Thursday, September 29, 2016
Fool's Views (8/1 – 8/31)
Wow, where the hell did the time go? I turned around after the whirlwind that was August and suddenly I’m clearing my plate for the upcoming OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE/Scare-A-Thon 2016. Which means that I should probably post the Views from the past couple months, right? Sheesh!
Time being the fleeting mistress that she is, I guess we’re going to keep these short and sweet. If you’d like to chat further about any of the flickers listed below, feel free to leave a comment or two, and we can blather on together until the shadows grow long….
(Translation: Leave your two cents worth and we’ll make sure you get some change back.)
Evils of the Night (1985) d. Rustum, Mohammed (USA) (2nd viewing)
Neville Brand, Aldo Ray, John Carradine, Tina Louise, Julie Newmar, and Amber Lynn appear in this wackadoo offering where space aliens (Carradine, Louise, Newmar) come to Earth to siphon the platelets from supple, sexually active teenagers' bodies and enlist Brand and Ray to supply said walking blood bags. Shabbily made, but lord amighty, it's rarely dull and features a surprisingly gory sequence featuring Brand and a power drill.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) d. Amirpour, Ana Lily (USA) (1st viewing)
Dandy little art-house black-and-white vampire flick shot entirely in Farsi and set in Iran even though it was shot entirely in the U.S.! A little slow and deliberate, but not unpleasantly so. A quality effort.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) d. Kaufman, Philip (USA) (5th viewing)
Shout! Factory serves up a solid Blu-ray treatment of a bona-fide classic. I’ll be covering this in greater detail in October when I revisit it with the commentary, so stay tuned!
Session 9 (2001) d. Anderson, Brad (USA) (5th viewing)
Same goes for this one (I just noticed that this most recent viewing was the 5th for both, so clearly I’m a fan.)
Symptoms (1974) d. Larraz, Jose Ramon UK (1st viewing)
From the guy who gave us the unforgettable lesbian vampire classic Vampyres the following year comes this nervy little piece of paranoia in the vein of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) and Robert Altman’s Images (1972) with a female protagonist whose sanity is slowly crumbling away beneath her feet. Angela Pleasance is marvelous with her glassy stare and fragile mannerisms and the uncanny atmosphere is rich, but somehow it doesn’t quite stick the landing. Still worth your time though.
Young Frankenstein (1974) d. Brooks, Mel (USA) (7th viewing)
RIP, Herr Wilder. This is the one for which you’ll be remembered, and that’s okay, because you’re absolutely brilliant in it.
NOSTALGIA IS SCARY
The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Features (2012) d. Taylor, Strephon (USA) (1st viewing)
Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong!: A Journey into Creature Features (2008) d. Wyrsch, Tom (USA) (1st viewing)
My monster kid was brought into being as a direct result of Bob Wilkins, the host of San Francisco’s Channel 2 late night excursions into monsters and madmen. Every week, I would scour the TV Guide to see what Bob was trotting out for us on Friday and Saturday night, and then I would have to try to make the case for my mom allowing me to stay up and watch it. She was always down for Godzilla or any of the giant monster flicks; not so much for the more daring material (I distinctly remember requests to watch Blood on Satan’s Claw being shot down on a regular basis). These two documentaries (or rather one documentary and a “video scrapbook”) are perfectly paired and should enrich the bloody hearts of any Bay Area horror nerd alive and kicking in the 70s and early 80s.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) d. Tarantino, Quentin (USA) (3rd viewing)
I consistently forget how much fun this is and how QT really nails it. I’ve only seen Vol. 2 once, in the theater, so I’ll be curious to see how it holds up as well.
Night Moves (2014) d. Reichart, Kelly (USA) (1st viewing)
Not the (excellent) 1970s Gene Hackman flick nor does the soundtrack feature a single note of the Bob Seger song. Instead, it’s a dark and brooding tale about a trio of environmental activists (Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Saarsgaard, Dakota Fanning) who plan to make a statement by blowing up a dam. The results are devastating and deliciously morally ambiguous.
99 Homes (2015) d. Bahrani, Ramin (USA) (1st viewing)
Stinging examination of the home mortgage implosion, although I never quite bought into Michael Shannon’s shark-like financial predator bringing Andrew Garfield’s naïve carpenter into his confidence or inner circle. Despite the contrivances, there’s plenty of meat on these bones.
Purple Rain (1984) d. Magnoli, Albert (USA) (2nd viewing)
Not as bad as I remembered it to be (though it’s far from good), and the onscreen performances of Prince in his prime are utterly electrifying even in the very, very, very back row of Chicago’s Millennium Park, where the screen was literally smaller than if I were streaming it on a smartphone.
Sicario (2015) d. Villenueve, Denis (USA) (1st viewing)
The guy who gave us Prisoners and Enemy finds no spot for Jake Gyllenhaal in his slippery action yarn about fighting the Columbian drug cartel, but Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt, and Benicio del Toro more than make up for it.
All Is Lost (2013) d. Chandor, J.C. (USA) (2nd viewing)
A masterful blending of performance and invisible visual effects, with Our Man Redford waking up to a hole being punched in the side of his sailboat approximately 13,000 miles from shore. The abandoned floating freight box is just one of many adversities he will encounter as he labors toward home, and the methodical nature with which he approaches each new challenge is both fascinating and riveting. One of my favorite films from that year, and easily one of my favorite Redford performances.
Truth (2015) d. Vanderbilt, James (USA) (1st viewing)
The investigative reporting scandal that brought down CBS’ Dan Rather is given a dutiful but not-nearly-as-infuriating-as-it-should-have-been treatment in the hands of Vanderbilt. Like last year’s Spotlight, it is a well-polished effort that expects the viewer to bring their own emotional stakes to the subject matter at hand as opposed to dictating how he/she should feel. This can be seen as a plus or a minus. Great cast, including Redford as Rather, and Cate Blanchett as 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes.
LIAM, MEET JAUME
Non-Stop (2014) d. Collet-Serra, Jaume (USA) (1st viewing)
Unknown (2011) d. Collet-Serra, Jaume (USA) (1st viewing)
Having dug The Shallows earlier this summer and being reminded this was the guy who gave us 2005’s surprisingly good House of Wax and the equally entertaining Orphan a few years later, I decided to check out what he’s been up to with Liam Neeson in his post-Taken, aging badass career trajectory. The results are diverting enough, but barely stick in the brain hours later, whether His Irishness is playing a scientist whose identity (and life) are literally stolen away from him or a disgraced air marshal caught up in a wily hijacker’s game. While it’s happening, though, it’s a bucket of disposable popcorn heaven.
WHY DID THE CHICKEN MARSALLA CROSS THE ROAD? CAZALE PACINO.
The Godfather (1972) d. Coppola, Francis Ford (USA) (6th viewing)
“When Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn't let him. Now, Johnny is my father’s godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1000. [...] My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. That’s a true story.”
I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (2009) d. Shepard, Richard (USA) (1st viewing)
Well-intentioned but surface documentary about the sublime 70s character actor who only appeared in five movies in his career: The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter… all of which were nominated for Best Picture and three that won. Not a bad little run there, JC. Gone too soon.
MUSCLE HEADS AND MUSCLE CARS
Fast & Furious (2009) d. Lin, Justin (USA) (1st viewing)
Fast Five (2011) d. Lin, Justin (USA) (1st viewing)
I felt it was my civic cinephile duty to at least watch a couple of these. Yep. Give me Bullitt, To Live and Die in L.A., Ronin, Vanishing Point, and The French Connection any day.
RICH WITH ALDRICH
The Big Knife (1955) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)
Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Shelly Winters, and Rod Steiger sink their teeth into this potboiler about a Hollywood movie star trapped in a lifetime contract by the oily producer who knows his dark past. Melodrama done right.
The Grissom Gang (1971) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)
Dim-witted kidnapper Scott Wilson falls for his quarry Kim Darby and decides to keep her forever, against the wishes of the rest of the gang, comprised of Tony Musante, Ralph Waite, and an unforgettable Irene Daily as “Ma Grissom.” With this sweaty and cynical offering, Aldrich does his best to measure up to the “colorful Depression criminal saga” benchmark set by Bonnie and Clyde, and while he doesn’t quite clear the fences, he definitely gets on base.
Vera Cruz (1954) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)
The two biggest questions that came up while watching this solid little Western offering: 1) Do we have a modern equivalent of the great and laid back and decent and cool Gary Cooper? I think not. 2) My goodness, Burt Lancaster had some chompers on him, didn’t he? Every time he smiles, it’s like the rest of the world gets a little dimmer.
2016 Totals to date: 168 films, 125 1st time views, 76 horror, 21 cinema