How the Smut Arms Race Destroys Fiction

September 11, 2014 in General Topics

Rotting BooksRecently I viewed a Netflix original series and nearly found myself as distraught as its protagonists. One might read that and think it’s a good thing. It isn’t.

Hemlock Grove is a series drenched in all-American, old school Gothic horror. When it’s working well, it’s a brooding, atmospheric throwback that reminds me of the made-for-TV movies and miniseries spawned by Stephen King’s books. Watching it felt like coming home. The series has the substance of so much TV and film I devoured in my teenage years.

The first few episodes had their problems–uneven acting, dangling plot lines and inconsistent cinematography–but high points as well, such as one of the best werewolf transformations I’ve seen, and I believed firmly that Hemlock Grove was going to be a wonderful diversion. Lately, though, I’ve found my interest in the show waning. It’s in part due to its uneven quality.

But also the fact that Hemlock Grove is just the latest show to become an active participant in the smut arms race.

To wrap your head around my point, I want you to think about what defines premium content on the top-tier subscription cable channels, and then keep that in mind while I continue. Read the rest of this entry →

Dear Hollywood: Stop Taking My Wonder Away

January 29, 2013 in General Topics

I was all set to do the second part of a recent two-part blog series on significant weapons in history, when I ran headlong into the “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray version of Prometheus, a film I not only paid good money to see in the theater last summer, but wrote a glowing review of. There on the four-disk jacket were infamous words: “Questions Will be Answered”. Read the rest of this entry →

Review: Battle Royale

December 7, 2012 in General Topics

Battle RoyaleWay back when I first heard of The Hunger Games, two films popped into my head. The first was the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring adapation of the novel The Running Man, by “Richard Bachman” (who was revealed years ago to be a pen name of Stephen King’s). Widely viewed in the United States, it orbited my childhood. I sought it out due to my love of science fiction.

The second film slammed like a comet into the firmament of my adulthood. It presented no one-liners, no outrageous costumes or hulking action stars. None of the characters really won–they just lost less. The ending was starkly and typically Japanese, leaving its loose ends unresolved in the way that great cinema often does. That film was Battle Royale.

Having viewed the film adaptation of The Hunger Games recently, I felt compelled to revisit Battle Royale and see if it still help up. This presented a problem. Read the rest of this entry →

Review: Super 8

October 11, 2012 in General Topics, Other Stuff

"Super 8" posterThere was a moment, while watching Super 8, when I realized the film didn’t quite know what to do with itself. This is a schizophrenic movie – it wants to be a coming-of-age flick, until it decides it wants to be an alien invasion spectacular, until it decides it wants to invoke the rampaging monster action of Cloverfield.

J.J. Abrams’ past work has been real hit-or-miss, in my estimation. Super 8 is a better flick than most of his efforts, falling just under the excellent Star Trek reboot, but above basically everything else I’ve seen of his.
Read the rest of this entry →

Review: Captain America

August 31, 2012 in General Topics

Captain America, film posterThere’s a scene in Captain America where the optimistic young superhero strides onto a stage in an effort to sell war bonds, having been relegated to poster-boy duty, instead of the active front-line service he desperately wants. There, among a line of dancing performers, he slugs out a comically-rendered Hitler that has “snuck” into the proceedings. Cue applause.

Nostalgia, ironically, dominates our feelings of World War II, at least here in the States. As Americans, we’ve assigned the war an almost stained-glass sanctity, and I think we’ve done so because it gave us the kind of conflicts we haven’t faced since: a clear-cut, evil enemy was rampaging around Europe, while a fanatical, Imperial Japan dominated the Pacific. And yet we as a nation were at the top of our game. We didn’t back down.

You waved your flag, you bought war bonds. You gathered scrap metal. You worked in the factories. You fought. You bled. You came home. Or you didn’t. But you were part of something grand, and important. Read the rest of this entry →