Saturday, November 07, 2009


Just saw this thing, a Sam Raimi production. It has some of the virtues of the Spidey flicks, but not quite put together.

The movie starts with a bang. A gang in a warehouse awaits the arrival of a rival gang. There are just 5 in the rival gang, and they are frisked before they meet the gang leader. A member of the rival gang has a prosthetic leg. At a key moment, one of his comrades grabs the prosthesis, which proves to be a machine gun, and slaughters everyone but the boss of the first gang. The boss is then confronted by the rival leader, who looks like a meanie, albeit an urbane one. He is played by Larry Drake, who I know was on one of those endless dramatic shows in the 90s that I never watched. He trims his cigar with a cigar trimmer, then does likewise to the gang leader’s fingers. Ouch!

And then we turn to Liam Neeson, who is a scientist. You can tell: he wears a cardigan. He and his assistant are working on synthetic skin. Neeson’s girlfriend is Frances McDornand. She’s wasted in this flick, gasping and screaming mostly. Does it well, at least. Neeson’s role is thankless, spent much of the time wrapped in bandages. Oops, jumping ahead.

Okay, plot machinations in which McDornand discovers hincty business by the local billionaire. This sends the new gang boss to Neeson’s laboratory. He and his motley crue kill the assistant and mangle Neeson, in the course of which Neeson gets dunked in the synthetic skin, blah blah blah. The laboratory blows up and it appears Neeson is a goner. Gee, short movie.

Raimi does a transition in which McDornand stands staring at the burning laboratory, then the scene changes around her and she is at the cemetery mourning Neeson. Hokey, but thanks for trying.

A much-damaged Neeson is found, tho not identified, and brought to a hospital, where an apparent relative of Doktor Frankenstein merrily experiments on him. She takes 5 minutes to map out for us how John Doe’s nerves have been derailed and as compensation he has added strength but also adrenal surges that affect his moods. He also does not feel pain. Neeson suffers the diagnosis but bursts from his bounds before the doktor could share her prognosis, but we can guess, eh?

Neeson, resembling DeNiro in Frankenstein, albeit with facial bandages, shuffles off to a spare vacant warehouse to continue work on synthetic skin. He manages to build quite a set up, and perfects the skin so that he can go out in public. Not only that, he can create perfect likenesses of other people. And so he exacts revenge. Oh but wait, the skin holds together for only 90 minutes. His public appearances and guest shots can only last that long before Dorian Gray’s picture returns.

Neeson begins by grabbing one of the gang members, who he tortures in a sewer for info on the gang. Neeson, Darkman, finishes the guy by sticking the guy’s head up a manhole in brisk traffic. Fun Fact: the actor playing this gang member is Raimi’s brother. Hmmm…

Part deux of Darkman’s revenge consists of making himself look like another gang member. As this gang member, he absconds with money that was supposed to be delivered for the boss. The boss in his displeasure exacts a compelling toll.

Darkman feels good enough about his synth skin to return to McDornand, still with the 90 minute time limit. She had a minor dalliance with the billionaire after Neeson was presumed dead, btw.

Darkman goes coocoo for Cocoapuffs at times due to the adrenaline surge. He plays around with the boss and his gang, who play back, with McDornand getting threatened and such. The movie basically goes stupid.

Practicing for Spider-man, Raimi has Darkman dangling from cables quite a bit. Turns out that the billionaire is behind the gang boss. All bad guys die but Darkman turns from McDornand because he is ridden with comic book guilt and the usual mush.

Raimi has some verve here but this is a laboured effort. It is his first big Hollywood film and I am sure he had to buck the experts in the money room. Neeson did not seem comfortable at all, and McDornand, as I said, was wasted. So, in sum, it is just another comic book angst party except, because the comic book came out after the movie, it did not have the built in excitement that DC/Marvel extravaganzas bring (if they bring nothing else). Apparently the movie was popular, but I find it comme çi comme ça.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Paul Zukofsky Redux

Ron Silliman’s eternal blog offers links to PDFs of Louis Zukofsky’s A. I wondered wtf, how did someone manage that, copyright-wise? They didn’t.

Someone scanned the book then uploaded it to several storage sites. I downloaded it out of curiosity but now do not feel so good about doing so.

The scan was, it seems, done in spite. It is not a matter of Galahad freeing Louis’ work for the masses, it is someone tweaking Paul Zukosky for being a dick. No question, Paul presents himself as a dick regarding his protection of his father’s copyright. I link to his cranky explanation of his rights below. That explanation set someone off enough to let loose this subversion.

I do not know copyright law, tho the fact that I know such exists does make me an expert on it, doesn’t it? Having to pay to use small quotes in a paper seems excessive. I would like to see numbers such as how much it costs to quote Louis, how often is he quoted in non-Fair Usage manner, etc. What is the money involved?

Paul is a dick because he is in financial straits. Well, that’s what I hear, not to take anything at face value. Louis as literature is not the battle here, it is Louis as money cow. Okay, I respect his ownership.

I think Paul should (if it is not already done) prepare a digital version that could be sold, because there is use in that. The scan is from the published book, and could be better. It done clear enough, at least in my glance, but I cannot say if there are missed patches or blurs.

Copyright is a battleground now, because digital versions have confused things. I will cut Paul in his need some slack. This is the straw that he grasped.

It is funny to think of Louis being of last century, and in fact he was born more than a century ago. At some time he will be given wholly to the culture, like all the other dead and gone. The tangle here will be forgotten, Paul won’t need money, Person X won’t need to tweak. That’s literature in the wide world. We in our small worlds must do the best that we can.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Alienator

I have a taste for this sort of dumb ass movie, which is inarguably a guilty pleasure. It was directed by Fred Olen Ray. I have seen several epics by Ray. I assume that he considers Roger Corman a genius for producing cheap movies that do not escape their cheapness yet somehow keep the eye transfixed. That seems to be the ballpark FOR is playing in.

The big star here is Jan Michael Vincent. I had to check Wikipedia on Vincent because tho I feel like I’ve seen him bunches of time, I could not recall any specifics. I never saw Airwolf, which I understand is his high water mark.

So the movie begins on a prison ship or satellite, you know, Out In Space. JMV is the sadistic warden. He ruthlessly beats up one prisoner and executes a 2nd one. As the 2nd one cooks, the first one grabs a guard’s ray gun and attempts an escape. This instigates an extended contemplation of how ineffective ray guns are. JMV and the guards chase this guy, yclept Colt, I think. Like most ray gun type weapons, phasers, for instance, the beam cannot be aimed in most circumstances, not even when people are running as slowly as everyone in this movie runs. A few guards go down but Colt escapes in a rocket scooter. JMV launches pursuit by The Alienator.

At this point, well into the movie, the credits roll. JMV is not the only big star in the flick. There is also John Phillip Law, who  I couldn’t quite put a face to but knew I would recognize him when it was his turn to show his face and reveal level of his career at the time.

We are now on Earth. A camper is bouncing along a dirt road. Inside are 4 people. That’s pretty much it. Two are female, 2 are male. SUDDENLY they see a meteorite. They decide to check it out. Well, they do not get to, because Colt in a fit of overacting escapes from the meteorite-like scooter and, crikey, gets hit by the camper. I may not have been paying an awful lot of attention at his point. The 4 bicker, finally John Phillip Law appears, as a forest ranger or sheriff or such like. They have Colt in custody because he looks shady. After all, he’s in a late 80s scifi movie.

AND THEN they realize that The Alienator is after Colt. He’s wearing a dog collar thingie that lets him know that. Colt allows that The Alienator is pretty scary stuff. Before the Alienator arrives, we must endure the comic relief of two country fellers, you know, hillbillies. Why golly, they aint too smart!

And then The Alienator arrives, via brilliant rocketship. The Alienator proves to be a large woman with explodo 80s hair. She has a ray rifle attached to her right arm. She is referred to as he and it before everyone kinda settles on she.

She meets up with the doctor who was called to tend Colt. TA fries him. She gets into a shoot out with the country fellers and the others. The comic relief get fried somehow, tho the ray rifle aims no better than ray guns. Somewhere along the way an ex-Army officer joins our earthling heroes and they all act like they mean to do something or other while TA stands around.

At one point TA steps into a bear trap. It mildly injures her. While tending her leg she sees a deer. Her ray rifle alerts her that the deer is not an enemy. I am not sure what the ray rifle had against the doctor.

Of the two males in the camper, one was a bully and the other a brainiac. Colt for some reason that was not deemed important enough for viewers to know took over the body of the bully, you know how that goes. Oh wait, TA is first vanquished by the brainiac. Something to do with an electron net or whatever. Brainiac explained it all in a 3 sentence exclamation while TA was undergoing he effects of this electron net.

NOW Colt shows his hand, and it looks bad. But it turns out that TA was not down for the count, and wielding an ax she chops Colt’s head off. Colt’s head grimaces then spurts a mouthful of white stuff. That’s pretty much the end except some half-assed plot concerning some refugee from Star Trek, who is somehow a compatriot of Colt’s, but he dies too, and JMV somehow (somehow is the chorus of this movie) ends up a good guy. So, what do you think?