. He vomits in the parking lot after his first gorge on McDonald’s food. He shows a stomach stapling. He also slightly crosses a line by showing obese people at random intervals throughout the film and not disclosing why they are obese. The reasons can be inferred, but there may be other problems that the audience is not made aware of. It is also mildly nauseating to watch Spurlock eat his gigantic meals and then feel sick afterwards. This documentary is not for those who easily feel nauseous. Another criticism of Super Size Me is that Spurlock seems to have a blatant disregard for his own health. When the nutritionist recommends that he should be taking aspirin and vitamins Spurlock does not seem concerned. He replies that he can only take those if McDonald’s sells them, which of course they do not.

Here is your change; your food should be ready in a few seconds. Even with the somewhat disgusting scenes, Spurlock makes many valid points. He centers his attack on McDonald’s, but then he expands it to American’s lifestyles and the way the fast food industry functions. Spurlock makes it loud and clear from the beginning that McDonald’s, as well as other junk food industries, choose children as their targets. Children are the most easily influenced, and therefore the logical target for fast food companies looking to earn billions of dollars. Advertisements are their key weapon. Fast food companies advertise to children by strategically placing their commercials in time slots where children will see them. Spurlock presents the fact that fast food and junk food companies spend hundreds of times more money on advertising than health food companies. These unhealthy companies believe that if they can make children their consumers, that they will have these same people as consumers for their entire life. Spurlock reveals the sad fact that through the millions of advertisements that children see, they will be more likely to recognize Ronald McDonald than Jesus or President Bush. Marketing to children is a favorite of fast food companies, especially McDonald’s, whose Happy Meal is targeted at children. A new action figure, a little stuffed animal, or a colorful new plastic gadget can be obtained. A hamburger or chicken nuggets and fries accompany the highly coveted new toy. The children will eat the unhealthy, calorie packed meal if only to obtain the toy they so desire. The playlands at McDonald’s are meant to draw the children in, and keep them there to eat. Spurlock explains that especially in low-income areas, these playlands may be the children’s only chance at fun, fun they desire with a chocolate sundae on the side.

Please, drive to the next window to pick up your order. Spurlock makes it clear in his documentary that exercise and physical activity are important. He restates that every person should get at least thirty minutes of activity each day. He then visits a school and reveals the shocking revelation that many schools just do not have the money to provide this time for physical activity. Maybe people should spend less money on fast food and more on improving schools. In attempt to show the effects of a lack of exercise, Spurlock limits his physical activity. Everyday he can only walk a certain distance, much of which is used on his walks to McDonald’s.

In an effort to show that Americans do still have hope to improve, Spurlock offers some alternatives to the fast food diet. He contrasts the unhealthy, government provided, school lunch food with a lunch program in Appleton, Wisconsin that provides healthy all natural lunch food. Contrary to what most people would think, this healthy alternative costs the same, or even less, than the unhealthy food. Is there a reason the schools serve unhealthy foods when all natural foods are available at comparable prices? Spurlock makes it clear that there should be a switch to healthier foods. To provide his audience with another alternative to fast food, Spurlock introduces his girlfriend. She is a vegan. She appears to be happy with her healthy diet, but she can get annoying at times, which detracts from the appeal of alternative diets that Spurlock suggests.

Super Size Me achieves its goal of drawing attention to the growing issue in America, obesity. Spurlock then finds an easy target to place the blame; he chooses McDonald’s because it had recently been sued for serving its unhealthy food. Spurlock argues that the fast food companies are to blame, as well as their advertising techniques, and the American lifestyle in general. He wants people to think about what they eat, especially after they see the effects that fast food had on Spurlock’s body. When next asked if they should super size it, he wants Americans to think twice. Do they really need all those extra calories? Or just as important, do they even know what a calorie is? Many do not as Spurlock proves in his documentary. Spurlock seeks to educate the public on the horrific affects of a fast food diet, and he succeeds in doing so. He also succeeds in offering plausible ways to prevent obesity and improve lifestyles. Super Size Me offers a somewhat biased, but basically true version of the American fast food diet, and once people see the documentary they may think twice about going to McDonald’s or eating junk food. Thank you for choosing to eat at McDonald’s, have a nice day.

Submitted via our Submit A Review page.