Friday, February 5, 2010

A Man and His Dog

Red - 2008 - Dir: Trygve Allister Diesen & Lucky McKee
Location: The Comfort of My House

In this story an older widower in a small town, Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox), takes a trip down to his usual fishing hole with his trusty old dog Red. Their peaceful day is ruined by a group of three teenage boys with a gun who try to rob Ludlow. When they realize he doesn't have any real money in a sort of anger one of the kids shoots the man's dog in cold blood. After burying his best friend Ludlow goes on a mission to find the boys responsible and see that some sort of punishment is delivered for what they have done.

This is based on a book by Jack Ketchum of the same name which I read a few years ago. After seeing the film version I really want to read it again to see the differences. From what I can remember the film follows the source material rather closely and does the story justice. This is a man out for vengeance, not necessarily for blood but for some sort of justice of the wrong done to him and his dog. We learn Ludlow had problems with his own kid at one time which makes the quest for this horrible kid to actually tell the truth. The story can be pretty heartbreaking at times but you really feel the need for justice.

The director issue is a weird one.  Lucky McKee (May, The Woods) was set to direct and Angela Bettis (May) was set to have a role, but for some reason they were both removed during the filming.  She was recast and he was replaced.  Nothing really say why this happened but it's a very fishy situation.  I wonder if any of his original footage still exists.

I can tell you that I would not handle this situation as calmly as Ludlow.  I love my dog more than anything and if someone did this I would probably go a bit crazy on the killer.  Very much recommended. Pick up the DVD here. The paperback of the book seems to be out-of-print right now, but you can get a used copy here or the hardcover here.

Ketchum is one of my favorite current horror authors. While he has had a lot of cinematic love (Red, The Lost, Offspring, The Girl Next Door) I really wish one of his colleagues, Brian Keene, would get the same treatment. I would love to see any of his books onscreen. I'll keep crossing my fingers.

Just, Melvin: Just Evil - 2000 - Dir: James Ronald Whitney
Location: The Comfort of My House

This was originally aired as an HBO special documentary and exposes some very horrible skeletons in one family's closet. Director Whitney takes a journey through his family and how they explore a father/stepfather who ruined all of their lives. Whitney's grandmother, on this mother's side, had six kids. Four with her first husband and then she married Melvin Just. This man seemed nice enough at first but it soon became apparent he had an penchant for young girls. Whitney's mother was one of the many kids in his family that Melvin molested. After leaving Whitney's grandmother he married another woman with multiple girls and then continued his sexual crimes. Through all of this he also murdered a nurse at a time when they had no proof, but everyone knows he did the deed.

Now, years later, Whitney interviews all the members of his family who talk quite frankly about the horrors of Melvin Just. How he would make them do sexual things before he would give/buy them tampons, or would give money to one of the young girls depending on how far he could "get it in." A whole dollar was the price for all the way. During the documentary we see how the lives have been effected by the crimes of this man. Most of the kids who grew up with Just as an "influence" are complete wrecks, living in their car and being addicted to drugs. Most, including Whitney's mother, have attempted suicide more than a couple times.

It's almost physically painful to watch the lives destroyed because of what one man did with no repercussions. At times it is hard to watch or even listen but this documentary does what it sets out to do. To tell the world about the crimes of one man who the normal justice system, for some reason, could never touch. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be in this type of situation but it rips your heart out when they talk about all of the pain he caused them. How they wished he were dead, but they still loved him because he's their daddy.

Since this was mainly only aired on HBO, it's not something you can just rent or buy. Good luck finding it, but if you do it's worth the watch. Just be ready for a very serious look into a dark subject.

Copyright Criminals - 2009 - Dir: Benjamin Franzen & Kembrew McLeod
Location: The Comfort of My House - PBS' Independent Lens

This entry on Independent Lens is a look at the legal battles over sampling music. Hip-Hop, Rap, any electronic music and most everything on Top 40 radio now is full of songs created by sampling other songs. This short doc delves into the world of those for or against the medium and some of the more famous cases involving copyright infringement. Members of Public Enemy and De La Soul are interviewed alongside many DJs like Mix Master Mike, DJ Spooky and DJ Qbert. People wage their opinion from the background of the law, musical study, and even artists who have been widely sampled like George Clinton and ex-drummer for James Brown, Clyde Stubblefield.

I think each side has their good points. In most cases when you are looping a two or three second sample that's different than putting new lyrics on a whole tune. But I do agree that the songwriters deserve to get paid for the use. Unfortunately most of the time the artist doesn't even see the money. In the case of drummer Stubblefield he never sees a dime. All that money goes to Brown's estate and whoever owns publishing rights. At the time he was paid for studio time and never saw, or never will see, any royalties. Now all he asks for is a thank you, or credit given to a drum lick he created, performed and recorded that has become the back beat for more hip-hop songs that you can imagine.

Some very interesting thoughts and some good tunes contained in this hour long look. Regardless of what your stance, you have to admit it's a bit ridiculous that it costs more for a two second sample than to cover/use the entire song. Pick up the DVD here or you can watch it on-demand here.


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