IndieGoGo: The Starving Artists Kitchen Show

Our cooking show now has an IndieGoGo campaign. We’d be very grateful if you could spread the word, or even contribute. The first episode we produced went over really well, but we need a tiny bit of funding to be able to afford a website and repair some things in our kitchen; if that works out, you can look forward to regular episodes of the Starving Artists Kitchen Show. Yes indeed! So let the world know about this campaign.

Commentarium Strikes Back

Commentarium, our film review website, is back! And this time it’s staying. Expect one update per day – sometimes it will be just a small thought or discussion topic or link, other times it will be long and detailed reviews or articles. It shall be fun!

So what are we restarting with? Well, what else? A review of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse!

Upcoming reviews:

  • Monsters
  • Tucker and Dale VS Evil
  • The Disappearance of Alice Creed
  • Solomon Kane
  • Timer
  • Going Postal
  • Screamers

Yep. Fun this shall be.

In Memoriam

The Turmpalast closed a few weeks ago.

While this will not mean much to those of you who’ve never been to Frankfurt, it comes as something of a shock to me. Not an entirely unexpected shock – rumours of imminent closure have been thick for years now – but I always used to think that it would be sometime soon, maybe next month or in the fall, but not now.

The Turmpalast – sixty years old, never really renovated in all that time, dirty, decrepit – has been my cinema of choice, the only English-language cinema in town, for more than ten years. It is hard to guess at the exact number, but I would estimate that I have seen far more than 2000 movies there during that time. Some were bad, some were good, and a lot of memories are connected to its cheesy, red-carpeted halls that always seemed to be so much more appropriate for an adult cinema. There was the randy old lady that wouldn’t stop talking about Antonio Banderas and how they never had any sex in movies when she was young during Original Sin. There was my twentieth birthday when I lost my brand-new cell-phone during a Sneak Preview. Or that other Sneak, where a totally drunk local celebrity (Captain Jack Durban) kept yelling and hollering throughout the movie. Or the day we tried to watch Jumper and the movie ripped about twenty times before we gave up and asked for a refund.

As I said, not all the memories are good. But I saw a lot of nice  movies there, and my English wouldn’t be half as good as it is today if it hadn’t been for the Turm, so I guess I owe the place. There is another English-language cinema in Frankfurt now, all shiny and new, so from now on we’ll be able to watch movies in style, albeit for twice the money. But the Turmpalast… the Turmpalast was always there and the city will feel strange now that it is closed. And no matter how run-down it was at the end, I will  still be sad that it’s gone.

So goodbye, Turmpalast. You will be missed.

The Twilight Experiment: Interlude

Sunday. I have nothing to read. Correction: I have stuff to read, some of it is even quite intelligent, but I don’t have Eclipse. And since I fear that starting another book at this point might endanger the experiment as a whole, I shall resist Iain Banks and Guy Gavriel Kay and Jasper Fforde (I didn’t say that all of it was intelligent).

Still bored, though. So what better way to pass the time until the bookstores open on Monday than to watch Twilight on YouTube?

Okay, yes, I see your point. But I’m not going to do that. Or that. Sorry.

Where was I? Yes. I had seen Twilight: New Moon in the cinema and my experiences can be summed up with “all that glitters is not gold” – sometimes it’s a vampire. The movie looked great in terms of production values, and some of the actors appear to be theoretically capable of acting, but all in all it was a large pile of horse dung.

On the other hand, I can say that now that I have read New Moon, the movie seems to be a marvel of consistency. So I wonder, what will the adaptation of Twilight be like? Can Kristen Steward be any less appealing? Vampires glitter and they are not gold… so what are they?

Armed with a cup of tea and some cookies I sit down in front of my computer and type “twilight movie” into the YouTube search thingummy. The top result is in good quality and seems to be subtitled in Norwegian, which no doubt would increase the entertainment value of what I’m about to do, but I somehow manage to resist. The next one looks better, so there I go.

Twilight, just like the other three books, is written from a first-person perspective. Usually that’s Bella, and when it isn’t it’s Jacob, which is possibly worse. While they have ignored the first-person style of the book in the adaptation of New Moon, Twilight is in parts narrated by Bella. This wouldn’t be a problem if someone hadn’t told Kristen Stewart to do the voiceovers in her “depressed” voice. Because that’s the only modus operandi that Bella knows. Or maybe that’s just what Kristen Stewart sounds like all the time. What do I know? One way or the other the result is so drab that the opening sequence of Twilight is enough to put you to sleep, despite the nice music.

Yeah, you heard me right: Nice music. As with New Moon, there is one thing that I can’t really fault this movie for, and that’s production values. The images are nice and crisp, the sets look good (too good you might say, but I’ll get to that in a minute), and the score by the shamelessly talented Carter Burwell is quite nice. That doesn’t save it, of course. You can make a movie that has a sterling story but mediocre visuals and it can still be good, but sadly that trick doesn’t work the other way round.

Back to the story. Bella has arrived in Forks. She is wearing a pretty trousers/vest/shirt combination in blue and brown which makes her look like she belongs. Yeah, sounds weird, doesn’t it? Looked weird, too. I didn’t notice at first; my only thought was that something looks strange about the image. But then I realized that she is dressed to match her room. I believe that’s called out-of-control-costume-design. Someone should be shot for that.

Next up: Jacob Black. The filmmakers have pulled a reverse Harry Potter on us and included our favourite werewolf in more scenes, in anticipation of the bigger part that his character will play in the other movies. Unfortunately I hate his guts, so I’m not happy about it. (It would have been nice to see some more Dobby, though.) So Jacob comes, delivers some exceedingly wooden dialogue, and leaves. And Bella goes to school.

Here we meet the Cullens. If one thing is clear from the very first moment that we see them, it is that Bella is destined to be part of this family, because they clearly shop at the same oufitters interior designers. Yes, you guessed right, they are dressed to match the school cafeteria. Which presents some problems in a school environment. Do they change clothes between classes? What to they do on day trips? Questions, questions, so few answers.

But at least the arrival of the Cullens takes some of the focus away from Bella’s new friends, who seem to be trying to rival Jacob in the disciplines of wooden acting and supreme idiocy. To make up for the lack of likability the producers have cast a black and an Asian dude, which is not a problem, technically speaking, but I can hear a tiny voice in the back of my head that whispers: they only did it to get a bigger target audience. Also the black dude is hardly in the movie and the Asian dude is… eh… strange.

Moving on. Biology: the first, tragic meeting where Edward will learn that Bella is the one. Robert Pattinson is supposed to look sick and appalled once he gets a whiff of Eau De Bella, but instead he just looks sick throughout the entire scene. Must be his face. I grudgingly have to admit that Mr. Pattinson is probably a good actor, but I still wonder why the hell they thought it would be a good idea to cast someone as the Adonis-like Edward Cullen who looks like he was run over by a steamroller when he was two and then again when he was five. Well… they also thought the rest of the male Cullens were attractive, so maybe they’ve got taste issues.

Twilight deviates from the story of the book in several instances, and the results are mixed at best. Jacob pops up four times instead of two, and that is definitely a Bad Thing. We also get to see a bit more of Victoria and her buddies, which I think was included a) to introduce the characters earlier and b) to make the movie more violent and thus more appealing to the male demographic (if I’ve ever seen a lost cause then this would be it). Since the book functions (for a given value of “function”) without them showing up every five minutes, I think those extra scenes are just wasted screen time. Just think of all those wasted minutes that we could have spent watching Bella mope a bit more. Victoria and the others also seem to be big fans of parkour.

More things were changed or added. The scene in the greenhouse, which starts out pleasantly enough and devolves into incoherent babble, is all new. We get so see Bella’s mother, a character that is not featured in the book at all except at the end. More wasted screen time and the actress annoys the fuck out of me. But again I can hear a studio executive whisper in my ear:

The audience is stupid, how will they know that that’s her mum at the end?

Gee, exec dude, I don’t know… maybe because Bella says so?

Well, Verena, as you can see Edward is visible in the background of that shot, that will mean that the brains of all the female audience members will be on the blink again and you know that no straight guy will ever go see this movie of his own volition, so they can’t clear the matter up later.

Oh, I’m sorry, exec dude. I guess you’re right.

Right. Sorry. There are two more scenes that were drastically altered from what happens in the book, and I think I need to point those out for reasons of weird. The bookstore scene, which is already plenty strange in the novel, gets another coating of bad in the movie. In the novel Bella doesn’t even get to the bookstore, because she can’t find one and instead decides to wander off into the more disreputable areas of town because that sounded like such a great idea when Stephenie suggested it. And then she almost gets raped, Edward shows and rescues her and we all live happily ever after. In the movie she googles a bookstore, which is run by a very mysterious Native American person, because only mysterious Native American people may sell books about mysterious Native American legends, goes there, almost gets raped on the way back, Edward shows, etc etc, and then she googles the entire vampire thing at home anyway after she’s bought a book on the matter. Maybe she can’t read and needs to find pretty pictures to understand.

Finally, there’s the meadow scene, which is one of the few scenes that I halfway enjoyed in the book. Okay… that’s stretching it. But what happens in the movie is that the scriptwriter realizes that she has already spent too much time on Victoria and Bella’s mum and that bloody greenhouse and now needs to wrap several badly-needed character moments between Bella and Edward into one very strange scene. And I don’t really see why Bella needs to see right now what Eddie looks like in the sunlight, it’s not like he suddenly turned pretty or something. At least in the book he sort of makes fun of the whole sparkly issue.

And the running. The running. Argh! It just doesn’t work. It’s like that dreadful motorcycle sequence in X-Men. It’s atrocious beyond description. It’s… really bad green screen. Stuff like that only works in slow motion or not at all, filmmakers should have learned that by now. It’s all the more horrible since the overall effects used in Twilight are well-done. Good production values, remember?

Okay… moving on. Bella visits Edward’s family, a scene which just for once has seriously good acting by Robert Pattinson in it. I guess, statistically speaking, they have to get it right at least some of the time. The filmmakers are very considerate, however: they think of all those poor people who might, theoretically, only tune into the movie in this scene and thus think that it might actually be good. To prevent permanent misunderstandings, Edward and Bella go to his room and play Crouching Tiger, Hidden Vampire. For any of you who haven’t seen the movie and think that I have just made a really dirty sex joke: I wish. What happens in reality is that Edward and Bella re-enact that tree jumping scene from the above-mentioned movie with shocking accuracy. It doesn’t in any way contribute to me taking this movie seriously, just in case any of you were wondering.

Next up is a bit of pointless drivel between Charlie and Bella, more Victoria, a music montage (music good, montage bad) and… the baseball scene. Now, this is difficult for me to say, especially seeing that the baseball scene in the book was one of the more painful literary experiences of my life, but this scene is actually fun. It doesn’t have much dialogue and even less Edward, which both help, I guess, and so does the score by Burwell. It’s two minutes of movie. Two minutes of a movie that otherwise feels like it’s several days long and you’re watching it while sitting on a bed of rusty nails, and maybe the contrast makes the scene feel better than it is, but it really impressed me. It also forms the beginning of the end, which is a good thing, because the appearance of James and his subsequent vow to have Bella over for dinner cause the plot to get tighter. The end is nigh, and it’s a good feeling. Soon the pain will be over.

Just twenty-odd minutes remain. The book offers a lot of unnecessary complications at this point, plus a speech by Alice which I presume they wanted to save for the third movie, and the screenwriter has made the right choice and cut all of that out. We are left with a vague sense of relief and Bella’s simple and utterly stupid decision to go off and face James alone. But at least in the movie Edward isn’t, like, ten steps away from her, and this makes her decision a little more coherent. Just a little, mind you, because she could still tell Alice, who can sort of see the future. (That might have come in handy.)

Bella goes to meet James. Almost gets killed. Edward to the rescue in the last possible second. She’s already bitten. Carlisle tells Eddie to suck the venom out if he really doesn’t want Bells to be a vamp (perfectly understandable, seeing that he’d have to put up with her for eternity in that case). Then the movie loses me again. Edward sucks out the venom, has trouble stopping, almost kills Bella… and Carlisle just sits there, right next to him, and lets him continue slurping. One would think that it wouldn’t be too much trouble to reach out and pull Eddie away, right? Or maybe Carlisle wants to get rid of Bella just as much as I do, always a possibility worth considering. But let’s say that’s not th case, so why doesn’t he do anything?

Nevermind. Try as Carlisle might, Bella survives the scene, which is really a shame, because that will mean more movies. She wakes up in the hospital and mum is there. Luckily we know who she is, so there is no confusion about that, but we do wonder why anyone still lets Edward anywhere close to Bella, given the story they have thought up to explain all her wounds. Either they believe him, in which case he’s responsible for a whole truckload of shit happening to their precious Bella, or they don’t, in which case he likely as not pushed her down the stairs himself. Nothing makes sense, unless you believe that they all want to get rid of her too.

Not an unreasonable assumption, if you ask me.

Final scene and the next-to-last paragraph of this XXL review. The prom. Bella and Edward look very cool in their interior-design-compatible outfits, but just for once I can’t really complain, because that seems to be the point of a themed prom. Our two lovebirds retreat to a pavilion to do some serious dancing, which wouldn’t be worth mentioning if the other three couples already occupying that space didn’t leave immediately after Bella and Edward get there. Either the director didn’t want to waste time on a slightly longer buildup to the romantic dénouement, or Bells has really bad B.O. issues. You decide.

And that’s it, really. Is this a bad movie? Yes. Is it worse than Twilight: New Moon? No, I don’t think so. This one may have more drastic ups and downs in terms of writing as well as special effects, but at least it only has four scenes with Taylor Lautner, and he even keeps his shirt on in all of them. That has to count for something, right? Also, I registered Bella’s mope factor at 8 on a scale from 1 to 10 as opposed to the 34,7 that the sequel manages to field. The movie may be further from the original book that Twilight: New Moon, and not all the alterations make as much sense (in New Moon they positively elevate the movie to a new level of coherency) but all in all, if faced with the choice of having to re-watch either Twilight or Twilight: New Moon, I would put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. Or maybe I would watch Twilight… yeah, I probably would. Gun still sounds tempting though.

Proudly Presenting:

Commentarium.

(Applause)

Jonas and I have been talking about launching a movie and TV review everything site for ages now, and here it is. You want reviews? We got them. You want podcasts? We got will have them. You want guest blogs? Analysis? Lists? We got all of that. Or will have, in due time. Be patient, the site’s just launched. For now enjoy my article on Twilight: New Moon.

What?

No, sorry. We haven’t got gummibears. Maybe on the next site.

Game Over In The Land Of Swirling Colors

Colors, so many colors.
Blue, red, green, yellow, blue, purple, pink, more pink, neon pink, double pink.
They will not stop.
They move.
Jerky.         Shaky.         Uncontrolled.         Indistinct.
Truck. Two trucks. Giant Bullbars.         Orange.         Whirling.
They dance.
They will not stop.

Make them stop.
A fist. Two fists. Giant knuckles. Red. As blood. Red blood.
And the spinning colors.
Nipples.         Two.         Three.         Too many to count. Nippeldy nipples everywhere.
And above all:
Gerard Butler, floating, soaring, rising over Times Square.
Game Over.

Postmodernist poetry or an attempt to review Gamer (a.k.a. Quick Ways To Turn Your Brain Into Elderberry Jam)?

You decide.

B-Movie Double Feature

Greek video stores got everything. Every Hammer Horror film ever made, every Asian Disney rip-off you can think of and all the B-movies in the whole wide world.

We like that. On evenings when we’re just not strong enough to sit through three hours of Julia Roberts or Tom Wilkinson looking very serious and not saying a whole lot, when we’ve already seen all the comedy, fantasy & sf and horror movies that are worth watching, there is another kind of horror that lures us in front of the TV-set: the B-movie.

B-movies are the pinnacle of Hollywood entertainment. If you doubt me just take a look at Uwe Boll’s A Tale of the King – A Dungeon Siege Tale and keep your eyes peeled for the plastic Orc-asses. That’s true art.

An added bonus is that every once in a while you’ll actually see something that you’re glad to have seen. Like the recent Syfy Channel miniseries of The Andromeda Strain. Or The Devil’s Tomb (or The Devil’s Tomp as the Greek DVD jacket proudly proclaimed).

Now… let me get this straight: The Devil’s Tomp is not a good movie by any measure. It’s just that given the recent track records of both Cuba “I-haven’t-made-a-good-movie-since-1999″ Gooding Jr. and Ron “B-movie-man” Perlman we expected the worst.

And we didn’t get what we wanted. The Devil’s Tomp is

halfway decent. Good acting, not too ridiculous dialogue. The production values certainly are sound. Of course there is the obligatory hot lesbian sex. I guess there’s some clause in the WGA statutes th

at says that religiously themed horror movies have to have at least one scene containing hot lesbian sex with optional zombie involvement.

Well, that’s it for The Devil’s Tomp. I wouldn’t recommend actually seeing the movie… at least if you don’t feel the urgent need to throw away two hours of your life, but it wasn’t a total loss either. I’ll try to be funnier on the next movie I review… wait a minute. That should be easy. Real easy. Because…

The other movie we saw that fateful night was Against The Dark. Promising title, not very promising, actually decidedly unpromising, cover art. Fat Steven Segal and cartoon vampire vixens that don’t even have the decency to show up in the movie that they’re posing for.

Now, I’m not a Steven Seagal fan. Actually the whole eighties and nineties martial-arts-are-so-cool-shtick largely passed me by. Steven Segal, Chuck Norris, David Carradine… they all came and went without leaving as much as a roundhouse kick to remember them by in my mind. I do think Jet Li is pretty cool though.

So you won’t hear any of that Steven Seagal is one of the grand masters of Hollywood… shame that he doesn’t get appreciated anymore… I still could sense the force of his real talent behind those tacky lines…  Not from me. No way, José. The man is grossly overweight, has the acting ability of a very short plank of wood and should have realized about ten years ago that he’s too old to still have the moves.

There’s an upside to all this: He’s hardly in the movie. That’s the funny part, come to think of it. The movie’s marketing is 120% Seagal-centric. He’s on the cover, the tag line says something very tacky about his sword and how he intends to stick it into vampire-zombies in very creative ways, the plot summary makes you think that he is the only reason the world hasn’t ended yet.

Only that ain’t so. More than half of the movie is dedicated to the story of six or seven survivors of the apocalypse that are stumbling through a disused hospital building and seem to be not very good at anything besides picking their noses while the vampire hordes snack on their mates. And wandering off and getting lost, they’re rather good at that too. In addition the hospital that they are in for some reason has only got one exit (in the underground parking garage, where else) and they absolutely have to get there before the generators shut down and… I don’t really care, to be frank. I only wonder what happened to the concept of ground-floor windows.

At some point Steven Seagal pops up in the company of two leather-clad martial arts vixens that, I wish I was kidding, haven’t got a single line in the movie. Not. A. Single. Line. And they ain’t doing much fighting either. They mostly show their… other talents. (If you know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink.)

And that’s it. One would think that the story involves just a teensy bit more than getting out of the door-less hospital of doom, while picking off the characters like tin cans from a fence, but it really doesn’t.

What had us stumped is that Against The Dark even features a few nice shots. And some pretty bizarre scenes. The kind that you’d expect in a nightmare sequence in a Tim Burton movie. That makes you wonder if the screenwriter was thinking of a slightly different kind of movie when he penned the script. It’s hard to describe, but the movie almost feels as if it could be good if only it had been filmed with another genre in mind. And another lead. And different dialogue. And… you get my drift. I’ll leave you with the epically eloquent, artfully articulate first lines of actual dialogue in the movie. Enjoy! They’re, like, awesomely profound:

We’re not here to decide who is right or wrong. We’re here to decide who lives and who dies.

Art In Its Truest Form

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Now… I haven’t seen this and I’m not sure if I want to (a lie, I love trashy B-movies). I am, however, willing to believe the IMDb user reviews for once, which seem to agree that this isn’t exactly Academy Award material. We saw this jewel, this miracle of cover design, in a Greek video store, the kind that’s got every movie ever made, but sadly didn’t have the time to take a look at it while we were there. I don’t doubt that it is delightfully horrible.

But, and it’s a big butt (forgive my childish humor), the poster is pure, sheer art. Beautiful from the tip of her army-issue high heels to the rim of her green sweatpants.

If there was an Academy Award for Best Poster Design, I’d nominate Stinger in a heartbeat.