Escape from Alcatraz

I see you!
I see you!

“Live” blogging event: Thoughts  written during a viewing of the Clint Eastwood classic, Escape from Alcatraz.

  • Opening sequence, which uses almost no dialogue, just foley effects and music to set the scene.  The history of the Rock has long turned, in some ways, on its use of silence to control prisoners.  The silent guards and Clint Eastwood underscore this.
  • Hey! After he gets dropped off, they drive him up the same ramp I went up when I toured this summer!
  • Castle Thunder makes an appearance.  It’s an interesting bit of Hollywood folklore to appear in a movie filled with prison folklore.  In fact, the full movie so far is built on iconography of place.  It started with the Golden Gate Bridge, then the iconic elements of Alcatraz, then the iconography of the prison itself.
  • Whoo! I wonder if naked Clint Eastwood caused a sensation.
  • The men standing at attention when they come out of their cells have a fascist rigidity and image, reminds me of Reifenstahl.  I think the Reich would have admired Alcatraz, with its orderly shaping of human experience and its architectural lines.
  • It’s a nice surprise to find Patrick McGoohan as the warden.  I wonder if he appreciated the irony of playing this role after playing number 6.
  • “Sometimes I think that’s all this place is.  We count the hours, the bulls count us, the king bulls count the counts.”
  • The cruelty of a place like Alcatraz in these kinds of movies is really interesting, because it helps us see prisoners as people.  Yes, they’ve done wrong, but does any human being deserve the indignity of life this way?  It’s not hard to see the bulls as inhuman monsters.
  • Most badass moment so far: Clint picks up the fingers Doc chopped off, puts them in a box and gives them to the bull and says, “Put that in your report.”
  • I’ve spent most of the movie so far wondering where I’d seen Larry Hankin (the man who plays Charley Butts) before.  Finally, I worked through the list on IMDB and found him listed as “Kramer/Tom Pepper,” and that’s when I remembered that he played the psychotic stalker cast to play the Kramer character on the Seinfeld show-within-a-show.  I have no memory of why, but I know that I saw that particular episode several times, and Tom Pepper took up some valuable bit of my brain.  I probably forgot some crucial quote from Deleuze because Larry Hankin was still hanging out in there.
  • I can’t help but wonder how much of the escape stuff is true.  Did they weld the nail clipper and the spoon together?  I only remember the spoon bit from my visit to the prison itself.  I suppose, since they didn’t catch the prisoners, that they can only surmise just how the details of the escape went.
  • The success of the papier mache heads really speaks to the Gorilla effect — the idea that we only see what we want to see.  A couple bits about the escape from this movie that were not depicted accurately.  First, the movie (and the Mythbusters episode) makes it seem like they only worked during the night.  The ranger who took me up into the gun gallery told me that they got permission to “clean” up there during the day, and even hung up curtains to hide what they were doing.  The guards thought they were cleaning.  The ranger told me all this was kept secret for a long time to hide the poor decisions that led to the breakout.  Also, the prison was more poorly staffed by the 1960s, and the gun gallery at the end where they worked was unpatrolled.
  • I love that Fred Ward is in this movie.
  • The movie scene is inaccurate — at least according to the ranger I talked with.  The movie they showed was a war movie.  Our ranger told us that the prisoners were only allowed to watch movies with no violence at all, no crime.  The movie should have been a comedy.  The ranger said that after one particularly funny Laurel and Hardy movie, the inmates spent a week trying to recreate their antics.
  • The actual escape sequence makes me want to watch The Shawshank Redemption again.  I like the storytelling in that one better, the reverse-engineering of the escape, rather than the follow-along.
  • The Anglin brother who isn’t Fred Ward has a weird, floppy kind of hairstyle that reminds me, for some reason, of Ben Horne’s younger brother in Twin Peaks.
  • I haven’t read any books or anything about this, so I don’t know whether Butts and his plight as the fourth escapee is a real part of the story.  But boy, do I feel sorry for that chump.
  • Worst part of the escape process: having to blow up the raft when you get down to the water.  Geez, that would suck.  This is especially true because the raft in the movie isn’t anything like the raft that Adam and Jamie make in Mythbusters.
  • As with Independence Day and the dog, the best part of this sequence is that Frank Morris saved the mouse.

Spider-Man 3

Emo Spider-ManI watched Spider-Man 3with my family Friday evening.

The film was fine, with lots of razzle-dazzle, but I didn’t really like it very much.  Like Harry Potter 5, the doom and gloom turn of the likable protagonist is hard to swallow, and when it carries none of the large-scale portent that Harry’s depression did, I just cahn’t stand it.

By far, the best part were the few moments they let Thomas Haden Church do some acting (as opposed to the sand fx creature that played Lou Ferrigno to his Bill Bixby).  The sequence in his ex-apartment was particularly moving for me.  And man that guy has some blue eyes.

The action sequences were as enjoyable as the ones from the other films, and the advances in computer tech meant there were even fewer moments where I found myself sputtering at the CGI.

My other favorite part, as always, were the sequences with J. Jonah Jameson, played by one of my favorite character actors, J. K. Simmons.  He had all the funniest bits, and in a movie as dour as this one, that gives him oodles of influence in my book.

Some more impromteau thoughts below the fold.

Continue reading Spider-Man 3


Run, boy, run!

A pretty solid b-movie. The development of the characters and the setup work pretty well, the film follows the usual pattern of people getting trapped together, zombies attacking, etc. The stock characters are all there and work like they’re supposed to.

In some ways, the film feels like it was just cobbled together from other zombie scripts, but what good B movie doesn’t feel that way? I noted several of the similarities in my live notes.

There are a lot of people in the movie that look like other people:

  • the CEO looks like Gary Cole; his assistant kinda like Fred Savage.
    That's not Gary Cole, nor Fred Savage
  • the creepy scientist Carter looks a bit like Jimmy Fallon.
    That's not Jimmy Fallon
  • the boss of the crew reminds me of a Ghostbusters -era Ernie Hudson. Not in looks so much, but in attitude and style.
    That's not Ernie Hudson.
  • one of the loggers looks like Steven King with an hilarious beard.
    That's not Steven King.

The film set up two threads that were never picked up again.  First, at one point in the middle of the film, just after Luke has gone missing, we get a first-person zombie cam shot.  I immediately imagined that Luke would become a super zombie and we’d be able to track his progress as he hunted the creepy scientist, much like John Leguizamo in Land of the Dead, or Roger in Dawn of the Dead, or the dad in 28 Weeks Later.

The other thread that starts but never goes anywhere is the attack in the lab, in which one of the lab assistants accidentally infects himself with the zombie goo.  He kills his buddy and then later we see a police crew there taking crime scene photos.  But what happened to the zombies?  I expected the film to end with the girl finding her way to civilization only to find zombies everywhere, ala every zombie movie ever made.

My liveblogging adventure below the fold.

Continue reading Severed


Slither poster

I don’t know anything about this movie. I remember seeing a trailer for it and thinking it looked good. I also remember a student or friend who told me it was a kind of a zombie movie. Sitting here to wait the novocaine off, I’m gonna watch it and liveblog.

Continue reading Slither

The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes was fine, but not as creepy as I hoped it would be.  For the most part, the villains were yucky, but not scary.  It strikes me that Craven’s film was an answer to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and a predecessor to today’s gore-porn flicks like Saw.
Minute-by-minute below.

Continue reading The Hills Have Eyes

Return of the Living Dead Part 2

Real tagline: Just when you thought it was safe to be dead.

Return of the Living Dead 2
Like the first Return of the Living Dead, this film mixes humor and horror, falling more heavily on the humor side than did the first film.  This film also leaps more quickly into the zombie horde, a move that works for the sequel.  I was pretty doubtful, but once we found our heroes being chased by a mob of zombies, it worked better than I thought it would.  The idea that zombies retain their intelligence and parts of their personalities works well for the humor of the film.

I watched the trailer included on the DVD.  I think there were probably a few people who went to the film thinking it would be creepy instead of funny.  It’s a masterpiece of editing that hides the humor throughout the film.  Plus it uses a creepy voice to describe the film.

My minute-by-minute notes below.

Continue reading Return of the Living Dead Part 2

Liveblogging 28 Weeks Later, part 2

Second half of my awesome Liveblogging event.

Tunnel Run

Spoilers below…

Continue reading Liveblogging 28 Weeks Later, part 2

Liveblogging 28 Weeks Later, part 1

Below the fold is the first part of my 28 Weeks Later liveblogging event.  I can’t promise insight, or even humor.  The best you can hope for is on the spot reactions.

Robert Carlyle runs for it
The liveblog will be posted in two parts to reflect the dismembered viewing habits my family life (wife who dislikes horror films, child who shouldn’t watch them) requires.

Note: spoilers below

Continue reading Liveblogging 28 Weeks Later, part 1

The final dealy-o

I spent all afternoon installing Windows updates and various software.  I’ve now got a fully functional ubuntu/winxp box.  I also copied all the data I’d backed up to portable drive back to the windows side, so I’ve got plenty o’data now too.  I will migrate much of it over to the linux side soon, but that will take a bit.

Ubuntu > WinXP

It’s now 11.25am.  I am blogging from my working ubuntu box.  Winxp sucks.

Now my plan is to format and reinstall windows in the remaining partition.  I will install the minimum amount of software I can and try to use linux for everything.  Goal: Win install will be my ‘gaming’ partition only.

Nice bonus: makes it harder to have a gaming break take over my work time. 😀

The Great Summer Reinstall Returns

Okay, so I’ve given up on the ‘repair’ install and am going whole-hog re-up.  New task list:

  1. Install Ubuntu in a partition.
  2. Install WindowsXP in the other partition
  3. Enjoy

Keep posted for updates.


The xp repair install failed to blue screen of death.  I started it over in the evening and it worked BUT the install failed to properly set up either my wireless card or my ethernet card, so as of 8pm this evening, I had an non-updated windows box that couldn’t see the internet.  I gave up for the night and will return on Monday to try again.

Finally, something goes right

I didn’t fix the floppy drive, but I finally got my computer to see my hard drive and am ‘repairing’ WinXP now.  The munchkin is about to awake, so I’ll have to take a break until this evening.  At least I’m ending on a positive note.

and it piles on

Apparently sometime in the past WHO KNOWS HOW LONG my floppy drive broke.  So now I have to fix that before I can download the driver for the hard drive before I can reinstall windows.

Gorram Dell

Ugh.  Going round and round with help files online and with xp install disc.  Apparently the hard drive on my POS computer needs its own special driver installed from FLOPPY disc at just the right moment or Windows XP won’t recognize it.  DAMMIT.  I haven’t even begun the reinstall and it’s 2.30 already.