Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gritty Little Thriller...Basic Instinct

Paul Verhoeven is a much maligned director, in great part due to the train wreck that was Show Girls.  While that movie was utter shit, it shouldn't result in Verhoeven's body of work being discounted.  This is the man behind such undisputed classics as Robocop and Total Recall.  In my mind though Basic Instinct is his masterpiece and over 20 years later its easy to see why. 


Erotic Thrillers as a sub genre get more shit than they deserve.  And while there are scores of late night cable skin flicks that create this image, it shouldn't discount the solid entries the genre has produced.  If you look beyond the nudity, the essence of the erotic thriller is film noir.  The basic template of the genre comes from the nearly flawless 1950 Bogart flick in a Lonely Place.  I say nearly flawless because no film ever needed to adress the sexual relationship between the two leads more.  Instead their is a hokey scene and a subtle implication Bogart spent the night.


Catherine Tramell is the greatest femme fatal ever.  While some may look at Stone's performance as hoeky now, it only comes off that way because it has been imitated ad nauseam.  Tramell is sexy, smart and dangerous.  One of the greatest keys to this is that it is NEVER clear she is the killer.  While some see the infamous leg crossing scene as gratuitous nudity, it is a plot point, and a clever one at that.    Michael Douglas' Nick Curran is another great archetype from the pulp error.  Smart, reckless yet with a very clear personal code of conduct.   

Paul Verhoeven's direction is top notch, owing much to Hitchcok.  While some may whine about the sexuality on display, and as puriant as it is, the sex scenes in the film are also about suspense and character development.  Nick and Catherine's big scene was nearly shot for shot like the opening murder, and Nick's rape of Jeanne Tripplehorn's Beth Garner shows both his repressed darkness, and implies a great deal about who she is.  
When Paul Verhoeven submitted the film for a rating it was awarded an NC-17 and among a list of cuts, two major trims took place that I think bare a special look at.  The first was an orgasm from the female murder in the opening.  The second and most telling was the cunilingus between Nick and Catherine.  In the theatrical version she goes down on him with reciprocating.  Jerry Goldsmith's score also deserves a little extra recognition, with a great theme that haunts the images onscreen.  
Basic Instinct represents the pinnacle of big screen erotic thrillers, and the film had an incredible impact that can be felt to this day, think of nearly ever drama on Premium cable for starters.  
With a big screen version of 50 Shades of Gray on the way, I'd like to look back to 1992, when a blockbuster could have a sexually dominant woman in the lead.  


Friday, April 11, 2014

I look at the forgotten classic: Batman: Knightfall Part 1 for following the nerd...


There are some incredibly popular and influential Batman story arcs that receive a great deal of love, and rightfully so from the nerd community.  And I’m with you.  Batman Year One is amazing.  Hush is incredible.  Birth of the Demon is overrated but very influential and important to Batman’s development One arc that I feel is often left out is Knightfall.  Right now I want to examine the first third of this epic.  Yes it was an event comic designed to tell books, but that doesn’t mean it was of poorer quality.  While I recognize a few different authors had a hand in this I’m going to credit Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench as the largest contributors.


Dixon and Moench’s script works on quite a few levels.  The first few issues move fast, almost entirely self-contained and allow readers a chance to revisit the rogues gallery while tying each episode to the larger story, without ever sacrificing the action or pace.  Arkham Asylum is a volatile place, with prisoners escaping quite regularly, so why not all at once.  This action also helps to set up Bane as a formidable enemy.  He respects Batman as an adversary yet is incredibly confident.  Bane is one of Batman’s best villains, because Batman never beats him.  In the entire Knightfall Arc Batman never triumphs over Bane.  This makes it one of the most unique entries the cannon ever...
Click either image for the full article.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

I was thrown off goodreads and no one can tell me why...


I hadn't  been active on goodreads for at least a month.  My only use of the site recently was to accept friend requests from other users.  As a small press author the site proved me a good way to connect with readers.  I was active on good reads for roughly three years before my first professional publication was released and I found it to be a great site to find new books, and keep track of what I had read.  Sometimes an author’s name would escape me, and my read list made it easy to find their name, and then other works by the author.   It wasn't long before I was offered and took on the status of librarian.  This allowed me to upload other small press authors I had discovered to the site’s listing of books, in the hopes that these people would find an audience. 
The other day I tried to log into my goodreads account and couldn't.  I assumed this was because I had changed my password and forgotten what I had changed it to.  This is a common occurrence in my life.  I clicked the refresh password button, and was told I had no account and never had.  This was confusing because I still had email updates from goodreads.  When I contacted their help desk I was told that my account was terminated because I was responsible for spaming other users.  No one could tell me when this occurred and my recent lack of activity was shrugged off because apparently these cycles don’t run very often.  Nor could anyone explain to me what I did to warrant being removed without any notification.  I requested to be reinstated, and was told I could rejoin from scratch.  All my reviews and posts lost forever, just like snap chat pictures, in that they aren’t lost and are stored permanently.  This affects not just me and my meager status, but all those small authors I wrote reviews for in hopes of supporting their work, because writing can be a lonely process and it’s nice to know somebody is enjoying the product of your hard work. 

I am not happy with this state of affairs for what I hope to be obvious reasons.  I enjoyed using goodreads before being published, and once becoming published it was fun to use my ISBN number to create an official page for my book on a website I used.  Alas all this has come to an end.  I write this so that when others are inevitably kicked off because they were flagged by an algorithm it will not come as such a surprise and not be quite as pissed off as I was in the moment because it will be less of a surprise.  
Ironically my author profile, which I do not have access to any longer displays this message, "M.R. Gott isn't a Goodreads Author (yet),"

Friday, February 28, 2014

Alien: Out of the Shadows Book Review


Ellen Ripely is back in Tim Lebbon’s Alien Out of the Shadows the first book in a brand new Alien trilogy from Titan Books.  Adding to an established and fan loved/obsessed universe it tricky, the novel has to be successful on multiple levels in order to please the passionate members of its audience.  The same ones the franchise was acquired for in the first place.  As a member of that demographic as well as a fan of Lebbon I’ll be breaking it down step by step. 


First off the Ellen Ripley of Out of the Shadows is the Ellen Ripley we all know.  This book takes place between the first and second movies and envisions Ripley’s escape pod taking a detour before the second film begins.  Tim Lebbon writes Ripley incredibly well.  He clearly understands all the elements of the complex character that Sigourney Weaver brought to life in the first three Alien films...Click either image for the full review at Ravenous Monster.



Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Crow: Curare Graphic Novel Review at Ravenous Monster


Almost a full year since publishing The Crow: Skinning the Wolves, author James O’Barr returns to the franchise with a new tale entitled Curare.  If you didn’t think it was possible to surpass the high standard set with Skinning the Wolves, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with his new tale of anguish and pain...CLICK EITHER IMAGE FOR THE FULL REVIEW 


Thursday, February 6, 2014

James Dorr reviews Dracula: Entre L’Amour et La Mort


Dracula in French?  And Canadian French to boot?  And with songs!  Yes, all that and more is available to those who enjoy a delightful shiver on seeing a bat’s silhouette on the moon, while nights are chill and days may bring more freezing rain or snow.  And it’s on DVD, “inspiré du roman de Bram Stoker, le spectacle musical Dracula:  Entre L’Amour et La Mort.”  Yes, the musical version of Dracula -- in French.  Actually produced in Quebec where it ran from January 13 to December 16 2006 (with the DVD version filmed in November that year according to the credits, although the DVD itself didn’t come out until 2008), it has since been performed as well in France and elsewhere.  Translated as “Dracula:  Between Love and Death,” it was created by Bruno Pelletier (who also plays the part of Dracula) with music by Simon Leclerc and lyrics by  Roger Tabra.


But there is a down side, it’s only available in French (and québécois to boot, as well as a few lines in Ukrainian) with -- at least in the only version of it I’ve been able to find -- no English subtitles, and as for me the title is about as far as my language skills are going take me.  So what I’ll offer here may be not so much a review as an outline of differences between it and the plot of Bram Stoker’s novel, so one can follow it just enjoying the stagecraft and music.  And I will say that, even without a translation, the music is great, the dancing and acting, the costumes and settings all great too.  For me at least -- but then I like things like les trois vampiresses (a.k.a., in the movies, the “Brides of Dracula”) done up BDSM style with Medusa-like headdresses!

Also the plot should be sufficiently familiar that it can be followed well enough without really knowing the words.  There are some variations from Stoker, though, to be aware of (the large puppet-creature that starts it off, by the way, is not a character per se but rather a sort of announcer-commentator).  It follows the conceit of, for example, Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula in seeing the vampire as a Vlad Tepes extension whose wife has been lost and who discovers, 500 years later, Mina Murray as a kind of soul-descendant, thus setting up a major conflict as being between Dracula and Mina’s husband-to-be Jonathan Harker; Lucy in this version is Van Helsing’s daughter (Van Helsing, seen as very religious, has tried to keep her from the evils of the world, but she rebels with results that are not good); Renfield as a drug addict plays a more modern sort of madman; other parts are thus eliminated but the three vampire women have their roles expanded to almost an equivalent of the three Fates, at some moments standing in in a way as a kind of Greek chorus.  So one part is literal, a telling of a variant of the original novel in music, but another level is allegorical taking in the larger themes of good and evil, weakness and strength, love and pain and death, and ultimately redemption.  And it is ultimately Mina who must choose, whereas the original “Elhemina,” as the warlord Dracula’s promised bride, is the one who was cursed from the beginning and so had “turned” him.


And then there’s one thing more.  While I haven’t been able yet to find a subtitled version, I have found a blog in which much of the libretto has been translated to English on a song by song basis, though not necessarily in production order.  So for die-hards like me, one can copy the songs out (with a warning that, even as of now, it may still not be entirely complete), re-shuffle them as needed into act and scene order, and watch the show with lyrics in hand to glance at as one will.  And so I’ve provided a link below. 

However I will recommend for a first look, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches with appropriate spirituous refreshments on hand (or even if not -- hot dark chocolate is nice with whipped cream and optional sprinkles on top, and mulled cider is excellent, spiked or otherwise), don’t worry about the actual words.  You know the story.  So just sit back with a special friend, relax, and enjoy.        

http://www.allthelyrics.com/forum/french-lyrics-translation/73573-dracula-entre-lamour-et-mort-all-tracks-and-tracklist.html




James Dorr is a short story writer and poet working largely in horror and dark fantasy with occasional forays into mystery and science fiction.  His latest collection, THE TEARS OF ISIS, was released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing in May 2013, joining two earlier collections from Dark Regions Press, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE and DARKER LOVES: TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET, as well as his all-poetry, all-vampire VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) from Sam’s Dot/White Cat. His own cat, Wednesday (for Wednesday Addams of the TV show THE ADDAMS FAMILY), is more a dark gray herself and spends her days (when she’s not asleep) slinking about Dorr’s fairly extensive DVD and VHS collection. 

More on Dorr can be found on his blog at http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com .