Monday, November 15, 2010

It's been a loooooooong time since I've posted on my blog, and even longer since doing something about cooking.  Since I was making a new dish tonight I felt saucy and broke out the camera to document.  Here are the results for your enjoyment.

On Tonight's Menu: Pinwheel Flank Steak with Porcini and Red Wine Sauce, Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus

I started with reconstituting the dried Porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 20 minutes and then separating the mushrooms from the water but reserving both.  

Then I pounded a flank steak (about 1.5 lbs) out to half-an-inch thick and covered half with a mixture of some chopped garlic, sage, rosemary and parmesan reggiano cheese.  

Then the steak was rolled tight and tied off with string.  After which it was seared in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil on the stove before putting it in the oven to cook through.  

While the pinwheel was cooking I prepared the sides.  This consisted of boiling chopped sweet potatoes in some water and putting the asparagus on a baking sheet with a little extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  

Also had to make the sauce.  The mushrooms went in with some red wine and cooked down before adding the mushroom liquid, some beef broth and a little cornstarch.  Simmer and stir until thickened.  

The sides were finished by roasting the asparagus in the oven while the pinwheel rested before cutting into it.  The potatoes were smashed and mixed with some kosher salt, black pepper, butter, a little cinnamon, brown sugar and some molasses.  I meant to add some milk, but I forgot in all the rush to get everything finished while still hot.  Oh well, it still tasted alright.  Here's the finished product.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Triple L

Nothing - 2003 - Dir. Vincenzo Natali
Location: My Couch

And thus begins my mini Vincenzo Natali marathon. I call it mini because out of his four features I watched three of them. He still has one other movie I have yet to see, but I'll get around to it soon. This film in particular I've had in my possession for probably about four years now. Yes, my friend Stefan lent this to me and since then he has moved to Sweden and it has just collected dust on my shelf. When I knew I was going to be seeing his new film (next post) and interviewing him I really wanted to go ahead and watch it. The story concerns two best friends who care not for the world outside their home. Both are in a very bad place and they wish hard for everything to disappear. That's when they realize they have the power to make the world go away and now it's just the two of them in their house surrounded by nothing. A bright white nothing. Most of the film is just these two guys, Andrew Miller and Natali staple David Hewlitt, talking and exploring their odd lives. The concept is very interesting but it does feel a little slow in parts making me think it might work better as a short. Still you have to commend Natali for making such a character driven piece with such a small cast.

I also recognize that had I not watched Sam Rockwell's amazing performance in Moon the night before I might have enjoyed this more. Both of the films have similarities with a couple of characters mostly talking for an hour and a half, so it's hard not to compare them. Still worth a watch.

Splice - 2010 - Dir. Vincenzo Natali
Location: Theater - Studio Movie Grill - Dallas
Early Screening

While not a perfect film I really did enjoy this. Even more because of how realistic the science is behind it all. You can read my review HERE at Pop Syndicate.

You can also find my interview with director Vincenzo Natali HERE.

Cube - 1997 - Dir. Vincenzo Natali
Location: My House

After I got home from Splice I just had to revisit his breakout hit. It had been many, many years since I had seen this but this low budget sci-fi flick was every bit as great as I remember. The story sounds a bit Sawish but this was made quite a few years before James Wan made the now yearly torture flick. A group of strangers wake up in an empty cube room with ornate designs and doors on each of the six walls. They can go through them but some of the rooms are booby trapped with different devices which leave the inhabitants dead. Now they travel through the structure from room to room trying to find a way out and recognize the pattern within it.

Such a simple location, with one room constructed, only the lighting colors change. There is nothing really flashy about the film but for a sci-fi/horror picture it has what many don't have - engrossing characters. The whole story is about these people making their journey and you really care about every decision made. I was shocked that even though I knew the outcome I was still so invested in the film. It affected me as much as it did when I was blown away in the shitty apartment I lived in when I rented it as a first run VHS in the late 90s. I told this to Natali after our interview and he seemed genuinely touched that I like his film so much. He's a great guy and a talented director.

If you have not see Cube you are doing yourself a giant disservice.

#216 & 217
Snake Eater - 1989 - Dir. George Erschbamer
Snake Eater III: His Law - 1992 - Dir. George Erschbamer
Location: Micah's House
Lorenzo Lamas

Out of Micah's great VHS haul this year he had a curious tape of Snake Eater II. This was his introduction to Mr. Lorenzo Lamas. I had a father who loved Lamas, especially his TV show Renegade, so I was exposed to the man from early on. Glad to hear that he was now hooked on LL and was thirsty for more.

Thus was born the Lorenzo Lamas Legion!
(cue trumpet fanfare)

During a bye week for Horror Movie Night we decided to make it a Lamas double feature, and after the success there are many more to come. I've actually already been toying with the pairings in the man's filmography. I can't wait for the shark double feature. Anyway, we decided to start with the first in this awesome action packed trilogy. Lamas plays Soldier, aka Jack Kelly, who is a rather unorthodox cop with a penchant for booby traps. After his suspension from the force for taking things too far he finds out his parents were killed and his sister is missing. Off he goes on his motorcycle to find the bastards behind it which turn out to be crazy rednecks. Along the way he meets his love interest The Kid and King, who dismantles Jack's bike and makes a chopper/boat hybrid. What a thing to wake up to. After a brief fit over it he soon thanks him for everything. I guess ruining his mode of transportation is no biggie.

The second film we watched was the last installment. Even though only Micah had seen the middle flick he says we didn't miss anything as far as a connecting storyline. In fact all three seem to be completely different tonally. Part 3 had more to do with bikers who kidnapped, drugged and raped a woman that Soldier/Jack is hired to find after his, surprise, suspension from the force. This time he teams up with a guy named Cowboy and the explosions and awesome flow as freely as his arms move in his sleeveless wardrobe. Highlight of the film was the very prim and proper mother of the victim who says, "raging case of gonorrhea."

I really dug the hell out of both films and can't wait to watch the second film to complete the collection. Be prepared for more Lorenzo Lamas Legion action in the weeks to come.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - 1991 - Dir. Kevin Reynolds
Location: Theater - Alamo Drafthouse Ritz
Master Pancake Theater

Since Jenny and I were already going to be in Austin we decided to check this show out where they do live riffing, much like Mystery Science Theater 3000, on different films. It was also nice to have Mary Jo Pehl from MST3K as a special guest joining in on the fun. This was so much freaking fun and my head and face hurt from laughing so much. These dudes know what they're doing and I can't wait to go down for another show in the future. I hear the holiday show is something spectacular.

UHF - 1989 - Dir. Jay Levey
Location: Theater - Paramount (Austin)

Jenny and I celebrated our three year anniversary back at the end of March but after hearing Weird Al Yankovic was coming to Austin for a special screening of his film and would be doing a Q&A we knew this would be a fun thing to do for the celebration. Even though the seats aren't too comfortable at the Paramount and our seats weren't too great (though they were better than I feared) we had a blast! I remember in the video store where I used to work, and long before I worked there, the catalog rentals were $1.99 (I think for five days) but there were certain films that I guess the owner didn't feel people would pay full price for. These damned titles only cost a mere $0.49 for the same amount of time. I remember a few different flicks but the one I rented the most was UHF. It was great to see this on the big screen with a fun audience, have a Weird Al sing-a-long and hang out with some friends (like BTSjunkie and lola0813). After we partied at The Highball where I we met up with more friends, Brian and Rachel Roberts, and I ate a delicious Twinkie Wiener Sandwich. Aside from a pretty lame Q&A with some VERY embarrassing questions, it was a wonderful experience.

Bukowski: Born Into This - 2003 - Dir. John Dullaghan
Location: My House

This is a documentary about the great poet and author Charles Bukowski. If you haven't read much by the man this is a great introduction to work, but even the most verbose fan will enjoy seeing footage of the late great. Highly recommended.

Necronomicon - 1993 - Dir. Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans & Shusuke Kaneko
Location: Micah's House
Horror Movie Night

I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft's writings, but for some reason never say this anthology film based on his work. The three stories told are versions of the short stories "The Rats in the Walls," "Cool Air" and "The Whisperer in the Darkness." Now it's been a while since I've read those particular pieces but I can say with some authority that the filmmakers took quite some liberty with their versions. As with all anthology horror flicks there is a wraparound story and here it involves actor Jeffrey Combs playing Howard Phillips Lovecraft as he sneaks into a secret area of the library to read from the Necronomicon for inspiration and reference. This is a fun film with some pretty gnarly FX work. My one gripe is that I think they could've found someone who looks a little more like Lovecraft for the role. Combs is a great actor, and he looks scarily like Edgar Allan Poe now that he has played him on stage and screen, but with the prosthetics he looks more like Bruce Campbell. I think they should have gotten Paul Benedict, from The Jeffersons among many other things, because he naturally looks more like the author. What do you think?

(L to R: Combs, HP Lovecraft, Benedict)

Sweet Sugar - 1972 - Dir. Michel Levesque
Location: Micah's House
Weird Wednesday

Ah women in prison films, how I love thee. This particular film didn't have any girls in it that I really knew but the gorgeous Phyllis Davis won me over right away. A bunch of women are taken to a work camp where they server their sentence by chopping sugar cane. The real problem comes when the sinister Dr. John starts performing cruel and torturing experiments on the prisoners.

This film is sexy, funny, crazy and sexy. Of all the great moments I must leave you with this one involving cats. I'm sure you'll want to watch the film after seeing this, and I don't blame you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I still have some films to catch-up on blogwise, but I'm going to skip ahead to talk about the cool cinematic experience I had earlier today.

As a subscriber to the Dallas Film Society's newsletter I am occasionally apprised of events I didn't know about. Crazy, huh? As much time as I spend online with film related events you would think nothing could get by me, but it does. According to the most recent e-mail from them the historic Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff had a summer movie series running. I was beyond stoked.

For those who don't know about the location it was the first Dallas theater to have air-conditioning and was built in 1931 and opened by Howard Hughes. This enjoyed plenty of first run screenings until an afternoon in November of 1963 when during a screening of Burt Topper's War is Hell Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in his seat for the assassination of JFK. More about the theater can be read here on the Texas Theatre's website.

According to the website the film series was going to end next week, not much of a summer series (but more on that later), so I knew I better see something soon. the schedule has Latin films on Sundays with English subtitles and the next one was going to be Los cronocrímenes (Timecrimes). This film was made in 2007 by Nacho Vigalondo and deals with time travel. I have heard nothing but good things so I knew this would be a great film to see in such a great venue. More on the film in a bit...

When we arrived at the theatre I was happy to get parking on the street nearby, but soon saddened because I left my camera at home. So please excuse the lower quality of my iPhone. As you can see from the vintage shot above the new marquee is a little different, but an homage to the original. Better than nothing, in my opinion. We walked in and the lobby is just a white shell. I know they are still in the process of renovation so I didn't think much of it. After looking around a bit I noticed this odd sight on left after you walk through the lobby doors.

Evidently in 1964 the original, beautiful architecture leading up to the balcony was covered up by white plaster/stucco. Who the hell thought this was a good idea?! Attendance was down because of the stigma associated with JFK's death in Dallas and the capture of his alleged killer in the theatre, but what about replacing a lovely lobby with an all white cavern was going to help? In this cross section you can see everything is still under the plaster. I'm not sure if there are plans to rip out and try to refurbish the original look because I didn't want to keep bugging those in charge with my lame questions. I'm sure much of it is in very bad shape by now, but it would be really cool.

My next big question was if the films were on 35mm or DVD. I didn't figure they would have actual film prints and I was right. There is a rather old 35mm projector upstairs but it doesn't work at the moment. They are hoping to get enough money needed for the repairs and get it running again. I really wanted to check out the projection booth, and the upstairs, but one of the guys told me he wasn't allowed to take me up there. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to talk him into it. If I do I'll be sure to have my camera that day.

One bit of good news to come from the trip is they ARE doing films all summer long! Soon the expanded schedule will be up on the website as well as their Facebook page. They also told me that "some girl" was going to be showing "weird videos" of some kind on Wednesdays soon. Of course it would have to conflict with our weekly Horror Movie Night, but we might have to take a field trip at least once.

Watching the film was nothing too special. The screen wasn't too big, but the sound was decent. I sat near the back because I wanted to sit around the area Oswald did (forgot to look-up exactly where before we went, but I was fairly close). The film itself was supposed be in Spanish, but the DVD started playing the dubbed version and I guess they didn't want to stop and start over after they realized the problem. It was a little annoying, but we have the shiteous Magnet distribution company to thank. Yes, this is the same company who screwed with the subtitles on the initial Let the Right One In release. For people who deal in quite a few foreign films why would they think the fans would want to watch it dubbed? We want to watch it with subtitles in the original language to get the full performance of the actors onscreen. Stop having your discs default to the dubbed version! Bah!

Aside from these few gripes, and the jerk who kept opening his phone a few rows up and to the right, the film was absolutely terrific. It's the type of film to not spell everything out, leave some questions and give you the chance to interpret things for yourself. I love that! This shows downsides to time travel and makes it less glamorous than a film like Back to the Future and much more realistic. Can't really get into too much of the specifics without discussing how the film unfolds. Very small cast and a very ambitious idea that I can't wait to revisit. Without the dubbing, of course.

All in all I had a great time watching a terrific film and geeking out over the awesome location. Normally going to a public exhibition of a DVD is not my thing, since I'd rather see film and replicate the original exhibition as much as possible, but I highly recommend checking out the Texas Theatre and going to as much as you can. The more money this group can get, from the $5 donation for admittance and buying concessions, the more work can be done on the theatre itself and with further programming. Most of the time Dallas moviegoers are pretty lame, but with the cheap ticket price here we can turn that around and bring a landmark back and see some great films along the way.


One more thing to mention. They also host art shows and other live events at this location so there are pieces hanging around. One of the ones I really dug is behind the concession area. Check out this three part piece on Frankenstein's Monster. Sweet!

(click image for full size)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekend at Bernie's - 1989 - Dir. Ted Kotcheff
Location: My Couch
Netflix Instant

It had been quite some time since I had seen this. Probably not since I rented it on VHS from the video store I used to work at ten to fifteen years ago. It's silly, funny and has Andrew McCarthy. Win all around!

Humanoids from the Deep aka Monster - 1980 - Dir. Barbara Peeters
Location: Micah's House
Horror Movie Night

Over the years I have seen this movie in pieces but never all at once and not every single part of it. So when it came up for Horror Movie Night I was happy to sit down and watch it as a whole film. This Roger Corman produced classic has a small fishing village being attacked by half man/half fish creatures thanks to some crazy scientific experiments. Odd for such a crazy violent film to be directed by a female, but quite a few of the scenes were added later and directed by someone else because Peeters didn't want to shoot all of the humanoids raping the town's women.

There are some funny "bad movie" kind of moments and plenty of gore that is quite awesome. Not to mention an insanely awesome ending that had all of us watching cheering aloud. On August 3rd Shout! Factory is releasing a new special edition DVD and Blu-Ray (!) of Humanoids as part of their Roger Corman Cult Classics. I can't wait to see fishmen in high definition.

The Party Animal - 1984 - Dir. David Beaird
Location: Micah's House
VHS Haul 2010

Over the past few weeks Micah has found some great old mom-n-pop video shops and other sales on VHS tapes and has bought over 200 great looking genre titles. Hopefully there will be plenty of new films to discover in the future with him, they will all hold the tag of VHS Haul 2010.

We wanted to watch a sex comedy and when the box to this claimed it to be the "raunchiest film of the decade" we had to go for it. Not sure if anything about the film is too over-the-top but there is plenty of nudity, after an extended male strip club sequence that had us all laughing pretty hard. Mainly because one of the guys kind of looked like Mad Men's John Hamm. Nothing about the film is too out of the ordinary for 80s sex comedies except that the protag's name is Pondo Sinatra and the soundtrack is quite awesome. Full of music by The Buzzcocks, The Fleshtones, ska outfit The Untouchables and much more. Oddly it seems no soundtrack was actually released, but you will definitely be bobbing your head throughout the film.

Jungle Holocaust aka Ultimo mondo cannibale- 1977 - Dir. Ruggero Deodato
Location: My Couch

Everyone, horror fan or not, has heard of Cannibal Holocaust. Not everyone has seen Deodato's first cannibal film, and finally I'm glad to be in the group that can say I have. This isn't as overly violent as its follow-up, but still has plenty of the staples. Unfortunately this also means animal death. Not too sure why Italian cannibal films have to have graphic animal death, but this is no different. A lot of it is animal-on-animal but there is a scene where a group fillets a live alligator. Pretty grisly stuff.

For a cannibal film there isn't a whole lot of actual eating of humans, but when they get to it all bets are off. I am not too familiar with most of Deodato's work but I'm definitely going to get to know it all. Especially since the third of his cannibal trilogy has Willie Aames in it!

Alternate Titles
- Last Cannibal World
- The Last Survivor
- Cannibal
- Carnivorous

The Black Gestapo - 1975 - Dir. Lee Frost
Location: My House

Pretty interesting blaxploitation flick about a militant black group who starts to take over for the white organized crime unit and steal from the people they started to protect. Some great violence and one of the leads is Charles Robinson (Mac from Night Court)!

Robin Hood - 2010 - Dir. Ridley Scott
Location: Regal Galaxy 10

Despite the bad things I heard about this film I was still going to see it. I was struck with joy by the Robin Hood tales since childhood and Russell Crowe couldn't be any worse than Kevin Costner. I didn't realize this was a prequel and I didn't always agree with everything they changed, but overall it wasn't a bad film.

Rock 'n' Roll High School - 1979 - Dir. Allan Arkush
Location: My Couch

I'm not sure if I can really sum up my feelings about this film. The Ramones are probably my favorite band of all time. Even though most of them, with the exception of the drummers and CJ, are dead they have left behind a lasting legacy of timeless music that pretty much everyone can enjoy. Forget what you might think about the UK scene - The Ramones are the true punk pioneers. Thanks to Allan Arkush and Roger Corman for bringing them to even more people in the late 70s with this film. I have seen it on VHS, DVD, 35mm and now Blu-Ray with the new edition from Shout! Factory and looks amazing. For the first time you can see the lovely P.J. Soles and Dey Young dancing in the gym, Mary Woronov with twin buns and, of course, Joey's extremely long, skinny legs in eye watering high definition. Not to mention all of the great Ramones tunes with amped up audio.

Yes, the movie is campy and the guys in the band can't act to save their lives, but it's hilarious. I don't think I could ever tire of watching it and I'm glad I can now have such a beautiful transfer to add to my collection.

Frontière(s) - 2007 - Dir. Xavier Gens
Location: My Couch
Netflix Instant

This new wave of French horror films are nuts! This came out as part of the After Dark Horrorfest's 8 Films to Die for and was probably the most outrageously violent one of that year, if not total. Plenty of crazy gore and situations on a Texas Chainsaw Massacre type model of a crazy family in a rural French setting. Definitely worth the watch.

Moon - 2009 - Dir. Duncan Jones
Location: Home

So many friends talked this film up that I didn't know if I would be let down. I wasn't. Sam Rockwell was definitely robbed by not getting an Oscar nomination because his performance is truly something wonderful. Don't know if it's quite up to the awesomeness of his role in the mid-90s college flick Glory Daze, heh, but it's pretty amazing.

Død snø aka Dead Snow - 2009 - Dir. Tommy Wirkola
Location: Home
Netflix Instant

Nazi zombies in the snowy Norwegian mountains? Yes please. Trailers and info on this film hit the horror blogs for quite some time ago but I just got around to it. Overall I had a good time but found it a little slow in parts. There are plenty of blood-soaked moments to make up for it though, as well as a guy getting some in the outhouse. Was i turned on or disgusted? I think I was disgusted because I was turned on, heh. It was also nice to have the film nerd character wearing a Braindead shirt.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Man Bites Dog (C'est arivé près de chez vous) - 1992 - Dir. Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel & Benoît Poelvoorde
Location: My Couch
Netflix Instant

For my 200th movie of the year I wanted to watch something I had not seen and something I had heard good buzz around. I perused my Instant Queue and decided on this low budget French film from the early 90s that has taken many people, Quentin Tarantino included, by storm. After watching it I can say that it was absolutely wonderful and I can't wait to buy it and watch it many times in the years to come.

Shot in the style of faux documentary a camera crew (consisting of a cameraman, sound guy and director) follow around Benoît who is a killer by trade. Instead of punching a clock and sitting in a cubicle he picks the right marks and exterminates them. While it's not an exact science he does have rules that he explains to the camera while reciting poetry and getting philosophical from time to time.

This film is laugh-out-loud funny, extremely violent and very, very dark. I love that for about the first half of the film I found myself laughing at the way Ben goes about killing people with his charismatic nature or how the film crew goes through sound guys like Spinal Tap went through drummers, and then something changed. About halfway through the tone completely shifts and the comedy drops off and everything gets super serious and dark. Even when the laughs are present there are some rough murder montages as Ben racks up the bodies and dumps them in the canal. The acting is tremendous and I especially love that the three directors play parts with the same names and Ben's actual parents and grandparents make appearances, evidently without the knowledge that he was playing a killer.

The violence is pretty graphic in certain scenes and Ben's total disregard for human life is shocking but the film's point of the over saturation of violence in the media and in entertainment really strikes through. If you thought Natural Born Killers conveyed that message well then you need to watch Man Bites Dog ASAP.

Zapped Again! - 1990 - Dir. Doug Campbell
Location: My House

Having seen the 80s teen sex comedy Zapped! it was only a matter of time before I had to watch the sequel made about eight years later. I was expecting the worst, but surprisingly I found it quite a bit of fun. The film takes place at the same high school and the kids of the failing science club come across a mysterious concoction in prune juice bottles that gives the main character telepathic powers. He uses this for revenge, laughs and, of course, blowing up girl's skirts and popping their tops.

The cast cannot compete with the epic duo of Scott Baio and Willie Aames from the first film, but it manages to keep the laughs coming and the zaniness at the top of the scale. As with most comedies of this ilk there are plenty of good looking girls. They even have the main female character as the type they make fun of in Not Another Teen Movie - with a ponytail, glasses and a penchant for learning. In my opinion she is the most attractive girl in the film, even with her nerdiness. There are also a couple of great small performances featuring Karen Black as an Italian substitute and a very hot Linda Blair as one of the teachers who wears some black lace underwear. Nice.

While the film doesn't surpass the original it's a worthy sequel. If you like this type of film pick this one up for sure.

Mongolian Death Worm - 2010 - Dir. Steven R. Monroe
Location: My Couch
SyFy Channel Original on my DVR

Who doesn't love a good giant killer animal film? They are the best and you have to thank the lovely SyFy Channel for keeping the grand tradition of giant animal films of the 50s and 60s alive. One of the newest films aired last weekend and I set my DVR right away. With a title like Mongolian Death Worm you didn't think I could pass it up, did you?

The plot centers around an American oil company in Mongolia (natch) that drills over the hidden tomb of Genghis Khan and unleashes the mythical guardians - giant freaking worms! A treasure hunter, played by Sean Patrick Flanery, is the only one who is on their trail and must stop them before they take over the country and destroy a small nearby village full of sick people. The whole secondary storyline with the village is weird and seems to only give a reason to have a female doctor/scientist companion to help. Pretty much everything at the village is rather boring except when the awesome cowboy looking sheriff is blasting away worms with his shotgun.

As with most of these films the acting is meh, and the FX are laughable. This is part of what makes watching these films so much fun. I do think it's funny that Flanery's character is fairly normal, for a treasure hunter in the deserts of Mongolia, until near the end when he begins to act delirious and on the verge of slapstick. I also realized that he laughs like a puppet.

It should also be of note that the director, Steven R. Monroe, is also helming the upcoming remake of I Spit on Your Grave. I won't hold this against him. We did chat for a little bit at Texas Frightmare Weekend about his upcoming film and he seems like a cool together guy. Maybe he just likes to make zany SyFy original films. There's nothing wrong with that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story - 2007 - Dir. Jeffrey Schwarz
Location: My House

I have seen my fair share of Castle films, but not enough that's for sure. I know he was a top notch showman with tons of great gimmicks surrounding his films, and was the inspiration fo John Goodman's character is the great Dante film Matinee (1993). If I thought I loved this man before watching the doc it was nowhere near as much. A bunch of talking heads give stories about Castle's life and odd, iconic filmography. There are archival interviews with Castle himself and footage from his many premieres and tons of pictures. Giving interviews, aside from family and close friends, are the likes of Dante, John Landis, the late Forrest J. Ackerman, Stuart Gordon, Fred Olen Ray, the wonderful John Waters and many more.

I remember reading in one of Waters' books about how he would go to see The Tingler multiple times and search the theater early for a seat with the buzzing mechanism so he could get the special surprise. When I read that I wished I could have been there, but this doc makes me REALLY wish for the ability of time travel so I can go to one of Castle's outlandish premieres and experience what all of those kids did in the late 50s and early 60s.

Great documentary for fans of William Castle, the genre, or just film in general. He played an important role in the movie going experience and made some great films along the way.

The Proposal - 2009 - Dir. Anne Fletcher
Location: My House

When I first saw the trailers for this I didn't want to see it, but for some reason it began to fester in my mind. Something made me want to see it, but I never wanted to pay for it in the theater. I have no problems with Sandra Bullock, and actually think she's a little attractive, so could it really be that bad? It does have Betty White after all. Last week my girlfriend was going to watch this because is was On Demand so I decided to sit and watch it with her. It's not the best movie in the world, and not hilarious, but for a romantic comedy I did enjoy it quite a bit. The story is predictable, but there are some good laughs and Bullock and Reynolds do a decent job. For now my morbid curiosity has been sated - at least until the next big rom-com.

Ninja Assassin - 2009 - Dir. James McTiegue
Location: My Couch - Blu-Ray

Never got around to this one in theaters, and heard it was pretty lame. I don't think it's that bad. Actually if you want to look at this like a purely exploitation martial arts kind of film it's not half bad. The plot is meh, but the action and violence are heavy and entertaining. The worst part about the film is that its biggest bang happens before the opening credits roll. Fans of hyper-violence might just want to watch the first five minutes and then turn it off, but if you continue to watch you will see some pretty cool fight sequences.

I was happy to see that Ben Miles (Patrick from the Britcom Coupling) was in the film, but he's not a very big character. The guy who plays the main ninja is a Korean pop-star known as Rain and he will no doubt have a future in action films after everyone has seen his chiseled physique and quick moves from years as a dancer. Hopefully his next film will be a bit better.

Blood Rage - 1987 - Dir. John Grissmer
Location: Micah's House
Horror Movie Night

This film was shot in 1984, but not released until '87 for some reason. I don't know what the hold up was because this is a fun slasher with a diving board sex scene! The story sees a pair of twin boys at a drive-in and one of them murders a guy with an axe while he's having a backseat romp with his date. He then pins the murder on his stunned comatose brother who is taken to a mental health facility for the next ten years. The crazy brother finally figures it out and breaks out of the facility to come home and confront his brother on Thanksgiving. There are some nice bloody death scenes, funny typical 80s characters and a mother character who cannot seem to make a phone call to save her damn life.

Great pick for Horror Movie Night, but the slashers usually are. There is a DVD version, but it is cut. For the full gory film look for the VHS version.

Stingray - 1978 - Dir. Richard Taylor
Locaton: Micah's House
Weird Wednesday

Next up in our weekly (usually) double feature was the Drafthouse's Weird Wednesday pick of Stingray, aka Abigail Wanted. It concerns a couple of of criminal and over a million dollars worth of drugs hidden in a car on a lot before they are picked up by the cops. When they get out and go for their merchandise they see the car, a Corvette Stingray, being sold and driven off the lot. Now the rest of the movie has the criminals, with some friends including a ruthless woman named Abigail, chasing after the guys in the Stingray to get their stuff back.

This film is highly entertaining, yet very puzzling in tone. One moment cops are murdered, shot in the head and their cruiser blown up while about three seconds later the campy xylophone score kicks in and slapstick comedy fills the screen. Multiple times in the film it switches between action/drama and comedy which feels a bit weird, but thanks to some great acting and amazing car chase sequences it holds your attention the whole time. The only real thing I would change is shortening the film's epilogue scene by about fifteen minutes.

Stingray is not currently available on DVD, keep an eye out for the VHS though and maybe someday it'll hit the disc.

The Babysitters - 2007 - Dir. David Ross
Location: My Couch - Netflix Instant

When I saw this trailer a few years ago I wanted to watch it but somehow forgot all about its existence. Now Netflix has it available for Instant Watch so what a great way to finally watch this film about teenage babysitters who start sleeping with the dads for some extra cash. I wasn't really sure what to expect. Would this be super sexy with tons of nudity and a late night Cinemax feel? The answer turned out to be quite different. At times the film is sexy but there's not much in the way of nudity and the production value and story told elevate it high above the direct-to-late-night-permium-cable category. These girls see the way they can raise money for college or just buying a bunch of frivolous crap. You really feel for these young girls and they have some great, powerful moments along the way.

John Leguizamo plays the first dad to get the ball rolling and his performance as an unhappily married man finding himself through his teenage "plaything" is great. But the real star of this film is the leader of "The Babysitters," Shirley played by Katherine Waterston. She delivers a wonderful performance and looks quite attractive until you concentrate on her face and realize she looks almost exactly like her dad - Sam Waterston. Eek!

At times I really wanted this film to delve into balls-out exploitation, and it does in a minor way, but the more substance heavy story turned out much more than I imagined and left me glad that watched the film.

La noche de Walpurgis aka Werewolf Shadow - 1971 - Dir. León Klimovsky
Location: Mi Casa

This past November Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy passed away due to cancer. His name was one I have been aware of for some time but never watched many of his films. This is something I want to change, and if this film is any indication of the quality I can't wait to continue. Two women are driving through the French countryside looking for the tomb of a possible female vampire. They stay at the castle of Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy), find the tomb and accidently resurrect her. The countess' bloodthirst is not their only problem as the full moon grows near and Daninsky is a werewolf.

The film is sexy, stylish and full of atmosphere. Splatter flicks and high action are fun sometimes, but it's nice to sit back and watch a horror film more artistic and expressionist in nature. Naschy makes a damn fine wolf man, right up there with Lon Chaney, Jr as a matter of fact. I know he portrays a werewolf in multiple flicks and can't wait to watch another. Any suggestions?

Alternate Titles
- The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman
- Shadow of the Werewolf
- Walpurgis Night

Iron Man 2 - 2010 - Dir. Jon Favreau
Location: Galaxy 10

Had to go see the sequel to the awesome first film. Growing up I read comics but was never really that in to Iron Man. Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr changed that a couple years ago. The first film made me love the narcissistic Tony Stark and cheer for the red and gold flying man/machine. The sequel was very enjoyable, but not to the level of its predecessor. The new additions to the cast were mostly great, with the exception of Scarlett Johansson who was a little blah. Her action scenes were great, but her acting was not up to the level of the other performers. Loved Sam Rockwell as Stark's business nemesis Justin Hammer and Don Cheadle taking over as Lt. Col. Rhodes is wonderful. Who doesn't love Cheadle? The best new character is definitely Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko. What a great villain who is sadly not in the film near enough.

A lot of people said the middle act was very slow and it wasn't as bad as I feared, but there are certain things near the end that were a little sigh worthy. Overall, I'm glad I went to see the film and will go see any more that come in the series. This also managed to hype me for the upcoming Thor, Captain America and Avengers films. Hooray!

Julie & Julia - 2009 - Dir. Nora Ephron
Location: My Couch

I saw this on opening weekend last year, but my girlfriend's mother never got around to it. So for Mother's Day (actually the night before) we had her over to watch the film and I made the centerpiece dish of the film Boeuf Bourguignon. After working in a hot kitchen for close to five hours on this meal it was nice sit back and watch this fun little flick. I really dig this for some reason, and a big part of it could be my love of cooking and desire to write. I really connect with this, no matter how odd it seems. If you have seen this you know that Meryl Streep is absolutely outstanding in the role of Julia Child and Stanley Tucci makes a great husband. If you haven't seen the film I highly suggest you give it a watch, if for nothing else than the Julia segments.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) - 2009 - Dir. Tom Six
Location: Inwood Theater
Midnight Madness

This film is the much ballyhooed new gross-out film about a deranged surgeon who wants to use the gastric system to make a Siamese triplet. Yes, this involve surgically connecting three people ass to mouth. It's not as graphic as I expected from the hype surrounding it and initially I was a little let down, but it did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the film. It is a rather small cast and one of the girls is not the best actress, but that's alright because she doesn't have too much to say throughout. The doctor played by Dieter Laser is wonderfully creepy and at the same time a German Christopher Walken doppelganger.

If you look past the hype and watch the film you get a slowly unfolding tale with a ton of creepy tone and some rather unsettling moments. Director Tom Six is working on a sequel, titled The Human Centipede (Full Sequence), which will involve twelve people joined together and he promises it to be nearly unwatchable. I'll try to keep my expectations down, but I'll definitely check it out.

The film is currently On-Demand with some cable providers and making the late night rounds across the country. Give it a shot and see what you think.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Left Behind

I'm horrible about doing this. I fell 68 movies behind. Same on me. I'm just going to list these titles to catch up and then hopefully start this up again and try to stay a little more current. There will be a post coming up with my belated thoughts on the films I saw at the Dallas International Film Festival - whenever I get time.


116 - Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – 2009 – Dir. John Krasinski
117 - Big Fan- 2009 – Dir. Robert D. Siegel
118 - BMX Bandits – 1983 – Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith
119 - Alice in Wonderland – 2010 – Dir. Tim Burton
120 - Uncle Sam – 1997 – Dir. William Lustig
121 - [rec] 2 – 2009 – Dir. Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
122 - Van Wilder: Freshman Year – 2009 – Dir. Harvey Glazer
123 - Planet 51 - 2009 - Dir. Jorge Blanco
124 - Precious - 2009 - Dir. Lee Daniels
125 - Night of the Creeps - 1986 - Dir. Fred Dekker
126 - Mother (Madeo) - 2009 - Dir. Bong Joon-Ho
127 - Inseminoid - 1981 - Dir. Norman J. Warren
128 - Dear Zachary - 2008 - Dir. Kurt Kuenne
129 - Troll - 1986 - Dir. John Carl Buechler
130 - Modern Problems - 1981 - Dir. Ken Shapiro
131 - Johnny Suede - 1991 - Dir. Tom DiCillio
132 - Hot Tub Time Machine - 2010 - Dir. Steve Pink
133 - Troll 2 - 1990 - Dir. Claudio Fragrasso
134 - Monster Shark - 1984 - Dir. Lamberto Bava
135 - A Day Without a Mexican - 2004 - Dir. Sergio Arau
136 - The Unborn 2 - 1994 - Dir. Rick Jacobson
137 - Darker Than Amber - 1970 - Dir. Robert Clouse
138 - Operation Condor - 1991 - Dir. Jackie Chan
139 - The Cat O' Nine Tails - 1971 - Dir. Dario Argento
140 - Escape from New York - 1981 - Dir. John Carpenter
141 - Oldboy - 2003 - Dir. Chan-wook Park
142 - Aerobi-cide (Killer Workout) - 1986 - Dir. David A. Prior
143 - Clash of the Titans - 2010 - Dir. Louis Leterrier
144 - Toy Soldiers - 1991 - Dir. Daniel Petrie, Jr
145 - Full Moon High - 1981 - Dir. Larry Cohen
146 - Witchery (La Casa 4) - 1988 - Dir. Fabrizio Laurenti
147 - The Pied Piper of Hutzovina - 2006 - Dir. Pavla Fleischer
148 - Speed - 1994 - Dir. Jan de Bont
149 - The Collector - 2009 - Dir. Marcus Dunstan
150 - Taxidermia - 2006 - Dir. Gyorgy Palfi
151 - A Town Called Panic - 2009 - Dir. Stephane Aubier & Vincent Patar - DIFF
152 - Toy Story - 1995 - Dir. John Lasseter
153 - Toy Story 2 - 1999 - Dir. John Lasseter
154 - Date Night - 2010 - Dir. Shawn Levy
155 - The Loved Ones - 2009 - Dir. Sean Byrne - DIFF
156 - The Boy Who Could Fly - 1986 - Dir. Nick Castle
157 - Waking Sleeping Beauty - 2009 - Dir. Don Hahn - DIFF
158 - Thunder Soul - 2010 - Dir. Mark Landsman - DIFF
159 - My Tehran For Sale - 2009 - Dir. Granaz Moussavi - DIFF
160 - Earthling - 2010 - Dir. Clay Lifford - DIFF
161 - Cracks - 2009 - Dir. Jordan Scott - DIFF
162 - The Good, The Bad,The Weird - 2008 - Dir. Ji-woon Kim - DIFF
163 - Lemmy - 2010 - Dir. Greg Olliver & Wes Orshoski - DIFF
164 - Brotherhood - 2010 - Dir. Will Canon - DIFF
165 - Obselidia - 2010 - Dir. Diane Bell - DIFF
166 - Down Terrace - 2009 - Dir. Ben Wheatley - DIFF
167 - Spiral - 2007 Dir. Adam Green & Joel David Moore
168 - City of Life and Death - 2009 - Dir. Chuan Lu - DIFF
169 - Kick Ass - 2010 - Dir. Matthew Vaughn
170 - The Room - 2003 - Dir. Tommy Wiseau
171 - Tales from the Script - 2009 - Dir. Peter Hanson
172 - Hot Chili - 1985 - Dir. William Sachs
173 - Demonwarp - 1988 - Dir. Emmett Alston
174 - L.A. Streetfighters (Ninja Turf) - 1985 - Dir. Woo-sang Park
175 - Spaceballs - 1987 - Dir. Mel Brooks
176 - Teenape Goes to Camp - 2008 - Dir. Chris Seaver
177 - Bitch Slap - 2009 - Dir. Rick Jacobson
178 - C Me Dance - 2009 - Dir. Greg Robbins
179 - A Nightmare on Elm Street - 1984 - Dir. Wes Craven
180 - Brothers - 2009 - Dir. Jim Sheridan
181 - Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - 2009 - Dir. Werner Herzog
182 - Link - 1986 - Dir. Richard Franklin
183 - 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams - 2009 - Dir. Tim Sullivan
184 - Survival of the Dead - 2009 - Dir. George A. Romero
185 - A Nightmare on Elm Street - 2010 - Dir. Samuel Bayer
186 - Found Footage Festival, Vol 2 - 2007 - Dir. Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher
187 - Night Warning - 1983 - Dir. William Asher
188 - Blood on the Highway - 2008 - Dir. Barak Epstein & Blair Rowan
189 - Mega Piranha - 2010 - Dir. Eric Forsberg

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Old Dogs - 2009 - Dir. Walt Becker
Location: The Comfort of My House

Here's another one of those films I watched because it had to be reviewed. This is one I could have let slide by, but I did have a slight morbid curiosity about the film. Practically every critic in the world had bad things to say and I just wanted to see them for myself. The premise of a man getting his, or any, kids and not knowing what to do is pretty standard. Of course he will be horrible and they won't get along, but soon enough he will grow and learn from the children. Not only was the plot a bit hackneyed, but the way they told it was just not interesting or really that funny. Travolta plays a slick womanizer type, that I just don't buy. He's so freaking silly that I can't imagine women finding it cute for a man in his 40s, although he does have money. Robin Williams is the father of the twins and is in his typical family comedy mode. I know a lot of people don't like Williams, but he's made me laugh in the past - it's just not usually because of his ultra-ADD bits. He has also shown himself to be a great actor in dramatic roles, just watch One Hour Photo.

Full Disclosure: Even though the jokes are lame fart jokes mixed with slapstick I did laugh on two occasions. There is only so much slapstick I can endure without chuckling a little. None of this has anything to do with how unfunny and lame the flick is so don't think I like the movie. The only real good thing I can say is that the 88 minutes go by really fast. That's hardly a ringing endorsement.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever - 2009 - Dir. Ti West (Sorta)
Location: My Couch

This film was pretty much doomed from the get go. It was in the works, in some form or fashion, since the original film's release in 2002. Every time it would get close to shooting something would happen and back on the shelf it would go. Eventually Ti West (The House of the Devil) took the reins and actually managed to shoot the film but it was put back on the shelf for about two years before seeing the light of day. After all of that time the producers and other executives grabbed their knives and cut the hell out of West's work so he tried to get his name taken off to no avail. In multiple interviews he has said this is no longer his film so if you hate it don't blame him and if you love it he had no hand in that. What did I think? Pretty fun flick.

Instead of taking place out in the middle of the woods like the first film this is mostly in a high school that is soon plagued with the same flesh eating virus spread through water. This begs the question, why the hell does it have Cabin in the title? Other than it's an extension of what happened in the original, and a couple characters, there is nothing to do with the cabin at all. In fact, you don't even see it. What you do see are some VERY kickass practical gore/gross-out FX that had me cheering from my couch. Everyone loves practical FX in horror, CG blood is retarded. And the gore isn't the only draw, there's also a bathroom stall blow job by a girl with a sore on her lip! That's the gift that keeps on giving.

What I really didn't care for was the end. All of a sudden things are just kind of over and one secondary plot line is just left hanging involving Winston (Giuseppe Andrews), the partying cop from the first movie. Then we fade to black and go to another secondary plot line/character that makes some sense but just feels way out of place. Still, there is plenty of fun to be had with this flick so I suggest it for the horror fans out there.

Children of Men - 2006 - Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Location: My Couch

I'm very late to the party. Not sure why it took me so long to see this, when I was looking forward to it in the theater, but it did. Finally I have remedied the situation and I can say that this would definitely make its way to my top films of 2006. In the year 2027 women are infertile and the last baby born was over eighteen years ago. Society has crumbled and London is home to one of the few remaining civilized places on the planet. Theo (Clive Owen) has been tapped by a rouge freedom group to help smuggle a young refuge girl out of the city. This girl is pregnant.

Besides the exciting, interesting and depressing future London there is a great script to go along with it and some exhilarating camera work. The intensity of scenes are enhanced by long takes and inventive camera technology to reach areas not done before. One scene is shot from within a car by a remote camera attached to mechanisms allowing it to spin 360-degrees and move throughout the vehicle. The shot lasts the length of the scene, around four minutes, but that's not even the longest or most effective. Everything about this new world is captivating and the film is truly crafted by a master. If you have not seen it yet then you must rent it or buy it now!

For those of you who have seen Children of Men: You may not know that this is an Italian film from 1983 by director Sergio Martino with a very similar plot called 2019 - After the Fall of New York. In this film society is divided after a nuclear blast and women are left infertile. A man is sent in by the rebellion to rescue the last remaining fertile woman on Earth from her captors. Not only is this very similar, it's also very 80s. Double win!

The Gravedancers - 2006 - Dir. Mike Mendez
Location: The Comfort of My House

I saw this originally as part of the After Dark Horror Fest and it was one of, I think, two of the films that year I really enjoyed. A group of friends gather together for a funeral of another and while drinking in the cemetery late that night come across a paper with a rhyme written on it. They read it aloud, dance around and, of course, unleash evil spirits that will haunt and try to kill them. For a low budget film this brought the big money scares and a great supernatural tale. There are some cool make-up FX used in the film but unfortunately near the end there are some CG FX up to the caliber of a SyFy Channel original movie. At least it's not enough to ruin the film.

Lake of Fire - 2006 - Dir. Tony Kaye
Location: My House

Abortion is a very controversial issue and those people who want to argue their side do so in a very loud and extreme manner. In this doc people on either side of the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice stance are interviewed and have a chance to make their case. People might say the filmmakers pick a side here but I think they are as unbiased as possible. A good chunk of the running time is spent on the nutso religious zealots who take their stance for life to a dark and twisted place. People attack those who work in abortion clinics going so far as to shoot or bomb them, resulting in quite a few deaths. It's hard to show that much about these people and how they think they are just in killing those who perform the procedure, or even work in the office, because that's what "God wants." So the filmmakers do show a bias against the fanatics but can you blame them? Any rational person, regardless of your view on the issue, can see there is something wrong with the group of radicals.

Not all of the Pro-Lifers are insane and some very intelligent members of their stance are interviewed and give a great argument. I wouldn't say they really change my mind on the subject but I can see things from their side a lot easier when they are spoken rationally and not shouted by the same people who hold up "God Hates Fags" signs and cheer for the death of abortion doctors. The filmmakers do not shy away from anything in this documentary which could make it pretty hard to watch for some but is something I appreciate as a viewer. Nothing really hits home your point like actually seeing it for yourself. When they talk about later abortions and how they have to piece the fetal fragments back together post-op to make sure everything is out they show the process. You even sit through the entire process with a woman from walking in the building, to meeting with the doctor, pre-op, the actual procedure and post-op. This is a powerful segment, one that most people will never see and even less of the men out there will know about.

I fully support a woman's right to chose and whether you agree with me or not I feel this documentary is something important for anyone with questions on the subject. There are some disturbing moments but I feel that is nothing compared to the wealth of information you will get.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Unborn - 1991 - Dir. Rodman Flender
Location: Micah's Home Theater
Horror Movie Night

Kicking off the apparent "babies in pods" theme of Horror Movie Night for March is this wonderful little film from the early 90s. The story centers around a woman and her husband who are trying to get pregnant and go to a fertilization specialist. After the success strange things begin to happen in Virginia's (Brooke Adams) body and surrounding the clinic. This is an entry into the killer kid subgenre and while it starts off kind of slow it really picks up the pace and rocks it to the end. Nothing too crazy happens after the opening until almost halfway through when a hysterical patient of the clinic starts plunging a chef's knife into her bloated belly. Awesome! After that point the insanity grows and grows to an wonderful climax and some great animatronics, for what otherwise appears to be a rather low budget film.

There is a ton of man hating in this film. Most all of the male characters have bad qualities and are chastised by the females. A rather young Kathy Griffin plays one part of a man-hating lesbian couple who teach a birthing class. This gives way to a wonderful line of dialog when a woman storms out of their feminist meeting by telling Griffin and her lover to suck her dick. There is so much anti-penis in this film that Marcus rightfully labeled it a Lifetime horror flick.

I really enjoyed watching this and will definitely revisit in the future. In a couple of weeks we'll be watching the sequel and I hear it's even better. I can't wait!

Mad Dog Morgan - 1976 - Dir. Philippe Mora
Location: Micah's Home Theater
Weird Wednesday

From splatter and killer babies we switched to Australia in 1865 for a killer western-ish film about an infamous bush ranger named Daniel "Mad Dog" Morgan (Dennis Hopper). He was an Irish immigrant and criminal who gets out of prison and makes his way across the county robbing and excessively drinking alongside his aboriginal partner. The story of Morgan is rather interesting - too bad it's contained within this snoozefest. Hopper is nearly certifiable here and the choices by the director and editor are not much different. From scene one they wave goodbye to any sense of transition or interesting composition. I have heard many things about this and how difficult Hopper was to work with, but all of that was more interesting and entertaining than the actual film. A real shame since I had such high hopes.

The Killer Must Kill Again (L'assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora) - 1975 - Dir. Luigi Cozzi
Location: The Comfort of My House

An adulterer catches a killer disposing of his latest victim but instead of turning him in he hires the man to get rid of his wealthy wife. While the husband is away the killer does his business but a young couple steal his car with the woman in the trunk. Sounds like a pretty standard giallo, right? It does have killing, vivid colors, stylish cinematography, a funky score, weird title and plenty of sex but one major thing is missing - the mystery. In most giallos the killer is a mystery and red herrings are thrown around to take you off their tracks. With this film you know the offender from the very beginning so you get the same thrill of the chase feeling without the mystery. I wasn't too sure how this was going to work out, since I love trying to solve the mystery myself, but Cozzi's picture pleasantly surprises.

Taking away the puzzle in a giallo is like pulling away a crutch. Now instead of just making people guess it's all about the hunt and the killer's revenge against the couple who screwed up his sacred act. I'm sure some might find the lengthy chase for the middle portion of the film a tad slow but it does nothing but add tension. I highly recommend giallo, thriller or Italian horror fans check out this film right away.

Alternate Titles
- The Killer Must Strike Again
- The Dark is Death's Friend

Transylvania Twist - 1989 - Dir. Jim Wynorski
Location: The Comfort of My House

Long before there was Scary Movie there was this little flick. Not to say this is the first horror spoof, but it goes in a very goofy direction. A young man travels to Transylvania to retrieve a 200 year old book with great powers. What I really like about this film is the broad horror spectrum parodied. There are some typical scenes with Freddy, Jason, Pinhead and the more mainstream crew, but there are also major events revolving around events Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, the film Nosferatu (with some characters named Orlok) and a ton of Lovecraft influence - the book calls the Elder Gods, main character is named Dexter Ward (Lovecraft has a novel entitled The Case of Charles Dexter Ward) and other minor shout-outs. Aside from the great references many great cameos in the film including Angus Scrimm, Brinke Stevens and Forrest J. Ackerman.

The downside are the laughs aren't really there. You will chuckle here and there but no real belly laughs. I was also surprised to see a Wynorski film without any nudity. I know, shocking! This film isn't for everyone but horror aficionados will get a kick out of all the references.

The Crazies - 2010 - Dir. Breck Eisner
Location: Theater - Hulen Movie Tavern - Ft. Worth

I was in Ft. Worth and had a few hours to kill so I checked the trusty iPhone for movie times and saw that I could book it over to Hulen Mall area and catch this latest remake to fill my time. I have been to this theater many times, but not in years. Since my last trip it was transformed from the dingy UA theater into a movie tavern and it is quite a makeover. I still hate that most of the newer movie taverns and the Studio Movie Grills in Dallas all have office style chairs on wheels. They might be a little more comfortable than regular old movie seats but they creak and you end up rolling into others. I'm not a fan.

It has been a while since I watched Romero's original film from 1973 but the same basic premise is there. A small town is put under a high level quarantine and clean suited agents infiltrate terminating anyone in their path. There is nothing really special about this film but it has some fun, tense and startling moments. Olyphant in the lead role of the town sheriff is great but a tad underused. One thing that really bugged me is the odd moments the writers chose to have the deputy make his wisecracking remarks. Many times it takes you right out of the tension and atmosphere of the moment.

The Rift - 1990 - Dir. Juan Piquer Simón
Location: Mi Casa
Horror Movie Night

This week Marcus was busy with bagpipe and drum stuff and Micah was busy working before heading off to SXSW so I watched the film at home alone. I really think having people to make fun of this with would have helped enormously. Unfortunately I was alone, confused and bored.

An submarine, Siren II, is sent to see what happened to the crew of its predecessor, the Siren I, when it disappeared. Strange things happen underwater and people die. When I saw Juan Piquer Simón directed this and it stars R. Lee Ermey and Ray Wise I figured I was in for a treat. I love both of those actors, and Simón's film Pieces kicks much ass. Soon I found out this was not going to be a fun hour and a half. The logic of their sea knowledge was very confusing. At one point I swore they said they were over 45,000 feet down when the Mariana Trench is only around 36,000. At the extreme depths a diver was sent out of the submarine in a fairly standard looking suit with no decompression. Right. I'm sure if I were surrounded with friends and beer fun could have been had but I just wasn't into it by myself. Ermey and Wise were great but they could not save me.

Alas there is no Horror Movie Night this week so I have to wait much longer for the next fun time. Hopefully we can all get together again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

War is Hell

So I have slacked off and let a bunch of films stack up in my pile to blog about. I am going to write a few brief statements on these films to get them out of the way so I can try and catch up again. Same on me.

Platoon - 1986 - Dir. Oliver Stone
Location: The Comfort of My House
AFI Top 100

I saw this originally when it first hit VHS in the late 80s but remember very little from it. While watching again I was shocked to see what a great ensemble cast this film has. Keith David, Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley and Johnny Depp round out the incredible supporting cast while the three main lead duties are handled by Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen. Each of these actors, some of which were very green at the time of filming, give commanding performances of a company on tour in Vietnam. Yes the film is about Sheen's struggle to keep the right path in this land of insanity when he is pulled back and forth from the bad and good sides by higher ranking soldiers, but it's so much more. The realism of the situation is shocking and pretty damn depressing. Highly effective.

There were three war films release around the same time - Platoon, Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Hamburger Hill (1987). Out of these I've seen Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket the most and it's probably my favorite. To be fair I don't think I've ever seen Hamburger Hill and Stone's film is relatively new to me too. Still it's an amazing film that deserves to be seen. Pick it up
on DVD here.

The House Bunny - 2008 - Dir. Fred Wolf
Location: My Couch

Is there a better way to follow-up an epic war film than with a flick about a Playboy bunny becoming the house mother of an unpopular sorority? I think not. I figured this would be crap,but I like Anna Faris, Emma Stone and Kat Dennings so I figured it would be stupid fun. The film is about what is to be expected, except for the fact that it's rated PG-13. How can you have a college sorority film with Playboy bunnies and have no nudity? Isn't that breaking some sort of rule? Bah!

What I didn't realize, or expect, is how much of the plot is similar to the awesome 80s flick Revenge of the Nerds. In no way does this even come close to being on the same plane of cool as the nerds but a lot of the plot points come close to being a rip-off. One of the co-stars is American Idol alumni Katherine McPhee who sings a cover of The Waitresses' 1982 hit "I Know What Boys Like." Much like the film itself, the song is an empty shell of it's 80s parent.

I'm not sure what Anna Faris did plastic surgery wise, but I really miss the way she used to look. Not that she isn't still attractive, but go back and watch Scary Movie and then this film and tell me which version is less fake looking. If you want to see Faris prance around in next to nothing and have a few forced chuckles then you can snag the
DVD here for twelve bucks.

P-Star Rising - 2009 - Dir. Gabriel Noble
Location: My Living Room

This documentary came on PBS' great series Independent Lens and I remembered seeing a trailer for it months ago so I set the DVR. It follows preteen Priscilla "P-Star" Diaz who is the youngest female rapper in the game and lives in some very small temporary housing with her dad and older sister. The doc follows the young girl around as her dad, a former rapper, tries to get her a contract and make her famous. It's undeniable that the kid has talent, but it's a shame she has to live with some of the things she does. A lack of money and an absent, drug addict mother are just a couple examples. As she begins to get places things heat up between her, her father (who acts as her manager) and her record label. At times it's sad and inspirational others. If she can keep up with everything she will be a huge star someday.

The DVD will not be released until May 4th but you can
pre-order here.

God of Cookery (Sik san) - 1996 - Dir. Stephen Chow & Lik-Chi Lee
Location: My Couch

Most people know Stephen Chow from his big American crossover hits Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle and I was one of those until recently. I heard much of his older stuff was just as good as these two films so I started with this Kung Fu-ish style of cooking. In Hong Kong Chow is the God of Cookery and hosts a show where chefs try to challenge him and make food that he will find appetizing. Unfortunately this never happens. He always finds something wrong but is soon ousted as a fake by another and must fight his way back to the top. Some scenes of competitive cooking seem a little like Iron Chef if only Chef Morimoto had the ability to cook food with fire shooting from his palm.

There are plenty of laughs but I still prefer the other two films I mentioned above. That said, I highly recommend this to Asian film fans and will continue to track down Chow's back catalog to devour.

The Hurt Locker - 2009 - Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Location: The Comfort of My Home

I watched this a few days before the Oscars because I had a feeling this would be winning, and I'm glad it did. The story of an Army bomb squad in Iraq and the intense situations these men put themselves in daily is rough and eye opening. The film opens with the unit working on a bomb and shoving guns in the faces of any Iraqi who comes near them. You feel bad for these people until you realize the person on the other end of that bomb could be anyone in the crowd and a few buttons pressed on a cellphone is all it takes to kill anyone nearby.

Jeremy Renner leads the group as their new Staff Sergeant with a very different way of handling things then they are used to. He doesn't respond to the radio, he takes off his bomb suit and plays by his own rules. The team struggles to deal with this in their highly intense job after the death of their former leader. Bigelow deserves all the accolades she has been getting. Her film takes you inside a world most of us will never be a part of and really puts you in the soldiers' boots. When the film was in theaters I really didn't have a desire to see it but after watching it at home I wish I would have gone. This seems to happen a lot.

If you haven't had a chance to watch the movie pick it up with the rest of the other post-Oscar rush on
Blu-Ray here or
DVD here.