Monday, June 30, 2008

The Wig: Evil Hair. Yawn.

Just when I thought the Koreans could do no wrong when it came to spine-tingling horror exports, along comes The Wig (a.k.a. Gabal), a ponderous flick about two sisters terrorized by a haunted hairpiece.

The film, originally released in South Korea in 2005, tells the tale of Su-hyeon, a woman suffering from leukemia, whose sister and roommate Ji-hyeon gives her a wig to cover the baldness which results from her chemotherapy. But little do either of them know that the wig was actually made from the hair of a suicide victim (gasp!), and thus Su-hyeon begins to take on the characteristics of the hair's original owner (which, needless to say, are not pleasant ones.)

Right off the bat, we've got an inescapably silly premise, and director Shin-yeon Won takes it all way too seriously. While interestingly shot, the pace is discouragingly slow for the most part, and the structure is such that at times the plot can be pretty tough to follow. Then, once you actually figure things out, it all turns out to be so cliche you almost wishe you still didn't know what the heck was going on.

The film's only memorable performance is given by Seon Yu as Ji-hyeon, the perpetually anguished and put-upon sister of the possessed wig-wearing cancer victim. Of course, she puts in her solid performance in spite the maddeningly inexplicable decision of screenwriter Hyun-jung Do to make her character completely mute as a result of a car accident which is vaguely connected to the wig, but never fully explained.

The scares are few and far between, and in this case the marketing of the American DVD as "Unrated" is particularly cynical. There's nothing beyond PG-13 level material here, but when it comes down to it, any foreign film that is released straight to DVD in the U.S. without being submitted to the MPAA for a rating can technically be termed "unrated".

The big revelation near the end manages to be confusing, ludicrous and boring all at the same time. And the final scenes, meant to be both shocking and poignant, are just clumsy.

Director Shin-yeon Won may be a talented stylist, and "one to watch", as some critics have branded him--but his debut The Wig is definitely not a picture that does his nascent skills any justice. He's made two more horror/thrillers since, which are allegedly far better, so he may become a major player in Asian horror despite this lackluster first effort.


Written by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan
Directed by Timur Bekmanbetov
Starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Common and Morgan Freeman

Wesley Gibson: I’m finding it hard to care about anything these days. In fact, the only thing I care about is the fact that I can’t seem to care about anything.

I don’t usually say things like this but there’s just something about WANTED that brings out the boy in me so you’ll just have to indulge me. WANTED is awesome! Seriously. Awesome. Well, it’s awesome and also oddly preachy and condescending out of nowhere. And I guess if I’m being completely honest, it is also ludicrous. I mean, essentially, you’ve got this guy, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) and, unbeknownst to him, he is the son of one of the world’s greatest assassins. Apparently, the ability to hit a target in the most impossible of scenarios is passed on from one generation to the next. (See, I always thought it skipped a generation but I’m hardly an expert on the subject.) Meanwhile, what’s he doing with this gift? Nothing. He is sitting around, wasting his time as a number cruncher in a cramped little box, I mean, cubicle, while letting his supposed best bud get away with nailing his girl on the side. (I apologize if that was offensive to any female readers but WANTED really got my testosterone pumping.) Frankly, I don’t know how this wussy little pushover even managed to get a girlfriend but he can also shoot the wings off flies so his having a girl is pretty believable by comparison. By the way, shooting the wings off flies … awesome!

Really, what is the more ludicrous scenario here? Is it any more unbelievable that there is a thousand year old group of assassins out there who kill bad guys before they fulfill their bad guy destinies than the reality that a vast majority of humanity gives the bulk of their lives away to the bad guys every day, contributing to their own slow deaths? When you think about how many of us are giving up our dreams, our hopes and our control over our own lives, it’s a wonder more of us don’t get up and become killing machines. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I work in one of these lovely boxes. I swear, every day I’m there, it’s getting a little smaller. So yeah, my friends had to hold me down to stop me from standing and cheering loudly when Gibson grows a pair and tells his boss to stick it before slamming his ergonomic keyboard into his best friend’s face. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t want to tell everyone I work with (who hopefully never read my work) exactly what I think of them before breaking out into a musical number with full choreography announcing my departure.

Uh, sorry, my testosterone must have dipped there for a second. No problem though. Another screening of WANTED will fix that. Contemporary visual innovator, Timur Bekmambetov, crams so much manliness into his first Hollywood feature that men everywhere who see it will inevitably walk out with their hands firmly grabbing their crotches. They may even spit. Who knows? You’ve got colliding car chases, furious fistfights, enormous explosions and Angelina Jolie. The best part about all of this is that Bekmambetov ropes it all together with unpredictable ferocity. Sure there are unavoidable MATRIX inspired action scenes but once those are out of the way, the action always feels fresh and excitingly innovative. And while the stunts and scenarios are often shockingly brash, Jolie, as Gibson’s assassin mentor, is controlled and calculated, like a mechanical goddess. She appears to Gibson when he looks away for a second and for a while, it seems like he might be imagining her as a way out of his doldrums. Once she gets a few good punches in on him during training though, it becomes clear that she is definitely there to wake him up but his scars are most certainly not imagined.

WANTED is about wanting something from life, from yourself. It is about not giving in to the conformist existence so many of us fall into and choosing to walk a different path, a more exciting path. Now I don’t think it’s encouraging everyone to leave their desk jobs and kill people professionally. That has to run in your family, remember? There is no mistake though that Bekmambetov wants to wake you up. In fact, he gets a little aggressive on the subject in the film’s final scenes. This is the only thing that irked me about the entire experience. I had already had a blast the whole time that the energy itself was enough to get my blood boiling over the monotony of my weekday life. Up until then, it seemed as though he had sympathy for Gibson and the millions of us out there just like Gibson. But then, all of a sudden, he was pointing the finger directly at me and calling me a loser to my face. Still, maybe getting everyone angry is the only way to get anyone to actually do something about it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

You Will Believe a Fly Can Sing

David Cronenberg's highly improbable yet highly intriguing operatic adaptation of his 1986 masterpiece The Fly is mere days away from debuting on Wednesday at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, amidst a great deal of buzz (sorry!). Such a bizarre concept--I wonder if it will be any good, or if it can be a success. There's certainly enough great talent involved.

Not only is Cronenberg directing, but the music for the opera was written and orchestrated by the film's original composer Howard Shore (acclaimed in recent years for his Lord of the Rings score), and the musical director is none other than Placido Domingo, one of the most important tenors of the 20th century.

Toronto's Globe & Mail has an interesting piece on the opera's impending debut. The article reveals that the story's setting has been changed by Cronenberg back to the 1950s--the era of the original movie version of The Fly--due to its "visual richness." True to Cronenberg's intentions, the opera's librettist David Henry Hwang has retained the horror of the body that distinguished the director's classic.

According to the article, the idea for this bold new treatment came from the operatic nature of Shore's original score, on which Shore, Cronenberg and even the movie's producer Mel Brooks had often remarked.

“I had always thought the movie was like a stage play,” Cronenberg tells the Globe & Mail. “It's three people in a room, a triangle, and the emotions are very intense, very heightened."

The ambitious production will be a fully realized stage piece, complete with bass-baritone Daniel Okelitch as Seth Brundle, singing while in a mutated fly suit and hanging from the rafters in a harness to simulate wall-crawling. It's a far-cry from Puccini, but opera lovers will note that it's not as unorthodox as it may seem, as imagery from the likes of Gounod's Faust or Mozart's Don Giovanni will attest.

The Paris engagement of The Fly will run from Wednesday, July 2 through Sunday, July 13. It will make its American debut at the Los Angeles Opera in September. One wonders--will a traditional opera audience accept the outlandish production? Will it attract those not normally inclined to attend an opera? It'll be pretty fascinating to see how it all plays out.


Written and Directed by Andrew Stanton
Voices by Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy and Sigourney Weaver
Also featuring Fred Willard

Advertisement Announcer: Too much garbage in your face? There’s plenty of space out in space.

To be animated can mean a number of things. While it obviously refers to the artistic process in which still images are strewn together in sequences to appear as though they are moving, it can also mean to bring someone or something to life. Pixar Animation Studios are masters of both of these animated meanings and their genius lies in their seemingly effortless ability to accomplish both of these feats simultaneously. In the studio’s history, they have managed to make toys playful when no one else was looking, the plight of a bunch of ants seem monumental and rats in the kitchen somehow not only normal but entirely justifiable. Despite all of these milestones, Pixar has outdone themselves with their ninth feature, WALL•E. It might be unfair to suggest that no other company could accomplish this but there is certainly no other company that could have done as good a job. WALL•E is short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class and the character himself is a collapsible box with curiously wide eyes that gets around on tank treads and solar power. He may be made up of nothing but rusting metal and parts that need frequent replacing but he is also the most endearing, romantic dreamer that Pixar has ever crafted. You just want to squeeze the little guy. Trust me; the tetanus shot you’d need after that would be totally worth it.

WALL•E takes place about 700 or so years from now. Taking an abnormally critical stance on humanity’s penchant to waste without fear of consequence, three-time Pixar director, Andrew Stanton (A BUG’S LIFE, FINDING NEMO), paints the future earth as being uninhabitable. It seems that somewhere around the year 2100, there will be so much garbage on the planet that not only will we need to stack it as high as the highest skyscrapers but we will also need to vacate the planet until the mess is brought under control. Enter WALL•E. Hundreds of similar units will work over the next six or seven centuries on a job that was only meant to last five years. The humans who once fled have inevitably all passed on but their future generations continue to float through space on giant cruise ships, oblivious to their history and unaware of their present selves. After so much time has passed, humanity has succumbed to its laziest impulses. We no longer require the need to think for ourselves when we have a multi-conglomerate doing it for us or the need to walk from here to there when we have a “hoverchair” to bypass this menial task. Earth is practically a forgotten memory for all but it is still there. Despite being covered in smog and dust and despite also a failed mission to clean up the mess, one WALL•E unit remains to keep the pursuit of love, happiness and hope alive.

WALL•E is an unfortunate loner and even though his closest companion is loyal cockroach, he never loses faith. He presses on every day in his near impossible mission to make earth inhabitable again without discouragement and with a nagging sensation that there is more to life than this. Considering he isn’t actually alive, that’s pretty impressive. When another robot, EVE, arrives on earth to search for signs of sustainable life, WALL•E finally gets the chance to see and understand what that greater meaning might be. Aside from being an eco-friendly science fiction piece, WALL•E is also a moving romance that is unexpected and unmatched by most recent films featuring actual human beings. When WALL•E first sees EVE, he knows it is love at first sight. He proceeds to follow her around everywhere she goes, shyly inching closer towards her whenever he feels the moment might be right. He is like a teenager in love for the first time. He doesn’t know how to make his move, just that he always wants to be around her. There is no desperation born out of ages of loneliness, just a certainty in what is in the air. The courtship of WALL•E and EVE is so innocent and simple that it seems almost silly that we as humans should have such trouble getting it right.

WALL•E’s ride is pretty smooth, full of laughs, touching moments and inspired cinematography (under the meticulous guidance of contemporary visionary, Roger Deakins) but all of this is expected from the Pixar peeps. There is a misguided attempt to incorporate live-action into the mix that adds a slight level of confusion but can do nothing to take away from the deeply satisfying whole. It is quite an extensive journey and it rests on the shoulders of one little waste management robot. WALL•E is unforgettable. His curiosity is matched only by his appreciation for everything in life that humanity has left behind. He may be goofy and clumsy but he is always open to possibility and hope. He is more alive than I am most of the time and the bewilderment and awe that fill his optical devices opened my eyes to things I had stopped seeing altogether. How can so much yearning and wonder come from one little robot, let alone one that is not actually made of real metal but rather drawn that way? WALL•E is simply a marvel to behold and the pinnacle of Pixar’s progressive mission to redefine what it means to animate.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Golden Army Approaches! Hellboy II Third Trailer

Having recently rediscovered the first Hellboy on DVD after forgetting just how terrific it was, I'm more stoked than I thought I would be for Hellboy II: The Golden Army, out in two weeks. The always-reliable unleashed the latest trailer for the Guillermo del Toro comic adaptation sequel last night. Check it out:

I continue to be impressed. Del Toro is a great filmmaker who'd be great no matter what kind of films he chose to make. The fact that he revels in genre filmmaking is a boon to fans everywhere. If you'd like to see more, there's a fantastic comics-style "animated prologue" at Apple's Hellboy II page that takes us back to 1955, when the story of the Golden Army was first told to the young Hellboy. (While you're there, you can also watch the trailer with better resolution.)


Posterchild's new project using the "Stained Glass". He placed a variation of the Stained Glass over HD screens installed over subway entrances in New York. It basically difusses the light of the screen and turns the video ads in an animated stained glass piece.


Friday, June 27, 2008

"My Name Is Bruce" Update!

It seems like we've been hearing forever about the almost mythical film My Name Is Bruce starring horror legend Bruce Campbell. Although shooting was completed some time ago, the production has been stuck in limbo, with no news regarding when or how it will be released.

Now, Horror Yearbook is reporting that the reason for the movie's delay is actually a very good one. Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics is quoted as saying that the studio was so pleased with the finished film (originally intended for DVD) that they ponied up some more money for a second round of shooting, in order to "beef up" the picture for a theatrical release.

Good news for fans of The Chin. It looks like My Name Is Bruce will indeed be coming soon to a theater near you, although the release date remains unknown. Maybe Halloween?

Slam Dunk Competition 2008

It's that time of year again. The Slam Dunk competition is getting crazier! More inventive tricks and even the use of accessories!

Thanks to Jeff Metal for this post.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Music You Should All Be Listening To

Flying Lotus - a new sound coming outta Los Angeles. Electronica-Dub-Laptop based music. Smooth as anything.

The motherfucking Gas Lamp Killer, also from L.A. creates psychedelic-soul-dub hop with a hint of craziness. Just released on the newly formed Obey Records.

J Dilla (Jay Dee) R.I.P. This hip-hop producer was so fucking talented and to have him taken away from us at the tender age of 32 is really sad and a huge loss to the hip-hop community. An amazing artist, whose collaborations with the likes of Madlib (They created Jaylib) will forever be one of my ultimate fave albums.

Monster Delorean

If you actually owned a Delorean, would you want to give it monster wheels & chassis? persoanlly, I wouldn't, but this nutter has obviously decided that bigger is better when you go back to the past and into the future.
(Mad Max would have loved this as his car ;)


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mission to Monroeville, Part 3

Like all things, my magnificent pilgrimage to the famous Monroeville Mall from Dawn of the Dead, had to come to an end. But before I committed to fulfilling my end of the bargain with my dutiful wife and spending a lovely evening/morning in a nearby suburban Pittsburgh B&B, I made sure to make the most of the fleeting time I had left on that suitably bleak day in January of 2001...

A rather humdrum shot, until you realize that this spot figures prominently in the blood-soaked climactic battle between pillaging bikers and put-out SWAT deserters/TV news employees. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is also near the spot where Peter pours a little bubbly out for his fallen homey Roger.

A favorite shot of mine. Imagine my glee upon discovering the actual hallway that led to our heroes' secret upstairs lair (which isn't actually there, by the way.) You can just picture those zombies about to stagger across the end of the hall, can't you? Interestingly, from the opposite angle, the hall goes on a lot further than it did in the movie, which leads me to believe that they must've built a false wall--ironically mirroring the very actions of the characters in the flick. There was also a large auditorium at the end of the hall, which I think was used as Tom Savini's makeup workshop.

This is the main entrance to the mall, which was walled off by tractor trailers in the movie, and later breached by the bikers and hordes of the undead. Unfortunately, it was completely rebuilt, so that the giant glass doors are no longer there. Oddly, I'm wearing a different shirt than in the earlier pics, which can only mean we visited the mall on two different days. Can it be that I abused the missus' good will that grossly? I don't remember it that way, but I suppose it's possible.

And finally, we bid a fond farewell to George Romero's most well-known filming location! The sign at the exit to the parking lot is one of the only places I could still find the classic '70s Monroeville Mall logo, which had been replaced in most other places with a newer one.

As a reminder of the journey, I purchased a winter coat at the mall's Abercrombie & Fitch, which I wore with pride until it was stolen some years later at a house party I attended. I also got a backpack, which I'm glad to say I still own, although I feel a little too old to wear it comfortably in public these days.

Yes, life is all about the passage from one stage to the next, and as we returned from western Pennsylvania to our walk-up apartment in my parents' house in Brooklyn, the symbolism of the moment was palpable. Literally leaving the free-wheeling yet undeniably silly caprices of youth behind me, returning to the place where I hoped to start a family and embrace the more responsible but even more exciting challenges of parenthood, I was ready. I had gotten it out of my system.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's quite late and I really should retire. After all, the kids expect me to be ready first thing in the morning to watch Enter the Dragon, and practice our kung fu moves all over the house.

China Graffiti


Ive been really interested to see how the relatively new style of writing in Chinese characters would evolve over the years. Some of the guys I know, who are trying to promote the interest of Chinese-styled graffiti are Otoss, Xeme, C# & Redy.


The cool thing about panting Chinese is that you can paint a character and it means the same as a full English word. So if you put two or more Chinese characters together, it would be the same as a whole English sentence. The potential for strange tag names is huge.


Although it is in its infancy, I reckon its always a good thing to try and apply influences from your own countries cultures to help progress creativity.


C#, Otoss, Facts, Xeme



Otoss "Sex"

Redy "Italy"

Dr Romanelli X Bearbrick

Normally, I'm not a big fan of Bearbricks, (I only own one 400%), but Dr. Romanelli smashes it with his latest design. Approx. £12 for the small set and £27 for the 400% (28cm tall) version. Not bad going for such a retarded looking bear!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hammer Goes Virtual

An interesting bit of news came in this morning on -- apparently Hammer Films has entered into an agreement with a prominent European gaming company to produce a line of arcade video games based on its legendary films.

At this point, the deal is only for the U.K., which is probably just as well, since the good ol' arcade game has died an ignominious death here in the States thanks to massive improvements on home systems that give gamers little reason to leave the house (aside from experiencing life, meeting girls, exercising, etc.)

I love the idea that you could conceivably play Peter Cushing's Dr. Van Helsing, hunting down a coven of Dracula's brides; or maybe you could be Oliver Reed, tearing through the Spanish countryside on a lycanthropic killing spree; the possibilities are very cool indeed. With the recent MySpace film Beyond the Rave, a series of postage stamps, and now this, Hammer is back in a big way.

The Decapitator

I am loving this guy's work at the moment. The Decapitator has been operating round east London for a while now and he is getting better.

Thought this London Paper hijack was a good alternative way to get up.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cagney's Chaney Sees the Light of Day After a Decade

I thought I'd point out today that James Cagney's excellent Lon Chaney biopic The Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) is being released to DVD tomorrow. The late Cagney classic has been out of circulation since 1998, when it was initially released at the dawning of the digital video age. Since then, it's become very hard to come by, so if you've never seen it, nows your chance.

Although in my opinion the finest leading man of the Hollywood studio era, Cagney grew weary of the endless gangster roles he was so damn good at. And so this project was close to his heart, a chance to stretch his acting chops and show moviegoers all he could do. Some balk at the schmaltziness and general whitewashing of Chaney's career (par for the course for most biopics at the time), but for my money this is one of Cagney's best performances, and that covers a lot of ground.

* * * * * * * * * *

Well, I don't know about you folks, but I've been spending most of the night on YouTube immersed in the national treasure that was George Carlin. It's become cliche when a public figure passes to say that the world will be a little emptier without them, but in this rare case it is literally and irrefutably true. We've really lost something here--one of the greatest humorists in American history, in point of fact. Carlin was scheduled to receive the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this November, and I don't think it's any stretch at all to imagine that ol' Sam Clemens would be damn proud of George Carlin and his body of work. Enjoy:

Tattoo Guns

The tattoo artist needs to be armed with a gun/machine/iron that can translate his concept to the skin and I think that these various machines look and probably work wickedly!

A bit of Steampunk/Death Metal aesthetics by Bernhards Garage Irons. I absolutely love these designs!

Tattoo Gun design by Don Morley

Palm OS Robotic Tattoo Machine

Home-made Prison Tattoo Gun.

And for all those Toy Tattoo Artists, here's something you should probably start on first!