I Love Dick: Amazon Chick Lit in a Weekly Flick? (Review)

Kevin Bacon and Friend in I Love Dick

Out of the three potential pilots on offer from Amazon “Originals” I Love Dick is the oddest. Adapted from the 1997 Chris Kraus “feminist” book of the same name, it is a compelling bit of “Chick Lit” turned into a small screen flick. (That will become a weekly series if approved.) At least one female reviewer waxed lyrical about the show’s poking fun at the artistic community.

Suffice to say that is only partly correct. Jill Soloway has focussed on the educated artistic community.  The academic elite who masquerade their learned intelligence under a facade of high ideals and world travel. 

“You know,” says Sylvere to a young woman dangling her bare feet in a fishpond, “in Japan there are koi ponds where the fish nibble the calluses right off your feet.”  This line speaks volumes about the show and the characters in it.

While the academic author attempts to impress the young lady with his knowledge as a world traveller, he slips,  ever so slightly, into vulgarity.

He need not have bothered.

This ginger-haired female knows of what he speaks. They have the same in Bali, she tells him. “Have you ever been,” she asks.  Sylvere has not. (Not that one needs to, in Norwich, Norfolk in England there is a small mall that has these callus nibbling fish in a store. Presumably there are other places which also offer skin eating fish…)

I Love Dick is a title that just hints at vulgarity.  (One presumes that if Kraus were English the title would have been “I Love Willy” and the male object of her fascination would have been named the same.) It opens up possibilities before the first frame  of the show is even seen.

Casting Hahn as Chris aids in this  sexual connotation. The woman exudes sex from every pore. With her tousled look, sleepy eyes and bruised lips, Hahn seemingly advertises  rampant libido.

The plot, in a nutshell, has a female filmmaker; Chris and her academic author husband; Sylvere plucked from their urban setting. He has been accepted as a “fellow” in Marfa, Texas, a retreat for artistic types.   They go to the artistic community in the small  Texas tow and it is a rural setting they are ill equipped to handle.

Chris’ short film, that was due to be shown at the Venice film festival (Italy not California.) it is withdrawn because of copyright issues with a song in the film. They attend a party and Chris locks eyes with Dick.

She is lost.

Apart from the  “fish out of water” theme the pilot seems to deal with instant infatuation, obsession and those charismatic people who effortlessly capture our attention.

Chris is attracted to Dick instantly.  She decides to stay in Marfa after the author not so subtly denigrates Chris as a filmmaker. After Dick’s initial interest, he now seems less than interested in Sylvere’s wife.

She does not notice.

I Love Dick is fascinating to watch. The imagery, the music and the bubbling sexual interest Chris has for Dick makes this show oddly compelling. It has to be said that the premise of the series, these “letters” to Dick, is less interesting than the trappings.

The music is almost hypnotizing and it fleshes out each scene to brilliant effect.

The pilot is free to watch on Amazon right now. It is competing against Jean-Claude Van Johnson and The Tick. Head over and watch all three and see what you think.  Can I Love Dick work as a weekly series?

Amazon really wants to know and so do we. Tell us how you rate I Love Dick.


Terrordactyl (2016): Tremors in the Air (Review)

Poster Image courtesy MarVista

Two handy men who want better things out of life get caught up in a world changing invasion of space born pterodactyl’s that are hatching at an alarming rate. This MarVista movie could be called “Tremors” in the air except that the threat is to a much larger area; Los Angeles, and the creatures are not unknown.

Written and co-directed by Don Bitters III (Geoff Reisner was the other director on the feature) “Terrordactyl” is a bit of horror and science fiction hokum dressed up as an action comedy. It is not incredibly violent, there are not buckets of gore and the language may just be the roughest thing in the film.

Starring Christopher John Jennings as Lars, the “smarter” of the two gardening men, Jason Tobias, who plays the Kevin Bacon role in the film, Candice Nunes is Candice, the love interest and kick-arse female lead and character actor Jack E. Curenton channels his inner Rip Torn (think “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” here) to good comic effect.

A meteor shower hits LA and Candice, the bartender that Jonas has a crush on, tells him of how valuable these rocks from space are. He talks Lars into finding one and they do, somewhere in the Hollywood Hills. After taking the thing to Candice to look at, they realize a pterodactyl is following them everywhere. Soon the group learn that there are a lot more than one.

The action is not over the top and sometimes the comedy feels a little flat. However, the infection enthusiasm of Tobias as Jonas is compelling and the chemistry between the actors is spot on. Not a film to be taken seriously, this is a nod and wink to all those “it came from outer space” horror and science fiction films.

While the filmmakers could be seen as taking a leaf from The Asylum production team, the FX are more acceptable and work well in the context. Apart from the swearing, this is a film that could be enjoyed by the entire family.

The flying and attacking pterodactyls look an excellent cross between practical and CG effects and help deliver on the comedy front quite well. All the actors really sell their reactions to the menacing creatures and this alone helps make the movie that little bit more believable.

The storyline works and the locations, the film was shot around LA, also feed into the plot line very well. This could have been a SyFy film with its low budget and quirky menace but it plays a little bit better than the average creature feature on the channel.

Available on Demand and via HD streaming this is an amusing little gem that will make you chuckle. A solid 3 out of 5 stars for entertainment value alone and the enthusiasm of Nunes and Tobias. At a running time of just over an hour and a half, the pacing is good and there are no lags in the storyline.

“Terrordactyl” will be available to view on June 14. Give this one a go and see what you think.

R.I.P.D. (2013) Howard the Duck Dressed as Jonah Hex?

Film poster for RIPDThere are many reasons that R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department), the Dark Horse limited edition comic-based film died a dismal death on screen and Jeff Bridges announced that the “suits” screwed the whole thing up after the movie got panned universally and was even compared at one point to Howard the Duck. Critic Roger Moore also blasted the film and called it the worst comic book adaptation since Jonah Hex.


A trifle unfair of Moore as at least R.I.P.D. did not have Megan Fox in it. Although the film is a stinker overall despite having a good cast to work with. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon and Stephanie Szostak the film should have entertained with so much talent shoved into one film.

Directed by Richard Schwentke (RED, Insurgent) the film confuses more than it entertains and spends far too much time on the James Hong, Marisa Miller gag which appears to be a lift from Dead Like Me where the returned deceased look different from when they were alive. Having said that, the joke could have been used to much better effect with a little more emphasis on the interaction of the two “avatars.”

The comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics; who published, amongst other cult favorites, Hellboy and Sin City, ran for four issues. Not unusual for the comic publisher who seems to specialize in “one-offs” and limited editions of comics. In the comic, the joke includes the fact that Nick Cruz and Roy’s big boss is indeed “God” and that there is a heaven and a hell. While the film skirts around this issue by referring to “judgement” and they mention hell, Nick’s old partner Bobby Hayes (Bacon) mentions that he refuses to go there, the big boss thing aka, God, is shuffled off to the side.

*To be fair, however, I have never read the comics and apart from the odd synopsis of the short-lived series, can only guess at the “God angle,” although it does seem that this was part and parcel of the wry tongue-in-cheek delivery of the comic.*

The plot of the film, which apparently does follow the comic’s main premise, has Nick Cruz being killed, although in the Dark Horse publication he does not know who killed him and in the film Nick knows his crooked partner did him in.

*A major complaint that I had with the film was the whole “shot in the face” schtick that is mentioned several times in the movie and the scene where Reynolds as Cruz is pumped full of lead, not one of the bullets hits him in the face. Was this considered too graphic or horrid for the film’s PG-13 rating or just on oversight?*

Watching the film one cannot help but have a sort of Deja Vu feeling. It is not too dissimilar to Last Action Hero; the Arnold Schwarzenegger hodgepodge where the comedy made no real sense, such as the inclusion of a cartoon cat as cop, and the producers used a “kitchen sink” approach to the comedic mix. R.I.P.D. feels much the same. The biggest difference between the two films is reception, Roger Ebert actually admitted to liking parts of the Schwarzenegger film.

It should be pointed out that Bridges got a chance to pay respect to his late father Lloyd Bridges with a visual lifted straight from Airplane!. Father Lloyd played a character named McCroskey in the 1980 film who had “picked the wrong time” to stop a number of things, including sniffing glue. At one point in the hysterically funny film, Bridges Senior has a close up of his wildly smiling face and his hair is standing straight up. The camera repositions and the audience can see that McCroskey is upside down. Jeff Bridges replicates that shot as his Sheriff Roy hangs upside down under a building overhang holding a rope attached to a “dead-o.” Complete with wild smile and long hair dangling Bridges does the shot, although without the camera repositioning.

R.I.P.D. iS just not as entertaining as it could have been. The lack of direction, the kitchen sink attitude towards its comedy and the missing coherency hurts the film overall. Bridges and Reynolds fail to mesh as the former seems to be channeling his Rooster Cogburn and the latter plays it all too serious. The two styles never quite fit together.

Watching the film, I kept wanting to see more of Miller and Hong in action and wondered how Mary Louise Parker could still look so young and attractive. This is a 2 out of 5 star film with little to recommend it except for the presence of the beautiful Parker and Szostak who each brighten up the film with their performances. The chaps in the movie are never really given a chance to shine.

Sorry fellas.

While the film is not really Howard the Duck dressed as Jonah Hex, it is a curious blend of both these misbegotten films where direction and focus were both lost by those making the film and the actors never stood a chance. Wait for this one to show up on telly.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Life in the Real Desert: Sleeping in a Cloudy Oven

Cloudy sky in Quartzsite, AZThe real desert is cloudy today. It has a solid covering of dark hues which cries occasionally and lets a few dry tears plummet to earth. Striking tin roofs with a clunky, non-melodic rhythm that is short lived yet oddly comforting. The covering floated in yesterday, slowly filling the vast Arizona sky with something that resembled peaceful candy floss (cotton candy) with varying tints of color. The temperature was a cool 106 degrees Fahrenheit despite the lack of direct sun and sleeping in this stuporous heat felt like being in a cloudy oven.

I tweeted, at half 10 last night, that the temperature was a staggering 91 degrees. I watched RIPD, with Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker (whom I have a huge schoolboy crush on, sorry Mary) and Kevin Bacon while baking on high for the duration. The heat from my laptop was a little worrying on top of all that external heat. I checked and the mercury inside the house was standing at 99 degrees and I switched the thing off afterward.

Until then, I sat with all windows open and a pedestal fan scant inches from my face and the laptop. I sat oozing sweat and battled the elements in order to be fair to the comedy action film. (After all that “suffering” I found I did enjoy the film after all.)

Around midnight I gave up waiting for the heat to drop much further, the gauge outside on the porch read 82, and I crawled, sans PJs into bed. I lay on top of the sheets with fluid leaking in a steady stream from the back of my neck. By the time morning came, a cool 78 degrees for around two minutes, I was semi-rested from sleeping in a giant Arizona-sized oven and my top pillow was drenched.

I have been told that July and August resemble hell on earth and I must agree with that description after living in Vegas last year and seeing that Quartzsite is hotter than the casino town on a regular basis. Still what does not kill you, or dehydrate you, makes you stronger they say and after last night’s turbulent sleep I am not too tired this morning.

Unfortunately I will not be heading to town today as thunderstorms have been forecast and I do not want to cross the desert on a metal bike inviting lightning to strike me and my Schwinn. Of course there is the paranoia that my MacBookPro gets soaking wet thereby stopping my sporadic memoir writing and the chances of being paid by another content mill for journo pieces. I do have a waterproof bit of stuff that I wrap the thing in, but between the wind, rain and lightning, sitting today out seems wise.

It was interesting, and not a little disturbing, to see that the cloud cover kept the heat in over night. Generally on a clear day, besides being able to see “forever” the heat dissipates once the sun goes down. By half 11 or so the temperature has lowered enough to allow something resembling sleep. Even on the hottest clear day, the mornings are pleasantly cool.

Sitting here now, in the Arizona room, I can see the wind pick up. The sound of rain hitting the roof is slowly increasing in volume, not of a decibel level but amount, and the sky is becoming a more uniform color, grey without so much black mixed in. Rather interestingly there has been a lot of rain since my arrival.

Meanwhile, life in the real desert goes on and tonight I’ll wager that sleeping in a cloudy oven will not be an issue since the weather has driven the mercury down for the day. Looking at the forecast, the average temperature will be around 106 over the next week or so which means spending a lot of time in Burger King and the public library. An unexpected bonus of living in this environment is that I’ve met some lovely folks at the local eatery and managed to lose most of the tummy pod that I’ve carried with me for years.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Friday the 13th Is 35 Today: Happy Birthday Jason

Poster from original Friday the 13th
Adrienne King shared a post on Facebook from Jon Bassuk, film aficionado extraordinaire, where he pointed out that 35 years ago on this date Friday the 13th premiered on cinema screens across the US. Ms. King played the lone survivor of that film, if that is a spoiler I apologize but really you should have seen the film by now, who has Jason come up from the lake to scare the bejesus out of her and the audience.

While many who are fans of the movie, “Kill her mommy, kiiilllll her!” saw the film in theaters surrounded by other patrons and a darkened room, many more watched the slasher film that killed off Kevin Bacon with an arrow through the throat, via the good old Drive-In.

A friend of mine watched the film at the “walk-in” cinema and came to work the next day telling me all about it. A true cinephile he had managed to, quite admirably, memorize huge chunks of dialogue as well as the “kill, kill, kill, ah, ah, ah” sound whenever the hockey mask-wearing killer appeared, or was about to appear.

Recounting the events he had witnessed on the movie screen, which in those days was huge as this was before the downsizing that came with multiplex cinemas, he hesitated when he got to the film’s climax. “I don’t want to tell you in case it spoils the ending for you,” he said. “That’s okay,” I replied, “by the time I see it I’ll have forgotten it anyway.”

He then went on to describe the peaceful scene in the lake. Adrienne King’s character, the virginal good girl Alice, has dispatched the maniacal machete-wielding mother of Jason (a wonderfully cast-against type Betsy Palmer who I remember watching on I’ve Got a Secret when I was a wee lad) and then pushed a rowboat, that she clambered into, out towards the middle of Crystal Lake.

Alice in Friday the 13th,
Alice, calm before the storm…

She drifts peacefully on the water trailing her hand along the lake’s surface with a contented look of relief on her face. Suddenly, and here we’ll go into my friend’s brilliant description: “This bald kid who’s all rotting and shit leaps up out of the water behind the boat and and grabs her. He is the ugliest little f***er you ever saw and he drags her kicking and screaming out of the rowboat and into the lake. Man! I screamed like a little girl!”

We both laughed at the idea of this ugly little sucker grabbing the heroine and his screaming like a girl. I was right about the amount of time it took me to see Friday the 13th but I was wrong about forgetting the ending. When the film finally got around to the Drive-In, where I saw it, I still remembered that ending, although I had forgotten how good old Kevin Bacon bought it.

So there I sat at the 71 Drive-In with a giant bag of Doritos and a huge Dr. Pepper. I’d just finished snorting double streams of fizzy soda out of my nose at Betsy Palmer’s “kill her mommy” line (that line never fails to send me into gales of laughter) and was mopping up the mess from the front of my shirt. I had enough time to wait patiently for the bald kid to pop up like a wet and terrible Jack-in-the-box which was, my friend assured me, the final act.

I sat there for what seemed like ages and had just decided that the dead Jason Voorhies was not going to jump up and that my good friend had been telling porkies when, BOOM! The ugly bald and rotting sucker shot up from behind the boat amid a gush of lake water, that you just knew smelled like rotting fish and rotting Jason, and I swear that not only did I scream like a “little girl” but I nearly knocked myself out on the roof of the car.

Friday the 13th was the film that set the bar for all the slasher films that followed. Despite having enough sequels to sink Alice’s rowboat, Jason never got old and Betsy Palmer went down in history as the first killer in one of the longest running horror franchises in cinema history. It also had what I consider one of the best “kill scenes” ever set up by the legendary Tom Savini who “shoved” an arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat.

Happy 35th birthday to Friday the 13th and happy birthday Jason.

9 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

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