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The Day After Tomorrow (Widescreen Edition)
The Day After Tomorrow (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Dennis Quaid
Price: $5.98
408 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dumber than a box of rocks, May 5, 2007
I finally decided to do it. After much deliberation, I've finally decided to review Roland Emmerich's "The Day After Tomorrow". I must admit I liked his work on "Independence Day". The special effects in that movie achieved the loftiest of heights, creating a truly mesmerizing experience that entertained even though the whole thing suffered under a slew of plot holes the size of the Titanic. Unfortunately, Emmerich decided to indulge his appetite for left-wing politics with "The Day After Tomorrow". The subject? Global warming, of course! It's the new religion for millions of idiots with sad lives who have nothing better to do with their time. I think the whole global warming phenomenon is a bunch of bunk, a pseudo-scientific con job bolstered with shoddy "facts" that appeals to the media due to its lurid, sensationalistic potentialities. This film does absolutely nothing to advance the idea of global warming. In fact, it probably hurts the cause in ways unanticipated by the director. Oh well. No global warming induced sweat off my brow. Of course, none of this means I wouldn't watch the film. I'll always give a mindless action flick a go, even when said flick reeks of far left-wing pabulum.

I initially wept over the appearance of Dennis Quaid in the role of main character Jack Hall, a paleoclimatologist (say that five times real fast) deeply concerned about warning signals he's receiving from Mother Nature. Then I decided to forgive him and just watch the movie. Hall claims that computers tell him that a new Ice Age is coming down the pike. He tries to warn people at some conference, but laughter essentially ushers him right out of the room. In films, laughing at leftists means disaster in the near future. And sure enough, weird stuff starts happening. Like what? Oh, the usual. Snow in warm climates, heavy winds knocking planes out of the sky, killer tornadoes wiping out Los Angeles, a tidal wave and freezing temperatures engulfing New York City, England icing over, massive super storms sending temperatures plunging in the northern half of the globe. Like I said, the usual. The special effects showing the disasters unfolding are pretty cool. I liked the reporter in L.A. dying horribly as a result of the tornadoes destructive power. I hope he believed in global warming. The New York scenes work well too, especially the tanker floating through the city streets. Pity about England, though.

Anyway, enough talk about the effects. Emmerich, having heard something about "characters" and "a story" somewhere in his career, tries to pull at our heartstrings with myriad plot lines both big and small. For example, Jack Hall's precocious kid Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) just happened to head to the Big Apple before the weather took a turn for the worse. He'll spend most of his time trying to get fellow student Laura (Emmy Rossum) to warm up to him (pun intended) during the time they seek shelter in the New York City library. Jack's wife Lucy (Sela Ward), a doctor by trade, spends her time weathering the disaster by taking care of a terminally ill cancer patient. Ian Holm shows up as a Scottish meteorologist long enough to turn the lights out in England. As for Jack, he foregoes helping the United States survive the storm in order to take a nice trek up to New York in order to save his estranged son. How heroic! How stupid! All sorts of threatening situations unfold, usually laughably, before this two-hour piece of propaganda shudders to a stop. The conclusion plays around with the irony of Americans having to head to Mexico in order to survive the disaster. A[...] Ain't that a kick in the head!

A laugh a minute, this "The Day After Tomorrow". It's less a film and more a collection of jaw dropping inconsistencies, cackhanded dialogue, and shock and awe special effects. I won't kid around about the effects--they're awesome and superbly rendered. The unfolding calamity is the only reason to watch the movie. The rest of what we see onscreen is, as my 8th grade science teacher used to say, dumber than a box of rocks. Are we really supposed to believe these super storms, the size of continents, could form this quickly? And why isn't the southern hemisphere affected in some way? How can the temperature drop to at least minus 150 degrees yet we see characters ambling around outside? How can you drive and walk from Washington, D.C. to New York City in these conditions, and do it in a matter of a few days? The answer to all these niggling questions, and others, is simply this: it's in the script. The almighty script trumps all manner of problematic plot holes. Maybe we should use copies of the script to plug the hole in the ozone layer, or provide shade for our rapidly warming planet. You got a better idea?

If you're willing to turn your brain off before starting the DVD player, you'll probably make it through "The Day After Tomorrow" relatively unscathed. If you don't turn your brain off before watching, though, you risk serious and irreparable damage on such a scale that you'll resemble Al Gore for the rest of your life. Extras on the disc include a couple of commentaries from Emmerich and assorted personnel, a couple of deleted scenes that add nothing to the monstrosity we just watched, a sound demo, and a DVD-ROM featurette that I didn't bother to investigate. Not much for a "blockbuster," but I see a double disc release has also come out. If you really like the film, pick that up instead. Lastly, an aside: Sela Ward is the most gorgeous woman on the planet. Her presence in the film eased some of the pain I felt from watching such a huge piece of misinformation. I'm ecstatic that she survived the film and went back to her career in television. Call me, Sela!

Intruder (Unrated Director's Cut)
Intruder (Unrated Director's Cut)
DVD ~ Lawrence Bender
Price: $5.68
39 used & new from $1.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood soaked slasher fun, May 5, 2007
Want to hear a funny story about my experience with Scott Spiegel's 1989 slasher "Intruder"? Wait! Where are you going? Come back! I promise my tale doesn't involve a slideshow in which you'll see me lounging on a beach wearing a microkini. Good. Now sit down and shut up. Anyway, I put off seeing "Intruder" for some time because I knew from my various investigations across the Internet that two versions of the film on DVD were floating around. One is the notorious unrated version, the one with all the gory carnage intact. The other is a cut edition that, obviously, leaves out the aforementioned blood and guts. Bummer. For the life of me I cannot understand why, in this day and age, a company would release a cut to ribbons version of a horror film. Maybe the people in charge of distributing this sleazy little classic thought that video stores wouldn't carry the unrated edition. Wrong. Even a certain well-known brick and mortar shop prominently displays unedited cuts of controversial films these days. The one near me didn't carry "Intruder" in any form, unfortunately. I had to rent online, and that service only listed the R-rated cut. For some mysterious reason they sent me the unrated version instead. Yay!

See, wasn't that a funny story? Har Har Har! Yeah. So back to Spiegel's "Intruder". You've read about it, talked about it with friends, and now you're ready to sit down and finally see it. The film is pretty much everything you've heard about from others. Gory, poorly acted, gory, shot on the cheap, gory, inventive camera angles, gory--yep, it's a fun film. Set in a grocery store late at night, "Intruder" tells the story of Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox), a night cashier with a big problem. Her criminal boyfriend Craig (David Byrnes) just got out of jail and desperately wants to see his former squeeze. She wants nothing to do with him, of course, leading to a tense scene in which a fight breaks out between Craig and the store's staff. Speaking of the staff, we've got Jennifer's pal Linda (Renee Estevez), Randy (Sam Raimi), and "Produce" Joe (Ted Raimi). The owner of the store, Danny (Eugene Glazer), and his co-owner Bill (Dan Hicks) round out the cast. Unless you count the two second cameo by Bruce Campbell as one of the cops looking for the wayward Craig. It's a lot of people to keep track of, but the large cast also means plenty of cannon fodder for the killer.

After the fight with Craig, Danny and Bill announce to the staff that they've decided to sell the store. Lots of complaining from the staff ensues before everyone grudgingly goes back to the grind. Linda chats with the frazzled Jennifer before leaving for the night. Too bad for her considering what happens out in the parking lot. Thus begins the bloodshed, and what a glorious bloodshed it is! What will you see in the uncut version of "Intruder"? How does a butcher knife in the head, a head slowly crushed in a compactor, and a meat hook through the throat grab you? You'll see all of that plus the infamous band saw atrocity so many other reviewers talk about with such relish. Even better, the gore effects look convincing. They ought to since the camera lingers with tender loving care on each act of bloody brutality. Just when you think the movie doesn't have anything else to offer, sit back and prepare yourself for a few twists and turns before we learn the identity of the killer. I would say that "Intruder" is almost gialloish in its use of myriad red herrings concerning the murderer rampaging through the store.

About the only drawback I saw while watching the movie concerns the pacing. Almost nothing of real interest happens in the first half of the movie. Wait, scratch that: I guess that's not true if you want to learn the ends and outs of working the night shift at the local grocery store, but you have to wait forever if you're tuning in to see the gore. The killings start happening like clockwork about forty or fifty minutes in, so it's a pretty long wait by movie standards. Even "Friday the 13th" tried to spread the killings out better than that. Oh well. "Intruder" boasts far more positives than negatives. The former includes, but is not limited to, the gore, the hot girl playing the lead, her late 1980s haircut (which really looks good on her), the kooky cast, and the atmospheric setting. There's nothing creepier than a big, nearly abandoned building late at night. It's the perfect environment in which a spree killer can perform his or her bloody work without having to worry about detection. A pox upon the MPAA for demanding heavy cuts back in the 1980s. A further pox upon Paramount for caving in to the MPAA. Then again, these are the same nervous nellies that still refuse to give us uncut versions of the various "Friday the 13th" films.

"Intruder" gets four stars from me. It's a fun film that will go down very easy with the slasher fan crowd. Too bad the DVD release doesn't contain much in the way of extras. We get a trailer for the film and a few other trailers for other flicks thrown in for good measure. No commentary track or cast and crew interviews. Disappointing in the extreme. A few other additions in the supplements department surely would have sent the fanboys into a tizzy, but it doesn't really matter. Spiegel's fun little slasher is entertaining enough without glitzy extras. Definitely worth a watch if you like horror movies. If you worship the slasher genre, the uncut version of "Intruder" is a must own.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2008 1:08 AM PDT

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shame on you, Shriek Show, May 5, 2007
Once again I find myself plunging into the depths of cinematic depravity. What part of my brain do I lack that leads me on such mindless excursions, excursions fraught with untold perils that damage both body and soul? I dunno, but please stop cracking wise if you're making jokes about the whole "brain is lacking" thing I threw out there a second ago. Thanks. Anyway, this excursion is a familiar one, as I stumble once again into the World of Jeff Lieberman. A scary place indeed! I explored here twice before, with his "Blue Sunshine" and the monumentally epic "Squirm". Yeah. Both movies left me feeling decidedly cold and unfriendly for a few days because, as I recall, both of them weren't that great. Well, "Blue Sunshine" wasn't that great. "Squirm" was absolutely appalling. I actually referred to that film as "Lieberman's Waterloo," a comment I still believe holds up rather well. Now I'm back again with "Just Before Dawn," Lieberman's attempt to take advantage of the early 1980s slasher film craze. Good ole Jeff likes to cash in on current trends: the recent resurgence of all things horror saw him releasing "Satan's Little Helper" a couple of years ago.

We'll stick to "Just Before Dawn" right now, though. Lieberman's ode to Jason Voorhees starts off well enough as we see a couple of local yokels poking around an old, abandoned church out in the woods. There's some nonsense about taking something out of the building as a gift while the other guy quaffs whiskey, but don't worry about it. What's more important here is the knowledge that some kook lurks about outside. Anyone want to place a bet that someone's going to get hurt in the next few minutes? Sure enough, a machete collides with a crotch in the most awkward introduction since Khrushchev met Nixon. Ouch! Anyway, the shrieking that ensues convinces the other hillbilly to...well...head for the hills. Then the film changes focus as we meet a group of young adults driving into the mountains, one of whom is Jack Lemmon's son Chris. Two important things happen in the next twenty or so minutes. One, they meet up with a park ranger named Roy McLean (George Kennedy!). Two, and more importantly, they stumble over the aforementioned hillbilly. Both men warn them about heading into the woods, but you know how kids are these days. Onwards and upwards!

What follows forms the crux of the movie's runtime. Our gang of young cannon fodder heads up into the mountains for fun and sun. Ostensibly, one of the characters owns a piece of property in the wilderness, and that's why the group stumbles around in the forest. It's really just an excuse for killing, although we see precious little of that for quite some time. Instead, director Lieberman decides to treat his audience to visually pleasing yet mind-numbing scenes of actors hiking through gorgeous scenery. A few weird scenarios unfold. For example, one of the girls takes a swim in the lake and starts freaking out when she feels something grab her underwater. Then there's the run-in with the mountain family, an encounter filled with menace and meaning for what's about to happen to our group of kiddies. Sure enough, the psycho rears his ugly head and starts taking down his victims in ways that astonish with their lack of gore. Come to think of it, that machete scene at the beginning wasn't that sticky, either. Maybe the sauce will start to flow in the conclusion? Don't bet on it, although the manner in which he perishes achieves a grotesque uniqueness not often seen in slasher flicks.

Sigh. "Just Before Dawn" is a tepid film. The killer isn't all that original, the gore is nonexistent, and George Kennedy never gets to chew the scenery. I also didn't care for the nature walk elements that make up most of the movie's runtime. Sure, it occasionally helps ratchet up the suspense, but too often watching the kids amble around the mountain bores the viewer. It's the lack of grue that kills the flick, though. I don't blame Lieberman after I learned that the company releasing the DVD, Shriek Show, turned out a disc that is CUT. We aren't seeing the full movie! Bad, Bad, BAD, BAD! It's really insulting considering this is a two-disc set! Even if the footage exists in a horrible state, beyond any hope of restoration, they still should have thrown it in SOMEWHERE on the DVD. Inexcusable. I'm complaining big time, but a few parts of the movie work well. I loved the synth score: a creepy, haunting piece of music that really gave the film that memorable early 1980s feel. I also liked the wheezy laughter emanating from the psycho every few minutes. Too, even a restrained George Kennedy is better than no George Kennedy at all.

The two-disc set from Shriek Show, a subsidiary of Media Blasters, contains plenty of extras. We get a commentary track from director Lieberman, a long documentary with many members of the cast and crew reminiscing, a photo gallery, trailers for the film, original artwork, and tons of trailers for other Shriek Show DVDs (including one for the classic Joe D'Amato flick "Anthropophagus"!). As for the picture quality, it isn't that good. It looks like the technicians performed very little restorative work before burning this onto disc. Considering the version of the film we end up seeing is cut, spending some bucks to restore the film to pristine (or near pristine) condition probably wasn't high on the to do list. Only serious slasher film fans will want to pick up a copy of "Just Before Dawn". All other potential viewers should just rent the movie, give it a watch, and spend their hard earned dollars on more serious endeavors.

Boogeyman (Special Edition)
Boogeyman (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Barry Watson
Price: $6.05
392 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Obtuse, May 5, 2007
This review is from: Boogeyman (Special Edition) (DVD)
The Hindenburg. The sinking of the Titanic. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Hurricane Katrina. The 2004 Tsunami. World War II. The 2005 film "Boogeyman". Do you know what all of these things have in common? If you said they were epic disasters that claimed human lives, you win a prize. You might question the inclusion of that last item, the film directed by Stephen T. Kay and produced by none other than Sam Raimi. How could a movie claim lives? "Boogeyman" likely killed no one (the number of fatalities aren't in yet), but I think it's safe to say that this clunker claimed the career of one Barry Watson, a former cast member of "7th Heaven" and a one time co-star of popular actress Jessica Biel. It must kill Barry that Biel's star keeps rising while his founders in dreck like this. That's Hollywood for you. Then again, Watson didn't seem to understand an important horror film fact, one that angers fans of the genre to no end. That fact, in a nutshell, is this: WE HATE PG-13 RATED HORROR FILMS! "Horror" and "PG-13" don't go together, period. We want blood and guts and scares. We do not want Barry Watson in a PG-13 rated horror flick.

"Boogeyman" starts off promising (Then again, so did I. Now look where I've ended up--reviewing films like this one.) as we see a young kid in bed at night, horrified of the creature that lives in his closet. Dad ambles in just in time to explain that there is no such thing as the "Boogeyman" immediately prior to the non-existing Boogeyman pulling him into the closet. Dad, despite a brief reappearance seconds later, disappears forever. Flash forward fifteen years (too bad we can't flash forward to the closing credits), and we now see the aforementioned little tyke, Tim Jensen, suddenly assume the form of a grown up Barry Watson. Tim, who also seems to fear an electric shaver, tries to move on with his life the best he can. He's a big shot at a magazine, and he's involved with a beautiful girl named Jessica (Tory Mussett). There's some song and dance about meeting her parents--I don't know...I wasn't paying attention--followed by scenes showing Jensen's obvious fear of closets. A few minutes later, Tim experiences some sort of vision/dream concerning his mother (played by Lucy Lawless) that forces him to return to his childhood home.

In short, Mom died. This means Tim has to attend her funeral and then go back to the domicile alone. After a ridiculous scene on the road, Jensen arrives at a house so run down it makes the Addams family digs look like the Trump Towers. He soon runs into a childhood friend, Kate (Emily Deschanel paying her mortgage), before the real weirdness starts. Some of the strangeness involves an enigmatic youngster named Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak). Most of it involves the reappearance, and subsequent disappearance, of Tim's girlfriend Jessica. Soon the madness engulfs Kate as well. People appear and then disappear with frightening regularity, usually after entering a closet. Time and space mean nothing as Tim lurches from one improbable reality to another. Needless to say, it's the Boogeyman who stands behind this lunacy. Or is it Tim? Kate suspects he did something sinister to his girlfriend. Maybe Jensen's fear of the Boogeyman, coupled with the return to his childhood home, has resulted in a psychotic break of epic proportions. Never fear, however, as the conclusion explains everything in dreary detail. As an aside, the end of "Boogeyman" ranks as one of the lamest showdowns I've ever seen during my cinematic excursions.

Where to start with this nightmare? Other reviewers have rightly noted the mind-deadening reliance on sound effects to get a cheap scare out of the audience, so I won't go there except to say they're absolutely, positively correct. I could rail against the jarring editing techniques, so overused here that they negate any impact the film might have had on an audience above the age of fourteen. The acting isn't any better. With the exception of Emily Deschanel, one wonders what medication the rest of the cast took before stepping in front of the camera. My guess is Thorazine. Except for Barry Watson during the scenes where he grooves along the walls in the closet. In this instance, his behavior closely mirrors someone on the last day of a month long cough syrup binge. I think it's safe to say that just about every element of "Boogeyman" fails to project serious scares. The lack of gore and the lack of a scary monster is just the icing on this terrible tasting cake. Here's something truly scary, though: "Boogeyman 2" is coming to a theater near you in the future! How is that remotely possible? Because this movie grossed 46 million dollars! Gawd help us!

The movie looks great, and sounds great, on DVD. No problem there. As for supplements, we get a few deleted scenes, some special effects mumbo jumbo, a documentary that devolves into a lovefest between cast and crew, some animated storyboards, and an alternate ending. Trailers for a few other films round out the disc. I'm greatly disappointed that I spent ninety minutes of my life watching this crud. It's not scary, not bloody, and not that well acted. The idea isn't bad, especially the mind bending second half where we start to question the reality of what's going on, but it's not unique and comes far too late to save the film. I'm actually agonizing over whether to give "Boogeyman" one or two stars. I guess I'll go with the latter, as I usually round up when in doubt. But make no mistake about it; this film is NOT worth your valuable time. Rent something else instead.

DVD ~ Bradford Dillman
Offered by Black Cat, White Whiskers
Price: $11.38
38 used & new from $3.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cheesy fun, May 4, 2007
This review is from: Bug (DVD)
I think it's important to note right at the beginning that one should not confuse the 1975 Jeannot Szwarc film "Bug" with the 2002 indie effort of the same name. Nor should one confuse this flick with the upcoming Ashley Judd/Harry Connick Jr. thriller, which also has the same title as the other two. Unfortunately, since I reviewed the 2002 film, my Word program had a minor meltdown when I tried to save two files with the same name. That's obviously due to the fact that my Word program hasn't watched both films. If it had, it would know immediately that there are no comparisons between the two. The 2002 film is a sort of slice of life movie, one of those cause and effect films that show how all of us are inescapably tied together on this little piece of rock and mud rotating around a ball of fire. The 1975 "Bug," however, is a prime slice of cheesy schlock churned out by none other than the late, great William Castle (he co-wrote the script and produced the movie). And since I'm an ardent surveyor of cheesy schlock, here we go on yet another jaunt into the dark recesses of the film world. Wanna ride along?

You simply must adore the tagline for this film: They Look Like Rocks...Possess a High Intelligence...Have No Eyes...And Eat Ashes...They Travel In Your Car Exhaust...They Make Fire...They Kill. Whew! I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely overwhelmed after reading that! Ash eaters always spell big box office, right? Anyway, the tagline (as well as the title) gives us a pretty good idea of what we're up against. Bugs. Lots of them. And it all starts in a small town out in the desert somewhere (Southwest California, I suppose?) when an earthquake strikes. This disaster darn near levels a church, and it scares the heck out of a lot of people. What follows will scare them far more than the earth moving. It's the bugs. But they aren't like anything anyone has ever seen before. Sorta like roaches, except they've got a shell as hard as a rock (see tagline above). And they like crawling into weird places, like people's hair and exhaust pipes (again, see above). The worst trait these dastardly insects exhibit, however, revolves around their ability to set stuff on fire. Yep, we've got arsonist insects to deal with in "Bugs". Scary!

Gerald Metbaum (Richard Gilliland), a college student, is the first one with any intelligence to stumble over the bugs. A particularly grisly encounter involving the insects and a cat convinces Metbaum to head over to the university in order to bring Dr. James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) into this weird new world. The insects astound the college professor, so much so that he sets up shop near the crevasse in order to study these infernal creatures. One thing leads to another (isn't that true of most things?), and it isn't too long before Parmiter's fascination with the little beasties leads him to start messing around in areas best left untouched by flawed humans. He tries breeding them with ordinary bugs, bringing about extraordinary results. Like improving their hardiness and giving them a craving for human flesh. The experiments also result in improved intelligence, seen in several unintentionally hilarious scenes--one of which involves the bugs spelling out words on the good professor's wall. Comedy gold! Sadly, Parmiter's various activities cost him dearly on the home front, which results in the loss of his sanity. All of this nonsense leads to a slam-bang ending that left me laughing hysterically at the super cheesy special effects.

"Bug" is less of a horror film and more of a comedy. How could bugs that shoot fire out there you know whatsis be anything else but a kneeslapper? More laughs arrive as we watch the bugs crawl into exhaust pipes and blow up the vehicles--always while the human occupants sit inside. We also see the bugs light up hair (hair still attached to a human head, of course) and crawl all over screaming people. The funniest elements of the movie arrive at the conclusion, as Bradford Dillman's character goes completely insane. I won't spoil the rest of this scene for you, but let's just say it involves a lot of girlish screaming, cheesy fire effects, and hysterical running. I couldn't stop howling with laughter through significant portions of the film. That's not to say all is lost, though. The bug photography is pretty cool, and likely pretty sinister for people who hate seeing lots of creepy crawlies in one place. The movie's atmosphere works well, too, as the sparse setting gives the film an isolated, austere look that proves disconcerting. Also good is the creepy music score by Charles Fox, although it is overdone at several points in the movie (which occasionally adds to the laugh factor).

Yep, "Bug" is worth a watch if you like campy insect run amok films. It's a pity the DVD contains no extra features, but the picture and audio quality are pretty good for such an old, low budget flick. An interesting trivia note: "Bug" is William Castle's last feature film effort, made and released before he died in 1977. Moreover, Castle made this film after producing the smash hit "Rosemary's Baby" in 1968. Going from "Rosemary's Baby" to "Bug" is quite a step down on the cinematic ladder, but anyone familiar with Castle shouldn't express surprise. He based his entire career around cheap schlock like "Bug," so making this film sort of represented a return to his roots. I think I'm going to give Castle's final oeuvre four stars. Sure, it's campy and unintentionally hilarious, but it is a lot of fun to view if you're in the right frame of mind. Give it a watch.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2008 1:12 AM PDT

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai
The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai
DVD ~ Yukijiro Hotaru
10 used & new from $11.08

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trippy!, April 29, 2007
Boy, was I excited to get my hands on a copy of "The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai" recently! Why? Because it's the first time I've ever received a screener copy of a movie! Yay! After reviewing over 600 movies (I think it's 600. Might be more or a little less.), I finally get the recognition I deserve. I'm being sarcastic with that last line there. I'm still glad to get a free copy of the film for review, however. I'd rather be on the mailing list at Lionsgate, Anchor Bay, Unearthed Films, Tartan, Shriek Show, or any of the other companies that put out horror and exploitation movies on a regular basis, but I'll take what I can get in the meantime. That means sitting down with "The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai," pen and paper clutched in my sweaty little hands so I can make my little review scribbles, in order to give the film the sort of serious, professional attention one would expect from the likes of Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael. Of course, it's unlikely Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael would watch a movie like this one. Read on to find out why.

"The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai," directed by a chap named Mitsuru Meike, tells the story of a Japanese sex worker named, not surprisingly, Sachiko Hanai. We first see her working with one of her clients, posing as a "naughty teacher" upbraiding the recalcitrant "student". Yes, there's a money shot. Then we move on as Hanai goes to a restaurant to await a meeting with her boss. While she's waiting, one of the two men haggling at a nearby table drops a metal cylinder on the floor after Hanai bumps into him. The owner of the place picks the tube up and puts it in her purse because he thinks the object belongs to her. In the next minute, one of the guys at the table shoots his companion and then pumps a slug into Hanai's forehead. Incredibly, she awakens and stumbles out the door. Her life doesn't seem so glamorous up to this point, but then she happens to push that slug further into her brain (don't ask) which sets off some sort of cheesily depicted "reaction" that results in delayed response times to things like hot food and sweet tea, increased intelligence, the ability to see into the future, heightened sex drive, and a ravenous desire to absorb information.

Sachiko roams around the streets of the city, writing equations on walls and reading books, before seeking out a professor of philosophy at a nearby university. The two really hit it off, doing the bump and grind as they spout nonsensical references to various philosophical belief systems. Whatever floats your boat. Then Hanai ends up moving in with the professor in order to teach his son. More hijinks ensue, not the least of which involves Sachiko discovering what's in that shiny metal tube. It's a clone of George Bush's trigger finger! Oh yeah. Before you can say, "I'm the decider," that finger is doing things to Hanai best left unmentioned here while a televised Bush manipulates said digit in the most obnoxious manner possible. I started losing my bearings at this point, but I can say that the guy who shot the other chap in the restaurant shows up at the professor's house looking for that cylinder. Hanai hooks up with him and the two head off to a cave (?) where they find an important device that might explain the importance of the finger. Or maybe not. By the time the film rolled to a stop, I was mystified in the extreme.

I'll say one thing about "The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai": make sure to keep watching after the credits. O.k., I'll say a bit more. This is one confusing film. I'm still not sure what I watched. I also have little idea about the film's underlying theme. Is it an anti-Bush flick? A statement about the exploitation of Japanese sex workers? A critique of the relationship between North Korea and Japan? You got me. I think the best way to explain this film revolves around the constant nudity and sexual situations. It's more a soft-core film of the type one sees on Cinemax than a serious statement about the condition of the world. It's also hilarious in spots. I loved how we can see the string holding up the flying metal cylinder, and I also cracked a grin over the poorly synchronized sound effects. There's no doubt director Mitsuru Meike operated on a shoestring budget here. What saves the movie, at least for me, is the cuteness factor of the actress who plays Sachiko Hanai. She's quite the little babe, and it's easy to forgive cheap effects and a hazy plot when she embarks on yet another tryst.

I'm at a loss to rate this film. It's so incredibly weird, corny, and warped--and often all three at the same time--that the movie defies traditional categories of good and bad. I'll go with four stars for the audacity factor alone. I mentioned above that I watched a screener copy. The only extra included on my disc is a trailer, but the back of the case claims that the special features in the street release (subject to change, of course) should include the original Japanese trailer, the U.S. trailer, a feature called "What is Pink Film," which probably explains what genre this movie falls into, previews for other movies, and two short films: "The Adventure of Sachiko Hanai" and "Horny Home Tutor: Teacher's Love Juice". As for picture and sound quality, both aren't that great due to the film's low budget. Subtitles were difficult to see at times. So there ya go. If anything I've described above appeals to you, by all means pick up a copy when this DVD hits the streets in June of this year. Good luck, my friends!

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Non-Smokers Using Allen Carr's Easyway Method
The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Non-Smokers Using Allen Carr's Easyway Method
by Allen Carr
Edition: Hardcover
273 used & new from $3.74

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It does involve willpower, but you can quit!, April 28, 2007
I'm a legendary smoker. I'm the sort of smoker who can't wait to finish a cigarette so I can have another cigarette. When I was younger, I used to rubber band two or three coffin nails together and then smoke them, just as a lark. I've smoked enough cigarettes in my career to fill Grand Central Station with butts. I could wallpaper an entire house with unfolded cigarette packs, and then use the rest to cover the interior of the Taj Mahal. I often hear people remark, with astonishment, about how fast I can smoke a death stick. They're right. I can pack them away like they're going out of style. I've only met one person who could smoke a cigarette faster than I can, and he quit smoking soon after I met him. It's starting to get ridiculous, my smoking, and I'm not talking about the cost (both economic and physical), the smell, the stained teeth, and all the other negatives associated with smoking. I mean, I go to the local store and the cute clerk that works behind the counter, bless her gorgeous little heart, doesn't want to sell me a pack of cigarettes because she's just seen me in there earlier buying cigarettes.

Yep, I'm a confirmed smoker. I know Allen Carr says, in "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking," that there's no such thing as a confirmed smoker, but he's wrong. I am one. I enjoy smoking, and I always have. Sure, sometimes it's a drag (pun intended) when you can't smoke in a dining establishment because the safety police just passed a non-smoking ordinance, or you have to walk a mile to smoke that Camel because someone is "allergic" to cigarette smoke. But that doesn't take away the pleasure I feel whenever I'm smoking. I don't smoke because I'm bored, or because I feel like I have to have one just to get through the day, or because I'm stressed out about something. I smoke because I like to smoke. That's it in a nutshell. Of course, that doesn't mean I can't quit. I actually did once. Didn't smoke a cigarette for two and a half years, and I didn't miss them during that time, either. Starting up again had nothing to do with "missing" cigarettes, or craving them for that matter. I'm sure some ex-smokers will shake their heads and say, "Sure. Whatever you say," but they're wrong. I started again because I enjoy smoking.

Anyway, I had no intention of quitting cigarettes when I sat down with Carr's book. Someone who stopped recommended the tome to me, and I decided to give it a glance. It's an interesting book, and just about everything he says in it is true. Most people want to quit, smoking costs too much in this day and age, you can't smoke everywhere anymore, fear keeps people from quitting, social and economic brainwashing keeps people hooked on smoking, kids don't think they'll develop an addiction--it's all generally true. He's also correct when discussing the negative elements of smoking: the health risks, obviously, but also the smell, stained teeth, burnt clothing, and chronic coughing are not positives one looks forward to when smoking. Yes sir (and ma'am, too), most of what Allen Carr says about smoking is absolutely true. He couldn't attain a higher order of truth if he carved this stuff on stone tablets and carried them down from a mountaintop. I'm not arguing with him in an effort to make myself feel better about smoking. I agree with him on nearly everything he says (except the "everyone wants to quit smoking" thing). But not everything, and that's an important point to make.

I diverge from Carr when he begins discussing his method. I don't disagree with his method itself. If you can do what he says, you will quit smoking. No doubt about it. It will work. It worked for me before I even read this book. Here's how I quit smoking back in the day: I told myself I was going to quit and I did it cold turkey. There's the secret. I established the correct frame of mind over time (I'm quitting), and then carried through with it. It's essentially using willpower with a positive attitude. And that's exactly what Carr advocates in this book. He tells you stopping has nothing to do with willpower, and further tells you his method doesn't involve willpower, but he's wrong. Let me say it again: this method couples willpower with a positive attitude about quitting. Even if you don't believe me after reading the book, think about what he's suggesting you do. He's telling you to put out that cigarette and stop smoking immediately thereafter. That's cold turkey quitting at the core, and folks that smoke will realize this, but it still involves willpower. Don't worry, though. Just recognize this and take the time to develop a positive frame of mind about quitting. Even if it takes you days or weeks, develop that mindset first before attempting to stop.

I'm going to catch a lot of flack for this review. People will call me a hypocrite, question my motivation about quitting for a couple of years (it had to do with a really tight budget, not me hating smoking), or say that I'm calling Carr a liar or that I'm misrepresenting what he says. I'm not. I understand and firmly agree with his basic premise: if you couple willpower with a positive frame of mind to quit, you will stop smoking. I'm just taking exception with the author's claim that his method doesn't involve willpower. The good thing is that once you recognize this fact, you can spend more time coming to terms with quitting in your own mind before letting willpower take its course. You can do it if you really want to stop. Then, as the book states, you can see me outside huffing away and feel genuine pity for me!
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 6, 2008 10:48 AM PDT

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Edition: Hardcover
282 used & new from $0.01

25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call for the West, April 28, 2007
This review is from: Infidel (Hardcover)
What an unusual autobiography we have in the form of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel". I can't remember the last time I read a book as unique as this one. It's insightful, powerful, and talks about places in the world most of us in the West have little experience dealing with, let alone understanding. Ali, if you aren't familiar with her, was born in Somalia back in the late 1960s. She resided there for some time before heading off to live in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya before fleeing to the Netherlands in search of freedom from an arranged marriage set up by her father, a prominent Somali who spent years trying to topple the pro-communist Mohamed Siad Barre regime. Her tenure in Holland changed her life in several important ways. One, the choice to flee from her new husband caused irreparable damage to the connections she had with her family. Two, she came to understand the dangers radical Islam posed to the western world. Three, her absorption of western philosophical ideas led her to embrace democratic freedoms and oppose the subjugation of women under Islamic law. This stance, coupled with her embrace of atheism, brought her into direct conflict with fundamentalist Muslims.

Ali recounts the difficulties inherent in living in third world countries in the first sections of the book. Sadly, Islam exacerbated these difficulties for the author. Women, as we all know by now, are treated as second-class citizens in most Islamic nations. The book overflows with sad depictions of arranged marriages, beatings, sexual repression, and other abuses best left unsaid here. One excellent example is Ali's mother, a proud woman who initially set out to achieve good things with her life but who eventually sank into despair and resorted to violence against her children because Islam forbade her to take an active role in resolving her marital and economic problems. Living in Ethiopia and Kenya wasn't so bad, according to the author, because both countries contain significant non-Muslim populations. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, was a nightmare. Ali didn't live in some corporate compound reserved for foreign oil workers. She lived right next door to the citizens, which exposed her to the full brunt of fundamentalist Islamic practices. Woman couldn't drive, couldn't go to the store without a male escort, and couldn't report domestic violence. The local populace blamed their problems on the influence of Jews. What a world we live in, eh?

The last part of the book details Ali's immigration to Holland and her subsequent rejection of Islam. A proud woman and a hard worker, she labored for years to learn the language, find employment in order to get off the public dole, and eventually earned a master's degree in political science from Leiden University. Her education led her to a job with the Social Democratic Party's think tank. She didn't stay here long due to her increasing disenchantment with Islam, brought about by her embrace of western philosophy, the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the realization that Muslims weren't assimilating into Dutch society. Ali eventually joined the conservative Liberal Party and ran for a seat in the Dutch parliament. She won, but her strong condemnations of Islamic practices along with her role in the death of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh (she made the film "Submission" with him, a short movie that attacked Islam's domination of women) brought down the wrath of Holland's "tolerant" politicos. They dug up the fact that she lied on her immigration forms and chased her out of politics. Death threats from fundamentalist Muslims resulted in her exodus to the United States. Today she works at the American Enterprise Institute.

I'm leaving a ton of stuff out in these two brief paragraphs. "Infidel" is more than a quick jaunt through the Middle East and parts of Africa, although that would be interesting enough. Most readers will gain a better understanding about these parts of the world after reading this book. For example, the author elucidates several theories about the third world that explains much about their proclivity for violence and civil war. She credits the tenets of Islam with much of the discord in the Middle East and Africa, a controversial theory that will find plenty of detractors. But it's her explanations about how the clan system works that add additional depth to her ideas. I don't think it's possible to understand the mess that Somalia is in today without understanding how clans work as both a form of economic support for citizens as well as a means of social classification. When you throw in Sunni and Shia distinctions, well, you've got a recipe for the sort of madness we're seeing in places like Iraq right now. The author also points out how Saudi Arabia's funding of radical Islam causes further chaos in these third world countries. What a seething cauldron!

The most disturbing element of the book is the book itself. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a cry in the desert about what's really going on over in the Middle East and, with increasing regularity, Europe. Where are all the other voices that should chime in with additional evidence supporting this author's conclusions? Critics will tell you the paucity of Ali clones proves that she's dead wrong in her analysis, but we ought to know better. There aren't more people speaking out because they're afraid of becoming the next Theo van Gogh; they're afraid some Islamic fruitcake will stick a knife in their chest if they tell the truth. Look at what happened when this author spoke up. She had to go into hiding for weeks at a time in order to avoid execution. "Infidel" is a wake up call to the West just as surely as the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were. We ignore the problem at our own peril. Even worse, we're endangering our children and our grandchildren by ignoring this problem. It's time to wake up and act before it's too late.

By the Time You Read This: A Novel
By the Time You Read This: A Novel
by Giles Blunt
Edition: Hardcover
100 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling whodunit, April 28, 2007
I'm really liking this Giles Blunt character. It has little to do with the fact that he's capable of writing an excellent mystery thriller like "By the Time You Read This," his fourth crime novel featuring crackerjack Canadian detective John Cardinal, and more to do with how he describes his background on his website. His biography is one of the funniest things I've read in ages. For example, his journey to the United States is a real knee slapper. He came here hoping to embark on a career as a writer and ended up enrolling in bartending school. His experiences in this field taught him three things: one, bars and restaurants are not endearing places to work; two, many co-workers in the field don't speak English all that well; and three, a certain ambassador to the United Nations has a severe flatulence problem. Funny stuff! Look up his website after reading this book if you get the chance. Anyway, Blunt has lived an interesting life if his biography is any indication. Aside from the bartending gigs, he worked on several television shows (including Law & Order) before diving head first into the often frustrating world of writing crime novels.

"By the Time You Read This" is a novel set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay, located in Northern Ontario. The book stars Detective John Cardinal and his colleague Lisa Delorme as the two set off to crack a couple of difficult cases. Cardinal has a whopper on his plate. His wife, the beautiful but mentally troubled Catherine, took a swan dive off the top of an apartment building during one of her photo shoots. Everyone involved in the case is convinced that Cardinal's wife committed suicide. And why not? She's been in and out of hospitals for years due to her severe battles with depression. Cardinal can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. He soon becomes convinced that his wife died at the hands of a murderer, especially after he receives a series of ominous letters referring to his spouse's death. John is desperate to uncover evidence that the letter writer has something to do with the gruesome crime, so he enlists the aid of Catherine's psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Bell, as well as a few old cop connections in other cities to help bring the perpetrator to justice. If there is a perpetrator, that is.

As for Delorme, she soon finds herself wrapped up in a nauseating child abuse case that some big city cops think has its origins in Algonquin Bay. They send her a stack of pictures, pulled off of several computers seized during a child abuse investigation, which shows images of a man brutalizing a young girl. It's the sort of sick stuff that makes cops initially wish they had gone into a different profession, but it's also a case that keeps them at the office late at night in an effort to bring down the scumbag responsible. Delorme has her work cut out for her with this one. The only clues she has to go on is something glimpsed in the background of one of the pictures, a clue she promptly uses to drive a bigger wedge into the case. As the detective methodically homes in on the responsible party, which also means identifying the victim in the photographs, a bigger picture emerges. And wouldn't you just know it? It's quite possible that the crime Delorme is investigating may very well have links to John Cardinal's one man show going on at the same time. When the truth finally comes out, it makes for a real zinger of a conclusion.

"By the Time You Read This" is an engrossing affair, a totally absorbing murder mystery that keeps the reader glued to the edge of his or her seat. I know that line sounds like a cliché (Heck, it IS a cliché that every reviewer worth his or her salt has fallen back on more than once.), but it's more than appropriate here. I had a tough time putting this book down. Blunt writes a novel where nothing, absolutely nothing, is as it seems. He likes to keep you guessing on every page. The denouement alone is worth the price of the book, as the author imbues the conclusion with more twists and turns than Chubby Checker on Ecstasy. The rest of novel isn't too shabby, either. The characters are intriguing and well written, especially John Cardinal. Blunt does an excellent job conveying the grief this man feels over not only losing his wife but also pursuing a murder investigation in the face of overwhelming doubts. I also enjoyed the book's atmosphere, which one can only describe as grim and foreboding. The author doesn't shy away from presenting the dark side of human existence. Suicide, child abuse, murder--it's all here in gritty detail.

In fact, you may want to avoid the book altogether if you don't like reading about the unpleasant realities concerning the seedier side of life. Most fans of crime fiction don't worry about such things (they look forward, with great relish, to particularly imaginative forms of murder and mayhem), and thus will likely enjoy Blunt's imaginative jaunt. I know I did. At this point in the review, I ought to come up with several difficulties I had with the book. The problem with this is that I can't really think of any. "By the Time You Read This," in my opinion, doesn't have any flaws worth mentioning, or at least none that takes anything away from the reading experience. It's a tightly written thriller that deserves a solid five star ranking. I heartily recommend this book to murder mystery fans, Canadians, bartenders toiling in obscurity in New York City, and gassy ambassadors to the United Nations. Have fun!

by Marion Marchetto
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from $28.52

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another hit from Marion Marchetto, April 26, 2007
This review is from: HONEYSUCKLE HILL (Hardcover)
When I recently received the opportunity to read Marion Marchetto's "Honeysuckle Hill: A Merline Madagascar Historical Renovation," I jumped at the opportunity. Why? Because I read the author's first effort, "201 Atwater," a couple of years ago and I know that she's a very talented writer with the sort of vivid imagination that makes for good reading. "201 Atwater" told the story of a house that had consciousness, a house that could talk to the reader and tell its own history. The house revealed further mysteries about its past when Merline Madagascar, an interior designer and spiritual medium, entered into the story. Now it's two years later and we have a new story where Merline plays a bigger role. We also have a talking house renovated into a bed and breakfast by Madagascar and her husband David, an Indian spirit named Lillianoah roaming the halls, a romance that transcends time and space, an opera house in need of restoration, a vintage VW van, a promiscuous naval officer, Gypsies, a surprise marriage, historical artifacts, and hot Norwegian babes. O.K., I'll admit I'm being a bit silly making up the list in that way, but these things (and more) all inhabit this enchanting book.

Merline Madagascar and her husband David are in a bit of a funk as the book opens. They lost a child in a miscarriage a few months previous and are just starting to reconnect with the world. When Merline discovers a broken down old house out in the sticks she feels an immediate attachment to the property, and especially to the wild honeysuckle that grows out in the yard. Daniel sees his wife's interest and decides to pick up the house for a song. The two, along with David's mother Estelle, move into the place and quickly decide to turn it into a charming bed and breakfast. It takes a lot of work to bring this house up to code, work further complicated by the discovery of ancient Indian pottery and other artifacts on the property. One of the items found by construction workers is a leather pouch containing several papers covered in a strange language. David works on translating these ancient documents while the renovation of the house enters its final stages. The bed and breakfast, now christened Honeysuckle Hill, opens to rave reviews. At one point, Merline and company even host a posh soiree to benefit another renovation in town.

Throughout the remodeling of Honeysuckle Hill, we learn about the house's backstory thanks to the house itself. Also contributing to the story is Lillianoah, an Indian spirit trapped in the area due to a tragedy that took place a few hundred years before. Lillianoah tells her story to Merline through a series of dreams. It turns out that the very site the house sits on was once an area of some importance to a branch of the Algonquin Indians known as the Pootatucks. Lillianoah was a member of this tribe and, more importantly, the daughter of Chief Waramaug. The tragic elements of this history enter the picture when we learn that Lillianoah fell in love with an English settler named Noah. Her plans to marry this man present several problems to her father and the tribe, not the least of which involves succession issues. Then there's the problem that Lillianoah wants Merline to clear up, hence the contact via the dream world. Rest assured that everything will work out in the end, as Marchetto wraps up every plot point (and even a few we don't know about until the conclusion) in a satisfactory manner.

I congratulate Marion Marchetto on another job well done. In fact, I think "Honeysuckle Hill" is a superior follow up to "201 Atwater". The author's writing is even better (not that it suffered in any way, shape, or form in the first book), and she seems much more confident working her way through the plot. She juggles so many major and minor plot points here that one is reminded of Dickens in the way she resolves everything at the end. Another Dickens similarity I feel I can make involves the amazing coincidences that unfold from time to time. I sort of took her to task for this in my review of "201 Atwater," but I think the comparison is a valid one. Dickens would offer the reader an astonishing series of events in his books, often involving revelations about how seemingly unconnected major characters would suddenly discover that they were related by blood. Marchetto does the same thing here. It's a little overly sentimental in places, but it's also a sign of tight plotting and serious forethought about writing a book that far too many authors cannot accomplish even after long years of churning out novel after novel.

I'm giving "Honeysuckle Hill" five stars, and I'll go further and state that I found nothing to complain about in the novel. It's tightly plotted, extremely well written, and boasts an assortment of interesting characters. Marchetto's book comes to us through one of those "vanity" publishing houses, but we should be looking for it via a major publisher. In another review I recently wrote, I stated that vanity press books fall into one of two categories. The first is the "Ehh" category, which contains books that fail to engage on many levels for a variety of reasons. The second category, and a much smaller category to boot, is where Marchetto's two books fall. Call it the "Diamond in the rough" or "Needle in the haystack" grouping. Whatever you want to call it, the novels that fall in this category are the reason that I keep reading vanity press books. For every four or five (or ten) mediocre books that I read, I discover a Marchetto and it makes the experience worthwhile. Good job again, Marion! Keep 'em coming!

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