Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fool's Views (7/18 – 7/24)

Well, heck. For one brief shining moment, we’re caught up with the weekly Views. We’ll see how long this lasts…

In providing sidebar materials for the HorrorHound article (it’s true, it just won’t go away), I dipped into a couple more alien-possession movies (although my Belgian buddy Gert Verbeeck had the heavy lifting for that particular assignment, thanks to his wealth of TV-movie VHS cassettes. We are richer for your presence, good sir.) The remainder of the time was spent avoiding the blistering heat in the air-conditioned confines of the multiplex or whittling down the Netflix queue in front of the A/C at Chez AC – seriously, it was too hot to do anything else. At all.

Except for the requisite nightly storming of the French forces in Henry V with Festival Theatre. Ye Gods, who attends outdoor Shakespeare in 100 degree heat and 75% humidity? Madness.

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


Invasion of the Pod People (2007)
1st viewing) d. Jones, Justin
Coinciding with the Kidman film’s release, this is a prime example of The Asylum’s “mockbuster” M.O.: A so-so CGI title sequence, followed by less-so acting, scripting, shot-on-video cinematography, sound, etc... In this transparent aping, the world is menaced by potted ginger roots (?!) that subsequently transform low-rent versions of high-priced fashion models into unsexy, unconvincing lesbians. (Curiously, there doesn’t seem to be much change in these pod people’s behavior, and their acting is just as lousy.) While gratuitous topless scenes marginally enliven matters, the cheap production values and idiotic storytelling take their toll, leaving viewers empty inside and about 85 minutes poorer.

It Conquered the World (1956) (2nd viewing) d. Corman, Roger
Roger Corman’s entertainingly cheapjack programmer stars Lee Van Cleef as a brilliant if misguided scientist who falls under the spell of a Venusian interloper, aiding in its quest for world domination. Utilizing flying space bats that attach themselves to the base of their victim’s skull, the extraterrestrial baddie exercises mind control over key community figures, with only Peter Graves and Beverly “I hate your living guts!” Garland left to stop the madness. Monster maker Paul Blaisdell’s waddling, leering vegetable menace is the unquestioned highlight of the proceedings, but Corman’s swift direction and Lou Rusoff’s pulpy juvenile script cram dozens of hilariously memorable mo-mo’s into ICTW’s trim 71-minute running time.

Bad Teacher (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Kasdan, Jake
Had no expectations at all, 90 minutes to blow and a free pass, so this Cameron-behaving-badly went down just fine. And hey, EW, I thought the dry-humping sequence was pretty darn funny.

Circle of Iron (1978) (1st viewing) d. Moore, Richard
Hokey martial arts saga featuring David Carradine in four separate roles, each of them facing off against flaxen-haired musclehead Jeff Cooper. Moderately amusing time-waster, but only just.

Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) (1st viewing) d. Yates, David
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not read any but the first of the books, have only seen each of the films once and haven’t seen the last two or three at all. Color me Muggle. That said, I had a great time watching this final chapter of The Boy Who Lived, and it’s kind of amazing that the series has maintained its level of excellence throughout. And kudos need to be given to Chris Columbus for casting his young leads so well, for how he could have known that they would grow up to be so photogenic and capable thespians?

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (2011) (1st viewing) d. Bay, Michael
Having walked past the carnage-strewn streets of downtown Chicago every day for three weeks while Bay & Co. filmed in the Windy City, I knew I would feel compelled to see this latest installment in the giant robots stomping the living daylights out of everything series. I h-a-t-e-d the first Transformers film when I finally caught up with it on DVD so much that I skipped the next chapter altogether, especially since all the word-of-mouth did nothing to convince me otherwise (although, the fact that Revenge of the Fallen came in second only to Avatar’s record setting take in 2009’s box office leads me to wonder who the hell was buying all those tickets?) However, I will say that seeing the supersized carnage on the big screen had its own big dumb charms, and in the end, I found its final act as visually spectacular as Avatar’s, with nary a whiff of pretension. So, there you go.

Chapter 27 (2007) (1st viewing)
d. Schaefer, J.P.
Killing of John Lennon, The (2006) (1st viewing) d. Piddington, Andrew
Two films that take distinctly different approaches to profiling assassin Mark David Chapman; likewise the lead performances by Jared Leto and Jonas Ball. Chapter 27 looks at the three days leading up to Lennon’s fatal shooting (and only those three days), providing less insight into Chapman’s troubled mental history but Leto’s flamboyantly twitchy performance is compelling and fascinating, holding our attentions even as we feel there are cards missing from the deck before us – a fitting comparison. However, Killing’s writer/director Piddington goes (slightly) further back, introducing us to Chapman three months before his infamous act – where we observe his mother and wife issues firsthand as well as his fateful encounter with Catcher in the Rye in the Honolulu public library – and then following his subsequent arrest, psychological observation, trial and incarceration. Ball’s less-flashy, grounded portrayal is the equal to Leto’s well-publicized weight-gain and mouth-breathing showcase, both turns worthy of note. What remains peculiar the diversity in things like wardrobe (Leto wears a stocking cap, whereas Ball sports a large Russian fur hat) and Wizard of Oz greeting card found in Chapman’s hotel room, things that ought to be a matter of public record, not open to interpretation.

Plague Dogs, The (1982)
(1st viewing) d. Rosen, Martin
Following up his distinctive, beautiful and adult animated screen version of Richard Adams’ book Watership Down, writer/director Rosen tackled another of the novelist’s stories, another non-kiddie approach to onscreen talking animals. Here, the protagonists are two dogs that escape from an animal-testing facility and their struggles to survive in the wild, all the while avoiding natural and human predators. Powerful, cerebral, and emotionally engaging without depending on scenes of suffering animals to manipulate viewers.

Reservoir Dogs (1992) (6th viewing) d. Tarantino, Quentin
“Anne Francis is white.” QT’s endlessly quotable debut feature remains a personal favorite; while I recognize Pulp Fiction as the more accomplished effort, there is something about the raw energy of the all-male cast and Tarantino’s fevered wanna-impress script that keeps me coming back. However, this particular viewing was in the spirit of public interest, as one of my Henry V cast members had not seen it yet, and well, I just couldn’t let that go on. (Said co-star also hasn’t seen such classics as The Exorcist, Alien, and The Dresser, so clearly we still have miles to go before we sleep.)

2011 totals to date: 288 films, 177 1st time views, 137 horror, 24 cinema

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