Pretty/Scary Review: Spike

“Spike” starts, as horror films often do, with a car crash along a rural road at night. But this particular car crash is no accident. Two couples traveling to an unnamed destination are halted by what looks like a steam punk accessory. No one is seriously injured in the accident, but after the lone dude goes to check out the tire damage, an unseen assailant attacks him. The gothic spikes he found in the tire are now sticking out of his throat and he’s bleeding out fast. The three remaining girls go into panic mode and try to figure out how to save their friend and just what the hell is going on…

Read the rest at Pretty/Scary!

NFT Radar: I Love New York Deli

I was raised on the East Coast, but I happily moved to Washington for college and never looked back. I’d never really understood all the complaining by New Yorkers about the lack of good delis and bakeries in Seattle. Different places have different things. But then the I Love New York Deli happened. I’d forgotten all about knishes, rugelach, babka, and piles of thinly sliced and cured meats on marble rye. But these guys haven’t. And they expertly deliver the goods to jonesing east coast ex-pats. It’s like a Seinfeld episode come to life. The staggering knish selection offers both sweet and savory options. They bake their own breads and bagels every morning. There are multiple options for lox and schmear. Breakfast is served daily till 11 and includes a bevy of Kaiser egg sandwiches. At lunch, every enormous, made-to-order sandwich is served with a big, crispy pickle. They also offer a small dry goods selection for those of you missing Stella Doro, Wise chips, and Chock-Full-O-Nuts, plus your typical pre-packaged kosher foods. Though I still love Seattle for its Seattleness, I apparently have plenty of room in my heart for the I Love New York Deli.


5200 Roosevelt Way NE 98105
206-523-0606
www.ilovenewyorkdeli.net

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

What Up With That?

It wasn’t long ago that SNL seemed promising. Of course, with a rotating cast, these things are absolutely cyclical. But when it was Maya Rudolf, Amy Poehler, Tina Fay and Will Forte, there were a lot of quality sketches. Any one of those people can pretty much do or say anything and make it funny. They also weren’t so much with the recurring sketches. And the characters that were recurring (Donatella Versace, the arrogant, one-legged chick, fucking MacGruber!) somehow seemed fresh every time. Now the funny ladies are gone, replaced by much less funny ladies and Kristen Wiig, who can be very funny, but not all the time. So far this season, SNL has been a real dud. They seem to be mostly falling back on recurring characters, mostly played by Kristen Wiig and those sketches are indistinguishable from one another, save the appearance of that week’s host. Seth Meyer is absolutely lost without Amy Poehler. Will Forte has pretty much been relegated to play the straight man (Gilly…GILLY…). Furthermore, Andy Samberg’s once fresh Digital Shorts are generally one-noted.

And then there’s the “What Up With That?” sketch. It’s Keenan Thompson playing a soul-styled host of a talk show called, you guessed it, “What Up With That”. The joke is that his theme song is so long and involved that he never gets around to talking to his high-profile guests, people like James Franco and Al Gore, who are brought in just to sit there and look annoyed and bewildered. It goes on way too long and it’s not terribly funny. BUT the song is extremely catchy.

I was just in the elevator with 4 young ladies on their way to lunch. For some reason, they were all discussing corndogs and they all agreed that corndogs are “gross”. “I like hot dogs. I like cornbread. But I just don’t like corndogs,” said one. “Yeah! I can’t rememeber the last time I even ate one. I was probably drunk,” said another. I didn’t know these people so I couldn’t chime in. But I think corndogs are terrific. In my head, the phrase “Corndog haters in the elevator” popped up. “What up with that?” And with that, I’d written a new verse of the annoyingly infectious “What Up With That” song. And now it’s in my head. Till the end of time.

See for yourself.

It always seems like the most obnoxious sketches are the ones that people remember. And the truly original, funny ones, get banished to obscurity. No one will ever remember the “Garden Party” sketch as well as they’re remember Penelope the one-upper or fucking Gilly. What up with that?

New Moon Backlash!

I absolutely expected some comments from pissed off Twitards for my scathing review of “New Moon”. Fanatics, especially young ones, can’t stand to hear opposing viewpoints on the things that are precious to them. If you have time, I recommend reading all of the comments, including some nice and thoughtful words in my defense. But one comment in particular ranks as the most emotional, off-topic and hilarious response to my writing I have ever come across.

Jessica Baxter, What follows will likely not make it to your blog [Ha! -JB]. In fact, it shouldn’t. Your entire review of New Moon is dark and angry. But I believe you were this way before you saw the film. Read the following 15 quotes from your review of the movie which is the tone of your entire review. Notice the slant of your focus. I don’t believe it came from the movie. I believe you’ve been carrying this around for a very long time. Take all of these quotes personally… “a story so rich with anti-feminist ideology.” “Bella-as-a-battered-woman interpretation” “been more comfortable staring directly into a stripper’s backside. I’m not even joking.” “drives older folks absolutely fucking nuts.” “Excuse me while I go have a panic attack.” “joy ride with one of the Port Angeles rapists.” “a cue to become an adrenaline junkie.” “save her stupid ass from” “bloodthirsty monster to homosexuality.” “seeing as how she has such a boner for men who want to hurt her.” “I was once a brooding teenager who dreamed of gothic romance.” “that Joss Whedon did for female empowerment.” “a slightly condescending and bigoted sauce.” “so much worse than the Backstreet Boys.” “and drink up the messages like poisoned Kool-Aid depresses the hell out of me.” Even the name of this site makes a statement… “Film Threat”. I’ve never heard of you before today. How many of your reviews are like this? How many dark movies do you “love”. Is it possible this is a general theme in the way you look at the world every day? Look at the bi-line of the name of your site. “Truth in Entertainment”. It is not uncommon for the damaged soul to take a smug attitude against the truth. And I think you know the truth is, what you write is simply opinion, nothing more. [Well, yes. That’s what a review is. -JB] You stand behind an attitude like this in order to hide your insecurity as a person. You pride yourself with your use of language. But Jessica, this review contains some very revealing clues to your unhappiness in life. The cruel way your were treated as a child. Being abandoned. [Actually, my parents never left me alone. I often wished they were more hands-off. -JB] Feeling alone, even in a crowd. Being misunderstood. Being exposed to things a child should never have to see or endure. [Like Catholic School? -JB] Your anger. The beatings. [Was I beaten?!…Oh my god…-JB] The bitterness. May I suggest you allow your therapist to read it from a professional point of view. It might help him/her help you. And keep writing like this, maybe in a more private setting. It can bring much of the buried anger to the surface where it can be dealt with in a healthy way. I’ve worked with people on these issues and worse for many years. You will likely respond with anger asserting that your observations come from a rational point of view. Defensiveness and denial are common in people with such a damaged inner child. Don’t just give in to it all. Don’t let all of this be your “excuse” in life for loneliness and loss. Let someone help. It will take courage, but it will be worth it. Please believe me. I will not come back looking for a response. This is not a topic for public discussion. [Then thanks for dragging my imagined personal issues out into a public forum, dickwad. -JB] This is not about me. Just a suggestion from one who sees the truth. And in this case, it has nothing to do with “entertainment”. Seye

I find it particularly interesting that Dr. Freud here a) doesn’t understand that I was, in fact, mostly joking and b) considers feminist ideology and not liking the Backstreet Boys to be a sign of mental illness. I wonder how he/she even came across the review in the first place since they had never heard of Film Threat and included the name and mission statement of an outlet I just work for as part of my analysis. What compels someone to write something like this based on a negative review of a popular movie franchise? Consider my mind boggled.

Also:

Film Threat Review: The Twilight Saga – New Moon

2009
Rated PG-13
127 minutes

0 stars

Full disclosure: I haven’t read the books. I only recently watched the first movie in the name of informed journalism because I knew that would be reviewing “New Moon.” I had a reaction that I didn’t expect. Based on what I already knew about what my favorite gossip blogger calls “Twitards,” I suspected that I wouldn’t love it. I knew about the abstinence “metaphors.” But I didn’t expect to find a story so rich with anti-feminist ideology. A quick Google search tells me that many a literary scholar has already touched on the Bella-as-a-battered-woman interpretation, so I’ll try not to rehash. But I will say that I absolutely agree with it and don’t see it so much as an interpretation as the only way to read the damned thing. The same Google search also tells me that the movies are very similar to the books. So I feel pretty confident in my understanding of the “Twilight” universe.

I watched “Twilight” at home with a friend. But my “New Moon” experience was with an audience. Dear god, the audience! Naturally, it was mostly female. Tweens and their mothers, divided into opposing teams of Edward and Jacob. They were so pumped for the movie that they cheered for the production company logo. They cheered for first appearances of their team mascots. They whooped whenever a male character appeared without a shirt. I felt like I was attending a Barely Legal Chippendales show with my young cousin and horny aunt. I’ve been more comfortable staring directly into a stripper’s backside. I’m not even joking.

I won’t really try to avoid spoilers because if you’re reading this, you’ve most likely either read the books and know what’s going to happen, or you’re morbidly curious and don’t really care. If you don’t want to be spoiled, consider this your warning.

“New Moon” opens with Bella, on the eve of her 18th birthday, having an anxiety dream about getting old while her immortal boyfriend, Edward, stays young. A legitimate worry, to be sure, but she follows it up with a declaration that she’s already old at 18. This is something that teenagers and people in their early 20s like to do, and it drives older folks absolutely fucking nuts. Bella is actually a pretty typical teenager in a lot of ways, none of them positive. She constantly ignores the sound advice that more experienced people give her, choosing to do the rash thing at every turn. She sneaks out. She makes ridiculous declarations like “I don’t really like music” just to sound rebellious. She treats the nice boys terribly, always opting to make time with the troublemakers instead. This is the shit that new parents worry about when they learn they’re having girls. And, for some reason, this character is serving as a role model for teenage girls all over the world. Excuse me while I go have a panic attack.

So anyway, Bella has a really eventful birthday. The possessive Edward has a scowl-off with Jacob, one of the many friends Bella has been ignoring ever since she got a boyfriend. Later, at Bella’s oddly formal birthday party, she gets a paper cut. This abruptly ends the festivities since half the attendees immediately want to eat her. After all this, Bella still doesn’t get what she really wants for her birthday: eternal life. Instead, she settles for a really awkward kiss goodnight from a guy who acts like he has history’s worst case of Blue Balls.

The next morning, with furrowed brow, Edward dumps her like one would a stray puppy. Literally. When he’s done, he actually leaves her in the middle of the woods and she just curls up into a whimpering ball until nighttime. She doesn’t belong in his world, he tells her. She’s not good for him. Considering how many times he’s told her that both he and his entire family would love to gobble her up like a bucket of fried chicken, he makes a valid point. And with that, the Cullens disappear from the town of Forks and from Bella’s life.

Brokenhearted, Bella immediately becomes a useless lump. So useless, in fact, that she doesn’t even try to find her way home from the woods and must be rescued by a shirtless fellow named Sam. (Can anyone tell me why no one, not even Bella’s dad, bats an eyelash when a half-clothed man walks out of the woods with an unconscious teenage girl? They just thank him and get on with their day.) After that, she sits moping in a chair for two solid months. Seriously. That’s a whole montage: Bella staring out the window while seasons change. Her dad tells her that he’s worried about her and her behavior isn’t normal. And guess what? He’s right!

Bella finally decides to get out of the house and that’s when the trouble starts again. After seeing a movie with one of her long-neglected friends, she goes on an impromptu joy ride with one of the Port Angeles rapists. As she straddles the bike, phantom Edward pops up like the angel on her shoulder to tell her that she’s being reckless. Instead of heeding his warnings, she takes this as a cue to become an adrenaline junkie. She decides that being haunted by Edward’s morality ghost is better than nothing. And then she selfishly drags the doting Jacob into her plan to be a moron.

Meanwhile, Jacob has his own problems. Shirtless Sam and his gang of equally shirtless cliff divers have been courting him to join their mysterious group. After an awkward third-wheel date with Bella and that nice blonde boy, Jacob flips out. Anyone who’s seen “Teen Wolf” recognizes this as werewolf puberty. The next time Bella sees Jacob, he’s a changed, shirtless man. Fortunately for her, he’s wolfed out just in time to save her stupid ass from evil vampires in Edward’s absence.

Bella takes this opportunity to become a complete and total hypocrite. “It’s wrong,” she lectures him about being a werewolf. “It’s not a lifestyle choice,” he retorts. “I was born this way.” Leave it to a Mormon to compare being a bloodthirsty monster to homosexuality. I bet Stephanie Meyer even thinks that’s a really open-minded viewpoint. Anyway, Jacob tells her they can’t be friends anymore because he could flip out at any time. By way of example, he points to Sam’s scarred girlfriend. At this point, I’m surprised Bella isn’t totally smitten with him, seeing as how she has such a boner for men who want to hurt her. But nay, she still prefers her predator boyfriends scrawny and sparkly.

And then Edward’s sister returns to tell her that Edward, believing Bella dead, now has a death wish of his own. It’s here that things really start to drag as Bella has to save Edward and then get saved about 100 more times herself. The girl really is useless. Also, Dakota Fanning is there. Of course, the audience is meant to think that this is all so romantic and sweet. Love against the odds. Romeo and Juliet. And the worst part is, most of the audience does think that.

As you can see, “New Moon” is not for me. It seems like it should be. I’m a fan of supernatural stories. I was once a brooding teenager who dreamed of gothic romance. But I absolutely hate what Stephanie Meyer has done. She’s reversed everything that Joss Whedon did for female empowerment. She’s taken all the sex out of the sexy vampire. She’s boiled the “inner demons” metaphor down to nothing, and dressed it with a slightly condescending and bigoted sauce. If you liked the books and the first movie, you will probably love “New Moon.” It’s going to make a ton of money and Stephanie Meyer is going to continue to be lauded and rewarded. I know that there will always be bubblegum pop for tweens but this is so much worse than the Backstreet Boys. This is, to borrow a phrase from the source material, a lion in lambskin. It’s intellectually and socially detrimental to both literature and cinema, simultaneously. The fact that so many girls will see this movie and drink up the messages like poisoned Kool-Aid depresses the hell out of me. But there’s nothing I can do about it. You’ve already picked your team.

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

Film Threat Review: The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call New Orleans

2009
Rated R
121 minutes

****

I haven’t seen the Harvey Keitel “Bad Lieutenant” from 1992 so I can’t really speak to whether Werner Herzog’s new film is a remake, a reimagining, or a whole new story with similar themes. I dislike remakes as a general rule, but in this case, I suspect it doesn’t really matter. “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is a Herzog film starring Nicolas Cage, and both of these men are fully capable of putting their unique stamp on anything they touch. Hell, I couldn’t even be mad at Cage for remaking the “The Wicker Man” because his performance was so hysterically over-the-top. The beloved original film couldn’t have been further from my mind as he bounded around a pagan island in a bear suit punching old ladies. Nicolas Cage is a joy to watch, and Werner Herzog is a brilliant storyteller. It would really be hard to go wrong with such a winning pair.

After slumming it in a few roles, as he does every couple of years, Nicolas Cage returns to his top manic form as Terence McDonagh, a man who encompasses both good and bad cop. The story picks up in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina, where an inappropriately high-spirited McDonagh and his partner, Stevie Pruit (played by The Man Who Ate Val Kilmer), loot the lockers of their colleagues in a water-logged station. When they come across a prisoner still locked in a cell, the water rising all around him, McDonagh debates with himself for several minutes about whether or not he wants ruin his $50 underpants and make the rescue. This is our introduction to a man who is never sure who he will be from moment to moment. Eventually he does decide to jump into the sewage. This fateful decision results in a commendation and a promotion to Lieutenant as well as a back injury and a lifetime prescription to painkillers. Only McDonagh and Pruit know what a lucky break this actually was for him. To everyone else, he was selfless hero who showed unflinching bravery in the face of danger. This undeserving, yet undisputed respect is the reason he is able to become the Bad Lieutenant. It’s an origin story for a really fucked up accidental superhero.

Several years later, Lt. McDonagh has settled into a successful career as a functional drug addict, making the best of a city that’s never been able to put itself back together. He’s called to a murder scene where an entire family of Senegalese immigrants has been executed because the patriarch was dealing heroin on the wrong turf. This investigation leads to an incredible series of events, which threaten to unravel McDonagh’s structured chaos and expose his dark side.

Living up to his title, McDonagh does some pretty terrible things. Some of them are during his attempts to solve the crime, but many of them are just so that he can get his next big fix. He’ll do anything from pocketing weed during a raid to stealing from the evidence room to shaking down kids just for a hit off their pipe. Whatever gets him through the night; it’s all right. This is a man whose daily problems include needing to find some coke to counterbalance the heroin he’s accidentally just snorted. And yet, it’s impossible not to like him at least a little. He does follow a sort of drug-addled morality. He tries to help the people he cares about including his alcoholic father and his coked-up girlfriend/dealer (Eva Mendes, reunited with Cage in a sort of wacky “Ghost Rider” alternate universe). At one point, his good deeds find him on a road trip with a teenage murder witness and a dog. Through it all, his first priority is getting high and that tends to make his already sticky situations all the stickier. He never messes up when Big Brother is looking, though this may be more luck than skill. But it’s absolutely the reason he is able to carry on as he does for as long as he does.

Brad Dourif makes a delightful appearance as McDonagh’s amiably agitated bookie. It’s also great to see Jennifer Coolidge in a dramatic role for once and Fairuza Balk in any role at all. But these are just nuts on a Nicolas Cage sundae. The man is at his best when he’s playing a character at his worst. He is the affable fuck-up. It even earned him an Academy Award once.

Of course we must also give credit to the incredible direction of Werner Herzog, who successfully marries black comedy with noir. His “Bad Lieutenant” is like what would happen if Werner had Oliver Stone, Roman Polanski, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers over for a mescaline hot tub party. Some people might think that sounds like a terrible evening. And maybe experiencing it first hand would be. But it sure is fun to watch.

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

NFT Radar: Meza

Maybe the space is cursed. Meza occupies what was once vegan nightmare, the Globe. Now it’s a tapas restaurant. Unfortunately, though the prices are reasonable (for tapas) and menu sounds promising, it’s just not that good. The sangria is only passable. The tortilla portions are so small that the waiter admitted they should be giving them away (and then, kindly, he did just that). The food is incredibly bland and uninspired. At $12, the Vegetales is nothing more than a glorified salad; a disappointing one at that. The corn cakes in the Arepitas resemble over-sized Communion wafers from both a visual and textural standpoint. I had to ask for a dish of salt to make it palatable. In fact, you’re going to need that dish of salt for pretty much everything you order. The only thing that works out is the Morrocoy Bocadillo (pulled pork sandwich). But there’s no shortage of good pulled pork in this town. You might as well patronize a place that also does other dishes well. It didn’t help our experience that the waiter took every opportunity to bad-mouth the food. Unfortunately, he was right about everything. Sorry Meza, but you’re kind of a mess-a.


1515 14th Ave 98112
www.mezaseattle.com

X-posted from Not For Tourists.