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Resurrection (1988): Dias de los Valtos

William M. Valtos, Resurrection (St. Martin’s Press, 1988)


[originally posted 19Feb2002]

Two people stand in the distance, staring at the ghostly face that dominates the book cover.

Lazarus is back from the dead, looking as one would expect.
photo credit:

Late-eighties horror novels that faded quickly into obscurity seem to be becoming something of a specialty of mine these days; I’ve read more than I care to count in the past few months. I find that, in general, most of them had very good reasons for becoming obscure. Resurrection is no exception to that rule, but there’s something about it that sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill horror novel. There were some sparks of true potential running through here. If the reviews of Valtos’ most recent novel, The Authenticator, are anything to go by, it sounds like he’s realized that potential in later books. More power to him. If you’re a Valtos fan, this may well be worth picking up as a “where did they come from?” type book. If you haven’t yet been introduced to him, picking this up may, hopefully, make you want to grab the newer book (it did in my case).

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Skyfall (2012): If It’s Not Scottish, It’s Crap

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)

Bond fires a gun from a prone position on the movie poster.

Obviously, you should be expecting a kinder, gentler Bond in this movie.
photo credit:

A little less than an hour into Skyfall, it was too late to stay awake, so I paused it and went to bed. The next morning, I asked on Facebook if I was the only one who found it a confused, muddled mess, and given the outpouring of love for it, wondered if it got better. The unanimous answer was yes, it got a lot better, so I went back to it that evening. Less than a minute after I turned the movie back on, there was Javier Bardem. Javier Bardem has the almost singular quality of making every movie he appears in a better work, and his presence in Skyfall was sorely needed. It stayed better after that, and for that I was truly grateful.

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The Johnsons (1992): Keeping Up Appearances

The Johnsons (Rudolf van den Berg, 1992)

[originally posted 14Feb2002]

A fetish doll crouches atop a screaming woman on the movie poster.

There’s a reason they’re called “fetishes”, you know…
photo credit: IMDB

Rudolf van den Berg has won the Golden Calf, which is basically the Oscar, twice in his career, both times before this: in 1982 for San Senten Rebel (Best Long-form Documentary), and in 1984 for Bastille (Best director). I don’t know whether that says worse things about the state of film in the Netherlands or their Academy. Probably neither, if America’s own Academy is anything to go by (I’ll omit yet another rant on the 2002 nominees). But if this guy is one of the cream of the crop over there, there is great pity to be had for the country.

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Butcher Boys (2013): Small Ones Are Sweeter

Butcher Boys (Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, 2012)

A close-up of a mouth getting ready to bite into a half-eaten hand adorns the movie poster.

Best when organic.
photo credit: IMDB

I spend a decent amount of time trolling the bottom of my sorted (by average rating) Netflix queue, looking for those movies that have a horrible rating that are actually pretty good. I’ve come across a few here and there that are neglected for whatever reason. The Butcher Boys, Texas Chainsaw Massacre writer Kim Henkel’s first feature script in eighteen years, is the latest of those. I have no idea what movie the public who rated this movie a collective one and a half stars were watching, but it must not have been Butcher Boys.

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White Monkey (2001): Papa Don’t Preach

Danielle Spencer, White Monkey (EMI Australia, 2001)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]

A picture of Danielle Spencer looking pensive adorns the cover.

Black and white artist photo on cover: moody, acoustic singer-songwriter music. Guilty!
photo credit:

Danielle Spencer is Russell Crowe’s on-again off-again girlfriend. [ed. note 2014: they're married now.]

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, one wonders if her longstanding relationship with Crowe (which goes back some twelve years, to the two of them filming a painfully bad indie film called The Crossing in 1990) has eclipsed, rather than enhanced, Spencer’s long and obscure musical career. Over the past three years, she’s jettisoned the bands she’s been working with and set out to write her own
material. White Monkey is the first full-length showcase of the results. And while it’s an inconsistent piece of work, the first word that comes to mind is still “brilliant.”

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If I Stay (2014): Adam Tied to Stone

If I Stay (R. J. Cutler, 2014)

Chloë Grace Moretz, tiled, with a number of other shots from the movie, graces its poster.

Troubled Sleep.
photo credit:

R. J. Cutler is known for his documentaries; 2009’s The September Issue garnered raves on the festival circuit. Now he turns in his first big-screen feature, and a movie more different than The September Issue you are unlikely to find this year. If I Stay was adapted from Gayle Forman’s novel by Shauna Cross, whose output to date has been, well, somewhat underwhelming (Whip It, What to Expect When You’re Expecting). I’m not entirely sure what happened, but sticking this script to this director caused some form of magic to happen. How good is this magic? According to my spreadsheet, If I Stay is the three hundredth film I have seen so far in 2014. It is the fifteenth of those to get a rating of four stars or higher (as I write this opening paragraph, I am not yet sure if I’m going 4 or 4.5). Less than half of them have been features (the rest are shorts). This is, in a word, a stunning film.

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Abe Messiah (2001): The Dream Must Stay Alive

The Tribe, Abe Messiah (Sanctuary, 2001)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]

Pitch-perfect Kiwi pop from the best YA TV show you've never seen. photo credit:

Pitch-perfect Kiwi pop from the best YA TV show you’ve never seen.
photo credit:

These days, it’s the rare country on the planet that hasn’t been made aware of the New Zealand young adult-themed show The Tribe. America is, unfortunately, one of those rare countries, thanks in no small part to the operating budget of the channel (WAM, a part of the Encore/Starz network) that has exclusive American rights to the show. The Tribe has been making waves all over Europe and Asia; the upcoming season 1 DVD releases are in the top 2,000 ranked Amazon purchases at on preorders alone. Why? Because aside from the obvious draw of soap opera, the show’s producers, Cloud 9 Entertainment, did their best to come up with a top-notch cast of actors. Most every main character in the show, and not a small number of minor folks, have a respectable number of film and theater credits backing them up given their ages. Some of them also have relatively extensive musical backgrounds. So the producers hatched on an idea—why not have the cast sing the John Williams-written theme song? Meryl Cassie (Ebony, on the show) took lead vocals on the opening theme, and the closer is an ensemble piece. Both hit the charts almost overnight. Next logical step: an album.

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