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Review – Tales of the Dead (DVD)

Image courtesy Reality Entertainment

Title: Tales of the Dead!
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Distribution: Reality Entertainment

Originally posted 2010/09/08

Just in time for Halloween. Tales of the Dead is a vivid introduction to the realm of horror as envisioned by the independent UK filmmaker, Kemal Yildirim.

Not being a huge horror fan, myself, it took me a while to get past my biases and crack open the DVD case, let alone watch this film.

On first try I just reviewed snippets to prepare myself for what I’d be in for. This allowed me to get my proverbial shields up and watch the entire film, later that evening. And yes, this definitely is a movie to be watched after dark. You might want to take it to a Halloween party. Maybe not!

Tales of the Dead is not for the weak of heart. It’s pretty shocking, contains brief nudity, and isn’t shy of presenting graphic violence.

Without serving up a spoiler, the basic story is about five friends who gather for a private Halloween party. This convincing part of the film is replete with drinking, smoking and profane language, as many of the younger crowd no doubt carry on in these days of global recession and the war on terror.

The film quickly shifts to the surreal as the revelers begin telling ghost stories and grim tales of urban horror. Several the five party guests bring short horror videos to share with their friends, which effectively leads into and unifies different shorts.

The first video, “Less is More” calls to mind several classic horror themes, aptly synthesized to make it difficult to trace a particular influence to a given scene. A bit of Edgar Allen Poe here, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle there. The plot involves a severely troubled woman who desires a mysterious surgery that she believes will cure all her problems. Her decent husband tries to understand but, as her obsession mounts, he can only take so much. A social worker suggests she try a psychiatrist, but a coincidental encounter in the night takes her entirely somewhere else.

The result? Well, let’s just say that this kind of film making is certainly not for everyone.

The second short, “Wolf Cry” is surprisingly clever at places, even if you’re not into horror, per se. We see into a young man’s incredibly delusional, amusing and horrifying imagination. This is probably the smartest segment of the DVD, sociologically speaking. Some scenes turn out to be ingeniously fresh vignettes about systemic hypocrisy and, as the sociologist Max Weber once put it, the Protestant work ethic.

“Penance,” the third short, also plays on several existing horror themes. In the DVD’s special features, Yildirim explains that he wants to pay homage to some of the great directors within the genre while still making his own cinematic statement.

And this he does.

In this short, a boozy British police inspector is called to investigate a disturbing homicide. The inspector apparently has links with the killer, and sometimes we wonder if he, himself, is the maniac.

The fourth short, “Missing” plays on the fabled Cromwell’s Curse, which in urban legend is linked to the historical Northamptonshire witch trials of 1612. This portion contains some haunting street and good library scenes, but I found it the least engaging of the lot. We hear lots of “Oh my God… did you see that?” but don’t really witness anything for ourselves.

Oh yes, it’s all fiction and archetypal fun. I forgot. But if so, a few actors running through the night in white sheets might have helped.

The final tale is told by the only woman at the Halloween party. Like her guy friends, she’s trendy and hip. But unlike her groovy pals, she doesn’t bring a video to the party. Her story is apparently real…

Special features for Tales of the Dead include “The Making of Wolf Cry” and “The Making of Penance.” These sneak peeks show how an indie horror film is actually made. They reveal the hard work, camaraderie and technology that goes into independent film making—ironically humanizing our experience of an, otherwise, totally “out there” film.

—MC


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The story behind The Bible

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mini review: An Introduction to the Bible by J. W. Rogerson

This introduction to the historical aspects of the Bible should be required reading for every religious person who talks about “The Word” without ever really thinking about what they mean.

Shows how the Bible was put together by (mostly) men over the centuries. God may have overseen the entire process, but the Bible didn’t drop down directly from heaven.

Here’s a freely online revised edition, with minor updates to the original >> https://archive.org/details/J.w.Rogerson-AnIntroductionToTheBibleRevisedEdition

—MC


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Her – Review by MC

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ - low res image for review and educational purposes

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ – low res image for review and educational purposes

I watched Spike Jonze’s film, Her, the other night. A few more points came to mind that weren’t covered here, mostly about different types of love (eros, agape, and so on). But this was my first shot at audio reviewing, so I was lucky to get as much in as I did. No notes or excessive thinking beforehand. Just first impressions…

I should add that I was somewhat inspired by the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who takes fashion photos on the streets of New York and talks about them every week at The Times’ website. If the documentary about Cunningham is accurate, it seems that he takes a quick look at his pics on a storyboard before taping his weekly commentary. I like that spontaneity, and tried to emulate it here.

Maybe with practice I’ll be half as good at this as he is!


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Review – Reality UFO Series Volume 1: The Evidence is Here (DVD)

Reality Films

Dr. Roger Leir passsed away on March 14, so I thought it would be a good time to reblog this DVD review, posted back in 2009—MC

Reality UFO Series Volume 1: The Evidence is Here explores the possibility of alien life, expanded reality and directed human evolution.

The DVD features several speakers at the 2003 International Scientific & Metaphysical Symposium and an interview with a US reporter on the controversial Billy Meier case.

Part 1 looks at Dr. Roger K. Leir and his original theories about alien implants, genetic manipulation and accelerated human development. A down-to-earth medical man, Dr. Leir presents evidence from his alleged alien implant extraction procedure along with several decades of statistics on the changing rates of child development. But as a scientist he admits that he doesn’t have all the answers—only theories leading to more questions.

Part 2 introduces Travis Walton. Walton tells of his encounter with an alien spacecraft while working as a logger in 1975. Saying he was forcibly taken aboard the spacecraft, he carefully describes what he saw, right down to the unusual instrumentation panels and strange, morphing star charts. Travis wraps up his account by saying that he was rudely ejected from the craft, left lying face-down beside the highway and, utterly exhausted, having to struggls to the nearest town.

Part 3 features an interview with Michael Horn who gives an engaging account of the Billy Meier case. Horn summarizes Meier’s life and ideas and discusses the nature of knowledge and religious belief. Those interested in Meier, his prophecies, dire warnings and advocacy of a global “course correction” toward a peaceful New World Order will probably like this segment.

Part 4 includes Kathleen Anderson’s presentation on UFOs, the ancient Sumerians, theories about multidimensional reality and the relativity of space and time. Anderson’s relentless questioning, considerable research skills and cutting edge illustrations should compel even the most hardened skeptics, scholars and pragmatists to stop and rethink their beliefs about life and the world around us.

In short, The Evidence is Here is all about recent ET and UFO theories as seen through the split lens of science and spirit. Believers wanting to understand what goes on behind the scenes of the ET/UFO scene should love this DVD.

—MC


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Rose – Review

Rose_300

Courtesy kemalyildirim.com

Title: Rose
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless (with Jack James)
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

Back in 2008, UK director Kemal Yildirim released an impressive sleeper film called Rosereview). The film was based on a true story about a young woman tragically hooked on drugs. In 2012 Yildirim retold the story with a revised cast and storyline. The reimagined Rose review) was a giant leap forward from the original film’s promising beginnings.

Today, we have a third Rose. To be honest, having reviewed the story twice, when asked to review the third incarnation I wondered if the director could really make it any better. Hadn’t Yildirim already made a bold statement with his 2012 remake? The critics seemed to think so.

Well, a couple of years have passed and Yildirim clearly hasn’t stood still. His artistic sense is sharper than in earlier versions of this film. This new Rose is about 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor. But the edits are so seamless that it’s hard to tell exactly what was altered. Nothing seems missing and everything comes off fluid and coherent.

Indeed, this version of Rose is cinematic proof that less can be more.

Although the basic storyline remains unchanged, there is a subliminal shift in emphasis—slightly less sex and violence and a more nuanced treatment of the relationship between Rose and her daughter Ellie. At least, this is how I saw it. For those, like me, who’ve already watched the second Rose, this new take presents an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve grown as viewers. Is our new understanding of the story based on changes within the film or on changes within ourselves?

Rose and Ellie

Rose and Ellie

Not to say that Rose is an ink blot. It definitely has a focused message, that of redemption against all odds. And a lot happens. But the film maintains a kind of soulful detachment that keeps it from falling into the genre of “action flick.” Several techniques are used to achieve this effect. Glide shots, ceiling shots, and steady sequences reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where dialogue is implied rather than heard.

No, Rose isn’t an action film. It’s arguably a meditation. And if viewed that way, we gain insight not only into another side of life, but maybe even into ourselves.

Strong leading performances and an enticing supportive cast ensure that this haunting film hits home. So if by chance you’ve seen earlier incarnations of Rose and think you’ve seen it all, think again. This rendering gets under our skin like no Rose before.

—MC


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Review – Secret Societies and Sacred Stones: from Mecca to Megaliths (DVD)

Courtesy: Reality Films

Title: Secret Societies and Sacred Stones: from Mecca to Megaliths
Genre: Conspiracy, History, Occult
Production Company: Reality Films

We tend to make a distinction between organic and inorganic substances. Not too many question this. On the chemical level, the difference between organic and inorganic materials gets pretty complicated. Some inorganic materials, for instance, transform and become organic after entering an organism.

In the everyday world of things we can see without the help of high-powered microscopes, anything that eats, passes waste and reproduces is called organic. Inorganic materials aren’t as dynamic as organic compounds. So conventional wisdom tells us that organisms are alive, while inorganic things merely exist devoid of consciousness.

With these kind of cultural assumptions under our belt, we merrily blast out rock obstacles to build roads and bridges without feeling the slightest bit guilty. We’re not really hurting anything. Rocks just are. They don’t have pain receptors and don’t cry out when blasted sky high.

At least, that’s what we think. Another Reality Film, Apocalypse 2012: The World After Time Ends, puts forth the opposing idea that the entire Earth is alive (read my review).

Secret Societies and Sacred Stones is the perfect follow up to Apocalypse 2012. It outlines some of the unconventional beliefs informing the idea that the inorganic realm is truly alive.

But before I get into the specifics of this DVD, I should mention two things that those familiar with subatomic physics will already be aware of.

First, the centuries old distinction between matter and energy is hopelessly outdated. Second, inorganic substances, like rocks and stones, don’t just sit there. Inorganic material vibrates. We can’t normally see, hear or feel the vibration because it’s subatomic, and must be measured with a high-tech instrument.

And maybe I’ll mention a third thing. I’m going to tell a little story about myself. A story that happens to be true.

When I was a teen my parents owned a place in Georgian Bay. It was an old summer cottage built on the Precambrian rocks that are known as the Canadian Shield. These rocks are more than ancient. They’re literally billions of years old.

The Precambrian rock floor at Georgian Bay

One day at the cottage – and I can’t remember why or how, but I do know that I was completely sober – I suddenly had an intuitive flash. Sort of like a minor epiphany. But this wasn’t about God. It was about the island on which the cottage stood.

I saw it all in a completely new light. The rocks underneath me, extending out several hundred feet to the waterfront, were vibrating and alive with an incredible, vital energy. I believed that I saw those rocks as they really were. Not how we see through the eyes but, rather, through the soul.

It was awesome. Afterward, I went outside and stood barefoot on the rocks. I was overjoyed. Looking at the small black ants busying themselves on the rock surface, I realized that they were the same stuff as the rocks, just more organized (today I’d say I believed instead of realized they were the same stuff, only because I’ve had many more years to think about these kinds of things).

If I hadn’t had this experience, I probably would have thought that the ideas in Secret Societies and Sacred Stones were flaky. But I don’t take such a simplistic approach any more.

So that experience, combined with the findings of subatomic physics, has given me an open mind to appreciate what this DVD has to offer.

Secret Societies and Sacred Stones is a useful compendium of all things mineral and immaterial. It compels us to question the age-old distinction between animate and inanimate reality. It does this by delving into a broad array of topics which, so it suggests, are intimately related.

Underlying the film is the notion that stones have power. And this power was known to ancient cultures, including the Egyptians. Sometimes the power was good. Other times bad.

To ward off evil, stones like lapis lazuli, emeralds, and turquoise were used, sometimes as amulets and other times as ceremonial objects. Stones also had the power to sing. This idea is not only biblical (Luke 19:40) but is also found in Gnostic secret societies.

Stones could also be used for darker purposes. The film tells of failed Kabbalists whose intention isn’t pure and, like Darth Vader, are eventually consumed by the dark side. These Faustian reprobates use stones to try to control people, nature, spirits and wandering souls. It seems the stone acts as a kind of amplifier for their own darkened minds.

Again, I might have found this hard to believe. But, and to add to my own story, I brought a palm sized stone home with me before our Georgian Bay cottage was sold.

I first went to Georgian Bay as a baby. Born in May, my parents took me to the cottage for the May 24th weekend, which is a big deal in Canada. So I was just a few days old when first exposed to the rocks, pines and clear blue waters of the Precambrian Shield. And I walked barefoot on those rocks every summer during my childhood and teenage years. So the connection is deep.

And now, when the time is right, if I pick up that Precambrian stone in the city, I can inwardly see and feel the whole summer scene at Georgian Bay. It all comes back, almost as if I’m holding some kind of magical audiovisual recorder.

So yes, I do believe that stones can open doors to the unknown. But mind you, my only experience with them has been positive.

Whether or not God gives me certain memories when I hold the stone, or whether the memories are facilitated by the stone itself, I cannot know. But the memories do come. And in 3D.

Along these lines, Secret Societies and Sacred Stones tries to link up the inner technology of Kabbala, the pseudoscience of alchemy, and the modern science of chemistry. As one of the experts in the film puts it, chemistry is merely further down a “stream of ideas.”

The DVD also suggests that stones mirror what’s inside ourselves. So, on the one hand, stones have power. And, on the other hand, this power ultimately resides within. Additional areas covered are divination, runes, and Grail legends. Apparently Grail legends can be traced back to emerald cups of power and, possibly, to simple sacred stones.

To top it off, the film touches on the idea that our planet was seeded by life forms that fell to Earth from meteors.

All very far out stuff.

Or is it?

As for production values, director Philip Gardiner makes ample use of dark vignetting, old film effects and cgi. Whether or not one finds these techniques effective would probably depend on where one’s at, artistically and spiritually.

What this film occasionally leaves out in factual detail is compensated by its unusual breadth. To fully enjoy this DVD, I had to lay back, forget the small stuff, and just absorb all it has to offer.

Secret Societies and Sacred Stones is the perfect solution for anyone wanting to learn more about esoterica, alternative histories, spiritual warfare, and the quest for the eternal self.

Special features include unseen footage and comments from the cast of The Stone Movie, also by Gardiner, along with several haunting music videos and trailers.

—MC


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Scientists have resurrected the dinosaur from prehistoric DNA… and they’ve called it David Bowie “Rex”

Image via Tumblr

And oh, what a cool beast he is!

Word’s out that the new David Bowie lp is good. So I had to have a listen. And yes, it is… GREAT. After years of diddling around in fashion shows and patting his movie maker son on the back, The Reverend Bowie is back, and wow, this new stuff is hot.

Excuse me for mixing metaphors, scientific and religious. But I think in Bowie’s case it’s justified. I’ve just listened to The Next Day for the first time but already I can discern some really hip 70s and early 80s FM radio influences. A bit of Jim Morrison, Chicago, The Eagles, Heart, Stray Cats, Fleetwood Mac, King Crimson, Yes, Roxy Music, you name it. All the good stuff. It’s like Bowie has run it through some huge refractor lens and bounced it back in a new way for 2013. In a word, focus. And this lp has got it in spades.

A real victory, artistic and otherwise.

—MC

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