Now Watching: CRAWL OR DIE (2014) via Roku’s Amazon Prime VOD Channel

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CRAWL OR DIE – Mixing part ALIEN, part DESCENT, part TANK GIRL and sporting committed performances by its cast, particularly Nicole Alonso as Tank, who carries the bulk of the movie, CRAWL OR DIE manages to be more than its influences. Written and Directed by the fantastically named Oklahoma Ward and co-produced and conceived by star and producer Nicole Alonso CRAWL OR DIE manages to, transcend its inspirations, to feel fresh and be a surprisingly compelling 91 minutes of film.

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Ostensibly a monster movie it becomes for star and audience something of an endurance test, filled as it is with moments of repetition, belly-gazing, and frustration,,, but mostly it is about the will of Man or in this case Woman… to survive. An addictive tale of endurance, and the will to go on, and it doesn’t hurt that you have the fine form of Nicole Alonso to follow through those tunnels (while unlikely someone would strip down to their underwear to crawl through a tunnel, having watched the movie, I for one am quite supportive of the decision :) ).

Add to that a well done creature design, a definite call to the designs of HR Giger, immersive sound design, and an unusual and frenetic title/credit sequence and you have a movie deserving of being far more well known and well seen than it is.

This is the type of film that is a great reason for DVDs and Blurays to still exist in the age of streaming, because yes I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, but I immediately wanted to own this in the best quality available, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, and special features; because for me, and others, documenting the the process can be as interesting (and sometimes moreso) as the movie.

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Unfortunately CRAWL AND DIE currently has no such DVD/Blu-Ray version, and it is indicative of a failing of the industry, companies releasing these bare-bone DVDs without special features. As a rule I do not buy DVDs unless they have director’s commentary and special features.

I think these small independent film productions (such as this or FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, BLOOD GLACIER, THE ARROYO, CUT TO BLACK, PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD, THE VALDEMAR LEGACY, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, THE FORBIDDEN GIRL) are doing themselves a disservice by not mining the, if not large, passionate and influential DVD/Blu-Ray aficionado market, as well as providing for posterity a little bit of documentation of the process and promotion/aggrandizement of their cast and crew.

That aside CRAWL OR DIE (far better than the other, more offensive, title that early on was bandied about for it), potentially the first in a trilogy… comes strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

For those of you who want to try before you buy go here:

Crawl or Die Streaming

For those of you like me who like the permanence of physical media (not needing access to the cloud to view a given film, or being at the mercy of data throttling) go here:
Crawl Or Die DVD

Quick (kinda) 2015’s The Best Of Podcasts Primer!!


Starting off 2015 let’s do a lightning quick primer on what podcasts are, how you listen to them, and quick recommendations on some good podcasts to start subscribing to. Cool? Let’s begin!

What are podcasts?

Simplest definition they are the radio programs of the 21st century.

But not quite.

Almost 100 years ago radio (the medium, the invention) was the mass media wunderkind and juggernaut and technological cutting edge of the world. It united the world and united disparate geographically separated people in a way that was largely inconceivable just generations before. It redefined communication, but more it redefined entertainment.

No longer did you have to go to New York or LA or London to see the greatest and most exciting acts of the day, the comedies, the dramas, the concerts, the debates, but now with radio the greatest acts in the world, this sea of entertainment, and news, and interests… with a flip of a switch, comes to you.

Radio of a hundred years ago was a watershed evolution in the way people communicated, it expanded the width of our collective conversation, even if lessening to some degree the depth of the impact of the individual and the local community on that conversation.

TV tends to get the hype, but is nothing more than an extrapolation of that model that radio defined, radio being the true 1st evolutionary leap of the 20th century. The next real evolutionary dialog changer of the 20th century would come at the end of that century, with the mass adoption of the WWW, the Internet. The Internet into the 21st century has been the evolutionary next leap in communication from the medium Radio.

That brings us to podcasts and VOD. In a world where traditional terrestrial radio and television just doesn’t meet the needs of a 21st century audience, the on demand nature of podcasts and VOD platforms such as Amazon Prime or Netflix, perfectly fits the needs of an internet age that wants to “watch what it wants whenever it wants”.

And podcasts (recorded audio files on a near infinite range of topics, available for streaming or download or subscription through select syndication hosts) particularly are dear to me, as someone who grew up on the idea of radio drama, the theater of the mind, and loving shows like THE SHADOW, ESCAPE, SUSPENSE, and recognizing the intimate power of the audio format to move you in a way that television rarely does, I’m thrilled to see the flourishing of audio drama and audio commentary in the 21st century.

So that in a horribly non-brief way is what podcasts are and why they rock. But now how do you get them?

There are a bunch of ways to do it, depending if you are doing it on your smart phone, or tablet, or media player, or computer. I use an android tablet, so that’s the process I’m going to cover here. And we’ll wrap this puppy up with some quick shows to get you started with in 2015:

1- Get a tablet. My personal preference is Android 10″. Android OS because I don’t want to put up with the gatekeeping of Apple or Microsoft, and I like the bang for the buck I get. Your preference may be different and that’s perfectly fine, just telling you what works for me. As far as 10″ , I like reading books, magazines, and comics on the tablet, so that form factor works great for me. All this to say you do your homework, you can end up with a great tablet for around Ebook prices.

2- Find an app to use to subscribe to podcasts: Being tech savvy, I have tried MANY, MANY apps looking for the most useful, least obtrusive podcast app (also known as a podcatcher) and most of them are ultimately disappointing. The exception, and my current podcatcher of choice is PODKICKER. You can easily stream shows or you can download shows you want to keep for posterity, the “WTF Robin Williams” episode comes immediately to mind. Have been using PODKICKER for most of 2014, and still using it in 2015. Highly Recommended!

3- And now last but not least… choose podcasts to start your 2015 off right. Just type the following into your podcatcher search engine to subscribe to them, and job done.

WTF WITH MARC MARON
SIDEBAR SIDEBARNATION
11OCLOCK COMICS
HORROR ETC
B MOVIE CAST
GILBERT GODFREY

Start with those few, guys and gals, as they were all shows I consumed voraciously in 2014, and will remain in rotation in 2015 as new shows are discovered.

Hope this primer has been helpful!

Cary Fukunaga (TRUE DETECTIVE) to direct Stephen King’s IT


Stephen King’s greatest monster movie coming to a theater near you?!!

Stephen King for four decades (This year marking the 40th anniversary of his first novel, CARRIE) has been the undisputed king of the horror blockbuster. His name on a novel, for longer than most of you have been alive, a straight shot to the bestseller list.

That said, as someone who has read much of his output, I’ve personally found him hit and miss. However his 1000+ page novel… IT, I consider a masterpiece and King at his apex.

Some factions will argue THE STAND, but these are misguided types who should be avoided. :). THE STAND emphasing the bloat for bloat’s sake, and caricature finally falling into stereotype that would become too prevalent in King’s work, it cannot stand, when placed against his… IT.

And the TV mini-series adaptation of IT starring a great cast (including the late, great John Ritter) I was a huge fan of as kid, and remain so as an adult. It is, for all its horror, a sentimental and bitter-sweet ode to friendship and faith and childhood’s gains and losses.

So the news that this celebrated property is slated to come to the big screen in the 21st century, has me interested. King Adaptations are typically a hard sell, for the reason… most aren’t very good at adapting King.

What is oft strongest in King’s work is the internal monologues and scene setting that don’ t lend themselves to the pacing or the look of the big screen blockbuster.

But I will be happy for the new film to be an exception to recent King adaptations, and surprise me in a goodway. However I am concerned about talks of splitting this into two films, recent history showing studio’s moneygrubbing greed, comes at the expense of a quality, satisfying story.

But time will tell, read the above link for the details.

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING : The 2013/2014 Series DARK NET

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DARK NET is a Canadian produced series spearheaded by Director/Producer Vincenzo Natali that is about urban myths in the Internet/technological age and it may just be the most inventive and impressive 30 minute speculative show since the original TWILIGHT ZONE over 54 years ago.

In many ways DARK NET does for today’s audience what that show did for its 1960s audience, namely push the boundaries of our assumptions, our conventions and our fears. It is a show about obsessions, and the places sad and tragic, such dark and lonely roads take us.

And what is so masterful about this show is its structure, unwilling to just give us one story this series weaves multiple stories of obsession and unhealthy curiosity into 30 minutes, producing one of the most effective anthologies to date. Wonderfully directed, shot, and impressively performed, three episodes into watching this series courtesy of Netflix and I’m completely sold and enamored of it.

This is a series that screams out for and deserves a beautiful Blu-Ray presentation so it can be enjoyed in the best quality possible complete with Director’s commentary and special features. Grade: A must See!

Streaming VOD DVD : Director & Movie of the Day — DEFIANCE by Edward Zwick

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Edward Zwick, the master of the sprawling, thrilling, heartfelt epic, continues his home-run streak with 2008’s DEFIANCE. One of Zwick’s older films, it recently made its appearance on Netflix streaming, and only today made my viewing list.

Following in the footsteps of other Zwick masterpieces such as GLORY, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, and LAST SAMURAI, the film DEFIANCE follows his pattern of expertly mythologizing moments of our history, thereby creating visual ballads of those places where we stand up. And like those aforementioned movies, DEFIANCE manages to both rouse and move. Highly recommended. Grade: B+/A-.

All of the Edward Zwick movies named are highly recommended. Most are available on streaming so you can try before you buy, but the films are clinics on film-making, and should be owned for the commentaries as well as being able to see the movies in the best quality available.

Art Book of the Day : FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA by Edwin Lord Weeks

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Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.

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I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.

For more on my first exposure to Edwin Lord Weeks go here!

I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.

While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.

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Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.

Today’s selection is one of those books.

“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.

In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.

Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.

So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.

Get your copy here:

From the Black Sea through Persia and India

Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

And American Gallery offers a great look at Weeks’ paintings here.