Saturday, December 31, 2011

top ten list for 2011


Okay, this list is my top ten list of movies from the past years... subject to debate and all that, but it's my top ten so fuck you. -=)

10: Green Lantern
Kind of sad... this movie could have been absolutely great, but some poor direction and a few too many directions kept it from really nailing the mark.

9: Sucker Punch
Loved this movie. Steampunk Nazi Zombies for the win! I also liked the story, even though alot of folks did not. Well, different strokes and all that.

8: Fright Night (remake)
I wasn't thrilled with this movie, but it was good and well done for the most part. A little too much CGI and an unlikeable main character, but everything else was top notch.

7: Thor
Fun movie, but a poor script didn't help it. Helmsworth is fantastic, though... and that's what we were looking for.

6: X-Men: First Class
Ehhh... great film, but I didn't like the rewrite on Havok. It's just me, though.

5: Pirates of the Carribean 4
Good stuff, not great.

4: Troll Hunter:
Fantastic film!

3: Captain America
So awesomesauce and pure geek-fu fun!

2 13 Assassins.
This is pure Miike, the man who brought us “Audition”, “Sukiyaki Western: Django” and “Ichi: The Killer”. The mans’ body of work includes family films, samurai epics, horror films, and on and on. Now we have the Samurai epic. FANTASTIC. Check it out!

1. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil:
I haven't laughed so hard at the movies in a long LONG time!

Avenue Q: review

The first time I heard songs from the soundtrack of "Avenue Q" was at the gaming table of the Bennett family. I immediately fell in love with so many of these great songs, and the Bennetts burned me a copy that I still listen to several years later. This was sometime around the year 2004 or 2005... so here we are in 2011 and I'm waking up one day after spending a fantastic evening watching the Paper Wing Theatre production of the show. I guess calling it "fantastic" is a bit of a spoiler for where this review is going to go, but I'm sure you'll get over it. So let's get into the nitty gritty...

The show actually started before the doors opened when the Bad Idea Bears (Erin Davison and Mark Weddle) came outside and greeted the audience waiting in line. The pair ran a couple of routines on audience members, making people feel like part of the show from the get go. Eager, excited, and enthusiastic, the Bad Idea Bears encouraged both the audience and the cast to drink, have fun, and to ignore the consequences. The people were laughing and the doors opened for a very eager audience. Shuffling to our seats, I thought we'd have some pretty good seats in the way back and be able to see the whole of the set. Flush with color, the stage was an amazing character in itself.

So the lights go down and actor Nicholas Kelly takes center stage as Princeton, our main protagonist through the show. A 23 year old college graduate looking for his purpose and a place to live. He finds that place to live on Avenue Q, a Sesame Street-like atmosphere of colorful characters that make up the rest of the cast. Nicholas' voice is amazing and consistent, picking up the majority of the songs throughout the show. He handled Princeton incredibly well and his own facial expressions drove the emotions and humor of the character.

"It Sucks to be Me" introduces the rest of the cast: Kate Monster (Jill Miller), two non-puppet characters Brian and Christmas Eve (Daniel Matthey, Amy Rose), Nicky (Jay DeVine with Penny Morgan)and his room mate Rod (Shane Dallmann), Trekkie Monster (Robert Feeney with Sonita Cardoza), with human superintendent Gary Coleman (an amazingly charismatic Lindi Lewis). The song also prepares the audience for the content of the show, including vulgarity and adult themes and caustic humor. The band hit a huge stride and propelled the music throughout the show, absolutely NAILING every track and backing up some great voices. With the house packed, director Koly McBride delivers another hit show to the Monterey Bay Area. Also appearing in various roles throughout the show are the Ensemble Cast featuring Cody Moore, Penny Morgan, Sonita Cardoza, Katy Wieser, Mark Weddle, Erin Davison, and Robert Feeney.

While Princeton may be the audience surrogate that introduces us to this world, Kate Monster is the absolute heart of the production. Jill Miller's voice, her body language, and the puppet itself are all in sync throughout the show and I'm blown away by the level of talent in this young woman. Whether it's watching her innocence shattered in "The Internet is For Porn" or watching her heart ripped out in "There's a Fine, Fine Line", she tends to reach out and snatch your attention. Her budding romance with Princeton provides an anchor to the shows several sub-plots, including the predatory advances from Lucy The Slut (Katie Wieser). The interaction between Kate and her boss, Mrs. T (Taylor Noel Young) sent a shooting pain through my eye because I laughed so hard.

Another sub-plot involves Rod coming to terms with some personal identity issues. As a Republican Investment Banker, actor Shane Dallmann is stiff and wrapped up tight with some slight shaking as he struggles with questions regarding Rods' sexuality. Partnered with Nicky, the pair share good chemistry as best friends living together for perhaps a little too long. Each one grates on the others nerves in typical "odd couple" fashion. Rod seeks help from therapist Christmas Eve and there are some hilarious moments between these two.

I attended the show with my wife and our friend, whose comments after the show were glowing. We all had a great night and were hugely entertained. My wife's favorite characters were Kate Monster and the Pink "Bad Idea Bear". Support the local arts and attend this fantastic show featuring all local performers. They work hard for your appreciation and make sure to bring a handful of change for the second act. Heck, bring a wad of cash and spend it on the cookies and coffee. My wife says the Chai was "To die for."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

An Evening With Mr. Johnson:

I’ve actually been struggling with where to begin when organizing my thoughts on “An Evening With Mr. Johnson”. I usually just sit there and let things just sort of dribble out until there’s a fairly steady stream, but there was nothing. So I sort of sat there, staring, wondering why the dang thing wasn’t working. I had laughed almost constantly, found it hard to breathe through the laughter, and I truly had a great time. Why couldn’t I express myself? Jodi Gilmore starts the show off with a laugh and we get a lot of the expected puns right out of the way. He delivers a fantastic little monologue about his preparation for the role complete with visual aids. We then dive headlong into the story; Ed (L.J. Brewer) is spending New Years Eve alone after a particularly nasty break up with his fiancée. It seems that Ed’s past struggles with faithlessness have landed him in hot water before. Struggling to understand his failings, Ed eventually blames that poor body part and sparks an all too familiar debate. Gilmore is that irreverent, sarcastic, and somewhat volatile appendage. It’s a classic battle between the Id and the Ego to determine dominance over the male psyche, with both sides attempting to reconcile the desires of the other. Brewer is grounded as an average guy coping with the problems of interpersonal relationships as he approaches middle age. He still wants to see himself as the dangerous young man he once was but his Id has started to remind him that those moments are limited and there are really only a few years left. Michael Matteos’ script isn’t just hilarious, it’s also a little brutally honest when it comes to facing those later years.

But there is only so far a person can go in facing their own issues. They can talk as much as they want, but it’s ultimately a struggle with your self. Whatever terms you come to, you eventually have to face the rest of the world. It’s the second acts’ introduction of Alison Smith as Ed’s fiancée that sets him on a collision course with even deeper issues. The fact that she’s a psychiatrist and her clinical demeanor have driven a sharp spike between the original pair, and Smith presents a fantastic foil to Gilmore’s earlier snark and irreverence. That collision is the set up for a series of hilarious exchanges between Ed, his Id, and the fiancée as they struggle to cope with Ed’s betrayal and identity issues.

Koly McBride brings a fantastic script to life and delivers another wonderful evening at the Paper Wing Theater. And you have no idea how much I wish I had a better sentence than that. It’s unoriginal, it’s not daring, it’s not clever, and it completely lacks the poetic flair that my praise should give it. I sat on the computer for a couple nights, struggling to figure out the right words… and that stupid sentence kept popping into my head over and over again. I would read it, erase it, and then write it again. It’s not that it isn’t true, because it is. It’s that so bland and banal a sentence seems so ill fitting for such a great time. It was well worth my time and I caught my wife laughing out loud at several moments, so why don’t you do yourselves a favor and check out “An Evening with Mr. Johnson”.

Monday, October 17, 2011

MEGA-REVIEW CATCH-UP!!! Tucker & Dale, X-Men: First Class, Perfect Host, True Grit, and more...

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Let’s take a familiar story and set it askew. College kids on vacation decide to head off into the backwoods, get drunk, go swimming in the lake, generally act like the irresponsible punks that they are and then they run afoul of some redneck locals. It’s a familiar horror film trope. But what if the redneck locals really are just well meaning good ol’ boys? What if the problem is a series of mishaps and miscommunications? This is our basic premise behind the story of “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”. Our title characters are best friends setting out to repair a dilapidated cabin recently purchased by Tucker with his life savings. When our erstwhile pair manages to rescue one of the kids from drowning, the others believe that she’s been taken hostage and the rednecks are full of ill intent. The kids attempts to “rescue” their friend result in a series of brutal accidents, leading our duo to believe that they’re the victims of some “suicide-murder pact” perpetrated by the girls friends. They also come to believe that they have to protect the girl from her friends and events continue to spiral and escalate out of control. The results, although tragic, are also pure slapstick hilarity.

Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are fantastic as the title characters. Their performances keep the characters engaging and it’s their convincing friendship that keeps the audience interested in the events surrounding them. Their reactions to the brutal deaths are hilarious. Labine is simply brilliant as the well-meaning but somewhat naïve Dale while Tudyk plays it much more straight as Tucker, a man who sees his lifes’ dream turning into a nightmare. It’s a great comic pairing and works especially well with the premise of the film. There are a number of decent gore effects, including the trailer-spoiled death by wood-chipper but the film goes beyond the simple slapstick comedy by giving us a pair of likeable main characters for whom to root when they must eventually face the “evil” of the title.

4.5 out of 5.

X-Men: First Class

So I didn’t expect much out of the new X-Men: First Class film and was kind of surprised to read and hear so many good things about it. I still wasn’t convinced to give it a theatrical viewing, but eagerly snatched it up as a Netflix DVD rental. Based on the comic book franchise, “First Class” gives us a look at the Xavier Institutes’ past and the friendship between the Professor and his nemesis, Magneto. We find an early introduction to several characters in the franchise, the story takes place at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we get an incredible villain portrayed by Kevin Bacon. All of the promising comments bore tremendous fruit and the film takes you on an action packed thrill ride with an engaging story. All of this, of course, hinges on the very real possibility that the viewer has absolutely no interest in the comic book or is able to completely forget key issues regarding the characters introduced to the story.

We’re treated to an introduction to Alex Summers, the younger brother of familiar X-Men icon Cyclops. In this film, the younger brother is a prison inmate released from solitary confinement in order to join Xavier’s band of misfit mutants. Although his relationship with Cyclops never comes up beyond naming him Summers, as a fan of the character his placement in the film is frustrating. The portrayal of Alex as an arrogant punk instead of the insightful archeologist and compassionate hero he is in the comics rankles my feathers a little further. But, that would just be one character out of several that included a Banshee AND Moira MacTaggert born in America without the slightest hints of an accent, a female “angel” with insectoid wings and the ability to spit acid or fire or some such, or a completely superfluous character whose only purpose from the moment he hits the screen is to die an ignoble death. I’m not precisely certain how much of the “comic book” actually became included with the film, but I would suspect they had little more than a list of names and powers when the writers hammered out the script.

I suppose a lot of the film can be forgiven for taking such incredible liberties, but I’m a purist at heart and I think that some continuity needs to be maintained when developing a franchise film based on a franchise comic book. I know a lot of people saw this film as the direction in which comic films should be pushed, but it didn’t push the right buttons for me. It’s largely a fantastic film and it’s a shame they had to drag several characters over the coals in order to get it made. I would recommend the film for anyone who has no interest in the comics and would warn purists that there are A LOT of changes to some beloved characters in the series.

3.5 out of 5.

The Perfect Host:

Skeet Ulrich, a fugitive on the run, manages to charm his way into the home of David Hyde Pierce on the night of a dinner party to be hosted by Pierce. Unfortunately for “Fat Johnny Depp”, DHP is not the mild mannered host we originally assume him to be and events quickly spiral out of control. The film mostly revolves around the interplay between Pierce and Ulrich, the latter of which seems out of his depth throughout most of the film. Hyde Pierce is a psychotic bag of trouble for the Fugitive, showing off a scrap book collection of previous dinner “Guests” and taunting Ulrich about the direction of his life. We also find out that Ulrich’s crime is not all we originally believe it to be, as we get constant flash-backs to the love of his life and her medical problems intercut with scenes of the detectives looking for Ulrich. As DHP continues to torture, mock, and humiliate his victim, Ulrich begins to show the audience more of who he really is and we get a real game of Cat & Mouse.

The film delivers some improbable twists and turns and should have probably ended a little sooner than it’s run time, but it had its heart in the right place and was cleverly performed. The real highlight of the film, however, is David Hyde Pierce. There are so many scenes where Pierce just dominates the camera and gives us a glimpse into a mind that is just flat out bizarre.

4 out of 5.

True Grit: (remake)

So the Coen Brothers got together and decided to throw together an updated remake to a classic John Wayne film? I wanted to see this one in the theater, but circumstances prevented me and it took awhile for me to get around to giving it a spin on the DVD player. Having only seen the original once some random number of years ago, I thought it was a fair story that held up well. The Coen Brothers didn’t really do a lot to change it up or deliver something especially new, but this is a much darker version of the story. Jeff Bridges is fantastic as Rooster Cogburn, but he lacks some of the warmth that John Wayne brought to the role. It could be better with the story the Coens choose to tell but the story really does belong to the character of “Maddie”… the young actress portraying Maddie should have a heck of a future. She’s not the spit fire comedy relief of the first film, but is rather a tragic heroine struggling to cope with the loss of her father and the responsibility of caring for her family. She’s a hard girl and her scenes with Le Beouf are exemplary. Probably the weakest aspect of the film is the LeBeouf character. However it seems perhaps it was purposefully so, as Matt Damon seems too soft for the role of a Texas Ranger. Maddies’ cutting remarks hit very true to the mark and LeBeouf is often humiliated throughout the course of the film. He doesn’t seem at all to be the hard-bitten trail hand he claims to be.

I'm not entirely certain why, but I just can't think of much to write about for this film. It was a good film, but nothing I could just talk about for paragraphs at a time. Anyway, I recommend it.

4 out of 5.


I’ve never been a fan of the “first person” shaky cam affect used in perhaps a few too many recent independent film projects. Troll Hunter follows a documentary crew as they stalk the moves of a known bear poacher. We quickly discover that the poacher is far more than he seems and the crew finds out that Trolls exist. There are different species running wild on preserves throughout Sweden, and its’ the job of this poacher to hunt them when they escape. And that’s what this film is… there are several great scenes, but it’s a lot of running through the woods and some great CGI affects to animate the Trolls our crew comes across. There’s some government conspiracy goodies, some science behind the existence of trolls, and we get a lot of information regarding the mythology of these creatures. Fun film.

4 out of 5.


This wretched drivel is werewolf fan fiction romance disguised as a serious attempt in film making. The mind numbing “plot” involves a strange woman on the run from her abusive boyfriend, arriving in town, seducing the town “hero”, and then turning him into a werewolf… sorry, that term is never actually used. They get turned into CGI glowing wolf-like creatures of blurry nonsense. Oh, god… and then we find out that the guys female best friend has been one of these creatures all along, but she’s a good woof and yadda yadda blah blah blah. This movie started off slowly, revved it’s engine maybe once throughout the debacle, and then finished us off with an anticlimactic series of endings before mercifully rolling the end credits. There are worse movies out there, but this debacle was a total waste of time.

1 out of 5.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fright Night remake + Hobo With A Shotgun


I have never been a big fan of remakes or re-imaginings, so I’m often walking into those types of films with a largely negative mindset to begin with. Now, when you take into account that the original Fright Night is actually one of my all-time favorite vampire films, there were some serious hurdles for me to actually pony up the money to see this particular movie. Casting David Tennant as Peter Vincent goes a long way to leaping those hurdles, but I was still pretty resilient to the idea of this film. Great reviews and several recommendations from friends pushed me over the edge, though I still avoided the 3D rendering.

There is plenty to love about the new Fright Night. Colin Farrell is fantastic as Jerry, danger and feral intensity mixed with shark-like viciousness. This isn’t some sparkling romantic lead and he absolutely revels in the pure nastiness of the role. Tennant is also excellent, though I still rattle at the change from a horror host to some dinky little stage magician. Also excellent are Charlie’s’ mother and Amy, the primary love interest of our lead. Even “Evil Ed”, the socially awkward former best friend of Charlie is excellently played to maximum effect despite not appearing throughout most of the film. So with this absolutely fantastic supporting cast, I was actually kind of irritated that the lead character was such a jerk. From the very beginning, Anton Yelchin plays an extremely unlikeable “Charlie”. He’s ditched his best friends from childhood because they don’t fit in with his new “social clique”, he ogles the neighbor woman across the street, and I just couldn’t bring myself to actually like this guy. Even when he realizes what a jerk he’s been, even when he’s being hunted by the vampire, I just couldn’t really sympathize with HIM. Though Tennant comes across as arrogant and cowardly, I still like him… I’m still rooting for him to be a good guy, to rise the occasion, while Charlie never really manages to gain my support throughout the whole story.

CGI-madness lent itself to some unintentionally awkward gore scenes. If there’s one thing I really hate about CGI it’s when they try to insert blood in a scene. It renders awkwardly and there was far too much usage of the effect throughout the film. In places where traditional effects would have been far better served, CGI dominates. There are, however, occasions where the CGI does work to fantastic effect and provides some great visuals… the vampiric features stand out, some of the stunt work blends well, but it’s just over done. One big negative, for me, was the lighting. I didn’t see the film in 3D and I can’t actually imagine being able to make out a darn thing if I had, it was just so dim. I could barely make out figures amongst the shadows. This made the ending a little anti-climactic at one point. (No spoilers, but it’s another departure from the original that sort of rankled me a bit.)

Okay, so I’m being a little harsh on this film. This was a good film, but it just wasn’t GREAT. It hit a lot of the right notes, it succeeded in every way it wanted to, but I’m still saying that the original was a far superior product and may be a certain sign that I’ve outgrown the latest generation of film-goers. It was certainly better than I expected and had a number of great scenes, including one where I just about nearly forgot that I hated Charlie. He quickly established his lack of charisma shortly there-after, but it was nearly there! Yay? Still... he's no William Ragsdale.

One great shout out, however; Chris Sarandon makes a cameo as Jay Dee (Get it?), a hapless victim who comes upon our heroes in a moment of crisis. I saw no brief moments where any of the other original cast-members so much as stopped by to wave, though. Were they too busy; was the offer ever made, or what? And what about William Ragsdale?!?!! You have to be kidding me... star of "Herman's Head"! Star of the Mannequin sequel! Star of the sequel to the original Fright Night... and the first film, even! You know... the likeable Charlie? BOOO!!!! FUCKIN' BOO!!!! Still, good movie.

4 out of 5.

And then there's this one...

Hobo with a Shotgun

After winning the SXSW “trailer” contest promoted by Robert Rodriguez, Hobo with a Shotgun saw some action when it was attached to the Grindhouse project from Rodriguez and Tarantino. And that was the beginning of its birth as a full length feature.

Starring Rutger Hauer in the title role, Hobo with a Shotgun is just over the top nastiness set to eleven with gruesome violence and unapologetic brutality. “The Drake” and his two sons are psychopathic crime lords, monsters who rule over their city like lords of proper royalty. The police are corrupt, the people are wicked, and there are all manner of scum wandering the city streets. The Hobo arrives and starts to save for his ticket out of the gutter, a lawn mower to help him earn an honest living. It isn’t long before he witnesses a series of brutal crimes (and becomes victim to a few himself), picks up a shotgun instead of the lawnmower, and goes out on a vigilante killing spree. The criminals decide to fight back and all sorts of destructive mayhem occurs.

Look, this is an over the top film with lots of gruesome horror and blood. What’s more, it does break a big rule for me, twice. In one case, it has a proper resolution. In the other, it’s just gratuitous and sort of brings the movie down a few notches for me. But Hauer is also fantastic in the role… a veteran to the genre; Hauer bites into the role with both teeth and tears it apart with pathos and rage. He takes what could have been a one dimensional character and adds depth for one of the best performances I’ve seen from him in a good many years. And three young actors make the most of their opportunities on the screen to make an impact, so the movie is definitely worth a watch for fans of the high octane action along the vein of Crank.

4 out of 5.

Monday, July 25, 2011

REVIEWS: Captain America & Flashback thoughts on The Crow

Captain America: The First Avenger

“So… you want to kill Nazis?”

In a Michael Bay film you could expect a snarky response in the affirmative. It’s the acceptable norm in most summer blockbusters, the hero is an arrogant B-A with testosterone leaking from his pores by the gallon. He’s surrounded by surgically altered women to fit a cosmetic plastic doll design, accompanied by a wise-cracking sexist moron, and he’s just as cool as cool can be. And it’s precisely the sort of model I feared most when the opening credits to Captain America rolled. Where would Joe Johnston decide to take this film? Could he somehow overcome the Hollywood hype machine in order to bring justice to such an iconic comic book character? The answer is found several minutes into the film when Steve Rogers is posed the question I asked in the beginning of this review. His answer isn’t a light hearted quip; it isn’t a bloodthirsty dismissal of the enemy. He earnestly talks about not wanting to kill anyone, just wanting to do his duty, and wanting to stand up to the biggest bully the world had ever known. In short, he talks about being Captain America. And that scene, in a nutshell, manages to capture the essence of Captain America. And that’s the small stuff, the attention to detail, that allows this film to rise above the saturated market of super hero films and deliver the goods.

Set at the height of the Second World War, Captain America is originally created in order to provide the allied forces with a special unit of “super soldiers” to gain an advantage over the Nazi’s. The experiment is thwarted by Hydra, a sub-sect organization led by the nefarious Red Skull. The one time Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is simply delightful as the Skull; a driven, intelligent, and deeply psychopathic extremist with plans to not only dominate but utterly annihilate most of the civilized world. The Red Skull’s own experiments and technological monstrosities threaten the globe and it’s up to Steve Rogers to stop him.

Chris Evans delivers a remarkable performance as Rogers. He’s a humble, determined, and heroic character with awkward charm and slightly immature boyishness. His rise to heroism isn’t without it’s own bumps, from a bureaucratic lack of faith in his ability to political opportunism the opportunity to prove himself only comes through happenstance when he joins the USO tour of Europe. And that’s when the action kicks into high gear as the good Captain gathers a team to help him cut the heads off Hydra! Sidekick “Bucky” Barnes is well represented as the childhood friend of Steve Rogers already serving on the front lines. They’re joined by classic “NICK FURY” WW2 era characters, Howard Stark, and other Allied Agents to do battle with the agents of Hydra and the Red Skull himself. The Captain becomes an inspiration and a leader, driving his team to assault the Red Skulls various bases of operation before the thrilling finale!

5 out of 5.

(Flashback review!) The Crow

With rumors persisting of a “Crow” remake on the horizon, I decided to take a little trip back to my wayward teens and pay a special visit to the Brandon Lee classic. I pretty much fell in love with this movie when it came out and watched multiple screenings in the theater before bootlegging the VHS rental with a pair of recorders. I bought the soundtrack, featuring a significant list of alt rock names from the 90’s. I even wore the make up on occasion, but was by no means the only one amongst my friends. It was alt-goth, it was horror, it was cutting edge, and it hit all the right buttons for fandom of the time. It spawned multiple sequels, none of which succeeded in capturing the magic of the first film… as a matter of fact, “City of Angels” was so wretchedly horrible I very nearly walked out of the theater. So now that I’m turning 36 years old, will the movie still hold up to the test of time?

Brandon Lee’s death casts a large shadow over the production of this film. His death was a tragedy, taking an extremely young performer who had just begun to find his footing as a film star in his own right. As the son of Martial Arts legend Bruce Lee, Brandon was occasionally found in a number of features that attempted to exploit the name. Brandon, however, showed fantastic charisma in both “Rapid Fire” and a strange pairing with Dolph Lundgren in “Showdown in Little Tokyo.” Early talk surrounding an adaptation of James O’Barr’s graphic novel said that this film would make Brandon a star. He tackles the role of Eric Draven with great pathos, humanity, and vengeful fury. A revenant returned for a night to gain vengeance on the people responsible for the rape and murder of his fiancée, Draven’s spirit is accompanied by a crow with which he shares a spiritual bond. Immune to harm, Draven spends much of the movie hunting down the men before becoming the hunted himself. The men were all in the employ of a criminal “villain” (Top Dollar) who decides he would like to steal Draven’s power for himself. Eric is forced to remember the life that was torn from him and to confront the aftermath of a tragedy and how it affected others in his life.

Watching the film now feels a little odd. A friend on “facebook” replied to a random post I made about this film being a “snapshot of the time” and I suddenly realized how true that was. The gothic atmosphere and tone are symbolic of the time, when Gen-X found itself thrust into a world largely devoid of purpose. Its bleak setting was a snapshot to the boredom and ennui typified by my generation. The villains were dark reminders of where too many friends were headed, the music was raw, and CGI was just starting to be developed for use in live action films. (You can’t help but to compare some of the effects of today, knowing just how early a lot of the CGI in this film was.) But the story still transcends time and delivers on all the emotional cues; an opportunity for revenge against the perpetrators of a terrible crime.

The film always comes back to Draven and Lee’s performance. We are feeling his pain, we are following his path, and we are sharing his story at all times. Even when he is not on the screen, we know he’s somewhere in those dark shadows surrounding the city. Brandon Lee carries this film beyond the effects and delivers in every subtle movement. So the film still retains much of the impact for me that it had in 1994, and I cringe at the prospect of a remake. I know the project wasn’t precisely faithful to the original material, so maybe there is room for a re-imagining based on the comic itself. But, honestly, I would like to see them leave any reboot of this project for a later time and another generation.

5 out of 5.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

REVIEW: Green Lantern

"In blackest day and darkest night no evil shall escape my sight... " fans of the comic will know the rest, so let me get straight to the point. There was alot of speculation with regards to the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. The comedically gifted actor has turned in some fantastic performances as of late with a few of his lesser known films, but there was a big question regarding his ability to play the iconic role of Hal Jordan. With the films release, all questions were answered and Ryan Reynolds wound up being the least of the films problems. He tackles the role adequately enough, presenting Jordan as a reckless pilot thrust into a role of responsibility he isn't quite prepared for. He's quirky in the right moments, courageous when he needs to be, and is just about as vanilla as it gets when it comes to playing a superhero.

There are no major problems with the film. It isn't clumsy, it has decent pacing, and the story is rather traditional in and of itself. It features spectacular special effects, decent fight choreography, and a decent supporting cast. They throw in a prerequisite super sized beasty bad guy threat, introduce concepts for an ongoing franchise, and they have some fun with the concept of the Green Lantern Corps.. But, at the end of the day, Green Lantern is such a "paint-by-numbers" superhero film that it's easy to loose sight of it in the summers gluttony of comic adaptations. It's fun, it's frivolous, and you can munch your popcorn and shut off your brain because you already know how everything is going to work out and how the hero will overcome stacked odds. There is not a single surprise throughout the film. But I already know that I'm a jaded jerk-wad so I defer to the judgement of my six year old son and my thirty-six year old wife... both of whom quickly reminded me that it was a fun movie, a family outting, and it was just what it needed to be. It doesn't really matter that it doesn't try to be more.

I look back to when I was a kid... did anyone ever see the Captain America movie from the 90's? How about the "never-released" Fantastic Four film? Punisher with Dolph Lundgren? Seriously, folks... Green Lantern has the dubious honor of being compared to "The Dark Knight" and "X-Men" and other comic adaptations that have frankly spoiled the hell out of the core audience. So you might read or hear about some harsher reviews from other critis, but I'm going to say that Green Lantern was fun enough for the price of admission.

3.5 out of 5.

Monday, June 27, 2011

FLASHBACK review: Chopping Mall

Chopping Mall

FLASHBACK to the year 1986! Feathered hair styles were blow-dried out of proportion and low budget studios were tossing out direct to video horror flicks by the handful. It was a glutted market and that left lil’ Mad Mark with a lot of movies to hunt down and peruse at the local video store. I would hop on my bike with a plastic bag, start snatching up bottles and cans, roll on down to the local Grocery Chain and cash in with just enough money for a Video Tape and a few slices of pizza between me and my best friend. Every once in a blue moon I feel like revisiting the memories of those wonderful summer days, the landscape of that video stores’ “Horror” selection, and I feel transported back to younger days.

“Chopping Mall” was just one of a few dozen direct to video slashers at the time. It had a terrific box cover featuring a torn shopping bang full of random body parts. A robotic-looking Panzer-hand with miniature whirling blades embedded in the knuckles gripped the bags handles for lifting and a little bit of blood had soaked through to puddle on the ground. Jim Wynorsky directed the film with a strong nod toward tongue in cheek comedy. Kelli Maroney (I admit it, I had a pre-teen crush on her from “Night of the Comet”) headlines the pseudo-“slasher” flick as Allison, the typical survivor-styled “good girl” who spends much of the movie taking charge, shooting robots, or reciprocating Tony O’Dell’s awkward smiles in typical good girl meets good boy style. She’s flippant, charismatic, and I never really understood why she didn’t make a bigger impact in genre films over the long haul. The film is kind of remarkable for the number of other genre-star appearances as well, including Deathstalker 2’s Michael Terlesky and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton. We also had appearances from Dick Miller, Mary Woronov, and Paul Bartel! The characters are actually pretty funny and deliver alot of great lines throughout the film. Terlesky is actually very funny as a gum chewing arrogant jock, while Tony O'Dell is very likeable as the awkward boy-geek in his group of friends.

So here’s the story; a freak thunderstorm has an adverse affect on the Mall’s new electronic security measures, including its security robot personnel. Three Robots, each one named after their corresponding number, begin the festivities by killing their technicians. Eight teens plan on having a “party” in the furniture store where three of the boys work. They are stuck inside the mall as the “Kill-Bots” go on a rampage, hunting the characters down with lasers and other bizarrely installed devices for the sole purpose of killing everyone in its path. There’s a great sequence where one of the characters has their head blown apart by a laser! The film is fully conscious that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously as the teens belt out one-liners not a few moments after their friends and loved ones are quickly dispatched. Eventually the kids fight back, leading up to a rather predicable showdown between the films primary antagonists and their final victims. The whole film was a cheap little thrills ride and it never needed to be anything more, really. The robots were very similar to “Short Circuit”’s Johnny Five, with four clawed appendages and a tank-tread lower body for travel. Heads explode, bodies are tossed about, and laser blasts cause carnage and destruction throughout the course of the film. At a little over an hour and twenty minutes, this little B-Grade flick delivers the goods.

"Thank you. And Have a Nice Day."

3 out of 5

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pirates and Samurai: 2 Reviews!!! (13 Assassins, Pirates 4)

The new “Pirates of the Caribbean” was due out this weekend and I’d already promised to take the family. So when I flipped open the “Coast Weekly” for movie times, my eyes bugged out of my skull and my heart skipped a happy beat when I saw an ad for “13 Assassins” at the Osio Cinema. Takashi Miike’s latest film was already making the rounds On-Demand, but this was a chance to catch the film on the big screen and bask in the glory of samurai goodness. How? How could I manage this one? I can normally maybe see a single movie if I try, but 2 movies in one weekend? I had rehearsal on Saturday so I would be in town. I had a friend with me who shared my appreciation for Asian Cinema and was familiar with Miike. I needed to check with my wife, make certain that things were alright and I could take a little longer in Monterey than I normally. She said “yes”!!!! So we set out for an afternoon viewing and wound up running into my buddy Shane and his dad on their way out of the theatre. Remo D. had a smile on his face after the film so I was pretty certain I would, too.

“13 Assassins”

This is pure Miike, the man who brought us “Audition”, “Sukiyaki Western: Django” and “Ichi: The Killer”. The mans’ body of work includes family films, samurai epics, horror films, and on and on. He’s a visceral director and goes for shocking imagery, scenes specifically intended to haunt and disturb the viewer. Some reviewers are mistakenly referring to this film as a “Seven Samurai” retread, but the two films actually share very little in common. It is a small number of Samurai against a larger force, we do take time to introduce to thirteen warriors, and some of the characters share traits with the seven archetypes from Kurosawa’s masterpiece. That is where the similarities end, because this is an entirely different story with very different thematic elements. There’s no gang of bandits, there’s no helpless villagers looking for help.

The Shoguns’ half brother is a psychopathic bully whose rapes and murders have driven one retainer to commit Hari-kiri in the films opening scene. The minister of Justice has a dilemma… he cannot ignore the crimes and he cannot pass judgment on the bloodline of the Shogun without condemning the family by extension. With his very existence threatening the peace, the brother must be dealt with quietly and the Chief Justice is forced to call upon the aid of an aging samurai in the twilight of his life. Assassinate the Shoguns half brother as he travels from point A to point B while surrounded by his guard, including their well-trained leader; a classmate and rival to the films’ primary antagonist. And to complete his task, he gathers several men and informs them that going along on this mission means that their lives are his to do with as he pleases.

The preparations from both sides commence as each is very aware of the others final goal, all of this leading up to a brutal and visceral 45 minute battle sequence that pulls no punches and delivers the grue like we all know Miike can. The true horror, however, comes from the personal reactions from the Samurai, their screams and their breakdowns captured in stunning detail. We are given the sights of war, the horrors and the terrors of a battlefield and we’re asked to endure this trial with the characters we’ve become accustomed to. We see some change before our eyes, rising to courage and falling to madness as they endure absolute hell.

I asked a friend of mine we ran into when he came to the theatre what his thoughts were after the film ended. He told me he needed some time to absorb the film and I felt the same way… I was shocked, stunned, thrilled, and horrified by the film. I did not walk out of the theater feeling “good” about life and I didn’t know if a smile was appropriate. The smile wasn’t quite there, but this wasn’t exactly a happy little film. We were dealing with some heavy material throughout this film, including honor, loyalty, responsibility, defiance, and acceptance. But there are two images that continue to haunt me: In one scene there is a woman who has been tortured, used, and discarded by the Shoguns’ brother. When the pull her robe from her we see she’s had all four limbs cut off, we find her tongue has been cut from her mouth, and she takes a brush between her teeth as bloody tears flow from her eyes. “What happened to the rest of your family?” she is asked. She writes and the kanji translates “TOTAL MASSACRE”. Her screams echo in my head now. The opposing image is one where the Shoguns’ brother is surrounded by make-shift walls, having fallen into the Samurai’s trap. The lead Samurai reaches into his armor and draws out a scroll, reveals the rough kanji and bloody-tear soaked words from that same woman and the sub-titles translate “Total Massacre” once again.

5 out of 5.

And now I have to completely change pace… the odd thing is that my two favorite roleplaying games follow this exact same trend. I love Legend of the Five Rings, a roleplaying game set in a mythic world based on Feudal Japan and China. But I go from that game to “7th Sea”, a game based on swashbuckling adventures with pirates and treasures. These are totally different mindsets yet two of my favorite genres. Go figure?

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

Based on a novel with no ties to the original series, “On Stranger Tides” feels a little jumbled together and doesn’t quite hit the same notes as the original series. Johnny Depp reprises the iconic role of “Captain Jack Sparrow” for another outing and hits the seas opposite Penelope Cruz. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbosa (minus a leg), and Mr. Gibbs returns for a few colorful exchanges but the films story seems centered on peripheral characters that never seem to be given the focus they should. As the Spanish and English Navies race to lay claim to the fabled “Fountain of Youth”, Blackbeards’ daughter helps her father to gather a crew and set sail to outpace both nations. We meet a young missionary who has been tied to Blackbeards mast for no greater crime than having faith, he is saved from a death sentence by Blackbeards daughter for no greater reason than a desire to save her fathers’ soul, and Blackbeard is played by Ian McShane for far too little time to develop a truly enthralling villain. Jack’s only real purpose in the story is that he may or may not have already been to the fountain and would, therefore, be capable of leading Blackbeard and his crew to the site.

It’s not a bad movie. It’s chain-food pizza; not quite the best in town but it’ll do in a pinch. I would have preferred to see a story centered more specifically on the character of Sparrow or to have seen some more screen time given to some of the periphery characters; but the film does manage to scratch that “Swashbuckling” itch. Penelope Cruz is great in her role, though she seems to lack any romantic chemistry with Depp. She could make a great addition as foil to Jack if that sub-plot was ignored for future installments but that remains to be seen. So it’s not the next big thing, it’s not the greatest story ever told, and the plot has a lot of holes left over from the butchering of what had been a promising novel by many accounts (I haven’t read it myself, but think I may now). It is, however, a fun little romp with plenty of gags and plenty of action. Depp doesn’t slow down and continues to have fun with his most endearing character to date while Geoffrey Rush adds just enough pomp to Barbosa to provide a few different laughs.

3 out of 5.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Birdemic: Shock and Terror review?? Spoiler alert.

Birdemic: Shock And Terror

I once saw a dead bird lying to the side of a nearly desolate road getting picked apart by maggots and other insects. I was riding my bike on a hot day and the smell twisted my gut and forced me to stop, forced me to glance in that direction and I was absolutely awed by the wretchedness of the sight. Drying blood had become brown on the asphalt, little squirming maggots feasted on the moistest parts, and the poor avian creatures’ beak was partly open to reveal more things squirming inside. Flies were buzzing around its body. It was horrible and ghastly, but an oddly compelling image that has stayed with me throughout the years. I don’t really want it in my head but it will always be there. And so will Birdemic. I was enthralled with the ineptitude of this cinematic debacle. This film manages to get every aspect of the medium wrong. From plot to visuals to acting and even the sound, the film is an absolute tragedy to the art and an irredeemable mess in every way possible.

I think about that bird on the road, a desiccated and rotting thing devoured by maggots and how it’s been seared in my minds’ eye. The theme music begins and it’s very loud… and then very soft… and then very loud and the credits roll over a video montage of a small coastal town along the California coast. The wind blows across the camera’s mic constantly and we finally focus on a slowly moving car driven by our films protagonist. Vacantly staring into the abyss, our hero somehow manages to suck any possible emotion from each and every word he speaks with all the qualities of a nervous robot. He awkwardly walks, slowly, from one place to another without daring to swing his arms in fear that too much action might just wear him out. He meets the films other protagonist, a girl who sat in front of him in High School and who is now a fashion model and who he has somehow found the courage to finally ask out on a date. She never stops smiling. Her lips seem to be constantly peeled back from her gleaming white teeth and her eyes are pulled open by invisible fish-hooks. Maggots were eating the eyes of that dead bird on the road.

After offering various concessions and a fifty percent discount on a product, our “hero” eventually makes a big million dollar sale and spends the next first third of the film showcasing the writers absolute ignorance regarding economics in the market place. He follows this up with a brutally awkward first date that includes immediate talk about marriage and starting a family. I never talked about that dead bird on a single date I’ve been on. I think it might be wrong. And when our Hero decides to start up his own business, selling solar panels that use nano-technology, he’s a huge success who rounds up his next big sale in the range of one billion dollars. This entire first act of the film continually builds on our heroes budding relationship with the back-drop of looming environmental catastrophe.

The birds attack.

I stared in open mouthed “shock and terror.” I don’t want to tell you why right now. I can’t tell you why. Please don’t make me remember this?!?!!! Fine… FINE!!! GIF level CGI… we are talking card board cutouts digitally inserted into the film at random points and slowly flapping their wings while floating in place around the characters forced to interact with the lamest special effect EVER put on film. A trip to the dollar store for fake birds and fishing line would have created a better effect, good god! But that first shot is a thing of special beauty… video footage of a town with superimposed images of these birds attacking, dive bombing, exploding, and otherwise creating mayhem. None of these buildings actually explode, mind you… the image of an explosion is simply super-imposed over the building.

I wondered, briefly, if a bird might mistakenly believe I had been responsible for the death of this lone crow and fly at my head. I was twelve at the time. I vividly remember wondering if I would be able to fend it off from me. I never once considered the use of a coat-hanger. And yet our heroes immediately set forth armed with coat hangers and leap into a van where the local Iraqi veteran has stashed a fully automatic rifle and his side-arm. And they drive off for the next act, a wandering and rambling mess of narrative that includes scene after scene of bird carnage and environment catastrophe. And we wander… and we wander… and we pick up two children along the edge of a deserted highway where several cars just kept driving across the edge of the picture frame and the microphone picked up various engine roars. We follow the characters as they dare to enter a small market, get some lunch, and then go on a FREAKIN’ PICNIC ON THE BEACH!!!!! THIS MOVIE IS STUPID!!! STUPID!!!! KILL ME!!! KILL THE MEMORY!!!!

Finally, our heroes face great hardship when they start to lose members of their party. The soldiers’ girlfriend is killed while squatting on the side of the road and the soldier is killed after he attempts to rescue several people stranded on a tour bus. Do you want to know what kills him? This is spoiler territory here… SCREW YOU MOVIE!!!! The birds piss acid on him and the other trapped people! THEY PISS ACID ON THEM!!!!

No, I’m not going to spoil any more of this film for you. I’m done. I’m done with this review. I’m just flat out done. I don’t know if it can ever get much worse than this film… I don’t know if I can handle a film worse than this gadawful monstrosity and I don’t know if I ever want to challenge myself again on this. So, despite the fact that this is the worst film I’ve ever seen… I’m staring at the images in my head and I realize that there is an absolute ugliness to this work and it has to be seen. I can’t dissuade you from putting the DVD in your own player, I can’t keep you from pressing the button, and I don’t want to. I want you to understand what this film is, I want you to understand what I see and what I feel. I recommend that you sit back and watch Birdemic: Shock and Terror in all its wretched glory.

0 out of 5.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mighty Thor!!! (review)

The new Comic book adaptation of "The Mighty Thor" is a fairly loose adaptation of the source material. As much as it thrills me to see the God of Thunder brought to life, I've never really been that big of a fan of the comic itself. The whole Donald Blake persona never really hit a spot with me, the romance with his nurse never meant anything to me, and the series was always at it's best when he was just the visiting God of Thunder. So a fair majority of the back story from source material is either ignored or thrown out with nod and a wink to the fans. For the typical fan boy, this is either going to be a great adaptation of some fairly difficult material... or they're going to feel cheated and insulted by the smallness of Thor's scale. Most of the film takes place in the desert or on a sound stage with plenty of green screen CGI effects. It's loud like a summer blockbuster should be, it's action packed, and it caters to the absolute lowest denominator with a constant barrage of low-brow humor and "ass-kicking awesomeness." With that said... I was roughly three steps away from hating the shit storm when I saw the flicker of hope. More on that soon enough.

Anthony Hopkins headlines this film along with Natalie Portman, both of whom chew their dialogue into mulch. Not since Liam Neesons' portrayal of Zeus has an actor given more to his craft. Hopkins is tired... you can tell because he hunches his shoulders, winces with each step, and staggers through every scene with the look of a man who seriously needs to take a crap. I figured that Odin would eventually fall into his deep sleep, but the first third of the film pretty much revolves around him berating the God of Thunder in front of Loki. But as far as Hopkins took the ridiculousness of his role, Natalie Portman seemed intent on making the All Father seem "subtle" by comparison. Portman's blistering smile peels away from her teeth with "awkward pretty nerd goodness" with all the regularity of a John Hughes virgin. She's accompanied by a wisecracking college freshmen hoping to earn some credits for her work with Portmans' scientist character. The sole purpose of this character is to make pop-culture referenced jokes at every opportunity. The heroic science team is rounded up with the presence of a surly professor overseeing the younger Portman's bizarre project of studying... does it fucking matter?!?!?!! Seriously??? It was typical Star Trek gibberish and it doesn't actually MEAN anything... except that the myth and magic surrounding Thor is utterly decimated and replaced with "Alien Technology" on Earth. THE FUCK?!?!?!?!!

Deep breath... because the shining light is on the horizon. Kenneth Branagh takes a shitty script with rotten dialogue and he actually polishes this turd up and creates a thrilling story of his own. Chris Hemsworth is absolutely FANTASTIC as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston chooses a much more subtle and extremely humble approach to playing Loki. And the film is at its best when the focus is on these two characters, and Branagh seems to make certain that editing put the attention on these two characters throughout the course of the film. So while the first third of the film seems destined for a brutal assault on our senses, the project comes together in the second and final acts. The annoying characters fall to the wayside and we're watching Loki fall from grace as Thor struggles to redeem himself.

So, look... this isn't going to be a faithful adaptation of the source material. It sort of feels more like a precursor to The Avengers, reducing the mythology of Thor to some extent in order to preserve the super science of Marvels other signature characters. But it's a fun ride and Hemsworth is fantastic in the lead, so it's definitely worth a watch.

4 out of 5.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sucker Punch

"Sucker Punch"

Zack Snyder has already scored a number of points with me for his adaptations of "300" and "The Watchmen", so I was very excited to hear about "Sucker Punch" and saw it as the eye-candy piece it promised to be. I marked the date on the calender, I kept up to date on any changes to that date, and I made certain that I had no other plans to interfere with the viewing of this film. Hell, damnit, I was going to take the afternoon off work just for the chance to see this film. What followed was a series of minor frustrations as reviews painted a negative picture, the theater had technical difficulties, and the bleak weather outside threatened to rain out my entire week. I nearly backed out of my trip to the theater when I found out my son might be heading home early from school but my wife insisted I should go (Saving grace yet again, she deserves so much credit). So, the previews hit the screen and then the film began...

Nothing prepared me for Zack Snyders' vision. Alot of people are not going to "get" this film. That's a given... there's so much going on and the director doesn't really "explain" anything with the films narrative, leaving plenty for the audiences interpretation. A young woman ("Babydoll", played by Emily Browning) is thrown into an insane asylum by her evil stepfather after the death of her mother. She is scheduled to undergo a lobotomy by the corrupt orderly who runs most of the asylum, and she meets the institutes psychiatrist (Carla Cugino) whose introduction sparks the sudden spiral into Babydoll's "fantasy world" where the film dives head first into a second level story. "Babydoll" is now sold into prostitution where the Orderly is actually a pimp, the other patients have become prostitutes desperate to escape their sordid world, and their psychiatrist is now a dance instructor paid to keep them in shape and in line. And Babydoll formulates a plan to escape this nightmare and her own reality, where we find a third layer when Babydoll begins her own "dance" routines... a fantasy world within her fantasy world, where a wise teacher offers tools, advice, and guides the girls through several missions. All of these things lead Babydoll to her redemption and escape from the reality of her real world nightmares.

Okay, and here is where the "fanboy" in me goes a little crazy.... STEAMPUNK-NAZI-ZOMBIES!!!! YES YES YES!!!! Missions in that third level of fantasy include fight with zombies, samurai warriors, mech robots, aliens, cyborgs, orcs, goblins, a dragon, and on and on and on... it's pure GEEK-GASM!!! Sucker Punch never lets up on the assault as Zack Snyder delivers a great story within a story and allows everything to come together nicely for a finely executed ending that goes beyond the Hollywood norm. This isn't some whitewashed film sent through marketing for approval... this is pure art and it's a great beginning for the career of Zack Snyder. His visual style and narrative techniques never condescend and he gives his audience the respect of finding their own interpretations without spelling out every detail through dialogue. I look forward to more work from this talented young man and urge everyone to check out Sucker Punch. You won't be sorry.

A Clockwork Orange: (Live at the Paper Wing Theatre)

"A Clockwork Orange"

Originally adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess' novel explores free will in a dystopian society where the Government has asserted control over many facets of peoples lives. I saw the film a number of times in my youth, but it's the novel itself that has held the greatest impact for me. It's a bleak look into a dark future and leaves plenty of room for discussion, debate, and philosophical consideration of liberty, responsibility, and security. Although adapted for stage and screen in various incarnations, it's Kubricks satyrical vision that drives L.J. Brewers adaptation of the material. The set is beautifully designed with solid shapes and colors against a bleak grey backdrop and graffitti covering the walls of one third the stage. A white sheet and backlight serves as a shadow cast for a number of scenes, allowing the audience to imagine some of the plays most intense scenes. Music fills the play with synthetic and haunting sound from the film as well as some additional choices.

The shows protagonist, Alex DeLarge, is tackled by actor Tyler Vocelka. Tyler's performance is animated, his eyes delivering brilliant reactions to various situations and bringing both humor and menace to the show. He leads his "droogs" through an opening series of "ultra-violent" acts culminating in the vicious home invasion as Tyler belted out "Singin' in the Rain" to chilling effect. Nicholas Kelly, Drew Davis-Wheeler, and Jeff Collenberg are "Dim", "Georgie", and "Pete" and each performer is well suited to their role. As we explore Alex's world we meet his parents (Kelly Machado and Michael Alliman) and Mr. Deltoid (his probation officer played by Jay DeVine). Alex eventually finds himself in Prison after a betrayal from his gang.

All of the actors did a stunning job of presenting the first act. Hardened as I am to some of the scenes presented through a television screen, it was hard to watch some of the scenes taking place a mere twenty or thirty feet from my seat. The scene in the Alexander home nearly drove my eyes to my palms and sent an uncomfortable knot through my stomach as Alex and Dim went to work on the courageous woman (actress: Marlinda Mooneyham) with a pair of scissors and a song. Shane Dallman and Edward Couttolenc (as police officers) eventually bring Alex to justice and we see the mockery of justice in this dystopian society when Mr. Deltoid joins in the taunting of young Alex.

The second act begins with an incredibly humorous Chief Guard (Eric Morton)belting out a list of Alex's personal belongings. Alex is to serve a 14 year sentence, but we rejoin him after two years as he discusses the Ludovico Treatment with the Prison Chaplain (Michael Alliman). It isn't long before Alex is subjected to the Pavlovian treatment and released to a cruel world. There are so many great performances throughout the second act, but it was Tyler's very personal torture that forced this viewer to actually turn his head from the treatment itself. His choking, gagging, and horrified screams became increasingly empassioned and you could feel everything in this young actors performance. When the cold Dr. Branom (Koly McBride) questions Alex about the music, the audience can see the degree of uncertainty before the treatment continues.

So, if you live in the Monterey area and want to see a faithful adaption of one of the most controversial and brutal films ever made than I highly recommend attending the Paper Wing Theatre's adaptation of "A Clockwork Orange". It perfectly illustrates my assertion that art isn't safe and often needs to expose the ugliest parts of humanity in order to make us think. The performers courageously tackle some extremely uncomfortable material and they deserve your regard. Support your local arts.