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Ash Reloaded
6.12.2004 by Ash, every Thursday.

  Can't get enought Ash? You should be reading Pulp!

Wow. Two articles in the space of only one calendar year. Soon, I’ll have written frequently enough to establish a fan base outside of my mother and the guys in my militia. And then, I’ll be one step closer to my dream job, which is writing poorly worded copy on the back of porno boxes for Red Light Distribution. So enjoy my latest column, which, if all goes well, will be the last time I write anything that doesn’t misspell the word ‘masturbate’.

Thursday, June 3

Van Helsing
At first glance, it would appear that Van Helsing is a film that I, as a life-long horror fan, would be destined to love. After all, the film contains a triumvirate of classic Universal Monsters, as well as one MGM villain, all ganged up to raise hell in the misty mountains of Transylvania. However, on closer inspection, it becomes evident that who ever took that first glance and greenlit this project either had cataracts or severe macular degenerative disease. Or, alternatively, he was one of those idiots who figured that since one Wayans brother had so much success during half a season of Saturday Night Live, cramming all fifteen of them into one movie must be a good idea. Not that I’m comparing classic Universal monsters like Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster to the antics of the hyperactive dullards in the Wayans family. That would be as insulting as comparing, well, anything to the Wayans family. They beat out even the Baldwins in terms of living proof of family curses. No, my point was merely to illustrate that quantity does not necessarily equal quantity. Even too much of a good thing can be bad. Mixing all these cool monsters into one movie is a bit like having sex with two underage Thai prostitutes at the same time; it’s too much to handle at once, and you end up blowing your load all over one monster’s face before you even get a chance to stab a stake through the second hooker’s chest. Wait, sorry, I got that all mixed up. I meant to say that you end up blowing your load over the first hooker’s face before you even get a chance to stab the second one. Or whatever. The point is, the filmmakers really dropped the ball here. The story is ridiculous, the dialogue is so expository it sounds like radio sports casting, and the special effects have all the realism of an episode of ReBoot. The basic premise of the film has Dracula, who for some reason is played as a bad guy from Pirates of Dark Water, teaming up with Frankenstein and the Wolf Man to perpetuate some vague evil upon the world. In the spirit of the random menace of all good cartoon character villains, this evil is done for the sole purpose of being evil, which is sort of mildly existentialist in a way, if you think about it. And trust me, you will think about it, because God knows there’s no way you’ll be paying attention to the film for the entirety of its two-and-a-half hour running time, unless you’re the type of person who likes to read books based on video games. No, despite its immense effects budget, this film is as boring as CSPAN covering the Regan funeral. You certainly won’t be drawn into the action, the story, or god forbid the characters, which include a friar as comic relief. A friar. Honestly. And he’s not even played by a sassy black comic trading off ethnic stereotypes and foul language. He’s just a friar, walking around in a burlap sack of a robe, throwing out late 19th century wisecracks. I don’t even find old Steve Martin stand-up funny, let alone jokes set in Victorian England. Even Kate Beckinsale, as a Romanian princess, can’t save the film, though with her stiletto heels, fishnet stockings, and various other dominatrix accessories, I wouldn’t mind spending a few hours in a dark room alone with her. And a Thai hooker. And a stake.

Friday, June 5

Junior Bonner

This film should be required viewing for every idiot that thinks that a movie isn’t a movie unless Eminem’s on the soundtrack and somebody drives a tuned-up Honda painted lime green. Junior Bonner is the story of a aging rodeo star who returns to his home town for a brief respite from his nomadic existence. It’s a film of mild moments, subtlety, and sparse dialogue that carries great emotional weight. The titular character, played by a subdued Steve McQueen, must deal with his mildly dysfunctional family, money troubles, and the respect of the home-town crowd. Everything in this film is reduced to allow the characters to shine through. There’s no final ride to regain lost honor, no rekindled love affair, no last chance at redemption. Hell, there aren’t even bad guys, unless you count Joe Don Baker, who’s bad not so much because of his character but because I distinctly remember his performance in The Pack, a film which managed to take the ‘wild-dogs-running amok’ sub genre of horror films to a low not seen since Cujo tried to make a St. Bernard scary. If this film had been made today, it would no doubt have featured mean cowboys in black hats and sunglasses who cheat at rodeo, forced catchphrases like “He got bucked” uttered by cool kid teens while snapping their fingers and giving high-fives, and least one bar scene featuring scantily-clad 18-year olds line-dancing on tables. And, if Jerry Bruckheimer had produced, we most likely would have been made to believe that horses blow up when they crash. It also, however, would not have been incredibly boring, an unfortunate side-effect of focusing films on characters instead of on Vin Diesel punching things. Anyone who has seen Five Easy Pieces will be in full agreement on this. Sure, Five Easy Pieces is great, and the cheese sandwich scene is prime for movie trivia games, but I defy anyone to get more than half and hour into it without praying for Nicholson to chase after Karen Black with an axe already. But that doesn’t change the fact that, intellectually, I agree that all films should be made like this. It would certainly have an effect on the industry. For one thing, it would keep anyone under the age of 30 out of the theatres, which would in turn prevent all those jackass commercial and music video directors with only one name from getting 7 figure paychecks to make movies where none of the dialogue quite gets over the single clause watermark. Then, who knows, our youth might have to find some other way to spend their free time, instead of sitting behind me in a theatre and yelling “awww shit” every time either an explosion or a breast crosses the screen. They might even read a book, show up to a class, go to the ballet, or something equally intellectually stimulating, leading to a generation of youngsters who are cultured and informed about the world in which they live. Or, alternatively, they could spend their new found leisure time tearing their goddamned lime-green Hondas up and down the street outside my apartment window seven nights a week instead of just the two. Come to think of it, maybe we’ll stick with Bruckheimer for now.

Saturday, June 6

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s final entry in his Three Colours trilogy is a masterful, meditative film that works its magic through deliberate pacing, meaningful silences, and painterly compositions, or so I infer, judging from the speed in which I fell asleep watching it. There’s something to said for the absolute cinematic tranquility required to put me down for the count, and this movie has it in spades. Usually, my mind works in a frantic buzz of Dorito-fueled genius, functioning at a rate that allows me to compute prime numbers into the millions of digits in a manner of nano-seconds. Thus, it takes me quite a while to wind down long enough to fall asleep. Any minute distraction can send me spiraling off into a flurry of computational acrobatics, or spinning into a locus of logical paradigms that can almost instantly solve supposedly unanswerable questions, like how to solve the crisis in the Middle East, and what exactly marshmallows are made of (nerve gas is the answer to both, incidentally). There are, however, certain cinematic masters who are capable of slowing my incredible mind to the point of unconsciousness and beyond, and Kieslowski is one of those artisans. Russia’s Andrei Tarkovsky is another, as are the creators of American Idol, although in that case I think my rapid retreat into sleep is more of a defense mechanism against inevitable brain damage. Regardless, Red is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, smaller in scope than its two predecessors, less spectacular, but yet unmuted in its intensity. That I based these assumptions on the fact that no loud noises woke me up during the course of the film is irrelevant. It certainly does not detract from the emotional depth that the film possesses, which I inferred from what I believe was someone crying at one point near the end of the movie, or possibly the tap was left running in my bathroom. In either scenario, Red remains an essential film to nap through, as the DVD packaging indicates that it has wowed critics the world over. Its style is probably unequalled, its message most likely meaningful and poignant, and its tranquil beauty and calming power unequaled but all but ‘lite rock’ radio stations and university lectures on Canadian history.

Tuesday, June 8

Things to Come
As amusing as early science fiction films are, they tend to be inaccurate in their predictions of the future. Their main mistake seems to be setting their films in the foreseeable future, which tends to make them seem a little dated. For example, Space 1999, in which mankind has colonized the moon and is using it as a giant spaceship, is somewhat laughable today, as the only prediction they managed to get right is that Martin Landau will still be alive in the 21st century. The only lasting benefit these prophetic visions of utopia provide for modern audiences is the endless possibility for jokes in which someone loudly proclaims that they were promised flying cars and meal pills by the time the nineties ended, and then waits expectantly for a laugh, only to find nothing but a polite chuckle followed by an uncomfortable silence. Things to Come follows neatly in this vein, predicting a future quite unlike our own. Made in 1936 and scripted by famed sci-fi novelist H.G. Wells, the film offers a vision of the latter half of the twentieth century that swings from a war and disease-ridden Dark Age to a technologically driven Utopia. While this is understandable, at least to anyone who lived through the eighties, the inaccuracy of the film’s other predictions is inexcusable. For example, Wells didn’t realize that by 1940, much of the world would be in color. Also, not everybody will speak in an English accent by the seventies. Only people living in Britain, the Maritimes, and Chris Sheppard will have the dubious honor of sounding like a Doctor Who episode. The film also has several fairly amusing visions of future inventions, such as rectangle factories, airplanes with balconies, and matte paintings instead of scenery. The fashion sense of the future is full of all kinds of idiotic clothing, like belt buckles the size of small children, and helmets that appear to be based on parabolic microphones. On the other hand, the concept of dressing like an idiot is not necessarily a futuristic one. There are plenty of people today who apparently cannot work a mirror well enough to see what they look like before they leave the house. Mainly, these people consists of women who’ve spent more money on their clothes than their education, and white kids who think that pants with basketball logos sewn on to them will convince others that they are black. The white kids I can forgive, since clearly a rap music has degenerated their brains to the point that all they can do is grunt suggestively at passing women and polish the gold chain they bought at a flea market. The fashion victim women, however, I have a more difficult time understanding. In what bizarre future world has it become acceptable to wear sweatpants outside of the house? To me, sweatpants are what one wears when one is either staying home sick and watching cartoons, or eating breakfast while the laundry’s in the drier. Regardless of what kind of charmingly suggestive slogan is plastered across the ass, sweatpants always conjure images of crumpled Kleenex and a small mark where Fruit Loop-dyed milk left a stain on the knee. They, however, pale in comparison to the abomination of women’s shoes. Usually, for those who have been blissfully ignorant, the style is confined to a tight shoe with an incredibly pointed toe, not unlike something a female Russian spy would tip with poison and try to kill James Bond with. But, for the more adventurously dumb female, the new fashion is something akin to what would happen if a ski-boot slept with a boxing shoe, and had tiny, stupid looking babies that retail for several hundred dollars. Now, as I understand from sitcoms and rap music, women are mainly concerned with finding a man to sleep with them and pay for stuff. My current theory is that dressing in the modern fashion is sort of an advertisement that these women are at least partially blind, encouraging even extremely unattractive men to make a play, thereby increasing the women’s chances of finding a mate exponentially. And, once the woman has settled down and found a man, she can start dressing in combat boots, black jeans, and a torn Slayer t-shirt, like regular people. Or, she can hop on down to Urban Outfitters and get one of those parabolic helmets are going to be big next season.

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