Beware, dear reader: spoilers ahead.

In October 1929, on a Black Tuesday that marked the depth of what economist Irvine Fisher described as the “great plateau,” foreshadowing some pretty heinous irony, (or in other words, embedding what Welles would have described as an excellent plot catalyst) Orson Welles was probably examining the ideal life, trying to understand not only what he was supposed to do with his own, but also how he was supposed to interpret the sort of aimless circumstances he routinely had to contend with. And what he found, clawing through the depths of what he would come to know as loss and abandonment, could have been the origins of something that would one day be meaningful and honest, that the rest of us would be able to look at from the outside in, and see what he never could – an ideal life. A sense of home. Our own cherished Rosebud. Burying both of his parents before the age of 15, at a time when our nation was crumbling to pieces, just before deciding to pack it all up and head across the ocean, I can imagine young Orson coming to the conclusion that an ideal story, and the best kind of performance, comes from a deep yearning for validation.

Citizen Kane wasn’t relevant when it was first released – it was in fact a box office flop, received with such distaste that some circles would actually throw things at the screen whenever it was shown. Citizen Kane would eventually receive the ultimate vindication in the ensuing decades, but at the time it was considered nothing. Lower than nothing. Vilified. Booed on several occasions. People were so angry with the film that Orson was even denounced as a communist by those hoping to get him lynched. If there’s anything we can learn about the production and ultimate success of Citizen Kane (besides the litany of other stuff) it is the fact that tastes change. Relevance is routinely shifted with the times, and we along with it. Welles himself once said,

“In the old days the greatest thing to be was a movie star. Today, the greatest thing in the world to be is a pop-singer. There will never be a great star unless the greatest thing in the world to be is that kind of star. At the end of the last century and before the first World War, the greatest thing in the world to be was an opera singer. People used to faint in the streets when they saw an opera singer. And then there came the movie stars. You see, I think any form of entertainment only exists because it corresponds to a moment in time.”

I couldn’t appreciate Welles until I was much older. I had no precedent for him. Rather, what precedent I did have was from films that had already taken his techniques and made them common – that had mined his methods and refined them so extensively over the years as to make them part of the landscape of contemporary film. It wasn’t until film-studies in college that I discovered why Citizen Kane was even relevant in the first place. I didn’t get it – I had seen the layered dialogue, the tricks of lighting, the editing, the long shots, the extended takes, the usage of cranes, the realistic sets and similar character development done a thousand times before, and done better – it wasn’t anything special. I hadn’t realized that what I would come to understand as contemporary film wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Welles barging into Hollywood the way that he had, pissing everybody off. I remember a few years back how everyone was impressed with the frenetic editing of the Bourne Ultimatum, and how revolutionary it was. Orson was doing similar cuts forty years earlier in his film Chimes of Midnight.

One of my first experiences with film was pretty definitive. My mom had some business or other to attend and plopped me with the nearest willing neighbor, who could think of nothing better to do but plunk me in front of the old CRT and VCR, stick in the first cassette she could find and hit the play button. I watched, rapt, helplessly ensnared by what unfolded until the film was over and the credits finished rolling. When the cassette clicked the end of its tape, the VCR would automatically rewind back to the beginning, instantly replaying the film, starting the whole process over again. And so I sat for at least six hours, perhaps longer. I watched the film, click, rewind, play and watched again. I didn’t have to do anything but sit there – the VCR did the rest. Five years after Orson’s death, at six years of age, in an apartment belonging to a person I had never seen before, I fell hopelessly in love with the medium he helped pioneer. That film was Predator.

It would be a ridiculously stupid mistake comparing the two men, John Mctiernan and Orson Welles, considering Mctiernan’s recent prison entanglements and Orson’s unquestionable genius. There’s no comparison, and I don’t want to give the impression that this was my intention. But screw it, let’s do it anyway.

It is interesting to note the contrary arc of each director’s career. Aside from being assigned writer Shane Black as a chaperon, Mctiernan was given absolute confidence of the Hollywood machine. Welles was countlessly written-off by it. Mctiernan was essentially enabled by his producers while Welles was continuously stifled by them. Mctiernan’s career came to a crashing halt while Orson’s accelerated into the annals of filmmaking legend forever. Both men were essentially directors who ended up specializing in hammed up B-pictures. Both Citizen Kane and Predator were equally hated by critics upon release, only to earn more respect over time.

I think both men would agree that the success or failure of a film isn’t entirely a credit to its direction. You must have the right producer, for the right actors, for the right author, for the right script, for the right production crew – the stars have to align just right and, with a little bit of luck, you may end up with something special. It’s a collaboration which partly has to do with the director, but primarily has to do with the whole, unless, as Welles liked to put it, there were those rare occasions when an exceptional director came along – one who was comfortable handling everything. For Citizen Kane, Orson had Greg Toland and his Mercury troop; Mcteirnan had Donald McAlpine and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Even still, at the onset of Predator’s production, I can just as easily imagine a younger Mctiernien burning in the same need for validation in which Welles burned when he decided to forego stage acting, and conquer Hollywood. In fact, I don’t really have to imagine it – it’s in plain sight, immortalized forever in B-movie one-liners, hyper-masculine machismo, brutal death-scenes and spectacular firefights. I don’t believe Mcteirnan had any delusions about what kind of picture he was expected to make when he was handed the unfinished script, but I believe he wanted to make it special. If it was going to be a B-horror/creature-feature, he was determined to make it the best B-horror/creature-feature ever made. What the actors, writers, and producers pulled off was nothing short of a masterpiece, considering the source material. A flawed masterpiece, perhaps, but a masterpiece nonetheless.

Again, there’s no comparing Mctiernan and Welles. Hell, there isn’t even a justifiable comparison between the films. It would be pointless to even begin to try. That’s not really what this is about. Since I wanted to talk about masterpieces of film, I couldn’t get away with not mentioning the greatest masterpiece of all. Predator was a great film, maybe even the greatest, but what made Citizen Kane and Predator great movies are completely different circumstances: Citizen Kane was great because Orson Welles was great. Predator was great because it corresponded to the most appropriate moment in time.

Orson liked the occasional B-picture – he wrote many, directed few – and I’d like to believe that he would have enjoyed this one. The biggest trick Predator pulled off was masking its very deep philosophical questions with an actionfest exterior. The way things are in Hollywood, I gather that artists can’t get away with affecting us on an emotional level anymore without violently snatching our attention. The money wouldn’t be there otherwise. Art typically sells a couple hundred grand at the box office, maybe a few million if it’s lucky. Unfortunately, the mass market doesn’t go to the movies to see art. We go to be dazzled. We pay billions to have our belief suspended, to see unbelievable and impossible things . That’s another lesson from Citizen Kane. Sure, you could go out and make the greatest film in history, but you will never pull as much revenue as spectacle. The trick is, if you’re an artist with something to say, to get the financial backing you need in order to have a voice, you have to convince people that you’re planning to give them all spectacle, while sneaking the rest through the back door – Orson knew this, and actually resorted to lying about making Treasure Island at one point so that he could get the money to make Macbeth.

The goal for the artist is to sell the spectacle, so that you can then make the art. Predator is like that. From the opening shot of the alien aircraft descending into the dark jungle, to the closing shot of the human aircraft rising out of it, the structure of Predator is a closed loop, shedding more light on the brutal nature of survival than any other film.

The idea for Predator was initially meant as a joke: someone remarked after the release of Rocky IV that the only people left for Rocky to beat up were aliens. Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas heard the idea, and immediately began brainstorming different ways to tell such a story. It’s very similar to a short story called The Most Dangerous Game, in which a man is hunted on an island by a wealthy big-game enthusiast, only Jim and John tell it from a perspective of a man being hunted in a jungle by an extraterrestrial intelligence.

The movie opens with a group of commandos being choppered into a jungle that looks very similar to Vietnam or Southeast Asia. Out steps the cadre of badasses, ready to help dish out your typical AHnold fanfare. The chopper’s landing-zone is mired with humanity – Iron I-beam tetrahedrons spreading across the beach, soldiers bedecked in contrast military regalia everywhere accompanied by stark military vehicles whipping along the jungle’s border. The rainforest looms overhead like a dark cloud of uncertainty, stretching off into the inky blackness therein.

Schwarzenegger’s character Dutch is immediately isolated as the lead – the biggest, most quintessential schematic of masculinity in the entire film. He’s briefed by an old war buddy turned CIA liaison named Dillon, played by Carl Weathers. He explains to Dutch that a group of South American cabinet ministers have crash landed somewhere in the jungles of Guatemala. Their mission is to go in, find ‘em, and get ‘em out safely. There are obviously plot twists, but they’re merely a call-to-action, a way to get the story into the deep dark jungle where all the fun can happen.

This brief exchange at the beginning is relevant, however, and segues nicely into my first point: In those first few minutes, we’re shown that one, Dutch is a passionately loyal leader. Two, he has a very strong code of ethics (his unit is solely an operational rescue detachment, not a strike force). Three, that he is driven, competitive (arm-wrestling match with Dillon), shrewd, intelligent and rational (he’s skeptical about the cabinet minister story, and as soon as Dillon informs Dutch that he’ll be tagging along, friendship-mode is immediately deactivated). Four, he’s a perfect image of the human male – the perfect balance of intelligence, honor and strength.

What Predator did that no other film accomplished before it, was implement the literary concept of “tagging” to such success that it would serve as an example for how it was supposed to be done from then on. Every character in the film was relevant, memorable, and distinguishable from each other. They weren’t contrived. They weren’t corny. They were detailed in such a way that utilized the least amount of exposition and narrative as possible – which left more room for spectacle. Predator pulled this off perfectly.

We saw that each character was given a defining moment through some dialog, and also a physical tether that not only attached them to the story, but differentiated them from every other character. It was seamless, clever, and perfect. This method of characterization wasn’t anything new – movies and television serials have been doing it for… well, since Orson’s day – but none before Predator had anyone pulled off that kind of characterization with as much economy. Jesse Ventura had maybe six lines of dialog, yet we knew and could identify with his character Blain, and thus care when he was taken out of the picture. Everything about Blain told a backstory – the tobacco he was chewing, the resentment he had for Dillon, his snakeskin boots, his safari hat, his MTV t-shirt, his close friendship with Mac, even his dialog –  which still consists of one of the most famous lines in modern cinema,

“I ain’t got time to bleed…”

It’s sheer badassery – he’s somebody we can look up to, somebody we could definitely turn to if shit hits the fan. But it doesn’t stop with Blain. You have Sonny Landham’s character, Billy – expert tracker, realist, brave and fatalistic. Interesting sidenote: when Billy was having his Sergeant Rock moments, peering into the trees as if he had some sort of psychic perception – there wasn’t anything supernatural about how he was sensing the predator. He was such an extremely effective tracker that he saw the Predator while it was cloaked , and unconsciously recognized that something was wrong with the landscape – something that he couldn’t articulate in any meaningful way, simply because he had never seen anything like it before.

You had Blain’s friend, Sergeant Mac – played by Bill Duke – who was tagged in one of the film’s more memorable moments, when the razor broke on his cheek, drawing blood. Then there was Hawkins, played by Shane Black, who had the giant glasses and comic books. Poncho, who had the tiger-stripe facepaint and grenade launcher.

Not only were each of the actors brilliantly tagged with things we could recognize them by, they each had excellent, character defining lines, and character defining moments – Blain’s chaw spit and minigun; Aside from the razor, Mac killing the scorpion on Dillon’s shoulder, and his impassioned oath to the moon; Dillon’s redemption; Hawkins’ glasses and his jokes; Billy drinking from the severed vine, and later drawing his own blood in preparation for battle with the Predator. Anna telling the story about El cazador trofeo de los hombres, the Demon Who Makes Trophies of Men.

It was as if each actor were written as the same character, just expressed at different volumes, entirely capable of carrying the plot of their own film. This was probably an accident, mind you – the script was originally written with Schwarzenegger running around the jungle alone – he didn’t like that idea, and asked before committing to the project that it be rewritten to have a squad of commandos, instead of just one guy. In either case, it worked out splendidly, but here’s where it really gets fun.

As the men move deeper into the jungle, you begin to notice that there is more and more flora between the camera and the actors. It’s subtle, but look closely. It’s rare that you don’t see a shot in the film in which there isn’t some jungle obstructing at least a part of the actors from view. It gets more noticeable as the film progresses. The jungle slowly takes over each frame, becoming more flora and less actor, until finally Arnold sheds his clothing, covers himself head to toe with leaves and mud, and completely separates any boundary between he and the jungle. The thing is, as the soldiers get farther away from civilization, they gradually melt into their environment, essentially becoming a part of it.

You see, one of the recurring themes in the film is this notion that the jungle makes animals of us all. The bravado, all of the badass testosterone and machismo mean nothing in that dark milieu of teeth, where everything – from the largest animal to the smallest blade of grass – has been selected by millions of years of evolution to eat you, suck the nutrients out of your corpse, and decompose your empty husk back into the closed system of life. All of our psychological constructs – chivalry, honor, decency, face, justice, duty, friendship, pity, guilt and humor – mean nothing to the jungle. These concepts are luxuries of a big protein-dependent brain, which has over the course of its existence thought its way out of the darkness and into civilization.

You take a modern man and put him in the jungle on his own for an extended period of time, that man will not survive unless he knows how to strip himself of his ideals. He cannot expect to live unless he remembers what it’s like to be an animal again.  As the film progresses, the commandos are systematically stripped of concepts such as macho and badass, and slowly succumb to the terror by which our ancestors have survived. Their pithy, wise-ass one liners completely disappear near the end of the film, giving way to cries of terror and exigency. Those who resist this transition die.

Billy can’t let go of his sense of honor, and dies. Mac can’t let go of his sense of revenge, and dies. Hawkins can’t let go of his sense of chivalry, and dies. Dillon can’t let go of his need for redemption, and dies. Blain can’t let go of his arrogance, and dies (remember, a complacent Blain snickers at the porcupine just before lowering his guard). The reason Arnold survives is because he’s the exception, not the rule. He’s the ideal human, not the mean. He simultaneously deconstructs himself while holding onto the deadly strategic presence of thought that makes humanity in fact the most dangerous game in the universe. The reason our species has survived the brutal process of natural selection is not because we have the biggest muscles – it’s because we have the biggest brain. Instead of adapting our bodies to nature, we have figured out ways to adapt nature to us.

The Predator in this film represents the jungle, which is really quite alien when you think about it. It’s a place where strange, chitinous, crawly things with pincers, antennas, bristling arachnid appendages, and hollow venom-filled teeth can be found literally everywhere. Under every stone, inside every tree, and floating in every source of water are parasitic rubbery things capable of burrowing into your flesh. Viruses. Flesh eating bacteria. Neurotoxic plants.  Venomous spiders as big as your face. The jungle is a closed recycling bin of caloric energy, and you’re simply a meal. Part of what the Predator represents in this film is nature in its rawest, most prehistoric form.  Part of what Dutch represents is humanity’s endless war with nature. You have to understand that what makes us human is our ability to bend nature to our will – to understand how it works so that we can defy it, and thus create the meaning of our own existence. That’s Dutch: the ideal human who remembers what it’s like to be an animal, but doesn’t forget what brought us out of the jungle in the first place.

The Predator is also a dichotomy of two concepts. Part of what the alien represents is nature, and the other part is us. You have to also realize the most arresting, mind-melting part of the film is the complete annihilation of conventional action fare. Imagine for a moment if Arnold and the Predator reversed roles, and the Predator was a human on a foreign planet, taking out an army of alien combatants. There is one movie that describes this situation perfectly: In First Blood Part II, Sylvester Stallone’s character Rambo escapes a POW camp and, after burying his beautiful, in-country attaché under a cairn of stones, he conducts almost a ritual of tying a strip of her red dress around his head like bandanna, and then goes on a murderous rampage, picking off Russians and Vietnamese one at a time with his bow and combat knife. At one point, Rambo is like an invisible wraith of the jungle – a Predator, even – bursting out of the landscape to bury his blade into the throat of an unsuspecting soldier, or snap another soldier’s neck.

What Mctiernan and company accomplished made every action flick that followed almost a parody of itself. In Predator, the humans play roles typical of what most villains are assigned in other action flicks. The Predator plays the role of your typical action-hero – an unstoppable force of violence, an army-of-one with his own unique code of honor, cleverly dispatching the enemy one at time through various methods. He even chooses to have a man-to-man battle of honor with Dutch at the end, dropping all of his weapons (he could have easily blasted Dutch’s face off, or chopped him in half with his wrist-blade, or snapped his neck against the tree whilst holding him a foot off the ground). The Predator, we realize, exhibits a courtesy not even the most heroic of our action heroes would give, thus single-handedly ending a genre – with very few exceptions (Aliens being one of them). Predator is a masterful destruction of the eighties action film.

I forgot this was god forsaken blog-post, not a thesis paper – I was planning to get into more detail. Look, there’s nothing special about Mctiernan. What’s special about Predator is how everything sort of accidentally fell together in a hodgepodge mess of perfection. Orson made the greatest motion picture in history because he’s a genius. Quentin Tarantino made one of the greatest motion pictures in history because he’s a flippin’ genius. Mctiernan made one of the greatest motion pictures in history because he was lucky as hell. He would later go on to ultimately seal the action-genre’s fate with Die Hard a few years later, but that’s another story.

How Predator turned out to be such a psyche job is nothing short of a movie miracle, which ended up inspiring a whole generation of filmmakers.  Keep in mind that if Predator hadn’t happened, James Cameron wouldn’t have thought to make Aliens the way he did – which ended up being a far crisper, more exciting film simply because it expanded on the style of characterization, relentless storytelling and themes in Predator. The method of characterization combined with the phenomenal cinematography used to tell an action/slasher story was something nobody saw coming, not even the producers. Not only was the story gripping – something happened on every single page of that manuscript, which moved the plot in a way that was fluid and organic – there was nothing forced about it.

Maybe I’m biased. I mean, there’s no question I’m biased. Predator is my Rosebud, so I’m obviously going to try and champion it. But I truly believe that great films are rare, perhaps even unnoticeable at first. Similar to what happened with Citizen Kane, what’s great will ultimately be determined by the passage of time. Looking back from where I am now, there’s no denying that Predator was a great film. In my heart it’s the greatest.

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There are three types of movies out there (at least for the purpose of this blog).

The first type (let’s call it mass-market consensus, which is a movie everyone in the bell segment of this particular curve can agree is pretty, more or less okay and buyable) is fairly simple: as the spectacle grows laterally across our culture – after it crosses several  dimensions of difference and becomes an international thing –  the film transcends the word-of-mouth market paradigm and gets fetishized,  franchised, and ends up sticking in the annals of pop-culture for eternity – thus affecting our culture, and even changing the way movies are made from then on. These are movies like Avatar, Batman, Star Wars, Star Trek , Matrix, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Gladiator, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Aliens. You’ve seen these flicks featured on most Best Films of Whathaveyou lists countless times. These are the greatest movies in their genre (or any genre) that appeal to the largest market chunk - the greatest movies ever made , the crème de medium, the trope makers, the genre benders…

The point is, everyone has heard of these flicks. They make it onto everybody’s best film lists, they age well, and every time you happen across them on TV, you’ll stop and watch for a bit. Good flicks that are attached to your very identity, childhood, friendships, templates for masculinity, femininity and adventure…

The second type is just as simple. These are the movies you love, that everybody else hates. The anti-blockbuster. The movies that only appeal to the smallest few, that are only significant to a tiny substructure of the market. You hardly ever see them on any lists, and they generally rate low on the various observational report surveys like Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon and Metacritic. But you love these movies, even if you don’t have any delusions about their nature. They’re bad and shoddily produced, horribly written with terrible acting, but none of that matters within the context of your enjoyment.  These are the Garbage Pail Kids, Earnest Goes to Jail, Howard the Duck, Street Fighter, and… well, most Van Damme movies. They’re awesome, but not in any way that you could justifiably articulate in public – ego/social-pride entanglements and all that…

The third type is a bit complicated. These are pretty good movies that, for whatever reason – be it poor marketing, shitty release date, low budget or a small box-office window – never seem to catch on. They’re not bad, but the deterministic threads of fate have unfolded in a way that yielded the least amount of public awareness, which pushed them to the wayside of more sensationalized, mass-market blockbusters from the first category. They missed that blockbuster train, but never caught on enough to develop a cult following like the second category – so they languish in that weird margin of half-forgotten intellectual-properties, waiting for their chance to one day be refurbished into a television series.

These are the movies I’m more interested in, because they’re often the most rewarding to find - good flicks that most people have probably never heard about, that deserve some reinvigoration. So, in honor of that margin of unkowability, here’s my Best Of list: The Nine Best Science Fiction Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen – listed in order of awareness-probability, from less to more:

No Escape (1994)

No Escape happened in 1994, when Ray Liotta was still experiencing the upswing of his Goodfellas success – before the dark Revolver and In the Name of the King days. NE was an opportunity  for Liotta to break out of his lowlife gangster typecast and become an A-listing action star, and he didn’t do too bad of a job.

NE was adapted from a novel called The Penal Colony by Richard Herley. It’s essentially a futuristic prison movie about a privatized and unregulated system that leaves prisoners on an island in the middle of nowhere to die. The culture of the island splits into two camps, as they contend with the forces of scarcity – the tournament, cannibalistic side called The Outsiders, and the pair-bonding, reciprocally altruistic side called The Insiders.  The Outsider camp is run by a steely eyed Marek, played by an excellent  Stuart Wilson – while the Insiders are led by Lance Henriksen’s Gandhi-like character called The Father. Naturally, these camps battle each other for access to resources and control of the island, and remain largely ignored by the prison administration as long as they don’t try to escape. Think Lord of the Flies mixed with equal parts Escape from New York.

Liotta plays Robbins, an ex-marine who’s sentenced to this island-prison after assassinating his commanding officer. Naturally, Robbins is caught in the middle of camp conflict, which kicks the plot into motion – secrets are learned, hijinks ensue, heads roll… it’s a good time. There are more highbrow themes at play here (womanless and homo-androgynous society – not a single woman in this flick –  the dangers of privatized penal-systems, nihilism, fervent nationalism, universal absolutism, constitutional objectivism, the morality of following unethical orders) but it’s subtle and not all up in your grill about it. It’s great action, above average dialogue (some really good lines) clearly defined characters, above average acting and… just plain old fun. It’s a good flick that went generally unnoticed during all of the Forest Gump and Pulp Fiction excitement.

Carriers (2007)

This was a poorly communicated idea, commercially – I actually thought that it was another zombie apocalypse movie. There are no zombies in this one, for better or worse. I mean, it’s thematically the same thing – but it accomplishes what most zombie flicks try to communicate without… zombies – when you think about it, the zombies in most zombie flicks aren’t detrimental to what the stories are trying to convey – it’s just one method for telling that particular narrative – because the idea is usually small-group isolation and survival. You can essentially substitute the zombie trope with anything that forces the characters into isolation, where they have to learn to work together in order to survive.

Carriers is basically a viral pandemic flick starring Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) and that SHHMMMOOKIN’ hot chick from Coyote Ugly. It’s really, really well acted. Since there is no threat of brainless cannibals, there’s significantly less action. Story follows a group of young folks on a road-trip after a nameless plague wipes out civilization. Things get a bit intense when the group comes across other people – and since the virus is extremely hard to detect in its early stages, it’s impossible to know who’s infected and who isn’t. The cadre of travelers survive by a very simple premise - the infected are already dead. They travel across the countryside in a moving quarantine – rubber gloves, medical masks and buckets of bleach – avoiding others as much as they can. Their destination? A childhood beach resort, where they can wait out the desolation in peace.

The film is a thought piece. The idea is whether or not our ethics and morality can survive under world-ending circumstances. Most of these zombie/end-of-the-world flicks see humanity, human decency and society as mutually exclusive. If one collapses, the other soon follows. Carriers handles this theme a bit differently than most zompoc flicks – which usually tend to fetishize the rise of fascism, brutality, marauders, bandits,  and cutthroat-destruction in the wake of a societal collapse. What Carriers says is probably a bit darker – which is ironic, considering its tone and low body count – which is the idea that, in the direst situations, the decision between indifference and adhering to our moral standards is the same thing as deciding between life and death. Indifference means life to most people, and staying true to our ethical structure of morals usually means death – which is pretty horrifying when you think about it. The Samurai had a similar way of thinking about honor…

It’s sad. But good.

Primer (2004)

Primer is a time-travel story, and arguably one of the most accurate in terms of functionally demonstrable science. It’s about a couple of engineers who are trying to build a device that lowers an object’s mass, which unforeseeably creates a mechanism that allows things to travel back in time. The movie was written and directed by an actual engineer, Shane Curruth  – which is probably why it’s so eerily plausible. The man has science on his side, after all (interesting side-note, not only did Curruth star in Primer, he was also one of the main consultants for last year’s Loopers, which was another phenomenal time travel story starring JGL and The BWILLIS).  Primer had an exceptionally low-budget (cost of production was $7,000, which sounds insane in the wake of this current $200 million dollar production budget trend) and the acting is… okay. But that’s not the point. The point is that this is a puzzle – and a satisfying puzzle at that, with many layers. It almost watches like a documentary – the editing and cinematography are really grainy and lacking flare – which works well enough, and doesn’t distract the story. It might be slow for some, but I personally like my sci-fi in two flavors – slow, or fast. Slow, heady, intense and dramatic sci-fi like 2001 space odyssey, Alien, and Solaris – all good – and fast sci-fi like Fifth Element, Predator and T2.

Primer is of the former.

Big concepts aplenty, here - like the causality of things that have yet to happen doubling back to our present to affect paradoxes in the future, triggering the collapse of temporal causalities into nonexistence, which threaten the fabric of reality and… well, fun stuff that merit several viewings. If you like your mind blown, you’ll like this.

Strange Days (1995)

There was a brief period in the nineties when the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction had a pretty decent run – there was… Strange Days, Johnny Mnemonic (terrible) Hackers and… well, I think it culminated with The Matrix –  which ended up killing the genre simply because it couldn’t be topped (not even by its sequels, apparently). There were more cyberpunk flicks (mostly anime), but these received the most attention. Strange Days came about during the initial wave of millennium-paranoia – which serves nicely as an ominous backdrop for the story – the idea that the world as we knew it was, you know – going to end at the stroke of midnight, Jan 1 2000. We recently experienced a similar yet brief acceleration in this market during the 2012 Mayan calendar crap.

Under its surface, Strange Days is actually a pretty thought provoking film with some serious weight behind it – directed by Kathryn Bigelow (the woman who made Hurt Locker) written and produced by James Cameron. Strange Days has a cool narrative device called SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) that allows users to record their experiences and sell them to others who can then live vicariously through their memories.

The plot is basic detective noire/thriller set in the near future (well, now our past) – an ex-cop named Nero – played by Ralph Fiennes – is targeted by a serial killer who uses the SQUID technology while dispatching his victims – said psychopath taunts Nero with macabre recordings of his nasty expressions until a pretty satisfying climax. Angela Basset is in this too, and she does a lot of spin-kicks – spin-kicks the crap out of an extremely androgynous chick/dude with dreadlocks, if I remember right. SD deals with virtual reality themes and immersion – the blending of biology and technology – addiction, isolation, celebrity, police brutality and racism.

It was a good sci-fi movie that went overlooked by many. Check it out.

Moon (2009)

This movie is all Sam Rockwell (directed by a guy named David Jones, who is David Bowie’s son, I guess).  I’ve heard naysayers dismiss Moon as a 2001 Space Odyssey rip-off, but it’s not. A lot of us missed this one, unfortunately – I loved the trailer and thought that it set a decent hook, but I can see how people could have gotten bored with it. I think the whole claustrophobic, single character narrative with a HAL 2000-like robot (whose name is Gerty in the film, voiced by Kevin Spacey) gave people the impression that it wasn’t anything new or worth watching – it really isn’t new per se – doesn’t break any new ground – but it harkens back to a time when science fiction was taken seriously, when it was all about the performance- which is a refreshing shift from all the hyper, overdriven robot-ninja stuff that Michael Bay enjoys making (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s a lot of fun, and even more fun watching Rockwell at the top of his game.

Moon is about a miner named Sam Bell who’s getting ready to return home after a three year shift rotation harvesting a mysterious clean-energy phlebotinum on the moon. Weird shit starts to go down after he loses satellite contact with Earth and equipment begins to malfunction. Bell’s sanity is called into question when he starts seeing clones of himself running around doing stuff.  It’s an awesome movie – obviously written out of love of science-fiction with Hitchcockian themes. Moon is all about feeling isolated and thinking about home – and about what happens to the human mind after years of being alone and feeling claustrophobic.

Try this one out – you’ll love it.

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

This movie is one of a kind, done in a cell-shading animation style called Interpolated Rotoscoping - which is a style I’ve only seen used here. It’s a dystopian thriller with arcing themes of isolation, social-identity, authoritarianism, deception and addiction – but it has its comedic moments. Starring Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr – the future of ASC is under the constant invigilation of an ultra-invasive big-brother type network of surveillance – the purpose of which is to seemingly identify the traffic of a new drug called Death, which suffers its users degrading brain function while simultaneously giving feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Keanu’s character – Bob Archer – is an undercover narcotics investigator who becomes addicted.

This is another adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel – that dude’s brain is like gold, by the way – pumping out more marketable IP than Jay Z, George Lucas and James Cameron combined. Seriously, more sci-fi movies are made out of his books than any other author (apart from, you know – Stephen King and… Shakespeare) – Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner, The Adjustment Bureau… among others. I guess A Scanner Darkly is an allegory for Philip K Dick’s drug days or something, but this is a digression. From Richard Linklater, the same guy who directed School of Rock – so he’s obviously going to capture the funny stuff – but it still remains… tragic.

Most people I talk to haven’t seen this one, which is a shame. Great movie.

Sunshine (2007)

This is one of my absolute favorite movies OF ALL TIME – definitely in my top five. Sure, the third act is sort of bogged down by a shitty slasher catalyst, and sure, the science isn’t entirely accurate  – but the first two acts, combined with perfect direction and amazing performances by an excellent cast – and an awesome climax – completely overshadow any of this film’s fallibilities – not to mention that it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

Set in the year 2057 – a Q-Ball (A large blob of bosonic particles that resist fission and evaporation) collides with our sun, preventing it from fusing lighter elements into heavier ones, which causes it to die out… or something. The point is – the sun is dying, and a multi-cultural collection of astronauts is sent to reignite the fusion process within its core with a stellar bomb roughly the size of Manhattan.

It’s a space-movie about a crew of scientists on a suicide mission to save the Earth. As they get closer to delivering their payload, stress builds and group-dynamics unfold in exciting and interesting ways – the themes are pretty straight forward – self-sacrifice, the indomitable human spirit, the majesty of nature and the existence of God.

In this editor’s humble opinion, Sunshine is one the best unknown movies in the past decade. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself the favor…

Children of Men (2006)

I don’t know if the things I look for in movies are the right things to look for? I don’t know if what I value in a story can even be measured by the same standards that professional critics have – I just know what I like. And I really like movies that create an exigent need for their resolution (in a good way) – that can pull me into what’s happening on screen on an emotional level – complete immersion, is what I’m going for – the next best thing to a book for escapism – those moments when reality sort of blends into undifferentiated experience, and you’re there, and it’s real, and nothing else matters.  There are two scenes in Children of Men that are so complex, I can’t even begin to fathom the level of detail, choreography, blocking and planning necessary for pulling them off – some of the best seamless, single shot sequences I’ve ever seen: the car ambush, and the urban battle during the film’s climax. I’m drawn in every time, and the world just melts away, and I’m rapt.

Children of Men is another dystopian vision, which handles the apocalypse a bit differently – Imagine a future in which regulator sequences of our genetic code shut off reproduction.  Women stop becoming pregnant, and society crumbles into a hopeless pile of heartache – I mean, things keep working – people still go through the motions – but it’s like everyone is dead inside.

Enter the first pregnant woman in twenty years, along with the plot catalyst. Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Children of Men is probably one of the most tragically ignored movies of all time. Of ALL TIME. I’m laying the melodrama on a little thick you say? Alright, I’ll stop.

The situation is, Mr. Owen’s character happens along a complex web of political intrigue, as an Underground Weathermen sort of movement endeavors to use said pregnant woman as a tool for their agenda – which is basically to snub the fascist, isolationist English regime that is contending with an influx of immigrants from all over the place, since it’s the only government left standing.

My wife and I saw this movie when it came out, thinking it was going to be huge – nope. Crickets. I understand it’s gathered some semblance of a cult following since its box-office flop, but if you haven’t seen this move, you have to. You. Just. Have to.

Dredd (2012)

Nobody saw this movie. You want to know why? 1995 Judge Dredd, is why. Look, people – you have to research your movies the same way money-market managers pick stocks – No time to research movies?  NO EXCUSE! The more we go see the good ones in the theaters, the more production companies will make… good movies. Granted, the stench of Sylvester Stallone’s version still lingers, but you have to be a meteorologist with this shit – this movie was pinging promising – promising­ – alert signals that indicated it was going to be effin’ amazing – Alex Garland wrote the script, Peter Travis was slated to direct – filmed on location in Johannesburg – and Karl Urban as the lead (give him a break, he’s a good actot – he’s just offered crappy scripts). And the dude who wrote the comic book was going to be involved with the film’s production this time – his input was not allowed in the craptastic 1995 crapfest. O ye, of little faith – I KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO BE AWESOME. But it flopped – people were scared… I understand. No hard feelings.

Dredd was pretty straight forward – two Judges (future police officers vested with the power to sentence criminals on the spot, even to death) are trapped inside of a building controlled by a drug-lord named Mama (played by the very talented Lena Headey) and, naturally, in classic comic book fashion, they have to shoot their way out. There’s no subplot, no camp, awesome soundtrack – character motivation is cut and dry – it’s just a good old fashioned, futuristic action flick. I know that hyperviolence doesn’t sit well on the palate of some, but… it’s good.  Trust me.

That’s my list – feel free to incite discussion below. If you like what you see, head over to my facebook page ( ) and give it a like, or you can subscribe to my RSS feed up and to the right.

Thanks for reading folks – LET’S SEE YOUR LISTS! DON’T BE SHY!

I was parsing the quality of some movies with a friend a few days ago. You know how it goes – us consumers often measure things against the standards by which all other things of equal categorization are judged – books to books, music to music, cars to cars, apples to oranges, and… movies to movies. I made the argument that the recent rendition of Dredd was of better quality, better writing (Alex Garland penned the script) better soundtrack, better story, better acting, cooler characters, more faithful to its original canon, and had a far superior ending than The Dark Knight Rises. While I agree that TDKR isn’t a bad film – I have to admit that the ending was a letdown – Dredd simply scored higher ticks on the badass-o-meter, in my opinion. If you missed Dredd in the theaters, I could guess why – the trauma of the Stallone version had probably been etched onto your memory forever. You’re not the only one who thought this – Unfortunately, Dredd flopped in the box-office – too few people wanted to risk their hard earned cheddar on a movie that pinged the entire spectrum of crap-indicators. Unless Dredd turns around and obliterates Bluray/DVD sales-projections, there will be no sequels (there were two planned) which is a shame – it was an excellent movie. If you missed it in on the big-screen, definitely go check it out on Bluray – great movie, and like I said, much better than TDKR.

Anywho, the discussion got me thinking. I wondered what sort of irreverent things people had to say about some of the most highly regarded movies ever made. Talking shit about Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is borderline sacrilege in some circles – but there are people out there who absolutely loathe the franchise. There are folks scattered around who hate Shawshank Redemption. I wanted to know what those people had to say.

It’s a simple process: 1) think of a well-respected film. 2) Look it up on 3) Select the one-star reviews. 4) Absurd representations ensue:

It’s horrible, I know – but what can I do? It’s also hilarious:

Let’s start with The Lion King.

El Conquistador laments:

Please do not buy this movie, it is anti-american and perpetuates a state where only the elite are well off and lower classes are discriminated agains.

1. The hyenas far outnumber the lions. Even though they wanted Scar as the 'president,' the only rightful rulers were from an elitist bloodline. Once Simba comes back, he throws Scar to his death, reminicent of the struggles of the persian Sultans of the 1600's. I do not want my children to learn such things.

2. There were two characters that could be identified as 'black' one of the hyenas, portrayed as low class, filthy and illeterate being. We are forced to hate this character and to chear at their misfortune. Also, you have the baboon, an outcast of society, just left alone to his own non-mainstream (white-society) world view. This shows unabridged bigotry.

4. The evil that is Disney. To try to create an artificial demand for their products Disney only does limited time releases of their movies before they go into the "vault". This way Disney forces your hand into buying their DVD's for fear of never having another chance to buy them again. If you think that is symbolic of a fair market then great, but I know that this ploy is not in place to help out consumers, it is there to squeeze out money from the little guys. Those who want it after it's in they 'vault' are forced into an unriliable and unsafe secondary market.

3. False advertising. Disney advertise a great new song for the DVD release. What they provided us with absolute garbage plain and simple.

What the eff? Okay, okay – Moving quickly along, here’s another one for The Lion King from Schieftain :

Does anyone care what kids are unconsciously learning from movies like this? Yes, Disney did a fine job of blending great animation, music, humour, and plot. But what messages are children learning in this movie?

Children love the music in this movie. Just show it to your kid enough times and they'll be going around the house singing the songs and acting out the characters. Three of the most notable songs are windows into the personalities and agendas of the main characters. There's Scar's song when he's singing to the hyenas about how everything will be great when he becomes the new king, and how he's going to achieve this by killing King Mufassa. The whole scene is lifted right out of those old news reels of Hitler addressing the Nazi army, right down to a goose-stepping hyena army. What's a child learning from this behavior? Getting what you want/power through violence.

Another main song is "Just Can't Wait to be King", where young Simba sings about how great it will be to finally be king- no one will tell him what to do anymore, he'll do whatever he wants, and order everybody around. This is a great attitude to teach a child who doesn't listen to his/her parents, or who has behavior problems.

Another biggie is "Hakuna Matata", (Swahili for "no worries"). Simba's new friends Pumba and Timone counsel the grief-and-guilt-laden Simba not to care about the past, or really anything, or anyone else, just live for yourself, "eat, drink, and be merry..." This is a great one for teaching kids about responsibility, and NOT dealing with real-life issues.

Sure, these songs are all done in fun, and yes, in the end, Simba learns what it really means to be a leader (responsibility), and defeats his murderous Uncle Scar, but interestingly, there's no song to reinforce that. Young kids pick up on the attitudes in the individual scenes and songs- defiance, rebelliousness against authority, power through violence, self-centerdness, indifference... Young kids don't have the attention span to connect these attitudes with their consequences.

There are several overt tribal spiritual messages in the movie as well, not to mention a couple of violent scenes, which might be too much for some kids.

A lot of people will probably think I'm reading too much into this. But young kids are very impressionable, especially when they're engrossed in something like a powerful movie that holds them spellbound.

Long story short, it's important to watch TV and videos with your kids, and screen what they watch first. It allows you to see what they are (unconsciously) learning, and correct any ideas you don't want them to imitate. And yes, the endless commercials at the beginning of the DVD are rediculous. I don't think anybody can beat Disney on trying to capitalize on a captive audience.

Man… people got problems. Deep seeded, weird problems.

Alright, here’s what Laughing Buddha wants us to know about Toy Story:

I suppose I am going to be branded narrow-minded and out-of-touch, but I cannot help wondering which people are showing this movie and its sequel to their children without any reservations at all. I, for one, do NOT allow my children to use language like 'moron', 'loser', 'dirtbag' or 'idiot', which language is found in this movie by the truckload. I would certainly never allow my children to pretend that they were threatening to hang someone from a gallows, as the toys threaten to do to "Woody". I guess that when TV/DVDs have become, once again in this generation, the babysitter/parent, we can get fooled into thinking that such a 'nice' movie about some 'nice' toys can't be all bad. I guess the people who get sucked into buying the movie for their kids won't mind if their kids interact with one another using language and scenarios like these I mentioned. The minute I began to even suspect that the world of "Toy Story" and it's values were going to be reflected in my childrens' lives, I couldn't throw the blasted thing out fast enough, and if you want your kids to grow up a little different than the TV-bred cretins around them, you'll do the same.

I lost it at “TV-bred cretins” – 7up, all over the place.

Alright, on to Pulp Fiction – A Customer says:

When everyone talked about this movie, I had to go see it, and boy was I sorry! It was the worst, there was nothing entertaining about drugs, profanity, violence, murder. What a waste! Not my type at all, and... I am NOT that OLD!!!

Age and taste are not mutually exclusive, my pitiful friend. Here’s another from a different Customer:

It was comforting to read a few negative reviews of this vile film...I truly thought I was alone in my assessment of this moral mess...but what was most disturbing was the audience reaction. It was not possible to escape the imagery of the roman colosseum where human suffering was looked upon as an entertainment event. It was so disheartening. Yes, we can explain it in the "only a movie" terms..or "don't you get a satire when you see one"..heh, I guess not. Young people really don't "think" about the trash they allow themselves to digest. Even my own daughters enjoyed the movie. Pulp fiction damed itself on every level, but most especially in terms of its shallowness. I had recently seen "The Player(s)" and was strongly reminded of the ridiculous "group" writing that it claimed is a hallmark of Hollywood motion pictures

That’s right – this movie damed itself. Damed .

Last one on Pulp Fiction, from Dhaval Vyas

Look at me, I am a Quentin Tarantino fan! I am so hip and cool because I sit around and praise his movies like they are the greatest thing ever put on film. I could care less if there are other people who don't like this movie. This movie is sooooooo cool that other people just don't get it. They don't get just how much of a genius Tarantino is. Good God the world is full of so many dumb people! How could they possibly not like 'Pulp Fiction'? I find if impossible that anyone with a brain cell to possibly not like this movie. What is this world coming to? Look at me, I am a Quentin Tarantino fan! I also like other masterworks such as 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', 'Fight Club', and 'Lost In Translation'. What? You say that those movies are boring and pointless too? Man you people are so dumb. You just have no taste of anything meaningful or worthwhile. You people have no use in this world and I feel sorry for you. How could you not possibly sit around and watch a movie and think that it is cool, hence making you hip and cool in the process. You must lead very sad lives, watching movies that are nowhere near as awesome as 'Pulp Fiction'.

Look at me, I am a Quentin Tarantino fan. Quentin is going to do an interview on television tonight. I am going to tape it watch it over and over again. Is is just me, or is Quentin the closest thing to GOD on this planet Earth? I am also going to watch 'Pulp Fiction' for over the 50th time tonight. I am going to invite my supercool friends and we are going to have a blast. Afterwards, we are going to talk about how cool the movie is and how the rest of the world is so stupid and clueless for not liking this work of art that is greater than the Sistine Chapel.

I refuse to make fun of this guy – it’s like he’s peering into my very soul.

Next one is The Dark Knight.

Perseus says:

Remembering Batman Begins I was thinking that Nolan must have done an excellent job once again.

For some unexplained reason (instict?) I waited to see this on DVD. And I was right. From the beginning of the film I had the feeling "something is wrong" but I ignored it. I knew it was long so I waited. But minutes passed, more minutes passed and the film wasn't getting anywhere. After I saw it, I understood why some users on IMDB rated this supposedly great movie with only one star (and quite a lot of people agreed with their comments).

Except for Ledger, there is nothing good in this movie. It's not even close to Begins. Hard to believe it's from the same director. There is simply no action, no darkness, no Gotham, laughable fight scenes, even the Bat-suit (especially the cape) is crap! Can you imagine that there is a scene where dogs chew through the suit and injure Batman ?? What rubbish. I'm still wondering what was the plot (if there was any).

I don't want to say much, this was simply a boring, empty, overhyped film for sure. 'Begins' was definitely on the right track but this feels it fell off a cliff. Maybe next time...

That’s right. TDK is boring, plotless garbage. I bet Perseus is the kind of guy who fuels his existence with the tears of orphaned children. Moving on…

The Dark Knight, according to Thomas L. Bell III :

Ledger must have watched Jack Nicholson as the Joker and realized that his own performance stunk like a skunk run over by a fertilizer truck. This movie was awful, a real stinkeroo. The acting was wooden, the violence gratuitous, the plot disgusting and disturbing. I don't want to have man's inhumanity to man rubbed in my nose when I watch a movie for entertainment. I don't want a 100+ body count or graphic views of a woman being blown to smithereens. Sorry, let's leave The Smithereens out of this. They rock!
This movie dragged on and on, it had zero humor in it, and the acting was strictly second-rate compared to the benchmark of the original Batman series of movies. I recommend those. Jack Nicholson, Jim Carey, Danny DeVito, Tommy Lee Jones all played GREAT villains and stole the movies. They were evil but believable, and most of all they were FUNNY. Ledger was NOT funny and NOT believable. Sorry, but no insane guy is going to keep coming up with HUGE blow-em-up scenarios one right after the other, particularly when constantly being chased by a badly acted Batman. They made Joker into a super SUPER dooper villain who would have to have the clock-stopping power of Santa Claus to get all of those attacks set up one after another. I could not suspend the disbelief. As for Michael Caine, shame on you for doing this piece of merde'. I hope it is not the last movie you do in your career because I would not want to remember you by this big budget blasphemy of Batman. I rented this for $1 at Redbox. I WANT MY DOLLAR BACK!! I had to rate this one star because they don't have zero stars or a negative star rating. I would rate this a BLACK HOLE because it SUCKED. PLEASE do NOT buy this movie or even see it for free. If you want the REAL Batman, get the original series. They were good movies. This piece of garbage doesn't even deserve to be CALLED a movie.

Note to self: avoid using the term stinkeroo from now on. Horrible word.

The Shawshank Redemption:

Here’s Plastic Eggs , wiggling in from the universe of vomit analogies:

I can't tell you the countless number of lives this film has helped to shape "for the better", all them folks feeling helpless and all that what not and what have you went and saw this and said "hey, I can change my life around."

We were better off without them, but not nearly as better off as we'd be without this dull, stale and horribly convoluted trash.

Remember when films could be both positive and seem to have a heart? The Shawshank Redemption has nothing at all whatsoever going for it, not even Deakins' cinematography could help save this pile of puke.

It's fluff, it's that simple, so much fluff, in fact, that I think it would have even made Frank Capra sick.

When the film was first released it was basically completely ignored, which Robbins loves to use as a point to compare the film to one of Orson Welles' masterpieces Citizen Kane which got the same treatment, but over the years it has gained a reputation, a new found respect, like the equally undeserving Ridley Scott abomination that is Blade Runner; it should have stayed ignored, plain and simple, let it wither away and rot.

It's # 2 or 3 on the IMDb top 250, a list which in and of itself is a long, unbelievable joke; so, go figure, people are idiots who don't want to think too much when viewing a film; maybe that's why Haggis' Crash got best picture.

And from the realm of latent homosexual repression, I’ll leave J. Hueng with the last word on Shawshank Redemption:

I am writing this only because Shawshank Redemption is the #1 rated film on IMDB.

This movie is about a deep emotional relationship between two men. The entire plot is set into motion by the main character's (Andy Dufresne) scarring disappointment with a woman, his unfaithful wife. Although he does not actually kill her, a botched confrontation and a farfetched coincidence result in his being imprisoned for her murder. This is better than if he had gone through with the murder himself: it is his hatred of a woman that makes him a transgressive. It is the intent, his sin of thought, not an actual deed, which strengthens prison as a metaphor for his burgeoning homosexuality.

In prison, homosexuality is normalized. This is achieved not only through the characters of "the sisters," who violently rape Dufresne repeatedly, but also in other ways, such as the inmates' referral to new arrivals as "fresh fish." And of course, prison is a space where social intercourse occurs only between men. It is in this context that Dufresne develops his bond with the other lead, Ellis Redding. Through Dufresne's relationship with Red a distinction is made between what could be called the involuntary or forced homosexuality of "the sisters" and voluntary or romantic homosexuality, such as the unique friendship between Dufresne and Red. After a particularly harsh beating by "the sisters" that lands Dufresne in the hospital for a couple of weeks, Red organizes a return welcome with the gift of several rocks, which Dufresne desires and uses to make figurines.

The movie's climax, the prison break, also contains some very overt symbolism. The posters of popular actresses that Dufresne obtains from Red and hangs in his cell figure prominently in the film and in the original novella by Stephen King (the novella is titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption). Many viewers may have taken this as sufficient "signal" that the film is not homosexual. However, Dufresne uses one of these posters to cover up the hole he has picked out of the prison wall and uses to escape through the prison's sewer. Here, the escape through the sewer is an obvious symbol for anal sex. A sewer is a long tube that contains human waste, like an anus. It is also possible to describe the moment Andy emerges from the prison's sewer as "climactic," characterized by a general feeling of "release," and metaphorically the escape through the sewer allows Andy to "escape" the problems caused by his relationship with his ex-wife. The poster's role in the film is to conceal this opening to the "sewer," to the homosexual escape. In the scene leading up to its discovery the warden accuses Red of being "as thick as thieves" with Dufresne (another metaphor of transgression), then in frustration throws a rock at the poster, after very pointedly accusing it of being a party to the "conspiracy." Dramatically, the rock flies through the poster, exposing Dufresne's heterosexual utterance as paper-thin, with nothing to back it. Careful viewers will also note that Dufresne's taste in wall-covering includes many types of posters--Albert Einstein, various maps, portraits, landscapes, etc.--and that the poster concealing the escape route--the specific poster designated to mislead in the film's plot--is, suspiciously, unique in its depiction of a sexualized woman. To escape the confinement caused by his rejection of women, Dufresne turns to the anus, but cannot do so openly; his homosexuality must be concealed with signs of heterosexuality, in this case Raquel Welch.

Tommy's subplot is distinct because it triggers the turn in Andy's character, and it intertwines with Andy's rivalry with Norton. Tommy is the liminal figure in the film; being a new arrival, a caricature of the virulent male, and possessing information from beyond prison that can free Andy, he straddles the divide between the "straight" world outside and the "gay" world of the prison. This is why his murder is a turning point for Andy. Yes, it destroys his chances of being released, but if you view Norton as representing the perceived heterosexual establishment, which must rule by rational means, Tommy's murder dispels Andy's faith in that rationality and the entire legitimacy of the heterosexual power structure represented by Norton and his guards. Keep in mind that up to this point in the film, Andy was happy to use his talents to gain favor within that structure. In this sense, Andy's payback against Norton carries added meaning. Without being sexual in any way, this is the homosexual fantasy of revenge against a heterosexual power structure which imprisons and confines.

Finally, after breaking out of prison, Dufresne organizes a reunion with his special friend Red by leaving cash and a letter, written in flowing script, in a tin box by a wall on a prairie. He has given Red instructions to locate the box with a compass, and Red uses the money to travel to Dufresne's secret location in Mexico, where the two men reunite on a sandy beach next to the ocean. This is how the film ends. Dufresne and Red finally find their homosexual paradise: a place where their love can be consumated outside of "prison," i.e. where their homosexuality does not make them transgressors in the eyes of society.

I fully realize this review is going to ruin my helpful/not helpful ratio as a reviewer. It needed to be said.

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Peace OUT

I've been busy lately chasing down book endorsements like a crazed hunter, actually winging a few with semi-autmatic praising  hijinks (in all seriousness, most of these prospective endorsements are awesome human beings who are essentially taking a chance on a no-namer like me) I think I may have nailed some whoppers, but time will tell. I'm dreadfully fearful that the audience I've recently snatched will eventually grow bored and flutter off to more ADD accommodating (and shiny) websites. Thus, I have asked my good buddy Tim Conley to help generate some additional content for you all to slide into. His initial response was something like: what in the holy hell do I know about generating content? Bugger off and go bother somebody else...

Lo, after a few healthy rounds of discourse (and a whole heck of a lot of groveling) he's finally consented to dropping a few movie reviews every once and awhile. The guy is a natural film critic, so I've convinced him to try his hand at the fine craft of cinemaripification - he agreed, I rejoiced, there was merrymaking. You see, Tim is the quintessential movie-buff. He owns more movies than JESUS (that's not blasphemy, that's cold hard FACT bitches) and he's the authority by which I defer most matters of the silver-screen (excluding the whole Aliens vs Predators incident of 2004). Read his review of The Hobbit below, comment, subscribe and stay gold.


TC Reviews The Hobbit

To sum it up for you, I love movies. I would even call my love for movies an official hobby. My good friend and novelist Shane Lindemoen asked me to write up some reviews on movies and I thought to myself, what the hell do I know about reviewing movies ? Then, while I was sitting on the floor deciding what kind of flick I wanted to watch, it dawned on me - maybe I do know a thing or two about a good motion picture. The reason I say this is because picking a movie to watch is serious business to me. It takes precious time to sift through thousands of movies that I catigorized by genre and actor, itemized by franchise and coded by various color assortments. I love movies, is my point. It’s a serious business, which demands serious attention, and they’re a lot of fun too.

So, I’m going to make several attempts in the following months to help Shane generate some content for his blog, and give you moviegoers my take on certain films that I see in the theatres and in the independent market. Feel free to spark up some discussion in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Shane’s feed to the right! With that said I hope you enjoy my take on the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey .

First off, it’s a no brainer that Peter Jackson is a big J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and reasonably so. Jackson successfully adapted the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to the big screen and started a middle-earth revolution which capped off 17 Oscar wins – including film-editing, best music (score), writing and best picture. The trilogy also made Orlando Bloom and his white locks a bonafide Hollywood heartthrob, but moving on…

With that brief history lesson out of the way, let’s dive into The Hobbit . Jackson took what I like to call the safe and logical approach to this movie and brought back his original writing team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and also brought along Guillermo del Toro for some added punch. You’ll also recognize a few lovable characters from the original Rings Trilogy as well.

When this movie started, it was like watching “the fellowship of the ring” for the first time - learning names and characters, and trying to pronounce them in my head. This film is settled around a cadre of dwarves and the lovable hobbit character of Bilbo Baggins - played by an annoying Martin Freeman. Bilbo doesn’t warm up to me like his nephew Frodo did - he’s a bit of a sally in this film - but I suspect that this is by design, part of a character-arc that takes Bilbo from willowy recluse to shining badass, which may change my opinion before the close of this new trilogy.

The reluctant Bilbo is chosen to embark on a quest with a group of Dwarves who have been driven out of  their mountainous homeland by a fire-breathing dragon named Smaug. I wasn’t having a good time in the beginning of this film, nor was I really sold on Bilbo’s character.  However, as the film played out in spectacular fashion, I couldn’t help thinking about the first time I saw The Fellowship – and like The Hobbit , as the curtain fell, I couldn’t wait of the following installments.

One thing I was disappointed with in the Rings Trilogy was the lack of a physical villain. I was always hoping for a final, epic collision between the heroes and the Dark Lord Sauron - I had to sit through three films and a grand total of 12 hours suffering interjected clips of a dumb fire-based eyeball – but The Hobbit brings two excellent villainous prospects - the dragon Smaug, and a very large and very pale Orc. I hope that these two elements provide that physical presence of malice which I felt the Rings Trilogy was lacking.

Both 3D and 2D versions of the film our beyond perfect when it comes to texture. I preferred the 2D version but would highly recommend 3D also. I have no doubt that this film will encounter some Oscar nomination in regards to the cinematography and special effects.

So with all this said, go see the damn movie. If you’re patient with the slow start, you’ll leave wanting more.


TC Rating for The Hobbit Four out of Five Stars .  We don’t have the stars animation for the website yet, because Shane’s cheap ass is still cheap. So use your imagination. Yes, it looks like my photo to the left is reading this paragraph. You're just going to have to deal with it.

By the way, the TC Rating is an amalgamation of an obscene (quantity, not content) movie-collection and a ridiculous amount of down time, streamlined for buyability. It’s not perfect, but what is?

One Star – Crap

Two Stars – Slightly Less Crappy than One

Three Stars – Wait for Redbox

Four Stars – Passes

Five Stars – Pfft… You Better Be Buying this Sucker

Yeah, I guess I do.

For the past few years I've been running this website as a sort of repository for all of the stuff I've pumped into the interwebs. I never really intended it to be anything more than a simple vehicle for my various but rare moments of... I don't know what you'd call it. Inspiration? Creativity? Egocentric driven expressions of HEY EVERYBODY COME SEE HOW SMART I THINK I AM...? I didn't even want to build it, honestly. One of my professors told me that since I was intent on being a writer, I should reserve consideration for having at least some content on the internet that I could control.

I hadn't really considered starting a blog, the cynic that I am, because I never really saw any reason for anyone to care about what I had to say. I'm a hopeless credentialist you see, as much as I hate to admit it. I often fear that others  won't consider me qualified, and so by extension I tend to overvalue qualification. It's a long story, but I suppose this is the sort of place for long stories.

Part of this whole thing is about recent developments in my life. You see, I just signed a book contract with a publisher based out of Washington DC for my newest novel – The Artifact – my first professional sale – and I realized that I've become such a recluse that I have zero people following my exploits. Maybe a few. My wife and her friends. So I'm here, and I have every intention to make this a weekly thing. The book is set for a fall of 2013 release, so that's ample time to get everyone on board with what's going to be happening in the following months.

The idea is to bring you along on this journey – from book announcement to book tour – so that you can get to know me a little bit – more than a bit, hopefully – and see what it's like for a new author trying to make their debut novel a success. I can't do it alone, and I'm going to need all the help I can get.

In the meantime, I hope to make this a more content rich place – less videos and more thought streaming blog-by-proxy.

So please, make yourself comfortable. Stick around a while and leave some  comments. Subscribe with the RSS Feed on the right, and share this on your facebook if you can. Tell all your friends. Who knows – this whole blog thing might actually work...