Monday, March 31, 2014

Insomniac Theater Presents: The Prodigal Son (Sammo Hung, 1981)

In the 1970s, martial arts films from Hong Kong began to flood grindhouse theaters and late night television slots in America, creating a “Kung Fu Craze” that captivated action film fans. Martial arts director/star Sammo Hung, actors Lam Ching-ying and Yuen Biao made several standout films together together that not only fed the craze but also elevated the quality of film-making of the genre.  In the 1990s, my daughter and I used to watch bootleg VHS copies of these movies together.  One of her favorites was 1979’s The Prodigal Son, which was both a kung fu comedy with breathtaking action scenes and fight choreography and a warm tribute to the Peking Opera origins of the stars.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Insomniac Theater Presents: H.P. Mendoza's I am a Ghost

I started this blog in 2010, when I became ill and couldn't sleep.  The Insomniac Theater  was a chance to dump some of the obsessive thoughts into the larger muck pond of the Internet. My daughter's cat, Olivia, would pad into  my room as I set up my laptop and put on headphones.  Tucked under my chin, she would watch the colors of on laptop screen while I explored all the movies I could get my hands on.  We were a weird pair, me with my nearly useless limbs and this scrawny, angry black cat the only two creatures awake in the house.  A perfect time for ghost stories.

 H.P. Mendoza's ghostly chiller I Am a Ghost would have been a perfect movie for those nights.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


This special “I can’t believe it has been so long” edition of What I Watched Last Night presents a classic, double creature feature from the islands of “It’s More Fun in the” Philippines. Come to a land of beautiful sunsets, lush jungles, gorgeous, exotic women, blood thirsty vampires and horny, homicidal plant-people monsters and prepare your mind for the Twin Tales of Tagalog Terror!

The first feature was 1964’s The Blood Drinkers (aka Blood is the Color of Night), directed by Gerardo de León. The Blood Drinkers was the good movie for the night, a sure fire winner of a vampire film with its tragic love story and doomed search for redemption.  There is even a rubber bat (named Basra!)

Basra, the Bat

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Good Bye, Easynews

Here are my usage and loyalty statistics from Internet Usenet Provider Easynews:

"USAGE: 3,158,654,239,388 bytes web (2941.73 gigabytes), 204,150,990,984 bytes NNTP (190.13 gigabytes)
You have downloaded a total of 3131.86 gigabytes.
You've accumulated 3141.23 gigabytes (3,372,872,660,059 bytes) for downloading.
You have 9.38 gigabytes (10,067,429,687 bytes) remaining.
Your account will cycle on 2013-06-16
You have been signed-up continuously since Sat May 31 09:19:00 MST 2003 (10.03355514 years)."

After over a decade of using Easynews to get access to Usenet (probably one of the oldest Internet thingys still in use), I decided it is time to say "Farewell"

Usenet is the Internet without HTML.  It predates the World Wide Web by 10 years.  It started as a way to post messages among, well, if you want to know more, here is the Wikipedia page.

I do not know what I did with that 3000 gigabytes of stuff.  Probably a disturbingly large part of that  was pornography.  

At the very least, Easynews gave me access to a pretty large library of arcane and esoteric stuff.  That is the big advantage of Usenet over torrents:  stuff gets posted on a server so anyone who knows how can download it quickly, wholly independent of who many people are seeding or leeching or whatever the heck torrents are about.

Their service record is impressive.  There were very few technical glitches that affected me.  Easynews often give out free gigabytes to customers when troubles do come up (they are very generous). 

It has been a long, strange trip indeed.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Evil Dead ( Fede Alvarez, 2013)

The last time I saw a movie that such an intense audience impact as the new The Evil Dead  was 1999's The Blair Witch Project, which left some poor girl  weeping in terror long after the lights came back on.    Even though the remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 The Evil Dead  wasn't the life changing event I hoped it would be, it is still had a good time.  Unless you are the poor guy behind  me who fainted during the tongue-cutting scene (at about 2:09 in the red band trailer).

 Fede Alvarez's  version of The Evil Dead is a basic "5 Stupid People in the Wrong Place" movie where the beginning sets out the back story.  In this case, douche-bag brother Dave (Shiloh Fernandez, the hunk from Little Red Riding Hood) and his girl friend show up at his little sister Mia's (Jane Levy from the US version of Shameless) cold-turkey heroin intervention.  I did a lot of eye rolling, especially over the horribly bad choices the characters made before the crazy happened.  Seriously, the best thing to do would have been to drop Mia off at a nice clean rehab under a qualified doctor's care and everyone else find an Al-Anon meeting.

Worst moment:  Mia seriously burns herself and everyone wants to take her to a hospital.  Everyone except friend Olivia (Jessica Lucas), the worst nurse  in movie history.  Nurse Ratched is against going to a hospital because "She would just get the same treatment I'm giving her."  Not really, in a hospital they have real doctors and medical equipment.  All she brought is a large supply of Chlorazepam.  Seriously, when others need medical attention, Dave's girl friend and an old first aid kit in the shed at the first line of defense.  Granted, by the time they needed bandages, the nurse was out of the picture, but she still should have brought bandages. 

Once the supernatural stuff starts to happen, the movie's pace quickly speeds up.  There is very little of the vacillating between "She is a demon" and "She still my sister."  

From 1981's The Evil Dead
I wasn't sure I wanted to see until I saw Sam Raimi's car in the another trailer.  Not because I am opposed to remakes, but because I didn't think it would be any good.  Too often I've seen low budget, independently made horror movies redone with large budgets, CGI, and TV stars trying to  make the jump to movies and found them lacking.

Not all source material needs to be treated with an almost fanatical sense of reverence, after all, this is not The Koran. It isn't the duty of every remake or reboot to is to be extended homage to the original (ever see Gus Van Sant's Psycho?).  And don't get me started on the "It's not as good as the book" crowd.  In both cases, people seem to forget that it is an original movie first, then a remake of an older film or movie version of a book.

This Evil Dead is not a shrine to Ash, Scott, Cheryl, Linda and Shelly, the characters of the original (and the word deadites is never said).  It is its own thing.  Once you get pat that, it is pretty kick ass horror movie and I am glad I saw it.  There was plenty of the jump-out-of-your-skin moments.  It certainly kicked the ass of the guy behind  me.   

I can't really think of a better 
recommendation than that.