Monday, January 4, 2016

Fool's Views (12/1 – 12/31)

"Can we invite some girls next year?"

And that is that is that.

The end of the year wrapped up with an array of Blu-ray reviews and a few trips to the civilian cineplexes for “must-see” viewing purposes (i.e. must see before someone spoils it for you because, well, the internet and holiday parties). Several of the last month’s views will be making an appearance on the year-end wrap-up, although perhaps not the ones you’d expect. See you with that hot mess in a day or two.

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



Axe (1974) d. Friedel, Frederick R. (USA) (2nd viewing)


Blood and Lace (1971) d. Gilbert, Philip (USA) (3rd viewing)


The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) d. Green, Joseph (USA) (4th viewing)


The Car (1977) d. Silverstein, Eliot (USA) (3rd viewing)


Deathgasm (2015) d. Howden, Jason Lei (New Zealand) (1st viewing)

This Kiwi offering will likely (and rightfully) end up on a lot of year-end best-of lists and it’s not hard to understand why. When an outsider death metal fan (Milo Cawthorne) moves to a new town/school, he forms a literal (musical) band of misfits who stumble into some wackadoo Satan stuff and inadvertently starting the Wheels of Apocalypse a-rollin’. Outrageous gore effects combine with genuinely engaging characters and wit, resulting in a hugely entertaining festival hit now available for your enjoyment.

Escape from Tomorrow (2013) d. Moore, Randy (USA) (1st viewing)

When I first heard tell of this flick that had been surreptitiously shot in and around Disneyworld without the park’s knowledge or permission, I was expecting it to be a pretty low-budget, low-tech affair, just a bunch of guys running around, riding rides, and talking in line or some such. What I wasn’t expecting was a technically proficient, intellectually stimulating offering that actually managed to unnerve. It’s far from perfect, but writer/director Moore captures a serious nightmare vibe and deserves his critical kudos.

Ghost Story (1981) d. Irvin, John (USA) (3rd viewing)


Nightmares (1983) d. Sargent, Joseph (USA) (3rd viewing)


Thundercrack! (1975) d. McDowell, Curt (USA) (2nd viewing)


Zombie High (1987) d. Link, Ron (USA) (1st viewing)

Impossibly cute Virginia Madsen and Sherilyn Fenn star in this so-so effort (just before both of them lit our inner fires in The Hot Spot and Two Moon Junction, respectively) about a posh prep school with a dark secret, that being that the faculty are actually as old as the bricks that make up the joint. The tone wavers between not-funny comedy and not-scary horror, but somehow manages to remain watchable throughout. Before he became the guy behind Bridesmaids, Paul Feig was another struggling actor; you can witness his said struggling here as a lovable loser would-be lothario.


Flash Gordon (1980) d. Hodges, Mike (UK/USA) (4th viewing)

“Flash!! Ahhhhhh-aaahhhhh!! He’ll save every one of us!” Mike Hodges helms this over-the-top rendering of the comic strip and ’30s movie serial hero, with the game cast of Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max Von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, and yummy Ornella Muti giving screenwriter Lorezo Semple Jr.’s cheesy dialogue their all while Queen’s joyously bombastic musical score carries the day. It ain’t great art (though it does boast great art direction), but it’s a heck of a good time and our new Christmas tradition.

It Came from Kuchar (2009) d. Kroot, Jennifer M. (USA) (1st viewing)

For those seeking a deeper exploration of the mind that conjured the verbal acrobatics of Thundercrack!, Jennifer M. Kroot’s superlative feature-length documentary sits down with George and his equally prolific misfit brother Mike to pull back the veil on their work in the underground cinema scene of the late ’60s, inspiring everyone from John Waters to Wayne Wang to Guy Maddin to Atom Egoyan, all of whom take time out in front of the camera to celebrate these wizards of weird.

Kidnapped Coed (1976) d. Friedel, Frederick R. (USA) (1st viewing)

The teenage daughter (Leslie Rivers) of a wealthy businessman is snatched by a ruthless criminal (Jack Canon), intending to hold her for ransom, but their journey and relationship take more than a few unexpected turns. Like Axe, this is a genre effort more interested in character and vignettes than in ticking off the required beats and classic three-act structure, with its unconventionality being the biggest selling point. Definitely rough around the edges, but worth your time.

Spy (2015) d. Feig, Paul (USA) (1st viewing)

Though I missed seeing it on the big screen, I was happy to finally catch up with this critically acclaimed action/comedy starring Melissa McCarthy as a mousy CIA button pusher sent undercover to gather intel on the nuke-stealing terrorists (Bobby Canavale, Rose Byrne) that offed agent Jude Law, on whom she had a not-so-secret crush. Allison Janney is hilarious as the CIA brass; likewise Jason Statham as the toughest talking, ill-tempered alpha male spy you could hope to meet. But it’s Peter Serafinowicz (aka Shaun’s roommate from Shaun of the Dead) who steals the show as a constantly on-the-make Italian operative named Aldo. Big laughs and big action set-pieces, although McCarthy’s character swings are a little hard to swallow (zipping from wide-eyed innocence to trash-talking mama and back again).


Creed (2015) d. Coogler, Ryan (USA) (1st viewing)

It goes without saying that this is the best Rocky movie in years. Michael B. Jordan is terrific as the live-wire illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, while Stallone delivers the most subdued performance of his career. Made with affection for the 1976 original’s legacy while carving out a path of its own, and the training sequences (particularly the mitt work) are jaw-dropping without being cartoony. Jordan doesn’t generate the same kind of empathy that Sly’s lunkhead did, but darned if we aren’t rooting for him with every punch he throws. Oh, and that unbroken two-round tracking shot? AMAZING.

The Hateful Eight (2015) d. Tarantino, Quentin (USA) (1st viewing)

Big, bold, and bloody, with a dream cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, James Parks) devouring QT’s rich and spicy dialogue with gusto. But the real stars of the show are Ennio Morricone, unveiling an outrageously vibrant score that references his older work within the Western genre without replicating it (an impressive feat unto itself) and three-time Oscar-winner (Hugo, The Aviator, JFK) Robert Richardson’s breathtaking cinematography in Super70mm Panavision. Special mention to art director Richard L. Johnson, who, after years of dabbling in splashy, shiny CG spectacles (Transformers, Pacific Rim, Spider-Man) delivers some of the most delectably weathered images in recent memory.

The Martian (2015) d. Scott, Ridley (USA) (1st viewing)

Following the problem-solving, man-against-the-elements playbooks of Gravity and All is Lost, an astronaut accidentally left behind on Mars has to utilize all resources to stay alive until he can be rescued. In keeping with the scientific spirit of the mission, your enjoyment factor will be directly proportional to your tolerance for “Smug and Pithy Matt Damon,” who smirks and wisecracks his way through the 2+ hour runtime.

Spotlight (2015) d. McCarthy, Tom (USA) (1st viewing)

This drama about The Boston Globe’s reporting on the child-molestation scandal within the Catholic church (and the decades of concealment), while remaining a worthy effort, is a little by-the-numbers and never quite reaches the emotional immediacy one would have hoped for. I felt more intellectually outraged than emotionally so. Oh, and amidst a brilliant cast of actors doing stellar, subtle work, Mark Ruffalo is a shockingly artificial and embarrassing collection of tics and fidgets.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) d. Abrams, J.J. (USA) (1st viewing)

I kinda sorta enjoyed it... I guess. I’m less concerned about whether or not it was a beat-by-beat remake of the 1977 original than I am with the fact that I never felt truly wowed, and I don’t know if that says more about the movie or me. I have other minor issues, but I can’t even work up the energy to give them voice or cast them into words. Because it’s all been said, and I’m already so tired of the conversation and wish the world would find something more worthwhile to talk about. I’m glad I did my civic cinephile duty, but I doubt I’ll be watching it again anytime soon.

2015 Totals: 352 films, 190 1st time views, 224 horror, 41 cinema


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