Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Machine To Die For- The Quest for Free Energy

With the cost of fuel going down, it may be time to look at ways to make sure we don't get burned again. There are a number of people out there doing just that- trying to come up with a machine which will furnish free energy. Or at least run from it's own power (perpetual motion). Of course such a machine would violate the third law of thermodynamics. Be as it may, these inventors toil on in obscurity, trying to find a solution to building their new machine.

To Die For, is not so much a history of attempts at building these infernal devices, but a look into current researchers. There are some surprises here. A retired auto mechanic in France has constructed a giant wheel which seems to move under it's own power. A Scandinavian artist shows a machine which runs continuously for days on end. Of course, there's the devil's advocate: an American engineer who is offering a prize of $10,000 for the first person who can successfully demonstrate a perpetual motion machine. So far, no takers.

Along the way we run into people who tie their efforts into UFO's, angels, Tesla, and The Unexplained. It's a big, strange world out there. A few of the researches seem sincere, a lot come across as just plain nuts.

But if just one of these people can find a break-through, we'll have free energy. And that's what keeps them forging ahead.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wolfhound of the Grey Dog Clan (2007) AKA Volkodav iz roda Serykh Psov

I have seen the future of fantasy film and it is Russian.
Seriously, Wolfhound is one of the best, if not the best, fantasy films I have ever had the pleasure to watch. Excellent production values, good action, good actors, spectacular effects, and not one word in English. As a matter of fact, I had to hunt down the English translation.
When is someone going to get a clue and release this epic in the USA?
Based off a popular fantasy novel in Russia, Wolfhound combines the best parts of Lord of the Rings with Conan. In prehistorical Russia, a young boy watches his entire tribe wiped out by marauders. Sold into slavery, he endures long enough to escape and seek out those who destroyed his life. He ends up at a cursed city. There, he is charged with escorting the daughter of a prince to her marriage. But the very fiend who wiped out Wolfhound's tribe is determined to stop this from happening....
Filmed in Eastern Europe, Wolfhound benefits from the scenery. The cinematography of this movie is something to behold. The fight scenes are carefully filmed with attention to technique and detail. Most of the costumes derive from medieval Slavic origins and did remind me of the early 60's Russian fantasy films.
This is not an easy film to find, but I can't recommend it enough.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD - Interview with director

This is a good follow-up to the movie.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not Quite Hollywood-The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008)

I'm a big documentary fan. If I feel I'm learning something from a movie, I'll sit still and take notes. Give me a good retrospective on electronic music and I'll be happy for the next two hours. Just not so many talking heads. I'm not reviewing the documentary on Kraftwerk because there were too many damn interviews.
Which brings us to Not Quite Hollywood. Now here is the right way to make a film about film. First, pick an interesting subject matter (exploitation films in the 70's) that hasn't been beat to death (Australia). Show some mainstream interest (George Miller) and match it with cool animation. Add tons of film clips, mix with amusing, but short, interviews. Spin for two hours. Presto! You have a great documentary.
Featuring (but not too many) cameos by American cinema stars, NQH, tells the story of Australian Drive-In cinema. Seems the land down under had it's own Drive-In culture at the same time we had one in the states. With screens desperate for movies which would appeal to their car culture, it didn't take the Aussies long to start making their own. Most of the best would make their way to the US, even if they ended up as one week wonders or in video stores. Mad Max, which was dubbed into American English, was one of the rare Oz flicks to get a big release in the states.
What makes this movie a must-see is the producer's love for his subject matter. There are countless interviews with the stars and directors of the films from this era. Turkey Shoot, which I saw in the early 80's under a different title in the States, is one of the films featured. Even if most of the actors felt the producers had gambled away the production money, you can easily tell they had a great time doing the movie.
Many of the films examined have faded into the past. I recall seeing Alvin Purple in countless video stores twenty years ago, but never bothered to watch it. I did see The Man From Hong Kong in a theater in 1976, but wasn't impressed. Chain Reaction I remember from a cable viewing, and it was quite good.
Do see this movie if you have the opportunity.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Brotherhood of the Bell

Prof. Andrew Patterson (Glen Ford) has it all: distinguished position at a private college, nice house, beautiful wife, daddy-in-law with money. He's worked hard to get what he has, but the good professor also received a little help on the way up. You see, he's also a member of an exclusive fraternity within a fraternity: The Brotherhood of the Bell. It seems Patterson was recruited twenty years ago when he attended a prestigious college. Now it's his turn to sponsor someone into "The Bell".
This MTV movie begins with the induction ceremony where Patterson introduces the new pledge to the "Senior" who had recruited him. After a few words about the importance of The Bell and it's lineage, the new recruit (Dean Jagger) faces the sunrise with the other two men and swears his oath. He is told of the necessity of obedience to the order. The inner sanctum is dominated by a huge oriental bell. Afterwards, Patterson tells the new initiate that he is now "the establishment".
Later, Patterson is given an assignment by The Bell: prevent a dissident linguistics professor from accepting a position at another college. He is to do this by any means necessary. The means given to him is a list of names which could be damaging to the academic. The method will be blackmail. When he protests the assignment to his Bell contact, Patterson is reminded of his oath of loyalty. So he carries out his mission and the target commits suicide.
Horrified, Patterson attempts to tell people about The Bell secret society. He tells his connected father-in-law about it, so dad takes him to a meeting with a government agent. The agent claims the feds know all about the Bell and have been following it for years. However, when Patterson tries to contact the agent's office, he's told no such agent exists. And dad explains the meeting as put-on to alleviate sonny-in-law's paranoia.
Soon Patterson has lost his position, his wife, social respect, and even his own father. How far will the Bell go to punish a renegade?
We never actually get to see behind the mirror in this movie. No shadowy figures discussing how they will eliminate the traitor, no smoke-filled rooms with pulsating music. Because the viewer never sees much of The Bell, or even learns it's history,this becomes all the more frightening. Many of us have heard stories of rich and powerful secret societies. Could they be real? Just what the heck is going on at that Odd Fellows lodge?
The best scene in the entire film has Patterson facing off against William "Cannon" Conrad. Conrad plays a talk show host who likes to bring on extreme guests and insult them. Not only does Patterson have to endure the host, but a cavalcade of conspiracy nuts take the podium to proclaim their beliefs as well. Pushed to the breaking point, Patterson attacks the host, accusing him of being an agent of The Bell.
Although the movie has a cop-out ending, it's still worth watching if you can find it. I can only imagine how it would play today if remade. No, I shudder to think how it would get bastardized if remade.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tribes (1970)

Tribes is one of those 70's MTV movies that stays with you days after watching it. Released in 1970, years before the big boom in movies made for television. And it starred two very fine actors: Darren McGavin and Jan Michael Vincent.
Years before would earn his fame as a supernatural investigator, McGavin played Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Drake, a tough-as-nails drill instructor trying to mold a group of draftees into a fighting unit. Much to his disgust, one of the new boots is Adrian (Jan Michael Vincent), a former hippie. But this movie isn't a psychedelic Gomer Pyle; both Adrian and Sgt. Drake are portrayed as real human beings. It's no suprise this movie took home a few awards.
While most of the other draftees are buckling under the tough conditions of boot camp, Adrian quickly figures out the game and flows with the pressure. He even teaches the other members of his unit how to use meditation to promote endurance. Although Sgt. Drake is initially apalled by what he sees in Adrian, he comes to understand him. But all the understanding in the world won't help when Adrian realizes where the training is taking him.
There are plenty of powerful scenes here. The title comes from a confrontation between Sgt. Drake and Adrian where the former hippie tells the DI that they are from "different tribes".
The credits list a marine as technical advisor which probably accounts for the level of reality.
A good movie from the dawn of the 70's.