Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fool's Views (5/16 – 5/22)

My friends, you are witness to an unheard of event. Believe it or not, I’m all caught up. (Granted, I’m still technically a couple days late, but still.) Now we’ll just see how long this lasts. I’m almost tempted to stop watching movies for a while, just so…

Almost got through that sentence with a straight face. Almost.

This week’s horror Views were brought to you exclusively via the good people (okay, person) at Kitley’s Krypt. For those still not bitten by the Kryptic Army bug, you really should join the party. Each month, a theme is unveiled and the assignment is to watch two films that you have not seen before within that subgenre/theme, then report back. The reports can be as simple as “Saw it, hated it” or you can elucidate further. Bottom line, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to discover new flicks and interact with your fellow fiends. Here’s the link: http://www.kitleyskrypt.com/army.htm Head over to the Krypt, sign up for the Army and Discover the Horror!

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.)

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!


HORROR:
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
(5th viewing) d. Rodriguez, Robert
Viewed (with Rodriguez’s and writer/co-star Quentin Tarantino’s commentary) in order to properly prepare myself to engage in worthy discussion with my fellow Cinematic Crossroads companions, coming soon to a website (with the initials KK) near you. There’ll be a LOT more discussion to be had at that time, but suffice to say, I’m a fan.



KRYPTIC ARMY ASSIGNMENT: WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU! (CANNIBALS)


Grimm Love (2006)
(1st viewing) d. Weisz, Martin
Okay, first off, despite being released by Fangoria, this brings up the notion of what can legitimately be called a horror film. Yes, it’s about admittedly twisted subject matter, which is then approached in such a way as to attempt to create empathy for all its characters, rendering any attempts to “scare” or “terrify” completely beside the point. The true-life story of aspiring cannibal Oliver Hartwin and willing victim Simon Grombeck, who crossed paths in an internet chat room and later met in person to mutually fulfill the other’s fantasy, is definitely squirm-worthy, but director Weisz presents them as sad, emotionally stunted and pathetic individuals seeking solace in one another. Is this truly horror? Or just a film that couldn’t get sold to Lifetime or HBO? Both Thomas Kretschmann and Thomas Huber inhabit their roles perfectly, and the material is handled in a very straightforward manner – their story, that is. By contrast, the framing device of Keri Russell’s graduate student “fascinated” by the case, allowing the filmmakers to pad out the running time and comment on the case, is unbelievably hackneyed and uninspired. And what the hell is Russell doing in this film anyway? Not only don’t we need her character, we don’t need stunt casting as our conduit to the story. The central narrative contains a well-done, realistic cannibal movie, but best to approach it as a docudrama rather than a joyfully depraved gut-munching gorefest.


Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972) (1st viewing) d. Townsend, Bud
Discovered via John Kenneth Muir’s awesome tome Horror Films of the 1970s, and while I don’t share his same adulatory reaction, this Australian effort delivers enjoyable if predictable indie horror fare. When bubbly young co-ed Linda Gillin wins a mysterious free bed n’ breakfast package, she is promptly whisked away via private jet to a bucolic seaside estate. Upon arrival, she and two other attractive females are wined and dined to bursting by a kindly eccentric old couple and their slightly-off offspring. However, after each feast, the table’s head count seems to diminish by one… Where do the guests go and how does the walk-in refrigerator stay so well stocked? It doesn’t take much to see where things are going, but shock and surprise are not what are on Townsend and screenwriter Allen Actor’s minds; rather their seeming agenda is to revel in bizarre character tics and conspicuous culinary consumption. To that end, success is achieved, since John Nielson’s arrested adolescent careens from docile mama’s boy to shark-pummeling madman (a truly remarkable and memorable sequence) and the endless close-ups of lips smacking and belly rubbing definitely work up an appetite. Ironically, all the characters are pretty thin – both literally and figuratively – but in a Hansel & Gretel retelling such as this, not much “fleshing out” is required, and all the performers serve the turn admirably. Bottom line, it’s not exactly filling, but it’s worth a taste. Available on the Mill Creek NIGHTMARE WORLDS 50Pack.




CIVILIAN:
Iceman Cometh, The (1973)
(1st viewing) d. Frankenheimer, John
A stellar cast (Fredric March, Bradford Dillman, Jeff Bridges, Robert Ryan, Sorrell Booke) enlivens Eugene O’Neill’s classic stage play about a community of barflies and lowlifes who keep “pipe dreams” alive so as to avoid dealing with their failed existences. Lee Marvin gives a towering performance as Hickey, the fast-talking salesman with hidden motives behind his many motivational speeches. A fascinating, four-hour long epic that never fails to engage the mind and ear.


Red White & Blue (2010) (1st viewing) d. Rumley, Simon
Rumley, who delivered the captivating The Living and the Dead a few years back, unleashes another crushing character study, this time following the intersecting lives of a damaged & promiscuous party girl, a grizzled Army veteran, a young rock n’ roller and his cancer-afflicted mother, all residents of a small Texas community. Gotta say, this is going to be the one to beat for “end of year” AC honors. Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Ensemble... What's truly sad is that mainstream America will likely never hear about it. While not a horror movie, per se, it definitely contains some disturbing imagery, and I’m tempted to say that including said imagery may have been a mistake, because these elements will be what keeps the film out of the public eye, and honestly, they’re not integral to this great, emotionally accessible piece of art. Not saying I don’t appreciate Rumley's vision en toto – I do. It just means that I can't recommend the picture wholesale to everyone I know. It's going to be one of those "endorsements with qualifiers,” i.e. if you can’t handle explicit sex and violence, keep on moving.


Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005) (1st viewing) d. Greenwald, Robert
Underpay workers, pay off public officials, gobble up subsidies, undercut communities, destroy family businesses, pollute the environment, shirk social/moral responsibilities, bust unions, utilize cheap foreign labor and you too can become the most successful corporation in the world. We have a choice and a voice, people, and wallet-speak is the only language that makes a difference. Your move.


CHAN IS THE MAN:
Armour of God (1987)
(1st viewing) d. Chan, Jackie
Operation Condor (1991) (1st viewing) d. Chan, Jackie
The director/star delivers the comic/action goods, introducing an archeological soldier of fortune character for two stand-alone features. Breathtaking stunts interlaced with rib-tickling, bone-shattering set-pieces, lovely ladies and comic book villains are the standing house orders. More, please.

2011 totals to date: 211 films, 126 1st time views, 103 horror, 14 cinema

TV:

Arrested Development – 1 episode

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fool's Views (5/2 – 5/15)


Greetings, Boils and Ghouls,

Representing the period of time prior to and during my visit with Mom & the dogs out in Colorado, the Views here represent various influences. Rue Morgue magazine guided my hand on a couple, expiring Netflix streaming options dictated a few more, and the opportunity to expose a group of impressionable minds to a master class in why horror remakes are often a bad idea rounded out the program. (Although, now that I think of it, I would love to see a Crawling Eye remake. Someone get on that, will you?) However, the rationale behind watching Water Power is still beyond my understanding. The best I can say is, after owning it for five years, it was simply time.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!


HORROR:
Bone Sickness (2004)
(1st viewing) d. Paulin, Brian
Okay, this is not a “great” movie, even for being a DIY zombies-in-the-backyard flick. The plotline (guy with degenerative bone disease gets fed ground-up corpse fodder courtesy of his med school buddy, resulting in an undead outbreak ) is not the strongest narrative ever conceived, and the film fails in pretty much every technical arena possible (lighting, sound, camera movement, acting…wait, what acting?). However, that all said, writer/director/actor/ Savini-school grad Paulin manages to dish out stellar goo and grue at an astonishing rate, as well as convincing his neighborhood cast of gal pals – every single one – to lose their shirts at some point. And stages an effing armed forces siege and car crashes in the final reel? All this on a reported budget of $3000? I love this guy!


Crawling Eye, The (aka The Trollenberg Terror) (1958) (2nd viewing) d. Lawrence, Quentin
Mountaineering expedition in the Alps goes absolutely batty when a remote mountain resort is shrouded by a mysterious, radioactive cloud that conceals a horde of decapitation-happy space aliens disguised as giant, tentacled eyeballs. Because, you know, they want to blend in. Forrest Tucker and Janet Munro (Caroline’s mom) lead the intrepid cast, whilst Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster provides the wacky script. (One can easily picture Jim giggling over his typewriter the entire time – “Oh, yes, and they’re telepathic! That’s good...”)




GREAT AMERICAN HORROR FOR NEXT TO NOTHING: JIM MICKLE DOUBLE FEATURE
Mulberry Street (2006)
(2nd viewing) d. Mickle, Jim
Stake Land (2010) (1st viewing) d. Mickle, Jim
Shot on budgets that wouldn’t cover most Hollywood productions’ craft services, Mickle’s two features take bizarre apocalyptic premises (bloodthirsty mutant man/rat creatures in the former, roving bands of mutated vampires in the latter) and then infuse them with superlative camerawork, astonishing makeup effects and remarkably well-drawn characters, resulting in two of the finest indie horror releases of the past decade. Both films were co-written by Mickle and lead actor Nick Damici (who is terrific), and consistently surprise us with their nimble combination of humanity and horror. Whereas MS is creepy and claustrophobic within its NYC locations (nearly all the interiors were redressed versions of Damici’s own apartment and building), SL takes the reverse tack, placing its roving band of survivors out in the open roads and fields of rural Americana. The director also displays a gift with actors, as nary a false note is struck from unknowns and screen veterans alike. Two incredible independent efforts that should be required viewing for any budding horrormeisters who think it impossible to create a worthwhile end product with limited financial resources. Both are Highly Recommended.




SEEING DOUBLE #7: BUZZ…KILL
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The (1974)
(5th viewing) d. Hooper, Tobe
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003) (3rd viewing) d. Nispel, Marcus
Watched these as a Share the Scare with my buddy’s group of teens, and was pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed the aesthetics of Hooper’s groundbreaking drive-in smash. With every subsequent viewing, I’m awestruck by how it feels like no other film ever made, how effective it is in delivering the scares, how bizarre and original the production design, how brilliantly selected and executed the editing of sound and image, and the effortless insanity of the nefarious bad ‘uns trio, Gunnar Hansen, Jim Siedow and Edwin Neal. By contrast, Nispel’s slicked-up remake – which many believe launched the aughts’ torture porn movement – deserves points for screenwriter Scott Kosar’s not completely aping the original, to the point of being barely a remake at all. But aside from that, R. Lee Ermey’s joyously satanic lawman and Jessica Biel’s white tank top, I have very little love for it. However, as familiarity set in on this, my third viddy, I found it less offensive to my sensibilities than on previous encounters – and that’s what really scared me.



CIVILIAN:

Cropsey (2009)
(1st viewing) d. Brancaccio, Barbara/Zeman, Joshua
Meandering and disappointing documentary about the titular Staten Island boogeyman, as nascent filmmakers attempt to tie real-life crimes and kidnappings into the accompanying urban legend. So little done with so little, with no conclusions drawn and no concrete point of view expressed. Bleah.





E-X-P-L-O-I-T-A-T-I-O-N DOUBLE BILL
Act of Vengeance (aka Rape Squad) (1974)
(1st viewing) d. Kelljan, Bob
The director of Count Yorga, Vampire, its sequel and Scream Blacula Scream delves into the real-life horrors of sexual assault and murder as a hockey-masked serial rapist terrorizes a city, leading his victims to unite together, learn kung fu defense tactics and ensnare the bastard. A skillfully crafted exploitation effort, reveling in prurient criminal acts before unleashing hellish comeuppance upon their perpetrator.


Water Power (1977) (1st viewing) d. Costello, Shaun
Legendary (and infamous) pornographic effort, featuring 70s mainstay Jamie Gillis as a twisted voyeur who, after a fateful visit to a specialty bordello, develops a kink for administering high colonics to unwilling participants. “The Enema Bandit” (one of the films alternate titles) soon has backdoors spewing brown water like rusty spigots – not a sight easily forgotten, I assure you. WTF and WOW.

2011 totals to date: 203 films, 119 1st time views, 100 horror, 14 cinema

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fool's Views (4/25 – 5/1)


Howdy folks,

Don’t mean to kick things off with a downer, but it feels like it's time to come clean. This week in question, I must confess, was a really weird week, though my viewing habits might not bear it out except in their excess. Returning from the immersion film experience of Dead Weight turned out to be a harder adjustment than one might have guessed. In retrospect, I suppose it makes sense, since we were living in a post apocalyptic setting for most of the daylight hours, and then all taking shelter together every night in the same abode, a sort of commune-like existence. After nine days of this alternative lifestyle, returning to the “normal” world was a bit of a shock to the system. I found it difficult to do much of anything for the first few days, and so gazing into the magic window attached to the DVD player became the only thing that made much sense.

And then, on Thursday, April 28, I got a call that my good friend and former roommate Patrick Deveny had been unexpectedly hospitalized and was in a coma following heart failure. Patrick was 40 years old, not unhealthy and planning to move THAT MORNING to start a new job in Houston, TX with his bride of 10 years, Alasin. After 36 hours of life support with no brain activity, the decision was made to turn off the machines, and Patrick went on to a different plane of existence. I was happy that I was able to say my goodbyes in person before he passed, but once again, the normal world seemed completely foreign to me, trying to come to terms with the loss of my friend. The combination of the DW shoot and the week that followed are the primary reasons for my delay in writing. And I seriously questioned whether I would ever write another review, as everything in my life was called into question. Is this how I wanted to spend my time, knowing that any moment could be our last? But the truth is, yes, I have a passion for film, for horror, for sharing with my friends, and so, this past week I sat back down at the keyboard.

We must follow our passions. We must. Because it is this that makes us special, and makes us who we are. And whether or not it is “worthwhile” or “a waste of time” is not for anyone else to decide or judge. Remember that, my friends. When you keel over, may it be while you are doing something you love. I’d like to dedicate this particular batch of FV’s to Patrick, who, while he rarely weighed in on them, always enjoyed reading them and said that he often picked movies based on any recommendations I might throw his way. I miss you, pal.

On with the Views. We’ve got a wild and wooly plate for you this time around, with scream queens, alligator people, martial arts mayhem and terror from beyond the stars. Hope you like.

As always, feel free to throw in your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:


Alligator People, The (1959) (2nd viewing) d. del Ruth, Roy
Beverly Garland’s newlywed-gone-bonkers, Lon Chaney’s ranting, hook-handed hired hand and Ben Nye & Dick Smith’s capably scaly makeup effects are the highlights of this low frills, low chills yarn about handsome young groom Richard Crane transformed via that pesky science-gone-awry into a two-legged handbag rep. Fun in its own late 50s, cheesy sci-fi way, but far from a classic.

Drag Me to Hell (2009) (2nd viewing) d. Raimi, Sam
Raimi returns to the horror genre via this tale of vengeful gypsy curses visited upon comely Alison Lohman, filled with scads of fun boo-scary moments with bodily fluids spraying, drooling and spattering like the good ol’ days. Sure, the ending is a more than a little telegraphed and Justin Long is hard to buy as a professor of anything, but Lorna Raver’s turn as the antagonistic withered crone is worth the price of admission alone. While complaints have been lodged of the director cannibalizing his early work (specifically his 1981 debut, The Evil Dead), I have no doubt this was intentional and done with a wink and a smile.




KRYPTIC ARMY ASSIGNMENT: WE ARE NOT ALONE!
Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)
(1st viewing) d. Pink, Sidney
Phantom Planet, The (1961) (1st viewing) d. Marshall, William
Wow. I’m usually a big fan of 60s sci-fi, but both of these featured about 4 minutes of awesomeness while the rest of the time was yawnsville, even with their relatively short running times (and John Agar on hand for Journey!) Much like 1959's Angry Red Planet (which Pink produced and co-scripted with Ib Melchior), there is only one sequence which will make creature feature fans sit up and take note – in place of that film’s cool-ass space bat-spider, here we have a stop-motion rat-cyclops monster who menaces our heroes. But once it’s been vanquished, the spookiest things that show up are the ghosts of girlfriends past and some incredibly stilted line readings. There’s a smidge more action in Phantom Planet, with blonde hero Dean Fredericks kidnapped off his rocketship by the titular world’s miniaturized inhabitants. They shrink him down to their size (presumably to save on the effects budget) and then it’s another “who’s gonna get the new guy” tug-o-war betwixt the extraterrestrial femmes. Richard Kiel (aka James Bond’s “Jaws”) shows up in the final reel as a “Solarite” monster, completely encased in a rubber suit with bulging eyes, and these scenes are the most fun to be had. Honestly, leaning on the FF button, pausing only for a few choice moments, is the means by which to achieve the optimal viewing experience.

TIFFANY SHEPIS FILM FESTIVAL


In anticipation of seeing my favorite scream queen at HorrorHound in March, I loaded up the Netflix queue with all of her features that I had not yet viddied…and then never got around to watching them before our date in Indianapolis came along. That said, it’s probably just as well, as I would have probably worn out my welcome asking her questions about each one during our HorrorHound interview (on shelves now!!!) However, I knew I wanted to make a point of visiting them all, and so one fateful day, I sat my tuckus down on the couch and let the Shepis roll. And roll and roll and roll… Sadly, the films themselves are not always the most entertaining. To wit:

Scarecrow (2002) (1st viewing) d. Itier, Emmanuel
Pretty darn silly slasher flick about a scarecrow inhabited by a vengeful nerd’s spirit. Tiffany plays the tough gal who bucks the “pick on him” trend, and avoids his wrath and teeth clenching one-liners…until the end, that is.

Home Sick (2007) (1st viewing) d. Wingard, Adam
Ill-conceived gorefest with little to no plot or motivation. Amidst a lot of annoying characters, Bill Moseley and Tom Towles are wasted in their small roles. Tiffany disappears halfway through the flick, but has a fairly memorable final scene. Good f/x on a small budget, and writer/director Wingard’s next film would be the critically acclaimed Pop Skull, but that’s hardly a recommendation.

Dark Reel (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Eisenstadt, Josh
Tiff plays a scream queen on a haunted movie set, while a burned-out looking Edward Furlong is cast as a burned out horror fanboy. Has its moments, but ultimately kinda blah. I wanted to ask if she got him the subsequent Night of the Demons remake gig, or the other way around, or was it a total coincidence, but forgot. Ah well.

Nympha (2007) (1st viewing) d. Zuccan, Ivan
Interesting but flawed nunsploitation/possession/torture flick with Tiffany entering a convent, only to be haunted by bizarre dreams and visions. For pure Shepis nekkidness, this would be the way to go, because she spends a lot of time in the buff and even has a mild lesbian encounter. A lot of good ideas, but never really gels as a film, which is too bad since it also seems to be Zuccan’s M.O. (Colour of the Dark, The Shunned House)

Nightmare Man (2006) (1st viewing) d. Kanefsky, Rolfe
This didn’t really make a lot of fans when it made the rounds as part of the “8 Films to Die for” series a few years back, and maybe by this point my defenses had been worn down, but I really got a kick out of this wisecracking horror outing centering on an African fertility mask that puts a whammy on its wearer. Not only is Shepis perfectly in her sexy/tough/funny element with frequent collaborator Kanefsky, but genre gal Blythe Metz is also on hand and lookin’ goooooood.

Tromeo and Juliet (1996) (2nd viewing) d. Kaufman, Lloyd
Finished strong with a rewatch Tiffany’s debut flick, in which she kicked ass and took names at the tender age of 15. This is also one of Troma’s finest hours, a legitimately funny and clever spin on the classic Shakespeare romance, set in a world of piercings, mutant cow spells, incest and drug abuse. Written by James Gunn, who would soon give us the Dawn of the Dead remake’s script and helm Slither and Super.

(I also watched the beginnings of Dorm of the Dead and Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, but since Shepis’ characters disappeared within the first couple minutes in both and both were sucking out loud, I didn’t bother to finish them.)

CIVILIAN:


Escape from New York (1981) (3rd viewing) d. Carpenter, John
It’s easy to forget that this tongue-in-cheek futuristic actioner appeared several years before any of the rest of the he-man, musclehead 80s action fare, a pioneer if you will (even as Kurt Russell rolls out his best Eastwood impression). Revisiting this a week after watching the dogshite Escape from L.A. only made me hate the latter all the more.

Fade-In (1968) (1st viewing) d. Taylor, Jud
Shot at the same time as (and featuring scenes from) the 1968 Terence Stamp vehicle Blue, this TV-movie is notable now for being one of Burt Reynolds’ first lead roles. There’s minor interest in seeing the day-to-day behind the scenes goings-on of moviemaking grunt work, but the main focus of the story is Reynolds and film editor Barbara Loden’s production kickoff-to-wrap romance, and it’s fairly standard stuff.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) (2nd viewing) d. Wright, Edgar
Fresh, fast and funny film about nebbish Canadian bass player Michael Cera’s attempts to romance mystery girl Mary Elizabeth Winstead, not realizing that videogame-style combat with her “seven evil ex’s” is also a part of the bargain. Extremely winning work from the entire ensemble, and Wright manages to provide multiple opportunities for each to shine.

Spanking the Monkey (1994) (1st viewing) d. Russell, David O.
Jeremy Davies stars in Russell’s daring indie feature debut, a wonderfully unique coming of age dramedy, as a young undergrad who returns to his rural homestead after sexy mom Alberta Watson breaks her leg. In tending to her temporary invalidity, Davies finds himself tumbling into romantic entanglements of both Oedipal and underage varieties. Clever, bizarre, inspired, grounded…and well worth seeing.

Town, The (2010) (1st viewing) d. Affleck, Ben
Strong character-driven Beantown crime saga which continues the promise shown in Affleck’s 2007 directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. Big Ben also shines as the leader of a gang of robbers who strikes up a romance with the solitary witness of their last job (Rebecca Hall), and is well supported by his sterling band of players: Jeremy Renner, Pete Postlewaite, Chris Cooper and Mad Men’s John Hamm That said, I can’t say that I hold much truck in the “Oscar snub” grumbling – it’s fine entertainment, but nothing extraordinary.




THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE DEADLY
Ip Man (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Yip, Wilson
Donnie Yen quietly commands the screen as real life Wing Chun kung fu master Yip Man reluctantly and graciously vanquishing his challengers, be they rival instructors, mercenary gangs, or even the invading Japanese army. Gorgeously photographed and elegantly choreographed, one of the best looking martial arts epics of the past decade.

Undefeatable (1993) (1st viewing) d. Ho, Godfrey
Jaw-dropping sleazefest of twisted mama’s boy Don Niam sparked to a murderous kung fu women-killing spree after his eternally abused wife leaves him. After sis becomes his latest victim, former gang member Cynthia Rothrock teams with good-guy cop John Miller to pursue and stop the eyeball-gouging goombah. With gleefully over the top performances hairsprayed within an inch of their lives, this is a cheese-tastic time capsule of 80s excess trapped in cinematic amber. Joy, thy name is Undefeatable.

2011 totals to date: 194 films, 114 1st time views, 94 horror, 13 cinema

TV:

The Office (UK version) – 4 episodes

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fool's Views (4/18 – 4/24)


All the flicks listed below (with one SUCKLING exception) were viewed in Oshkosh, WI above the auspicious confines of the House of Heroes comic book shop, the place that we called home during the off hours of DEAD WEIGHT’s shooting schedule. The original plan, according to co-directors Adam and John, were that we were going to watch a Kurt Russell movie every night to decompress from the day’s events. As fate would have it, only one was ever viewed, and that was a solo viewing in the wee hours of the morning whilst the rest of the company slept. Considering the flick in question, that’s probably a good thing for everyone else, but it was hell for this Fool. Truth be told, it’s kind of amazing to realize that I managed to get in eight movies over the course of that madcap week, but when you’re devoted to the cause (and they shoot your scenes first), such miracles happen.

Note: Because I only had 8 flicks this week, I've provided a poster image for all of them. I've avoided doing so in the past when I have a dozen or more films, thinking it would end up making an already long entry that much longer. But obviously, pics are nice. Let me know if you would be interested in going to a pic-per-flick format. After all, you're the ones who have to read it, not me.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fool's Views (4/11 – 4/17)



Looking back at my final week before dashing up Wisconsin-way to shoot Dead Weight, I was initially baffled by what dictated my viewing choices. However, upon recollection, some presciently came courtesy of the unattended Netflix queue (Jackie Chan, Yetifest 2011, etc.) while others were pressed upon me by insistent friends, the likes of which I am blessed to call mine.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fool's Views (4/4 – 4/10)


Ye Gods. Where have Fools and time gone?

Over a month behind, but it’s been a weird and wild month. I’m going to try to catch up over the next few days, because the pressure is killing me. That said, thanks to those of you who dropped me a line to see where the FV’s had got off to – nice to know that a few folks missed them.

This week’s Views included an in-house triple feature of Stuart Gordon Full Moon features, complete with Mr. Gordon and Barbara Crampton live and in person at Chicago’s own Portage Theatre. Glorious guests they were. I almost had to include the godawful EVIL BONG III as one of this week’s movies, but thankfully, I passed out and can’t really claim to have seen it. That said, what I did see, even in 3D and Smell-O-Vision, was HORRIBLE. Charles Band, come on! You weren’t even trying on this one.

Also included are the last dregs of the blaxploitation horror movement, a Russ Meyer triple feature, and my first taste of Skinemax master, Andy Sidaris, as well as a bevy of varied civilian flicks. Hope you like.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!



HORROR:
Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
(1st viewing) d. Crain, William
This flubbed twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel represents the last gasp in the ’70s blaxploitation horror cycle, and alongside the wretched Blackenstein, it remains one of the weakest entries. Bernie Casey gamely assays the dual role of kindly cancer research clinician and his nefarious alter ego…a white guy! Whoever decided that a pair of prosthetic eyebrows (courtesy of a young Stan Winston) and a fistful of flour to the face would serve the transformation turn deserves a serious beat-down.


SEEING DOUBLE #6: MATTER OF FACT, IT’S ALL DARK
And Soon the Darkness (1970)
(2nd viewing) d. Fuest, Robert
And Soon the Darkness (2010) (1st viewing) d. Efron, Marcos
Feeding on unwary tourists’ fears, both versions of this cautionary tale follow an attractive young pair of female travelers enjoying a bicycle trip through foreign terrain (France and Argentina, respectively). After a tiff, they split up, whereupon the more promiscuous one (Michele Dotrice/Odette Yustman) is subsequently kidnapped while her better-behaved companion (Pamela Franklin/Amber Heard) vainly seeks help from non-English speaking locals and law officials. The original British spin offers a simpler, more suspenseful – and as a result, more effective – approach, whereas the American remake clutters up the proceedings via a clichéd human trafficking ring to justify the abductions. (The update also turns our prim heroine into an action hero for the third act, an “improvement” possibly influenced by comely star Heard’s presence as co-producer.)


FULL MOON/STUART GORDON TRIPLE FEATURE:
Castle Freak (1995)
(2nd viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
From Beyond (1986) (3rd viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
Re-Animator (1985) (4th viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
This trifecta of splatter flicks arguably represents the director’s strongest genre efforts, and the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen (as part of Charles Band’s Full Moon Road Show) is not to be understated. 25 years later, Re-Animator retains its stature as one of the shining examples of 80s horror hilarity, thanks to William Norris, Dennis Paoli and Gordon’s savvy black comic Lovecraft adaptation, gleefully gruesome gore f/x and a flawless cast that includes Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Crampton and Combs headlined the following year’s From Beyond, which comes very close to matching its predecessor in joyously perverse imagery and spirited mayhem, then reunited a decade later as an embittered couple who inherit an Italian castle…along with its titular resident (an extraordinary performance by Jonathan Fuller). However, seeing these works presented in such close proximity, as well as recent viewings of Pit and the Pendulum and Dagon, one cannot help but note that few popular filmmakers (Dario Argento an obvious exception) revel in the violent, often sexual, mistreatment of the fairer sex with quite the same enthusiasm or frequency, and yet puzzlingly, Gordon somehow avoids being labeled a misogynist. Not that I think he is, but I do find it curious that his career has not drawn the same feminist ire that others have.

CIVILIAN:
Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)
(1st viewing) d. Sidaris, Andy
Boobs, explosions, skateboard stunts, more boobs, more explosions, model airplaines, bad jokes, badder villains, and a vicious killer snake add up to cheesy ’80s action goodness, the very model of what would come to be known as a “Skinemax” flick. My first Sidaris viewing, but thanks to the enticement of Mill Creek and movie pal Jason Coffman, I doubt it will be my last.

I Served the King of England (2006) (1st viewing) d. Menzel, Jiri
A sumptuous visual feast combined with the adroit performances of Ivan Barnev and Oldrich Kaiser as the younger and older versions of an amoral social climbing Czech whose dream of becoming a millionaire leads him to all manners of employ and employers, from bordellos to restaurants, all set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation. Barnev in particular, possesses an unflappable air of innocence and disarming physical grace, making his oft-questionable actions somehow palatable.

Malibu High (1979) (1st viewing) d. Berwick, Irvin
High schooler Jill Lansing decides that books and homework are a drag, opting for the life of prostitution and hired assassin in order to win back her materialistic goofball boyfriend. A decidedly sleazy, nihilistic and out-there fantasy that entertains by virtue of its own excesses.

Paul (2011) (1st viewing) d. Mottola, Greg
Raucous and good natured tale of two sci-fi Brit nerds (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, impeccably cast as BFF’s) whose U.S. pilgrimage for a Comic-con-like event leads to an encounter with a real-life E.T. on their ensuing road trip. Pegg & Frost’s gigglesnort scripts careens between fart-joke humor and inventive character study with X-wing fighter ease, as director Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) guides his stellar cast on target every step of the way. With Kristin Wiig (awesome), Bill Hader (awesome), Jason Bateman (so awesome), and Seth Rogen voicing the titular alien.

Recount (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Roach, Jay
Docudrama about the 2000 U.S. Presidential election utilizes its all-star cast to showcase how with enough lawyers and political connections, every vote doesn’t have to count. Austin Powers director Roach displays a nimble hand bouncing betwixt the Republican and Democratic camps as the clock ticks towards injustice. The tragedy isn’t as much that it happened as it is that we allowed it.

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010) (1st viewing) d. Dunn, Sam/McFadyen, Scot
Canadian rock’s best loved power trio celebrates 40 years of exemplary musicianship and elevated lyricism. Bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee, drummer non-pareill Neil Peart and lightning-fingered guitarist Alex Lifeson reminisce on their early days of opening for Kiss and their current status as elder statesmen in this fascinating documentary about a band that cared not for sex and drugs…only the rock n’ roll.

Trip with the Teacher (1975)
(1st viewing) d. Barton, Earl
Classic exploitation scenario: high school girls’ field trip crosses paths with nefarious biker gang, leading to an escalating cavalcade of murder, rape, and revenge, generously accented with doses of nudity and hot-rod two-wheeled action. Exactly what you’d expect, always sleazy and never boring.


RUSS MEYER TRIPLE FEATURE:
Fanny Hill (1964)
(1st viewing) d. Meyer, Russ
Though he had just turned out Lorna (the first of his “roughies”) earlier that year, Meyer probably seemed like an obvious choice to helm this bawdy telling of the classic erotic novel of an innocent young British female courtesan’s adventures. Despite the lack of any onscreen nudity, the nudie-cutie pioneer displays a deft light comic hand with his all-English cast, and nary a slide whistle to be heard.

Seven Minutes, The (1971) (1st viewing) d. Meyer, Russ
The second and last of Meyer’s 20th Century Fox features, following Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. One can understand how the concept of battling the notions of public morality (in this case, that of an obscene book) would have appealed to the director, but the film is seemingly shackled by its own sense of importance, lacking its fearless leader’s trademark freewheeling energy.

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) (2nd viewing) d. Meyer, Russ
In his penultimate feature (with only 2000’s execrable Pandora Peaks to follow), Meyer pulls out all the stops in this aggressively stylized and kinetic narrative of a young man whose sexual proclivities lean toward the back door, if you catch my drift. Despite its goofy and good natured (in its cartoon violence way) tone, there’s the occasional sense that Meyer is deliberately trying to outdo himself, and the strain is felt.

2011 totals to date: 158 films, 89 1st time views, 74 horror, 12 cinema

BOOKS:

What They Don’t Teach You in Film School by Camille Landau and Tiare White