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: 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.)

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.

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.

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


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