Archive for June, 2010

Pavement in Berkeley: Fucking Righteous

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by roarvis

Last weekend we made the arduous three hour drive from Los Angeles to Visalia, where our friend Ken took over the wheel for another three hour trip up to Berkeley to see the legendary over/underrated Pavement.

I’ll admit, I was questioning the sanity of this trip even before we started. But it ended up being a worthwhile endeavor. It was great to see Ken and Jenny, and we also got to hang out with my friend Juan who I hadn’t seen in years. I actually enjoyed portions of the drive, as even the barren stretches of California have their charm.

Also, the show kicked ass. I had read enough reviews of the reformed Pavement to know they would most likely put on a good performance. All reports told of a refreshed, enthusiastic, yet still endearingly laid back band, possibly in better shape musically than they were in their “prime.” We were not disappointed.

Read on…

Bad Lieutenant 2: Not Without My Iguana

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by roarvis

Sometimes you see a movie that makes you question what it is exactly that you’re watching. I am usually annoyed by this because it typically means that either 1.) The director wants to impress us with how “artsy” he can be, or 2.) It’s just a poorly conceived film. Occasionally, the film in question strikes the right balance between absurdity, humor and drama, and I’m left feeling strangely satisfied, although I may not fully understand why.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans is one such film. From the ridiculous title on down, this film lets you know that it’s not playing by an established set of rules. It’s not a typical police drama by any means. Nor is it a serious expose of corruption on the force. It’s not a typical Nicholas Cage vehicle, nor is it the sort of arty affair most people would associate with filmmaker Werner Herzog. It’s not a remake of Abel Ferrara‘s classic Bad Lieutenant (1992), nor is it a sequel. So what the fuck is it?

The most obvious answer would be that it’s a black comedy. It’s not exactly clear, however, if certain scenes are meant to be funny, or if Herzog was trying to make a serious comment about the delirium of drug addiction.

The story follows Terence McDonagh (Cage), a detective whose addiction to painkillers soon expands to include a variety of narcotics, as well as a penchant for high stakes gambling. He also likes to shake down young couples for coke, taking sexual liberties with the women when the opportunity arises. Meanwhile, he is dedicated to bringing down a trio of drug dealers involved in a multiple homicide, and protecting his junkie prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes) from her often violent clientele.

McDonagh opens up a can of awesome in BLT 2.

The basic plot and character elements are similar to Ferrara’s film. Harvey Keitel‘s lieutenant was a drug addled family man trying to avenge the brutal rape of a nun, while carrying on with a junkie portrayed by real life addict Zoe Lund (who cowrote the script). But Herzog’s tone is more humorous and less brutal. I’ve never been able to take Cage seriously as an actor, and here is no exception (although I haven’t seen some of his more dramatic work, like Leaving Las Vegas). But his over-the-top performance seems to fit the character and tone of the film.

Since we are seeing the events unfold through McDonagh’s eyes, we never really know if we are witness to reality or to a hallucination. In one of the most bizarre scenes, Cage can’t take his eyes off a pair of iguanas on his desk, despite the fact that none of his colleagues can see them. From that point on, the viewer has no way of knowing if anything is what it seems.

In most films dealing with corrupt protagonists, events usually catch up to them in a slam-bang “crime doesn’t pay” finale, and that’s what we expect to happen here. But despite him doing everything wrong, McDonagh keeps coming out on top. The ending is suspiciously happy for a film of this nature. Is it all a drug induced fantasy? Several internet theories seem to point in this direction, going as far as to say that the character actually dies 2/3 of the way through the film. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I like the straightforward interpretation: He’s a morally corrupt person who nonetheless has a heart, and ends up serving the “greater good.”

But if I was on the fence at all about whether or not I liked this film, my doubts were assuaged when I skimmed the comments on IMDB. The anger from people who expected it to be another run of the mill Nic Cage action flick was obvious. Often I am annoyed when it seems that people don’t “get” a movie, but in this case, I felt like the film itself was an act of subversion, and it was fun to watch folks get all riled up.

I applaud Herzog for slipping this one innocuously into the system, and Cage for taking a chance on what is probably his strangest role since Vampire’s Kiss (1988). I even like the generic cover art, which offers zero guidance as to the manic nature of the film itself. (Check out some awesome rejected artwork here.)

Ultimately, Bad Lieutenant 2 (as I like to call it) is a film that probably never should have been made, at least not with this title, director, cast, or screenplay. But as the titular character himself might attest, sometimes even if you do everything wrong, things still work out in the end.

Fucking Iguanas:

In Fear of Fear

Posted in Film, Politics, Religion with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2010 by roarvis

See what I did there? I brought back the song title thing. You don’t care? FINE!

In light of the recent announcement that The Exorcist will be hitting Blu-Ray later this year, I started thinking about a discussion I had with a friend of mine awhile ago.

He was saying how he didn’t like the film because he saw it as being Christian propaganda. As an atheist, he found the film to be offensive, since it seemed to imply that the characters were being “punished” for their lack of faith.

While I don’t completely disagree with this interpretation, I always regarded it as a work of fiction about characters struggling with their own faith, not as propaganda. Obviously writer William Peter Blatty was himself a priest, so he was drawing on his own personal experiences to some degree. But that’s what any good writer does. And by tapping into his own fears, he created one of the scariest concepts in fiction, which in turn became one of the greatest horror films of all time.

The Power of Christ compels you to read on!

Party Down and IT Crowd Make World Safe for Humor

Posted in Comedy, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2010 by roarvis

I was so caught up in my righteous defense of Treme that I forgot to mention what is probably my favorite show on TV right now: Party Down. The premise, about a catering team that has to work various obnoxious functions in L.A., never ceases to amuse me. It also opens the door for guest appearances by various comedians and character actors (Steve Guttenberg, J.K. Simmons, and lots of funnier, lesser-known folks).

The catering staff themselves are all struggling actors or writers, of course. I guess I can relate to their plight, as someone who has lived in L.A. for awhile and worked some questionable jobs. But the show wouldn’t work if the writing and cast weren’t spot on. Martin Starr (Haverchuck from Freaks and Geeks) and Ken Marino (The State, Wet Hot American Summer) were the big draws for me, but the other actors do a good job of rounding things out. Adam Scott is sympathetic as the guy who gave up his dream to pay the bills, and Lizzy Caplan‘s character is a refreshing turn from the psycho bitch she played on True Blood.

The whole mess is written by some guys who previously worked on Veronica Mars: John Enbom, Rob Thomas, and Dan Etheridge, along with actor Paul Rudd. This show is so good that I’m actually considering watching Veronica Mars. I know, it’s crazy.

In other TV comedy news, The IT Crowd is back on the air in Britain. Or at least online – I think it premiers next week. I’m not sure how I’m going to watch it over here (“the service is not available in your area,” mocks the Channel Four website, in what I can only assume would be a haughty British accent if it could speak).

This show is amazing, especially considering that it’s filmed in the old school studio audience sitcom format. The plot concerns the adventures of the IT department of a large company run by an insane pervert (Matt Berry from Darkplace and Snuff Box). Show writer/creator Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Big Train) is a comic genius (and huge Guided By Voices fan), and I’m itching to see what he’s got lined up for this season. Hopefully I can use my own IT skills (slim to none) to hack into their mainframe and stream me some Britcom. Or, just wait for it to show up on IFC…

Haters Gonna Hate

Posted in Film, Politics, Rants, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by roarvis

I haven’t said much about television in awhile, but don’t worry: it’s not all slashers and campers over here. I’ve also been keeping up with one or two shows. The current shows I follow, for various reasons, include: Doctor Who (I like the new Doctor, stories are average to forgettable), True Blood (this is mainly the fault of the wife-to-be, but there are some genuine laughs in between all the wincing), Justified (wasn’t too impressed at first, but it built to a great season finale), Boondocks (awesome), and Treme.

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The Curse of Meatballs

Posted in Comedy, Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by roarvis

As my interest in Canadian horror films and slashers has started to dovetail, I’ve begun to recognize some of the character actors who worked steadily in films during the late 70s/early 80s era of cinema gold in the Great White North.

I’ve also been surprised to find out that certain films were Canadian productions. For example, Meatballs (1979). If you are from my generation, you probably grew up with this movie in one way or another. Personally, I never saw the whole thing all the way through until recently. But I can recall watching parts of it on TV since I was a kid. In honesty, I was traumatized by the pranks that were pulled on the geeky characters Fink and Spaz. I figured this was the fate that awaited me once I became a teenager. Thanks to Meatballs, I had an irrational fear that girls were going to take my pants off and run them up the flagpole to humiliate me. (It didn’t take long for me to realize that most women had no interest whatsoever in taking my pants off, for any reason.)

Click for body count

He Knows You’re Alone Just Before Dawn

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by roarvis

The slasher obsession has to stop somewhere, so I’m thinking this may be one of my last posts on the subject. Unless, of course, it’s not. My intention with this blog has always been to use it as an outlet for whatever I feel like writing about. I guess it’s conceivable that I could spend the rest of the year obsessing about 80s slasher films. But I feel like that would be kind of pointless, as there are far more detailed and established horror and slasher blogs out there.

For now, let’s keep going.