Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SHORT FEATURES: SISKEL & EBERT ON THE CRITIC

So, last week for Aleteia I took a look at Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland and, even though my review readily admits the film has a few story problems, I found the experience an enjoyable enough way to spend an evening. That’s a lonely position to take, apparently. Siding with the majority of mainstream critics, Steven Greydanus gave the movie a less-than-stellar review, seeing in it some kind of Ayn Randian nightmare full of child abduction. And, as you know, if SDG pans a movie, most of the Catholic blogosphere is soon to follow.

I just can’t do it though. As I opined on Twitter, along with Tomorrowland, my viewings last week included such offerings as Leprechaun: Origins, Bloodfist IV, and Project: Metalbeat. Trust me, I know what a truly bad film film looks like, and Tomorrowland just isn’t it. Of course, just to play devil’s advocate, my steady diet of lousy movies could just mean I have a greater tolerance for middling crap than my fellow critics. If that’s the case, that would make me Ebert in the first half of the following clip from The Critic. Given SDG’s reaction to Tomorrowland, however, he would probably see me as Siskel’s adversary in the second half…

The big joke in the preceding clip is actually the one sheets on the office walls. There’s Benji: The Hunted on Ebert’s and Carnosaur on Siskel’s, movies the critics actually gave positive reviews to in real life. No, really. Kind of makes it hard for me to feel too bad about giving Tomorrowland a positive review.

In all seriousness, I believe Greydanus always makes an effort to be very conscientious in his reviews, just as I hope I do. I’m sure he as aware as I am of Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical, Vigilanti Cura (On Motion Pictures), in which the Pontiff entreats those involved in the motion picture industry (of which critics are a part of the promotional arm whether they like to admit it or not) to do their best to promote the faith. His Holiness wrote…

“Let them take serious thought of their duties and of the responsibility which they have as children of the Church to use their influence and authority for the promotion of principles of sound morality in the films which they produce or aid in producing. There are surely many Catholics among the executives, directors, authors, and actors who take part in this business, and it is unfortunate that their influence has not always been in accordance with their Faith and with their ideals. You will do well, Venerable Brethren, to pledge them to bring their profession into harmony with their conscience as respectable men and followers of Jesus Christ.”

So as long as I feel a Catholic reviewer is trying to carry out the spirit of that Encyclical, I really don’t mind if they (wrongly) don’t like a movie as much as I do, ala Greydanus in this instance, or if they seem to like it better, as did Joseph McAleer of Catholic News Service. The main thing is that we’re all trying to advance the cause through the discussion of the art form. If we disagree on a particular film’s merits from time to time, well, that’s just part of the fun, isn’t it?

Especially since my opinion, of course, is always the right one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

THE B-LIST: QUESTIONABLE MUSICAL MOMENTS #19 – LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD

Until the dismal WWE reboot of the series in 2014, Leprechaun In The Hood was indisputably the worst movie in the Leprechaun franchise. Yes, even worse than Leprechaun In Space, and that’s a film which nearly killed some of the people who watched it. I’m pretty sure that if they remade A Clockwork Orange today, one of the movies they would force the hapless Alex to sit through as part of his torture/reprogramming would be Leprechaun In The Hood. That’s because, even if poor Alex somehow managed to feebly cling to some small remnant of his mind after making it all the way through the flick, Leprechaun In The Hood still has one last mental groin punch to deliver right before the end credits roll which is designed to shatter the sanity of even the strongest of men. Watch, if you dare…

Now, you can’t really blame Warwick Davis for going along with this travesty. After all, with his Ewok gig having dried up (or has it) and his stint on Harry Potter not due for a couple more years, the Leprechaun movies were probably his only steady income at the time. Then again, maybe this was some sort of preemptive purgatory for the cheap shots Davis would later take at Catholicism on his show, Life’s Too Short. Who knows?

Either way, the real villains here are, obviously, the writers of the film. Is there any doubt they must have truly hated all mankind? Still, at least they didn’t try to hide their badness. Their intentions were right there in the lyrics. “Lep in the Hood, come to do no good. Lep in the Hood, come to do no good.” That’s some truth in advertising right there, folks.

It makes you wonder if they were even trying by this point in the series, or if they were just cashing a paycheck? If it was the latter, then it’s quite possible they were guilty of being slothful. No, really. Fr. John Hardon’s Pocket Catholic Dictionary defines sloth as "sluggishness of soul or boredom because of the exertion necessary for the performance of a good work. The good work may be a corporal task, such as walking; or a mental exercise, such as writing; or a spiritual duty, such as prayer."

See, if it’s their job to write and they don’t even put in the effort to try and make it good, that’s sloth. Of course, if they really were trying and they just failed, that’s an entirely different thing. In fact, we tend to celebrate that kind of failure around these parts. Only God knows which one it was. All we know for sure is that this is the moment that finally killed the Leprechaun franchise.

At least until 2014 when the WWE dug it up and killed it again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

THE JUKEBOX HERO HYMNAL: Hymn 025: Bad Moon Rising by The Reels

Okay, let’s go ahead and address the big ol’ elephant in the room. Why am I putting a synth-heavy new wave remake of Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising into the Jukebox Hero Hymnal instead of the original version, you know, the classic recording which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and appears at No. 29 on Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong’s list of favorite rock, pop, and R&B singles of all time? Simple, really, because this is ostensibly a blog about bad movies and The Reels’ version of Bad Moon Rising is the one that appears on the soundtrack of Howling III: The Marsupials, that’s why? When CCR’s version shows up in a movie about Australian werewolves with kangaroo-like pouches, maybe I’ll change my mind, but until then, it’s The Reels.

But why include the song at all? Well, because when singer/songwriter John Fogerty wrote the tune, he had a bit more on his mind than just your everyday doom and gloom. In a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, Fogerty explained how he came up with the lyrics to Bad Moon Rising.

“I got the imagery from an old movie called The Devil and Daniel Webster. Basically, Daniel Webster makes a deal with Mr. Scratch, the devil. It was supposed to be apocryphal. At one point in the movie, there was a huge hurricane. Everybody's crops and houses are destroyed. Boom. Right next door is the guy's field who made the deal with the devil, and his corn is still straight up, six feet. That image was in my mind. I went, ‘Holy mackerel!’  My song wasn't about Mr. Scratch, and it wasn't about the deal. It was about the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us. It wasn't until the band was learning the song that I realized the dichotomy. Here you got this song with all these hurricanes and blowing and raging ruin and all that, but it's [snaps fingers] ‘I see a bad moon rising.’ It's a happy-sounding tune, right? It didn't bother me at the time.”

But apparently it bothers him now, which is another reason for including The Reels’ take on Bad Moon Rising rather than CCR’s, because the music in the Aussie version better matches the lyrics’ somber apocalyptic imagery. I mean, let’s face it, Fogerty didn’t exactly pen a feel good diddy here…

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we're in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.
Well don't go around tonight,
Well it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.

Yow, pretty harsh. Still it has to be admitted, the Bible does occasionally use such apocalyptic  language, most famously in the book of Revelation where it hints there will one day be a final cosmic upheaval that ends the universe as we know it. More sobering, though, is when it gets personal, such as in the opening chapter of 2 Thessalonians wherein St. Paul states bluntly that when those end times finally come, it will be perfectly just for the Lord to inflict  “punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.” Yeah, we don’t really like those parts of the Bible too much, do we? We’d rather hear the happy stuff.

In a lecture Avery Cardinal Dulles delivered at Fordham University, he noted…

“Today a kind of thoughtless optimism is the more prevalent error. Quite apart from what theologians teach, popular piety has become saccharine. Unable to grasp the rationale for eternal punishment, many Christians take it almost for granted that everyone, or practically everyone, must be saved. The Mass for the Dead has turned into a Mass of the Resurrection, which sometimes seems to celebrate not so much the resurrection of the Lord as the salvation of the deceased, without any reference to sin and punishment. More education is needed to convince people that they ought to fear God who, as Jesus taught, can punish soul and body together in hell (cf. Matthew 10:28)… Yes, Jesus came to save all. Yes, supernatural grace is on tap for all who desire it. But such grace must be freely drawn down. It is drawn down by regular confession, regular reception of the Eucharist, and perseverance in prayer. Mortification, volunteer work, Bible reading, and evangelization should be added for good measure. One should also take risks on occasion in order to bear Christian witness. There are no free rides to Heaven. Life is combat — every day, every month, every year.”

Given that, it’s entirely appropriate to sing about a bit of Biblical doom and gloom every now and then, just as an occasional reminder that there are consequences to our actions (or lack thereof). For my tastes, if I’m going to do so, I’d prefer it to be in the manner of The Reels’ lugubrious take on Fogerty’s lyrics. I understand, though, that such a double whammy of morbidity might be too much for some folks to stomach. Ah well, for them, there’s always the original, happier sounding version…

…which, if you ask me, still doesn’t go as well with movies about Australian werewolves with kangaroo-like pouches as The Reels’ version does.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

THE INCREDIBLE 2 HEADED JESUS!

Well, the Vatican has revealed the logo for the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and, at least here in the States, it’s had a pretty tepid reception. And it’s not just the throwback to the 70’s aesthetic that’s bothering a lot of folks, it’s the simple fact that the thing makes it look like Jesus has two heads…

Jubilee Logo

I’m not so sure. I mean, if there’s anything we know around these parts, it’s things with two heads…

Incredible 2 Headed Transplant, The

Oh wait, now I see it…

Incredible 2 Headed Jesus, The

Yeah, I guess the logo could have been done better.