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Popular culture moments from the weekend:

1. So Friday night I finally got around to watching Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. I have a mixed reaction to Anderson's films, which often have a forced artistry to them, a "I am staging this scene this way to make an artistic point, damn it," feel, which is certainly not absent here. And this particular Anderson film tends to waver between tones, from sardonic to heavy tragedy; there's a center scene that feels particularly out of place that seems to miss the tone it's striving for. On the other hand, the dialogue has some nice moments, Natalie Portman removes a lot of clothing, always a plus, and the Anjelica Huston bit at the end is excellent.

After that, we turned on Balls of Fury. It will surprise no one that this was not my choice of films, but I was amused enough to actually laugh through it. For the majority of you that missed this, it's a comedy film that crosses, god help us, ping pong with martial arts films and Christopher Walken. It will surprise no one that Christopher Walken saves the movie, which unfortunately doesn't go quite over the top enough. Had this hit the absurdity levels of, say, Top Secret, the utterly ridiculous premise might have slightly worked, but as it was, I kept thinking, ok, ridiculous, instead of ha-ha. Which reminds me that I need to see Top Secret again.

2. I missed the four part TV adaptation of The Stand last time it aired, and almost missed it this time around too – indeed, I would have if hawkward hadn't reminded it that it was on the SciFi Channel, and even then, I missed the first two parts.

It's been awhile since I read the book, so I can't be sure how close the adaptation is, but most of what I saw seemed to match my recollections, although I don't quite remember the touch of Nadine managing to find a little pink motorcycle. The casting, too, for the most part seems ok, although Molly Ringwald seems a bit off and the girl playing Nadine isn't off enough. And the special effects at the end in Vegas are really, truly atrocious, raising the question of why bother to attempt to film them at all.

What I'd totally forgotten is just how overtly religious the entire plot is, although I shouldn't have: King is usually far more religious than he's given credit for, and apocalypses in general tend to have a religious element. I'm tempted to suggest, on the first part, that King's writings contain that religious element because of the connection between religion and horror (although not necessarily the other way around) – a connection that exists since religion exists, in part, as a way to explain and distract and contend with the true horrors of the world. The second – well, many religions contain a belief in a final end, and, if a final, final end really does show up, in the form of nuclear bombs or alien attacks or the complete and utter destruction of the cocoa bean, I suspect many would turn to religion or outright atheism in reaction. (The utter destruction of the cocoa bean would probably drive me to drink and the mournful realization that said drinks couldn't contain chocolate, which would be beyond sad.)

(S reminded me of several apocalypses without a religious element, so it's definitely possible to have an apocalyptic vision/film/book without a religious element.)

3. Not that I precisely object to yet another Hercules movie/series/saga, but the tagline, "To Kick Ass is Divine" -- ??? Oh, SciFi Channel, did you have to go there?

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Mari Ness

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