The Paste/Netflix Challenge: “Beyond the Black Rainbow” and “Pontypool”

Interestingly enough, I had just finished reading Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan right before watching Beyond the Black Rainbow, and I felt like Machen’s book gave me some insight into the film–both were about using science to test the boundaries of one’s sanity and dealing with the consequences.  I also found some similarities between Pontypool and The Signal since both involved regular people losing their shit because of an overabundance of information and communication.

Black Rainbow#21 – Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

I have a hard time categorizing this as a movie.  See, movies tend to follow a linear storyline, develop characters—that kind of thing.  Beyond the Black Rainbow is more of a collection of surreal scenes that could possibly be construed as a story, but could just as easily be individual studies of control and escape.

As far as I could tell, the plot of the film revolved around Elena (Eva Allan), a young girl with psychic powers who was being held in a sterile and fluorescent lab installation, and Barry (Michael Rogers) is her creepily involved psychologist/caseworker.  Eventually, Eva manages to escape, which sets Barry into a cold and murderous episode that involves pulling off his wig and popping out his contact lenses to reveal a Nosferatu-esque creeper.

I think it’s important to approach this from the right direction.  It’s not something you throw on for your friends, but rather an attempt to present a visually artistic statement in the package of a horror movie.

Best Moment: I don’t know about best, but there was one genuinely terrifying moment.  First, as our heroine is escaping, she stumbles into another cell.  Within this cell, we see a freakishly mutated dude wrapped in a straitjacket lying on a cot.  As soon as he sees Elena, he convulses and flops down on the ground, wriggling toward her like an oversized maggot.  She narrowly escapes by putting a glass door between them.  The mutant responds by smearing his face and tongue all over the transparent screen.  It was gross.

pontypool_xlg#20 – Pontypool (2008)

It’s a rare and beautiful thing to have a horror movie that relies on the implication of malice and dread instead of actually showing malice and dread.  This is where Pontypool succeeds—until the last half of the movie, that is.

The implication of which I speak comes right at the very beginning of the film as we see shock jock Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) on his way to work in a driving snowstorm.  An incoherent woman approaches his car as he is stopped at a red light.  She wanders off, but the implication of something messed up is put into the foreground.  As Mazzy’s morning show gets underway, he gets strange updates about violent outbreaks and riots via his field reporter.

The first half of the film is brilliant.  Mazzy, his producer Sydney (Lisa Houle), and their assistant Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) are the only characters involved, and watching them try to piece together what’s happening from within their radio station evokes this awesome feeling of uncertainty and mistrust.

It’s when Dr. Mendez (Hrant Alianak) arrives that the film starts to fall apart.  Not to disparage Alianak’s great performance, but his arrival signaled the inevitable explanation of what was happening, which killed the film’s paranoid atmosphere.  It turns out, certain words in the English language have become infected with a virus that turns people into gibbering lunatics.  Though it’s an interesting idea, it kind of falls apart towards the end—right around the time we start seeing the crazy townsfolk descend upon the radio station.  I would have liked this film better if it stuck with an implied scary situation rather than showing us what was happening.  That way, the audience is left to decide whether it’s really happening or not.

Best Moment: After Laurel-Ann gets infected, our heroes hide from her in a sound-proof recording room.  She subjects herself to all kinds of self-abuse—including chewing off her bottom lip—until she finally vomits up a deluge of blood and chunks that splatters across the sound-proof glass.  Dr. Mendez, a scientist before all else, enthusiastically theorizes that her blood vomiting is a result of not successfully transmitting the disease.  His academic enthusiasm in the face of something truly terrible is both hilarious and worthy of admiration.

Next up, we’re going old school with the 1932 Mummy with Boris Karloff and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a tale of teeth-devouring devil-pixies.  Can’t wait!

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The Paste/Netflix Challenge: “The Signal” and “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”

Still working it in the name of blood, guts and celluloid.

The Signal

#23 – The Signal (2008): A long time ago, I made a stupid purchase.  It was a DVD box set that consisted of a bunch of crappy horror movies.  Most of them were, well, crappy.  There was one that stood out, however.  1973’s pseudo-zombie flick Messiah of Evil.  Basically, it’s about a town full of decent enough folks that become flesh-eating wackos when the moon is full.  Sure, it has elements of a zombie movie, but the fact that the monsters were just regular people who collectively went crazy was a bit more unsettling.  The Signal is a lot like that—only done with better acting and special effects; and instead of a full moon, it’s a mysterious signal that is broadcast via phones, radio and television that turns the people of Terminus into lunatics.

The film is broken up into three different segments that portray the dreadful events from three different perspectives.  Each segment is also tonally different, making you feel like you’ve just watched three unique short films that just happen to involve the same characters in the same terrible situation.  For example, the second segment is full of blacker than black humor, while the other two delve more into visceral and psychological horror.

It’s frenetic, intense, and filled with great performances from unknown actors and actresses.  Not to mention the fact that, deep within its cold black heart, it’s a pretty decent love story—a perfect combo for an under-the-radar horror film.

Best Moment: I’d usually call SPOILER ALERT here, but it looks like this scene’s right there on the damn poster, so it’s your call, folks.  After quite literally going through hell for his lady Mya (Anessa Ramsey), Ben (Justin Welborn) finds that she has been strapped to a chair and forced to endure the televised signal that’s making everyone nuts.  He’s just bested her psychotic husband (AJ Bowen—reminded me of a murderous and bearded Ryan Reynolds), and is desperately trying to get her to come back to reality.  He puts headphones over her ears so she can hear the alt-rock love song that represents their awesome and adulterous love for each other.  She flinches, takes a breath of fresh air, and looks up at her bloody gentleman lover.  Roll credits.

Tucker and Dale#22 – Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2011)

 I’ve seen this film before, but I liked it so much that I watched it again in honor of my movie challenge.  As far as horror films that swerve into slapstick—or “splatstick” as I once heard Bruce Campbell call it—this is one of the best.

It takes the horror cliché that involves attractive undergraduates who opt for a weekend getaway in the woods only to be murdered by deranged hillbillies and twists it by casting two hillbillies as misunderstood heroes.  Granted, there’s still a lot of bloodshed, but it comes from both the stupidity of said undergraduates along with a few unresolved anger issues.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine, the dude who made Reaper funny)—the hillbillies—have just purchased a fixer-upper of a cabin, and are looking forward to a weekend of beer drinking and fish catching, when a wild group of college students rolls through town.  Having seen one too many horror movies, the college students are immediately terrified of Tucker and Dale, and it’s this misguided fear that leads them into several dangerous situations that cause them to die in gruesome ways.  Of course these deaths keep getting blamed on our eponymous heroes, which forces them into an inevitable conflict with, you know, evil.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil fits in the same morgue as Scream and Cabin in the Woods for its ability to deconstruct and satirize common horror tropes and reconstruct them into an original (and often hilarious) film.

Best Moment: At the same moment that College Dude D is making his way closer to our heroes’ cabin, Tucker is in the back cutting lumber with a chainsaw.  Unbeknownst to Tucker, the tree he’s currently working on is home to an angry beehive.  As the insects spill out and attack Tucker, he stumbles from behind the cabin screaming and waving his chainsaw to ward off the bees.  College Dude D, seeing a maniacal hillbilly with a chainsaw, loses it and books it into the woods only to impale himself on an overturned tree.  Aside from several bee stings, Tucker is unharmed.

Next on the ol’ chopping block: Beyond the Black Rainbow and Pontypool.  I’m expecting a fairly high level of weirding out and self-loathing with these two.  Don’t miss any of the action!

The Paste/Netflix Challenge: “Troll Hunter” & “The Grey”

Recently, Paste published a list of their 25 favorite horror films that are currently streaming on Netflix.  Through the month of October, I will watch these films and post about them.  This is the first of such posts.

 Troll Hunter#25 – Troll Hunter (2010)

 Let me put it this way: Government.  Contracted.  Troll.  Hunter.  Apparently in Norway, giant trolls still exist.  When they get too big for their foul-smelling loincloths, the government calls Hans (Otto Jespersen) the troll hunter.  As his occupation technically doesn’t exist, he leads a lonely and thankless life from within the confines of a stinky camper.  When a team of reporters who are covering a poaching story have Hans pegged as the notorious wildlife-hater, they follow him into the dark Norwegian woods (which are much scarier than American woods).  Hans rescues them from a pissed-off three-headed troll, and just like that, his secret is out.

It’s a fun film to watch, especially when thinking of similar shaky-cam flicks like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project.  Where those films use the documentary style to drop hints about what is stalking the main characters, Troll Hunter is unashamed to show the Nordic menace that exists in the dark corners of Scandinavia.

As far as its placement on Paste’s list, this is a good showing for number 25.  It deserves to be on a top 25 list, but only for the fact that it is a quality film with an unabashedly goofy premise.

Best Moment: Watching Hans blast a Mountain King with a ball of UV light and the subsequent crumbling of said Mountain King.  Also, the Polish smugglers who plant dead bears in the woods to help cover up Norway’s troll problem were pretty hilarious.

The Grey#24 – The Grey (2012)

This is the type of horror that is underused, which is too bad.  A film in which six guys become stranded in the middle of an arctic wilderness while being pursued by wolves is much scarier than…pretty much anything that is currently showing in theatres.  In addition to the terror of the situation, The Grey shows some serious filmmaking chops as it digs into the deep, dark places that plague the male mind.

When the film starts, and we see John Ottman (Liam Neeson) sharing the final moments of an arctic wolf that he has shot, as it’s his job to keep wolves from attacking the employees of this unspecified industrial site.  From the get go, we see that Neeson is a man who is nurturing some deep emotional wounds—who else would take a job killing wolves? We see flashbacks of his wife, which get violently pulled away from him as reality comes crashing back into his mind.

And then there’s this plane crash.

Six men survive the crash, and are then pitted against the elements in order to survive.  Among them, several aspects of the male movie archetype are present.  There’s the hot-headed ex-con, the wiseass who talks incessantly to cope with anxiety, the level-headed scientist, and the father figure who just wants to see his kid again.  As the wolves are quite literally at their door, the group of survivors becomes less like men and more like a rival pack, fighting for their right to survive.

Based on some of the films that I’ve already seen on Paste’s list, I think this one could be a bit higher.  This was my first time watching The Grey, but damn was it a satisfying cinematic experience.  I often find myself questioning Liam Neeson’s choice in acting jobs, but he was ideal for this part.

Best Moment: It’s a tie.  First, the moment when we see the Alpha Male take one step into the survivor’s camp only to see the overly-macho ex-con take one step backwards—demonstrating that talk is beyond cheap when wolves are itching to rip out your throat.  Second, the final seconds of the film.  Ottman stares directly into the Alpha Wolf’s eyes as he tapes broken bottles and a hunting knife to his hands.  He recites the only poem his father ever wrote as he lunges for the final confrontation.  Effing epic.

Comic-Con 2013

There are a lot of places where you can read about the extremely cool reveals and sneak peeks about the coming year in pop culture and general nerdery that is the San Diego Comic Con.  But chances are you’re seeing the Con through the eyes of someone with an all-access media pass or perhaps someone who enjoys some kind of celebrity status because of their cultural musings.  But, if you want to see the Con through the eyes of a regular, every day kind of geek (like myself), now is the time.

Having greased the applicable wheels, Sheree and I got a four day pass including preview night.  Typically, preview night is a chance to hit the exhibition hall with the intimate crowd of around 100,000 rather than 120,000 people.  This is the time for hardcore ebay merchants to secure all the Comic Con exclusives so they can hawk them at about 200% of their original value.  It’s a tactic we’ve tried before, but I think you need to have the predatory stock market mentality to make this work.  Like, you’ve got to be okay with stomping a sixty-year-old woman in the neck in order to make this lucrative.  They were also screening some new shows that will be out this fall, but I personally like to use preview night to get a feel for how that particular year is going to go.  Will there be a face-stabbing? Will the line gods be merciful? These are the important questions to contemplate on preview night.

Thursday was actually a pretty good day.  We started the day with a panel made up of film composers who have worked on superhero films.  This panel was cool for a few different reasons.  First, we got to see some footage from upcoming films.  For example, we saw a pretty decent clip from The Wolverine and one from the upcoming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.  Second, it was kind of funny to see these guys address the fact that making music for a superhero movie often leads to their work and the work of an entire orchestra get drowned out by the audio assault of sound effects that are also a superhero staple.  John Debney, who did the score for Iron Man 2 was particularly eloquent about this dynamic.

After that, we hopped in line for Hall H.  Ah, Hall H.  There are two large venues at the Con–Ballroom 20 and Hall H.  These lines are governed by fickle deities who share a twisted sense of humor.  We’ve never had a positive Ballroom 20 line experience, but Hall H has its ups and downs.  On Thursday, the gods were sleepy and unfocused on tormenting lesser beings.  We were able to get in and see some footage from Ender’s Game and Divergent which was pretty cool.  The crowd freaks out about Harrison Ford, but you can’t really blame them.  Characters that he’s played make up a pretty huge chunk of the geek universe–Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard and let’s not forget that crotchety news anchor from Morning Glory.  He always seems to be slightly pissed off to have to come to Comic Con, and I’m not sure if it’s hilarious or off-putting.  I did like his response to a fanboy who asked him what would happen if Indiana Jones and Han Solo met eachother: “I imagine they’d say something like, ‘Hi.  How are you?'”

Immediately following this panel was one of Entertainment Weekly‘s Visionary panels, where they get a few random actors/directors to sit and chat about life in the creative arts.  I actually really like these panels–we’ve seen James Cameron and Peter Jackson discuss the future of motion capture and J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon discuss stage magic and films from the 1980’s.  This year, the lineup included Alfonso Cuaron, Edgar Wright and Marc Webb.  Occasionally these panels have an odd man out–someone who might not be on the same page as the other panelists, and this year I felt that Marc Webb was an odd choice.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a totally cool dude and I love (500) Days of Summer, but Alfonso Cuaron and Edgar Wright have these passion projects coming down the pipe, and he’s working on The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  All the same, it’s fun for a fan of movies and filmmakers to see these three guys chat about life in their world.  They always have a positive message about creativity and success to share, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Then Friday happened, and it nearly ruined everything.  In line at a quarter to seven, didn’t get into Hall H until around five.  Missed the Veronica Mars movie panel, and The Walking Dead season four panel.  Got in to see footage from the new Spider-Man, but that wasn’t worth the ten-hour wait.  Also, there was no way Hall H was filled to capacity.  We later heard through the grapevine that they were late letting people in, so way to screw up, Comic Con.  Dejected and sad, we went back to our hotel where we learned that there was no Santa Claus and that it was our parents that were leaving us money for our lost teeth.

We resolved to get started even earlier on Saturday–hit the Hall H line around five in the AM.  This time around, the line staff had learned from their mistakes and got a pretty early start.  We started off down by the bay, but as we slowly inched forth, it looked like the line gods were smiling upon us.  We managed to see all of the Hall H programming, and here’s the short list:

Sandra Bullock and Alfonso Cuaron: Gravity–movie looks awesome, Alfonso Cuaron is extremely polite and self-deprecating, and I thought Sandra Bullock was genuinely cool.

Godzilla, 300 2: 600, The Lego Movie: Meh.  Also, that’s not the real title for the new 300 movie.

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt: Edge of Tomorrow–Tom Cruise and Chris Hardwick (the moderator and one of my personal idols) sang some Foreigner together–apparently Chris Hardwick played Stacee Jaxx in a lesser known production of Rock of Ages .  Not sure about Edge of Tomorrow, though.  I think they should have kept the title of the graphic novel from which it was adapted–All You Need is Kill.  The way the actors described it made it sound decent, but the trailer made it look like just  another sci-fi whatever-the-hell movie.

Then Zack Snyder popped out and was all, “Hey guys, here’s a thing with a guy!” which was followed up with a brief teaser image for an upcoming Batman/Superman movie.  It made me a bit tingly.

Catching Fire and I, Frankenstein: Lots of folks on hand for Catching Fire, though it was hard to keep track of all of them with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson being so damn entertaining and attractive.  I liked The Hunger Games and am looking forward to the sequel.  Boy, but I, Frankenstein looks like a steaming heap.  Aaron Eckhart was there, but I kinda felt bad that it was for this movie.

I’m sure there was some other stuff, but let’s talk about the moments that reignited the Comic Con magic that Friday had tried really hard to snuff out.  X-Men: Days of Future Past had all kinds of awesomeness happening.  Bryan Singer is directing, and it’s going to team the original cast of the X-Men films (minus Cyclops and Jean Grey.  Thanks Brett Ratner, you tool) with the cast of X-Men: First Class.  You know what that means? They were all there! Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy sitting next to Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart.  Badass.

At this point, I officially felt that particular type of Comic Con magic coursing through Hall H.  Regardless of how long I waited in line or how many people have gotten their sweat on me, seeing all of these amazing actors lend their talents to characters that have been like close friends throughout my childhood hanging out on one stage is pretty damn joyous.

And that was just the preshow.

The Marvel panel has traditionally been known to crank it up to eleven.  After all, we saw the Avengers assemble for the first time on that stage.

So.  Thor 2.  The panel starts off innocently enough.  Chris Hardwick brings out Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios and they chit chat a bit about their upcoming movies.  Then the lights go out.  No big deal, though.  They’re probably just showing the footage early because they’re behind schedule.  Whatevs.  Loki’s voice booms, “Humans.  Humans gathered in this pitiful kingdom of Midgard,” Right on.  Loki’s gonna be in this movie, so it makes sense that he’s the first voice you hear on the footage, “Known as…Hall H.” What? What? Whaaaaat? Boom! Tom Hiddleston in full Loki garb takes the stage and mocks us for our weakness.  Calls Chris Hardwick a “mewling quim.” Great stuff.  It looks like Thor 2 is going to involve lots of Dark Elf bashing.  Plus a possible love triangle among Lady Sif, Natalie Portman and Thor.  I’ll totally go see it.

Captain America 2: The whole cast was there–Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson.  My favorite part of the footage: Cap finds himself in an elevator at what I assume to be S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.  Small groups of dudes get in on each floor, but Cap notices some strangeness–one dude is sweating profusely, another shifts his weight like he’s packing heat.  When the elevator stops, Cap’s all, “I just have one thing to say: Any of you want to get out?” Cap proceeds to take these chumps down in a wicked close-proximity melee.  Very cool scene to open with.

Guardians of the Galaxy: I admit, when Marvel announced the movie adaptation of this comic, I thought to myself, “Wait.  The one with the space raccoon? Really?” But since following some buzz–James Gunn signing on to direct and Chris Pratt as Starlord–my interest was piqued.  And then, they showed the damn trailer and it’s now become a bit of an obsession.  John C. Reilly as a Kree detention officer going over the dossiers of each of the Guardians, and Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser claiming, “They sound like a bunch of a-holes.” was enough to make me giggle like an idiot.

Oh, and they wrapped with Joss Whedon popping out to announce the title of the new Avengers movie which will be…The Rise of Ullllltrooooon!!!! Well done, Marvel.

Sunday found us visiting panels chock full of authors, which is always a good way to spend the last day of the Con.  I really enjoyed the spotlight on Neil Gaiman, as he has a wonderfully soothing voice and when someone with a wonderfully soothing voice talks about books, writing and literature in general, I’m usually quite satisfied.

And that’s Comic Con year six, folks.  Though this is a pretty long post, and I feel like I’ve masterfully encapsulated our experience, it’s no match for attending and seeing it all for yourself.  It’s a bitch to get tickets, but my friends, it’s something that you must do at least once before someone kills you.

Gatsby? What Gatsby?

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As a pair of nerdy English teachers, Alex and I have been awaiting the release of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby with excitement and maybe a little trepidation.  After all, it’s a ubiquitous piece American literature in high schools, rivaling Huck Finn for the title of most taught (but title of most hated probably belongs to The Scarlet Letter).  And, as noted in this excellent Flavorwire article, previous attempts to adapt this book have been less than successful.  And it makes sense, right?  One reviewer mentioned that the success of the novel is the prose, while the storyline borders on melodramatic.  So, how’d they do with this version?

Not bad.

Granted, it’s definitely too Baz Luhrmann-y.  It at times almost feels like someone parodying a Baz Luhrmann movie.  But where the movie excels is in the quieter moments, the brief interludes where Luhrmann lets the amazing cast take over and do their thing.  And the cast really is stellar–Leonardo DiCaprio is an excellently tweaked, yet charismatic Gatsby, Carey Mulligan plays Daisy with the right blend of charming naivete and cutting indifference, and Joel Edgerton is appropriately sinister without veering into mustache-twirling territory.  I agree with other reviewers who haven’t liked Toby MacGuire as Nick–to be fair to him, the character always felt underwritten to me, and I generally dislike him in pretty much everything.   Overall, a decent, but not perfect effort.  It might even lure a few more readers in to that dreaded American lit. curriculum.

Want more Gatsby action?  Check out Alex’s interview in the Deseret News on teaching Gatsby.  He always looks so cool.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/arsart/8718940632/”>RSNY</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Little Hand Says It’s Time to Rock and Roll

Point Break

Though it’s true that political discourse in our country has achieved new levels of vitriolic mudslinging, name calling, flimflamming, and finger pointing, the fact remains that come November, Americans will have to make a choice as to who will lead the Free World.  But who will do the most for our country? Who will truly step up to the plate and get the U.S. of A. back on track? I for one have given up on looking for answers in the hollow words of politicians–words that have been purchased by billionaires gunning for a tax break.  In order to truly understand what is best for our future, one must look to the past–specifically to the year 1991.  It was in this year that Kathryn Bigelow’s cinematic masterpiece Point Break was released.  Though Bigelow herself may not have known just how lost we would become as a country, I maintain that screenwriters Rick King and W. Peter Iliff were possessed of a preternatural understanding of American politics.  Through their deep comprehension of the political sciences, they were able to accurately predict two startling realities that we would face today.  First, the Republican and Democratic parties as we know them are nothing more than facades to conceal the interests of the obscenely wealthy.  Second, in order to distract the general public from this reality, both parties would work to strain bipartisan relationships among their constituencies to the breaking point–a point break, if you will.

Knowing that their discovery was too important to leave to the bureaucratic red tape of Washington D.C., they turned to Hollywood to get their message to the public.  Choosing to couch their scathing indictment of the American political climate in the 21st century within an action film that would be mass marketed to America’s poor and working class, Point Break was released.  Not since Picasso’s Guernica has a piece of art so elegantly condemned the greed and corruption that runs rampant among those with the most power.

The opening of this rabbit hole is revealed during the opening credits of the film.  Two scenes are juxtaposed together–one depicting the film’s protagonist John “Johnny” Utah (Keanu Reeves) on the brink of completing his FBI training, the other depicting the film’s antagonist known only as Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) on the brink of robbing yet another bank.  Through the interaction between these two characters, King and Iliff illustrate the relationship between the common man and the government.  In Point Break, today’s government is represented by Bodhi and his three accomplices who operate under the nom de crime “The Ex-Presidents.”   Though the exploration of this theme lacks the subtlety that King and Iliff demonstrated in 1990’s Prayer of the Rollerboys, its relevance is in no way diminished.

Why Be A Servant to the Law When You Can Be Its Master?

An in-depth analysis of the presidents that King and Iliff decided to include is very telling: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan (supposedly, the original script included a fifth bank robber to be disguised as Gerald Ford, but due to budget restraints elsewhere, he was not included in the film).  These presidents represent the period of time after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which marked a gradual decline into the political situation that we now see before us.  When their true characters are revealed, the audience learns that the Ex-Presidents are actually thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies who rob banks in order to finance their addiction.  They are perfect archetypal representations of the wealthy who will never be truly satisfied, no matter how much money and power they amass.  The decision to name their leader Bodhi (short for Bodhisattva, one who has obtained enlightenment according to Buddhist theology) alludes to the extremely rich who claim that their vast wealth is merely a result of their own enlightenment.

I Was Taking Shrapnel in Khe Sanh When You Were Crapping In Your Hands and Rubbing It On Your Face

Enter Special Agent John Utah.  Obviously, the choice to name the protagonist after a state in the Union bears some significance.  Some theorists argue that the use of a traditionally conservative state like Utah hints at a conservative revivalist movement such as the Tea Party.  However, I tend to side with the school of thought that believes that King and Iliff wanted to use one of the fifty states as the name for their protagonist, and Johnny Utah was the most convincing for an action hero.

Utah’s youth and enthusiasm have earned him a unique perspective on the bank robbery scene in Los Angeles.  He is assigned to an aging Vietnam veteran named Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), and together they develop a plan to stop the Ex-Presidents–despite being ridiculed by everyone else in their department.  Utah and Pappas represent the symbiotic relationship that the younger generation needs to have with the older generation in order to effectively end the corruption of those who feel they are above the law.  Pappas, who has grown disillusioned with the state of his department, needs Utah to reignite his desire to confront and change the problems before him.  In exchange, Utah gains the wisdom and experience that Pappas, a remnant of the Kennedy era, will provide.

You’re Saying the FBI Is Going to Pay Me to Learn to Surf?

In order to find and eliminate the Ex-Presidents, Special Agent Utah must infiltrate their tightly-knit social group and bring them down from within.  His journey into the world of surfing and extreme sports is a modern visualization of Frank Capra’s 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  In his efforts to expose the Ex-Presidents, Utah becomes so entrenched in their world that he can’t escape unscathed.  When Bodhi discovers Utah’s actual plans, he forces him to accompany his gang on a bank robbery, thus effectively turning Utah into that which he is trying to destroy.  Only by sacrificing everything is Utah able to finally catch Bodhi, which brings us to the final scene.  Utah has Bodhi cornered on a beach in Australia.  Bodhi just wants to ride the ultimate wave to his inevitable death, whereas Utah wants to bring Bodhi in to face justice.  Utah’s decision to let Bodhi catch his final wave indicates that though Utah has endured many scars on his quest to bring about a change, he has not sacrificed his soul.

Vaya Con Dios

In presenting this message for analysis, King and Iliff have reached out to our generation from the past.  They witnessed the beginning of the end, and created Point Break in an effort to guide us through our current political crisis.  It is important that we not forget that politicians are merely adrenaline junkies operating under the guise of enlightened leaders, and if just one state can pull itself together by encouraging the younger generation to cooperate with the older generation, there might be a chance to make some kind of difference.  It’s not going to come cheaply or easily.  We may lose face along the way.  But if you want the ultimate, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price.

Roy Orbison: Music for Psychopaths

I’ll cop to the fact that I’ve got the song “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison on my iPod.  Let me explain.  When I was about 13 or 14 years old I read a very interesting comic book. The first thing that was interesting was the fact that on the back cover of the dust jacket were the words “suggested for mature readers.” The second thing that was interesting was that it was a story about Batman. The third thing that was interesting was the opening pages depicted a young boy named Amadeus taking food to his mother who subsequently vomited up a bunch of cockroaches while mumbling the words “I’ve eaten.” There were about three hundred more interesting things that happened as I traversed my way through Grant Morrison’s and Dave McKean’s nightmarish graphic novel Arkham Asylum. The final pages are what sparked this entry, however. Each of Batman’s psychotic rogues have little messages scrawled out at the end of the book, almost like an epilogue to the story. The one that stuck with me the most, and terrified my little 8th grade soul was this quote given by Dr. Destiny (who later became one of Neil Gaiman’s most malevolent villain in his Sandman series). He wrote, “In dreams I walk with you…” Something about the three little dots at the end of this statement haunted me…

Flash forward about ten or eleven years. I was in college at that point, and had just made the decision to watch David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet. I watched it alone in the middle of the day, and felt my guts twist up into knots whenever Frank Booth was on screen. Simply put, the dude is the embodiment of bestial cruelty, and you were never quite sure when he was just gonna snap and take you down with him. Anyway, there’s this scene where Frank has Jeffrey in his nasty clutches and they go visit a dude Frank calls Ben. Ben’s apartment is a prime example of Lynchian f***ked up-ness. The lighting is too phosphorescent, there are carney-folk prostitutes hanging around, and overall it looks like someone just puked up a few loads of vintage clothing all over the place. After a brief dialogue between Ben and Frank, Ben cues up “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison. He pulls out one of those floodlights with the bulb encased in a metal grate and starts lip synching the song into the light. Just what in the hell kind of people are these? Immediately following this bizarre performance, Frank drives Jeffrey out into the middle of an industrial complex where he voraciously applies layers and layers of thick red lipstick to his lower face. He boots Jeffrey out, and as he’s kicking the crap out of him, he bellows the phrase, “In dreams I walk with you!” Turns out, that’s a damn lyric from Roy Orbison’s popular hit about “the candy-colored clown they call the Sandman,” entitled “In Dreams.”

So I bought that shit on iTunes. Whenever it comes on in my shuffle, I just sit back and replay in my mind the many shades of chaos that these lyrics represent:

“In dreams I walk with you.

In dreams I talk to you.

In dreams you’re mine.

All of the time we’re together

In dreams, In dreams.”