Monday, August 25, 2014

Fool's Views (8/4 – 8/10)

Sunscreen is your friend.

Well, hello!

Thanks to a week of memorizing lines and getting prepared for the awesomeness that was Flashback Weekend 2014 (celebrating their 10-year anniversary), I didn’t spend too much time in front of the tube, but I did manage to knock out a couple more Redford flicks (bringing 2014’s total to six, to which I’ve already added an additional three), as well as the glorious Blu-ray debut of a certain Hidden Horror and an impromptu Share the Scare with filmmaker pals Robert Cappelletto, David Schmidt, and Clare Martin. Remember: Frights always go better with friends.

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



Almost Human (2013) d. Begos, Joe (USA) (1st viewing)

I have to admit, I’m a little surprised both at the festival circuit adulation and the subsequent video release outrage towards this engaging little alien abduction/body snatcher jaunt. It’s true that writer/director Begos’ screenplay has its share of clunker lines and/or recycled moments from other, better movies. It’s also true that the performances herein are unlikely to yield any breakout acting careers. But there’s no denying that the practical effects are pleasingly gooey and for a backyard low-budget flick, there’s plenty to enjoy and support. It seems that fans are judging the movie more by its high profile release platform than its actual entertainment value and independent verve. Do I think it’s the kind of film that deserves an IFC release? Maybe not, but that’s not Begos’ fault. I applaud his efforts as a filmmaker working with limited resources and paying worthy homage to numerous genre faves. He may have a ways to go before clocking a legitimate classic of his own, but he’s off to a decent start. Lose the hate, folks.

Curtains (1983) d. Ciupka, Richard / Simpson, Peter (Canada) (3rd viewing)


Day of the Animals (1977) d. Girdler, William (USA) (4th viewing)

When the ozone layer grows weak due to overuse of fluorocarbons, the animals of the forest band together to wreak havoc on a motley group of hikers led by head guide macho man Christopher George. Among the critter bait are Richard Jaeckel, Andrew Stevens, Lynda Day (soon to be Lynda Day George after marrying her leading man), Michael Ansara (who re-teamed with Girdler for the following year’s even more wackadoo The Manitou), and future funnyman Leslie Nielsen who is cast as a slimy sadist who sets some kind of world record for repeated use of “hotshot” and “kemo sabe” in his dialogue. (For an advertising rep, one might think he would come up with a few more creative derogatory terms, right?) While George and Ansara are the ostensible heroes, it’s Nielsen who steals the show with his two-fisted, murdering, raping, and bear-wrestling turn. With cougars, hawks, wolves, dogs and snakes leading the smackdown, there’s rarely a dull moment to be had amongst the hokum. A longstanding nostalgic favorite from the Doc’s youth.

Death Spa (1989) d. Fischa, Michael (USA) (1st viewing)

So. Much. Fun.



Vannin' (2013) d. Morgan, Andrew J. / Nummerdor, Nicholas (USA) (1st viewing)

This documentary about vanthusiasts (yes, I just made that word up and it’s awesome) takes us to the 40th Annual Van Nationals in Elkhorn, WI, where we encounter an array of quirky personalities, exactly the eccentric types you’d imagine to be inclined to trick out rolling boxcars inside and out. In addition to their common vehicular ground, the other thread that seemingly unites the participants is that they like to party. Can’t say this really hit my sweet spot as a subject (as the multitude of interviewees say a multitude of times, you either get it or you don’t) or as a documentary, since there’s not a lot of insight offered. Pal Jason Coffman offers a much more diverting examination of the van phenomenon in his “Vansploitation” article for Daily Grindhouse, which can be found HERE.

War Game, The (1965) d. Watkins, Peter (UK) (1st viewing)

This BBC production depicting the potential effects of atomic warfare was deemed so chilling that it was banned from television. (There are also rumors that it was denied airtime because it conflicted with the government’s assessments of survivability of a nuclear attack.) As a result, however, it found its way into cinemas, ultimately winning a special prize at the Venice Film Festival, the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film, and the Oscar for Best Documentary … in spite of the fact that it doesn’t technically document anything, being entirely composed of enactments of possible scenarios! Appropriately depressing and bleak, its acclaim is well-justified. Watkins, who made a name for himself creating these kinds of pseudo-documentary pieces, could also be seen as the pioneer of the modern “found footage” craze.


All is Lost (2013) d. Chandor, J.C. (USA) (1st 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. Comparisons have been drawn between this and Sandra Bullock’s turn in Gravity, in that both feature isolated characters facing seemingly insurmountable odds; for me, what makes this film more gratifyingly plausible is that we’re watching a seasoned veteran in his element as opposed to a rookie armed with a lot of book learning. I also absolutely believed this is how Redford would behave under these circumstances, right down to the minimal dialogue (in the same way that I believed Bullock’s motormouth tendencies dealing with her lot). It’s too bad that room couldn’t be made on the Best Actor Oscar ballot – I would have happily bumped Christian Bale’s showboating for the subtlety and grace exhibited here.

Barefoot in the Park (1967) d. Saks, Gene (USA) (1st viewing)

A hit in its day, the film version of Neil Simon’s hit Broadway play has not aged well. As likeable as Redford and Jane Fonda are as our crazy-in-love odd-couple newlyweds, the stale running gags about fifth-floor walk-ups, holey skylights, and wacky neighbors wear out their welcome on their first go-round … but keep coming back for more. Both stars seem to be working really hard to be funny, while Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick fare slightly better since they’re given less screen time to be annoying. Redford and Natwick reprised their Broadway roles, with Fonda taking over Elizabeth Ashley’s part.

2014 Totals to date: 217 films, 129 1st time views, 131 horror, 28 cinema

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