Tag: crank file

Crank File: The Fall Movie Review

Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.

Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!

Which is better? Telling a good story with boring visuals, or telling a simplistic, boring story with beauty? For director Tarsem Singh, it is generally a question of telling a somewhat interesting story that has plot holes and little merit, and adding in Academy Award-worthy sets, costumes, and cinematography. Examples of this include the pretty but laughably written The Cell, the insipid and sometimes confusing but charmingly pretty Mirror Mirror, and the panned but visually stunning Immortals.

Courtesy The Fall
This entire movie looks like a perfume advertisement, maybe “Confusion” by Jennifer Lopez.

Yet, with a track record of decent box office receipts and crappy reviews, Tarsem did manage to make something worth watching for both story and eye candy. The Fall is considered by critics and fans alike to be more than just something nice to look at. It combines storytelling and visuals in a way to that makes it the only Tarsem movie to get decent to mixed reviews, which was enough to encourage me to see it.

The most attractive part of this movie is that none of the scenes are shot on sound stages or are digital backgrounds. There are no matte paintings or boats floating in fake pools. In an age where an actor can spend an entire movie acting in a green suit to become a CGI copy of him or herself, Tarsem presents a movie shot entirely on location. Locations which include: Italy, Turkey, Argentina, India, Fiji, South Africa, Namibia, Czech Republic, and France. All for one movie.

Courtesty The Fall
Even the movie poster looks like a piece of art you could find on some yuppie’s wall.

Our story opens on a movie set in 1915, the era of silent film. We discover that the main character, Roy, played here by a limpid eyed and bed-ridden Lee Pace, has been injured in the course of his job as a silent movie stuntman and may never walk again. We also meet a precocious child, Romanian-born Alexandria, who wanders around the hospital freely, arm in a cast, charming the staff and peering in at Roy, who caught a letter she had tossed from a window to her favorite nurse.

Roy begins telling Alexandria about her namesake, Alexander the Great, until she is told to leave the ward by a grumpy patient. When she returns, Roy begins telling her another story, one about a masked bandit with a group of warriors, all trying to kill the same man. The story within a story is told through Alexandria’s point of view, with people she knows as the six heroes, and this is where the movie truly shines.

Courtesy The Fall
Note how the guy who is supposed to be Charles Darwin is dressed like a fantasy-land pimp. Because evolution is that awesome.

During the story about the bandit, we get the location changes, the beautiful sets, the vibrant costumes. It is almost impossible to describe how watching this film immerses you in the story, but you forget that you are watching a film that has any other plot to it. The only part about The Fall that ruins the ambiance that Tarsem creates is the jarring returns to the prosaic real story.

While Roy is telling Alexandria his tale, we discover other parts of their lives that make them tragic characters. Young Alexandria broke her arm working in an orchard with the rest of her family after her father was murdered and their home burnt to the ground, leaving them with nothing. Roy’s accident was not an accident at all, but a suicide attempt after his girlfriend left him for a famous actor on set. We even discover the story that has been captivating Alexandria is nothing more than Roy’s attempt to gain her trust so that she might use her ability to walk through the hospital freely to get him morphine.

The story culminates in Alexandria going to get Roy morphine for another attempt to take his own life, and falling from a precarious ledge, getting injured. Roy, sorry for what has happened but still suicidal, tries to finish the story for her tinted with his own depression, five of the six heroes dying before getting to the villain, the bandit himself getting beaten by the nefarious Odious in front of the only character Alexandria made up for the story on her own.

As she sobs in her hospital bed, begging him to give the story a happy ending, Roy comes to realize that he not only has learned to care for her, but to care for himself again. He finishes the story with a victorious ending, and we see scenes of hope in the aftermath. Alexandria getting well and enjoying a movie with the other hospital patients. Roy bringing in silent movies for them to watch, including his first movie. And then scenes from other movies that he went on to make that inspired his story of the masked bandit, the two of them parting ways having learned courage and compassion on both ends.

Courtesy The Fall
They’ll bake cookies and do each other’s nails some other day. Today it’s just about courage and compassion and not offing yourself.

Truthfully, this is an okay movie, at best. What is the true draw is the fact that it just needs to be seen. To be experienced. Because movies are not made this way any more. Gone are the days of casts of thousands and shooting on location for technology that is cheaper and easier. But Tarsem’s The Fall throws aesthetics in the face of that, and comes out with something truly spectacular.

If you want to sit down and watch this, which I highly recommend, I suggest getting the Blu-Ray version, and the best television you can find. You will only enjoy it more.

Got something for the Crank File? Email me here.

Crank File: Ponies Are Magic

Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.

Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!

There is nothing better than when something as simple as a children’s television show rises above and beyond the target of just entertaining and educating children. With the combination of excellent writing and good moral values that manage to not be preachy, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has not only become a wildly popular children’s show, but has had cross-demographic success with adults, male and female, as well. Adults watch this show as much as children, and have become major fans of it, inspiring cosplay costumes, remixes, and Internet memes that have made it a huge success.

Courtesy My Little Pony
And I can name them all, dork that I am.

It seems almost too simple to explain why MLP has gotten so popular in the three seasons it has run. But then again, like most media, there can be many reasons, depending on who is considering the show and what they like about it. Fortunately for me, this is my article, and this is what I enjoy most about MLP and why it is magical for me.

1. The Characters

The characters of MLP are really what sells this show. While they may be archetypes in one way or another (the bookworm, the tomboy, the girly girl), each character is also real. They have flaws and character traits that remind us of ourselves. We can connect with them because sometimes we too forget to ask for help, or get impatient with our families, or have a fear that seems impossible to face. At times, we can see so much of ourselves in the characters that we swear show creator Lauren Faust has a camera in our homes.

Courtesy My Little Pony
There’s something here for everyone. The smart ones, the girly ones, the ones that bounce around with pink curls, throwing impromptu parties for the hell of it.

2. The Music

Everyone likes a good song. And MLP seems to have them in moderation, which is far more preferable to having them in every single episode. The show can even poke fun at its own musicality, one episode having a character pointing out that a song sung by one of the ponies was the worst song he had ever heard. But the songs (the good ones anyway) are catchy and short, and may achieve ear worm status if you watch the episode more than once. They are also relevant, and not there just to have a musical interlude.

3. The Writing

Writing a plausible, charming children’s show is so much harder than anyone thinks it should be. It can too easily become cloyingly sweet, or irritating, or embarrassingly cheesy. MLP straddles the line between okay for children and entertaining for adults with pride and grace, giving us all some dry humor, wit, and jokes that even grown ups can enjoy. Even the sight gags and the physical comedy remains in the realm of funny and stays out of the dangerous “too-Stooges” style of slapstick. The writers also work hard to preserve continuity and that same spirit of wonder and charm that keeps audiences coming back.

4. The Setting

Whether it is in the little town of Ponyville or the grand central city of Canterlot, the setting of MLP is something to be considered as well. The designers of the show made a technicolor fantasy world that is reminiscent of Dorothy first stepping into Oz, and maintains that sense of being in another world. The writing meticulously makes certain to only retain references to hooves instead of hands, “everypony” or “anypony” instead of everyone or anyone, and makes it possible so that we do not even wonder how they do things like hold pens or ride bikes. It just seems so natural.

Courtesy My Little Pony
Yep, just a normal day in Ponyville. Where’s Jean-Luc Picard when you need him?

5. The Joy

In a world where we have the worst of worst things to see every day in the news on television and online and in the newspaper, MLP gives us a world where everything is summed up at the end of twenty minutes of action. There is always a happy ending, and there is never an occasion to mourn for more than a little bit. Ponies find love, friends, learn lessons, and become better people who all care about each other without asking for anything in return. Even the most bitter of us can appreciate a world where nobody is cynical to the point of coldness, where even the chilliest disposition can be won over with the magic of friendship.

6. The Nostalgia

One of the main reasons adults even sat down to watch this show was for the nostalgia. Children of the 1980’s are reaching their late twenties and early thirties, and this show can bring back memories of a simpler time. A time without worrying about taxes and the economy, without the day to day grind of a job. The show brings back the feeling of having nothing to do on a Saturday morning but get your own bowl of cereal so you did not bother Mom and Dad, who worked just as hard then as you do now. Familiar faces in new stories just give that warm feeling inside of something that had been forgotten but not completely lost behind memories of first dates and when the next project for work is due.

Courtesy My Little Pony
I had about ten trillion of these lying around, a minefield of pink pony agony to bare feet.

If I had a choice of watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on television, or one of the processed, homogenized re-make movies that are so popular right now, without a doubt I would choose MLP. The story, the style, the complete package make this an original show that still has a flavor of nostalgia to it that keeps adults coming back as well as children.

Got something for the Crank File? Email me here.

Crank File: Barbie Made Me Bisexual

Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.

Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!

The month of December for me is normally a flurry of gift purchasing and creating profanities that make the ears of Baby Jesus and anyone else in a five mile radius bleed to describe the bitch that just took my parking space. But while I am busy roasting some jerk’s chestnuts over an open fire when he got the last Xbox 360 complete with Fable III, I find myself thinking of previous Christmases, previous years not spent quite so upset and stressed out, when the only problem on my to do list was being good for twenty four consecutive days.

Bet you wished you hadn’t cut me off now, numb nuts.

Aside from brief stints of nearly burning down the house by using a friend’s hair, I was generally a good kid, and as such got exactly what I wanted for Christmas. And what did every red-blooded, American, white, upper-middle-class child want for Christmas? Barbie, of course. I had all kinds of these dolls, from the ones with glow-in-the-dark dresses to the one year that I had obviously sacrificed a goat to the right deity because I was presented with the Happy Holidays Barbie, completely resplendent in her green velvet gown and perfect platinum curls.

Barbie was my best friend for many years, especially years when I had no friends at all. Not because I was smelly or disfigured, but because there were no girls in the neighborhood my age and I was a pretty damn weird kid. But she was the best. She never got mad at me for liking the same boys she did, who would turn out to be gay as adults anyway. She always wanted to play what I wanted to play. Most importantly, Barbie made me bisexual.

It’s the cast of The L Word, with less drama.

When most groups protest Barbie, especially the ones made in the 80’s, the main argument is that Barbie projects an unreachable stereotype. That no girl can be that beautiful, that thin, that boob-tastic, that plastic perfect. And that showing girls that pillar of consummate femininity was going to make them stressed out, anorexic basket cases who were always going to strive for perfection and look down upon those who did not reach that standard. Yet nobody protests airbrushing…

I never really had that problem, mostly because I had no hopes of ever looking like Barbie. Dumpy redheads who had never gotten Midge doll rarely thought of themselves as Barbie wanna-bes. Besides, I was my own woman, and I told Barbie so while we were busy training to be fighter pilots on Mars, or singing opera for the masses in Sydney.

If anyone had known how I was playing with my Barbies, I’m pretty certain that they would have started protesting for that reason too. Normally, Barbie and I had male dates. She liked GI Joe, and I liked He-Man, which was perfect because Barbie was into guys who were so manly that they sweated testosterone and bullets, while I was into men who were slightly homoerotic and imaginary. We went out on dates together, went to parties, even got married so Barbie and Joe could express their physical love before Joe went back to the front lines (or the kid from up the street discovered that I had stolen his GI Joe again).

But sometimes, Barbie and I just wanted to hang out together. Which is fine, all girls like to hang out with their girlfriends. I probably played with Barbies longer than other girls, but that’s okay in my opinion because my story lines, and believe me, my epic Barbie sessions held in the unused back office of my parent’s basement on brown shag carpeting had story lines, matured even when the medium did not.

It was one of these days, when GI Joe had gone back to war, and He-Man had gone off to fight magical evil somewhere else, that Barbie, her pal Barbie and I were sitting around together, talking about what we were going to wear to Barbie’s wedding. Barbie, being the naïve virgin that she was, let the conversation segue into kissing, and how she thought she was doing it wrong. Her friend Barbie was a woman of the world, as I was I at the ripe old age of ten, and we told her that she had to practice if she was going to give Joe the kiss of his life when he returned home.

Barbie even offered to show Barbie how it was done. The air was fraught with sexual tension as they stared into eachother’s blue eyes, mouths split apart in matching hot pink grins, before they leaned forward and pressed their mouths together to practice. In that moment, I realized that it was not odd looking to see two women kissing. But these were thoughts I kept to myself. I only vaguely realized that it had something to do with being called “gay” and that was something I avoided at all costs, having an older, wiser, more malicious sister in the house with me who would say anything to get me to leave her alone.

We’ll get there soon enough Barbie, soon enough.

I knew that I still liked boys, or I would have never tried to kiss the dreamy Jonathan on the playground nearly every day. Something about Barbie and Barbie sharing a sweet, gentle kiss, maybe with a little light petting, seemed okay to me though. It would be nearly ten years later before I realized that I was open to playing for both teams. Yet who knew in the years in between, when I would see a beautiful woman and wonder what her body looked like, or found myself wanting to be close to a lady who was particularly charming, that it had come from those afternoons in the basement, exploring with Barbie.

As I look back on my childhood during the holidays, I remember Barbie teaching me a lot of things. She taught me that it was okay to live in shithole artist apartments in my early twenties because she had never had more than a shoebox home in the basement. She taught me that I could be anything I wanted, from a spokesmodel to a rocket scientist (it was obvious Barbie never saw my grades in math). She taught me that I wanted to create stories and share them with the world, because being princesses from the planet Cromrock was too awesome to not share. But above all, Barbie taught me that it was okay to be bisexual, and that she was one of the most precious gifts I had ever been given.

Got something for the Crank File? Email me here.

Crank File: Cross-Over Comics

Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.

Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!

The trend of cross-overs is everywhere. Music is sampled, fantasy finds its way into modern Earth, and American superheroes drift to Japan to be reborn with bigger eyes and longer eyelashes. Unfortunately, of these things, I cannot find the fortitude to actually recommend the idea of Batman visiting Tokyo, or Spawn having a cousin who looks just like him on the outside but on the inside is a confused Japanese boy who wants to protect his sister.

American superheroes that are manga-sized for our pleasure is somewhat of an inflammatory topic, with both sides of the wall, “It’s crap!” and “It’s genius!” respectively, having good points. But does Bruce Wayne in Japan hold the same joy for Batman fans as Bruce Wayne in Gotham? And does anyone give a damn about the person inside the suit if it is not the horribly scarred Al Simmons? There are both sides to every argument to consider before making up your mind.

If you enjoy comics, you are going to look at the art as much as you look at the story, and the first bone of contention is certainly the difference in artwork. Gritty smears of ink and bright colors are replaced by slick black and white drawings, changing the air of the comic. Eyes are larger, more cartoony, and while one might think that works for the genre, it can also throw someone right out of the story. My biggest problem with the change in art is that the characters we are familiar with no longer look as they should. I find nothing familiar about the Bruce Wayne depicted in the graphic novels Batman: Child of Dreams or Batman: Death Mask.

Part of the love that will drive someone to read a manga version of his or her favorite American comic character is the familiarity. Take that away, and it is like reading something that has just had the Batman name slapped on it, leaving the reader disappointed. Pains may have been taken to match a more well-known art style, but it is still different enough to be noticed.

Where is his face?! That’s not a gritty smear of ink, it’s a lazy-ass smear of ink. Faces, Japan. Americans have faces.”

Aside from the art, the story is certainly something to consider as well. Anyone who has read Frank Miller or Kevin Smith’s stories can appreciate the dark tone and incorporation of canon-defined characters in new plots that keep readers coming back for more. I have found that the cross-over versions of superhero comics lack this distinctly.

It seems that the manga authors wish to write their own stories, and then happen to have Batman or Spawn or Iron Man in them. They brush off the established characters that man fans love and read to see just as much as the main characters, and come off with a story that does not have nearly as much impact because once the story is over, the new characters introduced are left behind or dead, with no emotional attachment required.

“Your lack of Joker makes you unacceptable. Feel free to commit seppuku.”

Even when the manga translations are adapted by someone famous, such as award-winning mystery writer Max Allan Collins, there is something wrong, something disjointed and disappointing about stories that do not include the characters we love, that support a good story. Perhaps it also can also be attributed to the fact that these manga versions of our beloved heroes are also generally one volume long, leaving precious short time to find something to attach to. It is as if they are afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings by making changes to a canon that technically the manga would not belong to, being stand-alone novels.

I suspect my largest beef with the idea of cross-over comics is the fact that I have come to expect a certain level of something special from manga. To put a finer point on it, they miss out on a lot of tits and gore that I really have come to expect from the Japanese, and I personally enjoy. I’m not asking for splatterpunk Batman here (though, seriously, how cool would that be?!) or Spawn pulling a mech out of his ass to use to fight Malebolgia, but keeping it so safe and careful is just too bland to pull off the manga style of art and story.

In the end, I will still buy more of these graphic novels with the eternal hope that someone will find a delicate balance between breaking new ground and incorporating what is beloved by millions. But if they continue to be as contaminated with insipid story lines and half-assed art proclaimed to be “realistic” because yeah, Batman is so damn realistic, then the American superhero manga cross-over graphic novel will be a fad of the past sooner than we think.

And I think every comic lover will be missing out if that happens.

Got something for the Crank File? Email me here.

Crank File: Demon Knight Review

Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.

Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!

It occurs to me that there is something more frightening in the world than nuclear holocaust, the mass genocide of day-walking gingers like myself, or a Rebecca Black greatest hits album. I find that out of everything in the world, I am more horrified by mediocrity being rewarded for being just good enough and the world just accepting that doing just enough to get by is the standard by which we all live in the near future. Which was why I was pleased to come across something that I had forgotten in its previous substandard form.


When I first saw Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, I was rather ho-hum about the entire experience. Perhaps it was because I was wee lass of only thirteen summers when it was first released in 1995, and far too young to be seeing it in theaters without a fake ID and some good make up, or because the first time I saw it a year or two later, it was because it was chopped up for the homogenized swill that Americans call cable television, but I remembered this movie as nothing but run-of-the-mill schlock. But coming across it again in Netflix, I decided to sit down and give it another try, hoping boobies and profanity would do what it does to everything else and of course, make it a whole lot better.

Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, also know just as Demon Knight, was the first spin-off film from the HBO Tales From the Crypt series. Unlike the episodes run on HBO, the story was an original work that was actually drafted two years before the series ever began. The script went through several re-writes, until it culminated in two scripts, one about literal demons, another that was about demonic yuppie bible salesmen, which honestly sounds more frightening to me. The studio decided to put in the money for real demons though, and the script by Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop was put into production.

Courtesy Universal Studios
Glad to see they’re still using Kate Moss for these DVD covers.

The film centers around an ancient artifact called the Key, which when filled with blood turns any person’s blood into that of Jesus of Nazareth, whose blood originally filled the Key. There are actually seven Keys in total, and once collected they can be used to open the gates of Hell. While they were spread around the universe, the minions of Satan have found six of them, the seventh in the possession of a human guardian named Brayker.

Brayker, played by a gritty and intelligent William Sadler, is a man who received the Key from a wounded soldier during World War I. Since then he has been ageless, running and keeping the Key safe from the Collector, a human-looking demon played by Billy Zane. Brayker has an incident with the Collector in the desert, and makes his way to the boarding house in a small town, where he stays for the night. When the Collector shows up at the hotel with the local sheriff and his deputy, Brayker realizes that this night is the last of his life, and it is time for him to pass on the Key to one of the seven people now in the boarding house.

The Collector gets pissed off when the sheriff will not just give him the Key, and ends up murdering the man and calling forth demons from Hell, nothing more than mindless killing machines that follow his every order. Brayker is then trapped within the boarding house with the landlady, a woman who is part of a prison work release program, a hooker, an alcoholic, the deputy, the hooker’s client and a former postal worker.

Courtesy Universal Studios
Well, if smiling like a goof ball won’t get me my way, I’ll just enslave your souls. Think of it as your new Verizon contract.

By doing what demons do best, which is tempt the weakest of the group, the Collector eventually kills them all off until Brayker takes a fatal wound and must pass the Key off to the reforming prison woman and she has a show down with the Collector that reveals his true nature. When the sun rises, we find her ready to pick up her new life as the Demon Knight, and gets on a bus to leave town, followed by a new Collector.

I am the first to admit that this is pretty schlocky. Billy Zane chews the scenery whenever he can, and every character is an exaggerated stereotype, from the hooker with a heart of gold to the postal carrier who has gone insane and was secretly planning to shoot up the local post office. Jada Pinkett Smith plays the work-release prisoner Jeryline with the warmth you want to see in our eventual heroine, and William Sadler, probably best known for his goofy performance in The Shawshank Redepmtion, actually comes up to bat as a grizzled, ageless warrior who knows what is on the line without being endlessly emo about it.

Courtesy Universal Studios
Those are some high waist-band pants.

The director at the helm is Ernest Dickerson, who is not the most prolific of movie directors. He is better known for directing episodes of wildly popular series such as The Wire, ER, Law & Order and Dexter. He did nothing out of the ordinary here, and I am more inclined to believe that Zane and Sadler’s performances were the culmination of their own ideas than anything he directed, but he deserves some credit for the over-all package.

As with most things with the Tales From the Crypt label on them, this has gore in spades, frightening visuals, and more than a little tongue-in-cheek humor to cut through the scenes where people are being disemboweled by possessed hookers in cheap silk robes. It is also book-ended by a scene with the Crypt Keeper (voice by the legendary John Kassir), which would be a gaping hole in this gore-fest if he did not make an appearance. For those of you that care, it also means that there are titties like three minutes into the film.

Courtesy Universal Studios
Lady Gaga really went all out for the 4th of July this year.

So the truth of the matter, was it scary? No, not particularly. I viewed this as a fantasy adventure story, not a horror, and it was not scary except for a few cheap jump scares. But was it mediocre? Not in the least. Excellent actors giving amazing performances in a setting that could have easily become silly or dull with the material given, and a story we actually gave a damn about. I’m sure there were gaping plot holes in places, such as why the hell the Collector didn’t just set the boarding house on fire and reclaim the Key when everyone was dead, but that can be overlooked when taking into consideration that it would have ruined the whole movie, and that the Collector is actually having fun tempting the souls of the people inside.

Demon Knight does its best to cater to the Tales From the Crypt crowd as well as people who are not fans of the 90’s staple horror series, and manages to deliver without being too basic or boring. Black humor is spiced up with danger and a characters that manage to find dimension even while giving their souls to the Beast. I’d like to see Twilight manage that.

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