The Stratosphere Girl (2004)

Angela, an 18-year-old Belgian girl, craves adventure and doesn't want to study. Having become involved with a Japanese DJ, she makes her way to Tokyo, where she ends up working in a shadowy world of nightclubs that provide European "hostesses" for weary Japanese businessmen.

What does a hostess do, exactly? Well, it depends. The concept is companionship. They talk and sing some karaoke and ... well ... whatever. There are rules, but they are sometimes broken. If one girl gets greedy and agrees to go too far in order to increase her income, she will face strong penalties, but not from her club or the law, but from her fellow hostesses, who don't want to be peer-pressured into prostitution or stripping. The women like the market just the way it is. Young Angela is very pleased that she doesn't have to strip or have sex , but she nonetheless incurs the wrath of her peers by getting some big tips and getting called over to too many tables. This is quite uncomfortable because the women also live together, dormitory style.

While she is getting acclimated to this world, Angela stumbles into what she thinks is a murder mystery. One of the women who used to work at her club has disappeared. Angela comes to believe that her curiosity about the incident may cause her to become the next woman to disappear, and then she is kidnapped ...

Or maybe not.

You see, Angela is a cartoonist. Her life's ambition is to draw comic strips, and it seems that she is creating one about her experiences in Japan. Except the film is simply ambiguous about the relationship between her drawings and reality. Perhaps we see her reality, and then we see her drawings based upon her life. Or perhaps her reality is mundane, and she draws stories which make everything seem dramatic, and we are only watching what she imagines.

Thus, in the end we witness a happy ending to the murder mystery and Angela's kidnapping. The only problem is that we don't know what has really happened. Perhaps Angela imagined the entire murder plot in the first place. Or perhaps there was really a plot, but she just imagined a happy ending. Or maybe she's still back in Belgium and the whole story is just her fantasy based upon her one encounter with the Japanese DJ. The film never really reveals what is real. This kind of ambiguity can be very effectively mysterious and literary, or completely frustrating and annoying. Maybe both. Personally, I prefer not to get dicked around like that, but plenty of people enjoy that kind of subtlety and understatement, and this film is for them.

It's a film with a consistent aesthetic and atmosphere. The Japanese nightlife, the comic strip, the mysterious music, and Angela's childish narration all add to a strange dream-like juxtaposition of the crude and the innocent. This film is odd, and arty, and you won't know what's really going on, but in its own way, it is quite effective.

Chloe Winkel could not have been cast more perfectly. She was an 18-year-old Flemish girl with the face of an angel playing an 18-year-old Flemish girl named Angela. Unfortunately, she is not much of an actress. In fact I think she's actually a fashion model, and she has almost no grasp of English. If you plan to watch it, my suggestion is to do so with English sub-titles. The film is in English, at least theoretically, but Chloe's narration is just about incomprehensible.

It checks in at 6.3 at IMDb. A C on our scale. Completely competent arthouse fare, but no mainstream appeal.

Chloe Winkel in the film (zipped .wmv).
Peggy Jane de Schepper (zipped .wmv). Note: the film clip is decent, even though the collage looks like crud. The scene just didn't make for very good caps.






Colbert on 60 minutes

"Geraldo Rivera smoking marijuana and reporting on its effects, under medical supervision, for a 1974 news segment."

Sure the Cubs suck, but it ain't Zambrano's fault

  • Hell, with five homers in 66 at bats, he's probably their best hitter as well.
  • He's now 15-6 (.714) for a team that may lose 100 games. (61-89 .407, 46-83 .357 when Zambrano does not get the decision.)
  • He's .357 above his team. The all-time example of a great pitcher on a bad team would probably be Steve Carlton on the 72 Phillies, who was .461 over the team. The team went 59-97 overall, a bit worse than the current Cubbies, but Carlton never even noticed that they sucked, finishing 27-10 with 30 complete games. His winning percentage was .730. When he was not involved in the decision, the team's winning percentage was .269, almost as bad as the legendary 1962 Mets. Carlton's 27-win season for one of the worst teams in history is often listed as a candidate for the most incredible pitching accomplishment in baseball history.

Thomas puts another Big Hurt on White Sox playoff hopes.

The Big Guy hits number 57 again

  • He actually hit #57 the day before, but lost it to a blown call

"Fox News Offers Pope His Own Show'The Pope Benedict XVI Factor' to Debut Next Week"

Weekend Box Office Results for September 15-17, 2006

  • The new releases took the top four spots, but with no results to write home about. The worst performer relative to expectations was Brian DePalma's The Black Dahlia, which barely cleared ten million, compared to expectations in the mid teens. It will struggle to finish over thirty, compared to a budget of fifty or more.
  • The Last Kiss may or may not finish fourth, depending on the corrected take Monday. As of these estimates, it is only $2,000 ahead of the #5 film.
  • The hold-overs generally did well, with all but Hollywoodland exceeding expectations.
  • The weekend was up about 13% from last week's disaster, but was still some dozen points below the comparable weekend last year.

Bill Maher - New Rules - 9/15. This is funny. He seems to be back in the groove.

Dirty Sanchez: The Movie





Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

Lucky Number Slevin is a crime drama where nothing is what it seems, although it takes most of the film to reveal that fact. It was a huge relief for me, because the plot was not adding up for me until we started getting those revelations. We are led to believe that Josh Hartnett is down on his luck.  He lost his job, his apartment was condemned and he caught his girlfriend (Jennifer Miller) cheating on him. He's visiting an old friend in New York, and is mistaken for his friend, who owes big money to two crime bosses that hate each other. Since he was mugged just before getting to his buddy's apartment, he has no proof of his identity.  He confides his recent bad luck to her. She no sooner leaves than Two goons take him to one of the mob leaders. He is given an offer he can't refuse. Not long after, he is hauled in to meet the other. We are also introduced to Bruce Willis, a famous assassin.

In addition to those already mentioned, the cast includes Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci and Danny Aeillo. There was not a bad performance in the film, but for me the show was stolen by a high energy performance from Lucy Liu, as a coroner who lives across the hallways from Hartnett's missing friend.

Generally, I get really upset when a director tells me at the end that nothing I just saw was real, but in this case almost everyone in the film is also being duped, which somehow makes it OK. In fact, the director went so far as to desaturate everything that wasn't true as a clue. I am not at all sorry I saw it, and genre lovers will enjoy it. I think the high current IMDb score is likely to drop a little, putting it in the high 6s where it probably belongs.

Jennifer Miller








Serena Williams must have the biggest, hardest female butt in the world. I can't decide whether I'm attracted to it or repelled by it, but it's definitely unique, and given the fact that the rest of her is also impressive, I'd love to see her pose nekkid.

Pink in a larger version than previously seen.

Sophie Barjac in L'amour en douce

Emmanuelle Beart in L'amour en douce

I never get tired of looking at caps of Linnea Quigley in Return of the Living Dead. This is another I would place in my all-time Top 25.

Allison Folland in Things Behind the Sun.

Elle Macpherson topless at 43. She doesn't look as good as she used to, but then who does look as good she she used to? Maybe statues of the goddess Athena. Anyway, she looks better than anyone I have a chance of seeing naked for free.

Here is a very high quality version of that Emmanuelle Chriqui slip.

Marketa Rosak in Deadly Engagement.

One more celebrity who doesn't wear panties: Victoria Silvstedt.

Wendy Pan in Eye of the Stranger. She never really caught on to become as popular as her brother, Peter

Jenny Neumann in the timeless screen romance, Mistress of the Apes. She, too, never really caught on to become as popular as her brother, Alfred E