Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Energy: No Such thing as a Free Lunch

This is the first in a series of posts about free energy scams.  I've given several talks on the topic, one of which can be found here.  I'm hoping that writing these posts will get me back to that book on the subject that I keep saying I'm writing.

What do I mean by "free energy"? Although lots of people use the term, but there's no official definition.  For the purposes of this discussion, I'll use the term to refer to supposedly transformative technologies which:

  • will dramatically reduce one's cost of energy for transportation and/or domestic use, say at leastFor example,   factor of four or more.
  • do not require significant capital costs up front, usually paying for themselves in a year or less.
  • don't involve a major change in lifestyle

Of course, it's not impossible that some great new technology will be discovered, but it's not likely going to be done by someone working in their garage.  The last discovery with a profound implication for energy was the discovery of radioactivity - over 100 years ago.

We'll go through some specific examples, but the fact is cars don't run on water, motors don't run on permanent magnets, and cold fusion isn't being covered up by the oil industry; it simply doesn't work.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

IMDB Entry: here
Netflix?: yes
My rating (as a good movie): 5/5

This is exactly the sort of hidden hidden gem that makes me keep renewing my Netflix subscription.

It tells the little known story of Europeans (mostly Germans) who settled in the Galapagos Islands around 1930, and some of the mysterious events that followed.  I'll avoid spoilers regarding these events, but for me, they really took a back seat to the story of the settlers themselves.

The movie made me think of the saying "The common factor in all your dysfunctional relationships is you".  For the most part, these people weren't looking for opportunity, they were looking to get away from civilization - and it's clear that in most cases, *civilization* wasn't the problem.

The story was based on original writings of the settlers and some people who visited the island, as well as interviews with children and relatives.  Based on the apparent ages of the children, the interviews were all done about 15 years ago, and sat in the can until the movie was released last year. There's a truly amazing amount of film footage and photography.

The movie primarily focused on the three groups who homesteaded to Floreana, the smallest habitable island in the Galapagos.  Given their unusual shared destination, it's remarkable how different these groups turned out to be.

The first couple was Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his companion Dore Strauch.  They both left their spouses to find paradise in the wilderness - which turned out to be a lot harder than they thought it would be.  Ritter was frankly a pompous ass, who saw himself as a great philosopher. Strauch clearly worshipped Ritter, and he clearly did not reciprocate.

The next people two arrive were the Wittmer family: Heinz, Margret, and their son Rolf, who came because they feared a war was coming.  They were impressive in their normalcy. The saw themselves as the Swiss Family Robinson, and largely lived up to that vision, becoming the most successful of the group, in spite of Ritter's dismissal of them as amateurs.

The final settlers on Floreana were a colorful woman who claimed to be the Baroness Von Wagner and her two male lovers, who were all planning to start a hotel.  Their arrival also signals the start of the tension, which leads to some of the subsequent developments.

There are also some discussions of settlers on the other islands, as well as some writings by a crew member on a research vessel that visited the islands more or less annually around that time.

This is something that had once been a common story in the world, but this was pretty much the last time that people could really "leave civilization" and strike out on their own - albeit in a small and obscure corner of the word, and I found that concept absolutely riveting. At two hours, some might find it a bit long, but it held my attention the whole time.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Heaven is Hell

IMDB Entry: here
Netflix?: not yet
My Rating (as a good movie): 4/5

OK, fair disclosure:  I know a lot of people involved with this movie, so maybe I'm a bit biased.  Nevertheless, I think that if you give this movie a chance, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  It really shows what you can do with a good script, good acting, a lot of creativity, and very little money.

The movie opens at the funeral of Faith, who we learn was a devoutly Christian woman.  After the funeral, we see her "wake up" in a Heaven that bears little resemblance to our preconceived notions.  It appears to be a post-apocalyptic battlefield, and Faith immediately comes under fire.  Without giving away any spoilers, I'll say she encounters some Biblical characters, both familiar and unfamiliar, and becomes involved in an epic struggle for the control of Heaven.

This is really low budget, independent moviemaking at its finest.  The script is unique and the acting is good.  There's genuine humor and genuine pathos.  Although it was clearly made with limited funds, the production quality is surprisingly good.  Luckily, Indiana and Illinois offered ample post-apocalyptic settings for the shoots.

I really hope to see more from these guys.

The Truth About Nikola Tesla

There's something on the internet called "Godwin's Law", which basically says that if an argument goes on long enough, someone will eventually bring up Hitler and/or the Nazis.  Similarly, in any discussion involving limitless free energy, someone will eventually bring up Nikola Tesla - and probably the Nazis as well (to describe you, when you tell them what idiots they are).

First, let's examine who Nikola Tesla really was - in the real world, where we all live. Tesla was one of the most brilliant and iconoclastic inventors of the late 19th and early 20th century.  He was born in the Austrian Empire in 1856 in what is now Croatia; however, he's ethnically Serbian, which is why he's on modern day Serbia's 100 dinar bill.

His research focused on electricity - specifically high voltage and high frequency electricity.  His most significant single contribution is arguably the realization that alternating current "AC" is a much more efficient way to distribute electrical power than direct current "DC", which was favored by Edison. This led to a protracted argument with Edison, which Tesla eventually won.  The key victory was when Tesla and Westinghouse won the contract to supply the lighting for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

A fight he never really won was his fight to get credit for the invention of radio.  Tesla lectured about the possibility of using electromagnetic waves to transmit information as far back as 1893, and he designed a remote-controlled boat in 1898, which he tried to sell to the government.  In 1900, Tesla patented  a "system of transmitting electrical energy" and "an electrical transmitter".  When Marconi claimed to have "invented" radio in 1901, Tesla challenged him in court.  The courts issued a series of contradictory rulings, but whatever the legal standing, history remembers Marconi rather than Tesla as the father of radio.  This arguably helped trigger the bitterness that characterized Tesla's later life.

Tesla was obsessed with the idea of transmitting power using high frequency electromagnetic waves, and he designed and built an enormous tower to do so, called the "Wardenclyffe Tower" to do so.  There's nothing impossible or mysterious about this concept.  It's just that it's not economically viable.  Imagine if you had a bar that served beer by spraying it out of a sprinkler and then you would drink whatever you could catch in your glass.  It would be a lot of fun, but the bar could only make money if they either got their beer for free or the charge one hell of a lot for the glass.  It's the same way with transmitting power.  Most of the power would simply radiate away into space.  It would only work if electricity were too cheap to bother metering.

Tesla had other ideas for for energy, none of which would have worked.  In 1901, Tesla filed a patent for an "Apparatus for the utilization of radiant energy".  This was simply an antenna designed to capture ambient electromagnetic energy.  The problem is that this energy doesn't exist at a level that would be useful in any way.  Nevertheless, generations of free energy enthusiasts have latched onto this as one of Tesla's many contributions that have been lost or were stolen from us.  Of course, it hasn't gone anywhere.  All the drawings are still there at the patent office.  They simply don't work.

Tesla's ideas go beyond free energy.  Late in life, he proposed the idea of a particle beam weapon, which he referred to as "Teleforce".  Like his free energy device, all the drawing still exist, and also like the free energy device, it simply doesn't work.

Adding to Tesla's mystique is the fact that upon his death, the FBI order the seizure of all of his personal papers.  It's likely that the FBI believed Tesla's claims about his particle beam weapons, and seized his papers in the interest of national security. This has fueled decades of speculation about what was in the writings; however, given the nature of the things that are known, it's highly unlikely there were any major secrets in the lost material.

The fact is, everything Tesla did is well understood - not only in light of modern physics, but in terms of physics at the time.  In contrast, his more outlandish claims would require a significant modification of physics as we understand it.

It's unfortunate that someone who made as many genuine contributions to our lives as Nikola Tesla is instead remembered by so many for his more outrageous and unsubstantiated claims.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

IMDB: here
My rating (as a bad movie): 5/5
Netflix: No

Wow, just... wow.

The first Phantasm was a classic. No one's quite sure why, because let's face it, the plot was pretty silly, but for some reason, it was just iconic.  The second and third were OK, nothing great, but entertaining.

This one was clearly conceived as the magnum opus, where everything would be "explained".  Of course that's not what happens...

The first problem is of course to get out of the certain doom at the end of the last movie.  If you recall, Mike (still called "boy" in his mid-30s)  is in the process of being changed into some sort of hybrid silver ball/alien thingy,  and Reggie is pinned to a wall by like a hundred of the killer spheres.  Mike apparently just walked away, and the Tall Man inexplicably lets Reggie go - and then spends the rest of the movie trying to kill him.  I don't know, maybe he's like a cat playing with its food.

After that, it's just a confusing jumble.  The main thread follows Mike as he develops super powers and travels back in time to find the origin of the Tall Man, who we learn was once a kindly undertaker named Jebediah Morningside around the time of the Civil War.  He somehow invents the tuning fork/portal thing, but how exactly this turns him into the evil Tall Man is never explained - nor is anything else.

A second thread follows Reggie, who wanders around, encounters a beautiful woman, and is once again sexually frustrated.  I know you're saying you've seen that before, but trust me, this time the end is...interesting.

As for Jody, the dead/undead/possible impostor brother, he keeps popping in and out, "guiding" Mike, but never really being much help, and generally just adding to the confusion.

Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say nothing is ever really resolved or explained.

That said, there is a certain "charm" to the movie.  The atmosphere and the cinematography are pretty good, and most scenes alone work pretty well - if only they would all tie together into something even remotely coherent.

All in all, this has to be one of the most random, confusing, non-sequitur movies I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot, but I have to say, it's fun to watch just for the jaw-dropping "WTF!?!" of it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's a Disaster (2012)

IMDB: here
My rating (as a good movie): 4/5
Netflix?: yes

Interesting mash-up of genres that works surprisingly well.

The movie opens like a fairly standard rom-com.  We gather that a couple has recently started dating, and the woman is advancing their relationship to the point of inviting him to a regular "couples brunch" with her circle of friends.  The first exchanges at the door establish that this is going to be an "awkward" gathering.

Of course, you know if you read the description that things are going to change dramatically, and pretty soon this unlikely group of people is facing the end of the world together.

It's quite entertaining and definitely worth watching.  I'm knocking once the novelty of the plot wears off, it does start to drag a bit in the middle, and they fall back on some pretty well worn paths.  For example, if it's a spoiler that it turns out that some of the characters have slept with each others partners, then it's probably because you've never seen a movie before.

But don't worry, it rallies in the end and finishes strong.  Some people might not like the ending, but I thought it worked very well.

Rapture-Palooza (2013)

IMDB: here
Rating (as a good movie): 5/5 (good movie)
Netflix?: Yes

This is certainly one of my biggest successes when it comes to random Netflix picks.My first thought was that they copied the idea from This is the End, but it turns out that both came out at almost exactly the same time (this movie actually came out a few days before). I guess two people had the idea of making a rapture-themed comedy at the same time. What are the odds?I loved both movies, but this is a very different take on the same idea. Whereas the tone and the humor in This is the End were rather manic, the humor in this movie is of the deadpan "So this is the apocalypse?" variety, and it works very well, at least for me. On balance, I think I may have liked this one a little bit more.It sounds strange, but some of the humor comes from the fact that they stick a bit closer to the Book or Revelation, and there are a lot of "This really doesn't make any sense." sort of jokes. Anyway, it worked for me.I didn't find it as vulgar as some people seem to have, but maybe my bar is high. It goes without saying that it's extremely blasphemous, so if you take the (to put it bluntly) Revelation nonsense seriously, it may not be the movie for you. Otherwise...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dalai Lama Rant

OK, this might offend some people, but I promised my son I would write it, so here it is...

I've always found the fascination of Western liberals with the Dalai Lama to be somewhat tiresome and annoying, particularly coming as it does from people who claim to value democracy and religious freedom, since he represents neither of those things.  On the other hand, in the unlikely event you actually are a Tibetan Buddhist, please don't read this.

Don't get me wrong, he looks adorable and he says cool things that look great on posters.  Celebrities really like him, and we trust their judgment in all things - vaccinations, for example.  Plus, he's working to get those damn Chinese out of Tibet and return the legitimate government, and that's a really good cause, right? I really don't know. You probably don't know either.  Maybe even Bono doesn't know, in which case we're basically rudderless.

First of all, let's be honest about exactly what the Dalai Lama is: for all intents and purposes, he's deposed royalty, pure and simple. The world is full of deposed royalty. We don't normally celebrate them - except for the royalty we deposed ourselves (locally anyway) a couple of centuries ago, but that's a subject for another rant.

I have no idea what the term "legitimate government" means for a place that's never had anything even remotely resembling democracy.  Historically it means "the guys with the best army", so that would be the Chinese.  In some cases however, it means "Guys your government hates a bit less less than the other guys", which favors the Dalai Lama - or at least it did for awhile.  But what's best for the Tibetan people?

Whether Tibet is better or worse under Chinese rule is a matter of intense debate, even among scholars who actually know something about it.  For everyone else, it's a war of propaganda.  Chinese propaganda says that they "liberated" the country from a tyrannical system, and the Tibetans are better off now. What we have to realize is that what groups like "Free Tibet" say is also just propaganda with with a somewhat different agenda.  The Tibetan government-in-exile is the former elite ruling class, so of course they don't like the new bosses.  They've been very good about getting their version of propaganda out at least partially because they had a lot of help from the American CIA in doing so. Haven't you ever wondered why people seem to care so much more about Tibet than other troubled places on Earth?  That's not an accident. It goes without saying that the CIA never gave half a shit about the Tibetan people, but supporting the Dalai Lama pissed off Chairman Mao and that was enough for them.

What is indisputable is that the popular image of pre-1951 Tibet as some sort of peaceful Shangri-La is simply horse shit.  It was a primitive theocratic feudal system ruled by a monk class with the Dalai Lama (or his regent) at the top as the absolute ruler.  Most people were "serfs", who had no education, healthcare, electricity, or any human rights to speak of. There is endless debate about whether "serf" meant "slave" or just "someone too poor to do anything else", but that seems like kind of an academic distinction to me. The average life expectancy was 35 years and the infant mortality rate was a whopping 43%!  As for religion, it was their way or the highway - um, did I mention there were no highways? In any event, the notion that this is a society we should in any way revere or (God forbid!) emulate is just plain ludicrous.

Of course, the Dalai Lama has promised things would be very different if he returned to Tibet. He'd have democracy, freedom of religion, human rights, rainbows and ponies for everyone, but he can promise anything he wants because it's never going to happen.  I'd do a really kick-ass job of ruling Tibet, too, if they just gave me a chance.  The fact is, we have absolutely no idea how he would have ruled if he had remained in in charge.  He'd spent his whole life being told he was effectively a deity incarnate, and such people have rarely shown a pattern of empathy.

So how did little Lhamo Dondrub rise to be Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the subject of this rant, anyway? He was selected at the age of two, a few years after the 13th Dalai Lama had died (he is a reincarnation, after all).  Of course, at two, he wasn't elected or chosen based on qualifications or achievements.  He was picked using what can only be called "superstitious mumbo-jumbo".  That's the "legitimate government" people want to restore.  Say what  you want about the Pope, but at least he had to pay his dues and work his way up the corporate ladder.

While he was growing up, he chilled in relative luxury while Tibet was ruled by a regent (actually two regents who fought bitterly over the position).   He formally became the Dalai Lama at the age of 15 - just in time to hand Tibet over the Chinese.  For about nine years, he worked "with" the Chinese.  To what extent he was a willing collaborator is debated, but he certainly didn't actively oppose them.  He was also looking for a way out for himself.  When he visited India in 1956, he asked if he could, you know maybe not return to his beloved country, but Nehru said it was a bad idea.  In 1959, there was an uprising in Tibet, and the Dalai Lama, fearing for his safety, fled - with some help from the CIA, who supported him until 1972, when Nixon thought it might cause problems for his efforts in China. He's been dining with royalty and rock stars ever since.

So really, his big achievement was to leave his country when things got rough.  He's been campaigning for Tibet and supporting guerrilla actions against the Chinese since then, but this has accomplished precisely dick.

Look, I'm sure he's a very nice guy, and in his place I'm pretty sure that in his place I would have done my best to save my own ass, too.  He was, after all, just a kid at the time.  On the other hand, what's the reason to celebrate this?  What would we think of Gandhi if instead of risking his life to stand up to the British, he traveled the globe telling everyone what assholes they were?  What about Martin Luther King?  He could have had a pretty good life safely giving lectures about the South at liberal universities in the North, but he didn't choose to do that.

So that's about it.  Flame on if you will.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Troll 2 (1990)/Best Worst Movie (2009)

This is an unusual case.  I'm reviewing these two movies together, because they really have to be seen as a pair to be fully understood and appreciated.  "Troll 2" is unquestionably a top contender in the "so bad it's good" category, while "Best Worst Movie" - the documentary made about "Troll 2" - is genuinely interesting and entertaining.

Troll 2 (1990)

IMDB entry: here
My rating (as a bad movie): 5/5

There's so much bad in this movie that it's hard to know where to begin, so let's start with the title. Based on the title, you'd guess it was the sequel to "Troll", the 1986 movie starting Michael Moriarty, Shelly Hack, and Sony Bono, but you'd be wrong.  Not only does it have absolutely nothing to do with the former movie, but there aren't even any trolls in it!   The title was just a shameless attempt to leverage the moderate success of the earlier movie.

The plot, such as it is, involves the Waits family moving to the town of Nilbog (spell it backwards, get it?).  The young boy is visited by the ghost of his dead grandfather, who warns him to beware of the goblins (not trolls!!) in the town.  The ghost grandfather also has some magic powers that are enough to help the boy out a bit and get him into embarrassing situations, but never quite enough to actually solve a problem.  It's sort of like Bewitched or I Dream of Jeanie in that regard.

The goblins' game is to trick people into eating some sort of goop that turns them into plants.  Why? Because the goblins are vegetarians!  Turning people into plants allows the goblins to eat them.  This was apparently a way for the the director's wife, who co-wrote the movie, to vent her annoyance at her vegetarian friends.

The dialog is terrible, because it was largely written by the director, an Italian whose English is so bad that he has to be interviewed through an interpreter.  Add some horrific acting and low budget special effects, and you have a truly memorable bad movie.

I could go on, but you really have to see it to believe it.

The movie vanished into obscurity for some time, until someone stumbled upon it a few years ago, and it has since become something of a cult phenomenon in the fine tradition of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Best Worst Movie (2009)

IMDB entry: here
My rating (as a good documentary): 5/5

For the first few minutes, you may think you have the wrong movie. It seems to be some sort of documentary about a small town and one of its prominent citizens, George Hardy. After a few residents sing the George's praises, the director asks innocently, "Did you know George once made a movie?". No one did.  It seems George doesn't talk about it much.

It turns out that 19 years earlier, George Hardy played Michael Waits, the father in Troll 2. As for the child who talked to his dead grandfather, he was played by a young Michael Stephenson, who grew up to make this documentary.  You can see an example of their acting ability as well as the movie's most memorable line here.

George had been an aspiring actor when he made Troll 2, but that experience convinced him to give up acting and become a dentist.  If you've seen the former movie (or even just watched the clip above), I'm sure you'll agree that this was a wise decision.

The documentary focuses primarily on George's experiences as he revisits his involvement in that film and discovers the cult phenomenon it has become.  We also meet some of the other actors and catch up on what they've been up to since.

This movie works on a couple of levels.  On the one hand, it's great fun to rewatch the worst parts of the first movie and to explore the entertaining world of bad B-movie fandom, but on the other hand it's actually a very effective documentary with some surprising depth.  It follows George's journey as he initially embraces the new found notoriety of Troll 2, but eventually becomes disillusioned when he realized that for many people, a bit part in a B-movie was the height of their achievement, and they've spent the rest of their life going to "cons" of one sort or another.  On assumes he returned to his "normal" life with a new found appreciation for it.

So make it a double feature night and watch both!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Impossible Movie Cliché Rant

It would be impossible to catalog all of the physically and logically absurd things that occur in movies and on television.  On the other hand, there are some things which have become more or less standard plot devices over the years in spite of being totally ludicrous, and this post is my attempt to collect them into a list. It will be augmented as new entries are suggested.  In no particular order...
  • You don't need to "keep someone on the line" to trace where the call is coming from.  You can find that information well after the fact.  Just look at your phone bill.  If you've lost your phone bill, just ask the NSA. And don't talk about *67. Yes, that blocks an ordinary person from seeing the number, but it doesn't block the police from getting the information.
  • If you cut the brake lines on a car, the brakes will stop working immediately, not after you "run out of brake fluid".  You will notice this backing out of the driveway, well before that really steep and dangerous hill everyone seems to have on the way to work.
  • You can't cut a circular hole in glass with a glass cutter and a suction cup.  In fact, it's damn near impossible to cut a circular hole in glass with any tool.  Even with specialized power tools, you'll almost certainly just shatter the glass.
  • Virtually no buildings have air ducts big enough to crawl through.  In the unlikely event you find one that does, grills are always screwed on from the outside. Those handy "EZ popout grills" only exist in movies.  
  • The design flaw that once allowed door latches to be opened with credit cards was fixed many decades ago. 
  • There's a limit to the resolution of any photograph.  Saying "zoom and enhance" doesn't change this.
  • No alarm system on Earth is based on criss-crossing laser beams. 
  • It's actually very difficult to knock someone out by hitting them on the head, and if you do, there's a good chance you'll cause permanent brain damage - or kill them outright.
  • The shock wave from an explosion travels at the speed of sound.  You can't outrun it with a car, motorcycle, or on foot.
  • If a large group of well trained professionals are all firing fully automatic weapons at a single man crossing an open space armed with a single pistol, that man will die - period.
  • A lit cigarette won't ignite gasoline (strange, but true).  
  • There is no rule that you have to wait 24 hours to file a missing person report.  You can file a report immediately if you have reasonable cause for concern.  
  • There's no logical reason why someone with a time machine would ever be in a hurry.
(to be continued...)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Movie Review: Ben and Arthur (2002)

IMDB Link: here
My rating: 5/5

You may think you've seen bad movies before, but unless you've seen this, you're wrong.  It's been referred to as "'The Room' with gay people", but that's not really fair, because (a) the plots are very different, and (b) "The Room" is much better.  Yes, you read that correctly: this movie makes "The Room" look good!

You know you're in for a real treat right from the beginning, as the EZ-Piano version of The Entertainer plays very slowly over the opening credits, who are mostly Sam Mraovich and other people named Mraovich. The direct-to-videotape quality is that of a very mediocre high school film project - made by people who have been held back so many times they're in their mid 20's.

If you enjoy spotting plot holes, glaring inconsistencies and downright goofs, then this is a movie for you. They start right at the beginning and don't let up for an hour and a half.


The movie opens as our protagonists, Ben and Arthur, are overjoyed to learn that gay marriage has been legalized in Hawaii. They immediately buy plane tickets, but their hopes are dashed a few hours later when the judge issues a stay against his own ruling (huh?), so they decide instead to go to Vermont (couldn't they have done that before?).

At this point, Ben confesses that he still needs to divorce his wife. I gather they believe polygamy is legal in Hawaii, because this didn't become a worry until the change of venue. Ben's wife must not have noticed that he moved out and has been living with another man for some time, because she is caught completely off guard both by his revelation that he is gay and by the divorce papers, which she refuses to sign. Ben assures Arthur that he will contact his lawyer to handle it.

This must be one hell of a lawyer, because they are able to marry just a few days later - among the gently swaying palm trees of Vermont! The ex-wife makes one brief appearance much later in the movie when she shows up and demands - at gunpoint! - that Ben remarry her, but he wrestles the gun away from her and we never see her again.

The side story involves their rather meager existence. We are told Ben is a licensed nurse, but chooses to work as a dish washer because he "has his music" (nurses can't be musicians?). Arthur works as a waiter in the same restaurant, but quits after a run-in with a mildly rude customer. At this point, he realizes he has no skills and no education, and decides to hit up his estranged brother Victor for money to go back to school. His brother doesn't recognize him, because he hasn't seen him in "like seven years", but when he finds out who he is, immediately establishes himself as a "crazy Christian", by asking Arthur if he has found God yet. Arthur, in an attempt to charm his brother out of the money, tells him to stop with the "religious s&%#". Nevertheless, his brother insists that before he gives them any money both he and Ben must come to see him.

This is when the movie starts to get really weird. There would be no problem building very sinister villains out of things mainstream churches have actually said and done regarding homosexuality, but this wasn't enough for the writer. He instead opts to introduce "christian" characters (they appear to be Catholic) whose actions are so bizarre and hateful they would make the Westboro Baptist Church blush.

After not seeing his brother for seven years, Victor becomes completely obsessed with saving his soul. He kills (!!) the lawyer who has been helping them get their marriage recognized in California, but then goes really crazy after he's kicked out of his church for having a gay brother (again,huh?). In desperation, he offers to kill Ben and Arthur. The priest thinks this is a good idea, and hooks him up with a hit man, who only manages to wound Ben. This drives Arthur crazy and he kills the priest by dowsing him with distilled water and setting him on fire (note, at this point he has no evidence the priest was even involved).

Yada yada, Victor shoots and kills Ben, then forces Arthur to get baptized (which the writer seems to believe Catholics do naked). In the end Victor and Ben shoot each other after doing a gay reenactment of the scene between Tony and his sister in Scarface.

Oh, did I mention that there's a completely non-sequitur scene where Ben suddenly becomes abusive and punches Arthur (knocking him out) for being a whiny little bitch? No matter, it's just one of the many unintentionally funny parts.

So congratulations, Tommy Wisceau! Now there's a movie even you can look down on.

Movie Review: Noah's Ark (1999 TV Miniseries)

IMDB link: here
My rating (as a bad movie): 4/5

If you're looking for either a serious Biblical epic or a movie that's intentionally funny, then you should keep looking, but this obscure gem is an absolute must for any bad movie connoisseur.

I totally missed this movie when it came out, but Encore was showing this around the time that the Russell Crowe version of "Noah" came out.  Based on the previews, it really looked like a parody  (think "Monty Python's Life of Noah"). Then I googled it, and realized it was actually meant to be taken seriously. With that in mind, it's kind of like a horrible car wreck you can't look away from.

Where to start...

First of all, they combine the story of Noah with the story of Sodom and Gomorra. Since I don't actually believe either one, this didn't bother me so much. God warns Noah that He's going to destroy Sodom, and Lot gets saved because he's Noah's friend, rather than the whole "Please rape my daughters" thing that's in the Bible. In fact, Lot's daughters are left out entirely, which also gets them out of the awkward part where he gets drunk and has sex with them after they leave the city (what, you never learned that part in Sunday school?). The Ark stuff comes later.

In order to make appeal to a wider audience, the "punched it up" a bit, with action, cheesy special effects, and attempts at humor, some which are funny - although the funniest bits are unintentional. There's also an incredible amount talent wasted on this film. Oscar winners (!) Jon Voight and F. Murray Abraham play Noah and Lot, with Mary Steenburgen and Carol Kane playing their wives. Even James Coburn makes a couple cameos. Their salaries didn't leave them a lot left over for minor things like decent sets. The battle scenes really do look like Monty Python. In addition to playing Noah, Voight also provides the voice of God, presumably because they couldn't afford James Earl Jones. Also, what is it about made for TV movies and accents? Noah and his wife clearly have American accents, while most other people - including their kids - have strong British accents.

The tone is a roller coaster, ranging from sincerely reverent, to bawdy humor (Lot: "Not staying for the orgy, Noah?") to actual slapstick (Lot's wife fall head first into a vat of dye at one point). At one point, the father of Japhet's wife refers to him as - I swear I'm not making this up - "Jay-fart". The music faithfully tracks the tone, transitioning from Cecile B. DeMille to Three Stooges.

You may wonder why the flood happens only halfway through the movie. Without giving any spoilers, I'll just say that there's plenty to come. Grab your beer and popcorn, because that's when things get *really* weird.  Also, Steenburgen, who had somehow managed to retain some acting dignity up until this point, completely runs off the rails.

So if you like to watch bad movies and give them the Mystery Science 3000 treatment, keep this one in mind.

I dinged it one point because as a two part miniseries, it's a bit too long, and when it's not really bad, it's merely boring. I'm seriously considering buying the DVD so I can edit down to a 90 minute party cut.