The House


Live Free or Die Hard

In the original 1988 Die Hard, Alan Rickman's bad guy, Hans Gruber, taunts stalwart hero John McClane by asking him if he's "another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he's John Wayne...Rambo...Marshal Dillon..." McClane jokes that he was always partial to Roy Rogers because "I really liked those sequined shirts," then ends the conversation with the now-iconic kiss-off, "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."

The repetition of that phrase in three Die Hard sequels helps explain why I never really warmed to them. They're lively smash-and-burn adventures that leaven their brutality with self-deprecating wit and something vaguely resembling a human touch; each boasts wittily choreographed action sequences, and even the worst of the lot, the sadistic and borderline-retarded Die Hard 2, pulls you in. But whatever their merits, each sequel—including Live Free or Die Hard, which opened this week—does more to undercut what made the original, and its hero, seem special. That's a sin that no amount of boisterious ingenuity can erase. "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker" wasn't just funny because it was a blue-collar, East coast, wise-ass response to a James Bond baddie's effete condescension. It was funny because it sounded like something a real person might say if he got caught in a situation that ludicrous. McClane's comeback was a tonic, a contrast to all the other badass one-liners we'd heard up to then: James Bond's icy British witticisms; Arnold Schwarzenegger's lame, mechanical approximation of same; Sylvester Stallone's dead-eyed homicidal pledges ("I'm comin ta get yew").

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TAGS: air force one, alan rickman, bruce willis, david marconi, die hard, die hard 2, gary oldman, Len Wiseman, live free or die hard, Mark Bomback, the blues brothers, timothy olyphant


Farscape

My first impression of Farscape is forever burned into the ol' gray matter. I was at a friend's abode and the Sci-Fi Channel was on in the background. Dominar Rygel the XVI—a mainstay of the series, as well as a creation of Jim Henson's Creature Shop—filled the screen. Within seconds a judgment was made: "This looks fuckin' stupid."

Good thing I gave the show another chance a couple years later.

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TAGS: anthony simcoe, babylon 5, ben browder, buck rogers in the 25th century, claudia black, david kemper, farscape, mos eisley, rockne s. o'bannon, stranger in a strange land, the x-files, Wayne Pygram


a Jetée

"This is the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood." So begins Chris Marker's 1962 elliptical 27-minute time-travel adventure, "La Jetée," a narrated montage of black-and-white still photographs about a man who leaves his irradiated, post–World War III present and leaps into the past and future, hoping to bring back food and energy that will allow humankind to survive the dark years. He was picked because successful time travel depends on the traveler's ability to focus on emotionally resonant images—our hero obsesses over memories of a beautiful young woman he glimpsed at an airport on the day that an unidentified stranger was shot dead there by police. When the hero travels into the past, he falls in love with his dream woman; complications, as they say, ensue. If you've seen "La Jetée" or Terry Gilliam's 1996 remake, Twelve Monkeys, you know the film's final, devastating twist. If not, I won't spoil it here, except to say that the story ends where it begins and that its plot is a pretext for Marker to examine the impermanence of experience and the fragility—sometimes falsity—of remembered images, the shards we cling to as we journey from abyss to abyss.

To read the article, click here.

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TAGS: chris marker, la jetee, sans soleil


Big Love

Midway through Monday night's episode of Big Love, "Reunion," Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) sits in front of a video gambling machine and pokes at the screen, paging through the various games offered. Bill has made a point to the leader of the Juniper Creek compound, Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton), of how immoral he finds gambling, but Roman claims that this is the way to go.

By using the machines to profit from others' sins, the United Effort Brotherhood can pour money into its own way of life. Bill sits before the machine, glasses perched on his nose, and imitates the little beeping noises it makes (Paxton's performance is probably the weakest among the leads, but he and the writers understand the earnestly dorky and law-abiding way the character engages with the world, and show it in little moments like this). Bill, in his own way in this moment, confronts one of the central conflicts of the whole series.

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TAGS: amanda seyfried, big love, bill paxton, chloë sevigny, Daveigh Chase, Douglas Smith, ginnifer goodwin, Harry Dean Stanton, jeanne tripplehorn, mark v. olsen, Matt Ross, recap, reunion, will scheffer


Sicko

"There's an element in the thinking of some people: 'We don't want people to be educated, healthy and confident, because they would get out of control.' The top 1% of the world's population own 80% of the world's wealth. It's incredible that people put up with it! But they're poor, they're demoralized and they're frightened—and therefore they think perhaps the safest thing to do is take orders and hope for the best."—Tony Benn, Former Member of British Parliament, in Sicko

Mr. Benn's wise words get to the Tootsie Roll center of Michael Moore's searching, hilarious, heartbroken American anthem, Sicko. Moore is out to reduce fear, restore morale and advocate for Americans to keep more of what little money they have in their pockets.

If this were the 1960's, he'd have to die or be humiliated into hiding. Hoover's FBI would have found some way to make him disappear from the national scene—maybe step out of the way of some wacko assassin or send an underage hooker up to Moore's hotel room. In 2007 McWorld, all it takes to neutralize Moore's message is to remind everybody that he's fat and disheveled. Or so it would seem after rocket attacks like Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 failed to inspire widespread rebellion in the land.

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TAGS: adam curtis, John Ehrlichman, michael moore, richard nixon, sicko


John from Cincinnati

"Didn't the poet say, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'"
– Barry Cunningham (Matt Winston)

The fences go up in the aftermath of the miracle that closed the second episode of John from Cincinnati. In "His Visit: Day 2 Continued", young Shaun Yost (Greyson Fletcher) is now fully, and inexplicably, recovered from his fatal neck injury. His family and friends spirit him away from the hospital on the roundabout recommendation of the kindly and curious Dr. Michael Smith (Garret Dillahunt), but instead of basking in the joy of the occurrence, this head-on encounter with the unexplained allows all involved to open up past wounds and kindle new fears and prejudices. Creator David Milch and episode scripter Ted Mann's meaning is clear: old habits die hard.

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TAGS: Austin Nichols, brian van holt, bruce greenwood, david milch, Dayton Callie, Emily Rose, garret dillahunt, Greyson Fletcher, his visit: day two continued, Jim Beaver, john from cincinnati, Keala Kennelly, luis guzmán, Luke Perry, Mark Tinker, paul ben vinctor, Rebecca De Mornay, recap, Ted Mann


Hostel II

Best Reaction To AFI's "100 Movies, 100 Years" Update: Eric Henderson, over email, stating, "I admit it…I watched the new AFI Top 100 list tonight and, despite a bunch of shit still being on the list throughout, I was overall embarrassingly impressed with the fact that they managed to move Vertigo into the top 10 and The Searchers and The General (which wasn't even on the last list) into the top 20. And Nashville. Fuck yeah!"

Worst Reaction To AFI's "100 Movies, 100 Years" Update: Gold Derby non-critic and "Hollyweird" award shill Tom O'Neill, who, after bemoaning the "slap" given to fucking Patton of all films, intones in what may be considered an impersonation of Rip Taylor, "The old list had a few other priorities right, too. Psycho is surely Alfred Hitchcock's best film, not Vertigo, which just zoomed waaaaay up, up, up from #61 to where you'd think it'd get dizzy at #9." Oy. Well, at least he thinks Taxi Driver is better than Raging Bull.

Best Attempt At Turning AFI's "100 Movies, 100 Years" Update Into Something Valuable: Matt Zoller Seitz, responding to a comment made to his Links for the Day blog entry for The House Next Door, states that he kind of likes the list "because it gives you a better sense of how collective taste shifts over time than the critics polls or the Guardian-style, 'Let's see what the readers think' polls" before allowing the conversation to shift into a discussion of the suckitude of Godard's post-'60s cinematic output.

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TAGS: afi, eli roth, gold derby, hostel ii, tom o'neill


Rescue Dawn

It's all about love.

I went to a screening of Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn fighting off one of those desperately lonely, uncertain states we all find ourselves in at times. Two hours later, I came out of the theater flying, simply too in love with life to fret over some ground-level personal nonsense. Herzog's film about torture and starvation is the feel-good movie of the summer.

Rescue Dawn, which opens July 4, draws from the true story of Dieter Dengler, the German-American fighter pilot shot down and captured in Laos in 1966. Dengler eventually got his fellow prisoners to assist in an escape that at first seemed impossible and pointless. In 1966, it was still possible to believe that an end to the Vietnam War was in sight—better to sit out the war in a prison camp until the anticipated American victory ensured their release. Dieter seemed to know better.

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TAGS: christian bale, jeremy davies, little dieter needs to fly, peter zeitlinger, rescue dawn, steve zahn, werner herzog


Inferno

The House Next Door is committed to recognizing the best of online film culture in as many exciting and innovative manifestations as we can find. One of our contributors, Kevin Lee aka alsolikelife, has recently begun producing a unique series of video essays, an extension of his efforts to watch every film on the list of "The 1000 Greatest Films" as compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?. His progress can be followed on his blog, Shooting Down Pictures. The House is pleased to showcase Kevin's video essays as he nears completion of his project. His latest video, on Dario Argento's Inferno (#926 on his list) can be viewed after the break. Click here to read Kevin's text entry on Inferno.

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TAGS: dario argento, inferno


Big Love

Near the end of Big Love's latest episode, "The Writing on the Wall," Bill Henrickson's second wife, Nikki, (Chloë Sevigny) delivers a long monologue to first wife, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), about how she doesn't trust love as a foundation for a marriage, perhaps, especially, a plural one.

This comes after Barb tells her that she still wasn't sure if she believed in the principle the family bases its life on (the show tosses off American quasi-religious terms like "the principle" and "testimony" without really bothering to explain them). Nikki, raised on the polygamous Juniper Creek compound, is largely flummoxed by the world she found herself a part of when she left the compound to marry Bill (Bill Paxton) and move to the suburbs. If the season premiere, "Damage Control," focused on all that Barb left behind when she allowed Bill to take a second wife, "Writing on the Wall" turned its gaze on Nikki, a character who could be a bit too unbelievably manipulative and shrill in the first season. While the main plotlines all focus on Bill (who finds himself thrust into compound politics again and trying to fend off a vandal marking up billboards for his Home Plus stores), writers and creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer use the hoary old device of a husband forgetting he and his wife's anniversary to illuminate the least-developed Henrickson.

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TAGS: amanda seyfried, big love, chloë sevigny, Daveigh Chase, Douglas Smith, ginnifer goodwin, jeanne tripplehorn, mark v. olsen, Matt Ross, Melora Walters, recap, Shawn Doyle, the writing on the wall, Tina Majorino, will scheffer







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