D&D Is So Cool

Tonight I went to the gala opening of the Cinemuerte International Fantastic Film Festival. ‘Fantastic’ as in ‘fantasy’ as in ‘horror’. I got there late – at about a quarter past ten. I was committed to playing Mutants and Masterminds at Theo’s which of course I quite enjoyed, but it meant I missed the screening of Viva La Muerte, the documentary about the past and present of the Cinemuerte film festival. I would have liked to have seen it. James introduced me to the girl who filmed it, and I expressed my misgivings about missing the damn thing. She brought up that it was playing again on Sunday at 2pm, to which I replied that again, I would miss it, since I would be playing Dungeons and Dragons at that time (after a 2 week hiatus, no less). Her reply to that was “that’s not cool.” Then I poured my drink down her shirt.

Well, no, I didn’t do that. But I was put off by her manners and I thought she was out of line. I’d still like to see the film, despite her trying to take me down a peg. Or I’m just reading too much into it, and feeling defensive about being a D&D nerd. Nevertheless, I’m an out-of-the-closet D&D player and I’m glad I was proud enough to bring it up at a party. Ed and James were really the only people I talked to at the party. I only stayed for about 45 minutes – then I hopped on the #50 before my bus pass expired. Ed showed me the article in Terminal City about our film Graveyard – I didn’t read it fully but I’ll pick up a copy – and so should you.

I talked to Kirsten tonight and we have concensus: although her visit was good times for both of us, we will continue our relationship as friends – close friends to be sure, but nothing more. She is a fantastic chick but I just don’t think the cards are right for us at the moment. Kind of sad in a way, but I’m glad both of us feel more or less the same way and that nothing has happened to ruin our friendship.

Oh and did I mention? Spaceship Zero the RPG was nominated for an Ennie Award (that’s a roleplaying game award – there are really only two such awards, the Ennies and the Origins awards). Jeff says that 4 out of 5 of the judges voted for it to be nominated in the category Best Non Open Gaming Product. Now it’s up to the fans to start voting. Let’s hope we win because we could really use the notoriety to boost sales!

It was Canada Day yesterday.
“What’s your favourite part of living in Canada?” Nobody asked me.
“That we’re not as patriotic as Americans”, I didn’t reply with some irony.
Now don’t mistake me for being anti-American. I have many good American friends. In fact, I can’t think of a single American that I know who I wouldn’t describe as an upstanding, likeable person. But someone once said “There can be no world peace while patriotism exists” and I think that’s 95% true for every country.

On one hand, the melding (some would say loss) of “independent” cultures due to globalization is sad. Wouldn’t it be neat if there were still headhunters in New Guinea? (Heck maybe there still are). But on the other hand, how long can we go on, technology advancing as it is, with those pesky dotted lines on the map? I would much rather have a peaceful racially and culturally integrated (read: mongrel) world than a constantly warring world of segregated cliques.

But then even if we were all exactly the same mongrel race, we’d probably still find things to kill eachother over, wouldn’t we.

Speaking of Canada, Vancouver won the 2010 Winter Olympic bid this morning. My first clue was being woken up rather rudely by the clarion call of over-zealous and inconsiderate commuters at 9:00 this morning. The good news is that all the money we sunk into the bid turned out to be an investment that paid off. The bad news is I can expect a lot more whooping and infantile behaviour from local jocks. The other good news is that it’s 7 years away.

In other news, my out-of-town visitor has gone back to being out of town indefinitely. So it’s back to work for me.

Don’t forget, people who may be reading this, that Graveyard, the movie with me and James, is showing this Saturday at the Pacific Cinematheque at 11:40, opening up for Blood Feast 2. I’ll be getting a sneak preview of the film at Ed’s tonight. Please gawd let me not suck. Or at least let James suck more than me!

Oh that was mean.


So yeah…I spent several months on quite a few online dating services: Lavalife (which is actually probably the best of them), bust.com (also reasonably good), match.com, matchmaker.com, mybc.com personals, and some others that are barely worth mentioning. I guess it was about 3 years ago I was introduced to them. I got onto matchmaker.com when they had an unlimited membership trial period, basically. That’s how I met Tinessa. So, I would say in general that it worked out. The dating service, not the relationship. I got a girlfriend because of the dating website. The relationship lasted almost 2 years, which is as good as any of my other relationships.

So basically since last September I’ve been trawling the dating sites. I even went on some dates. Nothing romantic ever came of them but I met some really cool girls that I consider pretty close friends: Sheri, Ang and Yvonne, met in that order. Sheri ended up dating one of my friends, although that chapter is recently closed as well, I hear. C’est la vile (That’s a pun).

What’s my point? Well, I closed all of my many dating accounts, and my buffer hotmail account. It’s actually pretty brutal going online week after week, reading completely trite profile essays from girls who “love to laugh”; So when Kirsten created the opportunity for me to walk away from all that, I did not hesitate. And what else can I say? All those girls who didn’t take a chance with me when the chance was given – well poop on them. Poop I say!

Thickets Hollywood

We played D&D tonight. Fun stuff. Not so many Christopher Walken impressions tonight as in the past 2 sessions. Oh well, what’s a DM to do….

Joe, the Thickets webmaster and all around Nerdsman, pointed me to the Hellboy movie website. I’ve had this CD I burned of the Thickets’ Hellboy song “Ogdru Jahad” sitting on my computer for a while. Scott Allie, the editor at Dark Horse who edits the Hellboy books (and who writes The Devil’s Footprints), said he would pass on anything I wanted to send to the director of the Hellboy film, Guillermo del Toro (Blade 2, Devil’s Backbone, Mimic). So I’ve been procrastinating on sending it to him. Well tonight I visited the forums for the movie, and it turns out that del Toro has been amazing at answering fan questions on the message board. So I introduced myself and asked if “Ogdru Jahad” might be considered for the movie (assuming that del Toro liked it). So now I await a response. The best response? “I have heard of the Thickets and I’d love to put it in the movie.” Here’s to hoping. http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/hellboy/

In other Hollywood news, I got a phone call today from Stuart Gordon (director of Re-Animator, Dagon, & From Beyond, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you). He called to say he got the SpaceCorp shirt I sent him and the copy of Spaceship Zero the RPG. It was super of him to call, and he tells me that he’s just finishing up his new film “King of the Ants”. He wants the Thickets to provide a song for his next Lovecraftian foray – an adaptation of “The Thing on the Doorstep”. Naturally we will provide. Once the film is closer to production he’ll send a script that we can work from, lyrically.

Garage Saled

I love garage sales. Today I picked up a bunch of Omni magazines for $1. I like to get cheap magazines because I like to use photo references for my artwork, so I have a very haphazard photo library, mostly consisting of ELLE and MAXIM, unfortunately. So if you have any magazines you want to get rid of, let me know!

I also got a bunch of used VHS video tapes for 25 cents each. Those old BASF cassettes are really sturdy. “They just don’t make ’em like they used to, son.”. I’ll tape over them all with cartoons etc, although I could watch old episodes of Law and Order if I want.

The neighbor next door (they were actually holding the garage sale with some other people from the building next door) called me dirty. How dare them? Well, judging by our deck, they’d be very right. I think she just said that to get back at me for dropping dirt on her head when I was moving stuff on the deck and she was directly underneath during the garage sale – haw haw – I should have changed the kitty litter at the same time just to add insult to insult.

I did a bunch of cleaning up today, in anticipation of Kirsten coming over tomorrow (hooray hooray hooray!). Mostly tidying and stuff that I would have gotten around to eventually anyway (so don’t get any ideas, KLM. Or…actually, you can get some if you’d like, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest. Yeah…on second thought: please get some ideas, if you know what I mean). Well, that’s enough for now…Jon should be here any second to pick me up for a BBQ at Kathryn’s in beautiful Langley.

Welcome Peeps!

Welcome to my web log. This is already the second post. The first one is way more interesting.

So – blog is short for ‘web log’. The first time I heard ‘blog’ I said, as you can imagine, “what?” I guess the W and the E are passe. Out of fashion. Gauche, even. Or maybe, in these trying times, that extra syllable is just too much commitment. I mean, come on, we’ve got things to do and places to be, and in the spirit of shortening ‘you’ into ‘U’ and ‘I’m going to” into “Imma”, spelling and sounding out those extra vowels and consonants just seems irresponsible. Let’s review some of the ultra-modern, time-saving word revisions that can make all our lives easier, shall we?

peeps = people
L8R = Later
AFAIK = As Far As I Know
BRB = Be Right Back
BTW = By The Way
CYAL8R = See You Later
FYI = For Your Information
G2G = got to go (I just found this out now while doing research for this entry)
H&K = Hug and Kiss
IC = I See
IMHO = In My Humble Opinion
LOL = Laughing out loud
OIC = Oh, I See
OTTOMH = Off The Top of My Head
ROFL = Rolling On Floor Laughing
ROFLMAO = Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off
TTFN = Ta Ta For Now
TTYL = Talk To you Later

So get out their and prove to the world that you’re an idi…uh…web savvy.

Further reading: http://www.madprince.com/chatroom.htm

The Big Personal Poll

A couple years ago I sent out a request to many of my friends to fill out an online poll. This poll, called “Things that Toren’s Friends Think & Do”, is filled with scores of questions ranging from religious beliefs to fidelity to drug use to whether or not you pee in the shower, and was filled out by 50 males and 50 females. The idea behind this pseudo-sociological experiment was kind of for me to find out more about my friends, to find out more about myself, and for my friends to find out more about my other friends: what kind of people we are, in general. It was also a bit of fun. Some of the results are what I expected, other results I found quite surprising.

If you haven’t taken the poll yet, you can do so here: http://us.votenow.de/?100703
If you HAVE taken the poll, you can see the final RESULTS here http://us.votenow.de/vote.cgi?100703

The results are anonymous. You can pass these URLs along to anyone you want – I’ve printed out the results of the 100 pollsters so I’ll have the current information on hand for posterity. What I hoped to accomplish and what was actually accomplished do not quite line up: some of this information is now almost definitely out of date. For example, some friends who filled out the survey when I originally created it may not be smoking anymore. Additionally, the URL regrettably got passed along to a few people who I did NOT know at all, so the results will not by any means be 100% scientific. However, I think it’s a reasonably good gauge.

If you are my friend and you were NOT asked to fill out the poll – well then you’re not my friend after all. HAHA. Actually – the poll got filled up a lot quicker on the male side than the female side, so once I got to 50 males I stopped asking males to fill it out.

I’d like to thank everyone for taking the poll. Have a look at the results on the site, and if you’d like, continue reading some more specific personal comments below, but I should WARN YOU that some of my personal notes are just that – very personal – so if there are things you’d rather not know about me, just skip them:


(I do not address every question or every answer to every question in this email – for complete results, view the site)

41 of the poll-takers have known me for years and years.
22 people answered “Toren Who?” (I assume at least half of these people were joking)

32 people classify me as a friend.
23 as an ‘internet buddy’
2 people classified me as their only son. This gives you an idea of how lightly some people took this poll (which is fine – I tried to write it lightly!)
7 people said “ex-girlfriend” which I’m positive is inaccurate.

On the weekend, 65 of my friends read books and/or listen to music on the weekend. Bravo! 17 people erect a monument and 29 get stewed and abuse their body

66 people drink, 33 people smoke, 30 smoke pot, 10 do harder drugs.
I do none of the above.

Fargo is the most popular Coen Brothers film amongst my friends, followed closely by Raising Arizona. Only 1 person said Blood Simple. 13 people had not seen ANY Coen Brothers films when they took the poll. Shame on you! My favourite is Miller’s Crossing, followed very closely by The Big Lebowski.

3 people say no to dogs & cats. 42 say the opposite. I generally don’t like dogs (there are exceptions) but I generally like all cats.

44 people have friends who are a different race from them. 13 people say no, not really, or just one. I know some Asians, east Indians and a few mongrels with excellent senses of humour.

45 of my friends say they’re pretty damn smart. I believe them. I think I can be a bit clever at times myself.

55 of my friends can keep a secret all the time. Same here.

50% of my friends don’t complain to a store when they get bad service, they just shop somewhere else. I complain if I feel up to it because I want them to serve me better in the future, or – because if I complain I’ll get something out of it (like I won’t have to pay for a crappy meal).

54 people laugh when they see someone picking their nose, but do it themselves when they think nobody’s looking. Guilty here too.

6 people don’t recycle. Shame shame!

25 of my friends are atheist. The majority are “other”. This didn’t really surprise me.
8 of my friends are Christians, and 13 are polytheistic, the latter of which is a little surprising to me.
I am an atheist.

38 people believe in reincarnation. Even if the actual number is half that, this really surprises me. 18 believe in the healing power of crystals. 36 believe that all life have respective souls.
I do not believe in life after death, reincarnation, the healing power of crystals, or Jesus Christ/Heaven/Hell or even the human soul. I believe that when we die, that’s it’s finite biological destiny. I believe that we are essentially a random fluke of the universe–a bunch of chemicals and electricity. A MIRACULOUS random fluke of the universe, yes, but nothing more. I’m quite positive there are billions of other miraculous random flukes peppered throughout the universe. It’s a big fuckin’ universe.

My status when I wrote the poll was probably single. Right now I am on the verge of a relationship.

41 people answered that they were strictly heterosexual. 24 are hetero but open to new things. Nobody answered ‘strictly homosexual’.
I would classify myself as hetero but open to new things, I do after all paint my fingernails sometimes and have a weakness for tomboyish girls.

40 people said they had never cheated on their s/o and never would. 6 people said they hadn’t but probably could. 14 people cheated and never told them, and 7 more said they cheated and the spouse found out before they could tell them. That’s a shame.
I have never cheated on my s/o and never would.

59 people said they’d definitely been cheated on. 13 people said “they don’t know” and add me to that category. I would even say that there’s maybe a 50-75% chance I’ve been cheated on “all the way”.

60 people try to stay friends or at least in touch with ex-spouses. 8 never want to see them again. I’m in the former group.

42 people have truly been in love more than once. 39 say only once. 10 say never and 9 don’t know. I would say I’ve been in love a few times.

30 people say that marriage is fun. 7 say it’s a necessary evil. 15 people say it’s a stupid religious ritual that they want no part of.
Personally, I believe that marriage is overrated. I wouldn’t say that I won’t do it, but it would have to be for the right reasons. I would not have any sort of religion interfering with my wedding. I don’t think you need to get married to live happily ever after with someone, and I don’t think you need a ring to remind you that you love someone. I suppose it would make a good conversation piece though.

24 people say that having children is okay for themselves, because they’re smart, but others shouldn’t.
24 others say it’s socially irresponsible and they won’t do it. That surprised me. I lean towards this category, but there are no absolutes for me here.

31 people said they do not have children, and hopefully never will. 43 said don’t have any, maybe will some day. 5 people have one or more by accident and 10 said they had them on purpose.
I of course do not have any children. I really don’t know if I want any or not but I should probably decide sooner rather than later, or the decision may be made for me! I have issues with overpopulation and being a burden on the environment (yes, even in Canada), so if I did have a kid I’d almost definitely keep it to 1. Plus I’m an artist so who could afford to raise more than 1?

42 people said that their childhood was good. 8 people said it was poor and 13 didn’t want to talk about
My childhood was fair overall I would say.

3 people don’t eat anything that comes from an animal.
I think they’re dead now.
I personally eat all meat but try to stick to poultry for health and environmental reasons.

13 people don’t eat meat because it’s bad for their health and 10 people don’t eat meat because animals have feelings, but plants don’t.

When they’re out with their spouse, 7 people try to sneak a peek if they see a hot chick/stud walk by.

Only 2 people think porn is irredeemable smut and hate it.
I think it’s fine, and I enjoy reading about it in Robin Bougie’s zine, “Cinema Sewer” – look for it around town.

Only 2 people say that feminism is their life. 21 people think it’s important, that men have always had what they need but not so for women. 17 people think that women have just as much as men and should quit complaining. 8 people think that feminism is tantamount to sexism.
Generally I don’t think that women have just as much as men (although some women sure have more), but I am sort of anti-‘ism’ and I do lean towards thinking that SOME types of feminism is tantamount to sexism. It depends on your definition of feminism is.

21 people tried to commit suicide. Wow.
I have never tried it but when I was a teen I had passing thoughts.

64 people hate bigots. I find this incredibly amusing because by hating bigots, you sort of become a bigot. 28 people hate Americans (if anything I would say this number would be higher these days), 19 people hate the French. 3 people hate “fags”, 5 people hate themselves, 6 people hate East Indians. 54 people hate nazis.
I’ve always liked the phrase “I’m not a bigot – I hate everyone equally” and I used to say that a lot. I’m actually really surprised and a little shocked by the results on this question. I never ever try to judge by group/category (and I’ll be the first to admit that this is a loaded question). There are many americans, frenchies, and people of varying sexual orientation that I know and like.

The question of capital punishment is extremely tough. I feel that if a person is convicted of murder, he should spend the rest of his life working, and the money that does not go to his bare necessities should go as a restitution for the victim’s family.

21 people are totally satisfied with their looks. 46 say looks aren’t important, but they can’t help worrying about it. 50 people say their stomach bothers them and I fit in that group.

9 of my friends drink every day or almost every day. That strikes me as sad. However 13 people, like myself, don’t drink at all.

29 people have a “never have, never will” attitude towards smoking pot. I smoked pot only once, and boy it was enough for me.

11 of my friends have done cocaine or heroine more than twice. That’s kind of scary. I wouldn’t touch the stuff personally.

33 people say a fetus is not a person. 21 say a fetus IS a person, but abortion is technically not murder. 3 people say abortion should be illegal. 19 people say abortion is murder but it’s not their place to make a choice for someone. 8 people prefer not to say.
Personally, I have nothing against abortion and I really believe that it is sometimes necessary and definitely the better choice in most cases. My brother has a bumper sticker that reads “Can’t feed ’em? Don’t breed ’em.” Crass, but I’m forced to agree, and likewise with the food that is love.

26 people said they have never regretted having sex with someone, as it’s all part of the learning process.
I regret having sex with someone.

21 people have definitely intentionally hurt someone bad enough to need medical treatment.
I am both a pacifist AND a coward – and I haven’t done so in my adult life.

4 of my friends always have difficulty interacting with the opposite sex. I rarely do.

32 people think persons convicted of rape should be executed.
I think that’s going a bit too far….but not very much too far. I think that the victim should have input on this (after a reasonable amount of time has passed).

79 people know someone who has been raped, or know someone who has raped. WOW.
I know someone who has been raped, but to my knowledge I don’t know anyone who has raped.

49 people think it’s acceptable to be sexually involved with more than one person at a time only if the other people know and take part.
Personally I do not think it’s acceptable with the possible exception of very special circumstances. I know that in any relationship I would have with a girl it would be very difficult, unhealthy, and volatile to bring a 3rd person into the mix under any circumstances. I’m just not wired that way.

Only 13 people think it’s gross to pee in the shower. I do not fall into that group.

36 people hold one or both of their parents in contempt for how they were treated as a child. 49 do not.

51 people say they’re “good” in bed, and 20 say they’re the “greatest”. I would say I’m good, leaning towards great, but I don’t know…ask my ex-girlfriends.

Sex-wise, 65 people have no preference, top or bottom. I think they both have their merits (and WHAT merits they are!).

Only 21 people thought they were too young when they lost their virginity. 9 people still had it when they filled out the survey. Even though I was 19 when I lost mine, I should have held out for a year or so, in hindsight.

38 of my friends have driven while drunk. I have never.

71 people have a sexual fantasy they hope to one day enact. Me too.

56 of my friends masturbate several times a week. Tragically, 7 people don’t masturbate because they really can’t do it.

15 females think that females are more sensitive than males. 26 males think likewise. I’m undecided.

53 people think that most beggars spend our money on drugs/alcohol/cigarettes. I think that too. I heard of this interesting thing going on somewhere in which they put up meters, like parking meters, and you can put your change into them and the money goes to the food bank or some such charity. I think that’s way better than giving it to the guy hanging outside the London Drugs, or the kids from Surrey who beg on Granville Street while they have perfectly good bedrooms and $200 boots. To be honest beggars make me feel uncomfortable, and homeless people with dogs just make me mad. I would happily surrender my spare change to someone if I knew for a fact it was going somewhere worthwhile.

23 people think that training animals to perform for humans should be illegal. I agree with you guys. Come on, humanity – we’re better than this, aren’t we?

78 of my friends think most politicians are crooks. That’s probably true, but I don’t really know. I know Bush is.

29 people feel that what they think doesn’t count for anything anymore. That’s sad.

35 of my friends say that astrology seems to work. Please announce yourselves so I can stop inviting you to parties 😉

29 of my friends believe some UFOs are visitors from outer space. I think it’s highly unlikely but not impossible.

Should people try to encourage others to accept their religious beliefs if they think it will help them? 68 people say NO. I say probably not, unless under the direst of circumstances.

Is honesty the best policy? 58 say not always. I say almost always. I mean, I’m not going to tell a 10 year old child that he’s the cause of his mother’s accidental but horrible death, even if it’s true. That just does nobody any good. But for almost any other situation, honesty is the best policy. The truth hurts but I prefer painful truth to a painless lie.

Thankfully, nobody put down that we can depend on what we are told in the newspaper or on the news. I would say “seldom”

74 people said that if they won a million dollars they would share it with friend
s and family. Did I ever tell you how much I love you lately?

13 people said that if they had a time machine, they’d go back to the middle ages. 16 said they’d go back just a few years (I might do that). 16 said they’d go forward 100 years (I might do that too, or 1000 years). 14 people say that that machine is the work of the devil!

If I had the super-power of my choice, it would be the ability to stop or alter time. I would also strongly consider immunity to death & disease, and flight. 5 people chose Invisibility and that’s also very tempting, but 4 people said that they’d rather have no superpowers.

31 people felt uncomfortable answering some of these questions. So did I, but it’s all in the name of….wasting time and staving off boredom. Those are pretty good causes.

11 people said they lied on maybe 1 or 2 questions.
11 people said they lied if it was funny
66 people said they didn’t lie
12 people said “You kiddin’? I’m lying RIGHT NOW!”

Movie Reviews: Forbidden Planet; Dogma; The Cruise; Iron Giant; Madre Muerta

Movie Review: Forbidden Planet

The space pulp/monster movie genre really came to a head in the 1950s. With the A-Bomb and the Reds a new and very real threat to post-WWII America, the sci-fi movies of the time had a tendency to exploit the fears of the public. The best of these films served as cautionary tales. A great many of them (Angry Red Planet, and Rocketship X-M for example) were little more than xenophobic jaunts of drive-in escapism suitable for MST3K-ing. With all their dated, stereotypical camp – bug-eyed monsters, posturing military men with atomic ray guns, fainting heroines and alcoholic cooks – poking fun at the genre is duck soup.

Despite all of their idiosyncrasies, a few of these sci-fi flicks still stand up 50 years later. The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds spring to mind, as does Forbidden Planet. In MGM’s first real stab at the genre, Commander J. J. Adams (Leslie Nielson) commands the crew of the United Planets Cruiser C57D on their mission to investigate the mysterious loss of contact with a colony of scientists on the planet Altair. Once they approach the planet they receive a transmission from the last surviving scientist, Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), who warns Adams “if you set down on this planet I cannot be held accountable for the safety of your ship or your crew.” Naturally, the Commander ignores the warning and lands to further survey the situation. Dr Morbius, less sinister than his name seems to imply, reluctantly welcomes the crew and introduces them to the now familiar Robot (who was known as “Robbie the Robot” only outside of the film), his lovely daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), and an ancient underground world created by the long-extinct inhabitants of the planet, the Krell.

The various science-fiction elements in Forbidden Planet are stylistically fascinating, powerful and memorable, and perfectly executed for the time. Though dated by today’s standards, the special effects were very sophisticated at the time and are still a joy to behold.

The characters, though somewhat stereotypical, are pretty solid, and with talent like Nielson, Pidgeon and Francis the acting is nothing to sneeze at. Tensions between Adams and Morbius, the interplay between the crew and the free-spirited Altaira, and the subtle camaraderie between the commander and his doctor (Warren Stevens) are well-played.

The theremin soundtrack is something else – you have to hear it to believe it – and it really gives the film an otherworldly quality and very much adds to the suspense of the story. Oddly enough, the score for the film wasn’t what the studio had planned – due to the Hollywood Musician’s Union strike a husband & wife team was hired for the task.

Texturally, the whole story works on several different levels. There are Shakespearean (the film is based on The Tempest) and Freudian aspects mixed in with the comic relief of Robot and ‘Cookie’, the ship’s cook. If you’ve not seen Forbidden Planet for a decade or two, I strongly suggest refamiliarizing yourself with this entertaining sci-fi classic, the rich antecedent to a diluted Star Trek franchise. If you have never seen Forbidden Planet – well you’re in for a memorable voyage of discovery.

Movie Review: Dogma
(or Jay & Silent Bob’s Excrement Adventure)

I’m not going to say that Kevin Smith doesn’t have talent. I’m sure he’s a very good dancer.

I liked Clerks and Mall Rats, but I think Smith got a bit out of his element with Chasing Amy, and is even more so with Dogma. The mix of incessant one-liners and socio-religious criticism is an experiment that does not succeed. I admit I am not up on my Catholic dogma, but I do know that constant elbowing at a belief system does not a good movie make. Plot and acting should also be present if possible. The dialogue in this movie feels like it’s been written on–and read off–recipe cards, more so due to Chris Rock’s and Salma Hayek’s irredeemable delivery. But give them a break, even all of Jason Lee’s charisma couldn’t make these lines wash. The story can’t get a word in edgewise with all the sassy religious icons constant yammering. I felt like I had just opened my door to a bunch of bible thumpers who wouldn’t let me politely excuse myself, except these bible thumpers are perpetually pissed-off miscreants and they don’t offer any free reading material, let alone theological insight that isn’t half-baked. Alannis Morrisette as God? Sure…why not? It’s so crazy it just might work!

The movie ends, as is expected, in a violent bloodbath borne of Hollywood’s safest formula, wherein the heroine is killed for no good reason, then brought back to life for no good reason, then cured via divine intervention of her infertility problem. Yup, everything wraps up in a nice little package, and despite the hoity-toity pretentious pokes at organized religion, Dogma still manages to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

You know you’re in a lot of trouble when the best part of the movie you’re seeing is Ben Affleck’s acting! If you like Adam Sandler but have a college degree, you may like Dogma.

WARNING: There may be some inoffensive language between f-words.

Movie Review: The Cruise
1998, dir: Bennett Miller

Timothy “Speed” Levitch is an interesting person in an interesting town. We follow this eloquent, thoughtful, and passionate guide for Gray Line tours in New York, catching him at his best and worst moments. This is the kind of movie you can sit down and lose yourself in, despite any conventional elements of plot, action or romance. The plot is Levitch’s meanderings through the city. The action is his refusal to wear Gray Line’s red blazers and his struggle with an alarmed emergency exit. The romance is his love of NY, exhibitionism with tourists, and eroticism he finds in terra cotta building facades.

The Cruise is a glimpse into the life and mind of a rather extraordinary citizen of the times, as he fights what he calls “anti-cruise”. Anti-cruise can be described, in a very limited sense, as convention, conformity, and oppression of different levels, and Levitch’s fight is at once provocative, amusing, and always insightful. His fight is neither rancorous nor glorious–it is not the Braveheart fight-to-the-death crusade, but rather it is the day-to-day struggle against his career, aspirations and memories, and this makes it all the more identifiable and inspiring. Levitch has the uncanny ability to crystallize ideas which remain unspoken or indeed semi-formed in the conscience-at-large, and furthermore to plant the seeds of still greater ideas.

This movie may not be at the top of your “to see” list, but it should be.

Movie Review: The Iron Giant

Set in a small town in Maine during the height of the cold war, this film is based on Ted Hughes’ children’s book “The Iron Man” and brought to you by The Simpsons’ Brad Bird. It tells the story of a giant, amnesiac robot who falls to Earth, and is eventually befriended by a local boy, Hogarth Hughes. Hogarth must hide the robot from a paranoid government agent who suspects it a Soviet weapon of war. The truth is that the robot is indeed essentially a giant gun, but hails from a distant planet and bears unbelievable firepower! Ultimately, it is the friendship with the boy that brings out the robot’s compassion and humanity, and saves the town from annihilation.

I liked this film so much that after I saw it, I emailed everyone on my many contact lists and practically begged them to put on their shoes and hit the theatre to support this amazing film. Why should I care? Because I am an ardent believer in supporting cinematic–or any other–efforts that one feels strongly about. And I do feel strongly about this film. The Iron Giant is one of the finest, well-written, non-formulaic, intelligent pieces of animated film I have seen in a long long time, and I watch a lot of cartoons. At the time, just a few weeks after the film opened, it came to my attention that it was not doing so well at the box office. My bulk email was a modest campaign to boost awareness of the film, because in Hollywood there is just one truth: the success of a movie is based on its gross. If a piece of s**t movie does well, more piece of s**t movies like it will get made. Conversely, if an intelligent, well-written movie does not make its financial mark, that kind of movie will fall out of favour with the fatcats who make the decisions back at the studio. I personally would hate to see the entire genre suffer because The Iron Giant is recognized by a wanting dollar return and lack of ubiquitous Happy Meal tie-in claptrap. The Iron Giant is an inspiring movie that can be appreciated by adults for its genuine characters and solid story (not to mention its welcome lack of ill-placed Disneyesque singalongs) and by children for its well-executed animation and springboard for the imagination. If you can still find The Iron Giant in theatres, go see it (again). If not, it’s coming out on video shortly.

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, I can send you the barrage of reply emails I received, with subject lines like “Thanks for the great recommendation…I loved Iron Giant.”

Movie Review: Madre Muerta
aka The Dead Mother. 1993, dir: Juanma Bajo Ulloa

I don’t use the words “brilliant” and “captivating” very often, in fact, this may be the first time they’ve both appeared in the same sentence, or indeed thought, that I have produced. I have no reservation about attributing both of these adjectives to La Madre Muerta, however.

Juanma and Eduardo Bajo Ulloa’s story begins with an amazing bang that holds you fast to your chair for the ensuing 103 minutes. The protagonist, Ismael, is a a psychotic, petty thug whose love for chocolate is stronger than that for his devoted lover, Maite, whose attention he repays with threats and abuse. On one of Ismael’s jobs burgling a house, he is surprised by the owner, the “Dead Mother” in question. Her statement “there is no money” is answered with a fatal shotgun blast that leaves her young daughter, who Ismael meets on the way out, orphaned.

Years later Ismael sees her on the street, now an enchantingly beautiful, but mute and seemingly autistic young woman in the care of a local sanitarium. Ismael, frightened that she has recognized him, kidnaps her and brings her back to Maite at their the house. Ismael wants to throw her in front of a train, but Maite insists a ransom, since they are currently squatting. In the meantime, little Leire grows on both of the criminals, albeit in different ways. This leads to an engaging storyline of conflict, beauty, and twisted redemption. Despite the detestable actions of the lead characters, it is impossible not to care for them. Apart from the fact that the subtitles are a bit hard to read at times, this movie is infallible, and must be watched immediately at all costs!

The Untimely Death of Commander Fluffy

The Untimely Death of Commander Fluffy
A True Story

When my brother and I were younger, our toy budget was not very big. We were forced to make toys out of whatever was handy. One of the luxuries afforded to us was a small army of stuffed animals, which we collectively dubbed “huggies.” Where this term originated from is lost on me at this point in my life, but the important thing is that they represented our personal reflection on life as we saw it in the real world and especially in entertainment. From our two armadas of huggies, Merrick and I each chose an elite task force comprised of the smaller, pocket-sized animals.

My selection was called Hogan’s Heroes, a five-animal team consisting of a skunk (Hogan), a moose (Morgy), a blue bunny (Hippity-Hoppity), a crocheted pig (Truffles), and a toucan (Seafird). This team of commandos would invariably be pitted against diverse threats, from the common house cat to select rubber monsters from my airline carry-on bag of doom. Occasionally, Hogan’s Heroes clashed swords with Happy Harry’s Assault Team, a task force named after Merrick’s favoured stuffed lion. These commandos were outfitted with the latest in technological warfare…tiny cap guns and rifle-shaped pens that were perfectly to scale with their miniature stature, including satellite-guided boomerangs and a tiny set of handcuffs (a human might consider it a key chain). Hogan’s Heroes’ base of operations was adapted from a small set of shelves, complete with supercomputer and elevator. I recall the best office chairs were made from old styrofoam Big Mac containers–the kind they no longer make.

When we played at an even smaller scale, there was a whole new set of heroes. The playthings were tiny pom-poms with googly eyes affixed to them, and sometimes balls of lint that we fished out after a good load of laundry. When they dried, they would fluff out to become the protagonists in epic adventures of danger and intrigue.

One such hero was Commander Fluffy. This was Merrick’s most cherished tiny toy. Although Commander Fluffy was nothing more than a ball of animal fur, not exceeding an inch in diameter when dry, he himself had his own base of operations and even had his own space ship. The ship was a rather odd orange, bullet-shaped pill container that Merrick had painted up with some kind of star command logo…the cap did bear some resemblance to a thruster from a star destroyer. Commander Fluffy and his buddies went on many celebrated odysseys, and he was even the star of Merrick’s only childhood comic strip, called Space Wars and co-starring a snowman-like race of creatures called the “boing-boings”, who were united in defending the universe against the evil “blithens.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Merrick would once in the while let me play with Commander Fluffy and company (or, more likely, I would take without asking). One of the many challenges of working with Commander Fluffy was his size and malleability. As nothing more than fur, Commander Fluffy could be compacted into a very small area. Indeed, this was how he fit into his pill-ship. Once C. Fluffy was stuffed inside the ship, it would take no small amount of dexterity to fish him out. Usually this involved jamming a pen, cotton swab, or some other long utensil into the ship, but if those weren’t available, there was another method–sucking him out. This was a relatively simple process that involved putting your bared teeth up to the open pill-container and sucking till Commander Fluffy was forced against your teeth. Then you could simply grab the exposed fur and pull him out to fight crime and injustice in a cold, unforgiving universe. As I was to learn, this method was not foolproof.

One day, while Merrick was in fact nearby, I was using the sucking method to coax Commander Fluffy from his usual hiding place. (That sounds incredibly suggestive, but let’s continue.) On this specific occasion, I had forgotten to keep my teeth together, and I sucked him not only out of his ship, but into my throat as well. The look on my face was no doubt priceless as I realized that Commander Fluffy was halfway into my trachea, and by anyone’s standards, that was simply not right. Here I was, choking on one of our household’s greatest heroes, but my only thought was for my own survival. In a split second the involuntary reaction had been made, and Commander Fluffy was coughed from my trachea to my esophagus, and down into the warm wet hell that is my stomach. It didn’t take long for Merrick to realize what it was I was choking on, with Commander Fluffy’s ship still in hand, and it soon became painfully apparent that the danger I faced choking on Commander Fluffy was negligible compared to the wrath of my older brother at the loss of his champion.

It is a good thing that our mother was on hand to restrain Merrick, or I might not be typing this story today. How ironic that what the blithens had failed to do over the course of decades (in comic book time), I had managed to do quite by accident in a moment of carelessness. My own titanic breath had led to Commander Fluffy’s untimely demise, but even to this day I will never forget his poignant eulogy, as my brother put it so eloquently at the time of Fluffy’s passing: “Tory, you’re searching through your poo with a q-tip until you find Commander Fluffy!”