Artificial Suns

"Sweetheart, you can't buy the necessities of life with cookies."

Yeah, yeah, I know it's late, but I did it would be this Thursday, and did you really think there was any chance we wouldn't have a Christmas-themed movie night this week?

So, after realizing that I don't own Die Hard (and it's not on Netflix? WTH?) and discovering last night that Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 truly deserves its reputation as one of the worst films ever... because it's about 80% boring as hell, we're left with two Christmas traditions unscreened. Yes, ladies and gents, it looks like it's going to be a Tim Burtony Christmas.

The Edward Gorey Tribute: The Nightmare Before Christmas (76 minutes, 1993) OK, it's not really an Edward Gorey tribute, but it certainly feels like it. The third Christmas film that Tim Burton "made" in a row (despite being perhaps the most Tim Burtony thing on earth, he only wrote and produced, and didn't direct, due to conflicts with Batman Returns) and is easily the most concerned with the reason for the season. A lengthy, if somewhat kid-friendly contemplation on cultural misunderstandings and translational mixups, it also contains a singing bag of neon-colored maggots that tries to kill Santa Claus. Jack Skellington, the closest that Halloween had to a "Santa" mascot (until Trick 'r Treat gave us Sam), is the lord of Halloweentown, the location in charge of all spooking and scares for October the 31st. After the yearly frightfest, Jack, having become successful enough to feel malaise, stumbles upon Christmas's similarly-themed dimension and hatches a plan. Although created at the Disney studios, it was originally judged too scary to be part of the Disney Animated Features cannon. Although never really released from the extended-cannon-ghetto since then, Jack Skellington and Halloweentown have become regular features at Disney, appearing alongside Mickey, Snow White, etc., in videogames, parades, Disney attractions, and the like. More importantly, it was a relatively kid-safe antidote to the yearly Christmas treacle of talking dogs and reformed Scrooges. (Alongside The original Grinch, about which I will hear no objections.)

WARNING: Musical

The Vincent Price Tribute: Edward Scissorhands (1990, 105 minutes) Any of Burton's recent sins ( the treacle-y Alice, the empty Dark Shadows) are forever excused because of his treatment of Vincent Price in this film. Burton specifically wrote the part of the eccentric hilltop inventor for his idol, which turned out to be the ailing Price's last onscreen role. (He did a little voice work for cartoons later.) Though brief, Price was always very grateful for the part, and it could be seen as returning the favor Price did years earlier for voicing the animated short of the young animator. At any rate, Edward Scissorhands. Set around Christmas, introducing the world to the real weirdness of Johnny Depp, and inadvertently doing for pale, introverted, makeup-wearing goth kids what Twilight would do for pale, introverted, makeup-wearing emo kids twenty years later. (...all just another case of history repeating...) Depp, starring as a nearly-silent, socially awkward cross between Frankenstein's Monster and a robot, is discovered living in a shadowy corner of David Lynch's Blue Velvet town, and is adopted into this cartoonish stereotype of suburbia. His occasionally tragic, frequently funny attempts to fit in (or at least remain unnoticed) become a lengthy metaphor for every tragically misunderstood teenager who ever listened to The Cure. (Edward's look was actually based on Robert Smith, who was offered the soundtrack. Smith was in the middle of Disintegration and turned it down.) Humor aside, the film has become a weird cultural icon, and is Burton's (and Danny Elfman's) favorite of his own films.

WARNING: You know what makes Edward Scissorhands a hundred times creepier? Michael Jackson wanted to play the lead.
Artificial Suns


Movie night will HAVE to be Thursday this week, because I will be heading up to Madison by Friday evening.

Flicks for this week a little up in the air. Either our Christmas pairing (a very Tim Burton Christmas), a final Friday (how did we have a Friday the 13th last week and I didn't notice it?), or something random, like the promised Argento or Fulci Italian week.
Artificial Suns

"You know, I've always wanted a child. And now I think I'll have one... on toast! "

Unsure if movie night this week will be on Thursday or Friday; strongly depends on how Wednesday goes as I have yet another validation in Birmingham. Goes well, and I might be home as early as 2:00 on Thursday. Goes badly and I might be racing the clock on Friday evening. (How exciting!)

Therefore, watch this space for further announcements Wed evening as I find out whether the instrument decides to cooperate or not.

The flicks this week are something of a practice in contrasts. I originally intended them as an accompaniment for October, so we'll just have to use the wind up to the Winter solstice instead. You see, these films are concerned with the waning of the year: to those individuals dedicated to the darker aspect of natural cycles, to the bringing up of dead things in the service of a dark lord. There will be potions and cauldrons and chanting and music and sacrifices, and oh, so many misunderstood women from the time of the pilgrims. Yes, this week we're paying host to a whole bunch of Witchy Women. (Please note: these are the traditional Satanist witches; they have nothing to do with Wicca)

Samantha: Hocus Pocus (1993, 96 minutes) Intended to be a made-for-TV Disney Channel Original, the finished product was judged to be strong enough to support a theatrical release. This is mostly due to the fact that, as one of my podcasts (Read it and Weep)noted, "everyone in it really seems to be putting a lot of effort into what's really just a made-for-TV movie. All the appropriate Disney trappings are there: goofy villains, reluctant "too cool for this kids stuff" heroes to pull in the teen demographic without nudging up the PG rating, talking animals, kid-safe peril ("drinking life-force" instead of blood), lessons about peer pressure, and wacky hijinks. And yet, there's more substance than we'd expect. The trio of witches are played by an unexpectedly fun combination of Kathy Najimy... Sarah Jessica Parker? and... Bette Midler!?! Pouring enormous relish into their roles as half moustache-twirling (er... the equivalent thereof) Disney villainesses and Three Stooge impersonators, the film becomes more and more entertaining. While Bette Middler steals every scene with her own personal version of Cruella Deville (and Moe), Sarah Jessica Parker (as the airheaded Curly of the troupe) surprises us all by a) not irritating the hell out of us and b) pushes back at the PG rating of the film by implying that she'd been strung up mostly because she'd slept with most of colonial Salem. Include a nasty, disfigured zombie wandering about doing the witches' bidding and an immortal black cat, and this becomes one of those flicks where the Disney brand is no scarlet letter... even the big entertainment machines can get it right sometimes.

Sabrina: The Lords of Salem (2012, 101 minutes) From Disney, we go to Rob Zombie. How's that for a study in contrasts? Despite my problems with some of Zombie's prior efforts (House of 1000 Corpses I found to be indulgent filth and Halloween was half good and half enormously misguided) I was excited to see this film since it sounded like such a departure. I was even more interested when Andy mentioned that it was good. He neglected to mention that it was beautiful. Incredibly slow and measured, highly stylistic, and severely minimalistic in dialogue and action, the film excelled in every way that I was afraid it would fail. Sherri Moon Zombie (Rob's wife), despite her shrill, clumsy, one-note caricature performance in House, actually carries the film with a deft, subtle touch as the clinically depressed, inward-turning lead who barely keeps up a bubbly, personable façade as a late-night DJ. The stunt casting that riddled Zombie's prior films is still in evidence, but no longer has the "look at me" quality that made prior films so obnoxious. The expected gore and viscera are understated, the sleaze of Halloween almost nonexistent. If the film has any sins, it's through aping its influences too closely. The plot is very largely identical to Rosemary's Baby, even down to similarly structured sets (the apartment). The film's love of Hammer Horror, Black Sunday, and parts of The Exorcist are laid on with a heavy brush, and the end... don't laugh, but I seriously think it's pure 2001. (Though much less boring.) This slow, stately, well-formed (despite enormous shortfalls in budget) film has seriously made me re-evaluate Zombie's worth as a director... just in time for Zombie to leave the horror genre. (His next film is going to be a hockey flick?)

WARNING FOR LORDS OF SALEM: Tries very hard to offend via blasphemy. Just sayin'
Artificial Suns

"Do you like Hewey Louis and the News?"

So, while I am not well, I have achieved heavy medication to treat the affliction that has graced me with a more sandpapery Kasey Kasem voice over the last two days. (Thank God I haven't had to travel.) I am loathe to skip a movie night, however, so consider yourselves thoroughly warned that I am not at my healthiest right now. Just a chest cold. Those willing to take the chance are welcome to join me this Thursday evening, even if I do seem a

The Empty Smile: American Psycho (2000, 102 minutes) For the record, Patrick Bateman is who I see every time Christian Bale is on screen... a kind of moist, murderous Jim Carrey. This makes the recent Batman films exceptionally uncanny. In 1991, Brett Easton Ellis published this stream-of-consciousness book containing an elaborate, vindictive skewering of the excesses of the 80's US through the actions of a sociopathic, psychopathic, and likely schizophrenic Wall Street yuppie. The character is obsessed with the wealth and consumerist status that robs him of identity and seemingly empties out all character from behind his blank, smiling face. (Most condemning seems to be his adoration of 80's pop bands.) The sexual, drug, and murderous excesses with which he fills his life exploded into something of a tempest-in-a-teapot controversy upon the book's release (especially from feminist groups angered by the portrayal of violence towards women), and has ensured that the book is still banned or censored in several countries. The film version was the biggest film of Mary Harron (more familiar for arthouse material like I Shot Andy Warhol) and our first real look at Christian Bale (who had been warned by Gloria Steinem that the role would ruin his career). Trimmed down a bit to take it out of the NC-17 range, it still packs more than enough material to warrant an additional warning, although largely for dwelling uncomfortably on the sexual material (and, similar to the second film, the oddly misognyistic undertones) than the violence, which is positively mild by today's standards, being more sudden and catastrophic than the nastier of today's movies.

The Uncanny Valley: Maniac (aka: the remake, 2012, 89 minutes) Upon hearing that they were doing a remake of Maniac, that most famous of all the Grindhouse nasties from the bad ol' 70's, I had the proper, approved response of scoffing. Then I heard that it was to be a first-person-perspective film, directed by the recently-fallen Alexandre Aja, and I fell to my knees and screamed WHYYYYYYY to the heavens. Then I heard that... Elijah Wood? was cast in the lead and... well, I didn't know what to think. (Those among you with exacting memories will spot that he'd done this before, as the mute cannibal from Sin City.) Then the damn thing only played theatrically in NY. Now that I've actually seen it, I have to say I'm mildly stunned. It's conceit is pure arthouse: it's almost entirely first-person, but they find a lot of ways to cleverly include Elijah Wood in the film through reflections, cameras, etc. (A few reviews complained that he was barely in the film. That's simply not true.) It's a remake, but despite inclusion of several key concepts is almost entirely new: only a few moments recall scenes from the original exactly, (no Tom Savini head explosion) there is a much deeper (and more explicit, where the original was subtle) examination of Frank's psychosis and a slightly more reasonable romantic connection. The violence is severe and explicit (excepting a couple of CGI groaners) and both recalls the nastiness of the original while working in small aspects of the much-reviled torture-porn genre. (To be clear, we're talking about the scalping.) You'll recall that the original was screened on "weirdly misogynistic movie night" and those aspects are definitely still present. If there's any marks against the flick, beyond its simple severity, they'd be firstly the intrusive, subtly absurd CGI moments, and secondly Wood being unable to live up to the crazed sincerity of Joe Spinell's star turn in the original.

WARNING: While not overtly dwelling, there are a few particularly nasty moments that members of the audience may want to look away for. Also, being first-person, we may have to bring up the lights to prevent motion sickness.

WARNING FOR BOTH MOVIES: Lotsa sex this week. Just sayin'
Artificial Suns

Movie night Thursday!

Unless things change drastically, we will be having movie night this week, and it will be on the (now rarely) usual Thursday night.

Got a couple good potentials, but gotta watch at least one movie in order to decide. Watch this space for details..
Artificial Suns

"Let's send these fuckers a Rambo-gram."

Red Alert! I don't know if you've heard yet, but there are reports of dead-eyed people wandering blindly through the vacant and boarded-up storefronts of those locations we laughingly refer to as "shopping malls." They seek blindly, hopelessly, for any remnant of warmhearted emotion, any sign of artificially externalized love that they may battle ferociously over it in order to return it to their true masters, ever seeking the approval of their family and friends. It's true! The very gates of hell must have burst to place these fiends at large throughout the downtown complexes. So this week we'll be huddling behind locked doors, hidden from view and praying that we somehow aren't noticed. Cautiously make your way to movie night this week, avoiding the attentions of these fools who still leave their homes in order to make purchases, seeking knick-knacks and trifles to try and fill up the horrible emptiness in their lives through the act of gift-giving. Truly, this is the Blackest Friday yet...

Getting There Early to Avoid the Rush: Chopping Mall (77 minutes, 1986) A pretty straightforward piece of sci-fi silliness that suffered from titling problems. Originally called Killbots but renamed and edited because of an anemic box office return, this piece of 80's cheese can be pretty well understood just from these two titles. A typical group of mid-80's teens break into a mall after closing and discover A) they're locked in, and B) the mall has instituted a new, somewhat extreme security system. Made, predictably, under Roger Corman, this was the first real writing/directing opportunity this (in)famous producer handed over to Jim Wynorski, who went on to an absurdly prolific career of low-budget B-pictures (and films of a more salacious nature), revving up to a startling 3-5 movies a year from about 1994 on. This film has a number of actors we've encountered before, most notably Barbra Crampton (of From Beyond and ReAnimator fame, and the recent You're Next) in an early role, and Mary Wornov from Death Race 2000. Light, popcorn fare that I couldn't resist...

This Year's Must-Buy Toy: Child's Play (1988, 87 minutes) It's rather remarkable how much this series has outlived its context. In 1985 there was an ubiquitous television ad for an oversized stuffed doll for boys called "My Buddy." The infectious commercial jingle and the obvious attempt to cash in on the Cabbage Patch craze that ran throughout the 80's made it a weirdly obscure cultural touchstone for anyone watching Saturday morning cartoons in that era. It was therefore inevitable that someone would notice how amazingly creepy those oversized dolls were. Hence, Child's Play, and the five sequels it has spawned. (The most recent release, though framed oddly in the advertising, was apparently NOT a remake, but an honest-to-God sequel.) The doll itself becomes an odd mechanism by which a notorious serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (named after Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray), escapes execution. The possessed doll is perhaps the most diminutive of all 80's slashers, but follows a similar progression. This first film is big on atmosphere and subtle horror until a rather spectacular ending. The animatronics were extremely impressive for the era, but the real showcase, and likely the reason for the series longevity, is Brad Douriff in what is likely his most famous role. The simultaneously gruff and shrill maniacal voice coming from this plastic doll had an indelible effect on the horror landscape of the 80's.
Artificial Suns


As should be pretty obvious, movie night this week will be on Friday (tomorrow) Tenative schedule will be in celebration of Black Friday: Chopping Mall & Child's Play. Summaries to follow tomorrow. (Too sluggish from food right now...) If I can't locate a copy of Child's Play, I have fallbacks available, no fear.
Artificial Suns

"You mean we're all gonna die because you screwed up the math?"

Hokay, folks. Things are still uncertain. I've escaped Baltimore, but am now in Birmingham, where I have to try and do a half-day validation if I want to get back into ATL in time for movie night.

It's.... theoretically.... possible.

Anyway, it's even harder to figure out a movie night when I'm this far from the collection. Fortunately, Jimmy offered up an alternative that sounds a lot more entertaining than "Elevator Horror" night. Unfortunately, I have to modify the suggestion, because the only flick among them that I've seen, is the only one I don't have access to. (Unless someone can actually confirm that Leviathan is on Netflix instant...)

That's right, folks! It's that rarest of all movie nights, the times that I screen flicks I haven't even seen. So everyone grab your swim fins and your snorkel, because this is the week we're going to sea for some Deep Cuts. (And if it sucks, we all blame Jimmy!)

Fish heads, Fish heads.... DeepStar Six (99 minutes, 1989) It appears that the announcement that Cameron's The Abyss prompted all the competitor studios to shuffle out their own deep-sea horror flicks in competition, (The writer of this flick apparently had a major falling out with Cameron as a result.) giving a mini-boom of nautical horror right at the end of the most prolific decade of US horror. The irony, of course, is that the competitor films all generally took a straight-up monster movie approach, while the film they were targeted to compete with opted for a slower-paced disaster movie and drama, while the "monsters" turned out to be not monstrous at all. We can only hope that this flick will give more man vs. fish action than the Cameron version...

In an Octopus's garden... Deep Rising (106 minutes, 1998) What can I say about a flick I haven't seen? Other than echoing the above circumstances of its creation (which I can only assume are equally true), I've heard there's something about tentacles? And a plot similar to Ghost Ship? Do we need anything more?
Artificial Suns

MOVIE NIGHT (possibly) FRIDAY 11/22

Hey all,

Well, I'm trapped out of state until late Thursday night this week. Then I'll be flying back to another state to tend to another customer who just can't wait, before driving back to ATL in the evening. Very unsure how the timing will work out, but one thing is clear. No way in hell I'll make Thursday evening for movie night. Also, Kristy is planning on driving down on Friday evening, though that's dependent on how things go for her at work as well.

So y'all will have to wait on another announcement as to whether or not there will be a movie night: but if there is one, it will definitely be on Friday.

Potential pairs: elevator horror, witchy horror, Dario Argento masterpieces... and difficult to think of others while trapped into the night at an account. Suggestions?