Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gruesome Reads/Random Cruel Sites (10/30/2011)

Go to Take This Lollipop and click on the "Connect to Facebook" button for a creepy good time. (It's OK, I promise.)

The house kids don't want to go to on Halloween.

The lure of horror.

"The Hook."

[Edited to add:] Halloween Party!

"Thus I Refute Beelzy" was a favorite story of my childhood. Read it here or listen to Vincent Price read it:



And some more videos:

This is Halloween.




The World's Creepiest Toy.




Christopher Walken reads Poe's "The Raven."



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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book of Mormon Zombies (Ch. 4)

Being the missing pages and/or sealed portion of the Book of Mormon...


Chapter 4. Never at any time have I shed the blood of man, except zombies, and they don't count

(Compare with: 1 Nephi 4:1-19)

And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: "Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of our concussions; for behold the characters must advance the story, even if it needs be through a contrived coincidence. Therefore, why are we not mightier even than Laban and his large posse?

"Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you, and said 'Do what Nephi tells you, or else.' Let us go up; the author is able to deliver us, and to destroy Laban, even through a literal deus ex machina if necessary."

Now when I had spoken these words, they were yet wroth, which means they were pisséd, and did still continue to murmur; nevertheless they did follow me until we came to the walls of Jerusalem.

And it was by night; and I caused that they should hide themselves outside the walls. And after they had hid themselves, I, Nephi (just in case you forgot who I am), crept into the city and went forth towards the house of Laban.

And I was led by my concussion, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do, because the author had not yet revealed them.

Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

And when I came to him I found that it was Laban, for behold, they'd tried to maketh him go to rehab, but he'd said, "No, no, no."

And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel. And I didst say, "Yoink!"

And it came to pass that I was constrained by my concussion that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: "Never at any time have I shed the blood of man, except zombies, and they don't count." And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

And my concussion said unto me again: "Behold the author hath delivered him into thy hands." Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of my concussion; and he also had taken away our swag.

And it came to pass that the concussion said unto me again: "Slay him, for the author hath delivered him into thy hands;

"Behold the author slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that the story should dwindle and perish without advancing."

And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of my concussion which it spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: "Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise."

Yea, and I also thought that they could not be entertained in the wilderness, save they should have MP3s and movies.

And I also knew that MP3s and movies were engraven upon the disks of plastic.

And again, I knew that the author had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the CDs and DVDs according to his commandments, and advance the story.

Therefore, I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword, which, if you've never done it, is harder than it soundeth.

But before I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took off the garments of Laban and set them aside, for of course if I didn't they would be a bloody mess so that I couldst not wear them, and if I said I wore them anyway, this story would obviously be fiction.

And I haven't used "And it came to pass" for about seven verses, so I'm jonesing to use it.

And it came to pass that I put Laban's previously removed and not at all bloody garments upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.

(To be continued...)

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/28/2011)

So much of American conservative politics these days involves saying things that are demonstrably false. It's a sad comedown for a movement that used to at least attempt to be clear-eyed and realistic.

Occupy movement causes moral dilemma.

Hearing loops are old technology, but they're only just being installed in America. (I also just learned that the composer featured in the article, Richard Einhorn, who wrote the beautiful "Voices of Light" oratorio for the movie The Passion of Joan of Arc, blogs as Tristero at Digby's Hullabaloo. I had no idea.)

You should read this if you use Gmail. Seriously.

Fucking FBI gang threat reports: how do they work?

It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Adventures in depression.

Graph shows just how improbable the Cards' game 6 win was.

Science/prairie humor.

Seventy-eight geeky pumpkin-carving templates.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/27/2011)

The Department of Education had a perfectly functional student loan repayment website for years. For some reason (bribes campaign donations to selected politicians would be my guess), it decided to outsource its website to a for-profit company. (After all, the private sector is always more efficient, donchaknow.) The new site went live on October 11. Sixteen days later, it's still FUBARed.

Dear Person that decided to dress up as an Indian for Halloween.

How the potato changed the world.

Actually look at my shoes before assuming you can wear them.

How to study more effectively.

I am the 57%.

The essential library of film criticism.

Young, hip, and Mormon.

Pointlessly gendered products.

Class warfare in Houndsville!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/22/2011)

This is absolutely despicable. NPR couldn't get the producers of the show "World of Opera" to fire its host for exercising her freedom of speech and assembly, so they dropped the show instead.

Who steals from stores, worldwide.

A wobbly agnostic among the atheists.

Target employees speak.

Time Warner worker dies at her desk after supervisor tells co-worker to stop giving CPR and get back to work.

Wine snobbery made easy.

Reason number 186 to self-publish your book.

Life imitating art: Scott Hall, the Wrestler.

100 abandoned houses.

Scandanavia and the World -- pretty dang funny. Here's an explanation. Also, this is the first one I read. The last panel is how I feel about natto. Adagio for Strings was playing while I read it. Seemed perfectly appropriate.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Book of Mormon Zombies (Ch. 3)

Being the missing pages and/or sealed portion of the Book of Mormon...

Chapter 3. I know that an author giveth no commandments unto the characters, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which is necessary to advance the story

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with my concussion, to the tent of my father.

And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: "Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which my concussion hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.

"For behold, Laban hath some DVDs he borrowed of me and also all my MP3s, for they are engraven upon CDs, and my hard drive hath crashed, and I hath no other backup.

"Wherefore, my concussion hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the DVDs and CDs, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.

"And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them, and I shouldst have backed up my hard drive; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of my concussion.

"Therefore go, my son, and maybe I shalt buy thou an iPhone, because thou hast not murmured."

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: "I will go and do the things which thy concussion hath commanded, for I know that an author giveth no commandments unto the characters, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which is necessary to advance the story."

And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was glad, for he knew that I was exceedingly meta.

And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go all the way back to the land of Jerusalem, even though we just came from there and it was a pain in the ass.

And it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another.

And it came to pass that my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness, for they were afraid of Laban, for he was a badass dude, and said that he wouldst not return our father's DVDs and CDs, and he might kick our asses besides..

But behold I said unto them that: "By golly, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which his concussion hath commanded us."

And behold my brethren looked at each other and said, "'By golly'?" and they didst mock me, saying, "Nephi, you're such a dork."

Nevertheless, I said, "Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of our father's concussion; therefore let us go down to our house, for behold he left gold and silver, and your precious Xbox. And all this he hath done because he is kind of stupid -- I mean, because of the commandments of his concussion.

"For he knew that Jerusalem must be destroyed, because of the zombies, and maybe orcs too.

"And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these DVDs and CDs, that we may have entertainment for our children;

"And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of Yoda, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of George Lucas."

And it came to pass that my brethren said, "You mean Laban has our Star Wars DVDs?"

And I didst reply, "Verily."

And it came to pass that Laman didst say, "He has the original trilogy, right? Because I'm not risking my life for the prequels."

And it came to pass that I said, "He hath." And after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren, that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of concussions.

And it came to pass that we went down to our house, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious Xbox, But my brethren said, "No, we're keeping the Xbox."

And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.

And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the movies and music which were engraven upon the disks of plastic, for which we would give unto him some gold, and some silver, and some other precious swag.

And it came to pass that when Laban saw our swag, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his posse to kick our asses, that he might obtain our swag.

And it came to pass that we did flee before the posse of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our swag, and it fell into the hands of Laban.

And it came to pass that we ran like hell into the wilderness, and the posse of Laban did not overtake us, and we hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock, which is the same thing as a cave, but soundeth cooler.

And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and so also was Lemuel, for he always did whatsoever Laman said, the prick. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a baseball bat.

And it came to pass as they smote us with a bat, behold, Sam and I smote them back with big rocks so that they hadst concussions too, and an angel came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: "Yo, what the fetch?! (Though he didst use another F-word, which it wouldst shameth me to write.) Why do ye smite your younger brother with a baseball bat? Know ye not that his concussion hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because you're such pricks? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and get your stuff (though he didst use another S-word) back from Laban."

And it came to pass that Sam said, "Hey, what about me? I was getting smote too."

And the angel said, "Whatever. Nephi's the important one." And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.

And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: "How the fetch (different F-word again) are we supposed to get our stuff (different S-word) back from Laban? Behold, he is badass, and runneth with a big posse; why shalt he not kicketh our asses?"

(To be continued...)

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/20/2011)

Two weeks after Obama killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — he did the same to Awlaki's 16-year-old son.

The capitalist network that runs the world.

Governance audit finds that the Fed is a club of back-scratching, well-connected white bankers.

Pentagon lawyer warns of militarized approach to counterterrorism.

Israel gives formal status to "secular Jews."

A skeptical scientist confirms global warming data.

A picture of Mormons on the internet.

The 48 Japanese schoolgirls aiming to take over the world.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Dejobbed, bewifed, and much childrenised.

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Bible quote of the week: "I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement"

Bible quote of the week brings you the wit and wisdom of Bronze Age and Iron Age barbarians God's Word. This week:

Ezekiel 4:12-15 (NIV)
12 "Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel." 13 The LORD said, "In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them."

14 Then I said, "Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth."

15 "Very well," he said, "I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement."
Never let it be said that God can't be reasoned with.

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Thursday haiku: once raging

once raging in web
battle, spewing invective;
now they're dead, and gone

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/19/2011)

Yep, these are your Republican presidential candidates edition.

Mitt Romney is good at debating.

He's not so good at not being a jerk, though.

Herman Cain says we should put up an electric border fence to kill Mexicans... j/k!

Rick Santorum says he would use the office of president to discourage non-procreative sex.

Officials appointed by Rick Perry censor scientific report.

And in other news...

The Catholic church in Spain stole 300,000 babies and sold them for adoption.

OK, that's enough horror for one day, so here's some good news:

Malaria vaccine trial shows promise. (Malaria killed about 781,000 people in 2009, so any vaccine progress is big news.)

From the Department of Vindicated Predictions by Moi Truly:

I said I'd put my money on the "faster than light" neutrinos being the result of some sort of measurement error, and it looks like I was right: the scientists apparently forgot to account for relativity in their measurements.

Ever since I read the article about the "fallacy of the hot hand" back in my first year in grad school, I've been convinced that it was complete bullshit and there really is such a thing as a hot hand. Looks like I was right about that too.

And a couple of funnies:

The time my dad quoted the Bloodhound Gang in a sermon.

How the media will cover the Ohio zoo escape.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/14/2011)

Solar photovoltaics about to become the cheapest way to generate electricity.

"Reading the transcript of Tuesday’s Republican debate on the economy... you find yourself in a fantasy world where nothing looks or behaves the way it does in real life."

I see I'm not the only one who finds this whole "Iranian plot" thing fishy.

Fishy and hypocritical.

Why big corporations are like rigged-election autocracies.

Jehovah! Jehovah!

A survey for former LDS believers.

How to escape from a corn maze.

"Don't people realize that Ghandi Mohandas put an end to rascism in America in the early part of the 18th century?"

What undergrads spend most of their time doing.

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My musical guilty pleasure

Girl groups from the '60s, especially the Shangri-Las. I don't care how cheesy it is; I love this stuff.


"Leader of the Pack," The Shangri-Las (1964)




"My Boyfriend's Back," The Angels (1963)




"He's So Fine," The Chiffons (1963)




"Then He Kissed Me," The Crystals (1963)




"Soldier Boy," The Shirelles (1962)




"I Can Never Go Home Again," The Shangri-Las (1965)



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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bible quote of the week: God hates figs

Bible quote of the week brings you the wit and wisdom of Bronze Age and Iron Age barbarians God's Word. This week:

Mark 11:12-14, 20 (NIV)
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it. ...20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
The moral of this story, of course, is that God hates figs.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/9/2011)

We are the 99 Percent.

Thirteen ways to look at the occupation of Wall Street.

Take a look at credit unions.

By the 5th of November.

"Why I am an atheist."

An interesting account of someone meeting with Mormon missionaries. And reading the Book of Mormon.

And another.

The crazy stuff some Christians teach their kids about sex.

Does evil exist? Probably not.

An interactive guide to NPR's list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books.

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Movies I watched last week (10/2 - 10/8/2011)

Hobo with a Shotgun, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, The Red Balloon, Breakfast at Tiffany's (all of these are on Netflix Instant)

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) 8/10

This is the second Grindhouse fake trailer to be made into an actual movie. Out of the four Grindhouse movies, I think it's the truest to the spirit of the 1970s low-budget exploitation flicks that inspired them. The others all felt "upgraded" somehow, as if the filmmakers just couldn't help improving on the schlock that inspired them. But Hobo with a Shotgun is the real deal. It's pitch-perfect with its rudimentary plot, cartoonish villains, over-the-top gory violence, and lame special effects. Obviously, that means it's not for everyone -- a lot of people will find it boring and/or disturbing -- but I enjoyed it a lot.


The Three Musketeers (1973) 8/10

The Three Musketeers is one of my all-time favorite movies. I'm not saying it's a Great Movie or anything, just a favorite. I loved it when I first saw it when I was 11; I love it at least as much now. It's a great swashbuckling romance, and it's also very funny. Yet it never goes so far that it breaks the suspension of disbelief necessary to care about the characters.

I especially love the fight scenes. They're exciting and wildly inventive, but they're essentially slapstick. Yet not in a way that ever makes me think "that couldn't happen." They're the perfect antidote to movie fight scenes in the 2000s, which are always either tightly-choreographed dances or chaotic "shaky-cam" confusion. And the entire cast is wonderful, especially Oliver Reed and Faye Dunaway.


The Four Musketeers (1974) 8/10

In The Four Musketeers, the darkness at the core of the plot -- in the persons of Dunaway and Reed -- comes to the fore, so it lacks the light-heartedness of the Three Musketeers, but it still has its funny moments amidst the heightened drama. It flows so seamlessly from the first movie that I usually think of these as one movie. (Indeed, that's how they were filmed. What became The Four Musketeers was actually filmed as the second half of one movie rather than a sequel, and pretty much the entire cast ended up suing the producers since they only got paid to make one movie.)


The Red Balloon (1956) 9/10

This is a lovely short (34 minutes) live-action family film. A little boy finds a beautiful red balloon, and, in a world of magical realism, the balloon befriends him. The movie follows the boys adventures as he gets into trouble at school and church and finally is pursued by bullies who want to pop his balloon just for the hell of it. It's really charming and moving.


Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) 8/10

I suspect that Truman Capote's original story (which I haven't read, but now plan to) of gold-digger Holly Golightly and the kept man who moved in upstairs was a lot grittier than this nice little bit of romantic fluff. In real life, at least, things would certainly be a lot sadder and more desperate. But this is pure Hollywood romanticism. Everything is kept pretty light. It's a sweet little escapist romantic comedy.

That's not to say that it doesn't work -- it does. It works very well. It's not a great movie, maybe, but it was made by very talented people, and it shows. Also, it's impossible to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's and not fall at least a little bit in love with Audrey Hepburn. It's also impossible not to root for her and George Peppard to get together by the end of the movie.

I guess I also need to mention Mickey Rooney's deeply offensive portrayal of a Japanese man. There's not much to say about it. It's completely indefensible. The best one can say about it is that people know better nowadays, and everyone involved was sorry about it later.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/7/2011)

We are the...
We are the 99 Percent edition.

Ten things to know about Wall Street's attack on America.

Why Occupy Wall Street doesn't support Obama.

The Tea Party, of course, is on Wall Street's side.

But the Tea Party also helped make protesting respectable again, which helps OWS.

The secret committee that drafts Obama's kill orders.

Mike Wells's Wild Child was literally rescued from the trash before becoming a best-selling ebook.

ESPN's "The Body Issue." I guess it's NSFW/C/P. I don't really have anything else to say, except "Alicia Sacramone!"

Every sperm is sacred. (The placement of that link right after "The Body Issue" is purely coincidental.)

Governor Rick, the Science Hick.

Nightmare Fear Factory is a haunted house located somewhere or other. They have a camera that takes pictures of people at the scariest part. (I think my favorite is the Bro Train.)

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/4/2011)

Obama is the man Cheney wanted to be.

The basics of Occupy Wall Street.

Why violence is declining.

Drug in magic mushrooms linked to long-term positive personality changes.

The official kilogram is shrinking.

FAQ about dark energy.

Pottermore programming meltdown.

Homeopathic birth control.

A fantastic new Little People.

Know that "lore ipsum" text that people use as a text placeholder? Wouldn't it be better to use Samuel L. Jackson movie quotes instead?

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Bible quote of the week: "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them… seizes [his assailant] by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand."

Bible quote of the week brings you the wit and wisdom of Bronze Age and Iron Age barbarians God's Word. This week:

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. (NIV)

See, this kind of thing shows you how human wisdom pales next to God's. Because if I was fighting some guy, and my wife came over and grabbed him by the balls so I could win the fight, I think that would make her pretty much the best wife in the history of wives. But God thinks she should get her hand cut off.

Fortunately, though, those verses don't say anything about cutting off her foot if she kicks the guy. So wives, remember, if your husband gets in a fight, ball kicking = OK; ball grabbing = not OK. God says so.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/2/2011)

"No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" -- Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution.

"My proposal is that we make taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations entirely optional. ... The only caveat is that non-contributing corporations and individuals will be barred from taking advantage of any government services."

I really don't understand why anyone still uses a national bank instead of a credit union, or at least a regional bank.

The clear and present danger posed by space captains.

Beetles as a venereal disease of bees (video may autoplay).

There's nothing wrong with using the passive voice.

Elna Baker is a shameless hussy.

The geography of college football fans.

Super Special Standards Night for the Young Women.

I love Subnormality.

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Movies I watched this week (9/25 - 10/1/2011)

戦国自衛隊/Sengoku Jieitei/G.I. Samurai/Time Slip (1979) 7/10

This is an odd, somewhat hard to find, "high-concept" Japanese film. A squadron of present-day Japanese Self-Defense Forces soldiers is transported back in time to Japan's Warring States period, where they use their tank, helicopter, machine guns, and grenades to battle hordes of samurai warriors.

Even with the goofy premise, I got the sense at times that this could have been a much better movie than it was. To start with the good stuff, it starred Sonny Chiba, star of the 70s "Streetfighter" series and more recently memorable as Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill. He basically plays the film's Toshiro Mifune role as the squad's commander, who enjoys the whole Waring States thing. (If you want to be a fighting soldier in today's Japan, you're basically out of luck. There's no one for you to fight.)

Of course, Chiba is no Mifune, but he has no problem at all carrying the movie. He's more than a poor man's Mifune -- more like an upper middle class man's Mifune. Reading up on him a little, he always took the craft of acting very seriously, and it shows. He's really good in the part.

The climactic battle scenes, when the squad takes on an entire army of guys armed with swords, bows, and spears, are also quite entertaining. (Although the SDF tactics leave a lot to be desired.) And the movie does try to have some thought to it. It touches on ideas of war and peace and hubris and betrayal and so on, along with some interesting ideas on time travel paradoxes. It's not a brainless movie at all.

Unfortunately, though, the film is deeply marred by a highly intrusive and completely incongruous soundtrack composed mostly of folk-rock ballads. It's hard not to laugh every time one of the cheesy songs comes on. Also, like a lot of older films, it really takes its time getting to the "good part," the pitched battle between the soldiers and wave after wave of samurai. And, like most Japanese action movies of the time, it has a rape scene that's a little hard to take.

Despite all that, though, because of the amusing basic concept, because of Sonny Chiba's performance, because of the big battle scene (once they finally get to it), I think this film is well worth watching if you're into action movies. Just make sure you watch it in Japanese with subtitles, because the English dubbing takes it to an entirely different level of silliness.


Cinema Paradiso (1988) 9/10

Cinema Paradiso, on the other hand, is simply a beautiful movie. It tells a story about the magic of the movies -- though like all great movies, it's really about people -- and in doing so, it becomes magical itself.





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