Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Fascinating film about maverick publisher Barney Rosset. The complex doccumentary details his rise as a poor little rich kid with too much time and money on this hands to the free speech icon he is today. Along the way we see him found The Evergreen Review, turn Grove Press into a cutting edge book company and distribute amazing films. Countless interviews fill in the details. My only complain is the soundtrack draws too much attention to itself. You also get to see the aging Rosset interviewed by Al Goldstein right before the latter was about to have some major legal problems of his own. Not to be missed.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Here's a creepy little film which used to be in rotation on the USA Network's "Saturday Nightmares" show. It's about a janitor at a dress store who finds himself trapped in the attic with the mannequins. I worked as a shipping clerk at a similar store some years ago, so it brings back some seriously bad memories.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Floyd Web has been trying to put togather an amazing documentary video for several years about "Count Dante", a martial arts master from Chicago who passed away in the 1970's. You can see the trailer for it by going here. This will be one fascinating movie should it ever be made.
Friday, October 23, 2009
But what it really comes down to is that there isn't much to write about. Once you've seen The Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women and The Stone Tapes in one month, it's hard to equal the experience. And, if you haven't already noticed, I don't like to write negative reviews. Enough fanboys out there doing that already. It's easy to sneer at all the crap. Not so easy to hunt down such exotic plants as Terror In The Jungle.
I could start reviewing newer films, but I don't care for much made after 1980. As far as I'm concerned, 1980 was the last good year. Afterwards came VHS, thousand channel cable and the last few Drive-Ins closing. It was never the same. I know there are good genre movies out there, I just lack the time to watch enough garbage to find the good stuff. And after reading the synopsis for The Collector, I am less likely to do it.
There's also the matter about what I can say. I've started watching the Sartana Euro-westerns, but what new insight can I add? Shall I adopt a Poststurcturalist Autodidatic Premodernist approach? Perhaps delve into the inner symboliam of the gun? Right. Leave such nonsense for people with too much time on their hands.
I'm not sure what to do. But I'll come up with something
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
There are movies I waited to see for a long time just because of the way the ad affected me as a kid. Faster Pussycat was one, this movie was another.
Set your time machine back to 1969. I'm sitting in my dad's car listening to the AM radio. On comes this creepy commercial for a movie featuring a man reciting a nursery rhyme. Cut to a woman's scream. I knew at that moment I would someday have to see this flick.
Too bad the movie itself doesn't deliver on the promise of the radio ad. It's basically a thriller from the (to steal a concept from Bill Landis) "endangered child" subgenre. Woman dumps psycho boyfriend when she finds out she's preggers. Woman has the pregnancy aborted. Boyfriend comes after her years later when she has a baby she did want to keep. But she's now married to a powerful lawyer with political ambitions, so she can't tell her new hubby the whole truth.
I will say the final half-hour, involving a hunt for the psycho ex-boyfriend, was pretty gripping. But the actor who played him just couldn't pull-off the cloud of fear necessary for the role
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Excellent film about 60's experimental visionary Jack Smith. Smith, who achieved notoriety with FLAMING CREATURES, never went on to the big art film leagues and died in 1989, forgotten by all but a a few dedicated fans. He never finished another film after CREATURES, perfering to live the life of a pure artist.
The film portrays his life and work via interviews with the various friends and family who knew him. You even get a few interviews with Smith himself, who comes across as a tortured artiste. The narrative tries to be as objective as possible, but it does suggest that several critics made their fame off Smith's work.
A good look into a different era when filmmakers actually had to worry about getting busted on obscenity charges.
Friday, September 11, 2009
This is a MTV from the final phase of the "movie of the week" phenomena which made 70's TV such fun. I don't know how to describe it other than make comparisons to Lord of the Flies and Charlie's Angels. And it has both big Clint Walker and Jayne Kennedy (who looks mighty fine in a loin cloth).
A plane carrying catholic school girls out of war-torn Indochina in 1955 crashes on an isolated Pacific island. Years later a sea plane makes an emergency landing on the same island. The sea plane is conveying oil roughnecks back to the US (all male). The roughnecks encounter the adult versions of the school girls, who have grown into a jungle tribe of shapely young women. Meanwhile there's a rival tribe of men who've been raiding the female tribe.
Gilligan never had it so good.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Because every now and then I do watch Hollywood movies.
Hilarious film about working a summer carny job by writer Greg Motta. From what I understand, he was discussing the worst jobs they ever had with some other tinsletown types and his was an amusement park on Long Island in 1985.
I'd love to know what his fellow glitter palace courtiers did.
The movie follows a preppie who's alcoholic dad is about to lose his job. Junior has just graduated college with a useless degree in comparative literature and renaissance studies. He'd planned on backpacking Europe. Because he wants to go to journalism graduate school at Columbia ("I want to write travel books like Charles Dickens"), he's forced to take a summer job at a tacky amusement park. Along the way he learns a lot about real life.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
If you watched any late-night TV in the early 90's, you may have encountered this whacked-out preacher. A real "put your hands on the radio" type, he was famed for suddenly speaking in tongues when he wasn't begging for money. And it all came down in a baptism of fire when it was discovered the good pastor was dumping all the prayer request letters in the trash.
This documentary was produced by The Trinity Foundation, a small church group that brought the TV preacher's practices to light. It's mostly excepts from the TV specials about Tilton's sleazy practices.
But no documentary can come close to the crazy mailers this Elmer Gantry used to send out for a little $$$. Prayer mattes, holy bread, this man had a system! I don't know who did his marketing material, but they were a genius.
A good movie to watch on a Sunday morning.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Ah, to have been a student at a big university in the late 60's. Free love, free money, and sticking it to The Man. The only thing a male had to worry about is which girl to see on a given night. And here are three movies which lets us relive those wondrous days of yore: Three in the Attic, Down in the Cellar, and Been Down So Long It Looks Up To Me. Groovy!
The first, Three in the Attic (1968), concerns the exploits of poor Paxton Quigley (Christopher Jones). He has this problem: a compulsive womanizer, he has three different women on the string, telling each one they are his one and only. When they all find out what's been going on, Pax gets locked in an attic by the vengeful trio and is forced to have sex with them nonstop. He finally escapes, but describes himself as "the first victim of the sexual revolution."
Down in the Cellar has Wes Stern gunning for Larry Hagman, a rich Texas benefactor of a prestigious college. It seems Hagman spoiled Stern's performance art, so he decides to bring him down by seducing all the women in his life. I'm sure the movie was very topical in 1970.
And at last we have Been Down, based off a famous counterculture novel by Richard Farina. This 1970 movie has been forgotten, but a few copies are known to exist. Barry Primus plays the lead, Gnossos, a young man who is returning to college after being out in the world for a few years. He eventually ends up in Cuba at the time of the 1959 revolution, but not before taking many journeys of self discovery.
Three movies which attempted to copy the success of The Graduate (1967). In many ways they all failed, but they serve as mirrors to the 60's.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Douglas Henshall plays Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes in this BBC production. It begins with Doyle, sick of writing "Holmes" stories, deciding to kill off his creation. The public reaction is understandably negative, prompting a row with his publisher. Added to the mix is his own wife's worsening tuberculosis. Finally, he's got a rather pretty female fan who "understands" him.
In the middle of this personal crisis, a man appears at his door who claims to be the official biographer from Doyle's publisher. He knows a lot about Doyle's background and wants to know more. Soon his biographer is probing into every bit of sad information he can get. What are the real motiviations for this biographer?
An excellent BBC production. Any fan of the Great Detective will enjoy this examination of how and why Arthur Conan Doyle created his famous literary figure.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
In the wake of a certain movie made by George Lucas, a lot of independent producers wanted to get into the Space Epic game. Most of them didn't have the resources to do it right, but they tried just the same. Lifepod, made in 1980, showed what people could do with a lot of enthusiasm could do on a limited budget. Someone duplicated the idea with a lot more money around 1993 as a MTV movie. But I like this one much better.
Several passengers on an exclusive interplanetary ship have found themselves in an escape lifepod after the central computer on the ship declared an emergency. The usual lifeboat cast is here: the journalist, the pretty girl, the corporate exec, the administror and the crew member. Suddenly, the space ship suddenly decides to head after the lifepod. Why? And why did the central computer declare a fake emergency to get everyone off the ship?
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Most of the target audience seems to have missed Leonard Nimoy's attempt at a weekly series when this pilot premiered in 1973. Which is too bad because it's quite a decent little horror flick with all kinds of psycho sexual undertones.
Nimoy plays a race car driver who has an out-of-body experience after a bad accident. He hooks up with an English psychic and the two head off to a Gothic castle trying to prevent a murder he's witnessed in a vision. Not a bad effort to get rid of the Vulcan typecast.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Proving once again that you can find anything on the Internet.
This is a much better picture of the poster than I reproduced in my old Fear of Darkness Zine, but it still doesn't give you the full effect of the original. This picture implies the poster was on coated stock, but I'm sure mine was on uncoated, yellow, paper.
Hard to believe I was obsessing over this movie for months in 1982. But it was an obscure film at the time with virtually no information about it. A few years later the movie popped up on one of the "Elvira Presents" VHS tapes.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
As I may have mentioned, the inspiration for this Blog was my old print Zine of the same name. I could write a book on that folly, what inspired me to do it, and how I lost my shirt on a business venture I had not a clue how to run. But a few copies of the old Zine do remain in my files and now is the time to show the kids how we used to do it in the days before every damn movie in the universe could be bit torrented.
The original Fear Of Darkness came out in the dawn of the home video tape age. Some of the editions do talk about what could be viewed on VHS and Beta. But my prime means of watching films in those distant days were movie theaters, Drive-Ins, and late-night TV. Cable was just beginning to turn into a googleplex of channels as well.
My apologies for how these old print sheets scanned. I'm still learning how to do it right. All my reproductions were done B&W. I was lucky to get a good price on green cover stock for this issue, which is why it's printed in red ink. Most of the reproductions don't do justice to the original posters (which I no longer possess). The Alabama's Ghost one was beautifully done in a variety of line colors on uncoated stock. The race car poster on the back cover was silk screened with fluorescent pink. All of these posters came out of the old Great Southern Hotel theater in Columbus, OH.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Outstanding Irish-French movie about a psychiatrist sent to an isolated island. She's supposed to be investigating accusations against a young woman charged with assaulting a baby, but uncovers much more. Is it a case of multiple personalities, or is the young woman possessed by ghosts? The islanders think she's a medium. Excellent performance by Belfast actress Jenn Murray in the title role.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Here is one of those films from the past which makes you ask: "What the hell did they have in mind?" Jungle movie. Then why the extended scenes with the irritating little kid? Family entertainment. Would someone then explain all the graphic knife stab scenes? Adventure film. Where's the hero?
This had to be somebody's vanity production. I just can't figure out who. Can't be the director Tom Simone, he went into the gay niche adult film minor leagues after this, his debut.
What really makes this oddity such a question mark is it's few scenes of brillance. Such as the little whiny kid floating away from a plane crash in a coffin. And a jaguar transformation scene toward the end which comes out of left field. Not to mention another scene involving quicksand which would have Children Services breaking down the producers door if filmed today.
Strange little film which begs for a remake.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Brilliant little film made in the 70's by future TERMINATOR director James Cameron. Here's part 1 via YouTube. I don't quite know why I love this little film. It does look like the sort of Super 8mm epic I would have directed in my parent's basement about the same time.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Gripping horror film that focuses on the death of a prostitute through five different points of view. The first episode looks at what happens to the woman who discovers the body. The second focuses on a medical examiner who thinks the victim might bear a resemblance to her missing sister. The third is from the POV of a wife who comes to realize her husband may be the serial killer who committed the crime. The fourth, the mother of the victim who has to identify the body. Finally, the last story concerns the dead girl herself and the last few hours of her life.
Director Karen Montcrieff had mostly done TV work prior to this feature. For a new movie director, The Dead Girl delivers a punch you won't likely forget for some time. It's also good to see Hollywood veterans (Piper Laurie, Josh Brolin) helping out.
Brittany Murphy gives one of the most realistic and scary performances of a crack whore imaginable.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Amazing look at the movie industry in Ghana. Until the coming of video, one filmmaker tells us, there had only been 8 to 10 movies made in Ghana. Since 1980, they number in the thousands. Home-grown and geared to a niche audience, these films are a testament to what very little money and ingenuity can accomplish. It's far too easy to make fun of their prentions and over acting, but what this documnetary shows has a lot of charm.
Most of the films are horror movies. There's even an extensive interview with the Ghanian "Christopher Lee". One director explains his big inspiration came from seeing foreign werewolf movies, but, since, wolves don't exist in Africa, they had to make a movie about a were-snake.
A movie that seems to ask:"If they can make features here, why can't you?"
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Very creepy micro budget movie about aliens, conspiracies, and film making. Two videographers decide to take an alien-obsessed recluse to the town in Texas he claims was wiped off the map by evil extraterrestrials over 40 years ago. When they arrive at the sight, they find more than what they wanted. Shot in a "found" style, which reminds one of a certain other film from 1999. However, the video has obviously been edited and had music added for the audience, which pushes it into feature territory. Highly recommended!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Not film-related, but hilarious just the same (language definitely NSFW)
Anyone who's ever applied to a Big Box store has had to suffer through these ANSWER ME! personality tests. My favourite response:
"You can wait patiently for a long time
this again depends upon circumstance. what am i waiting FOR? am i two months pregnant and patiently awaiting delivery? or am i at Burger King waiting for them to call my number? am i at the DMV? am I at a 5 star restaraunt where i am gonna shell out $500 by the end of the night waiting for my meal? in that case, fuck yeah im impatient! im paying your fucking bills and paycheck! im leaving the tip! you better fucking treat me like royalty! but, this is generalized. agree!"
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Here's a fun little movie which shows how artists are using "mundane" mediums to create new things. Its about the world of designer vinyl toys. Some of the artists are interviewed, as well as the collectors. Everyone comes across as enthused about their work. The documentary is only 30 minutes long, unfortunately, there was so much more I wanted to learn about.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Another one from the Big 80's. I seem to be the only person on the planet who loves this movie. Saw it in 1985 on VHS and found a copy once again. Although some of the gags have worn a little thin, it still holds up.
Slim Pickens and Phyllis Diller run a cheap adult-theme motel somewhere in California. Pickens is absolutely certain their theme (pink outfits, pink walls) will be a gold mine. His wife isn't so sure and dreads every customer who walks into the lobby.
Four stories about the battle of the sex and sexes are inter-woven. The first has two graduating high school seniors deciding to "make it special". The second concerns a football player and a call girl. The third, a pair of swinging Lotharios and their conquests for the evening. The fourth story is about two lawyers who need a place to rendezvous.
Most of the actors were involved in TV production at the time, and the quality of acting shows. Some of the scenes are also talky, making me wonder if this wasn't supposed to be a made-for-TV movie at some point in production.
Of course, everyone in the movie has a hidden secret which drives the plot. The lawyers are meeting in private because the male half is married to someone else. We soon learn that the football player has never been with a woman.
The best line is delivered by the lady lawyer: "You just went from a bastard to shit head!"
A hilarious movie, which has a bitter sweat ending.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
There are many good films which feature salesman in the lead role. The Big Kahuna takes place in one hotel room as a series of salesmen try to figure out how to land a major account. The Boiler Room focuses on sham selling of bogus stocks. And then there is the seldom seen but excellent Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise where a driven British vacuum cleaner salesman is on a rampage to win the "salesman of the year" prize. Note that Hollywood views salesmen with a mixture of sympathy and tragedy.
And so we come to the classic Death of a Salesman play by Arthur Miller. I won't go into the play or it's many other movie variations because so much has already been written. But I finally had the opportunity to see the earliest film version and I will say it is the best. Frederic March is absolutely eerie in his portrayal of Willie Loman, the small salesman with big dreams. The rest of the cast is first rate too: Kevin McCarthy as his son Biff and Cameron Mitchell as the other son, Hap. I've seen both the 1985 version with too-much-make up Dustin Hoffman and the 1966 one with Lee J. Cobb, but this one is the best by far.
The prime difference seems to be in the director's use of sets other than the "stage" settings. When Willy Loman cracks up in a subway, it becomes far more terrifying than seeing him standing alone. Also, the final scene of Willy driving in a car with his phantasm brother leaves no doubt as to what was his intent.
I'm just surprised this version isn't very well known.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Regional filmmaking can be a tricky thing. For every Carnival of Souls, there are ten Yesterday Machines. And since movies are the stuff our celluloid dreams are made of, many of these local creations represent the one, ultimate chance for a lover of cinema to make his or her mark upon the world. In the days of physical film and expensive lab fees, this could be a substantial investment. There's a reason why Manos was produced by a Texas fertilizer salesman: he had the cash.
At the first Monster Mania I attended some years ago, I ran into a booth promoting a new, SOV film: The Ghosts of Angela Webb. The people were very nice and I had a pleasent conversation with Deana Enoches, the star of the film. I never did get around to watching it.
Last year I finally got my hands on a copy of the film. Let us say I urged my good friend and co-worker John to see this film. For months it became a running topic of discussion among us. I told him time and time again that he would not know True Enlightenment until experiencing The Ghosts of Angela Webb. Recently I re-established contact with John and I promised to review the movie.
Angela Web works on Wall Street. However, she's purchased a house in New Jersey. When she moves into the house, she finds it to be filled with the ghosts of those who once lived there. Many who suffered violent ends. There is one scary scene in particular where a young child, visiting the house, comes out and asks his parent why the man around back doesn't talk. The movie also ties in with 911.
A curious film. And a good example of regional filmmaking.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
One of those movies which I seem to be the only one who likes. A brilliant ensemble comedy which has been out for 6 years, but is hard to find. I bought the only copy they had at my LackLuster Video store, but I don't think it saw much rental.
John Person (John Favreau) plays a down-on-his-luck movie actor in Hollywood. He has just about run out of all the money he took with him to tinsel town. One day, his reclusive neighbor (Bud Cort) shows up and makes him an offer: deliver a blue suitcase to someone known as the "Cowboy" in an isolated California desert town. If he does this he will receive several hundred thousand dollars. Of course, he's not supposed to open the suitcase.
John takes the job, travels to the town and quickly finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy involving UFOs, bullet trains, crazy locals, and the FBI. And The Cowboy isn't going to show up for a few more days.
I don't know why I love this movie, it probably has something to do with the ending. I'm not going to spoil it, but in involves the answer to human existence.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Incredible movie about the rise and fall of the Chess Record label in Chicago. Most of the reviews have focused on Beyonce in the role of Etta James. I was amazed by Eamonn Walker as Howlin' Wolf, the legendary blues singer. Which is why I included this clip of the big man in the movie.
Worth renting on DVD just to watch Mos Def in the role of Chuck Berry.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Russia has been producing some quality films as of late, although they don't seem to get much recognition in the West. 1612 tells the story of the fall of the Rurik dynasty and the rise of the Romanov one, which ruled till 1917. The film was produced in cooperation with the federal government of Russia for the new national holiday, National Unity Day (Nov.4). A lot of critics of the current government in Moscow have been calling this movie propaganda. Maybe, but only in the way Braveheart, Sands of Iwo Jima, or Knights or the Teutonic Order might be considered propaganda.
The film starts with the assassination of Tsar Boris Gudunov. The only witness is a serf boy named Andrei. It picks up ten years later where he is purchased by a Spanish Mercenary named Alvaro Borja. To go into the details of the plot would consume too much time, just let it be said it involves another claimant to the throne of Russia, the siege of a city, and the final battle of the control of Moscow.
Definitely of interest to anyone fascinated by Russian medieval history.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Peter Watkins created the Pseudodocumentary with this movie. Told from the standpoint of a news crew, the last battle fought on British soil is done with realism and horror. There interviews with leaders on both sides of the Jacobite and Royal armies, while the troops stand by ready in the pouring rain. And a narrator continually fires off statistics while men drop dead on the battle field.
A bit of history: On April 16, 1745, an army of mostly highland Scots met their opposites on the Culloden moor near the town of Inverness, Scotland. The highlanders were supporting the cause of "Bonnie" Prince Charles Stuart, who claimed the throne of England. The other side backed the Hanoverian dynasty under King George II. Ill-equipped and poorly led, the Scots rebels were cut to pieces by a Royal army who opened up on them with cannon. It was a slaughter with the rebels running to save their lives. Prince Charles fled Scotland, never to return.
The film was shot in a stark black-and-white, which adds to the reality. I'm not an expert on this time period, but most of the costumes and uniforms look correct. Its hideous to watch the screaming highlanders run into controlled musket fire with only swords and small round shields to protect them. My only complaint is that the film suffers from the typical "History Channel" syndrome where 12 warriors represent an entire army.
Although the director would go on to do many other good films in a similar mode, none ever came this close to depicting a historical war.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Excellent movie with Tim Roth as Oliver Cromwell. It's 17th Century England and the Royalist forces have just been defeated by the Parliament ones. However, King Charles is still alive, but under house arrest. The movie follows the intrigue between different factions of parliament over what to do with him. Dougray Scott plays Lord Thomas Fairfax, a close friend of Cromwell's and the voice of reason. It's a long movie, nearly two hours, but makes you understand why there are so many balances in the US constitution.
Monday, March 30, 2009
A gang of bandits take over a passenger train in north Mexico. They threaten to kill everyone on the train unless the bandit commander's brother is released from a US prison. There's just one problem: the brother is due to be hanged for a bloody raid into a boarder town. And that's if the national guard can prevent the citizens from lynching him. Ordered to write a letter outlining the commander's demands, a law student ("We need someone who can think in Spanish and write in English!") addresses the letter to the only two men who can save the day.
The heroes turn out to be Hank Bracket (Rod Taylor) and Johnny Reach (Dennis Cole), two mercenaries who will only take a blank check in way of payment, since anything less isn't worth their time. Can Bracket and Reach come up with a plan to free the passengers before time runs out? Will the railroad president allow them? And what about the mysterious senora who claims to be the wife of the soon-to-be-executed bandit's brother?
Powderkeg can only be described as Fistful of Dollars meets Mission Impossible. The director created an American response to all the cynical EuroWesterns flooding out of Italy and it worked. The soundtrack deserves it's on special release and the acting is superb. Big bonus points to the late Fenando Lamas for creating one of the most memorable villains of the last century.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Microbudget movie which actually generates some real fear. The movie is told from the webcam's POV, so there's a claustrophobic feel to the entire production. There's very few actors, all of whom do excellent jobs. Basically, this is a ghost story where two people are communicating over long distances and we're watching the result of a webcam session. My only complaint is the background story on the ghost is a little vague. Worth checking out if you have the opportunity.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
One of the long-lost classics of the BBC has recently resurfaced. I have to admit, everything I heard about this adaptation of the Le Fanu ghost story is true: excellent acting, good direction, superb scenery. Hopefully it will be give a proper release some day.
Schalcken is an up and coming student of a popular Dutch artist during the Renaissance. Taken with his master's niece, he has to hold his toungue when his mentor decides to marry her off to a mysterious stranger. She disappears after the wedding and Schalcken attempts to locate her, but is in for the shock of his life with what he finds.
Narration by Charles Gray, much of the prodution deals with the actual techniques of oil painting. There is one amusing sequence where an old man in a diaper is posed next to a strumpet. The art students are told to paint St. Anthony tempted by lust.
Highly recommended if you can find it.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Moody, atmospheric Australian film about a school teacher in a remote costal town trying to figure out what happened to his predecessor. A cast of mostly unknown actors (at the time) delivers an exceptional job of creating a sense of impending dread. The teacher finds himself ostracized by most of the town folk, who all seem to be in on a cover-up. Or are they?
Plus points for one of the best seduction scenes in the history of film. The teacher, played by buffed actor Nick Tate, catches the eye of his Romanesque boarding house manager. She's pretty obvious about what she wants at the first meeting, just never gets around to vocalizing it. What make this and ever other scene with her brilliant is that she doesn't have to say anything.
The ending is telegraphed and most people will predict it by the final third of the film. The ending is also what caused the poor reception for Summerfield when it was first released. However, if you pay attention to the conclusion, there are signs indicating a lot left unsaid.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Every now and then Holly wood manages to do something right. Quarantine is the latest example of tinsel town taking a trend (the "found video" movie) and adapting it. You could argue that it's taken them 8 years to get the formula down, but at least they accomplished something.
Quarantine, based off a similar film from Spain, follows a news crew assigned to do a human feature on a firehouse. Shortly into the segment, the firehouse is issued a call to respond to an apartment building and the news crew follows along. But what they find at the apartment building is not what was expected.
The movie is told from the point of view a camera man who is constantly trying to get a decent angle. The newscaster (Jennifer Carpenter) begins as a flighty model, but quickly finds herself in the middle of a nightmare. You see, there is a disease running amok in the apartment building. A disease which turns ordinary people into killers. And it's contagious.
The "reality" aspect of Quarantine is what plays it up. At the beginning of the movie, the firemen and news crew find themselves trapped in the building as a squad from the Center for Disease Control seals the building off from the outside. Soldiers are positioned around it who have orders to shoot anyone trying to leave. Then the lights go off.
My only complaint with Quarantine is that it looks like a feature film trying to resemble a cheaply made newscast. The camera may be bouncing all over the place, but the footage looks far superior to anything I've ever seen meant for the local news. And everyone just happens to have perfect make-up.
Worth a rent from the local video store.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This is a thoughtful and fascinating short film about the Museum of Jurassic Technology in the state of Washington. What at first glance looks to be a victorian era museum, is in fact is a gallery of curiosity. It challenges the very nature of how you view the world. One commentator refers to it as a place of reference and satire.
For reverence, we are shown a display of collections from people who live in mobile homes. Satire is best represented by a display on a bat which can fly through solid objects. When a small model of the lead walls used to finally entrap one of the bats is shown, you realize it's a PT Barnum moment.
Not quite a mockumentary, Spore is a charming film about a museum where everything is real. In a fashion.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Fun little movie about gamers. The producers of this documentary didn't go for the easy laughs and make their subject look like idiots. Instead, the gamers come across as dedicated people who pursue something they love. The film spends equal time on various aspects of role playing games, even talking to Christian anti-gamer zealots. By far, the best part of this movie is listening to writer Michael Stackpole talk about the growth of RPG's and what attracts people to them. He even delves into the famous Egbert case from 1979 which caused so much notoriety to Dungeons and Dragons.
The film also peppers it's discussion of RPG's with popular culture depictions of gamers. In the early 80's a godawful MTV movie stared Tom Hanks (a role I'm sure he's removed from his resume) as a gamer gone crazy in Mazes and Monsters. Gameers have appeared in other media formats as well, usually as messed-up individuals. Uber Goober features clips from a number of these movies and shows.
The trips to the gamer conventions are quite good and mirror my own experiences. You get to hear people talk about their love for the games they play. One sculptor shows off the miniature village he built just for his RPG.
A little too much time is spent on the Live Action RPG's (LARPS). The filmmakers spent most of their time on one particular LARP and should have delved into other ones. The best comment from this section is a young man who refers to LARPS as "interactive theater". Not the definitive look at the world of RPG's, but as good as there will be for years to come.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Absolutely the best documentary I have ever seen on the horror and fantasy writer Howard Philips Lovecraft (1890-1937). Lovecraft is known for his "Cuthulu Mythos" stories which were published in pulp magazines in the 1920's and 30's. Over the years, he's gained a large cult following. Many people rank him up there with Edgar Allen Poe as a master of American literature.
The documentary follows a loose, but entertaining format. The biographer S.T. Joshi explains the particular childhood of Lovecraft at the turn of the century and how this effecting his view of the world. Many authors who cite Lovecraft as a major influence are also given their chance to talk about him. There's even a visit to the annual HP Lovecraft film festival which features the latest adaptations of his works.
The film does have its faults. There's a rather poor attempt to recreate an old black-and-white film interview of a professor from one of his books. We also get to see the painful attempt to show a real "Lovecraftian" cult who tries to summon up one of the elder gods with a Blair Witch conclusion.
Best of all is a talk with the author Neil Gaiman who describes Lovecraft's view of the universe as "We're all screwed."
Worth seeing if you get the opportunity.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Excellent German film about the failed plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler in WW2. I think there was another version of this incident recently starring a Hollywood celebrity, but I'm not sure. I really do need to get out more often.
The problem with this movie is the very nature of it's subject matter: you know how badly everything is going to end. At least the filmmakers have the decency to let you see the ringleader's tragic demise at the very beginning.
If I have any complaint with this movie, it's the contrived nature of how Von Stauffenberg comes to see the necessity of removing Hitler by any means necessary. You see the good German officer in Belorussia suddenly finding out about atrocities. More plausible is the next scene where he's involved in the tragic African campaign and witnesses a comrade die.
The actual bombing occurs off-camera. Stauffenberg is conferring with another conspirator when a loud "bang" is heard in the background. Another officer, not in on the plot, tells them it's probably just an animal in a mine field.
A quality film with good production values which needs better international exposure.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Vivid, psychdelic Japanese movie about a group of stranded airline passangers who are being taken over by alien beings. I've heard good things about this flick for years and everything was right. Produced by the same company which unleashed War of the Insects (which I won't review until I see a copy with English subtitles).
So many Japanese movies from this time destroyed the world with rubber monsters, but the island was producing plenty of other good fantasy films. There's no Godzilla clones here, just an alien in jelly form who turns people into blood-sucking vampires. The flying saucer used by the invaders remains one of the most colorful effects in cinema.
This has been showing up on Turner Classic Movies recently. Do watch it if you have this cable TV channel when it's scheduled again.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Totally tacky, unintentionally hilarious, version of Jacqueline Susan's book. The author herself has a bit role as a newscaster when hunk Robin Stone (John Phillip Law) is watching a newscast about an ex-girlfriend's suicide. To adequately describe the plot of this movie would be to deny you the viewing pleasure, so I won't even make an attempt. Suffice it to say it involves Law's ruthless climb to the top of a network TV studio by sleeping with every woman who throws herself at him.
Where this film shines is in its time capsule depiction of America on the verge of the Me Decade. It's not enough that Stone watches four TV's at the same time, he does so in a kitchen painted in a striped color pattern. And what does his rival propose as a means to win ratings? Why Shecky Green in a variety show! But wait, it even features Dyan Cannon in a corset!
Monday, January 5, 2009
A detailed analysis of Jack Chick's religious beliefs is outside the scope of this article. Probably to do it would condemn me to hell.
But little is known about Jack Chick the man. There are only two known photographs of him, both dating from the 1940's. He may have hit the one billion mark when it comes to publications, but mainstream culture has ignored him. There don't seem to have been many Hollywood directors trying to adapt A Demon's Nightmare or The Gay Blade for the big screen.
God's Cartoonist features several lengthy interviews with people who either work for JTC publications or collect their publications. Most of the collectors have the "we take him seriously, but not his views seriously" point of view. There's even a minister who says: "Jack Chick said it, I believe it, and that settles it." The best is a lengthy talk with the "Rev." Ivan Stang, founder of The Church of the Subgenius, who speaks movingly of how much Chick's work has affected his own creations.
The documentary even animates several of Chick's tracts with the use of computer imaging. This is my one big gripe about the film. Jack Chick's illustrations are so detailed that they cry out for animation with traditional pen and ink methods.
It seems that Jack Chick had incorporated several conspiracy theorist in his organization as "experts". One, is currently serving jail time, another was a MD who believed demons are actively and visually influencing our lives. A third. Alberto Rivera, was supposedly a former Jesuit priest who believed the Roman Catholic Church was controlled by Satan. You can actually trace the time line of Chick's artwork from the years he spent with these people.
There's also a very nice interview with a Black American artist who has spent years working with Chick on the publications. Several of the Chick aficionados point out the differences in their drawing styles.
This is an excellent documentary, even if shot on video. But somehow, I don't think it'll be on the short list at the Oscars. Go here to order it.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
My fave Christmas present this year was this little gem. It comes complete with four episodes (one Joel, three Mikes) of classic MST3K episodes, lobby cards, new art work for the DVDs, interviews with the show creators, and a little robot. All handsomely encases in a tin box. God, I love the yuletide! Wassail!
My only complaint is that they only have one "Joel" episode. Joel Hodgson was the original host of the show when it was a low-power UHF broadcast from the Midwest. He always had that flair for the bizarre which could turn any godawful movie into a laugh fest. His replacement, Mike Nelson, just seemed too "nice" to me. My favourite Joel episode had him trying to fix some odd machine while lecturing to the robots about the nature of evil, using Yahoo Serious as a prime example.
Also, two of the episodes are from the final SciFi Channel days, when the show seemed to have lost a lot of its original flair. The sets may have been more impressive, but not as amusing. Also, they'd lost the mad scientist co-host and the invention exchange by that point.
The four movies in the pack include: First Spaceship to Venus (Joel-Comedy Channel), Laserblast (Mike-Comedy Channel), Future War (Mike-SciFi Channel), Werewolf (Mike-SciFi Channel). I would've preferred their hysterical riff on Manos: Hands of Fate (Joel-Comedy Channel), but you can't have everything.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
And one of my other interests is Heavy Metal.
Received this Gamma Ray DVD for Christmas from one of my kids. Good boys; they know what dad wants for the holidays. No mufflers and ties for me!
The band shows themselves to be at top form with this performance, but to tell you the truth, I prefer the live at Wacken supplements in the extras disc. As I sincerely doubt I'll ever get to see these gents live, this may be the closest I'll ever get.
And remember: The Gods made heavy metal.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Pilot for the wunderlust TV show that many people remember, but not enough watched to keep on the air more than one season.Michale Parks plays a reporter (Jim Bronson) who witnesses his best friend leap off a building. After having a fight with his editor, he hops on a motorcycle and sets out in search of America. He runs into Bonnie Bedelia as an angry bride throwing her wedding ring into the sea and gives her a lift.
There's not a lot of conversation in this movie. You never really find out why the "bride" tossed her ring into the sea. But the real reason for the movie is the long trip Bronson in on, one which will occupy him for one hour a week on TV.
Amazing that a movie which didn't spawned a short-lived TV show has such a fan base today.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Hollywood never fails to let me down. I was absolutely sure this remake of the classic film would be a dog and, by golly, I was right. How bad is this film? It's so bad I'm actually writing a negative review of it. Why? Because I don't usually write negative reviews (what's the point?), but in this case I want to warn people to stay away and not waste your money. Don't even buy the DVD when it hits the stores. Better yet, don't even download the thing.
All it does is make the 1951 Robert Wise original look that much more polished. There was no way in God's green earth that this remake was going to out-do the 1951 version. If nothing else, more people will make an effort to see the brilliant original.
Enough! I will say no more of this atrocity! I've wasted enough time as is!