28 December 2005

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (Odessa Films, 2001)

If B-Movies are your idea for a fun evening, then do yourself a favour and pick up the very odd Canadian indie film: Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Written by Ian Driscoll and directed by Lee Gordon Demabre, JCVH offers a little bit of everything: vampires (who hunt in daylight), kung-fu fighting, song and dance numbers, a priest with a mowhawk, a beefy transvestite, a mexican wrestler, an ass-kicking saviour, and much much more.

Surprisingly, the film has attracted little criticism. It has been screened for religious organizations but the jury is still out on whether the film presents enough of a positive image to counteract the obvious blasphemy. For the record, I think it does; it presents a modern Jesus as someone who can combat evil while still forgiving the evil-doer.

JCVH is a typical low-budget production, but the editing and sound production give it an edge over its competitors. The fight-scenes are well choreographed and well-paced; there's a suitable amount of blood and gore (it gets the point across without being excessive). Music is used to great advantage and someone had a great time adding in sound effects that range from the surreal crunch and squish of a vampire's bite to the silly boink and clunk of cartoon-style violence.

This is a full-length film, clocking in at 90 minutes and at times the story does drag a bit. Overall though, the film is a juicy addition to any B-movie fan's collection.


Buy Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter on DVD.
Buy other JCVH merchandise from Odessa Filmworks.

More info at IMDB and Odessa Filmworks.


Book of Lost Souls (Marvel/Icon 2005- )

Jonathan lived in the nineteenth century. Jilted by his true love, he is driven to suicide and just before he jumps into a river, a stranger happens to give him a book (as a weight, of course). Jonathan jumps and is resurrected in the 21st century. While a talking black and white cat named Mystery is his guide, the Dark Man seems to be his master. The cat, it seems, is not the only mystery in this world created by writer J. Michael Straczynski (Amazing Spiderman, Babylon 5) and artist Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil).

I recently picked up the first three issues, drawn to them by Straczynski's name alone. Happily, I was not disappointed. Each issue (so far) contains a single story while also gradually revealing the overall arc of what Jonathan is doing, for whom, and why. The writing is, as expected, very strong -- I especially like Mystery's tone -- and the art fits quite well with the story. My only complaint is that so far it doesn't look like a terribly inventive premise, though the strength of the writing is enough for me to continue reading the series.

The Book of Lost Souls debuted in October 2005. It is an ongoing monthly series, available in comic stores now; issue 4 hits shelves on January 11, 2006.


Read an interview with Colleen Doran about the project.
Pre-order Book of Lost Souls trade paperback (collects issues 1-6).

Buy A Distant Soil: Coda by Colleen Doran (volume 4 of the series).
Buy the Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski.
Buy The Amazing Spiderman v.9: Skin Deep by J. Michael Straczynski.

18 December 2005

Dennis Leary's Merry F#%$in Christmas (Comedy Central, 2005)

Dennis Leary promised to put the X back in Xmas with this holiday special and he sure as [expletive deleted] did. It premiered November 27th on Comedy Central; in Canada, it aired last night on the Comedy Network.

With special guests ranging from the Barenaked Ladies to Carmen Electra, I was looking forward to settling in for an hour of raunch with a holiday twist. Instead, most of it was about as un-funny as an average episode of Mad TV. From the racist re-telling of A Night Before Christmas (set in "tha hood" and read by actor/comedian Charlie Murphy) to the very nasty mock infomercials suggesting viewers donate cash to get flat-chested teen girls breast implants (you can buy t-shirts for the non-cause if you really want to), it was like watching a trainwreck. Even the opening song, the titular "Merry F#%$in Christmas!" was weak, despite being animated a style reminiscent of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials.

There was only one laugh-out-loud sketch (there would've been two, but the promo spot gave the other laugh away) in which Dennis Leary lamented the lack of "dangerous toys" under the tree these days.

I recommend skipping this turkey.


Comedy Central is selling the CD-Single of "Merry F#%$in Christmas!" with "over 15 minutes" of bonus comedy material.

If you are looking for some funny Dennis Leary, pick up a copy of Dennis Leary [Limited Collector's Edition] on DVD. It contains material from No Cure for Cancer and Lock N' Load, plus the video for his hit song, A**hole.

11 December 2005

Bad Cinema Experience

In a small digression from our usual reviews, I would like to take a moment to rant about the recent change to the cinema landscape in our hometown. When Cineplex-Odeon acquired Famous Players from Viacom, it meant there was an overlap in 13 "zones" across Canada which meant that 35 screens had to be sold off to other interested companies in the interest of open competition.

So, at some point in the last few months, Silver City started accepting Cineplex gift certificates and the once-modern Capitol 6 along with the University 4 Cinemas were bought out by the Empire Theatre company.

Today was our first visit to the University 4 under the new management. The new management fumbled big-time today, leading to a very unpleasant start to our visit. We wanted to buy tickets for two adults, one child, and get our concession vouchers all at the express wickets. Unfortunately, the machines kept giving us "CARD ERROR" messages -- we tried three cards before getting in line at the kiosk where we were told they could only take cash. The poor kid inside the kiosk looked like he was having the worst day of his life... I'm afraid my grumpiness didn't help him any. We pulled out of the line and debated going to the bank machine to grab cash... meanwhile many other people were trying the express wickets and getting the same error message. By now, management was well aware of the problem, but no one put up a sign; no one stood by the express wicket to direct people to the kiosks -- all of this had to be weathered by the kid in the kiosk.

Only after we had gone to the bank, got back in line, and finally got to the front of the queue did the management re-appear with some signs printed on official letterhead with their apologies. It turns out the interac system was down (which includes credit card transactions, I guess) -- this is not uncommon on a shopping day this close to Christmas, but their poor handling of the issue still ticked me off.

Next was our trip to the concession where the trainee was doing juuuuust fine (we often order soda water which tends to confuse those who don't see a big shiny light that says "soda water" (hint: there isn't one -- it's what is mixed with the syrup to get your soda of choice so there's either a small button or you pull instead of push a lever)). So anyway, the trainee was just about to put the lid on our drink when been-there-a-week-longer fella decides to pull rank. "What's wrong with that drink?" Not wanting to wait for the inevitable back-and-forth I interrupted, "Don't correct him, he's right. We ordered soda water." The other fella shut up and went to get our popcorn.

So zero-for-two I'd say, and we'll likely be choosing a different theatre for our next cinematic outing.


EDIT - Update, 15Dec05:

Mike was unhappy enough about the service that he emailed Empire Theatres and included a link to this post. Mike was very clear in his complaint that while he realized the problem may have been beyond their control it was their handling of the incident that made the experience an unhappy one. The result was a relatively prompt reply (within 48 hours) including an apology. Given their response, we will likely give them another chance but I'd like to wait for them to work out some of their growing pains before we go back.

07 December 2005

Syriana (Participant/Warner Bros 2005)

There are a lot of jobs that you couldn't pay me to do -- anything involving international intrigue is high on the list. Syriana plays out not only in the oil-rich countries of the Middle-East, but also in the powerful cities of Washington, DC and Geneva, Switzerland.

Syriana is taut and finely woven. It is a thriller, a mystery, and something more. The official website describes it as "a political thriller that unfolds against the intrigues and corruption of the global oil industry." Regardless of how it is described, Syriana makes Michael Moore's revelations look like crass infomercials. It is raw and unflinching and has an undeniable impact on the viewers. The packed house with whom I viewed the film was eerily silent and still for the first few screens of credits -- it's that intense.

Like Traffic, the last award-winning film from screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, Syriana relies on handicam (a.k.a. queasycam or wobblycam) filming for a large number of shots. While this technique does enhance the tension and urgency, it is really easily abused and it was the weakest aspect of this film. The script, based on the memoirs of ex-CIA agent Robert Baer, is solid and its direction, inspired. Most of the performances are top-notch. George Clooney burns with energy as CIA agent Bob Barnes, but the real standout is Alexander Siddig as Prince Nasir, the reform-minded heir to the Emir. There's already "Oscar® Buzz" making the rounds and you can add me to the list of Siddig's supporters.

Syriana doesn't ask the audience to stop driving their cars or boycott big oil companies but it does pose some bigger questions. It leaves them unanswered, in part because there are no answers.


Buy the memoir See No Evil by Robert Baer.
Buy the soundtrack for Syriana.
Buy Traffic on DVD.