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You Might Not Still Be an Atheist After Reading This One (2012): Guess What?

Erik Lee Giles, You Might Not Still Be an Atheist After Reading This One (Erik Giles?, 2012)

(Note: there is no release information anywhere on the file, so I am assuming it is self-published through CreateSpace (thus the question mark above).)

Atheist

Note: I didn’t screw up the capture: that’s the actual right edge of the book cover. Photo credit: my copy

I am.

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Vault Reviews, September 2014, Part 1

[this post should have gone up Monday, were it not for the holiday, and then Things Happened(TM) Tuesday and Wednesday to stop me from having the time to work on these… today was almost as bad, but I did it piecemeal… the movie list changes should be up later as well. Part 2, however, will have to wait for tomorrow.]

 

Pee Chang Nang (The Screen at Kamchanod) (Songsak Mongkolthong, 2007)

A large face looms over a filmgoing crowd on the movie poster.

Warning: projecting images onto a large face may cause blurriness.
photo credit: movieexclusives.com

I will allow for the idea that my reaction to this movie, which I am hypothesizing was due mostly to the time (after a 2AM dosing of dilaudid) and place (I was in the hospital with a potentially life-threatening condition) I saw it, may have actually been the reaction the filmmakers were looking for here. Because my fragmentary memories of the movie, complete with washed-out jungle shots and fuzzy figures, actually kind of mirror the movie’s plot (a ghost story about, basically, the backwoods Thai version of a drive-in theater). If so, it’s a bit unfortunate that the trippiness factor may have worked a little too well on me, because fragments were all I remembered, so I rewatched it a couple of months ago…and once again, I’m only getting fragments when I try to bring it up in my head. My experience with movies like this is that the fact that there are fragments means there is a decent possibility that after a number of rewatches over the next decade or so, I may end up coming to love this movie and sing its praises whenever possible (I hated both Suspiria and Begotten the first time I saw each for exactly this reason, and now both are among my favorite movies); we’re a year and a half into it since my first seeing it, though, and I’m not there yet. If I do get there, I’ll write a new, longer review for it and tell you it requires multiple viewings to really get…but for now, it’s an “if you don’t have anything better to do…” movie. **


Trailer. (The full film, unsubbed, is available at Youtube.)

* * *

Splintered (Simeon Halligan, 2010)

Our heroine peers through a hole in the wall on the movie poster.

Heeeeeeeeere’s EYESORE!
photo credit: indirmedennfilmizie.net

You have seen this movie at least a dozen times. Innocent, or maybe not so innocent but she’s certainly done nothing to deserve this, girl is abducted by someone or something and imprisoned. There is someone close by who may or may not be able to help her, but is useful for passing information through to the captive (and, by extension, to the viewers). There is a Big Reveal about the killer, and often whether the viewer is left with a good taste in his or her mouth about the movie turns on whether that Big Reveal works. (I’m not sure it did here, I don’t think this movie could have been saved one way or the other.) It’s a well-established framework that lazy scriptwriters insert characters into for an almost instantly-completed movie. The end result, given that you are using a well-established framework, is utterly predictable and very rarely worth your time. Such is the case with Splintered. *


Trailer.

* * *

Nude Nuns with Big Guns (Joseph Guzman, 2010)

The title's nun, not nude, stands ready for a firefight on the movie poster.

Forgive me, Father, for I am about to sin. A lot.
photo credit: walkerpercyhero.blogspot.com

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started watching a movie called Nude Nuns with Big Guns. It would be kind of hard not to; the title is about as descriptive as they come. And if you go into it expecting nothing but nude nuns with big guns, you’re in for a good time. That said, when I see a title like that, I see the weight of history behind it. Nunsploitation is a time-honored genre in a number of cultures ranging from Japan to Mexico (Italy, of course, is the godafather, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the genre—Visconti’s 1969 The Nun of Monza seems to have been the first true nunsploitation movie as we know the genre today), and I would have felt a lot better about it had I gotten the idea that co-writers Guzman and Robert James Hayes felt any sort of affection for, let alone connection with, such nunsploitation treasures as Alucarda. Instead, this feels like they found out the genre was A Thing by reading an article about it and said “hey, we can make a movie about this!” without bothering to find out, say, what’s cliché, what works and what doesn’t, whether nuns serve in monasteries (they don’t), you know, the small things. As a result, the picture is mildly amusing for a bit, but gets old quick. **

* * *

Seux (Female Tiger) (director unknown, date unknown)

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (maybe I’ll grab a title screen when I get home).

I apologize for not knowing a blessed thing about Female Tiger. IMDB doesn’t, either, and I can find nothing at all about it on the Internet. The copy I have, which is obviously a bootleg (though I didn’t know that at the time), is unsubbed, which would make it tough for me to tell you much about the movie without guessing. That said, this is not a movie you’re going to be watching for its plot niceties. Female Tiger is a Thai softcore film. I wasn’t aware any culture but America had a market for these silly things, but there you have it. And because of that, you’re probably far less interested in the story, which seems to have something to do with the male lead—who has more sex than your sister on prom night during the film (and probably with more partners, even)—being some sort of supernatural (or possessed) guy who can hex insanely beautiful women into sleeping with him, and far more interested in the many, many scenes that involve said male lead getting it on with a small legion of said insanely beautiful women. And for that, well, who needs subtitles? Easily findable at places that stock Thai VCDs, and if it’s the kind of thing you’re into, well, you could do a lot worse (and have with every American softcore movie I’ve seen since Black Emmanuelle). ** ½

Trailer? …yeah, no.

* * *

Dok (The Pot) (Tae-gon Kim, 2008)

The child, during the ritual, is shown  on the movie poster.

Upside down. Pot you’re turnin’ me. Inside out. And round and round.
photo credit: IMDB

I really wanted to like The Pot, one of those bottom-of-the-sorted-queue movies that Netflix’s description made sound relatively interesting. As is often the case, however, Netflix’s description missed the mark by a relatively wide margin. Instead of the promised creepy ghost story, this seems (either because of bad script, bad editing, bad subtitles, or some combination of the above, it’s not that easy to keep track of what’s going on here) to be some sort of evangelical-Christian movie about a kid gone wrong corrupting her family (until, of course, deus ex machina). I’d say more about it but, honestly, why bother? Most of what you need to know is contained in the phrase “the Netflix description is wrong.” **

* * *

Paul Bright, Grumpy Badger’s Christmas (Good Books, 2009)

Badger, grumpy, stands amonst a bunch of other woodland animals on the book's cover.

“The Gophers made it to the Sun Bowl. AGAIN.”
photo credit: wgrl.net

Everyone in the woodland valley is looking forward to Christmas except grumpy badger. Which makes sense if you’re an adult given that badgers hibernate during the winter. Problem is, people keep knocking on his door and disturbing his rest. He keeps getting grumpier and grumpier until he finally falls asleep and realizes that he’s done something horribly wrong, after which everyone kisses and makes up. I am—to put it mildly—not a fan of Christmas, but this one does hold up to the kinds or readings and re-readings it got in December, and for the Bean’s general attention level, this is a pretty long book, and he eats it up. And hey, I love badgers, and everyone loves a good party (oops, spoiler alert). *** ½

* * *

Michael Twinn, Great Pal Puppy (Child’s Play, 1996)

The bookk, shaped to look like a puppy, has a cover that only hints at the horrible illustrations inside.

Are you scared yet?
photo credit: paperbackswap.com

The dog's obviously prehensile eye stalks stare at you from the bottom of its cheeks in this terrifying picture.

WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. THIS. DOG’S. EYES.
photo credit: me me me

This is one of a series of oversized board books focusing on various animals. Most of them are just badly-written, at least the ones we’ve come across over the past couple of years, but Great Pal Puppy ups the ante with a terrifying, anatomically-impossible illustration on the second page that looks far less like a puppy than one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones descending from above to devour your soul. You’ll want to take a good long look at this one before adding it to your permanent collection; the kid may be fine with it, but you might be traumatizing yourself for life looking at that monster on Page 2. *

* * *

Jamie Lee Curtis, My Mommy Hung the Moon (Joanna Cotler Books, 2010)

The narrator and his mother cuddle under a full moon on the book's cover.

…and then hung Laurie Strode from it, broken and bleeding…
photo credit: Amazon

I wasn’t terribly fond of this one, and while we had it out of the library for a three-week span, the Bean never actually asked for it the way he does with the books he really enjoys, and he is obsessed with all things moon. The rhyme is thudding, the language is simplistic (I know that seems an odd thing to complain about in a pre-lit book, but contrast it to, say, Victoria Adler’s books and you can easily see the difference). Nothing about it distinguishes it from a hundred other pre-lit books we’ve been through and sent back to the library with no intention of ever getting them out again. **

* * *

Mrs. James Ward Thorne, European Rooms in Miniature (Art Institute of Chicago, 1948)

A very busy wallpaper pattern adorns the cover of the book.

“Of course it would look lovely on the walls dear. In the basement.”
photo credit: ebay

Narcissa (Mrs. James Ward) Thorne’s first book on miniature architecture was this one, published in 1948 (I reviewed her 1962 follow-up, American Rooms in Miniature, last year). I just found out a number of these are still housed, as of this writing (29 January 2014) at the Art Institute of Chicago, and am now planning a roadtrip. The rooms themselves are, of course, exquisite, at least in the provided photographs; I imagine seeing them live would be an entirely different experience. Once again, the text is a bit on the dry side, though more enthusiasm comes through in this one than in American Rooms in Miniature; still, worth it for the pictures if you are at all interested in the subject matter. ***

* * *

Karen Katz, The Babies on the Bus (Henry Holt, 2011)

A number of Katz' signature babies crowd into the front of the bus on the cover of the book.

Shouldn’t you be able to reach the pedals before trying to drive?
photo credit: Amazon

Karen Katz lends her inimitable style to a rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus”, and the result is just as cute as you would expect. A few points off for not sticking to the original formula of the song, which never repeats any word in “the _____ on the bus”, but that’s a minor thing; this is a good’un and will find its way into storytime again and again. *** ½

Capsule Reviews, August 2014 (new)

Inkubus (Glenn Ciano, 2011)

Robert Englund taps his eye with a red knife on the DVD case.

This devil is out of the details. Way out.
photo credit: Ebay

Glenn Ciano’s debut film, Inkubus, is not all that great, though in hindsight it is leagues better than his followup, Infected. But then he’s starting from a pretty good place: casting Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm St.) as a demon who walks into a police station during the night shift and starts confessing to almost seven hundred years’ worth of crimes. Why this station? You’ll find out eventually, if you stick around long enough. Whether you will want to or not depends entirely how you feel about Robert Englund; this is his movie entirely, and if you feel he’s good enough to carry it, then you’ll probably like it. I was less impressed. * ½

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Abro ne Bayie (2007): What the Hell Did I Just Watch?

Abro ne Bayie (C’Emeka Uba, 2007)

The principal cast adorn the DVD cover.

I have no jokes about that DVD cover that it doesn’t make by itself.
photo credit: stmamusicshop.com

I will say that I am working on a very small sample size given the prolific output of the Nollywood film industry—I have seen half a dozen films made in Nigeria and two in Ghana—but my initial impression of the two sides of Nollywood is that those crazy kids from Nigeria are making better movies than their Ghanian counterparts. Understand that the term “better” is relative here. Also take note of the fact that as of this writing, the most hilariously awful Nollywood movie I have ever seen came from Nigeria, not Ghana (Occultic War). But…man. Abro ne Bayie. I tracked this one down after seeing the trailer on Youtube. It’s the only Nollywood trailer I’ve ever seen that outdoes the trailer for The Adulteress. Guys turning into painted prepubescents? Shimmering women flinging miniature balls of fire at sleeping people? It’s like Liquid Sky if Slava Tsukerman had no talent, no taste in casting actors, and was attempting to direct in a language he didn’t understand. Of course I had to see it. And, well, the WTF factor keeps it from being as awful as Occultic War, but… well, let’s just say this is not Nollywood for beginners.

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The Christmas Story (1952): You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid

Jane Werner, The Christmas Story (Golden Press, 1952)

A classical depiction of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus adorns the book's cover.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
photo credit: jessetreeproject.com

I was certainly the wrong person to read this one to the Bean—it’s a hand-me-down from my wife’s family—given how antipathetic I am to religion, but then I was relieved when the book simply would have failed to live up to even my barest expectations of pre-lit even if I were a foaming-at-the-mouth young-earth creationist. The obvious flaw in the book, which is listed on the title page as being “told by” Jane Werner, is that she starts off trying to put the story into her own words (i.e., to make it simpler for the pre-lit set), but she abandons that concept roughly a quarter of the way through and simply starts quoting. Going back and revising for one approach or the other might have made it acceptable, at least until you get to the end. For obvious reasons, this being a pre-lit book, it dances around some of the things that would raise uncomfortable questions, but… why bring up Herod at all, you know? And then, well, the story just ends. I know Golden works in a strict 24-page format, but you couldn’t have planned a little better than that awful summary on the last page? Come on, now. This has the stink about it of Golden playing to its bible-belt constituency rather than putting this to the editorial-process screws. *

National Sunday Law (1983): No, He’s Not Joking

Jan Marcussen, National Sunday Law (AT Publications, 1983)

A grid floats off to the horizon under the book's title.

You may have gotten this in the mail, like I did. It makes great kindling.
photo credit: project-end-time.org

I sincerely believe”, Jan Marcussen says in the final pages of National Sunday Law, “that there’s no way for you to read these amazing truths of God’s word without having a deep longing to follow Christ all the way…I know that you would never have read this unusual book this far unless you had a real interest in learning truth and following Jesus all the way.” Sorry, dude, some of us just got there because we were interested to see how far the crazy would go. But those sentence fragments do illustrate the book’s major failing—Marcussen is incapable of realizing that there may be a different interpretation to the few parts of this book that may actually be rooted in fact. I saw “few parts” because the rest of it, well, Marcussen is, to put it kindly, somewhat far removed from reality. The basis of this book is that (SPOILER ALERT, though I’m not putting the stop sign up there because no one could possibly want to read this mess) the Catholics are agents of Satan because they caused the Sabbath day to be switched from Saturday to Sunday in violation of the fourth commandment. Now, maybe these folks don’t know any Catholics. But here’s a quick question for you: what is the only mainstream Christian denomination in America that holds Saturday services? Bang, Marcussen’s entire hypothesis is disproved by simple observation. And that’s before he gets into the batshit numerology. (What is it the bible has to say about divination, exactly? Oh, yes: “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.” Deuteronomy 18:9-12. So even if you are a believer that the bible is factually-based, there’s nothing here for you.) Even were I willing to accept a book of fairy tales as an anchor for a morality, this tripe doesn’t even conform to said book of fairy tales. It would be amusing if enough people didn’t believe it for the title page to claim 35.9 million copies in print as of 2010. That makes it terrifying. (zero)

A Little Book for Writers (1991): Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Joanna Long, ed., A Little Book for Writers (Word and Image Press, 1991)

[originally posted 11Jul2001]

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

If I still own a copy of this, I will take a picture so you can all revel in my shame in the near future.

I was wondering, after reading page one, why on earth I’d kept this nauseating little tract around, until I got to page eight and found one of my own absolutely unreadable early poems in it. Time to disown THAT particular piece of trash. This would seem to be meant as an inspirational booklet to be a kind of written support group for writers; forty-three pages of poetry, short prose, and nonfiction blurbs from Ms. Long (a religious/historical fiction novelist) and others. While I won’t come right out and say that any of the advice therein is wrong, some of it is most certainly bad (“Compare yourself only with yourself—never with others,” Long admonishes in “Necessary Reminders,” and a less accurate piece of advice I’ve not heard since the head of Encore Books told a roomful of managers that “liking books is not a necessary trait of a successful bookstore owner”). I, however, will let the reader judge for himself by offering one of the (mercifully) short pieces from the first page, Milo von Strom’s “Every Poet’s Quest”:

Poets continually daydream
of mastering a simplistic style.
Omitting thousands of worthless words
as each unique line edges one closer
to a perfected purity in verse.

(zero. minus stars, if I had such a thing.)