Archive for May, 2010

Woo! Running with the Pack just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly!

Running with the Pack
Edited by Ekaterina Sedia, Prime (www.prime-books.com), $14.95 paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-60701-219-1

Sedia (Paper Cities) collects 22 tales that look at werewolves from a multitude of different angles. Steve Duffy’s chilling dental thriller “Side-Effects May Include” examines how far a man will go to end his pain. A damaged alpha gains the trust of a homeless woman in Maria V. Snyder’s “Mongrel.” Murderous soccer moms eat cheaters in Samantha Henderson’s “Skin in the Game.” A woman accidentally turned wolf struggles against her dual nature before learning to accept it in Erzebet YellowBoy’s powerful “Inside Out.” The origin of T.J. from Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series is told in “Wild Ride,” and Mike Resnick’s preacher/con-artist Lucifer Jones makes an appearance in the hilarious “Royal Bloodlines.” The stories veer from comedy to horror and from tragic love story to coming-of-age tale, showing the richness inherent in the idea of shifting shapes and animal strength. (July)

Last night Jesse and I went out and saw two local musical acts, the Gora Gora Orkestar and The Widow’s Bane. Both groups are completely fucking awesome and comprised of incredibly talented musicians. I was going to save this write-up until I’d finished the chapter I’m working on, but then I turned on my The Widow’s Bane album and was like, I need to write about these folks right now.

The Gora Gora Orkestar was the sort of opening act you wouldn’t mind being the main event. Holy shit. They had maybe ten or eleven people onstage, playing everything from an accordion (one of my all time favorites) to an antique flugelhorn. There was also an alto horn (!) and a euphonium (!!), as well as instruments no less pleasing for being more common, like a deliciously-noodly clarinet and an alto sax. Also a tuba. Yes! A visit to their MySpace, where you can hear them play, would be a waste of no one’s time. I think my favorite one up there is “Mundo Cocek,” which, I must say, for all it being a rad recording, is not a patch on how wonderful the Gora Gora were live. These folks are the jam. They reminded me quite a bit of my all-time-favorite band, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, who I saw in Denver last October. Woo! I am so totally stoked these folks are local, I plan on attending more shows in the future because if there’s one thing I love, it’s eclectic Balkan music. The super-neat thing about the Gora Gora is that their original compositions were very bit as good as the standards, so I can’t wait to see what all they do in the future.

Seeing the Gora Gora would’ve made my night by itself, but seeing The Widow’s Bane right elevated the experience from incredible to transcendental. These guys. I guess what I should warn people about right up front is that these dudes are pretty dangerous–they are, by their own admission, the Devil’s house band, all carnivorous zombies out to extract revenge upon the wives that murdered them and anyone else that gets in their way. So be careful. The violinist in particular, I’m told–a fellow by the name of Rictus Corpum–made a deal with the Dark Lord that turned his blushing bride into the violin he plays, “so he could control her whining, instead of the other way around.” Yeah. Again, eclectic instruments are always a good decision, and The Widow’s Bane had the aforementioned violin, an upright bass, an amplified acoustic guitar, an accordion (!), a glockenspiel (!!), and the drummer also played banjo. WHAT. Yes!

Their music is up for a listen on Google/lala and on their MySpace. Number one favorite of mine would be “Burns” which made me all misty-eyed when they played it last night. The MySpace has the advantage of containing tracks from their CD and two live recordings–one a video of them covering “Sixteen Tons” which they did last night, and also “The Wedding Song” which I hope is on their forthcoming album which I will buy the moment I hear it’s out. Geez. Joking aside, I adore how complete their stage personas are–the lead singer in particular takes his business of being a zombie-pirate-guitar-player really seriously, and nothing is more awesome than watching people who are into performing (and genuinely good at it) perform. The best thing about The Widow’s Bane is that I would go and see them do their stuff even if they weren’t spectacular musicians, because they have fantastic stage presence. Fortunately, however, they are a spectacle for the eyes, the ears, and the mind. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. What else can I say? Just, I suppose, that it makes me happy to know that since by every possible standard I’m up for damnation upon my death. . . and at least now I’m assured the music in Hell will be really fucking good.

Jesse Bullington and I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on our blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. Today we kick it TV-style with some PBS programming from back in the day when it wasn’t all Barney and the apparent cutter-of-bootstraps and destroyer-of-American-meritocracy Mr. Rogers.

The Film Series: Faerie Tale Theatre (1982—1987)—the two episodes we’ll be covering here are Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood, both from ‘83.

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Shelly Duvall, first and foremost, who came up with the show, served as executive producer, and is the narrator for each and every episode of this whacked out program. For Sleeping Beauty we’ve got direction by tv veteran Jeremy Kagan (Picket Fences—remember that one?), script by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin (the early 80s Dude vehicle Cutter’s Way), and some super campy performances from Christopher Reeve (Superman, dummy), Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, gobs and gobs of musicals), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation series), and Carol Kane (The Princess Bride). Little Red Riding Hood is directed by Graeme Clifford (Gleaming the Cube, that episode of Twin Peaks where Agent Cooper finds out Audrey Horne is at One-Eyed Jack’s), with a screenplay by Rod Ash, Mark Curtiss, and David Wyles, who all worked on the series quite a bit but aren’t known for much else. Plenty more camp from the cast, which this time consists of Laura Dern’s mom Diane Ladd (Rambling Rose), John Vernon (a ton of cartoons and video games, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka), Mary Steenburgen (such time travel epics as Time After Time and Back to the Future III), Frances Bay (Wild at Heart’s madam, Happy Gilmore’s grandma), and a severely sweaty Malcolm McDowell (Tank Girl, Doomsday). The pedigree of these two episodes weren’t the exception to the rule, either—check out the episode list and see how many names jump out at you.

Note: Obviously this is a television show, not a film, but we tend to play fast and loose with the rules here at Films of High Adventure. Expect the occasional tv show or anime series to pop up from time to time.

Quote: “Use your teeth.”

First viewing by Molly: It was really weird watching this because I felt like I should’ve seen it. . . but I can’t remember watching it AT ALL. I mean, it was on PBS, which was considered wholesome enough for me to watch as a kid. . . but yet. . . it was oddly new to me.

First viewing by Jesse: In syndication on PBS, so younnnnnnnnnng.

Most recent viewing by all: A week or two ago

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: I mean. . . again. I have NO IDEA. I feel like this is exactly the kind of text that would’ve delighted/traumatized me as a kid. I loved fairy tales, and I know I watched the other Fairy Tale Theatre on Nickelodeon that was some sort of anime-thing. Ah, there we go. Apparently they used Rorschach from the new Watchmen movie to be the voice of the beast? Or something? Anyways, FTT is filthy and weird and by all accounts should’ve been formative. And yet, as surely as if I got really mad at Shelly Duvall after catching a minute of Popeye on Comedy Central (back when Comedy Central was the Popeye-and-Monty-Python Channel) and went all Eternal Sunshine on this show, I can’t account for not recalling it/ever even watching it.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Decent—I was well addicted to fairy tales even before I saw this, but, as with Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, seeing them capably acted out was a treat, and the bawdy humor was a definite plus. I remember my mom had Cathy Hoover, a friend of the family, a Catholic, and my future-fourth grade teacher over for lunch and was telling her what a great show it was, how it revamped fairy tales and played with preconceptions—at which point I interjected “the wolf in Red Riding Hood is horny,” which got a laugh from Cathy but a rather mortified expression from my mother.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Decently excited. The cast amused me, esp. the promise of a “horny” Malcolm McDowell.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Not exactly chomping at the bit to go back down this road, but I noticed they had the dvds at Video Station, our local purveyor, and since said establishment has a Wednesday special on tv shows I thought we could give it a try if we ever weren’t up to the task of a sword-and-sandal (or glitter-and-goblin) kinda movie. A few weeks ago, I think shortly after The Beastmaster, we found we needed such a break from feature length fantasy nonsense and so went for uber-kitsche. The clerk, who knows neither of us have kids and already thinks we’re the weirdest freaks in Boulder based on our rental history, raised an eyebrow when I requested “Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre, disc 3, please,” and informed me that “I think I may need to report you to some kind of agency.” The things I do for you people.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: My theory about this show amounts to Shelly Duvall convincing PBS that they could make this on the cheap, only having to pony up funds for sets and costumes and drugs. “We’ll get my friends to be in it, and we can pay them in cocaine,” she drawled. Something like that.

It’s good. I’m more indulgent of for-kids stuff than Jesse on the whole, but we both enjoyed this while thinking it was uneven, I think it’s safe to say. I wish heartily they’d made them half-hour episodes rather than the full hour. There’s just so much downtime. . . things drag. God, though. When the show is on, it’s on.

“Sleeping Beauty” was dirtier than I imagined it would be and I got a little misty-eyed over seeing Christopher Reeve so callow and handsome and having a good time as both The Prince and as. . . a weird French fop/rival for Beauty’s hand jumping into the arms of a servant when he gets scared. Gawd. I really wish he’d been cast as The Prince or really any of the Princes in a dramatization of Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy, but maybe that’s something we can just let alone and move on. Woot! N-E-WAYZ the Russian aesthetic of “Sleeping Beauty” was pleasing, in a world overcome with the Medieval British sensibilities of damn near every fairy tale dramatization.

Little Red Riding Hood. . . not as dirty as it should’ve been. I would’ve liked to see a less sweaty-and-coked-up McDowell and a more lecherous-and-inappropriate McDowell as the Wolf, but thems the breaks. There is a scene where Grandmother beats the crap out of McDowell, in an amusing reversal of that scene in A Clockwork Orange (Jesse says: right down to the walking stick to the fruit stand).

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Well, it’s a kid’s show, and there’s no getting around that—if you’re not the type of person to occasionally get down with entertainment expressly made for children then there’s little hope that this will work for you. That said, I’m not usually that sort of person, either, and I still found it an amiable watch, perhaps from the nostalgia factor, perhaps from the occasional but unabashed dirtiness of it.

One thing about this show is that the “theatre” in the title is quite literal—unlike Henson’s The Storyteller, for example, which has as much of a cinematic quality as the budget would allow, Faerie Tale Theatre is all about the stage and performing arts. The acting is exaggerated, the sets and costumes are stylized, and everything is generally as campy as possible. Like the best children’s entertainment, and like the original fairy tales on which these are based, the more so-called mature concepts are embraced rather than avoided. To stretch these stories out to fifty minute long episodes quite a bit of embellishments are added, though I found them to be overall faithful adaptations, and to avoid confusion I’ll talk about them each in turn.

I didn’t really remember Sleeping Beauty but found it to be a bit better paced that LRRH, though it did contain a rather painfully long musical number by Bernadette Peters. Reeves has a lot of fun as the Prince, hell everyone has a lot of fun, which is part of the show’s appeal—nobody gave a shit about how ridiculous they were, with the result being everyone on screen/stage trying like hell to out camp one another. Even now I’m hard-pressed to declare a winner.

Little Red Riding Hood was always one of my favorites as a kid, and unlike the Sleeping Beauty episode I remembered bits and pieces of it despite not having watched it in over twenty years. It actually wasn’t as dirty as I remembered, or as dirty as Sleeping Beauty, which is obviously a shame but can’t be helped. Steenburgen and then-husband McDowell have a blast in their respective roles, but it’s Malcolm who elevates things to the next level of possibly drug-induced cheesiness in his spirit-gum dripping wolf costume.

High Points: Man, this show. Other hilariously inappropriate episodes include Mick Jagger in yellowface for The Nightingale and Klaus Kinski in furface for Beauty and the Beast, but in regards to the two we did here I would say the obvious “I don’t give a fuck how coked up I come across” attitude of most of the cast is a big plus. The backdrops and sets are usually pretty cool, and Duvall often modeled them after fairy tale illustrations by specific artists she liked. The comparatively less white-washed treatment of the source material is pretty rad:

Final Verdict: A solid choice for kids, and depending on one’s nostalgia for the show, a watchable 80s dose of camp concentrate.

Next Time: The Company of Wolves over at Fantasy Magazine.

Jesse linked me to this review of Running with the Pack, from prolific and awesome reviewer Nancy (AKA temporaryworlds on LJ) in which. . . OK, you know what? This is my first sale and my first review and so I’m going to selfishly pull out the pertinent quote and just put it up in all its glory:

“In Sheep’s Clothing” is a sci-fi/dystopian short story about the downfall of our society, and what happens after that. Reading this story reminded me a lot of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. The werewolf aspect is not obvious at first, but it’s done quite well. Tanzer has created a fantastic voice in “In Sheep’s Clothing,” and the twist at the end is really well done. If you’re going to only read one story in this collection, read this one. I think it’s my favorite. Five stars.

Tag this under “totally thrilled” because. . . well, OK. I mean, you read it.

Nancy reviews each and every story in the anthology and gives it an overall ranking of four and a half stars (which means, according to her system, “very enjoyable book. Any flaws were minimal and did not diminish enjoyment). I have to say, from what I’ve read so far, I have to agree. In particular, I have to say that Jeffrey Ford’s “The Beautiful Gelreesh” and Jesse Bullington’s “Blamed for Trying to Live” are worth the cover price alone.

I’ve been holding back on talking about RwtP until I finished the anthology, but I had to jump the gun as a result of this review and thus am certainly neglecting some worthy stories. But, uh, I couldn’t resist.

Eeee! Thanks, Nancy!

Jesse Bullington and I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on our blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. Today is a very special entry, as we watched this film in order to celebrate my beloved husband John’s 29th birthday! Yay! So, uh, it will contain images from the film and from our party, because I’m too lazy to blog twice about the same event. There’s love for ya!

So here’s how it happened. We’d made pina coladas and were drinking them out of actual coconuts (I tell you this not because it is fascinating but because it explains the sugar- and booze-fueled insanity below). Jesse gave John this shirt, which to those of you familiar with the film we’re reviewing, should look familiar:

I should explain the next photo by explaining that my husband, who at 29 has arthritis in his knees (my grandmother blames veganism), drinks prune juice every morning, and, well, asked for sarongs for his birthday. Why? Because he likes to terrify our young neighbors by sitting outside in a towel while smoking cigars and drinking whiskey and commenting on the gloriousness of the weather. Think a skinny, 6’2” Bilbo Baggins, but in a skirt. Anyways, so yeah, this happened:

I think I should let you know is that what you’re not seeing (at the request of one Jesse Bullington, AKA “the enemy of fun”) is what happened after John donned the sarong-and-tanktop combo. In some sort of show of solidarity Jesse put on his bike shorts–the ones that are heavily padded in the crotch–a hawaiian shirt, and his bike helmet, and he and John drank from one another’s coconuts and toasted life. But I can’t show you those pictures because as I said, Mr. “The Enemy of Fun” claimed this was “a professional site” and “that means no pictures of him that look like that.” Any complaints can be sent to Jesse via his contact form on his site. Anyways, you can see why watching Big Trouble in Little China just had to happen that night.

The Film: Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction by John Carpenter (The Thing, Escape from New York, Halloween) in the prime of his awesome. Written by Gary Goldman (Total Recall) and David Z. Weinstein (who didn’t really do anything else), but apparently “adapted” by W.D. Richter, who directed The Adventures of Bukaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Obligatory synthesizer soundtrack by John Carpenter himself.  The best acting in the history of film by Kurt Russell (if you don’t know who Kurt Russell is please slap yourself), Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City, Star Trek VI), Dennis Dun (The Last Emperor), James Hong (Kung Fu Panda, an amazing array of television roles including The West Wing and Sammo Hung’s Marshall Law), Carter Wong (Blazing Temple, tons of other Shaw Brothers films), and Victor Wong (The Joy Luck Club, the 3 Ninjas movies).

Quote: Far too many to name, but our favorites are as follows:

Molly: “It’s all in the reflexes.”

Jesse: “When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: ‘Have ya paid your dues, Jack?’ ‘Yessir, the check is in the mail.’

John: “What does that mean, huh? ‘China is here.’ I don’t even know what the hell that means.”

First viewing by Molly: Um. As an adult? Because of John? I used a clip of this film (along with others) to teach Said’s Introduction to his book Orientalism for years at FSU—more specifically, the scene where Lo Pan first appears after the Three Storms wreak havoc on the gang war that is occurring in an alley in San Francisco. Because you can only talk about the plot of this movie with sentences like that.

First viewing by Jesse: Eight years old, I think. I was at my grandparent’s house and my brother rented it, forever changing my world—not unlike the difference between BC and CE, one’s life can be measured as Before Big Trouble and Post Big Trouble.

First viewing by John: Whenever it premiered on television.  I think I was seven or eight years old, but I can’t remember exactly.

Most recent viewing by all: Last Saturday.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: Negligible.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: I think this film confirmed a lot of things about me, rather than informing them, but that said, it confirmed some pretty awesome stuff. Wind, fire, that sort of thing. Also, magic is real and secret societies are constantly warring with each other in back alleys and Kurt Russell is tougher than anyone and kung fu is awesome and monsters can be defeated with Chinese black magic (which is different from sorcery), and so much more.

Impact on John’s childhood development:  The year is the late nineteen-eighties. The place is the childhood of a young boy who will soon become a man. Because of this movie. While watching an episode of 21 Jump Street on the recently-launched Fox network I am informed that the weekend’s Saturday night movie will be a film called Big Trouble in Little China. I watch the preview and discover what it means to be a man, what it means to love a woman, and what it is like to have magical Chinamen for friends (Jesse says: dude, Chinamen is not the preferred nomenclature. Magical Asian American, please). I know that I must watch this movie. Forever.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: FUCK YES.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching (with picture added by me for illustration): Considering I found out we were re-watching this five minutes before we did on John’s birthday, I didn’t have a lot of time for reflection on the movie itself. Fortunately, I logged what thoughts I did have once it was determined we were going back to Little China:

Holy shit, are we really gonna watch this? I can’t believe Raechel’s never seen it—she’s not going to believe this shit. I’m so happy we found an effective method of boring a wide enough hole in this coconut to get the pina coladas inside without making a huge mess. I better top off before we start—shit, got it everywhere. Anyone else need anything? Is this movie violently racist or a nuanced homage to wuxia cinema? I probably should’ve put the lime in the coconut, shaken it all up, then added the pina colada. That makes more sense.

John’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Excitement; joy; brief but intense moments of arousal thinking about Kim Catrall; more sustained moments of arousal thinking about Kurt Russell. . . you know, the usual.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: I definitely come down on the side of this movie being pastiche/homage to wuxia more than a completely racist depiction of Chinese people and their wily, Oriental ways. I mean, nothing in this film is more ridiculous than, say, the part in The Seventh Curse where we learn that the hero of the film went to Thailand to find an herb to cure AIDS but instead rescues a Thai girl? From cultists? And he gets a blood curse that causes his blood? To explode? And Old Ancestor? Or the part in Mr. Vampire where—ok, actually, just any part of Mr. Vampire, even the goddamn title. I mean—really. Sure, Big Trouble is a Hollywood film rather than a Hong Kong film, but c’mon, the IMDB character list includes such extras a “One Ear” and “Joe Lucky.”  Then again it was 1986, but I’d like to think Carpenter knew what he was doing. Yet, somehow, Big Trouble also transcends pastiche. It never grows old, never suffers from slow pacing or a moment of making a lick of sense.

Anyways, THIS MOVIE. My husband makes a lot more sense if you’ve seen it. It’s rad, and I love it.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Yup, the old magic is still there. The question of whether or not it is racist is debatable, of course, but like Molly I lean toward it being a joyful tribute to Hong Kong cinema—it’s pitch perfect in many regards, and self-aware enough for me to give Carpenter and crew the benefit of the doubt. There’s also the fact that it is completely awesome, but I wasn’t going to let that sway me one way or the other.

It’s just as baffling as when I saw it twenty years ago, and just as amazing—the filmmakers did not give a single fuck if it made a lick of sense so long as it was unrelentingly ridiculous, and that it is. The clip we included above of Carter Wong inflating? It’s established earlier that he has human blowfish powers, sure, but why does he explode? Is he so angry he loses control? Is he too saddened by the death of Lo Pan to go on living in a world without a lecherous old gremlin in a wheel chair who can astrally project himself? The audience doesn’t know, the characters don’t know, and I sincerely doubt the screenwriters know, either. But it doesn’t matter. This is the beauty of Big Trouble in Little China—everything is a set-up to one of the following:

a)     A one-liner, usually delivered by Kurt Russell

b)    A fight sequence

c)     A crazy mystical occurrence

d)    Any combination of a, b, and c

I was ok with that when I was a kid, and I’m ok with it as a pina colabbered adult. May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.

John’s thoughts post-viewing: Yeah, this movie’s still got it. And by “it” I mean “everything that is awesome in this universe.” It’s got Kim Catrall being sexy, Kurt Russell driving a semi, kung fu, Chinese black magic, monsters, gunfights, swordfights, innuendos, and entendres. Pretty much everything that I love. It’s like Woody Allen says about orgasms: “my worst one was right on the money.” I could re-watch this movie while undergoing surgery sans anesthesia and still enjoy the hell out of it.

Also, this movie is a loving paean to everything: kung fu movies, westerns, noir, screwball comedies. . . everything! Listen to the banter between Jack and Gracie (hell, just listen to the names Jack and Gracie) and you’ll hear John Carpenter tenderly kissing the brow of Howard Hawks. Try not to think of John Wayne as Kurt Russell stares down Lo Pan and asks “you know what Jack Burton always says?”  You can’t do it! This movie is an homage to film in general, and kung fu film most of all. Egg Shen is like a kung fu Jesus.  Compare this film to The Golden Child and you’ll see the difference.

This movie shaped by childhood and continues to reshape my adulthood. I typically go back to this film and Captain Ron whenever I’m feeling adrift on the sea of life, and they guide me back to myself. Yeah, you read that right.

High Points: The entire goddamn movie. Rather than singling out any specific clip, I think this music video that John Carpenter’s band Coupe de Ville made for the movie says it all. You heard: John Carpenter’s band. Behold:

Final Verdict: Nearly twenty-five years later, this movie still shakes the Pillars of Heaven.

Next Time: Probably nothing this good. Maybe an episode or two of Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre to cleanse the palate.

Thanks to the efforts of two awesome people, my site is pretty much up and running! First off, my dawgg Mason set up the initial WP site, and he is awesome and dealt with my complete craziness and utter ignorance of what I needed or wanted. You should go check out his charity.

The absolutely gorgeous banner is courtesy Stephen at Reakt Design. Stephen’s work speaks for itself but he is also a super-nice dude which made working with him fun on the “omg look at my adorable site!” level as well as the “hey you are a fun dude, too!” level. Woo!

Yay! And OMG BIRDS.

Apparently Boulder (my fair city) is doing its part to ensure that no business trips to Arizona can or will be taken by city employees. Regardless of how I feel about the ban, I must say I enjoy the way they’re going about it. To wit, this email exchange (procured by my local newspaper under the Colorado Open Records Act) between a Mr. Markewich, president of the Markewich Financial Group (located in Colorado Springs), and Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles.

Mr. Markewich’s initial email: I am outraged that the city of Boulder would waste time denigrating the state of Arizona’s attempt to control what is going on within its own borders. We are asked for identification upon boarding planes, using credit cards and other daily activities. The (Arizona) law does nothing except give the police the ability to identify illegal aliens.

The response, from Mr. CowlesJeff, you must not be much of a Buffs fan! We’ll miss not having you visit Boulder. If you are looking for a good substitute destination for you and your family, I recommend Focus on the Family, which is quite close to where you live and work. I know they have a lot of white people working there. I am not sure where they get the lettuce for their salads, though.

Thanks, Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles. And thanks for your quip that you’d been receiving “hate mail” from “people who think racial profiling is just great.”

Apparently some folks in my state (like Republican state Senator Dave Schultheis–also from Colorado Springs, which is, also, the home of Focus on the Family, the organization mentioned above that brings the world such amazingly coherent theories of transgenderism as (and I paraphrase), “because in Genesis God separates light and dark and male and female, transgender people and those who support them are deconstructing God’s order”) are unhappy about the Republic of Boulder’s general attitude toward Arizona, and have called for a boycott of Boulder because we act as a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants. I am quite fine with this, as it means more seats will be available at my coffee shop that has the cool biodegradable cups and fewer assholes shoving me out of the way as they try to get to the samples of roquefort-stuffed olives at Whole Foods.

I do wonder, however, as Boulder is more obviously a sanctuary for Objectivists, not illegal aliens (at said coffee shop there is someone who has a car not only sporting a bumper sticker asking “Who is John Galt?” but also has the vanity plate “SHRUGED” of all things, and even if he/she isn’t getting a latte when I am, I see at least one Galt-themed bumper sticker a day around town, on average), if there will be any cases of “wingnut flight” in the area (wingnut flight, if you’re unfamiliar, is  a social phenomenon far less common than white flight, studies say, since there is nothing a wingnut likes to do than dig in his or her heels over an issue). Probably not. After all, with the property values being what they are it’s safer to bide and sell when the economy recovers, and I’m pretty sure most folks in Boulder are still genuinely shocked when they see a non-white person. . . even with the city being a “sanctuary city” for immigrants.

I suppose, though, there’s a chance these folks are talking about illegal immigrants from England? Or Germany? Or Switzerland? Maybe so. It’s a problem. There’s so much to attract them! Like the REI, and plenty of good hiking.

Jesse Bullington and I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. This week we’re breaking out the Bandits and summoning forth hyper-intelligent overdubbed ferrets for your reading pleasure!

The Film: The Beastmaster (1982)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction by Don Coscarelli who, between the Phantasm series and Bubba Ho-tep, knows his way around a B movie. Donny boy co-wrote with Paul Pepperman (who never wrote anything again), based on a novel by Andre Norton (who hated the film and disavowed it). Soundtrack by Lee Holrdige, perhaps best known for his television soundtracks such as the made-for-TV Mists of Avalon movie and that one episode of “One Life to Live” (Episode #1.9837). Acting (it is to LOL) by Marc Singer (Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time, Beastmaster: The Eye of Braxus, the Beastmaster TV series), Tanya Roberts (Charlie’s Angels, That 70’s ShowSheena), John Amos (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Hunter, The West Wing), Rip Torn (How To Make an American Quilt, Men in Black, that recent youtube video of him drunk and bellowing in a police station), a couple of ferrets, a bird, and a dyed-black tiger.

Quote: “I am Dar, of the Emerites.”

“There are no more Emerites.”

“Thanks to the Juns, I’m the last.”

Alternate quote: “AAAHHHH” (as any number of cast members are hugged by the tiger, or as Molly is forced to watch The Beastmaster)

First viewing by Jesse: Youuuuuuuuuuung. Probably when I was nursing.

First viewing by Molly: Young. Very young. There were ferrets, and it made me want one. I think I might have watched this with my friend Leslie. . . but I have no idea.

Most recent viewing by both: Maybe a month ago?

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Pretty goddamn high, truth be told. I mean, come on—dude has a vaguely eastern sword, some kind of throwing weapon, and a cool scar on his hand. Oh, and a motherfucking tiger. And an eagle. And two ferrets. And Tanya Roberts. Oh hells yes.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: I hesitate on this because I simply don’t remember watching it. I feel like it probably spawned/reflected (the old pornography debate, right here on Films of High Adventure) what would be my lifelong interest in falconry, swords, and camp. Who knows, though?

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Frankly, I knew it was going to hurt. You can’t have a movie like The Beastmaster be an intrinsic part of your childhood and not be disappointed by revisiting it as an adult. Yet I bought the director’s cut on DVD when I stumbled across it at a flea market (natch) and have gone back to that well more than once in the last decade, but the water’s never been as sweet as I remembered. Still, I was buoyed by the knowledge that I would be watching it with Molly, whose reactions to this sort of nonsense promised to be at least as entertaining as the film itself.

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: I refused to watch this at first until Jesse took the time to disabuse me of the urban legend regarding this film that I genuinely believed long into adulthood: that the tigers died from being spraypainted (Jesse says: It was vegetable dye—you can see it running off the tiger’s muzzle when it drinks). Thus enlightened, I agreed to watch it, but after viewing the opening scenes I turned it off, unwilling to go further until I was chided roundly for lacking appropriate courage. No words can express my unhappiness in being unable to protect myself from this movie by calling VeganFail.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Certain varieties of cheese age extremely well, others, not so much—stinkiness is not always an accurate barometer of the enjoyment one will garner from ingesting the product. The Beastmaster, for all my youthful adoration, falls a little flat upon re-watching. And by falls a little flat, I mean bellyflops into a drained swimming pool. Not pretty.

It’s long, for one thing, really, really goddamn long for a movie about a guy who’s born from a cow. Said birth was one of the high points, admittedly, (Molly wrinkles her nose and says: really?) but there’s a lot of downtime wherein the cast wanders around Utah and the Beastmaster himself cries because nobody likes him. Molly got the fidgets something fierce. Still, it’s not all bad. Check out this perfectly plausible Scene of High Adventure, for example:

So yeah, that totally happens in the movie, as does the scene where Dar convinces his tiger to play wingman and scare Tanya Roberts into his arms, which is about as classy as this movie gets.

I feel that something should be said about Dar’s animal buddies. As someone who owns ferrets I can attest that the wee beasties are just as intelligent and obedient as this movie makes them out to be—often when I need to retrieve my keys after they’ve fallen into a pit with a roid-raging mutant I just lower one of my carpet sharks down on a piece of rope and they hop to action. Oh shit, I lied, I can’t even keep my weasels from squirming under the bookshelf or stealing each other’s treats—if only I had the many, manly gifts of Dar.

Is the movie as bad as Molly will doubtless make it out to be? Certainly not. (Molly says: I find your efforts to become the Good Cop of Films of High Adventure amusing, but I am not going to “just go get a cup of coffee” while you review this film.) There’s plenty of swordplay and witchery and unintentional silliness, and as with the first Phantasm movie, which I will love forever. Coscarelli does a lot with a little here, and comes out with a barbarian wannabe-epic that is certainly no worse than the majority of its contemporaries. That the majority of its contemporaries are unwatchable shit-piles helps it win this faint praise, but if I were The Beastmaster I would take what I could get.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Sucky and boring. I know that previous Films of High Adventure columns have been long screeds about gender and race and innocence lost and shit like that, but I can’t be fucked to muster up the rage. I didn’t hate Beastmaster enough to rant about it a la what will forever be dubbed “The Ladyhawke Incident” . . . I just hated it because it was dull. I forgot anything important about it instantly upon finishing the film. Jesse’s pulled quote above reminded me that there was the sidekick in leather-daddy gear but I had totally forgotten him; similarly, I do not recall much (anything) about the Love Interest or the Villain except for vague impressions of Rip Torn being all crazyful and tweaking out. Is that even right? Yeah, I guess so. I got pretty intoxicated watching this, frankly. Self-preservation. I do recall, though, almost murdering Jesse when he put on the commentary and re-watched several scenes.

Just. . . why? Why was this movie made? Why was the script written down and then dittoed onto innocent pieces of paper that never hurt anybody? Why did no one ever say “hey, guys, let’s re-think this. . . because it is awful”? Why did someone overdub the ferrets with non-ferret noises? Why. . . never mind. The sooner I stop writing about this movie, the sooner I can stop writing about this movie.

High Points: Finding out the tigers didn’t die. The thought experiment where you imagine the deal to get Klaus Kinski to play the villain didn’t fall through, leaving all involved with Rip Torn in gross veneers. The fact that this isn’t Beastmaster II, which even as a ten year old kid I knew sucked, or Beastmaster 3, which even as a stoned, David Warner-obsessed teenager I knew was also Suckville City, Population: That Movie. The part with the nasty bat-dudes, which has found a very specific audience on youtube—this particular clip was described as “Vore scene from Beastmaster. See a man getting eaten by a cloak monster. Too bad the hot and sexy beast master doesn’t get eaten too.” Truer words were never spoken:

Low points: Dar’s stupid Skeletor-face and, well, Skeletor-skirt. The movie as a whole.

Final Verdict: A big batch of stink-biscuits baked in Hell, served piping hot but profoundly stale, says Molly. That’s a little harsh, says Jesse, what about the part where the ferrets rescue him from the deadly oatmeal pit? Molly says whatever, moving on.

Next Time: Something not Beastmaster.

A few films I’ve watched over the past few weeks have inspired me to break the radio silence on the blog. That, and the fact that apparently my awesome uncle Glenn got his copy of Running with the Pack that he had pre-ordered, so yay! I’m going to talk about the book more extensively after I’ve read a few more of the stories so for now: it is beautiful (I got my contributor copy), it is filled with awesome stories. Woo!

Sherlock Holmes: I went down to visit my parents recently and had a really good time doing all sorts of things, including watching a few movies. Of the three we watched, Sherlock Holmes was the only I hadn’t seen previously, and I have something to say about this film: it is fucking awesome. I say this having read every story/novel Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes, as well as a few spinoffs. Honesty compels me to note, specifically, that whilst in the throes of an early teen obsession with The Phantom of the Opera I read a mashup involving Holmes and the Phantom solving crimes? Or something? Anyways, that book wasn’t so great, but this movie is amazing. John was ambivalent about it; my parents were baffled but amused (I think). I loved it. It had just about everything I want in a movie: explosions, vaguely steampunk sets, occult weirdness, homoerotic tension, Robert Downey Jr. with his shirt off punching people sweatily. YES! It certainly took its liberties with the Doyle character, but I’m OK with that. I love Basil Rathbone and Brent Spiner aping Basil Rathbone as much as the next nerd, but it was really nice to see something different. Downey Jr.’s Holmes is just as insightful and brilliant as more canonical representations of Holmes, but I really liked the decision to play up the fact that Mr. “The Game Is Afoot” is kind of a fucking mess: drug-addled, reclusive, emotionally stunted, immature, messy, mixed up over Irene Adler and Watson, and willing to use both his tremendous intellect and tremendous strength to, say, beat people up viciously. Sure, it’s a big dumb blockbuster, but it kept me engaged visually and mentally: like the Star Trek reboot, there is plenty to make fans cheer without delivering the same old same old. The dynamic between Holmes and Watson is excellent, the decision to turn Irene Adler into a steampunk Fujiko amused me, the action sequences and patented Guy Ritchie “let’s speed things up and slow them down to make them look more awesome” was frankly dazzling. So, so good.

Gentlemen Broncos: Jesse convinced me to watch the latest from the Napoleon Dynamite team. While I thought Napoleon Dynamite was brilliant I disliked Nacho Libre intensely, so I was a little suspicious. No need: it was pretty fucking rad. The A.V. Club panned it for reasons passing understanding. . . well, I suppose they are right about the lack of plot, but I don’t really care if aesthetics trump action (I just re-watched 300 on blu-ray, after all). It’s especially good if you love pulp sci-fi and/or visit the Good Show, Sir! site once in a while (or more often). Gentlemen Broncos is worth watching for a number of reasons: the dude from Flight of the Concords does this spot-on Tim Curry impression, as well as doing an amazing job holding court at a broke-down writers’ workshop; Sam Rockwell plays Bronco/Brutus, a sci-fi hero in a series of cutaway scenes with simply amazing visuals.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Orig. and Remake): I had, seriously, made it to 28 without seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street. I’d seen parts and been alarmed by a too-young Johnny Depp, but that was it. Raechel has an obsession bordering on the unwholesome with the series (“I’ve seen the original probably over 100 times,” she said, and then added “and the rest of the films probably 8 or 9 times apiece.”), so she was super-stoked to see the remake. After copping to my ignorance, we watched the original last Thursday, which I found genuinely enjoyable, and then the remake on Friday, which I was somewhat less enthusiastic about. I thought some things about the remake were OK. . . but the decision to cast Rorschach as Freddy made the experience kinda surreal. Jesse and John spent probably 15 minutes after the film trading lines pretending to be a mashup of the two characters to my delight (“Saw a dead teenager today. This city’s going to hell.” That kind of thing). I guess what impressed me most about the original was how groundbreaking the special effects were and how good they still looked (but I will forever curse overuse of CGI in films); the new one, by contrast, pushed no envelopes. . . that said, there are some really nice visuals. I dunno. It’s just that thing with horror where my mind rebells at utter nonsense. Not perhaps so much things like “he was burned to death and so comes back to kill them in their dreams” which, admittedly, makes no fucking sense whatsoever, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief for occult weirdness (or gorgeous aesthetics, like in the aforementioned 300). I mean more how they decided in this remake (spoilers, I suppose) to have Freddy be. . . the gardener at a preschool? OK, sure, he looks like a creep but whatevs. . . then we get to the fact that he lives? Under? The preschool? In a dungeon with a dirty mattress and drawings done by the kids? Sure! Whatever! And a parent who participated in the mob justice administered on Freddy (where? This. . . uh. . . warehouse! Sure!) admits to never finding the kiddie porn cave or whatever, but two sleep-deprived teens find it with a flashlight in like. . . three seconds? Because they moved a corkboard? OK! Sure! Meh. That kind of thing just makes my brain move too much on its own to be really scared by any of the content of the film. I mean, it’s easy to make me jump–I’m the twitchiest motherfucker imaginable–but I need more convincing acting, dialogue, and plotting to really scare me. Or maybe not, as the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds gave me nightmares for months, but whatevs. I am irrationally frightened of alien invasion. SHUT UP!

That’s all, folks! Except for the tremendously wonderful news that my dad’s been feeling pretty OK during his chemo (he emailed me to say he’d eaten pizza and salad for dinner one night! GO DAD!) and the fact that I’ve written damn near close to half a novel in three weeks, things have been quiet. Probably going to see Kick Ass and the new Iron Man soon. I’ll review when/if that happens. Much love everyone!