The House


Slade HouseOctober, 1979. Nathan is being hurried on by his mother. They have to be at Slade House by three in the afternoon, and the directions they have to the location are helpful, if confusing: Find a small black iron door on the right-hand wall of Slade Alley. Upon going through it, they find themselves in a "buzzing, still summery garden," with the house "at the top, old blocky, stern and gray and half-smothered by fiery ivy, and not at all like the houses on Westwood Road and Cranbury Avenue." The effect is uncanny, as we're clearly no longer bearing witness to a fall afternoon in rainy London, where "the damp sky's the color of old hankies."

Echoing any number of fantasy narratives from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland to C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, David Mitchell immerses Nathan and his mother in a world that's like and unlike their own: "Reds are glossier, blues glassier, greens steamier." Amid this blinding scene, we're introduced to Lady Grayer and a mysterious young boy. Immediately, Mitchell's prose alerts us that this story is as fantastic as its fairy-tale framework suggests. Faced with the eponymous house, we're made privy to Nathan's thoughts: "I'm about to ask Mum how such a big house and its garden can possibly fit in the space between Slade Alley and Cranbury Avenue, but my question falls down a deep well with no bottom, and I forget what I've forgotten." What we remember and what we forget, we will soon learn, are key recurring themes of this ghostly tale; memories, both vivid and foggy, haunt the entirety of Mitchell's Slade House.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: david mitchell, random house, slade house, the bone clocks


Hannibal

Per the elaborate religious analogies offered up in "The Number of the Beast Is 666," "The Wrath of the Lamb" finds Will (Hugh Dancy), the lamb to Hannibal's (Mads Mikkelsen) Lucifer and Jack's (Laurence Fishburne) God, attempting an elaborate bait and switch to nab Francis (Richard Armitage), a.k.a. the Great Red Dragon, after the latter fakes his own death. Theoretically, the episode is about the negotiations Will must orchestrate so as to cleanse himself (he'd like to think anyway) for a return to his life with Molly, as he navigates the powerful influences of his dueling authority figures. In actuality, every plot development is clearly planted in preparation for the show's climax atop a bluff where Hannibal once hid Miriam and Abigail. As with Justified's somewhat anticlimactic finale earlier this year, there's a rushed, "off" quality to "The Wrath of the Lamb." At times, one wonders if there's a conductor sitting right outside the periphery of the camera, egging the actors to "move it along."

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: Aaron Abrams, bryan fuller, Caroline Dhavernas, gillian anderson, hannibal, hugh dancy, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, Raul Esparza, recap, red dragon, richard armitage, Rutina Wesley, scott thompson, the wrath of the lamb, thomas harris


Men at WorkMen at Work is patient zero for the plague of Charlie Sheen movies that infected the 1990s. One tends to forget that Sheen had steady work in that decade, turning out cocky fare like The Chase and Terminal Velocity. And while Men at Work isn't the first film to use the actor in his then-typical role of a wiseass hot-shot lothario, the casual laziness that would infect his '90s output has its origins in writer-director Emilio Estevez's crime comedy. As Carl Taylor, Sheen can't be bothered to do anything but exist on screen as he wades through his brother's mercilessly overstuffed plot.

Estevez's second feature is a major step down from his 1986 debut, Wisdom. For that film, Estevez was flanked by a massively talented crew: It was edited by Michael Kahn, scored by Danny Elfman, and produced by legendary Oscar-winning director Robert Wise, whom Estevez sought out for advice and guidance. Despite all that firepower, Wisdom is shocking in its ineptitude, a crime thriller saddled with far too many useless details and tangents. The more problematic Men at Work suffers from the same screenplay overcompensations, to the point where one wishes Estevez sought out Wise's contemporary, Billy Wilder, for advice instead. Wilder would have burned the script for Men at Work.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: billy wilder, charlie sheen, danny elfman, darrell lawson, dean cameron, diane warren, emilio estevez, John Getz, Keith David, Leslie Hope, men at work, michael kahn, robert wise, stewart copeland, summer of 90, wisdom, Ziggy Marley


Shutshimi: Seriously Swole

Shutshimi: Seriously Swole is one of the best shooters since the turn of the century. Developer Neon Deity Games' spirited rejection of video-game balance almost qualifies as avant garde, but Shutshimi's emphasis on high scores begs for comparisons to great arcade fare such as Galaga, Xevious, TwinBee, and Fantasy Zone. Like each of those shoot-'em-up classics, Shutshimi has a distinct rhythm and personality to its (on-the-surface) mindless violence.

Despite the connection to traditional gaming, Shutshimi isn't consumed by the trivial nostalgia of old-school wannabes like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge. Rather than base a significant portion of its appeal on retro sentimentality, Shutshimi makes its rules—not another game’s—the attraction, exuding a pride for personal expression. The game undoubtedly owes something to the muscle-flexing, horizontally scrolling Cho Aniki, yet the latter tries to coast on silliness and homoeroticism with little compelling action. In contrast, Neon Deity's gymnastic design demands to be taken seriously as an e-sport while fulfilling the absurd premise of a gold fish with human arms defending his home.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: axiom verge, fantasy zone, galaga, shovel knight, shutshimi: seriously swole, twinbee, xevious


Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight NightsTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights wears its literary precursor proudly. Scheherazade and her endless string of stories are both the fabric of this tale and its yarn. Salman Rushdie doesn't so much echo A Thousand and One Night as he bellows its narrative influence in a sprawling novel that emerges as an ode to storytelling.

"To tell a story about the past is to tell a story about the present. To recount a fantasy, a story of the imaginary, is also a way of recounting a tale about the actual." That the past and the present, the imaginary and the actual, blend seamlessly throughout Two Years will come as no surprise to longtime Rushdie fans. This is, after all, an author who's effortlessly fused religious iconography, ancient mythology, national histories, and contemporary fiction.

The novel opens, for example, with a long meditation on those most fabled of beings, the jinn: "Very little is known, though much has been written, about the true nature of the jinn, the creatures of smokeless fire." What follows is the story about those "creatures of smokeless fire" and their vexed relationship with us mere humans. Immersing us immediately into this world of myth and calling into question the scant information that has fed this very mythology, Rushdie places us in familiar territory (we all know about genies, especially from that most famous of Arabian Nights tales), but not before waving away any knowledge we may think we have. A mere couple of pages later, he sketches out the novel before us:

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: random house, salman rushdie, two years eight months and twenty-eight nights


Hannibal

"The Number of the Beast Is 666" finds Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) turning desperate as Francis (Richard Armitage) remains at large, with their only pipeline to the killer embodied by an increasingly contemptuous, puckish Hannibal (Mad Mikkelsen). Said desperation is predominantly embodied by three conversations, duets as always, that serve to heavily foreshadow whatever awaits us next week in Hannibal's season, perhaps series, finale, "The Wrath of the Lamb," a title that derives from a phrase in Revelation 6:16: "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb." Hannibal evokes this phrase this week, in the first duet, likening Will to the lamb, or to a spurned savior, taking in stride Jack's comparison of his truly to "The devil himself, bound in a pit." Hannibal retorts that, in these analogies, Jack would be God, then, sending his savior to battle Satan and the Great Red Dragon, a suggestion that Jack takes with something like a fusion of fury and good humor.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: bryan fuller, Caroline Dhavernas, gillian anderson, guillermo navarro, hannibal, hugh dancy, lara jean chorostecki, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, manhunter, Raul Esparza, recap, red dragon, richard armitage, Rutina Wesley, the number of the beast is 666, thomas harris


Summer of '90: The Witches

The WitchesChildren's movies are traditionally designed to comfort. There's an unspoken contract between parent and filmmaker: "For the next 90 minutes, your child will be entertained, but not threatened. No need to worry about your little darlings waking up at three in the morning, bawling in terror. This movie is guaranteed not to trouble anyone's mind. Most people are inherently good. The bad guys don't win."

Children's movies, for the most part, have abided by this contract, but for a brief period during the 1980s those rules went out the window. Children's cinema was in transition¬. The old standbys, musicals and animation, were out, and sci-fi and fantasy were in. Disney and Jim Henson, in particular, were looking to forge new identities, away from their trademark brands. The result was Something Wicked This Way Comes, Watcher in the Woods, The Black Cauldron, Return to Oz, and The Dark Crystal. These films were guaranteed to give children nightmares, populated as they were by creepy carnivals, screeching lizard-like Skeksis, and rooms full of shrieking severed heads. Nicolas Roeg's The Witches, released just as Disney's renaissance restored the old rules, was the last and darkest of this bunch—the best and perhaps the only horror movie made for children.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: anjelica huston, jasen fisher, jim henson, Mai Zetterling, nicolas roeg, roald dahl, summer of 90, the witches, the world is ever changing, watch me


Recollection

It is what it is. Though such remarks can be damningly diplomatic, they come in handy at Locarno Film Festival—where, away from the main competition at least, one often encounters a brand of auteuristic cinema so unpretentiously personal that even the slightest criticism appears overly harsh. Such is the case with Recollection, the latest film by Kamal Aljafari, which received its world premiere in the festival's "Signs of Life" sidebar. This 70-minute German production sees the director returning to his familiar themes of occupation, displacement, and belonging with a dialogue-free, found-footage portrait of Jaffa, the ancient port city that neighbors Tel Aviv in Israel. Sourcing archive material from films shot in and around the historic locale, Aljafari shows an eerily abandoned city whose stony, enduring architecture is rendered into a cruddy mix of pixilated beige and shadow.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: albert serpa, gabriele d'annunzio, josé régio, kamal aljafari, locarno film festival, lois patino, machine gun or typewriter, manoel de oliveira, manuel mozos, night without distance, recollection, sandro aguilar, strata of the image, the glory of filmmaking in portugal, travis wilkerson, undisclosed recipients


EileenOttessa Moshfegh's dark and beautiful Eileen takes place over seven tense days leading up to Christmas. The story is narrated by the eponymous character from somewhere in the future, looking back through a lens of personal growth and experience. "I looked like a girl you'd expect to see on a city bus, reading some clothbound book from the library about plants or geography...I looked like nothing special," Eileen says of her younger self. Later she says, "And I really didn't like books about flowers or home economics. I like books about awful things—murder, illness, death." Eileen the narrator is at once unreliable and reassuring in her honesty. Eileen the novel is a literary thriller grappling with ideas of freedom: breaking out of a metaphorical prison that's more than geographical, a prison constructed of elements that are situational, societal, gender-driven, and self-imposed.

Eileen is bored. It's 1964 and she's 24 years old, working at a prison for boys and living in a "brutal cold town" in New England she calls X-Ville. Her mother is dead, and she plays caretaker for her father, an ex-cop and current drunk who's paranoid and prone to alcoholic hallucinations. Eileen is "dark. Moony." She has an older sister who's in every way her opposite; "blonde, pouty and light-hearted," she rarely visits and never helps with their father. In her free time, Eileen stalks Randy, one of the corrections officers at the prison. And she longs to rid herself of X-Ville and all its residents.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: eileen, ottessa moshfegh, penguin


Hannibal

"...And the Beast from the Sea" is structured as a perverse quasi romantic farce, in which two working-class guys are pitted against one another by a rarefied man who literally lives in a gilded cage. Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) has been trying to jerk Will's (Hugh Dancy) figurative chain over Francis Dolarhyde's (Richard Armitage) crime spree for some time, suggesting that the latter has replaced the former as the primary occupier of his affections. (Or of whatever precisely counts as "affections" for Hannibal Lecter.) Will hasn't been taking the bait, having a variety of other things on his plate (a new wife and superstar killer to pursue will fill one's calendar fast), but Hannibal escalated the state of affairs this week, disclosing the address of Will's family to Francis and ordering him to "kill them all." Does Hannibal mean Will, too, when he says this to Francis? It's a question that hangs over the narrative. There are only two episodes remaining in the season, and probably of the entire series, so a discarding of subtlety is in order. Is Hannibal in love with Will, or running him through another psychological thresher? If it's love, does Hannibal want Will back, so to speak, hence his wanting the latter's family dead, or does he seek revenge for the gall he perceives Will to display in taking a family to begin with? Or is it all of the above? As one considers these questions, it's fruitful to remember: The FBI never caught Hannibal; he gave himself up to stay closer to Will, which is to say that he feels as if Will hasn't honored his side of that bargain.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: and the beast from the sea, brian retzeill, bryan fuller, Caroline Dhavernas, gabriel browning rodriguez, hannibal, hugh dancy, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, manhunter, nina arianda, recap, richard armitage, Rutina Wesley, the silence of the lambs







The HouseCategories



The HouseThe Attic

More »



Site by  Docent Solutions