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Geeking Out: Andy Sidaris, 300, The Host, and More

Mike Bracken's picture

Yeah, I know, it’s been awhile since we did a Geeking Out blog. Rest assured it’s not because there wasn’t enough cool stuff to get all nerdy over—it’s just that I’ve been sidetracked with a lot of crap.

Anyway, before we get into the geeky stuff, here’s an update on life at Casa de Bracken.

First off, we must take a moment to mourn the passing of Andy Sidaris last week. For those of you who aren’t up on your B-movie legends, Sidaris was the guy behind a bunch of Skinemax classics from the ‘80s and ‘90s. If you ever saw Hard Hunted, Savage Beach, or Malibu Express, then you’ve seen some of Andy’s finest work (if you’ve seen them recently on Spike TV, you haven’t really seen them since all the good stuff has been cut out). Sort of like Russ Meyer, Sidaris had a penchant for making nonsensical action movies where a bevy of Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets were secret agents who were quite fond of using their feminine wiles to extract information from the men around them. His films featured legendary B movie actresses like Julie Strain and Julie K. Smith as well as the infamous Sybil Danning (my first exposure to Sidaris’ cinema was catching Malibu Express with Danning on Cinemax late one night at a friend’s house while I was in junior high—I was a convert from then on) as well as Playmates like Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez and future hardcore porn queen Teri Weigel. While most would dismiss Andy’s films as little more than softcore porn exploitation, I think there was actually something more to them. Don’t get me wrong—Andy understood as well as anyone that guys watched them for the T&A, but underneath it all, they were often cleverly conceived spoofs of the James Bond films. Rather than feature of plethora of hot girls for Bond to seduce, Andy flipped the equation—making men the bimbos. Does this make them something more than B-movies where hot chicks run around with no clothes on? Not really—but it is something to consider when you watch his films. Okay, not when you watch them, but afterwards—I doubt Andy would have wanted you to miss any of the onscreen action while pondering the potential deeper meanings of his work. At any rate, the B-movie community lost a legend with his passing. Rest in peace—you will certainly be missed.

THE BOOK is crawling along toward conclusion. Laura gave me some new pages to go through the other day and I haven’t managed to look them over yet (maybe this evening), but all told, over half of the 100 movies featured have been proofread and marked up. Once I finish the rest, I’ll be in rewrite mode for a week or so I guess. Mostly, it’s fixing my penchant for falling in love with one word and using it forty-seven times in a single review. Nothing quite screams “hack!” like that. In other cases, the closings of various reviews are out of date (movies that weren’t on DVD when THE BOOK was originally drafted now are) or me hating an opening paragraph (true fact, I have more trouble writing opening paragraphs of reviews/stories/anything than I do with any other part of a piece. I can literally spend three hours agonizing over an opening paragraph and finish the rest of a review in thirty minutes. It’s stupid, but it’s true). Lastly, there are a few reviews I want to cut and replace with other ones. This is sort of tricky since there are probably more reviews that I’d like to drop than there are newer reviews to replace them with…of course, I’ve already planned a sequel book, tentatively entitled Gore Galore: The Horror Geek’s Guide to Even More Sick Flicks. Once that’s done, it’s time to actually think up an introduction. I’m hoping to snag a few famous friends/acquaintances to write intros, but I have to write one of my own too. I’ve been trying to figure out what the fuck I’m supposed to say in an intro for like two years now (yes, this book has been in the works for that long…I’m a loser), but I’m no closer now than I was back then. Truthfully, I’d like it all to be done—I enjoyed writing the original reviews more than anything that’s come since. I’d like to get back to that and start the sequel.

Let’s see…what else. Working on the early stages of a screenplay with my good friend Lance (who, after last night’s episode of The Winner, I want to start calling “Lance Manly”). It’s a slasher flick and it’s shaping up pretty well. I’ll say no more about it than that.

Other than that, not much happening here on the homefront. I’ve been gaming a lot (finished Crackdown, which they could have called “Crapdown” and it would have been fine and returned to World of Warcraft after month or so long break). I’m looking forward to God of War 2, Virtua Tennis 3, and a few other things, but it seems sort of like the summer drought is starting early this year…

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s get on with the show…

The Host: I’ve been following the production and early release of this South Korean monster flick for what seems like a decade now. Finally, it hit US theaters this past weekend and I could see it on the big screen. The wait was worth it. Bong Joon-ho’s film is a wild mixture of Jaws, black comedy, drama, and Japanese monster movies, but it’s rare in that all these disparate elements come together to create a film that’s far greater than the sum of its parts. When an American scientist orders his Korean underling to dump a bunch of formaldehyde down the drain, it winds up in the Han river. There, it causes some form of aquatic life to mutate into a hideous monster that comes ashore and eats people. The story’s main characters (a dysfunctional family that owns a food stand along the river), must come together and rescue the lazy son’s daughter when the beast takes off with her. What ensues is funny, sad, melodramatic, scary, and touching—complete with a cool looking CGI monster that actually doesn’t make you laugh aloud at how hokey it looks every time it’s on screen. Don’t let the subtitles and Korean aesthetics put you off—The Host is a movie well worth seeing for adventurous fans of monster movies and genre cinema.

300: What’s left to say about 300? Zack Snyder’s cinematic version of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is everything I expected it to be: a gory spectacle that doesn’t care about history or gripping dialogue or Oscar-worthy performances but still kicks all kinds of ass. I’ve run into people who didn’t like it—and I don’t really get it. I think a lot of these folks went into it with the wrong mindset, or weren’t familiar with the source material and expected something else (although, with the media barrage pre-release I have a hard time imagining how anyone could have not known what it was going to be like). To each their own, I guess, but the film is slavishly faithful to the graphic novel (which is a good thing) and while it won’t challenge your grey matter, it’s hard to think of a better pure “guy’s flick” that’s come along in recent memory.

Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness #1: Awhile back, Marvel had a series wherein a bunch of superheroes were turned into zombies. I missed out on this (comic stores make me sad—I always wanted to own my own comic store and it just never panned out. Going into one reminds me that I’d still love to own one and don’t), but I’ll remedy that shortly. I guess the idea did so well that they decided to do a second series. That’s pretty cool, since I love all things walking dead. However, the real clincher was the inclusion of none other than Ash as the human battling these undead superheroes. If you don’t know who Ash is, and you read my stuff, stop reading now and go educate yourself. Ash (played by Bruce Campbell) is one of the greatest B-movie characters of all time. For him to turn up in this comic is almost cooler than all the crossovers they’ve planned in the past decade that never happened (Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash, etc.—I still think crossing Ash with the Phantasm universe makes a ton of sense—Coscarelli and Raimi should make that happen. Reggie and Ash together would kick so much ass…and with this aside, the blog has now fully lived up to the “geek” part of its title.) I’m not going to tell you what happens—just go buy it.

And there you have it. Check back soon for more geeky goodness, including my thoughts on Caitlin Kiernan’s latest novel, the newest game in the Shin Megami Tensei videogame series, and whatever else happens to catch my attention.

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The Host

Bracken, you bastard... i was *just* about to blog about The Host and you beat me to it.

::shakes fist in the air, looks disgruntled::

The wife and i just saw it tonight and it was a thumbs-up. agree with what you said, but i also found that the film brought more to the table than the usual horror outing. not only was there the element of the monster, there was also clear allusions to the US and its current status as "evil empire" overseas, the characters were easy to relate to and the film spent a lot of time developing them, and in general, the plot arc of the film really resonated on many levels. not gonna spoil anything here, but the father's efforts in the film were...

[corny cliches]
...almost like a parallel of life, complete with struggling, defeat, ups and downs, and eventually ending somehwere unexpected but still able to experience joy in what's really a sad event.
[/corny cliches]

The Host just clicked on many levels for me, and i have to say that i really enjoyed it. it wasn't good in the rollercoaster-ride sense, but it got me thinking about a lot of things and was still damned entertaining at the same time. is there higher praise than that?

BTW... was that homeless wino dude the same lab scientist from the opening sequence?

You're Not Alone

"or me hating an opening paragraph (true fact, I have more trouble writing opening paragraphs of reviews/stories/anything than I do with any other part of a piece. I can literally spend three hours agonizing over an opening paragraph and finish the rest of a review in thirty minutes. It’s stupid, but it’s true)."

No doubt man. It's the same for me with the guidebooks. Sometimes I'll spend more time working on the Tutorial chapter or first level of a game then I will the massive levels that come later becaue you have to figure out the voice for the book and get into the flow. Heck, I sometimes spend more time writing the Intro for the guidebook then I do figuring out boss battles or writing portions of the walkthrough.

It's the sign of good work. ;)

Hmmm...

"BTW... was that homeless wino dude the same lab scientist from the opening sequence?"

Good question. I'm not sure.

300 bad, Host good, Fire

300 bad, Host good, Fire burn, etc.

300 in its opening moments has the sort of propulsive momentum that Sin City had, and the fucker is loud, but it's working from inferior source material and Snyder's aesthetic sucks most of the visceral impact out of the endless impalements. It's gory, but it's gory in a safe, inoffensive way, and I thought the last hour was really underwhelming after the bombast of the first half. Chalk it up to the slavish faithfulness to the text. I can't believe people are calling it the future of filmmaking, because if it is I don't want to be a filmmaker anymore.

The Host is superb, like Spielberg if he regrew his balls, which may have been blown off on Omaha beach. (though Munich, flawed as it is, suggests that he's found them again or at least has had prosthetic balls installed)

Fire burns, BTW.

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