Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Movies of 2008

It's the last day of the year, so I thought it appropriate to post my choices for the Best Movies of 2008. As I've said before, unlike 'professional' movie critics, I don't get to see every movie that comes out (as much as I'd like to), so I can only offer my opinions on movies I actually saw this year. Some I've commented on or reviewed before. Others are getting their first mention here. In any case, here are the 10 Best Movies I saw this year:


Previously reviewed on my Best Horror Movies list, Teeth is one of those movies that stays with you long after you've seen it; inviting all sorts of questions about morality, resposibility and sexuality. Highly disturbing and often very amusing. Michael Lichtenstein's feminist parable is a film you won't soon forget.
Like The Blair Witch Project a few years ago, many patrons at showings of Cloverfiled were made nauseous by the film's hand-held camera work. But producer J.J. Abrams (Lost; Fringe) and director Matt Reeves put together one hell of a monster movie. Combining the best elements of classic Japanese kaiju movies with exciting special effects and some truly human moments of terror and despair, Cloverfield was an internet sensation long before it hit local cineplexes, and proved that giant monster movies don't have to be as stupid as the 1999 remake of Godzilla.
8. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Lat den ratte komma in)
First, I must apologize for the lack of subtitles in that clip, but I am so tired of posting trailers all the time. Second, let me say that this is probably one of the most original, chilling and atmospheric vampire movies ever made. If Bergman made horror movies (and some would say he did), this would have been one of them. Forget Twilight (yeuch!). For a truly great vampire film, see Let the Right One In.
Ben Stiller can be incredibly funny or horribly lame. Lucky for us, his send up of Hollywood stereotypes, co-written with Justin Theroux, is incredibly funny. Terrific performances from Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr. and Tom Cruise (yes, I know) and a bitingly satiric script add up to one of the year's funniest films.
Director Guillermo del Toro brought us my pick for 2007's Best Film, Pan's Labyrinth. In his follow-up to Hellboy, he treats us to a visual orgy, employing both CGI and physical effects to create the most eye-popping film of the year. Personally, I can't wait for his Hobbit movies and his planned take on H.P. Lovecraft's 'At the Mountains of Madness.'
Writer/Director Martin McDonagh makes murder funny in this hilarious little film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen sent to a small, picturesque town in Belgium to await their next assignment from boss Ralph Fiennes. This often over-looked comedy deserves to be seen by wider audiences. Hopefully, DVD and word-of-mouth will help turn this quirky and very funny film into the cult classic it deserves to be.
Director Jon Favreau helped re-start Robert Downey, Jr's career and made a Superhero movie for people other than just fanboys. Funny, exciting, romantic and just plain fun, Iron Man is also the first movie over which Marvel Comics had full creative control. Let's hope it's the start of a trend from the fledgling studio.
I blogged about the importance of Milk before I saw it. I managed to sneak away to matinee last week and must admit that I was simply blown away by it. Hit-or-miss director Gus Van Sant has hit a home run with his partially fictionalized account of Harvey Milk's rise to public office in San Francisco; his fight for gay rights in that city and his assisnation at the hands of fellow City Councilman, Dan White. Amazing performances from Sean Penn; Josh Brolin; James Franco; Victor Garber and Stephen Spinella are icing on the cake.
Yes, it's a tie. I simply couldn't choose.
Pixar's Wall-E is an amazing warning about rampant consumerism while still managing to be a delightful romantic comedy, all without a single line of dialog for the first half-hour. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Dolly Levi would all be so proud.
As for The Dark Knight, I refuse to write more than I have to about Christopher Nolan's chaotic and brilliant entry into the Batman franchise which, finally, fully took the Superhero movie out of the hands of fanboys and into the hands of an auteur. The late Heath Ledger may have gotten all teh praise, but The Dark Knight also features some terrific performances from Michael Caine as Alfred and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey "Two-Face" Dent. Not to mention one of the best and most terrifying CGI FX in movie history (Dent's scarred face).
Well, what a year for movies, eh? Superheroes ruled, vampires rocked, gay folks refused to stay silent and a little trash-compacting robot stole our hearts. I hope at least one of your favorites is on my list. If not, maybe next year.
I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of New Years! See you at the movies!
As always, more of this, anon.
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The Present I Didn't Get

Okay - I got a lot of terrific presents this year for Christmas. I got a Wii and the Ed Wood Box DVD Collection; I got lots of great music and a remote controlled zombie and I even got a home-made version of the Princess Unicorn doll from my friend, Mia. But what I didn't get was this (via):

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The Least Gay Thing You'll See This Week?

I don't know if these boys are gay or not (nor do I care). What I do know is that they can dance! Add that to the fact that I'm still not sick of this song, and it's my favorite video of the week. I gave you Purple Haze (via):

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Worst Movies of 2008

I suddenly realized that the year is nearly over and I haven't posted my Best and Worst lists (yes, I know I did the Best Horror, but that only partially counts). I'm doing the worst list first, only because it's easier. I saw a lot of bad movies this year. Please remember, unlike the professional critics, I don't get to see every movie, so I can only opine on the ones I did. Counting down from 10, here are the worst movies I saw in 2008:


10. 10,000 BC

Hottie Steven Strait (The Covenant) plays half-naked caveman D'Leh in this preposterous story of mammoth hunters who find themselves prey to slave-making proto-Egyptians. When the only hot girl in the tribe is captured, D'Leh takes it upon himself to lead the search. Director Roland Emmerich (Stargate; Independance Day; Godzilla) proves there is no topic too ridiculous to tackle on the big screen. Despite the presence of many hot, half-naked men and women, 10,000 BC is just a mess.

9. Made of Honor

80's teen star Patrick Dempsey may have made a comeback of sorts on ABC's "Gray's Anatomy," but his movie career hit the skids once again with this deplorable romantic comedy that should have been called My Best Friend's Wedding 2: I'm Not Gay. Dempsey plays a womanizer whose best friend is getting married. It is only then that he realizes he loves her and despite being asked to be her "Maid of Honor," sets up to sabotage the wedding at all costs, lest of all, his dignity. Pure treacley crap.

8. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Oh, how I loves me some Brendan Fraser (especially mostly-naked, as in another bad movie, George of the Jungle). And I really loved Stephen Sommers' first Mummy film. It was fun and exciting and had some terrific CGI (not to mention 'yummy mummy' Arnold Vosloo). The Mummy Returns was okay, but not nearly as good. And eight years is a long time between sequels, folks. Long enough for studio execs to realize that the moment has passed. But it was not to be. This lame-ass picture, set in pre-war China, is just an excuse to extend a franchise beyond its prime. The talents of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh are completely wasted here and Rachel Wiesz is the only smart one (her role is played by Maria Bello, another actress who should have known better).


7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
I should have realized from the ridiculous title that this would not be the Indy movie the fans have all been waiting for. Yes, I enjoyed it on first viewing. But unlike the first three IJ movies, Crystal Skull just doesn't hold up. From the ridiculous (and infamous) refridgerator stunt to the CGI monkeys and the over-the-top performance of the usually brillaint Cate Blanchett, almost everything about this movie screams "Sellout!!!"

6. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Okay - full disclosure: I played Sweeney in a truly great and very dark production in 1998. And while the film was officially realeased in 2007, it didn't go wide until 2008. which is when I saw it, with the man who directed the production I was in. Both of us loathed this film. Director Tim Burton (whose films I usually adore) removed all of the humor from Stephen Sondheim's brilliant operetta and turned it into a musical horror movie. Burton's favorite actor (and one of mine), Johhny Depp, proves that he can't sing and a role meant for a booming baritone becomes a whiny, reedy tenor with a shock of fake hair and a bad British accent. Sondheim should have sued. I would have.

5. Hancock
Director Peter Berg also made the terrible Very Bad Things, so it should be no surprise that his foray into the Superhero genre would be equally as awful. Hollywood's go-to good guy, Will Smith, plays the titular character, an alcoholic schmuck who causes more damage than he does good. He has no memory of how he came about his powers of what he's been doing for the last forty years, but that doesn't stop PR guy Jason Bateman from trying to rehabilitate Hancock's image. Of course, Bateman has his own problems with his gorgeous wife, Charlize Theron, who harbors more than a secret or two of her own. Boring and confusing, Hancock is just one more notch in Smith's 'mistake' column (along with Wild, Wild West and Seven Pounds).

4. Jumper

Hayden Christiensen (the bad Star Wars movies) stars as a guy who can teleport in this mess of a movie from director Doug Limen (Mr. & Mrs. Smith; The Bourne Identity) and writer David S. Goyer (Dark City; Blade; Batman Begins). Co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane and Tom Hulce all should have known better.


3. The Love Guru

Mike Meyers used to be funny. The Love Guru is proof that he isn't funny anymore. Pure crap, through and through.

2. 27 Dresses

I used to like Katherine Heigl. She's actually a good actress and was very funny in Knocked Up. Then she made the single most insipid rom-com ever. I'm trying not to vomit and block all memories of this film from my mind.


1. The Happening

No clip or image here. I already discussed this movie as the Worst Horror Movie of the Year. It just also happens to be the worst movie of the year. Please, someone needs to tell M. Night Shamylan that his career is over and he should be happy that it lasted as long as it did. I'd rather see an Uwe Boll film than another piece of crap from this jerk. 'Nough said.
Next up, my picks for the Ten Best Films of 2008.
More of this, anon.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

My wish to all of you is that Santa was wise and generous; that you got to spend the holiday with people you love and that you are smart enough appreciate what you have.

More of this, anon.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

Star Trek Voyages, the official on-line Trek series, has boldly gone where no Trek went before and created a gay story line. It involves Kirk's nephew Peter, an alien virus similar to AIDS and a Klingon attack. Gay geeks can finally rejoice! (via)

More of this, anon.
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Monday, December 22, 2008


Okay - I came across both of these things today on Videogum. It was like kismet.
First - here's a fan trailer that reportedly took a year to make. Some people have too much time on their hands:

Next, an insane person. Some people have way too much time on their hands:
I can't decide whether this woman is insanely brilliantly or brilliantly insane. I just know that it's funnier every time I watch it. Maybe because I'm tired of being a 'wide' animal, too.
More of this, anon.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I won't be posting much this week, if at all. I just wanted to wish all of my readers (all three of you) the very merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years. Happy Hannauka, Happy Kwaanza and Good Solstice, too.

I may pop in once or twice to drop a note or two, but I wouldn't count on it!

Emjoy your holidays!

More of this, eventually.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Year's Best Horror Movies

Unlike almost any other genre, the horror film is often dismissed by critics simply just for being a horror film. But there are plenty of really good horror movies - The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs and An American Werewolf in London are three that immediately spring to mind. And just like every other genre, there are good and bad horror movies. Sadly, the good ones rarely get the recognition they deserve. So, in an attempt to correct that and, in the order of release (though not necessarily the order in which I saw them), here are the best of this year's horror movies (IMHO):


Writer/Director Mitchell Lichtenstein's feminist parable concerns the urban legend known as Vagina Dentata. Jess Wexler gives a truly terrific performance as Dawn O'Keefe, a young woman who has taken a vow of chastity, only to discover that her privates are even more dangerous than the preacher who led her to take that vow would leave her to believe. Hilarious and horrifying, Teeth will make every man squeeze his legs a bit closer together upon viewing and give every teen pause before getting his girlfriend drunk and trying something stupid.
The 'Godfather of the Dead,' George A. Romero, returns to his roots and joins the "hand-held camera" trend for his fifth entry in his "Living Dead" series. A group of student filmmakers are shooting a mummy picture in the woods when the zombie plague breaks out, and the young director decides to record the events that are unfolding about them. Intense and relentlessly horrifying, Diary of the Dead is Romero's best entry in the series since 1979's original Dawn of the Dead. Horror icons Wes Craven, Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro all have uncredited voice cameos, along with director Quentin Tarantino and Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg.
Scott Smith ("A Simple Plan") wrote the novel (and the screenplay) on which this nasty little thriller is based, about a group of Americans on vacation in Mexico who find themselves trapped atop an ancient pyramid with a vicious, intelligent and very carnivorous entity. The book seemed a bit silly when I read it, though Smith's character development and less-than-happy ending more than made up for that. Director Carter Smith (no relation) ramps up the tension and the gore, while managing to elicit terrific performances from his talented young cast, which includes Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) and Jonathan Tucker (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings) and Scott Speedman (Underworld) star in this taut thriller from writer/director Bryan Bertino. A couple returning from a wedding spend the night in the young man's secluded family vacation home and, while trying to reconcile over a failed marriage proposal, find themselves terrorized and eventually tortured by a trio of masked strangers who targeted them simply because they were home. What could have been a formulaic and forgettable movie is made terrifying by Bertino's expert use of sound effects and corner-of-the-eye visuals that pour on the tension.
Like fellow author Stephen King, novelist Clive Barker's works don't always translate well to film. Those that do (Hellraiser; Candyman) often end up as increasingly silly franchises that ultimately debase the often briliant works on which they are based. Bradley Cooper (TV's "Nip/Tuck" and "Kitchen Confidential") and Leslie Bibb (Talladega Nights) star in director Ryuhei Kitamura's adaptation of Barker's tale about a photographer who becomes obsessed with a serial killer who stalks the late night subways. It features cameos from Brooke Shields, Vinnie Jones and Roger Bart and is weird, gruesome and bone-chilling. Distributor Lion's Gate took some heat from Barker fans by not giving this movie the distribution and promotion they felt it deserved, and rightly so. The Midnight Meat Train is one of the year's most disturbing films and it deserves to be seen.
Tomas Alfredson directed the screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on Lindqvist's novel. The story concerns Oskar, a bullied 12 year-old who is befriended by Eli, a young girl who helps him take revenge on his tormentors by sucking their veins dry. This chilling and atmospheric vampire tale takes place in Sweden, and like last year's 30 Days of Night, allows for some stunning visuals of bloodied snow and winter gloom. The title was inspired by a Morrisey song ('Let the Right One Slip In'), and the film is set for an American remake in 2010, though I doubt the new version will come close to the stunning and chilling original.
And finally, my pick for the Worst Horror Movie of 2008:
Writer/Director M. Night Shaymalan took the world by storm with his chilling ghost story The Sixth Sense. Sadly, the once-promising auteur has made increasingly bad films ever since. His latest, starring Mark Walberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo and Betty Buckley, is quite simply a nonsensical mess. Boring, stupid and preachy, The Happening is the single worst horror movie of 2008.
Stay tuned for more movie madness. Next up: My picks for the worst movies of 2008.
More of this, anon.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don't Tell Me Who to Love

Apparently, the Christian Music world was shocked this past September when Christian singer Ray Boltz came out as gay. This is very recent news to me, as I don't really follow Christian Music, being the agnostic secular humanist that I am. But I came across this video of his latest single "Don't Tell Me Who to Love," produced by the gay Christian group Soulforce, who travel the country promoting tolerance and acceptance on Christian college campuses, often getting arrested for their troubles.
The video equates the fight for gay marriage with the fight to allow interracial marriages in the late '60's and early '70's. The video quality isn't particularly good, but the song is pleasant enough and the message more important now, than ever.

More of this, anon.
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Jim Carrey, Homophobe?

I'm of two minds when it comes to Jim Carrey. There are some films in which I find him to be totally captivating and wonderful (The Truman Show; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; The Mask) and others in which I despise him (The Number 23; The Cable Guy; Ace Ventura and almost anything else he's in). He's certainly a talented, if inconsistent, actor who is capable of really good work. He has a new comedy coming out soon called Yes Man which looks like it has all the potential to be just as awful as most of his films. And there's the upcoming I Love You Phillip Morris, a film inspired by a true story of man who escaped prison several times to be with the man he loves (who he just happened to meet in prison). Irish hottie Ewan McGregor plays Morris.

But watch Carrey in the trailer:
Supposedly, a car accident leads his character to the revelation that he is gay, and he suddenly becomes this swishy, gym-rat kind of gay man who embodies every stereotype we've fought so long to overcome. Then there was last night's appearance on Letterman in which Carrey appeared in a bathtub drinking champagne with Larry King (ick) for comic effect. And earlier in the appearrance he said he'll always hug a fan "...unless it's a dude." What the hell? Honestly, I have no problem with straight actors playing gay roles. Lord knows I've played enough straight roles. But when a straight actor plays a gay role and then goes on to make jokes at our expense? For shame. This is one gay movie fan who will not be seeing I Love You Phillip Morris.
More of this, anon.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Head May Explode

This is the single worst performance I have ever seen in my life. I think a man might be off- camera, holding a gun to the young lady's dog's head. Or threatening to blow up her kitten. Honestly. (via)

God bless us, every one!

More of this, anon.
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Light Up the Night for Equality

Mark your calendars and check your city's events page for Light Up the Night for Equality, a nationwide candlelight vigil for Marriage Equality on Saturday, December 20th. The good folks at WhiteKnot.org have all the details.
This past November's elections in CA, FL and AZ have galvanized the LGBT community in a way I've never seen before, and I have never been prouder to be a member of that community.
Fight the good fight, folks. Don't continue to allow bigots, fear-mongers and haters to scare people into sheepishly allowing basic human rights to be trampled upon. Stand up and say something. Do something. Stop the hate and join the fight for what you know is right. Don't allow the so-called 'Religious Right' to spread fear and lies.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that "the rights of a minority should never be voted upon by the majority." How can we, more than 200 years later, ignore those words from one of the framers of our Constitution? We can't and we won't.
Stop the hate, end the fear and remove the bigots from power. Join in and make your voices heard.
More of this, anon.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This 'N' That

Short and sweet tonight - I'm tired.
First, here's a delightful version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as performed by Beaker, the Muppets' ever-exasperated lab assistant. Oh, how I love me some Muppets and some Luddy V. (via)
And then there's this review from the San Francisco Gate of the new inter-active play, "Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party." (via)
More of this, anon.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Best Virals

As another year draws to a close, I had to share this compilation of the year's best viral videos from Videogum via BoingBoing. Enjoy.

As always, more of this, anon.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Favorite "MST3K" Episodes

My friends and I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the early 90's when it was a Saturday Late Night Staple on Comedy Central. Those were the days when creator Joel Hodgson was the host and the evil scientists were Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and TV's Frank (Frank Conniff). The jokes were hilarious (and almost non-stop) and I was usually quite proud to get most of them, though there were always those few that made no sense to any of us. When head-writer Mike Nelson took over the hosting duties, the show was still pretty funny, but there was something missing. By the time the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Movie came out, it was time to hang it up, though there were three more not nearly as funny seasons after that.
The premise was simple - a guy and two smart-alecky robots, trapped in an orbiting space station, were forced to watch terrible movies as part of a sadistitic experiment. The movies were usually horror or sci-fi (though there were plenty of other genres) and were always the worst of the worst. The audience watched the three in silhouette as they sat in the front row and said all the snarky things you and your friends said while watching bad movies and smoking dope. Simple and hilarious. There were eleven seasons and dozens of episodes, some better than others. And some of the best eps were those that included a short to fill the time left by a shorter feature. Here then, in no particular order, are my favorite MST3K episodes & shorts:
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
(Season 4, Episode #21):

This episode contains one of my favorite all-time MST3K lines: "Pills for breakfast? Who do we look like, Judy Garland?" Also, the infamously bad actress Pia Zadora makes her film debut as a Martian child.
The Sidehackers
(Season 3, Episode #2):

This godawful motorcycle racing flick is so badly made, the boys have to actually explain that the hero's girlfriend has been murdered, because no one in the movie ever mentions it. The boys' best line comes during a particularly bad edit that takes place just as the hero clutches the tiny padlock on a chain around his neck: "Oh magic lock, take me to the freeway!"
Here Comes the Circus!
(Pre-Feature Short, Episode Unknown):

One of the show's best shorts, Here Comes the Circus was basically a commercial for Ringling Brothers. It features the classic line "Oh, no! No! They're doing it 'clown-style!'"
The Day the Earth Froze
(Season 5, Episode #22):
This Russian-made version of a Norwegian folktale is about a witch who steals the sun, and features a slew of the boys' best lines, including "My other log is a Redwood!"
(Pre-Feature Short, Episode Unknown):
Basically a training film for Chevrolet salesmen, Hired! is just terrible - and oh so funny in our boys' hands.
Manos: Hands of Fate
(Season 5, Episode #24)
This very, very, very bad, semi-soft-core porno movie about a weird cult features Torgo, the oddly big-kneed manservant and the least erotic dance sequence ever put on film.
Attack of the Eye Creatures
(Season 5, Episode 18):
The boys were on fire in Season 5, and this stinker is no exception. It's so bad, in fact, the movie's title screen reads: "Attack of the The Eye Creatures" (No, that is not MY typo). The best line comes as an alien's disembodied hand is crawling around in the backseat of our hero's car: "Gotta boogie... gotta boogie... gotta boogie on my finger and it won't come off!"
Honorable Mention - For the episdoe featuring teh Japanese monster movie Gamera, the boys re-write the Japanese lyrics to the movie's theme song: "Gamera is really neat! He is filled with turtle meat! That's why we love Ga-mer-a!"
The show may be long gone, but the riffs continue as most of the original cast can be found doing much the same thing as Pay-per-View downloads at: CinematicTitanic.com. Check 'em out!
More of this, anon.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Why "Milk" Matters

Thirty years ago, America was a very different place. Personal computers; cellphones; PDAs; HDTV; digital cameras; the Internet and IMAX were all unheard of. Personally, I was thrilled and amazed to have a Texas Instruments calculator to help me with the math with which I struggled on a daily basis. The acronym LGBT had yet to be invented and a rainbow was a meteorological phenomenon not yet associated with any particular group other than leprechauns and their pots of gold. Stonewall had come and gone, but was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to gay rights.
Then, suddenly, there was this man in San Francisco; a transplanted New Yorker who was tired of being treated as a third-class citizen. A man who decided that enough was enough. Harvey Milk became the first openly gay person in the U.S. to hold a publicly elected office. And then, just as suddenly, he was gone. Murdered (along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone) by fellow City Supervisor Dan White. White went on to claim that junk food had addled his brain and the infamous "Twinkie Defense" was born. I was sixteen years old, terrified that my friends and family would discover that I was gay, and even more horrified to see that one of my idols had been shot in cold blood. I remember thinking, "They really hate us." It would be many years (and much therapy) before I was ready to come out to my family. And even then, it was only to those closest to me.
I cried the day Harvey Milk was murdered, because I thought my last hope at being 'normal' had died with him. Recently, with the defeat of Prop 8 in California (and similar legislations in FL and AZ), I began to feel the same sort of despair. But the community has rallied again. Our voices are being heard. More and more people from all walks of life are decrying the breech of civil rights afforded by Prop 8 and other measures. Prop 8: The Musical is a Viral Video hit and more and more gay celebrities are publicily outing themsleves (while more and more straight celebs are endorsing gay rights as simply Human Rights).
Brokeback Mountain was supposed to be the movie that changed everything for the LGBT community. And for a while, it seemed it might. But even Ang Lee's gorgeous and painful romance couldn't galvanize the country into acceptance. Now comes Gus Van Sant's Milk, and we can all rejoice.
Or can we?
If Milk had been released a month earlier, would it have made a difference in the outcome of the Prop 8 vote? Will it make a difference now? Only time will tell. Rob Epstein's 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk did little (if anything) to sway public opinion. And the traditional "Christian Right" (which is neither, I might add) are certainly doing everything they can to deter people from realizing that being gay is not a choice.
As Milk garners more and more awards and nominations and opens in wider release, will middle-Americans venture to their local cinemas and realize that Harvey was right? Or, like with Brokeback Mountain (a far superior film to that year's Best Picture winner, Crash) will it be an anomaly; a novelty film with limited appeal and in the end, limited impact? I sure hope not.
In any event, Van Sant's fictionalized bioflick sure looks like terrific filmmaking with some of this year's most riveting performances:
More of this, anon.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Love for "Were the World Mine"

I know, I know. You're sick of hearing me go on and on about a movie I haven't even seen yet. But boy, is that trailer good. And now, there is an extended trailer with more music from the movie:
And while looking for more on the movie, I came across the trailer for the short that lead to full-length movie, Fairies:
Were the World Mine can't be released wide soon enough. I just hope I don't have to wait to for the DVD to hit stores before I get to see what looks like an amazing, beautiful and thoughtful film.
More of this, anon.
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So Much Hate, So Little Time

I have plenty to talk about tonight, so I'll be splitting this into two posts.

First, more on Prop 8; Day Without a Gay and those Bible-thumping idiots at Westboro Baptist.
The "Reverand" (and I use the term loosely) Fred Phelps and his family of hate-mongers have now taken on the last bastion of childhood - Santa Claus, himself. These morons apparently actually believe that God is punishing America for it's permissive attitude toward homosexuality (did they not see the results on Prop 8?) by killing US soldiers abroad and ruining our economy. Now, they have come out with this delightful bit of propaganda:

I refuse to post the rest of the poem here, simply because it makes me sick to my stomach. Suffice it to say, I know who'll be standing at the gates of Hell saying "What the f...?" come Judgment Day. (Hint: Fred Phelps and Family).

This is the kind of hateful ignorance that leads religious extremists to fly planes into skyscrapers, folks. Make no mistake, the Devil has an especially hot pitchfork poised to poke their particularly ignorant asses.

Now, on the opposite end of the hate spectrum, comes this delightfully funny little short film, Love is Love. Sadly, the people who need to see it either won't get it, or won't even watch it.

And last, but far from least, here is just one more reason to love the hilarious Wanda Sykes:

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bad Taste in Movies

I just paid my daily visit to Rotten Tomatoes, the website that aggregates movies reviews and rates films on their "Tomatometer" as either 'Fresh' (Good) or 'Rotten' (bad). A movie must have 64% or higher positive reviews to be noted as 'Fresh.'
Now I know that most people don't rely on film critics when choosing the movies they see. Most people choose movies based on who stars in them, who directed them or how good their trailers are. Some even choose based on genre (personally, I'd rather see a horror movie than a melodrama or a sci-fi action flick than a period romance). But I do read what the professional critics have to say and when critics overwhelmingly deride a movie as bad, I usually avoid it. Likewise, when critics overwhelming praise a film as wonderful, I try (with some exceptions) to see it.
Still, I am stymied by the Top Ten movies of last week. Particularly by the biggest box-office earner for two weeks in a row, Four Christmases. It has the second lowest RT rating (25%) of all of the Top Ten. In fact, five of the Top Ten are rated 'Rotten.' Only Punisher: The War Zone was rated lower (20%). Yet even it still managed to break the Top Ten. I mean, really now. Is it me? Just take a look at the Trailer for Four Christmases:
Now I ask you, was there anything even remotely funny in that trailer? And seriously, what the hell are Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenbergen and Kristen Chenowith doing in this movie? Do they really need the paychecks that badly? And why is this the number one movie in America? I mean, I love Reese Witherspoon in Election and Walk the Line and Vince Vaughn was okay in Swingers and The Wedding Crashers. But honestly, you couldn't pay me enough to see this movie.
So, does this make me a movie snob? Maybe. But I like to think I know the difference between a good film and bad one. Apparently, the American movie-going public does not. But, as my mother is fond of saying "That's why they make vanilla and chocolate."
More of this, anon.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day Without Gays

Wednesday, December 10th is 'Day Without a Gay.' Members of the LGBT community and their supporters are encouraged to take off from work (or "call in gay") and not contribute to the economy in any way, but spend the day doing volunteer work, instead. I will be participating and I encourage all of you to do the same.

But in all honesty, I have to wonder what impact this "strike" will actually have. In this uncertain economy, how many of us can actually afford to take the day off? I have personal time available to me at work, but a temp co-worker (and friend of mine) isn't so lucky. He has to work tomorrow to pay his bills, no matter how much he wants to participate. And while it is my fervent hope that employers and retailers will feel the pinch of the loss of their LGBT employees and customers for a day, I hope it doesn't backfire on us.
Political activism of any kind has always been a slippery slope. Without political activists, Americans would still be British citizens, women wouldn't be allowed to vote and African Americans would still be slaves. But "political activists" were also responsible for the single worst attack on American soil, ever, resulting in the loss of 3000 lives in a single morning. And in California and Utah, some LGBT activists are infringing on the religious freedoms of members of the LDS Church, whether they contributed to the "Yes on Prop 8" campaign or not. Yes, everyone has a right to believe in whatever religion they want to (even the followers of the infamous Flying Spaghetti Monster). But does the LGBT community have a right to deny them their faith, simply because we disagree with them? No.
What's the answer, then? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, whether you personally agree with them, or not. What is important, is how we address those differences on a mature and civil level.
So, stay home from work on Wednesday. Volunteer at your local LGBT Center. Donate money to your own state's anti-discrimination causes. Go to a hospital and spend an afternoon holding an AIDS baby. Just don't be like Pat Boone - old, ignorant and bigoted:
More of this, anon.
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The Greatest Action Hero Ever!

Here Comes Dr. Tran!

(Warning: Not for Children and Not Safe for Most Workplaces)

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Monday, December 8, 2008

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

Move over Beyonce, Brittany has a new boy in town!

More of this, anon.

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DVD Review: "The X-Files: I Want to Believe"

I'll admit it - I was an "X-Phile." I never missed a Sunday night episode with my friends and fellow fans. As frustrating and enigmatic as the series was, we faithfully gathered on Sunday evenings for our weekly dose of Scully and Mulder and whatever madness they happened to be caught up in that week. The first "X-Files" movie, Fight the Future was highly anticipated, and while it did much to advance the show's complicated alien/government conspiracy plot, it served mostly as a primer for the non-initiated. It was also loaded with action and intrigue, as was the series.

Now, six years after the show went off the air, Mulder and Scully return in I Want to Believe (a phrase not unknown to fans) to help a new pair of FBI agents in their investigation into the apparent abduction of another agent in the middle of the night. Aided by a psychic (and pedophillic) ex-priest, they must race against time to find the missing agent before she is killed. Along the way, they discover a plethora of body parts, all sharing the same rare blood type and all bearing traces of animal tranquilizers.
Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is now working at a Catholic hospital, seemingly obsessed with helping a boy who has an "incurable" disease. When Special Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and her partner, Agent Mosley Drummy (rapper Xzbit) approach Scully in an effort to find former agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovney), Scully contacts him and encourages him to end his isolation and help find the missing agent (is it me, or does Chris Carter have a penchant for creating some of the most unlikely character names ever?). The priest, played by Billy Connolly (Fido) leads the FBI to a severed arm buried in the snow, and then to a whole collection of body parts in the West Virginia ice (with the plains of Vancouver standing in for a wintery WV). Despite recruiting Mulder to help with the investigation, Scully is hardly willing to once again "look into the darkness" and resists Mulder's attempts at teaming up for one more investigation. "This isn't my life, anymore," she repeatedly tells him.
The end result is more like one of the series' sillier episodes, involving Russian body part transplantation experiments, than the great alien conspiracy that series creator Chris Carter employed to great effect on TV. None of the shows' other great characters (Cigarette Smoking Man; Deep Throat; The Well-Manicured Man) makes an appearance and Mulder and Scully's boss Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) appears only briefly at the end. Ultimately a let-down for the series' fans, I Want to Believe isn't a bad movie; it just isn't a very good one. And certainly not worthy of what the fans have so long waited for. ** (Two Stars)
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

DVD Reviews: "Wall-E" and "Wanted"

Well, I finally had time to watch some movies on DVD today.

First up, Disney/Pixar's Wall-E the story of a trash-compacting robot and the survey droid he loves.

700 years ago, humans abandoned the trash-covered Earth for what was supposed to be a five year space cruise while robots cleaned up the mess the humans left behind. 700 years later, one little robot is left, still compacting and piling blocks of trash. Wall-E has developed a bit of a soul over the years and like Ariel in The Little Mermaid, has a collection of interesting human memorabilia (among them a spork, a Rubik's cube and a VHS copy of Hello Dolly! which he plays over and over). One day, a survey droid named EVE is sent to look for evidence of photosynthesis. For Wall-E, it's love at first byte (sorry, I couldn't help the pun). Using minimal dialog and hilarious visuals, first-time director John Lassiter (who has previously done voice work in many Pixar hits) imbues his anthropomorphic robot characters with far more soul than the fat, nearly-boneless humans who have evolved on the giant spaceship Axiom (their hover-chairs and service bots have long since turned them into nearly useless, complacent and blubbery drones, themselves). The few voices are provided by Jeff Garlin, Kathy Najimy, John Ratzenburger (Pixar's ever-present lucky charm) and Sigourney Weaver as the voice of Axiom's computer. Delightful, funny and even romantic, Wall-E is a film for more than just "family" audiences. **** (Four Stars)

Next I watched the comic-book-inspired Wanted, starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and Terence Stamp in a story about a wimpy and neurotic accountant named Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) who is unable to find a single entry about himself on Google, but is soon recruited by a secret society of assassins known only as "The Fraternity." Fox (Jolie) tells Wesley that his father was the greatest assassin who ever lived and that he had been killed that very morning. Wesley, believing his father abandoned him as a baby, is hesitant until he starts getting shot at.

After a training period in which Wesley learns to use the hidden talents he'd always mistaken for anxiety attacks, he and Fox start taking on assignments, killing people whose names are encoded in the weavings of a mystical loom in The Fraternity's headquarters. Outrageous stunts, ridiculous action sequences and plenty of bullets, blood and mayhem ensue as Wesley gets closer and closer to the truth about both his father and The Fraternity. A park-your-brain-at-the-door movie on the order of Crank, Wanted is terrific and bizarre popcorn movie of the highest order. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Daywatch; Nightwatch and the upcoming Twilight Watch), Wanted isn't likely to win any awards other than for special effects, but it's a very fun way to waste an hour and half or so. **/2 (Two and a Half Stars).

More of this, anon.


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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I know it says Sunday, but I've been up since 6AM , so it's still Saturday to me. I worked my one mandatory Saturday morning a year today, and afterwards met with some friends for lunch and holiday shopping in a nearby artsy community about halfway between our homes. I managed to buy a few small things for several people, but am still vexed by the need for a few more major gifts, and was ultimately disappointed in my efforts (though happily surprised with the small, funny things I did manage to pick up).
Now, I start my Christmas shopping every year in May in Florida. I hit the huge outlet malls and the Disney and Universal Studios Stores; I scour the old beachfront gift malls and the odd places along International Drive in Orlando. I probably manage to score about 40% of my gifts there, 7 months early! And trust me, I'm not one of those people who buys gifts and then forgets where he put them. I can smell a bargain at ten paces and outshop any straight woman (or gay man, for that matter) without batting an eye. This past summer, I also bought a few things at the JTMF silent auction. And last November, I was in San Francisco and Napa for four days, and bought quite a few things out there. This year I was in Chicago for two days in October and bought none. Still, i need only something for my brother-in-law and my very dearest friend.
The real trouble is, it seems that there's nothing terribly exciting in any stores this year. The malls and department stores are always the same old crap; and even the specialty and gift stores have nothing new to offer. Last year, I found the perfect things for so many people. This year... some. So, with only a few weeks left before I start exchanging, I am unusually late in completing my list.
So how is your holiday shopping going? And more importantly, wha'ja get me?
More of this, anon.
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Friday, December 5, 2008

My Favorite Superhero Movies

As a kid, I adored the cheesy, campy "Batman" TV show. My mother says I spent much of my childhood with a towel tied around my neck and I was Batman for Halloween four years in a row. As I grew older and discovered the Bob Kane comics, I became fascinated with Batman's duality, which then extended into the duality inherent in almost all superheroes and their "seceret" identities.
Superhero movies have been around for almost as long as movies themselves, but they really didn't come into their own until film technology caught up to their super powers in the late 70's with Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie. Since then, they've gotten better and better, though my love of them has never gone away. Below is a list (in no particular order) of my favorite superhero movies. I do have to note that I find it interesting that with one exception, they are all sequels. I suppose origin stories are important, though what really matters are the adventures themselves, which probably makes for much better story-telling.
Cult director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead; Darkman) turned up the excitement in his first follow-up to Spider Man by introducing one of Spidey's best villains, Dr. Octopus, while making Peter Parker a conflicted (and exhausted) young superhero being torn in too many directions at once. Great performances from a terrific cast (especially Alfred Molina as Doc Ock) and one of the most exciting runaway train sequences ever, make Spider Man 2 one of the best superhero movies, ever.
Director Tim Burton's follow-up to his megahit re-imagining of Batman is the best of the 80's & 90's Batman movies. It has terrififc performances from Danny Devito as a grotesque Penguin and Michelle Pfieffer as a super sexy Catwoman, the always brilliant Christopher Walken as retailing mogul Max Shreck (in a nod to the actor who played Count Orlock in the original Nosferatu), not to mention some of the best noirish images since the 40's. A terrific cast, amazing visuals and a witty script from Daniel Waters all add up to one fun movie ride.
Director Richard Lester infamously took over for Richard Donner in this sequel after Donner fueded with producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind. Donner had already shot most of the movie, using a script by novelist Mario Puzo (The Godfather). Superman, realizing he loves Lois Lane, gives up his powers to spend the rest of his life with her, but when a trio of crazed Kryptonian criminals escape their prison in the Phantom Zone, threatening Peace, Justice and the American Way, Supe must find a way to get his powers back and save the world. Stars Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder have never looked more gorgeous and the amazing Terence Stamp (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) makes for one of the genre's greatest super villains.
Blade II (2002)
Blade is one of the comics' first major black superheroes, and as embodied by Wesley Snipes in the first movie, a badass half-vampire/half human intent on avenging his mother's death (and his own creation) at the hands of the vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorf). Snipes is all too grim and all too serious in the original, but in the hands of a genius director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labrynth), Blade comes into his own in the stylish sequel. Recruited by the vampire elite to fight a new breed of vampire led by the blood-thirsty Nomak (Luke Goss), Blade must reconcile his hatred of vampires with his love for one of their royals, Princess Nyssa (Leonor Varela). It's darker, bloodier and more exciting than both the original and it's rather lame follow-up, Blade: Trinity.
After cutting his teeth on the overblown and often confusing X-Men, director Bryan Singer got down to business and made what, at the time, was the best superhero movie ever. Many members of the LGBT community credit the openly gay Singer for drawing parallels between themselves and the persecuted mutants of the X-Men comics. Starring hunk-a-licious Hugh Jackman in a role he seems saddled with until he loses his looks; sultry Famke Janssen; Patrick Stewart; Halle Berry; Sir Ian McKellan and a slew of terrific supporting players, X2 is an exciting and inspiring entry into the genre.
Iron Man (2008)
Marvel Studios' first fully financed film takes one of their minor characters and elevates him to superstar status, thanks to dircetor Jon Favreau (Elf; Zathura) and a simply terrific performance from super-talented Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role. Downey's zillionaire Tony Stark is a concieted and arrogant creep who learns his lesson when captured in the desert by middle eastern terrorists and forced to build a superweapon. Instead, he builds a super suit and thus is born a superhero. Funny, exciting and loaded with terrific CGI FX, Iron Man was one of three outstanding superhero movies of the past summer.
Del Toro's sequel to Hellboy is simply a visual orgy whose gorgeous images can only really be appreciated upon multiple viewings. When Elf Prince Nuada (Luke Goss, again) decides to take back the Earth from mankind by ressurecting the unstoppable, automatonic Golden Army, it is up to Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team to save mankind. Perlman, who has spent most of his acting career under layers of latex (TV's "Beauty and the Beast"), gives his best performance as the superhero most people hate - and whose destiny is to bring about Armageddon - while the supporting cast (Selma Blair, Doug Jones and the always hilarious Jeffrey Tambor) just add to the fun. Simply amazing.
How much more can be written and/or discussed about Christopher Nolan's masterpiece? His follow-up to the astoundingly good Batman Begins is quite simply the best superhero movie ever (though many expect Zack Snyder's forthcoming Watchmen to snatch that title away, come next March). Part crime-thriller; part noir mystery and all superhero adventure, The Dark Knight owes much of its success to the astonishing performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. It is the the third of this past summer's three great superhero movies, and the first in the genre to stand a legitimate chance at winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Nolan) and Best Supporting Actor (Ledger). Should it win any (or all) of these awards, it would be a coup for the genre and a victory for fanboys everywhere. Quite simply an astonishing achievement in filmmaking, no matter what the genre.
More of this, anon.
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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another Night Off

Taking tonight off to prepare my next movie entry.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorite Zombie Movies

Every film genre has its subcatagories, though none seems to have as many as the horror movie. There are ghost movies, monster movies, slasher movies, J-horror movies, Italian giallo movies, torture-porn movies, pyschological horror movies and my favorite, zombie movies.

Zombies have been around for a long time and are actually part of Haitian Voodoo traidtion. A haungin (Voodoo priest) uses his juju (magic powers) to create a zombie slave out of his intended victim, first by simulating the victim's death and then enslaving the "dead" person, all through the use of powerful drugs derived from native plants. These zombies are actually living persons, though they appear for all intents and purposes, to be the "living dead," as seen in my first entry:


Producer Val Lewton, best known for the atmospheric and chilling original version of Cat People, made this serious zombie movie about a nurse sent to care for the mysterioously ill wife of sugar plantation owner. Creepy and quiet, I Walked with a Zombie has nothing to do with flesh-eating corpses and everything to do with tension and mood. The script by Curt Siodmak (The Wolfman) is smart and clever, but it's director Jacques Tournier's use of lighting and sound effects that make this one creepy little movie. of At just 69 minutes long, it's well worth a look see.


Horror maven Wes Craven made this nifty thriller, inspired by the true story of a doctor (Bill Pullman) who travels to Haiti in search of the infamous zombie drug, intent on finding a new type of anesthetic. He soon finds himself drawn into the political intrigue of the infamously unstable country and runs afoul of the local haungin (Zakes Mokae), who ends up turning the doctor into a zombie, himself. Weird and claustrophobic, it also has nothing to do with flesh-eating corpses, and everything to do with psychological torture and Haitian Voodoo mysticism. "Don't bury me... I'm not dead!"


Pittsburgh has never been the same, since indie filmmaker George Romero made his classic film there, turning the zombie genre on its ear and redefining the modern horror film. Night of the Living Dead was shocking not just for its graphic depictions of cannibalism, but for its pointed social commentary about racism. Spawning 5 Romero-helmed sequels (Romero's ...of the Dead is currently in pre-production) and countless imitators and re-makes, Night of the Living Dead is undoubtedly the grand-daddy of the modern zombie movie (and the inspiration for an entire subculture of zombie wannabes).


Ten years after the original, Romero made an even better film with the sequel, Dawn of the Dead. I borrowed my father's car and headed over to the local midnight show alone, because my friends were all too afraid to go with me. Before the movie started, the theater manager came out to address the crowd of mostly twenty-something stoners and horror geeks who had turned out to pack the dollar theater (which was charging full price for this engagement), warning us that the movie was upsetting and made people want to smoke (!?), which was expressly forbidden. Of course, as soon as the lights went down, at least a dozen joints were lit and passed around. But all of us soon forgot about our buzz and got down to watching this horrific and fascinating comment on mindless consumerism. With startlingly real special effects courtesy of mad-genius Tom Savini (who has a cameo as a biker), Dawn of the Dead is intense, frightening and even funny and is undoubtedly Romero's best entry in the series.


Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) remade Romero's classic in 2004, eschewing social commentary for balls-out horror in the story of a group of zombie holocaust survivors who hole up in a local shopping mall. Hardly subtle, Snyder's version features Sarah Polly, Ving Rhames, Matt :Max Headroom" Frewer and cameos by Savini and the original's star, Ken Foree. Violent freaky and very gory, it's one of the few movie remakes I like almost as much as the orignal.

"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth."


Dead Alive (1992)

Director Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson) started his career making horror movies in his native New Zealand. Released as Braindead in the rest of the world, Dead Alive is quite simply the most outrageous horror movie ever made. When nerdy simp Lionel takes local hotiie Paquita on a date to the zoo, they are followed by Lionel's overbearing mum, Vera. In short time, Vera is bitten by a 'Sumatran Rat-Monkey' and soon dies from a mysterious infection which brings her back to life as a flesh-hungry zombie. Despite Lionel's best efforts to control her, Vera son infects several others and a zombie plague is quickly underway. I've written about this movie several times (and probably will again), but it is always worth talking about, if only for what must have thousands of gallons of fake blood spilled in its making. Hilarious and supremely gross, Dead Alive is just brilliant. "Your mother ate my dog!"


28 Days Later (2002)

Director Danny Boyle (Train Spotting, Slumdog Millionaire) reinvented teh zombie genre again with this British entry which introduced both baby-faced Cillian Murphy and the concept of fast zombies. Technically, the creatures in Boyle's apocalyptic thriller aren't zombies, just folks infected with a virus called Rage (released by a bunch of do-gooder animal rights activists when they attempt to free lab monkeys). A simply chilling view of science gone wrong.


Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg are responsible for this screamingly funny entry into the genre. Shaun lives a life of dreary repetiveness, moving through his day barely acknowledging the world around him. He and his mates end up every night at the same pub and his girlfriend is ready to dump him for his inability to grow up. When the zombie plague hits, Shaun barely notices the changes, but those changes end up changing his life (and those of his friends and family) forever - and for the better. Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Man's Chest; Love, Actually), Nick Frost and Kate Ashfield head up the talented and very funny cast. In an homage to Romero, Frost screams "We're coming to get you, Barbara!" into the phone to Shaun's mum. Sadly, I was the only person in the theater who laughed at that one.


Fido (2006)

Carrie Ann Moss (The Matrix), Dylan Baker (Spiderman) and Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints) head up the cast of Canadian director Andrrew Currie's satire of zombies, 1950's television and a megacorporate greed. Using modern technology, zombies have been turned into domestic servants, performing tasks most humans would find humiliating. When Timmy's family finally get their own zombie (Connolly), Timmy names him 'Fido" and the fun begins. Dead-on hilarious, Fido deserves to be seen by both Lassie and zombie fans, alike. "What's wrong boy? Is Timmy in trouble?"


Black Sheep (2006)

Another entry from New Zealand, Black Sheep isn't technically a zombie movie, though it certainly has all the earmarkings of, and owes a load of debt to, the genre. An overly ambitious sheep farmer attempts to breed the perfect sheep and hires a crazed geneticist (is there any other kind?) to help him. When do-gooder animal rights activists (damn them and their PETA-loving ways!) attempt to expose what's happening on the farm, tehy release a mutant sheep embryo which results in a plague of man-eating sheep, whose surviving victims soon find themselves becoming - for lack of a better term - weresheep. Crazy, gruesome and laugh-out-loud funny, Black Sheep also features an inevitable and hilarious take on the "shepherd's relief" scenario. If you've never seen this Kiwi gem from writer/director Jonathan King, do yourself a favor and get to Blockbuster.

As always, more of this, anon.


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