Battlestar Damages

Some TV thoughts.

Battlestar Galactica

The best show on television. Period.

If you don’t know anything about Battlestar Galactica, it’s not your fault. A dozen or so sci-fi series hit varying degrees of cult recognition over the past decade (Farscape, Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, etc.) and at first glance BSG seems to fall into the same category …Geek-TV for lack of a better moniker.

To write off the series as another goofy Duck Dodgers space opera would be a mistake because BSG is probably the most acutely realized forum for reflection on the state of the world that TV currently has on offer. The producers and writers have redistilled science fiction back to its original form, one more in line with the genres’ original purveyors (Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, among others) who wrote stories set in the future but decidedly about the issues of the day using allegory and socio-political commentary.

BSG is a hybrid of these many writing styles. The plot oscillates between being a cautionary tale about technology, a dissection of the dynamic between the state and the military, a straight up political allegory, a sweeping tale about heroism and sacrifice, a mystery, a religious quest, but most of all it’s a topnotch drama about how people face uncertainty and challenge. The show is immensely bleak because it’s about our time and our failures. Without getting into the specifics of the plot, the warring sides fight and kill each other with righteous conviction and religious zeal. The president has visions and claims the Gods have shown her the way. There are episodes about genocide, prisoner torture, invasion, fuel shortages, labour relations, class unrest and a myriad of other contemporary subjects. In short, BSG explores issues as topical as any front newspaper section.

There is no doubt that you have to enter the spirit of the series and look past a bit of testosterone-heavy nonsense along the way but there’s something special waiting for those willing to make the investment. As the series enters it’s 4th and final season, I have no idea what to expect but if it’s anything like the first three, it’s going to be astonishing.


The 2nd best show on TV

Glenn Close and a terrific cast star in this complex and well-constructed 13 episode series about the efforts to prosecute a wealthy corporate sleazebag who presided over the collapse of his company leaving thousands of employees holding the bag and him with millions. I’m normally not a big fan of plot timeline jumps but the writers of this series have made it work beautifully. Corruption, legal tampering, backroom deals, unclear allegiances and what appears to be a rather nasty series of murders ratchets the tension up. A riveting crime drama/mystery that I can’t recommend highly enough.


This is little piece of insight is specifically for Joey who LITERALLY swam across the crowd at the Bloor Cinema to wish me happy viewings (he says he was dancing, but who knows). We went to view Persepolis, the 2007 animated release from the Directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. I could say it was aesthetically pleasing and go into some long rendition of cinematic critique, but truly, it was just an astonishing film. The connection to the main character Marji that everyone ended up having was humerous, hurtful and loving. As she takes you throughout both Iran and Vienna, distraut sinks in as she is searching for a home, a lover and her family. The war breaks her apart from her childhood and her roots and we further delve into this crazy world. The entire performance was perfect for an animated film. Animation is hard to mold into a serious film, but Persepolis was taken seriously, as if told through living actors and actresses. If you missed it, sorry you lucked out, but at least you didn't miss out on the broken heaters and Atonement that started projection half way through the best sequence in Persepolis...I won't tell you which one.
Check it!
Niki Diamonds.


shave and a haircut - Sweeney Todd - a Kuicker Kristerview

Just checked out Sweeney Todd which is coming home to roast on dvd come April Fool's. Gotta say this is the best thing Burton has done in ten years, hands down. It's the best film he's directed since Ed Wood. Now I'm not big on Burton, i feel his goth sheik style is contrived and too polished to evoke any real art out of what he does. That being said he does put out more interesting big budget tittles than most.

I do have to give him his dues, Beetlejuice is an amazing concept and was an addictive slice of cinema to me when i was a wee film buff as well as Edward Scissorhands. Batman kicked off the comic book movie craze, though that's a mixed blessing. His crown jewel to me would have to be The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Lately though, films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Big Fish have been mediocre at best.

While Planet of the Apes should... just ... be... gone.

So going into Sweeney i wasn't expecting much. What i got was a well done musical that i completely fell for and i mean completely. The cast is top notch, they all got great pipes to boot. Really works with the cast using their own voices. Who hasn't wanted to see Alan Rickman duet with Johnny Depp? As for Johnny, he shows he's not here because Burton is completely in love with him but that he can sing with the best of them and really gives us a great Todd. Although at times he sounded very Bowie to me, which i dug. but ya know, probably not everyone's cup o' tea.

Speaking of peoples cups of tea this film is very much a musical. Actual dialogue is conveyed completely through song. If you don't dig musicals steer clear from this one. You will however be missing out on a very good and gory musical. Up to you and how you like your tea. I like mine just fine.

This is just fun, entertaining cinema. It's complete popcorn. and yes, oh so cool. I recommend checking this one out if you're the kind of person who likes films like Oldboy, but on the other end of the spectrum you secretly really love Grease.


The Summer Game

In honour of the onset of spring and the imminent start of the 2008 season of major league baseball (and to a lesser/greater extent, of my acceptance into the final sphere of nerd-dom, a fantasy baseball league), I want to urge both of you reading this blog to watch Ken Burns' absolutely superb Baseball (1994) documentary.

Granted, it is a bit of a commitment (coming in at over 20 hours total), but it is so engrossing that each 2+ hour episode ("cleverly" divided into innings) seems to fly by. And the best part is, you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. Even my girlfriend (despite what you may think, I do NOT have to inflate her with air) looks forward to "the baseball show". I find something similar in all of Burns' work - regardless of your familiarity with the subject matter, it is always riveting. His mix of mass appeal and esoteric facts is unparalleled in the documentary realm. There's a reason he's so popular.

I still haven't finished the series (I've just completed the sixth inning), but there are already many, many highlights - current on-camera interviews with a platoon of baseball journalists, ex-players, coaches, managers, broadcasters - Ted Williams and the Negro Leagues' KC Monarchs star Buck O'Neill are a treat - and the whole thing is a joy to watch. And if you don't tear up at Lou Gehrig's simultaneous admission of defeat and his will to carry on, check your pulse. I can't wait to finish the series, but I want it to go on forever.
Its reach does not exceed its grasp - though the scope is vast, Burns gets it right. Baseball is not just a sport, not just trivial entertainment; it is an integral part of North American society, often running parallel to or augmenting current affairs. What it all comes down to, though, episode after episode, is the ecstasy of the game. Politics, world wars, personal strife - cast it all aside, boil it down, reduce it; what matters most is the joy of hitting a home run off the ace, striking out the slugger, playing catch at dusk on a perfect summer evening, straining to hear the play-by-play through the transistor radio's static. Can it be so simple? It can, and Burns shows us how. Play ball!


Southland Tales - a confused Kristerview

I... uh. I don't even know about this one. I'm not sure what i saw...uh right. Southland Tales hits shelves this coming Tuesday so i thought i'd pick it up so you won't have to.

Southland Tales is apparently about the end of the world. It's a film upset about the Patriot Act, the Bush administration, and American society as a whole. It's a film that thinks it's gotta express these things by being incoherent and that has a cast that is... ironic to say the least.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays an action movie star who has come down with a bout of amnesia and is now sleeping with a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) even though he's engaged to a republican senators daughter (Mandy Moore). The Rock has written a script about the end of the world that is starting to overlap reality and to research this role he rides shotgun with a cop to get a better idea of the character he is to play. The cop (Sean William Scott) is actually setting up the Rock to help the Neo-Marxists (Amy Poelhler, Cheri Oteri). Yeah anyways, this is all being watched over by a dude with a bad ass scar reading the Revelations and narrating from a big giant gun he mans on top of an arcade on Venice beach played by none other than Justin Timberlake. yeah, i know. The cast is insane and includes Jon Lovitz as some tough as nails cop, Kevin Smith as... father time? Will Sasso as a gangster And Christopher Lambert as a guy who sells weapons out of an ice cream truck. yeah.. The thing is all these actors are playing roles they would never normally even be considered for and they all do a pretty good job at taking everything seriously. In fact, no one is funny... at all. That alone makes me think this film is smarter than it looks.

So yeah, there's big brotherish stuff and there's these scientists who have made alternative fuel from the motion of the ocean but they're evil... or not. There's not really any plot per say. The film plays like Idiocracy had a three-way with Blade Runner and MTV and they all live on the beach now with they're hippie bleach blond dumb child. Most of the film seems unnecessary with the way the film turns near the end and you're just kind of left with this mess of a film that is either the most brain dead thing you've ever seen or one hell of a jab at the "system" which evidently would include you, the viewer.

I want to call this film crap. I really want to but there's something that sticks with you after this... thing. Many of the scenes have a haunting quality to them, only that's all they are. Scenes stitched together that don't seem to make any sense of the confusing plot.
Don't know if i'm against this one, or for it. Really confused over here, but if you do pick this one up i think it'll make more sense if you watch it thinking that the Rock is Jesus, Sean William Scott is God, Will Sasso is Judas, the Republicans are the Romans, the Scientists are the Jews, and Buffy is Mary. Yeah, and i guess Justin Timberlake is.... Death?

Anyways, very weird stuff. The film should be studied and it should be determined if this is just pretentious incoherent garbage or scathing social commentary. Pick it up if you wanna get frustrated, confused and wanna pick your brain a bit. I for one love movies like that so i'm leaning to more positive feelings with this picture. But, it's completely impossible to recommend this one to anyone. Heed my words and choose for yourself.

this scene makes just as much sense in the movie, and it's the best scene in the whole film. Nay best scene this decade thus far

-I say good day! Kris


Diabolical Double Feature!

Short notice, sorry - tomorrow night (or tonight, I guess - Thursday, March 6) the Bloor Cinema will be screening two of Roman Polanski's best films: 1976's The Tenant (Le Locataire) and 1968's Rosemary's Baby, at 7pm and 9:30 pm respectively (Rosemary's Baby will also be playing at 4:15). I'll be at The Tenant for sure, and may even stay for Rosemary's Baby. Get out and support the cinema!
P.S. isn't that Polish Rosemary poster absolutely stunning?


To Jesus, With Love and Respect

Dear Ted Neeley,

I’ll start by just saying that Jesus Christ Superstar is by far one of my favourite musicals. Your portrayal of Jesus perfectly complimented the rock opera’s need for a strong, passionate voice and you killed that scene in the temple.
However, you are 65 now. 65! That’s more than TWICE the age that Jesus even lived to be. Watching you on stage last month was… odd, for lack of a better word. My image of Jesus has never contained a beer belly or knees so old and weak he couldn’t kneel and pray. Perhaps the reason why you’re character has “tried for three years” and it “feels like thirty” is because it HAS been thirty years and you’re just too old to remember them. Sure you can still hit some of those strong notes but the audience wasn’t clapping with you, they were clapping at you, astonished that you could still pull it out once per act, cheering you on like when our 90-year-old grandmothers blows out their 3 birthday candles after 15 minutes of trying and one near fainting. And since when is Jesus a total lecher? That Mary Magdalene has got to be a third of your age you sly old dog. And I won’t even make the obvious jokes about you “crucifying” the role during your 10 minute long death scene.

I love you Neeley, but let’s just say that I think it’s time you retired your robe and sandals.




Goodbye, China Blue

I love Ken Russell. It is becoming rarer and rarer to find such a bold and fiercely opinionated, yet artistically gifted filmmaker - say auteur - in modern cinema. Every time I weary of the hordes of remakes and might-as-well-be remakes, I turn to someone like Russell, Derek Jarman, Alex Cox, Chris Marker - someone whose vision and sensibilities are so unique they run almost parallel to cinema itself and seem at times to be a different branch of art form altogether. Lately, I've been feeling kind of burnt-out on movies - perhaps because I watched 31 films in January (yes, I was keeping count) or perhaps because of the general lack of originality, of truth, of ANYTHING THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID in modern cinema.

So, last night I was feeling much like this - having started and been unable to finish watching various movies over the past few weeks, I popped in Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion and all of a sudden - WHOOSH - all notions of what I felt was becoming a tedious medium were ripped away and I was blitzkrieged with a delirious series series of images that I almost felt like Alex in the prised-open eyes torture sequence from A Clockwork Orange - except this was far too much fun. The film's plot is simple - a "priest" (Anthony Perkins?!) fixates upon the idea of saving a lost soul in Kathleen Turner's hooker, China Blue, who is also pursued by an unhappy father (John Laughlin) in order to "really connect" because his dead-fish wife won't talk to him.

Salvador Dali famously said, "I don't do drugs; I am drugs", and the same could be said about Crimes of Passion - just replace"drugs" with "sex". Every single frame in the movie exudes sex, whether overtly or subconsciously, but always intentionally, and often, hilariously. The opening 10 minutes alone are so ridiculously over-the-top and pure, pure '80s, that the rest of the film almost felt tame by comparison. It is a rare film that has a fish-netted, bewigged hooker riding furiously on top of a handcuffed on-duty policeman, all the while shoving his nightstick brutally into his - well, for the rest, you'll have to watch it yourself. But the point is, by the time this scene showed up, it didn't come across as shocking or titillating or even overly gratuitous - it just showed Russell's mastery at sending very purposeful reminders that China Blue and the people swirling in and out of her life are doing anything they can just to FEEL something - love, hate, pain, disgust, pleasure - ANYTHING.

The absolute best performance certainly has to go to the sorely underrated Tony Perkins (who really seems to be warming up for his oddly similar-in-many-ways turn, two years later, in his own directorial effort of Psycho III - an absolutely superb film in its own right, and one that is often overshadowed by its famous forefather.....but I digress....), who plays the mad monk Rev. Peter Shayne. Perkins invests Shayne with vein-popping, manic sexual psychosis and repression, but also a heart-rending sadness and a great loneliness; his scenes are truly a treat to watch. In particular, the sequence where he comes to perform the "last rites" on China Blue then proceeds to play "Get Happy" at the piano is so batshit crazy it really just has to be seen to be believed. Kathleen Turner is also excellent in what must have been a VERY difficult dual role.
The film is shocking not for its sexual subject matter - which, much like the Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), is certainly less gratuitous than people seem to remember (i.e. you really don't "see" all that much) - but for its very open lambasting of the hypocrisy of the church, of the great lie that is marriage, and of the utter vacuity of the the '80s, full of glamour and excess, but paradoxically devoid of feeling or emotion. Everyone here is trying to connect, to get off, to communicate, to feel - but in the end, no one wins. One might look at Perkins' character as the real winner, which is odd, since he gets FUCKING MURDERED, but such is the way of the decade, and of Russell's awesome vision.

Radical score, courtesy of Rick Wakeman (not a word) is the perfect symbiotic twin to the story of these pathologically fucked lives. This is a love story that has the guts to treat its characters as human beings, with all their flaws, and not shy away from some of the hard truths. But it's also comedy, exploitation, sleaze, melodrama, pop art come to glorious life on the screen. The film contains such a strange melding of various genre conventions that it is as impossible to categorize at it is to ignore. This film demands to be seen. The fact that it was made in 1984, not 2004, is all important, because automatically, the film has veracity rather than verisimilitude. This is a straight-shot from the whore's mouth, not bogged down by the post-ironic, wink-wink nudge-nudge-nessity that pervades so many films ABOUT the '80s made today. This film IS the '80s, but it is also RIGHT NOW as well, which says a lot about the film's universality. Because at the core of it all, the movie is about human relationships, however twisted, and those really never change.

I am so thankful that people like Ken Russell are still around, kicking against the pricks. Now, please, please, whoever is in charge, release a proper, extras-laden edition of The Devils....for that, I would be truly grateful.