Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Resident Film Critic Movie Review On: Bye Bye Blackbird - Michael Mann's Public Enemies

Michael Mann's Public Enemies is an honest depiction of a life that could only be true in film. John Dillinger is played by Johnny Depp, another public figure whose inner life is ostensibly unknowable, and his foil, the budding G-man Melvin Purvis, is played by Christian Bale. As Depp plays him, he is a romantic, disciplined figure of the public's mythic conscience; Robin Hood in a three-piece suit with a Tommy gun at his side. Above him, around him and to him, Mann emphasizes not only the birth of organized, capitalist-driven crime but the sheer thrill of being romanced by such a public figure.

At a drab Midwest prison circa 1933, Mann begins with a breathless prison break orchestrated by Dillinger and compatriot John "Red" Hamilton (Jason Clarke) to release the bulk of their Chicago gang, which included mentor Harry Pierpont (David Wenham) and Homer Van Peter (Stephen Dorff). His return to Chicago is marked by a robbery and a meeting with his counterpart Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi) but is sent into overdrive by the appearance of sassy coat-check girl Billie Frechette, played by the excellent Marion Cotillard. They fall madly in love and stay together even as he is sent to prison again and narrowly escapes capture until his infamous death in front of the Biograph Theater in Chicago in June 1934.

Public Enemies is set during the depression but nothing on the screen suggests the depleted environs, save for the public's love for the concept of simply taking the government's money whenever they please. Mann's film is not a chronicle of American history as much as it is a chronicle of a pivotal point in America's love for crime and their need to know that a life of crime is always possible and that it does indeed pay. A recent New York Times article recounted the production of Public Enemies, which began as a film about Jewish mastermind Karpis, as a hope of chronicling the half-decade or so when Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Ma Barker and Baby Face Nelson were celebrities of high prestige, hidden in plain sight.

In Mann's film, Nelson is played by the great British character actor Stephen Graham, a force to be reckoned with in Shane Meadows' This is England. He is, along with Karpis and Dillinger, the reason that J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup in fine form) is seeking to turn his Bureau of Investigation into a Federal body, with Purvis as his lead G-man. As fatalistic as the man he chases, Purvis is introduced as he guns down Pretty Boy Floyd (a brief Channing Tatum) in an orchard and exits as the smallest cog in Dillinger's death. Betrayed by father figure Hoover when he is asked to "take off the white gloves," Purvis is, as the film consistently points out, just as disillusioned with the embryonic FBI as Dillinger is with the initial steps of the Chicago mafia's clandestine agreements with law enforcement to cut the chord with Dillinger and his lot.

As with his last film, the nocturnal free-flow Miami Vice, Public Enemies at once works to concrete Mann's immense talents while further pointing out his minor but telling weaknesses. Soundtracked mainly by Mort Dixon's "Bye Bye Blackbird" and other depression-era lullabies, there is still that indulgence in steely electric guitars to emphasize action and pace, less prominent and much preferred over the swells of Audioslave that dogged both Miami Vice and Collateral.

Like The Dark Knight, Enemies is an unlikely summer entry; one that must accept certain conventions to ensure its box office yet consistently upends and reevaluates the very parts of its DNA that make it a hopeful box office titan. Paced smartly and fitted with solid ensemble performers, which also includes the stage actor Stephen Lang and Rory Cochrane as Purvis' partners, Public Enemies enlists digital cinematography in the most provocative commercial form to date, adding looseness and clarity to a genre usually noted for its tight framing. Wielded by Mann's staple lenser, the crafty and deft Dante Spinotti, Mann's camera peers into the film's nighttime siege of Nelson and Dillinger's woodland hideout with an uncanny ease and thrilling precision; the film's aesthetic feels as if it's on the lam along with its central figure.

Depp's performance, calibrated and deployed with a leopard-like charm, doesn't outshine Bale nor does it work to tower above prominent screen partner Cotillard. Mann has always been an expert at harmonious acting: You may remember the scene between Pacino and DeNiro in Heat but it is not the film's most memorable scene. The film, written by Irish scribe Ronan Bennett along with Mann and Southland creator Ann Biderman, is based on Bryan Burrough's astute study of the crime waves prominent in the early 1930s and the subsequent birth of Hoover's FBI; the film's relation to movement and the chase rather than the national reflection speaks to the gone-tomorrow mentality of the era more than the vision of a thousand breadlines. Like its two lead characters, Public Enemies has certain nostalgia for the flash of early crime, the simplicity of it; it has an open distaste for procedure and concentrates on the swiftness and cunning of these jailhouse playboys. Obviously relating to Dillinger and Purvis, Mann chooses innovation over security, a Tommy gun over a ledger.

Chris Cabin is our very own resident film critic. You can find other reviews at AMC's Filmcritic.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of The KCB.
The KCB: Here is a featurette on the crew and staging of a bank robbery in the film; it echoes all of Michael Mann's crime film work, he loves the idea of a crew:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Brooklyn Public Pools Are Now Open For The Pees

Get your chlorine on starting Saturday if you can't make it to the beach, Brooklyn Paper reports that BK's public pools are open for the tinkle-and-paddle-away. It was always hilarious that the kiddie pool was about ten times warmer than the deeper, grown-up pool. Granted, shallower pools with good sun exposure and just a penchant for warmer water can contribute, but I always imagined a couple bad apples just letting loose. Talk about hard water!

The Sunset Park pool is laid out quite nicely but nothing really beats the construction of that behemoth in Astoria Park from our sister to the north.

However, if you're not up for the beach, there's few things more unique in the summer than the public pool. The concrete against your bare feet, stubbed toes, hot sun, cool towels you wish you had, running in water, checking out babes underwater when you were like 10. Awkward bathing suit moments. Fear of the deep end. Your skin feeling funny tingly after all that cleanliness in the H2O. Snack stand. Smelly, damp bathrooms. The locals.

Having glasses, getting into the water was always a nuisance...

For a full list of pools (the season hasn't ended as the site says, it just hasn't been updated for this year) click on the Brooklyn tab at this link: Brooklyn Public Pools.

Photo by BridgeandTunnelClub.com:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Dead at 50 - But You Can Relive the MJ magic this weekend at BAM Cinematek

Not doing anything this weekend? Initially I was just going to go to BAM's Cinematek party extravaganza/movie marathon, but since the sad news today of the white-gloved one's death, in honor I'm focusing on the fact that one of the movies during the marathon is The Wiz, which features Diana Ross and a young, wonderful MJ at his most nubile as the Scarecrow in a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz. Scroll down for a link to the story. More people are probably going to catch it now. Here's the trailer:

I'm probably not going to do up the Marathon 4 because it's just depressing. However, a chance to catch Pineapple Express AND Friday back to back while partying at the cafe? Absolutely. I am kind of peeved that they chose Look Who's Talking Too, versus the first one which was pleasant. Bruce Willis doesn't always mean better people. But Top Gun is always good for a laugh. I'll be there for the Chyka birth anniversary! Although with the amount of noise, I'll want one of those hearing packs. All night party and movies included for 15 bucks.

"Join us for four movie marathons that are sure to satisfy the popcorn flick lover in everyone (don't worry, there's one screen for arthouse lovers, too!). And if you need help keeping your energy up between film screenings, we'll also be running an all-night dance party in BAMcafé. Tickets are $15 and include access to all screens and dance party.

Marathon 1: Diana Ross Coming Out

Music, glamour, and 70s schmaltz collide in this pair of films featuring superstar Diana Ross. This double feature will have you in rapture from the moment the words "gowns designed by Diana Ross" hit the screen.

The Wiz
(1978) 134 min
Director: Sidney Lumet.
With Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor.
We're definitely nowhere near Kansas in this urban re-telling of the classic tale.

(1975) 109 min
Director: Berry Gordy.
With Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Perkins.
Ross, in glamorous 70s couture, is paired with Williams—the paramour to her rising fashion model—while Perkins is the disturbed photographer who tries to split them up.

Marathon 2: Before They Were Scientologists

BAMcinemaFEST presents three of your favorite stars as you'd like to remember them...before the couch jumping, Jenny Craig commercials, and, er, Battlefield Earth.

Top Gun
(1986) 110 min
Director: Tony Scott.
With Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer.
Tom Cruise stars as Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a hot-shot young aviator with a "need for speed" in this VHS classic featuring a killer 80s soundtrack.

Look Who's Talking Too
(1990) 81 min
Director: Amy Heckerling.
With John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Bruce Willis, Roseanne Barr.
This sequel to Look Who's Talking finds toddler Mikey learning he's got to "fight for his right to potty."

Staying Alive
(1983) 93 min
Director: Sylvester Stallone.
With John Travolta.
Travolta's crotch practically co-stars in this awesomely cheesy follow-up to Saturday Night Fever. Don't miss the climactic, psychedelic S&M-themed dance sequence.

Marathon 3: All Night Bong

Whether you're in the mood to see really good, funny movies, or feeling unusually relaxed, hungry, and/or paranoid, this screen is for you.

Smiley Face
(2007) 88 min
Director: Gregg Araki.
With Anna Faris, John Krasinski.
When Jane eats her roommate's pot-filled cupcakes, she stumbles through LA to find replacements. With subtle social commentary throughout, some of this is actually kind of deep, dude.

Pineapple Express
(2008) 111 min
Director: David Gordon Green.
With Seth Rogen, James Franco.
Green revitalizes the classic pot plot in this 80s-action-flick-inspired comedy. "The Casablanca of pot comedies" (Cinematical).

(1995) 91 min
Director: F. Gary Gray.
With Ice Cube, Chris Tucker.
Craig and Smokey share a joint and chillax in South Central when Smokey's dealer threatens to kill them if they don't pay their debt by the end of the night. Boyz in the Hood with bongs.

Marathon 4: BAMcinématek Favorites

Among the many films BAMcinématek has shown over the past ten years, these three hold a special place in our hearts.

In the Mood for Love
(2000) 98 min
Director: Wong Kar-wai.
With Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
Leung and Cheung star in this lushly photographed tale of unconsummated love.

Millennium Mambo
(2001) 119 min
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien.
With Shu Qi, Jack Kao.
A young girl drifts through endless parties and hookups in neon-soaked Taipei.

(2002) 115 min
Director: Olivier Assayas.
With Gina Gershon, Chloë Sevigny, Charles Berling.
A thriller about corporate greed, porn, and video games, set to a score by Sonic Youth."

For more on Michael Jackson's passing, go here.

For a full listing of BAM events, go here.

NYC Casting Call: Food2's $12 Challenge reality dating show. aka getting 100 dollars to admit you're love lorn AND can cook

So the friends at Food2 are doing a casting call this summer (episodes will probably film in the East Village where the first three episodes take place) right here in New York City promising more blowtorches and irons, you basic tools of the trade to make a meal on the street with 12 bucks and 2 hours to spare. They'll be filming all during August, a mouthful of episodes so I would suggest going here to sign up: 12 Dollar Challenge Casting Call

Did I mention cast members will get 100 clams? That's right, I read the fine details. With a 50/50 chance of winning on each episode, chances are if you're charming enough your date will actually go out with you after the filming/eating is done. You can also use that Benjamin to go to Flash Dancers. Or get really wrecked.

The episodes so far have progressed into fun 5 minute low budget treats, not much romance but plenty of fun. Blowtorches are really key, check out the second vid for that:

Camera Obscura @ Webster Hall 6.24.09

I'm a fan of Camera Obscura because they remind me of a throwback 60s style pop (I'm a huge fan of the Pipettes as well). They also throw in different elements evident on all their albums, a kind of slow, reflective, dreamy pop with some lush instrumentals but with cuts like "If Looks Could Kill" firmly rooted in a Phil Spector-ish sound. Instantly I think of fellow Scots like the Delgados and Belle & Sebastian (Stuart Murdoch produced their first record, Biggest Blue Hi-Fi).

Lead singer TracyAnn Campbell (with a big-ass flower hair piece) smiled about 6 times during the show (I know that's what you all were wondering). Maybe 8 max. The music may be fairly cheery but lyrically they are earnest and pretty heartfelt, sometimes downtrodden.

One thing's for sure, I enjoyed the show at Warsaw a couple years ago more than this one at Webster Hall. Don't get me wrong, it was great. A couple things got me in a rut: a couple cut right in front of me with only inches to spare and kind of annoyingly nudged into other people's spaces. Why? Too much PDA. Way too much. Licking earlobes, etc. To boot, the guy was 6'3" and kept moving his position to block mine every other second. On top of that, the girl was trying to whisper to the dude that I wouldn't budge from my spot, but I could totally hear them. Whisper fail.

Second point is to people at concerts in general: I think it's okay to yell out stuff. It's an ice breaker sometimes. However, stop yelling out song titles that you want the band to play. Most bands have what's called a set list (granted, some have room for mixing it up, including taking an audience request WHEN THEY CLEARLY STATE IT TO THE CROWD). You can whine and moan about them not playing your favorite song afterward, but it's really no use to scream it every 10 minutes. TracyAnn picked up on this, but my favorite was Piebald way back when, as people requested songs, they threatened to not play any songs that people were shouting out if they kept it up.

The band is can be kind of twee pop; I love their sound, as I stated it's very lush and there's lots of wonderful lead hooks coming from the guitar as well as the keyboardist Carey who was probably rocking out the hardest. I was not quite as impressed last night with TracyAnn's vocals compared to when I saw them at Warsaw, although it was very humid at Webster Hall and I'm sure it takes a toll in little ways. Her voice was still great but I had a small sense that she struggled a little more this time around. Again, their sound live, even though they were missing the big string sounds on plenty of their songs, what really anchored the performance were the rumbling drums and warm basslines, almost overpowering at some points even.

I really enjoyed the Bruce Springsteen cover of "Tougher Than The Rest," which they played during the encore for the first time live. It was a great choice of an older artist with a long list of credentials in pop and rock, and I feel like nobody really covers The Boss because well, he's The Boss. Some people don't like him that much either, so that contributes to it.

With several cuts from each album filling their hour plus set, people really reacted the strongest to all the songs from Let's Get Out Of This Country. I feel like that's the case often times, people cheer stronger whatever a song from the next to last album is played, unless that was a slump and the newest album is better.

Webster Hall provided great sound as usual, and exiting was a bitch, as usual. The flashes of lighting show wasn't really necessary, although the band doesn't get too many points for stage presence, so all those greens and blues were a nice enhancement.

I apologize for the lack of pictures as I try to get my camera up and running a'gin. You can find Camera Obscura at their official site.

Very Beach Boys here:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chris Cab-tion Contest 6.22.09 - It's a Tough Job, But Someone's Gotta Do It

We've got 3 pictures for the Chris Cab-tion contest this time. Yes, three glorious mugshots of our hero attempting against all odds and succeeding....at something. Winner of the last edition? ID: Justin (please email to claim random prize) for a ridiculous Michelle Pfeiffer reference. Although Flynn wasn't far behind...

Without further ado, here comes greatness:

I'm looking at these pictures set to Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" and I'm having a giggle fit. Chris Cabin is our very own resident film critic. He contributes to The KCB around his main gig as a critic for AMC's Filmcritic.com.

Oh and before I forget, prizing is quite the "Shitty Movie Night" candidate...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fuse TV covers Bonnaroo to look legit (even though they ain't no more)

Bonnaroo, the festival that smells of something fierce, is going on right now in my birth-state of Tennessee. Home smelly home. It like many festivals has grown from a jam heavy collection of bands like The String Cheese Incident to a more diverse lineup of indie, rock, and rap.

While Phish is still around, they'll be joined by the likes of Snoop Dogg this year, and Fuse has all your coverage since you're probably reading this from the comfort of home. Fuse used to be a great alternative to MTV and VH1 years ago but with the changing technology has become a shell of it's former self really in providing quality music programming. Sure they still play videos sometimes, but there's not much effort in it. Their Bonnarroo coverage last year was pretty good, and I'm assuming this year will be pretty polished as well. Fuse is no longer alternative though, either on TV or online. They don't seem to dig deep to find great music programming; instead, the need from corporate parents and the need to connect with an ever shifting audience kind of puts them under W-GAP (who gives a poop). Take a look at their TV lineup: it's full of paid programming, Loaded half hours that are hit or miss, and repeats of over-saturated bands.

Backstage Passport was pretty sweet but oh so brief. Maybe I'm just biased because I like a lot of punk music.

Anywho, TV-boredom not withstanding, they are going all out for the best of Bonnaroo this Saturday, so if you're staying in, you might want to flip to Fuse at 9pm for updates, performances, etc. etc. Online Fuse will be doing the same. Best of usually being of course the biggest bands (I'll recind that if they show smaller performances that rock), but as I said, last year's coverage had some really nice performances. Good music is good music. Fuse just isn't an avenue for it most of the time. Below is their "cool" promo video:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not Doing Anything Tonight? Draw Back Your Bow: The Old Folks Party Pancakin'

Tuesday nights in the summer are pretty fantastic. Real Housewives of whatever city. Tacos. Great night to go out and not have it be a shit show.

Just like that Lovin' Spoonful song "Summer In The City", you're going to want to go out and feel up for anything.

I'm a huge fan of oldies and Motown and old soul music, doo wop, etc. That's why if you're in the mood for some dancin', you get on to Lolita and get in a real deep groove with DJ Chris Fuller, who will have a slate of old school like you've never seen tonight from 9pm to 2am. We're talking harmonies and clap-along rhythms. We're talking in-sync with yourself. We're talking courtship. We're talking passionate, deep-bellied crooning and piercing, fat toned brass sections. We're talking romance. I know, it's a smallish space, but you're going to be doing one of those closing-your-eyes-taking-in-the-music-like-a-bong-hit-bopping-your-head manuevers.

Get moving people, if you're into the following:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adult Swim Presents: Summer at Santos. It's Free and you'll want to go.

This past week I was fortunate to attend the first of a 6 part series (no it's not a Ken Burns documentary) that Adult Swim is presenting at Andrew W.K.'s Santos Party House, not to be confused with Dino's Party House USA in the land that time forgot, the Penn Station black hole.

W.K. hosted the first round; the crowd filled up very quickly right before the first act came on, a sprightly Sherri Lilly (W.K.'s wife). She basically took everyone through a 30 minute cardio workout with songs like "Pop Your Chest" and "Sweet Beat." It was absolutely mesmerizing. Between all the jabs and left roundhouses there were lyrics that were so upbeat you couldn't help but be charmed, it's like she forced you to lighten up.

Santos is the perfect place really; fitting a couple hundred concentrated doses of 80s style (there were two toners, Ratt look-a-likes, and just all around products of any club scene in Tough Guys), friendly staff, and W.K.'s incredible energy. With signs like "Santos Party House wants you to act like you didn't read this" you know there's a bit of irreverence here, and it's all in good fun.

I could only stay for half of Aleister X, but the eclectic nature of the show (with some bigger names later in the summer) makes for a fun way to do up Thursday nights at the Chinatown/Soho divide. Future acts include one of my favorite Fah Q.'s - A.C. Newman, and the creator of one of my favorite new shows, Jon Glaser of Delocated (both appear on the next round on June 25th). Adult Swim staples like Tim and Eric and Dave Willis of Aqua Teen will host a bevy of more bands.

It's every other Thursday folks, and it's totally free (except any beers you might be purchasing).

Remaining Schedule:
June 25Jon Glaser (Delocated!)
With The Woggles, Cheeseburger, A.C. Newman and masked burlesque dancers, The Pontani Sisters

July 9Brendon Small (Metalocalypse)
With Paul Green’s School of Rock

July 30Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!)
With DJ Douggpound, Gildon Works, The Party Animals and Beat Jams

August 6Dave Willis (Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies)
With special guests

August 20Christy Karacas (Superjail!)
Featuring a night of local New York bands

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bar Spotlight - Kili

(photo by Mr. Wonka)

So I haven't done a Bar Spotlight, Poster Critique, or Fah Q. in a while. But now I'm back with an edition of the former-est, and I'm focusing on low-key Kili. Some bars have the unique distinction of being "nestled", and those are some of my favorites. It's a bar that's either off the beaten path, or tucked away on a small block. Another example would be if you were to walk by it and not even notice it's there.

Kili is situated on Hoyt right before you hit Atlantic (when you get around betwen State and Schermerhorn and Atlantic there are some really cute mini-blocks). If I don't feel like traveling a couple blocks to Brooklyn Inn I can just stop at Kili. It has a dim glow to it in the evening that is perfect for settling in for a drink or two. It's a small place separated into two parts (with drapes shrouding it in a little mystery). First is the bar to your left, where you'll find several seats but not too much room. You can order a nice cold 2-clam PBR (happy hour is until 8pm last I checked with a discount on the usual) and make your way to the lounge area, with a ring of fire chandelier more akin to Schwarzenegger's (ok ok Matrix's) lodge in Commando:

I guess another example would be Michael Caine's pull-my-finger palace in Children Of Men.

Anywho, so it has the look and feel of very homey, fireplace-laden mini-lounge where you can score points on a date. Or something. With a touch of hip (a couple pieces of art). Just make sure you're not on Tuesday nights because it's open mic night and you don't want to be distracted by Brooklyn's Got Talent. However, on the latter half of the week the DJs usually spin a groovy mix and it's just a healthy dose of laid back.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cage Potato has the rundown on Bob Reilly (update: MMA bill passes first test!)

Today is the first of hopefully many steps toward legalizing MMA in New York, and the one man to beat I think has his work cut out for him, although nothing is certain. Cage Potato has all the relevant information you need to sort out Bob Reilly's argument; I understand it's not for him, but when you have boxing as a huge draw at places like Madison Square Garden, why is mixed martial arts given the special beat down? It's simply the mix of disciplines, the Western bias (probably) against other types of combat sports, and overall different look that I guess gives this man no choice but to stand his ground.

Check out the list of ignorance here: Cage Potato - The Many Fallacies of Bob Reilly

The look of love is in her eyes, photo by Cage Potato.

Update from CP, it passed! Here's their article:

"The New York State Assembly’s Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development Committee finally voted on bill A02009 this morning – known to you jokers as the thing to move MMA towards legalization in New York State – and it passed with a 14-6 vote. The bill has been referred to the Codes Committee for another vote, which means MMA is now closer to being sanctioned in New York than ever before.

The bill still has to make it past the Codes Committee and a vote by the State Assembly, but at least it survived the opening onslaught by Assemblyman Bob Reilly, who reportedly tried to sway other committee members yesterday in a twenty-minute presentation on the brutality of the sport and the unsavory nature of its proponents with a video featuring Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture, Corey Hill’s broken leg, and Dana White’s video blog tirade against Loretta Hunt.

The bill passed anyway, suggesting that just maybe those fourteen members of the committee thought Lesnar/Couture was a pretty decent little scrap. We now raise our celebratory flutes of champagne or, failing that, a can of Miller High Life (the champagne of beers), and toast a small, though important victory for our side. Salud, Potato Nation."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Resident Film Critic on: Fire & Brimstone - Sam Raimi's return to horror in Drag Me to Hell

In the same decade that asked the question "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" and birthed a top 20 hit that begged "Don't Phunk with My Heart", something very strange happened to the horror movie: It got cruel. Blood got darker, the separate organs that made up "guts" became more discernable and everything got louder. It was no longer appropriate to creep someone out or induce unthinkable perversity; you had to make them jump out of their seats by any means necessary. A viewer could no longer watch in terror as a killer slowly came up behind his victim; one had a cynical, methodical template of when said killer was to pounce, accompanied by an entire string section.

In his new film, Drag Me to Hell, the versatile Sam Raimi uses a similar template but something is different. First of all, there's very little blood and there are no guts whatsoever. There's plenty of saliva, vomit, bugs, rodents, worms, puss and mud but that's hardly cause for concern. He likes color, uses color and stages many of his set-pieces in the daylight. Films by contemporaries the likes of Eli Roth or Marcus Nispel would ascertain, quite literally, that one shouldn't trust women, foreigners, southern folk and most breeds of canine; they also seem to unfold in perpetual night. Mr. Raimi's blind distrust is far more precise and has been blatant fact since well before the director was born: Don't fuck with gypsies.

Such is the mistake made by loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) when she kindly dismisses and "shames" Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver, part hoot, entirely creepy), an elderly gypsy witch who is denied an extension for her mortgage. Ms. Brown, gunning for an assistant manager position under Mr. Jacks (David Paymer, playing scuzz like a pro), denies the extension in hopes of getting the edge over brown-nosed co-worker Stu (Reggie Lee) but ends up getting in one ugly cat fight with Ganush before the old lady lays the Curse of the Lamia on her.

What's the Lamia you ask? Oh, just a seven-foot goat-beast from the stomach-acid depths of Hell who commands a legion of doomed souls who, after three days of torture, embarrassment and personal desecration, drag you screaming and burning into the underworld to live in darkness and agony until the end of time.

Under a less adept hand, such things would be handled with gothic tiling and Exorcist-brand clichés but Mr. Raimi has mastered a lightness of tone that punctuates Drag Me to Hell with a vital, often vile humor and a sense of (grab your crosses!) fun. At 22, Raimi directed The Evil Dead, the lively cult classic that single-handedly made Bruce Campbell an icon and made Raimi the harbinger for the new paradigm of midnight movies. Since then, the Michigan-born Coen bros. collaborator has directed two sequels to Dead and become a genre-meister, trying his hand at everything from neo-westerns (The Quick and the Dead) and classy thrillers (A Simple Plan) to nostalgic weepies (For Love of the Game) and blockbusters (the Spider-Man franchise). Only Plan and, at moments, the latter series have seemed to harness his plentiful talents into a similar redefining of genre conventions and tone.

Drag Me to Hell is less a return to form than a loving reconsideration of where he's come from, where his strike-zone is. Over 15 years after the last Evil Dead film, he now casts a similar gaze on economics and the people behind it but the tone here is not satirical but true-to-form oversaturated lunacy. Helped by a fortune-teller (Dileep Rao) and her skeptical but devoted philosophy professor boyfriend (Justin Long), Ms. Brown's attempts at satiating the beast include decapitating a possessed billygoat, sacrificing her kitten and two separate instances of defiling a corpse.

That Raimi enlists the same brutal sound design that most modern horror/thrillers use ad-nauseum feels like a choice made out of necessity. One of a handful of solid major-studio-backed horror films to be released in the last decade, Drag Me to Hell's design is one made for humor and shocks rather than legitimate fright but Raimi never indulges in the crypto-tragic archetypes that have become industry-standard in the 28 years since The Evil Dead. The graphics have improved but Raimi's fantastical scares are still all the better for being loony and unpredictable where his compatriots have sought to make horror into a matter of life and death.

- Chris Cabin

KCB note: Drag Me To Hell opened with 16.6 million to take 3rd place this past weekend. Also, The KCB enjoyed this film thoroughly as well. That is all.