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Monday, Dec 15, 2014
Hands of a Stranger never works as suspense or horror, but it is odd in its own way, particularly for those fixated on hands.

This uncredited remake of Maurice Renard’s oft-filmed novel The Hands of Orlac takes an entirely psychological approach to the story of a man who has a killer’s hands grafted onto his wrists after an accident and finds the original owner’s murderous impulses taking over. In fact, we never learn the identity of the hand-donor who gets murdered in the opening sequence, and therefore we never know if he’s a killer.


Sensitive concert pianist Vernon Paris (James Stapleton, aka James Noah) is a beautiful fellow of delicate cheekbones. “I like music and I don’t think I’m a sissy,” he smiles. Even before the operation, he’s established as a putative neurotic who may be too close to his doting sister (Joan Harvey) and overcompensating with his shallow girlfriend (Irish McCalla). When he’s accidentally responsible for a couple of deaths—including one of the quickest and most unconvincing in cinema, comparable to the absurd defenestration in The Man with X-Ray Eyes—he blames the hands, the cursed hands!


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Friday, Dec 12, 2014
FKA Twigs released one of the best reviewed albums of the year, finishing in the top 10 of PopMatters' best albums of the year. We caught her performance at a small Brooklyn venue.

Tahliah Barnett, aka FKA Twigs, has one of the best reviewed albums of the year with LP1. It just made #8 on our best best albums of 2014 list. Last month, she performed two sold out shows in New York City, including one at Warsaw, a smaller venue that she easily sold out (the larger show was also sold out). Check out some photos below.


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Friday, Dec 12, 2014
No one man should have all that power. The 97th most acclaimed album of all time is living in that 21st century, doing something mean to it. Counterbalance has a listen.

Mendelsohn: Let’s talk about Kanye West. First order of business — yes, he is complete tabloid fodder. The tantrum-throwing, mic-snatching, Kardashian-marrying Kanye West is a freak of nature. The man went on TV and called out a sitting president for not being a compassionate conservative. Then, a few years later, Kanye gets called out by another sitting president for acting up on national TV. Kanye is some sort of a spacial anomaly that sucks up public attention — a black hole (or just an asshole).


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Friday, Dec 12, 2014
Lifeless Planet uses minimal details to establish a compelling mystery, to subvert our expectations, to create dramatic tension, and to guide exploration.

Lifeless Planet and Stranded approach a similar concept in two very different ways. Whereas Stranded tells us as few details as possible in order to let our imaginations fill in the blanks, Lifeless Planet takes a more conventional approach to its mystery that grows in scope with each new twist. However, despite these very different design philosophies that don’t invite comparison, the two games have very similar beginnings that do invite comparison. I wrote previously about how Stranded is too minimalist for its own good and how it fails to establish mystery, atmosphere, or a desire to explore. Lifeless Planet is Stranded done right, at least for the first hour, before it goes off in another direction. That first hour is similarly minimalist, but uses its minimal details to establish a compelling mystery, to subvert our expectations, to create dramatic tension, and to guide exploration.


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Thursday, Dec 11, 2014
This trip through the sands of Technicolor is more pretty than it is anything else.

Sigmung Romberg’s operetta The Desert Song has been filmed thrice. This 1943 version is the middle one, updated to 1939 on the eve of WWII. After being in limbo over rights issues, it’s now available in beautifully restored Technicolor from Warner Archives. Like its romantic couple, it’s both pretty and dull.


In the French colony of Morocco, some tribes are revolting. They’re willing to declare their loyalty to France for justice, but they’re being exploited by a local bigwig (Victor Francen) who’s forcing their labor to build a railroad in a secret deal with the Nazis. It’s not clear how their labor issues will be resolved after the French government takes over the railroad project (maybe they’ll be paid), but the movie ends before that. Meanwhile, the leader of one tribe, who calls himself El Khobar (Dennis Morgan), has a secret identity as an American piano player in a nightclub. A visiting French songstress (Irene Manning) falls for the way he sets her politics straight.


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