Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fool's Views (6/25 – 7/1)



Summer is here, friends, and it ain’t kidding around. It was a toasty week, which prompted at least one trip to the multiplex and a fair amount of time in the air-conditioned confines of Chez AC. (Yes, feel free to make all the “cool” A/C comments you please.) I’m also still plugging away at the Elvira’s Horror Hunt potentials, which will be unveiled at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis in September. If you have a film that you would like to submit, the final FINAL deadline is this Sunday, July 8 – visit www.elvirashorrorhunt.com for details.

I also turned another year older this Saturday, my 44th lap around the track. After spending the morning at my local LifeSource blood bank, donating some much-needed platelets to the cause, I headed back home to share in a bounty of burritos and cult favorites with fellow fiends Jason Coffman and Neil Calderone, followed by a capacity crowd performance of INHERIT THE WIND. (Only two weekends left!) Not a bad way to kick off Year Forty-Five.

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

Enjoy!



HORROR:


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) (1st viewing) d. Bekmanbetov, Timur

Adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel by the author himself, this bit of tongue-in-fanged-cheek alternative history posits the 16th President of these United States (Benjamin Walker) as a man seeking lifelong vengeance upon the undead creatures that claimed his parents’ lives as a child. From the opening titles, we know we’re in for a fantasy, and Bekmanbetov – who dazzled me years ago with his epic Russian Night Watch and Day Watch features – is a supremely successful visualist who expertly combines a drained color palette which invokes the austerity of time gone by with eye-popping stunts and blood-drenched vamp offings. (Rail-splitting Honest Abe’s selection of an axe as his weapon of choice also had me smiling.) Perhaps not as much “fun” as it could have been, but I appreciated the fact that Grahame-Smith and Bekmanbetov treat their outlandish subject matter as straight-faced as could be imagined. With Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and former Late Show with David Letterman “Lyle the Intern,” Jimmi Simpson.





Cabin Fever (2002) (4th viewing) d. Roth, Eli

You know what? I’m not even going to review Roth’s divisive flesh-eating virus/cabin in the woods mash-up, not here, not in an official capacity anyway. First off, we’re going to be having an in-depth discussion about the film over on Kitley’s Krypt in a couple weeks anyway as part of their Cinematic Crossroads program (a raucous round-table that includes Herr Kitley, Dave Kosanke, Brian Kirst, guest panelist John Pata and myself). Secondly, I think it’s pretty fascinating that a flick I initially hated upon first viewing I’ve now seen on three subsequent occasions, as well as listening to all four (count ‘em FOUR) commentary tracks. As a result, my relationship with the film has changed; I’m now so familiar it’s like an old schoolmate. Interestingly enough, my feelings toward Roth have undergone a veritable roller coaster of status updates. At first, I liked him/hated his movie. Then I hated his movie a little less/liked him a little more. Liked him less as he entered his "Tarantino Jr." period but liked Hostel more than CF, then really didn’t like him, his Hostel sequel or his undeserved ubiquity in every horror-themed documentary or TV show. Nowadays, I’m somewhat sad that this horror geek-done-good has turned into a Hollywood player who’s seemingly lost touch with his roots and moxie. He’s directed a mere three features in a decade, dividing his time between “developing” projects that consequently implode and serving as a “presenter” of mainstream fright fare. Curious to see what the future holds.





Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) (8th viewing) d. Fukuda, Jun

Throwing physics and caution to the winds, this entertaining installment features the underwater race of “Seatopians” who unleash the giant cockroach-looking monster Megalon to destroy Tokyo. In response, Ultraman knockoff Jet Jaguar enlists the help of the Big G, whereupon Seatopians bring back Gigan from outer space, and the remainder of the movie is an oversized wrestling match for the ages. The dubbing is awful, the effects cheesy, the human characters inane, and logic entirely absent (Jet Jaguar’s inexplicable ability to increase from human to monster size is explained as “He must have programmed himself.” Whaaaat?). However, as a purely ribald roaring rumble, it delivers the goods, along with a couple good flying drop-kicks from our favorite rubber-suited hero.





Prometheus (2012) (1st viewing) d. Scott, Ridley

There are some smart ideas going on in Scott’s return to the Alien universe (screw the Fox marketing department dancing about – this is a prequel; quit trying to have it both ways, jerkfaces), but the wealth of missteps in terms of characters’ inconsistent and/or irrational behavior ultimately proves the more distracting of the two sides. There’s little denying the strength of the visuals on display, and the CG landscapes are jaw-dropping in their detail and austerity (the keyboard-spawned creatures are decidedly less successful), but the human drama that elevated early efforts like Alien and Blade Runner above their production values is notably absent. Prometheus’ flatly drawn characters are incapable of generating empathy or interest (especially within the maelstrom of Christian symbolism – given great illustration here http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html). I found myself wishing Scott had possessed the courage to create a stand-alone return to sci-fi instead of shoring it up with constant referencing of his 1979 xenomorph zeitgeist, since these details only served to detract and distract from the matter at hand. Our Space Jockey, once a sublimely fascinating enigma, has been transformed into something so crushingly literal – I mourn I’ll never be able to unsee what I have seen.




ELVIRA’S HORROR HUNT (CONT’D)
Again, can’t really discuss these due to their potentially being in competition, but you might be seeing them in September at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis 2012 as part of Elvira’s Horror Hunt. Stay tuned to www.elvirashorrorhunt.com for more information…

Trannysnatchers! (2012) (1st viewing) d. Porter, Benjamin / Gottleber, James

Ghost, Babes and Horror (2012) (1st viewing) d. Miniaci, Christopher



CIVILIAN MINI VIEWS:


Black Shampoo (1976) (1st viewing) d. Clark, Greydon

Hunky hairdressing monolith John Daniels tangles with gangsters and lovely ladies in this magnificent blaxploitation schlockfest. No points for subtlety or innovation, but entertaining as hell.





Chinese Boxer, The (1970) (1st viewing) d. Wang Yu, Jimmy

According to Chicago Cinema Society programmer Neil Calderone, this was the first unarmed Shaw Brothers release, the original vanguard in the ’70 chopsocky invasion. Good stuff, with more eyeball gouging and rampant bloodshed than I was expecting.





Crazy Stupid Love (2011) (1st viewing) d. Ficarra, Glenn / Requa, John

Superstud Ryan Gosling schools recently separated schlub Steve Carell in the ways of the pickup. Some pretty funny sequences, satisfying plot twists and game performances all around.





Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969) (1st viewing) d. Parrish, Robert

An intriguing sci-fi premise (the discovery of a planet in perfect contrary orbit to the Earth’s launches an exploratory expedition) that ultimately feels just a bit too padded for a Twlight Zone payoff we see coming a mile off. Not bad, just longer than it needs to be.





Moonrise Kingdom (2012) (1st viewing) d. Anderson, Wes

Resolutely quirky tale about a cub (“khaki”) scout who deserts his troop to secretly meet his prepubescent lady fair; the local island community scrambles to locate them. So winning and diverting, it’s a shoo-in for a Best Original Screenplay nod (especially considering its ongoing – and surprising – resonance with mainstream audiences).





Rock of Ages (2012) (1st viewing) d. Shankman, Adam

A well-intentioned cash-grabbing Glee-chasing nostalgia-baiting failure. Clearly much, much more fun to make than it is to watch - when a duet between Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand is the most emotionally honest moment in the 2+ hour film, you know you’re in trouble. Hats off to extras in the pole dancing scene – you guys deserve a flick all your own.





Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) (1st viewing) d. Trevorrow, Colin

Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza stars as an intern at a prominent Seattle publication assigned to research a personal ad requesting “someone to go back in time with.” What starts off as a joke becomes increasingly personal following Plaza’s interactions with ad-placing Mark Duplass, a kindly but damaged social misfit who claims to be building a time-travel device. Despite being “by the numbers independent” (right down to its alt-folk soundtrack), I enjoyed it.

2012 Totals to date: 273 films, 232 1st time views, 152 horror, 77 cinema

4 comments:

  1. Space Jockey, we hardly knew ye...

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  2. I'm unavoidably reminded of the scene in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake where we find out that Leatherface got picked on by the other kids when he was in school. Same with Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's Halloween. I did not need to know about either of their childhoods. As a viewer, I was much better off when I didn't.

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  3. I'm hard pressed to come up with a retroactive backstory that actually enhanced a previous film in a franchise. Maybe learning that Freddy Krueger was the "bastard son of a hundred maniacs," though it's probably the exception that proves the rule.

    Oh my stars did I hate the troubled childhood "improvements" for the updatings of the two films you cite. You just don't explain the monster - it rarely makes it better and usually makes it worse.

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