Saturday, January 30, 2010

Forbidden World (aka Mutant) - 1982 - Dir: Allan Holzman
Location: Micah's Home Theater
Horror Movie Night Selection

This week Brian, BTS Junkie, picked this film for his weekly Horror Movie Night and Micah, Marcus and I followed along here in Dallas. This film is a Roger Corman produced Alien rip-off, shot on the set of another Alien rip-off - Galaxy of Terror. Here there is a genetic experiment gone awry in a research lab in some remote planet and a space marshal makes his way to help out. Of course things go wrong and the pulsating lab creation breaks loose on a killing spree.

You can tell pretty quickly that sleazemaster Jim Wynorski was co-writer when there is plenty of sex with such a small cast. Plenty of moments of nudity, but what do you expect when you have a space marshal with such rugged good looks coming to the rescue of these women who walk around the lab all day in bright colored scrub-like outfits and high heels. The beginning and end of the film have a montage of quick cuts where they show the entire film. A very odd choice and the mix of that with a mash-up of synthetic and classical music at the beginning reminded me of A Clockwork Orange.

There is not only the Alien rip-off but a little bit of Star Wars thrown into the mix. A helpful robot named SAM, who gets way too little screentime, looks a lot like a Storm Trooper or Boba Fett. Then when the crew go out onto the planet their get-ups look a little jawa-esque. Not a bad cheesy space horror flick, and at 77 minutes it doesn't take much out of your day.

This will be hitting DVD on July 20th courtesy of Shout! Factory, so look for it then. No pre-order currently available.

Lunch Wagon - 1981 - Dir: Ernest Pintoff
Location: Micah's Home Theater
Alamo Drafthouse's Weird Wednesday Pick

After the Horror Movie Night flick we decided to watch the Drafthouse's pick for Weird Wednesday which turns out to be a great early-80s T&A comedy about some girls who are given a lunch wagon (from Dick Van Patten!) and set out to to make some money. They become a hit at a local construction, much to the chagrin of another wagon crew with a boss who wears leisure suits with trucker hats and spouts tons of great lines. Turns out they are secretly tunneling into a nearby dental practice to steal their large supply of gold, for gold teeth. HA!

Along the way there are many sexy moments, bouncing boobs and music from the new wave band Missing Persons playing their awesome tune "Mental Hopscotch." It's everything you want from this type of flick. While I enjoyed Forbidden World, this was the hit of the night for me by far. We all laughed and rocked along with the exploits of these girls led by Playboy Playmate Pamela Jean Bryant, who you may have seen previously in other hits like H.O.T.S. (1979) and Private Lessons (1981), playing Marcy. The cast also was swarming with Van Pattens! Not only was Dick in for a small role but both sons, James and Nels, had parts too. James even played the a buff construction worker/psychology degree holder named Biff who catches the attention of Marcy.

Many of the lines in this movie are hilarious. We could not stop laughing. One of my favorites is the crime boss extraordinaire's great pick-up line, "Rise and shine kid. Let's have sex, pancakes and get the hell out of here."

I cannot recommend this enough for fans of 80s T&A sex comedies, or Missing Persons. There are plenty of used VHS copies here. Cross your fingers for a DVD release, I know I am.

Alternate Titles
- Lunch Wagon Girls
- Come 'n' Get It
- Hamburger Girls

Hamburger: The Motion Picture - 1986 - Dir: Mike Marvin
Location: The Comfort of My House

What better to watch along the lines of such wonderful films this night then another 80s T&A type comedy. This is one of the wonderful food themed sex comedies that I know of along with Hot Chili (1985) and Hot Dog... The Movie (1984), both of which I will be watching soon. If you know of any other food titled themed flicks like this, please let me know. In this burger picture we have a college age ladies man named Russell who has been expelled out of every school around because he can't help but have sex with the co-eds, or faculty, instead of going to class. In order to get an inheritance he must complete some sort of schooling so he enrolls in Burger University, an intensive management training school for the popular chain Buster Burger. He must try and remain dedicated to graduating and making something of himself while hijinks ensue all around him.

In traditional 80s fashion this film is full of eccentric stereotypes. Russell's classmates include a nerdy burger aficionado, a womanizing roommate, an always horny Latin woman, a nun (!), a kooky fat guy and a black music star held to against his will to up their diversity. In one of the greatest role of his life Dick Butkus plays Drootin, a hard-ass drill sergeant instructor for this motley crew. There are plenty of wacky moments, and nudity, for fans of this cheesy genre and it doesn't get much better than when they get their test run at a franchise. Everything that does go wrong does including the arrival of The 400 Club. They are a dining group comprised of very hungry and very overweight members. They each order about 60 burgers and other assorted items, even grabbing food from the other patrons hands. Ridiculous and awesome.

It should also be noted that director Mike Marvin is no stranger to the food titled film. He was the writer of Hot Dog... The Movie.

This is another not out on DVD, but should be sought out. You can get some used VHS here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The House of the Devil - 2009 - Dir: Ti West
Location: The Comfort of My House - VHS!

I went to see Ti West's first feature, The Roost, at a theater back in 2005. I didn't really enjoy it, but I also don't remember much about it now. After seeing his newest entry I'll definitely be revisiting it, as well as seeing his direct-to-DVD sequel Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (due out February 16th). In this throwback to 80s horror a college girl answers a babysitter wanted ad and soon finds out this is not your normal babysitting gig. On the night of a full lunar eclipse Samantha heads out to a large house in a rural area to learn there is no child but an elderly woman, not to mention plans for some Satanic ritual goodness.

This is an 80s horror flick in every way. While set in the great decade, you are not beaten over the head with 80s references or zany fashion but everything is fairly subdued. The film is rather slow, but watch it in the dark and you will be rewarded. West shies away from cheesy jump scares in favor of heavy atmosphere and a slow build of tension. This is the kind of horror which sticks with you and when the last act arrives it is all the more effective. Casting is great with the couple in need of a sitter played by genre veterans Tom Noonan (Robocop 2, Manhunter, The Monster Squad) and Mary Woronov (Chopping Mall, Night of the Comet, Death Race 2000). There is even a cameo in the first scene by the one and only Dee Wallace from such epic greatness as E.T., The Howling and Cujo.

I know it's only January, but this already has my vote for home release gimmick of the year. Sure there will be tons of special editions in 2010 but no other film will come out and try to further capture that 80s charm than getting an old school big-box VHS release! And if they do, we'll all know they copied this. Everything on this box, from the faux "New Release" sticker to the caution warning on the back, takes me back to wandering the aisles of my local mom-n-pop video shop. There is even a Gorgon Video label, and intro. 80s horror nerdgasm! I also like that for this VHS they did the retro thing where it's in widescreen for the opening credits and then switches to full frame. It has been years since I've watched a film that did this and I was giddy the entire time.

I will definitely be buying this on DVD, or Blu, when it comes out on February 2nd. You can pick it up on Amazon in either Blu-Ray, standard DVD, or the awesome DVD/VHS combo pack!

Pandorum - 2009 - Dir: Christian Alvart
Location: The Comfort of My House - Blu

Missed it in theaters because of poor reviews. Decided I would check it out at the dollar theater and that didn't happen either. Finally saw it at home on Blu and wish I would have gone to the dollar theater because I liked it. Just didn't like it enough for full price. The idea is great, with a couple of crew members waking up on a spaceship without any memory of what is going on and no one around to tell them. They piece together that this ship was carrying 60,000 humans to a new planet to colonize, but something went wrong. From there Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) and Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) separate and Bower tries to make his way to the nuclear reactor power source so they can get power everywhere, but he finds they are not alone. There are inhuman looking creatures on the ship trying to kill him fast and furiously.

My big problem with the story is the way they split the tension between two "evils." There are the creatures but there is also the movie's namesake, pandorum is a type of psychotic breakdown due to deep space travel where the victim violently attacks those around him. The latter sounds so much more interesting than all of the quick cut, shaky cam jump scare moments with the creatures. At least the make-up FX look cool.

Aside from that I still had fun watching this. Foster has yet to disappoint me and there are some really interesting twists and turns with the story. Since the film takes place sometime after the year 2193 there is some great technology shown. My favorite is in the very beginning, a razor that has no blade but sort of incinerates the hair off Bower's face with a bright light. Yeah, I have a beard but it's still pretty damn cool.

Pandorum isn't near as good as films like Alien but really, what is? Worth the watch for some great performances and a decent horror/sci-fi excursion. Grab the Blu-Ray here, or the DVD here.

Homebodies - 1974 - Dir: Larry Yust
Location: The Comfort of My House

What a better film to follow up my viewing of the great senior citizen centric documentary Young @ Heart then this flick concerning the elderly. A week before Christmas I was working on a shoot at an old folks home and tweeted about how depressing they are. I agree with my mom when she says she'd rather die then be put in one of those. Micah told me that I should watch this film because it might interest me and my thoughts on the home.

An area with tenement buildings full of old people has been sold and set for gentrification. Most of the buildings have been cleared but they are having a tough time with the last of old folks. They don't want to leave their home and will do anything to stay there. By anything I of course mean killing. No one would suspect these sweet, but strange, elderly people of such horrible things but they are serious about their independence.

While the film may be a horror-like tale, it really has an overall tone of dark comedy. The lengths to which these people go to keep their homes are a bit too far, but it shows their persistence to not be cast aside because of their age. The performances are rather good, especially in the case of a couple of the women. One of them sits and watches the construction crew as they work on one of the new skyscrapers, and another lady still talks to her husband at the dinner table though he is not there.

I was not too sure what to expect with this film but really enjoyed the ride. I hope I never get to the point where I have to kill to stay out of a convalescence home, but I really don't want to go.

Good luck finding this one, there is no DVD release as of yet.

Extract - 2009 - Dir: Mike Judge
Location: The Comfort of My House

Here's one of many movies I will say that I missed in theaters. Some films don't stay in theaters long enough to get to, and other times it's a money thing. Either way that's the glory of DVD. I have loved Mike Judge for quite some time now. We didn't have cable when I was younger but I still watched Beavis and Butt-Head at friends' houses and even had them tape it for me. Of course, King of the Hill was always great and then came Office Space. What a wonderful, hilarious film that I should not have to tell you about. In fact, if you haven't seen the antics of Milton then you're fired. Judge went on to make Idiocracy in 2006, and while I did enjoy it I wasn't completely sold. Now there is Extract and I place it somewhere between his other two live-action films.

The story concerns a guy, Joel (Jason Bateman) who owns a company that makes extract (duh) and his unhappy, sexless marriage. The temp service sends over a new hot girl named Cindy (Mila Kunis) to work the factory line and she definitely turns a few heads. Looking for a way to justify having an affair with this girl Joel and his buddy (Ben Affleck) come up with the plan to send a gigolo over to his wife, Suzie (Kirsten Wiig), to see if she takes the bait. If she does, he does. Problems arise when Cindy turns out not to be the girl he thought she was and the man-whore he sent to his wife under the guise of a pool boy isn't going exactly as planned.

While this isn't quite to the level of the greatness that is Office Space it's still pretty damn funny. I especially loved David Koechner's part as the very annoying neighbor who can't take a hint. Don't be scared off by Affleck's role. He's not in the film too much and he is great in the role of the bartender friend full of bad ideas. Judge still proves to showcase his life in Texas by naming the ambulance chasing, TV commercial attorney, Joe Adler (played by KISS bassist Gene Simmons), after the North Texas equivalent Jim Adler. It's definitely worth seeing and will probably find its fan base now that it's on DVD, just like this other films.

Grab the Blu-Ray here, or standard def here.

It's Alive - 2008 - Dir: Josef Rusnak
Location: The Comfort of My House

Over 35 years ago a movie was made by this very same title. Yes this is a remake, but one with the blessing of the original writer/director Larry Cohen. In fact he co-wrote the new screenplay. Cohen has had a roller coaster career filled with some gems like Maniac Cop (1988) and The Stuff from 1985. But he's had plenty of down points like 1997's Uncle Sam (which I really should re-watch since I didn't realize William Lustig was the director). This remake is definitely in the latter category.

This story about a woman who gives birth but the baby is anything but normal. The bloodthirsty little tyke goes on a killing spree and craves blood. I haven't watched the original film in quite some time, but I remember it being more about people knowing about the killer baby and they try to capture and/or kill it, but here no one knows. There really are no big scares here and some of the FX and death scenes are downright comical. Like seeing a little baby's arm punching through the back of someone's head.

Maybe I'm just a little ruined because of Paul Solet's debut feature Grace (2009), where a mother has to protect her blood drinking baby. His film really manages to do this horror sub-genre of killer babies justice in every way possible. Watch it instead.

The Invention of Lying - 2009 - Dir: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
Location: The Comfort of My House

I do love me some Ricky Gervais. The original UK version of The Office is such a wonderful blend of squirming discomfort and headache inducing bouts of laughter. His recent stand-up special for HBO, Ricky Gervais - Out of England, had tears streaming down my face. When I saw he was going to be writing and directing a feature film I was beyond excited. Then I began to hear bad things. The premise sounds so promising. In a world where no one can lie Mark Bellison (Gervais) becomes the first to fib. The comedy practically writes itself, but the reviews were pretty bad. Because of this I stayed away from the theater and waited until it hit DVD.

The film is funny, especially in certain spots, but it's pretty average over all. Since people cannot lie this means they cannot tell white lies, sugar coat things or engage in flattery, which makes for some great moments. Who wouldn't love to arrive early to a date and have the woman profess her anger because you have interrupted her masturbating? Gervais has some great awkward moments where he seems to be in his comfort zone and those scenes really work. The bad thing is if we just watched those it would not really be feature length. I do really love that Mark is a screenwriter for Lecture Films, a company that rights out history and have readers sitting in a chair telling the tale. Fiction is a form of lying so there is none.

Gervais is a pretty open atheist and a large part of the movie has to do with him telling people about the "man in the sky." I really couldn't believe a major studio like Warner Bros. wanted to get behind a PG-13 comedy that tells middle America no one believes in God because he was made up in a book. I wonder if this hurt ticket sales or if they had any fights over the final cut. Of course, I am not bothered by this at all but I'm sure some people were a little peeved. Kind of makes me laugh at the thought of people walking out on a comedy for that reason.

Snag the Blu-Ray here, or standard DVD here and see for yourself.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A few fellow film fanatics and I decided to get together and watch a few flicks. There were only three of us but between Marcus, Travis and myself we had a good time. Here are the glorious DVDs we viewed.

The Found Footage Festival, Vol 4 - 2009 - Compiled by: Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher
Location: Marcus' Couch
My Contribution

For the uninitiated, the Found Footage Festival is a show put together by two VHS aficionados who seek out the weird and hilarious. Joe and Nick scour thrift stores and garage sales all over the country to amass one of the greatest collections of unintentionally humorous crap. The two do a live show with montages of clips that they speak on and the laughs just begin to roll out of you. After seeing their show a few months ago I have become a lifelong fan and cannot wait for them to return.

Marcus missed out on the show but wanted to see the DVD, which I pre-ordered at their show, so I brought it and we watched it first. The hilarious clips of exercise videos, 80s cartoons, hair and make-up instructionals, erotic subjects, Phyllis Diller's tips for a good garage sale, video dating and many other hold up well for the second viewing. As the other guys can attest we were all rolling over with laughter. There is not much more I can say about this seeing as it's just clips from the bizarre world of VHS tapes, but it is definitely hilarious and worth the money.

More info and semi-daily posted videos can be found on their website, There you can also buy all four of the volumes and some t-shirts. Buy the newest, Volume 4, here.

2LDK - 2003 - Dir: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Location: Marcus' Couch
Travis' Contribution

This film was one I realized I had seen before but remembered almost nothing about it, except that it was a film I didn't like. I'm really glad I got the chance to revisit this quick Japanese flick, because it's pretty crazy. The director was in competition with another to make a film with only two characters in a week and this is the film which won. Two aspiring actresses and roommates begin to unravel with jealousy and anger as they await news on a part for which they both auditioned. Each of the girls' bad habits begin to bother the other more than usual and they end up in an epic fight all over their crazy apartment.

This is only about 70 minutes and it uses every second to show the rage each girl has against the other. Some of the acts of vengeance are, while mean, pretty funny. Throwing eggs in the girl's face is one example, while exchanging slaps to the face is another. Don't let the silliness of egg on the face or slapping fool you, the girls get vicious in ways horror fans will enjoy. I wonder if things would have worked out differently if Tsutsumi had more than a week to work on this, but more revision could have detracted from the final product. Grab the DVD here.

Super Soul Brother - 1979 - Dir: Rene Martinez, Jr
Location: Marcus' Couch
Marcus' Contribution

I'm glad to see that Marcus' interest in Blaxploitation seems to have surged after we saw Black Dynamite last weekend. This flick started off as a black Superman but evolved into more of a comedy with a little action. A medical experiment is being done to give superhuman abilities to a normal man in order to rob a jewelry store of ten million in diamonds. The only problem is the chemicals are unstable and the recipient will die within a week. Instead of risking themselves they decide to get a wino from the ghetto and use him. Enter the zany "Wildman" Steve Gallon who talks a lot, and only about a third of it makes any sense.

This film has everything you would want from a Blaxploitation film - bad acting, inexplicable extreme close-ups on half a face, bad dialog and plenty of jargon. The scientific genius behind everything is a white midget named Dr. Dippy who has a very weird accent, a big boobed girlfriend and smokes the weirdest looking cigars I've ever seen. There are so many bad things about this movie that it makes for great fun. The lines said, especially by Wildman, are ridiculous. At one point he complains about the government being against marijuana but for two grown men having sex (HA!). He says that "if you are caught with a joint in your mouth, you better make sure it has two balls on the end of it." Good times indeed.

Like many Blaxploitation films of the era this had different titles and is mostly known by The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger, as seen on the IMDb page. Films of this ilk just loved throwing that word in the title, which makes for some very interesting theme songs at times, but I'll get to that at another time. The other bowdlerized titles include Six Thousand Dollar Super-Brother and The Six Thousand Dollar Black Dude.

This is one that is not easily available on DVD, but if you find it there are plenty of laughs and "what the hell" moments.

Blood: The Last Vampire - 2000 - Dir: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Location: Marcus' Couch
Travis' Contribution

This last DVD is just over 40 minutes and full of craziness so we had to watch it before calling it a night. This anime is based on a manga of the same name, then they recently released a live action film, directed by Ronny Yu, of the same name. I watched the film and enjoyed it, so I was anxious to see its animated predecessor. Travis has watched this many times and said at the beginning that it doesn't make a bunch of sense and I can see why. According to IMDb this was supposed to be the middle of three episodes to tell the story but it's the only one ever made and released. What you get here is Saya, a young looking girl with crazy sword skills with the task of destroying these vampire-demon creatures who hide in human form in Japan. She is sent to an English speaking high school on an American military base and all hell breaks loose on the night of their Halloween dance.

The animation is slick and stylish and the fighting and gore are plentiful. I'm not a fan of Anime. In general I really dislike it, but sometimes I'll see one that really catches my eye. This is now one of those films. After seeing the great things this crew did with just a third of their intended story makes me really want to see the rest. Too bad that will probably never happen. Yu's film version takes place in a different decade and tells much more of the story, but in a different way. I would recommend watching both of them for a more comprehensive view of the overall world. Good for Anime fans, non Anime fans, horror fans, martial arts fans, action fans and many more.

The anime version is here on Blu, or on DVD here. Also pick-up the live action on Blu or standard def DVD.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Golden Years

Young @ Heart - 2007 - Dir: Stephen Walker & Sally George
Location: The Comfort of My House - Independent Lens on PBS

I do love Independent Lens. This comes on PBS most Tuesdays and they show documentaries and independent cinema. They are in the middle of a few music related docs at the moment. One of the more recent films was one I wanted to check out upon its release a couple years ago but never got around to going to the theater. To be honest, I forgot about it until I saw it was going to be on. Here a chorus is followed as they prepare new music for their upcoming, yearly, European tour, but they are not your normal musical crew. The Young @ Heart chorus is a group of senior citizens in Massachusetts led by a man named Bob Cilman. They have captured audiences around the world and sell out shows on a regular basis. What makes their music fun is the mix of genres and time periods. From James Brown to The Clash to Coldplay they tackle anything Bob dreams up. The ages of the member range from the around 73 all the way up to 92.

Not everything they sing is perfect sounding but that's not what they are about. It becomes more about something for them to do, something they love and can pass on to audiences through music. Along their journey there are brief music videos with the fun of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," David Bowie's "Golden Years" and "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. These wonderful singers will bring a smile to your face with each number and the fun vibe they give off with their desire to put on a good show. Just watch as Bob plays one of their newest tunes, Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia," for the first time. They can't keep their fingers out of their ears while they mouth that it's too loud. For all the laughs and smiles there are an equal number of tears to be shed. Tears of happiness, sadness and the thought of your own family members past or present.

It might have had more of an impact on me because of my grandfather who died just over three years ago. Music was a huge part of his whole life from playing a few select instruments to singing, which is what he did most of the time. He sang many types of music in groups, quartets and choirs and his low bassy voice was unmistakable. Watching these stars perform and deal with many of the same health issues he dealt with brought back a flood of memories.

Music is a wonderful art form and can convey so many emotions. It's nice to see these seniors doing everything they can to not miss a rehearsal or performance. They travel to the rehearsal space in their own car, carpool, ride with a family member of leave their retirement or convalescent homes. Whatever or where ever as long as they can participate in the chorus. I cannot recommend this enough. Hopefully someday they'll travel to Texas and I'll get the chance to see them.

Pick up the DVD here for only ten bucks.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Silent Partner - 1978 - Dir: Daryl Duke
Location: The Comfort of My House

A few of my Twitter friends (you know who you are) were all discussing this film a few weeks ago and I finally got around to watching it. I wasn't too sure what to expect. I knew John Candy had a small role, but it is no comedy.

Miles Cullen (Elliott Gould) is the head teller at a bank where his life has become routine and mundane. The girl he has his eye on would rather have an affair with the boss than give him the time of day. Then he realizes a mall Santa is plotting to rob the bank and decides to use this to his advantage. He hides the majority of his drawer's money, which is a lot due to it being the Christmas season, in his briefcase and when the robbery takes place he makes sure he gets away so he can get off with the money. The only problem with his plan was the news broadcast how much was stolen and the thief, played by Christopher Plummer, finds out and wants the rest of his take.

This turned out to be a crime thriller that I had never heard of but really enjoyed. Elliott Gould is wonderful and makes for a great everyman who maintains his wits in these strange circumstances. Plummer is a wicked man but I really dug the way he looked dressed in his Santa outfit. If he ever tires of acting he could always get a job in a mall around Christmas. The story takes a few twists and turns as you figure out how badly this thief wants the money and how Miles is going to get out of the jam. Curtis Hanson, director of L.A. Confidential, wrote the script and there is that same great thrill that he later included in his Golden Era Hollywood detective story.

This film could easily go unnoticed but since it is on DVD now do not let it go by. Pick up the DVD here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mischief Indeed

Mischief - 1985 - Dir: Mel Damski
Location: The Comfort of My House

I've had this flick on DVD for quite some time and just never got around to watching it. Not my fault, it was easy to forget about since it was on a flipper disc double feature with the amazing License to Drive starring the two Corey's. As you've guessed it, this is an 80s teen sex comedy. Not set in present day but in 1956 Ohio and Jonathan is kind of dorky and hopelessly in love with the beautiful Marilyn (Kelly Preston). Feeling as if he'll never get anywhere with her he meets the new rebellious kid in town, Gene, and he helps out while chasing a girl of his own named Bunny, played by Catherine Mary Stewart (Night of the Comet). Of course, Bunny has the rich jerk boyfriend so there are plenty of brawls and racing of classic cars.

The laughs are not really gut busting but I'm sure many a guy can relate to things our hero goes through. Shuffling books and folders around in front of your crotch while standing anyone? Jonathan's exploits are fun and all but let's be honest. You come to this type of film to see one thing. Well, two things. This is not full of nudity like Porky's but the one famous scene of Preston disrobing is not too shabby at all. In fact, Mr. Skin named it his number six nude scene of all time. I also thought the young Kelly Preston looked a bit like Anna Paquin (True Blood) at times, especially when she's smiling. Just without the gap between her two front teeth.

I should also not that writer Noel Black also went on to direct one of my favorite 80s teen sex comedies, Private School (1983) with the lovely Phoebe Cates. You can search the stores for Mischief on DVD, with or without the other feature, but it's currently out-of-print so it might be hard to find. If you do run across it pick it up, it's worth the time if you're a fan of the sex comedy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 400 Blows - 1959 - Dir: François Truffaut
Location: The Comfort of My House - Criterion Blu-Ray

Here is one of those movies I saw the cover art for on the Criterion DVD release for so long I just had to see it eventually. I had no real idea what it was about, save for the brief description read on the box, or why I should see it other than it was Truffaut's first film, one of the beginnings of the French New Wave cinematic movement and Criterion gave it a release. This is usually a strong indicator. Doesn't mean I will love every Criterion release I see, but they are there for a reason. Well, except maybe for Armageddon or Chasing Amy. Why they hell were they given the time of day with this company?

I was pleasantly surprised by everything this film has to offer and really glad I finally took the time to watch it with the new Blu-Ray release. I think the original French title suites the film much better that what we Americans are given. Les qautre cents coups is a form of a French idiom meaning "to raise hell," and that is exactly what our main character does. Antoine is not the best brightest student but he also deals with mostly unresponsive and oblivious parents. It's not that he gets away with everything they are just oblivious to what he, or any child for that matter, needs. Based much on Truffaut's actual childhood we see the young man running away and turning to petty crimes and theft to get by. Eventually he is caught when trying to right some wrongs on his part and that's when things really turn grim for Antoine.

This film has a lot to say about a child's view of life and what he would do left to his own devices. I could go on at length talking about the significance of certain scenes but that would do a disservice to any of you who have yet to see this milestone film. Don't worry about it being all too serious there are plenty of light hearted moments to induce laughter. Many of these revolve around Antoine in school and his mischievous classmates, like a great scene involving all the boys running through the streets with a coach and they each peel off from the group unbeknown to the whistle blowing adult at the head of the crew.

While I haven't seen anything else by Truffaut he shows great promise here and I hear it only gets better. Not to mention that the exploits of Antoine are revisited by Truffaut over the next twenty years in a short and three more features, and Jean-Pierre Léaud plays him every time. I will definitely be checking these films out in the future.

I highly recommend film lovers check out The 400 Blows. Not only is it a milestone but a wonderful story as well. Pick up the Criterion Blu-Ray here, or the DVD here. You can also get the Criterion set with all of the films about Antoine here.

This is America, Part II - 1977 - Dir: Romano Vanderbes
Location: The Comfort of My House

Alright here's another one you probably won't be able to find very easily and it's a shame because it's awesome! This is an American mondo film full of 70s underground insanity. For those who don't know, mondo films are basically exploitation documentaries. They mostly started with the Italian film Mondo Cane (1962) and they show weird and, sometimes, unimaginable practices around the world with the intention to shock. Many of the early films in the Italian mondo series relied heavily on depicting the torturing and death of animals. Some like the Shocking Asia series (which I finally have all of and will soon be re-watching the first couple and finally seeing the others) show you a side of the continent you've never seen.

Luckily, this American made series does not have the harsh death but it focuses more on zany things and sex. After I watched the first in the series of three I was blown away by all the awesome contained. While the second film is not as good as its predecessor it still packs plenty of laughs and jaw-dropping moments. There are pet hotels, nude car washes, male strippers, fatty chasers, disco clubs with Jell-O bathing, S&M gear manufacturers and an electrocution. Each one of these is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but you just cannot stop watching. One of my favorite parts is a bunch of women eating at an erotic bakery. I couldn't stop laughing.

All of this is narrated with the very serious sounding voice of Norman Rose. You may not know him by name but he was a famous voice-over guy who is probably best known for many of the Jaun Valdez coffee commercials. The words he reads and the voice in which they are read only add to the hilarity.

Can't wait to watch the third in the series, made years later in 1990.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Killer Kids!

Devil Times Five - 1974 - Dir: Sean McGregor & David Sheldon (uncredited)
Location: The Comfort of My House

The trailer for this film caught my eye when I saw it for the first time at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin a few years ago in Austin. Then I noticed it was on one of the wonderful 42nd Street Forever trailer compilations from Synapse Films and it piqued my interest. The film concerns a group of five very disturbed sociopathic children who escape from their transport van in a very rural snowy area. They make way to house where three couples are there and proceed to fool them into taking them in before the killing begins.

Killer kid movies are always fun. There is just something extra creepy about murders being committed by beings most people consider to be innocent and incapable of such atrocities. What really works with this film is how different the kids act about their crimes. Damien from The Omen was a very odd kid and seemed that way all the time. Other movies with creepy children seem normal to people but have their dark side when alone like in The Good Son or even the recent film Orphan. When the little murderers do their business here they might have a flash of madness on their face but they still act like kids. They play with the dead like dolls and skip around laughing with the others while dragging a body through the snow. This is pretty much the only part of the film to stand out in a positive way.

The rest is rather standard 70s fare, but there are a few annoyances along the way. Before some of the killings there is a ridiculous slow-motion used that just seems to take forever and add no real suspense. Many of the musical queues and delivery by the actors is done in a very over-the-top manner, almost as if this is all supposed to be some very dark black comedy. For me this just doesn't work and makes everything feel kind of uneven and takes away from the horror. Trying something like this needs to keep that delicate balance for being unsettling yet funny while not turning into a farce.

These problems are pretty minor overall and there are a couple of sequences that are very interesting and stylistic. If you want to give it a go, pick up the DVD here.

Alternate Titles:
- Peopletoys
- The Horrible House on the Hill
- Tantrums

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Daybreakers - 2009 – Dir: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Location: Regal Galaxy 10

I know most everyone out there, horror fans or not, are sick to death of vampires. They are all over the place. While they are not my favorite horrific creature I do like them so I’m sad to see so many teenage girls going goo-goo over these sparkly daytime walking vampires who just whine like emos. Whatever happened to vampires who sink their teeth into the jugular and kill people? The Spierig Brothers decided to try and answer that with their newest film.

In Daybreakers we are now in the year 2019. The world is overrun with vampires and only about five percent of the human population remains in hiding. Military are sent out in search of humans because their blood is becoming increasingly rare. When they are captured they are brought to an evil corporation run by Sam Neil where they farm the blood from them like milk from cows. Ethan Hawke is a hematologist working for said company trying to come up with a substitute, because lack of blood turns the vampires into a sort of primal bat-like state and they will kill anything.

That’s about all of the plot I want to give away without any kind of spoilers. I really wanted to love this movie. I was one of the few people to love the brothers’ last, and only other, film Undead and with all they accomplished on practically no budget I figured they would do great things here. At times they did, but I rolled my eyes about dozen too many times. There are so many plot holes and just common sense problems that it makes no sense. For all the intelligence the vamps show not one person mentioned breeding the humans? That is the easiest solution to their problem and they already have them captured. All they have to do is build some test tube babies and plant them in some women and then they could grow their own blood. Either that or call the Japanese guys who created the bottled True Blood, heh.

I’m not a big fan of Hawke and he did not convert me here. Willem Defoe is a great actor and he was just completely wasted here, mainly by really lame dialog. I understand if he was supposed to be a sort of comic relief but they have him spewing cheesy one-liners every few minutes. It gets old real fast. A review I heard sad they should have put Defoe in the Sam Neil role and I completely agree.

I do love the vampire run world. Quick glimpses at school zone signs in effect from 2am -3am is great as is the daytime driving mode on cars. If they would have spent more time on seeing this world in everyday running I would have been much more interested. Some of the FX were great and they don’t skimp on the gore or violence which I was happy to see. It’s just not enough. Unfortunately, though I loved certain ideas, it was an overall “meh” for me. Wait for DVD.

Count Dracula - 1970 - Dir: Jess Franco
Location: The Comfort of My House

I wanted to find something to bridge the gap between the two theatrical films of the day. Just finished a vampire flick and was going to a blaxploitation throwback, the obvious choice is Blacula but, alas, I don't have that one (this will be remedied). Then I thought I could either watch some blaxploitation or a vampire film. While trying to decide it hit me to watch a vampire movie from the 70s. This would qualify since Black Dynamite is made in the vein for 70s cinema. On my "to watch" shelf was this Jess Franco gem from 1970 and it was the only one I could find. I could swear I had Dracula A.D. 1972, but I guess I was wrong.

This film takes the usual Bram Stoker tale and the plot does not really waver from that line. The good things about this version are those involved. Christopher Lee as the Count is always a pleasure and Herbert Lom (Clouseau's boss Chief Dreyfus in The Pink Panther films) makes a wonderful Van Helsing. But stealing the show in the role of Renfield is Klaus Kinski, who would go on to play the titular role in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre nine years later. Overall the film does have some problems but it with its level of faithfulness to the source material, great acting and one of the creepiest taxidermied animal sequences I would recommend it to fans of the Count. Those who know of Franco should note this has no sex and nudity, so don't expect it just because it has his named attached. PIck up Dark Sky Film's DVD release here.

Black Dynamite - 2009 – Dir: Scott Sanders
Location: Inwood Theater – Midnight Madness

Hell yes! This is a film I’ve heard about for quite some time and was happy to see we were getting a midnight theatrical screening a few weeks before the DVD release. The plot is easy enough Black Dynamite’s younger brother is murdered and now he must get to the bottom of the smack dealers to clean up the streets. All of this is done in the vein of 70s Blaxploitation films and done very well. Just watch the red band trailer here (I tried to embed but for some reason it wasn't working).

Like I should even need to say anything else after you have seen that. This was absolutely amazing! People think it is really easy to create an intentionally cheesy flick, but it’s much harder than it looks. I’ve watched a ton of recent films which try their hand at this type of thing and fail miserably. Luckily for us, this movie gets it right in every respect. At times I completely forgot I was watching a recently made film. The look, feel and sounds are straight out of the 70s low budget fare we genre film geeks love. The theater was packed and everyone was laughing hysterically throughout the entire film.

Michael Jai White plays Black Dynamite and he is a bad mother. But he’s not the only great actor in the film, and by great I mean awful on purpose. There are some great supporting roles played by Tommy Davidson, Arsenio Hall, Miguel Núñez (Return of the Living Dead), Brian McKnight and many others. White also wrote the screenplay along with Sanders and Byron Minns who plays Bullhorn, BD’s always rhyming friend (no doubt an homage to Rudy Ray Moore).

Even the look of the film is perfect. They don’t really go overboard with film grain or distortion but when you look at it you wouldn’t guess it was filmed in present day. I hope when I get the DVD they have a lot of info on making this film.

Out of the three films I saw on this day (the other two being posted above this) Black Dynamite is definitely my favorite. The movie by itself is greatness but the fun shared with the rest of the crowd and seeing it on the big screen add to my newfound infatuation. Even the last fifteen minutes that go into a whole new direction of insanity are great. I would say more, but you really need to experience it for yourself to truly appreciate and understand. There is plenty of nudity, action, jive talkin’ and kung-fu to satiate everyone. Pre-order, release date February 16th, the Blu-Ray here, or the DVD here, you dig?