Dylan Dog, Dead of Night. This Dog Don’t Hunt

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Dylan Dog, Dead of Night. This Dog Don’t Hunt

 I don’t recommend Dylan Dog, Dead of Night. 

***Spoilers***

I watched it on Netflix.  A 2011 film, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a mess from start to finish.

dylan dogA comic-based movie, Dylan Dog, Dead of Night. Dylan Dog is based on a 1986 Italian comic book series by Tiziano Sclavi.

Dylan’s director is Kevin Monroe, who directed the animated 2007 TMNT 4 (Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles). Unfortunately, that is one of the problems. It is much more difficult to direct live actors than to direct animated characters. Animated films, (unless you’re Pixar) are by nature, two dimensional.

With live actors, you need a little more “directing.”

Dylan Dog, Dead of Night blessed Monroe with two excellent actors in Taye Diggs and Sam Huntington. However, Brandon Routh needs a little more help. The only other film I had seen Routh in was Superman The Return. He is an extremely good looking actor and this is a mixed blessing.

Right now, Dylan Dog, Routh’s face is a blank sheet.

Mr. Routh needs some miles on his face and it is character that draws us. We project our own back story on how those character miles got there.His droning voice-over, meant to help us follow a confusing, muddled story, loses us in the first ten minutes. Perhaps, if Monroe, the director, knew how to work with actors, perhaps there would be a little more shading, something of interest to support the noir feel this movie attempted to create.

As Dylan, Routh was as flat as a cartoon turtle.

Knowing something about actors, having been one and worked with many as a casting director, I feel that in Dylan Dog–Dead of NightRouth is a work in progress. I hope that he continues to be cast without the burden of carrying a whole film. Also, Routh should do some theater, which is an actor’s medium. A little Tennessee Williams would do him a world of good. I freely admit I don’t know what’s going on currently in theater. I want to see what’s behind Routh’s big brown eyes.

Whatever limited appeal this film possesses comes from Sam Huntington, who was Jimmy Olsen to Routh’s Superman.

Huntington was the resident werewolf on the SyFy Channel’s Being Human. Someone described George Bush senior as that “first husband,” the one you briefly married before you settled down. in Dylan Dog–Dead of NightHuntington’s prissy “everyman” is the essence of your college roommate’s boyfriend, the one who always shows up to help you move. In Dylan Dog, Huntington is so funny as the reluctant zombie, grossed out by his zombie needs. And so he makes you forget the awkwardness of the film.

 Taye Diggs is such a compelling actor that he blows everyone else off the screen.

And one more problem. Dylan Dog–Dead of Night is full of monsters because Dylan is the “middle man” between humans and the world of monsters. Also, with most of the movie is spent with monsters, on behalf of monsters and fighting monsters, all the fight scenes shouldn’t be versions of martial arts. So, where are the claws, the fangs, the bolts of lightening, the melting people, etc.? Other than throwing punches and tossing people around, the demons, vampires and werewolves are pussies.

 

The Devil Inside: Godzilla versus the Smurfs

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The Devil Inside: Godzilla versus the Smurfs     A Review

devil inside  I watched The Devil Inside courtesy of Redbox for $1.23. ***SPOILER ALERT***

THE DEVIL INSIDE is a film that was directed and co-written by William Brent Bell (2006’s STAY ALIVE). The narrative style of this film is a cross between “found footage” and documentary. A 2012 January release, the story begins in 1989 as a 911 call and a blotchy videotaped police investigation of a triple murder.

A woman with a deep, weary and rather sexy voice calls into 911 saying, “I killed them all.”

“Them” means two priests and a nun, casualties, we discover, of a botched exorcism. In this case, the devil is in the details–details the script fails to share because the story jumps forward to 2009 and the woman, an American wife and mother, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) is now an inmate in an Italian hospital for the criminally insane.

Naturally, Maria’s daughter, Isabella, an attractive young woman in her twenties wants to know what happened to land her mother in the funny farm in a different country. Is it The Devil Inside?

Isabella, whose father died shortly after the murders, hasn’t seen or spoken to her mother in over ten years. So Isabella, camera crew in tow-of course she’s an attractive twenty-something so she’s going to have a camera crew, decides to visit Mommie Weirdest in the old country. Maria now spends her life in a white room and she draws odd pictures, including upside-down crosses etched into her skin.

Suzan Crowley, the actress playing Maria strikes me as one of those very good actresses, toiling for years in forgettable projects, and never getting a chance to show her acting chops.

That’s unfortunate for the film. What little we see of her stands in stark contrast to the rest of the principal cast. Maria growls and purrs; the coiled menace within her is the only real scare this film has to offer. Her voice brings to mind Mercedes McCambridge’s demon voice emanating from Regan, the besieged eleven-year old in THE EXORCIST. It’s insinuating and truly creepy. The young actors playing Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), the “documentary guy” (Ionut Grama), Father David, the doctor-priest (Evan Helmuth), and Father Ben, the exorcist-priest (Simon Quarterman) can’t conjure up enough scare for a campfire ghost story, let alone, The Devil Inside.

When you’re dealing with “The Devil,” or devils, you want to see him fight in the right weight category.

Pitting these four against a really big baddie supernatural is like watching the Smurfs take on Godzilla. It’s hardly a fair fight. The rather bland unfocused Isabella seems confused more than desperate. Father David likes to help out on exorcisms but only if they don’t get him in trouble. Father Ben pouts and whines about how the Church won’t condone exorcisms unless there’s super duper proof of possession–but he’s gonna do them anyway–so there, Monsignor Meanies! To your self-respecting demon, these four are as challenging as drowning a bag full of kittens.

The plot spins its wheels, going nowhere, until it just stops abruptly.

You get the feeling the production either ran out of money or film. Whatever. Regardless, the appetite for devil movies being what it is, the film’s earned over 50 million. Maybe someone made a deal with the devil after all. By the way–the weird nun on the cover is an extra–not a character in the story.

 

 Episode 50–The Devil (and my agent) made me do it.

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 Episode 50 –The Devil (and my agent) made me do it. ***Spoilers***

Netflix, Netflix, Netflix … whaat WERE you thinking? You gave Episode 50 was two and a half stars! Nooooooooooo!

episode 50  EPISODE 50, a 2011 release, has 2.5 stars from the Netflix fairy.

This 2011 “offering,” written and directed by Joe and Tess Smalley begins benignly enough with yet another “found footage” paranormal premise. This time it’s for a paranormal reality (think Ghost Hunters) show–only these guys are out to show us the smoke, mirrors and faulty wiring that panic folks into thinking their places are haunted. These dudes (and one dewy-eyed dudette) are out to shine a light on superstition and vivid imaginations.

Their purpose is to put this poppycock silliness to rest so that “real science” will get more attention.

When a dying rich guy who fears going to hell offers them the chance to investigate the West Virginia Lunatic Asylum, the site of several unexplained and gruesome deaths, they see “Season Finale” or “Episode 50!!” So they load up the van and head for West Virginey–visions of Emmys dancing in their heads.

Trouble (along with a ghost in the window) arises when they encounter a rival group called “ASK” (don’t ask) a trio of God-fearing folks from UCLA.

ASK is convinced that the Devil is real. So of course the two groups start circling each other like the Sharks and the Jets until the dewy eyed dudette calls a halt while her counter-part in the ASK group, a rather mousy medium looks panicked at the thought of picking up whatever signals the asylum is beaming. They agree to work together–or rather the TV show crew will work and the church people will take notes.

The rest of Episode 50 devolves from the formatted “Ghost Hunters” to a plot mess more complicated than three seasons of “Dark Shadows.”

Towards the middle of the film we’re treated to music supporting the “found footage” and ghosts start staggering, crawling on the ceiling, and locking people in rooms that just happen to contain the files that help the investigators to figure out that it’s just one bad guy-ghost (a serial-murderer, what a surprise!) who is holding all the spirits there and not allowing them to “go into the light children.” There’s a gate to hell and it’s not even at the hospital; it’s in an old prison. And so off they go to the old pokey. Right.

My favorite line was “I never pay attention to crap like ‘The Exorcist.'” Oh reeeally?

You mean that ole’ black magic movie? This masterpiece ends with a show-down–mano vs cloven hoof as the “Devil’ (the Devil looks like a bare-chested guy with a mean set of horns) guarding an old gate with flames, etc. The big bad Devil is vanquished by the skeptic TV guy wielding a crucifix (after the church guy dies heroically). Priceless. Netflix—how about half a star?

LUMINARIUM: There’s nothing like a brain.

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LUMINARIUM: There’s nothing like a brain    A Review   ***SPOILERS***

In commenting on the solar system family photo taken by Voyager 1, Carl Sagan referred to the “blue dot”  as home to every human who has ever lived.  Now,  we’re looking at potential lots on Mars  and using real cash for virtual reality property. LUMINARIUM explores computer generated virtual reality as well as the different realities created by the brain itself.

LUMINARIUM is the second novel by Alex Shakar. His first novel, THE SAVAGE GIRL, a fantasy about Pop Culture, was a New York Times Notable Book.

LUMINARIUM begins in the New York of August  2006.

Protagonist Fred Brounian sits in a  black vinyl recliner as  someone attaches wires to a helmet that he’s wearing. Fred is a paid lab rat, part of an experiment  by neuro-scientists at NYU.   Several sessions have him wearing the helmet.  Each session will stimulate a different part of his brain. The aim, the attractive researcher explains,  is for Fred to experience an after-death “Rapture,” without the death part. The goal is to induce the “God” experience, freeing the subject from the “ignorance” of faith.

Fred, a thirty-something software designer, needs the money.

Fred is paying for the hospital care of his identical twin brother and business partner George.

George, whose cancer has nearly consumed him, has been in a coma for months.

George and Fred were CEO partners of a software company whose virtual reality program “Urth” “an anime style world of pastoral villages and underwater bubble towns… Urth should have made them rich. A best laid plan, it falls apart when  911 happens.  Then, slick operators  steal the company. Quirky little Urth  belongs to Armation, a military  enterprise  in Florida, where “a ready pool of Disney Imagineers, Pixar animators, and Electronic Arts programmers” convert Urth into a military simulations program.  George wanted to start over and create a game of “spiritual evolution.” Fred  accused him of thinking “reality was up for grabs.”

Sam, George and Fred’s younger brother, is an executive in the new Armation order, and is helping the move  to Florida.

Sam suggested that Urth software would be useful in simulating urban disaster search and rescue.  Sam’s need for control is right out of the Steve Jobs playbook.  His social skills make Jobs look like Bill Clinton.

There have been  glitches in the new search and rescue program, and a suggestion of sabotage.

Fred is the most likely suspect. He and George saw their company stolen and their work compromised. There were hard feelings, but Fred needs his old job back.  Fred’s first lab rat session results in a hyper-awareness. It causes him to shadow an old woman in pin-curls, who meanders into a store and shoplifts. This results in his arrest for shoplifting tweezers. That’s right, tweezers. In addition, Fred receives emails from comatose George, a situation that threatens his already tentative hold on reality. Fred struggles to regain stability in his life, the disorientation caused by the lab experiments. But, messages from George, result in him questioning his sanity. He wonders if someone is playing a cruel joke.

Fred is surrounded by illusion and mysticism.

His father is an actor and a magician. Fred’s mother practices Reiki, a Japanese brand of energy healing. Mom believes that George emanates a healing energy from his hospital bed. Fred tries to make sense of his expanded senses, the product, we assume, of the lab experiments.  And we, along with Fred, have difficulty sorting out reality. Shakar uses stream-of-consciousness in these sequences. It reminded me of the movie Altered States: (the old woman’s pin curls, “this infinite pinwheel of shit.” Also “The spiral had twisted shut again…”) the “swirl” motif blurs the lines between different realities.

The cryptic emails from George contain the word “avatara.”

Researching Hinduism, Fred discovers identical twin avataras, Nara and Narayana, who represent the human and the divine. The concept of “duality” is used throughout the novel. Fred clings to his identical twin. He reads stories to George about simultaneous twin occurrences. These, “according to Carl Jung are …the dual manifestation of a single collective unconscious.” Fred questions how to “stand the two-sided coin on edge“– experiencing the divine, the supernatural. Yet what you are  never able to verify is existence the result of some cosmic plan.  Is everything random?

Under all of this searching for alternate realities and the exploration of religions is the fear of death.

Calendar pages mark dates leading to the fifth anniversary of the loss of the Trade Center Twin Towers. The enormity of this event permeates LUMINARIUM. Fred contemplates death, but can’t imagine not being somewhere.  New York copes, but is forever changed. Fred faces a future where he is no longer a  twin.

Creating different realities is a way of coming to terms with death.

Besides the programs of various virtual worlds, Shakar takes us to a Florida mini-golf course , which is a virtual world modeled on pre-911 New York.  Armation Florida employees live in the planned community “Celebration,”  designed for controlled reality.  Pre-fab reality is predictable and as safe as the womb. Sam yearns for it; Fred is both attracted and repelled.

George coins the word “holomelancholia…the inevitable disappointment of virtual worlds.

This concept fascinates me. I wrote my second book (currently in revisions) in response to Kurzweil’s prediction of the utopias that await us via mind-uploading. In Bali Hai, the “post-biological destination” setting of my novel Tales From Babylon Dreams, everything is perfect but the past. Through mind-uploading, we can escape death, but we can’t escape ourselves. Our bodies wear out, but can the human spirit live on indefinitely? One thing that makes life worth living is the luck of the draw, the chance that dreams can be realized or  taken away. As Eric Packer, the protagonist of Cosmopolis (see my film review) did, I think eventually, we would all choose the “void.”

In his letter to readers, Shakar puts it this way:

How do we deal with a changed world, with a universe that one day seemed with us and the next seems to turn against us and oppose us at every turn?”

LUMINARIUM is the third literary novel that I have reviewed at length on this blog.  It is the first that I totally recommend.

The stream of consciousness style is dense. The long paragraphs were a challenge to my short-attention span. I kept on reading.  There were a few places where I felt he was doing a research paper rather than telling a story. However, there were not too many to lose my interest in what happens to Fred. In his comments on LUMINARIUM  in the New York Times Sunday Book Review,  Christopher R. Beha remarks, “This premise, however ingenious, might have yielded a schematic novel of ideas, if Shakar weren’t so committed to showing his readers a good time.”  I feel that Shakar’s respect for his readers is reflected in this commitment to “show us a good time.”  Shakar gives us a complete, heartfelt story.  Telling a story well and entertaining readers should not be limited to genre writers. Along the way, Shakar looks for answers, but doesn’t claim success.

If mind-uploading happens before I face whatever waits on the other side of that coin, I would like to float around in a place like Shakar’s “Urth,”

especially in one of those underwater bubble towns. Maybe I’ll find Ringo’s Octopus’ Garden.