Thursday, February 25, 2010

Picasso Trigger - 1988 - Dir. Andy Sidaris
Location: Marcus' House
B-Movie Bonanza

Inspired by everyone's, at least in my circle of friends, love of a bad movie Marcus decided to host a double feature night of fun and ridiculousity (made-up word). His pick for the first feature is one from a master of the action film. This is a sequel to the infamous Hard Ticket to Hawaii and follows a group of agents who work for the agency. What agency? I have no freakin' clue but they are all awesome. A double agent is gunned down in Paris and because of this agents are being killed all over. Those left alive must spring to action and take out this bad dude while wearing Body Glove water wear, Speedos and having plenty of romances.

Though I have heard of Sidaris and his films this is the first one I've ever seen. I am now definitely a fan and must celebrate this man's entire catalog. Everything is bad, but hilarious and there are plenty of former Playmates shedding wardrobe. One of my personal favorite cast members is Jade (Harold Diamond) who is not only super fit but has a ponytail over his shoulder, wears tight clothes and works with dolphins! There's not much I can tell about this movie other than it needs to be seen and copious amounts of beer are suggested as well. Unfortunately it's not currently available but there are ways to find this particular cinematic treasure. Check out the trailer below, sorry for the poor quality.

No Retreat, No Surrender - 1986 - Dir. Corey Yuen
Location: Marcus' House
B-Movie Bonanza

The second film of the night was my pick. A treasured film from my childhood which I described to everyone as a more ridiculous and low-budget Karate Kid. Except there is no Miyagi and no waxing off/on. But in place you are treated with Jean-Claude Van Damme and the ghost of Bruce Lee! Jason's father moves the family out to Seattle after getting run out of his karate studio by the mob and gives up martial arts, but his son's obsession with Bruce Lee continues. After his dad trashes his makeshift dojo Jason's buddy R.J. takes him to an abandoned house where he sets everything back up and is trained by Lee's ghost. Awesome!

I think this went over rather well and it was even more fun than I remembered. What makes this really cool is that some of the fight scenes, especially at the end, are really entertaining. This movie really has everything including multiple scenes of breakdancing and a fat guy karate student/bad guy. One thing I didn't remember about the film is how much is montage. The 80s are known for the musical montage of the hero training but this movie takes it to a whole other level. It might not be half of the film but it has to be more than a third of the overall runtime. This is 80s fun for the whole family! I knew there were two sequels with the NRNS moniker but it turns out there are also two others, The King of the Kickboxers (1990) and American Shaolin (1991), which I will have to hunt down right away. Hopefully they will release a DVD of this sometime, especially considering it's one of JCVD's first films.

It's not available but you can watch it on YouTube. There are a couple versions but the one in eleven parts has the best quality, even though there are hardcoded foreign subtitles. Start with Part One right here!

Alternate Titles
Karate Tiger
American Champion

Don't You Forget About Me - 2009 - Dir. Matt Austin
Location: My Couch

I love the films of John Hughes. Can't really pick my favorite because they're all so great. He really put the teen flick on the map in the 80s and changed the course of cinema. Anyone who has made a teen targeted movie since then owes a debt of gratitude to the voice Hughes lent a generation. I was really sad to hear that he died so young, as were many, but luckily he left behind some great films to cherish forever. In fact, kids today even watch Ferris skip school, a girl whose parents forgot her birthday and an eclectic group of kids spend a Saturday at school. Since the 90s he was rather reclusive and only did some writing under the Count of Monte Cristo homage pen name Edmond Dantes. A group of filmmakers in Canada set out to find the man and interview people who knew him and kids of today to see the impact this man had on so many lives and a whole genre of films.

The documentary isn't perfect and there are some odd choices made in the edit room but it's nice to hear some of Hughes' former colleagues or actors talk about their experiences with him. Just when I think kids watch only crap I hear them on this doc gushing over the Hughes flicks and saying how true they still ring while current movies are just stupid. No one gets real high school students like Hughes did and it's great to see that his glimpses which rang true in the 80s and did the same for me in the 90s, still capture the teens of today. Other filmmakers were also interviewed and they had nothing but nice things to say, though they spent a little too much time with Kevin Smith. I like the guy and all, but he's not the end all on hip film.

What is really sad is to see how much those who loved and worked with Hughes don't understand why he's so reclusive. They understand why he ran from the Hollywood scene but why did he leave them behind. I guess they could be the same L.A. douchebags he wanted to escape and just don't realize. Evidently one reason he shot his films on location is so the young actors would not be able to go out and party every night like usual and they could concentrate on their performances. Smart. This doc is recommended to fans of Hughes, others might not care too much but it could always make you want to watch his films. It has me wanting to revisit Hughes' work. Currently the film is available on Netflix Instant Watch and a DVD is due out soon.

I suggest you take the time to read THIS BLOG ENTRY from a girl who was pen pals with John Hughes for quite some time. It's a bit long but quite touching and well worth the read.

CJ7 - 2008 - Dir. Stephen Chow
Location: My Couch

I'll admit that I'm not that much of a Stephen Chow connoisseur. I've seen the two biggies that everyone else has, Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, but I haven't watched his older stuff. I will, I promise! When I saw that he had a family film coming out I knew I wanted to see it, especially after I saw the cute alien dog from the trailer. The story involves a young boy (though played by a girl) who is very poor and his father (Chow) uses what little money he has to send him to a private school. Everyone makes fun of him because he doesn't have nice things and he really wants high tech toys like his classmates. His father finds a weird green ball in the dump and brings it home to and unhappy kid. That is until he realizes the ball is actually a dog-like creature from space.

There are plenty of laughs in this movie and it's all thanks to the wonderful child actors. They are absolutely hilarious throughout and the "bad kid" has the best look to any child villain EVER. Just take a look at him.

(click to enlarge)

Surprisingly the film is not all laughs, and takes a very sad turn. This is not a sad twist, it's just more of a sad tone throughout but it's much darker than I expected. This is a good film, but not as good as the two other Chow films I've seen. Still, kids will love it and I want a space dog pronto. Pick up the
Blu-Ray here or the
DVD here.

Moving - 1988 - Dir. Alan Metter
Location: My House (is a very, very, very fine house)

Who doesn't love Richard Pryor? He was a master comedian and made some great flicks. Ok, so he also made some shit, but this is not one of them. I have seen this quite a few times but it always pulls plenty of laughs out of me. Pryor plays a mass transit engineer named Arlo Pear who loses his job and is forced to take his only offer which requires him to relocate the whole family from New Jersey to Idaho. As much as he tries to plan out the perfect, stress free move everything goes wrong with hilarious results for the audience.

Not only is Pryor brilliant as usual but the supporting cast kicks some serious ass. Randy Quaid is the neighbor from hell with the largest lawn mower ever used in a residential area. My personal favorite small role belongs to Dana Carvey who is hired to drive Arlo's prized Saab to Idaho, but after he leaves they learn that he has multiple personality disorder and things go bad for the Saab. This is an 80s comedy that is not to be missed, pick up the
DVD right here.

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession - 2004 - Dir. Alexandra Cassavetes
Location: Home, Sweet Home

I hate it when I watch a film that has been out for quite sometime and I feel like I really missed out. Somehow this documentary completely escaped me and I finally got around to checking it out seeing that is is right up my alley. For some reason I never really knew anything about this magical channel in the Los Angeles area from the 80s but I really wish I would have been able to take advantage of its glories. In attempt to expand cinematic knowledge this pay channel would show films uncut and uninterrupted at all hours, but not the normal cable fare of today. Z Channel would show foreign films, classics, cult and all the great stuff most people don't see. The man behind the programming was Jerry Harvey, who ended up murdering his wife and killing himself.

Interviews with friends, family and filmmakers paint the picture of the man's cinematic obsession which turned so many others on to new, and sometimes strange, films. Young movie watchers were shaped by this programming and turned their love of the craft into making films themselves. For those filmmakers who were not given theatrical distribution, this was there place. There was no home video when this started so Z Channel gave their work an outlet. Harvey and company were also known to reach out to director's and let them show their version of the film instead of the chopped up cuts studios make. Harvey helped so many people, gave inspiration to tons more and broadened the horizons of everyone who subscribed. It's a shame his life met such a tragic end.

Anyone with an interest in film must
get the DVD now! My "to watch" list has certainly expanded after this and I can't wait to delve into some new things.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nightmares - 1980 - Dir. John D. Lamond
Location: Micah's Home Theater
Horror Movie Night

After missing a week of fun at Micah's house for Horror Remix, which was awesome as usual, it felt good to be back for another double feature. This week was an 80s giallo-esque film that was featured in the great Aussie cinema doc Not Quite Hollywood. Young Cathy is in the back seat of a car when her mom and her mom's boyfriend start fooling around while driving. Cathy tries to stop them and ends up causing an accident which kills her mother. Flash to present day when Cathy goes by Helen and is auditioning for a play. She gets the part but that could be bad news for everyone else, since bodies fall all around.

The alternate title for this flick is Stage Fright, which fits much better but is easily confused with a few other films by that name. Come to think of it, there are quite a few films with the Nightmare(s) moniker. Regardless, this film does have a few stylish moments along the lines of its Italian predecessors - black gloved killer and tons of nude women. Actually I think most of the women who die are naked when they meet their punctured end. One couple even can't wait to get to a room and go at it in a dirty alleyway. The big problem, and major separator from giallo, is the lack of mystery behind the killer. It's painfully obvious from the beginning who is committing the murders but they still reveal at the end like you should be surprised. Weird choice.

On the plus side I learned new things like it's bad luck for actors to whistle before a performance or wear green. Also an "actress' big brown freckle" is another word for asshole.

Terminal Island - 1973 - Dir. Stephanie Rothman
Location: Micah's Home Theater
Weird Wednesday

This week's Drafthouse pick took place on San Bruno island in the pacific ocean. California outlawed the death penalty so all convicted murderers are put on this island for the rest of their lives and provided with necessary supplies from time to time. The majority of the criminals live together in a community setting which is run by two of them who let the power go to their heads and choose the women to satisfy them whenever they want. A rogue group takes a stand and pulls the women to their side. Together they try to overthrow the tyrannical leader Bobby for more freedom on the island.

The premise sounds great and there is some action but for the most part it's pretty slow. What I do like is how lucky the rogue group is to have two members with medical/scientific backgrounds. One girl knows all about chemicals and teaches them how to make grenades with stuff on the island, canteens and matches. I'm still not really sure how they work but somehow they do. That's the fun with 70s exploitation films, they don't have to make complete sense. The murdering doctor on the island is a bit of a bonus as he is played by Tom Selleck. This was the biggest surprise to me, since I missed his name in the credits. His first onscreen appearance was pretty dark and I couldn't make out the face but I remarked how much he sounded like Selleck. Micah said it is Selleck and I was giddy from that point forward.

12 Angry Men - 1957 - Dir. Sidney Lumet
Location: The Comfort of My House
AFI Top 100 = #87

One of those films I've heard good things about over time but never managed to see it before. Thanks to my quest to watch the AFI's top 100 list I have watched it and loved every minute. I really dig movies that take place largely in one location, maybe it's because it feels very live theater-like. At least 95% of this film takes place in the deliberation room of a jury trying to decide the fate of a young boy on trial for murder. Eleven of the twelve throw in their vote for guilty but one man cannot let it go that easily. At first he doesn't know if he even finds him not guilty, he just feels that decided the fate of someone deserves more than five minutes of discussion. A few stand firm, and even annoying stubborn, at their guilty verdict but this juror tries his best to change everyone's mind one by one.

Every moment of this movie is greatness. Not only do I love the one room setting but all of the men in this room have no names and are known only by their juror number. Something about the anonymity makes the characters that much more interesting, and this is a character driven movie. Not much in the way of action here it's all talk and the film works because of the amazing cast lead by Henry Fonda and supported with the likes of Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley and Jack Warden. With each point Fonda makes to try and dissuade the group from jumping on the guilty bandwagon the tempers flare and the hot room takes its physical tolls on the jurors.

There was also a made-for-TV remake in 1997, but alas it's not available on DVD any longer. Hopefully I can track it down because I'd really like to see this version with Jack Lemmon in the Fonda role and George C. Scott as the hard-ass. Scott is perfect because I could see him as the only person other than Cobb to tackle that role. I cannot recommend this enough if you haven't seen it. I wish I hadn't taken so long to view it but at least I've seen it now. Pick up the
50th Anniversary Edition here.

Funny People - 2009 - Dir. Judd Apatow
Location: The Comfort of My House

When Apatow's latest hit theaters I was ready to go see it, then I heard bad things and decided I'd rather spend my money elsewhere. Finally sitting down to watch it I'm still not sure how I would have felt paying around ten bucks to watch Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. George Simmons (Sandler) is an established comic with a long movie career who just found out that he has a rare disease that will probably kill him soon. Depressed, he heads out to do a surprised slot at a comedy club and up-and-comer Ira Wright (Rogen) has to follow his very dark set. In doing so he mocks Simmons which gets his attention and he contacts him to help write some jokes for him. The two become rather close and Simmons tries to reignite the flames with an ex while Wright has problems even talking to his attractive neighbor.

One of the main criticisms I heard about the film was its length. It seems most of Apatow's movies are a bit too long, but this one was over two hours. Even still, when the Blu-Ray gave me the choice to watch either the theatrical or extended version I had to choose extended. Two hours and thirty seven minutes! That is a long time for a comedy. I soon figured out this was not entirely a comedy, in fact because of the length it really felt like two different films. Both of these films have a mixture of comedy and drama, but the first half is much funnier and the latter more serious overall. I don't dislike either one I just was kind of tired of the whole thing by the time the credit began to roll. I could really end up liking this more as time goes on, I have a history of that with Apatow movies. I was pretty "meh" over 40 Year Old Virgin when I left the theater but now I think it's hysterical. I guess he just grows on me.

I did really like certain aspects, like Eminem berating Ray Romano or Aziz Ansari playing a Dane Cook-like comedian no one seems to respect. Ha! Dane Cook is so lame. It was also nice to see Mondo Tees get a wardrobe shout out with a Badass Cinema and Scorsese Rock shirts. It's also really funny to hear all the jokes about Rogen's character losing weight based on his real life thinning. If you want to check it out pick up the
Blu here or
in standard definition here.

Up the Creek - 1984 - Dir. Robert Butler
Location: The Comfort of My House

I saw some info about this movie and assumed it was another T&A comedy of the 80s, the added bonus was this had Jennifer Runyon in the cast. I know I'm in the minority on being obsessed with crappy 80s sitcoms but I love them and Charles in Charge is among one of my favs. Runyon was the lovely Gwendolyn Pierce, the love of Charles' life who broke his heart - twice! I was hoping that she would be shedding clothes, but alas she did not. At least she had some sexy moments.

The plot concerns some goof-offs at a college who are forced to compete in a river rafting race with other universities and if they win they get the bachelor's degree of their choice. Along the way the leader of the crew, Bob (Tim Matheson), runs into Heather (Runyon) and does his best to do her. The recent ex-boyfriend has other plans and they become enemies who sabotage everyone in their way to becoming the champs.

Not sure if it was because I was tired, but this movie just didn't really do it for me. Moments of funny happened but I found myself more bored than anything else. There's not much from the film that really stands out in my mind except Matheson's character narrating his life aloud as if it were a novel. A weird choice. Maybe I'll give it another shot someday but no time soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summer Rental - 1985 - Dir: Carl Reiner
Location: Jenny's Brother's House

This was one of the few films I watched while away from my house due to a power line being down. I love John Candy and have somehow managed to not see all of his films. This shall be rectified. I started with this summer comedy and it has some great moments but will not vault to the top of my Candy list. He plays a workaholic air traffic controller who is forced to take a vacation for some rest so he rents a cabin by the ocean in Florida for a couple weeks. Of course everything that could go wrong does for the benefit of the viewer. Richard Crenna plays a champion sailor who doesn't want to put up with all of the summer renters and takes an interest in Candy. His only real friends made on the trip are Rip Torn as a pirate/restaurant owner and a woman with a large husband who wants him to feel and look at her boob job.

This is a fun movie and don't just take it from me. I'll give you two words to solidify this as awesome. John Larroquette. That's right, he plays a single father in the area. Just too bad he's not in more scenes. Pick up the
DVD here. Be prepared for more John Candy goodness to come!

Smokin' Aces - 2006 - Dir: Joe Carnahan
Location: Marcus' House

I remember seeing the trailers for this and wanting to check it out, but for whatever reason never did. Since Jenny and I would be staying in Marcus' spare bedroom and he was already planning on watching this with a friend, we joined in. A hit is put out on Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven), a Vegas magician turned criminal turned snitch, and he flees to a casino in Lake Tahoe where many hitmen will do their best to take him down for the boss. What follows are the different contract killers trying to get the target around a bunch of action and gun play.

There isn't much to the film, and it's pretty predictable, but damn it's fun to watch. All of the action just makes me giddy as does the slick editing between all of the different players. Piven does some sweet card tricks as the magician, if it's really him, that make me want to call out my inner GOB Bluth. Ryan Reynolds is an FBI agent working to protect Israel before his testimony but in some surprise he doesn't have the usual cool guy way about him. I like it!

I know there's a direct-to-DVD sequel and I'm sure it's bad, but I'll be watching it anyhow. Pick up Smokin' Aces on Blu here, or standard DVD here.

The Principal - 1987 - Dir: Christopher Cain
Location: Marcus' House

Here's one I used to watch with my dad as part of the many action flicks we saw together. It had been a long time and I was curious to see how it held up after all these years. The answer is about what I expected, not great. Jim Belushi plays a teacher who gets arrested and then forced to take the principal position at a very tough inner city high school or lose his job. When I think of tough schools I would never think of something like this. These kids cannot get expelled for anything, even though they never go to class, fight constantly and use/sell drugs on campus. The one thing a student finally gets kicked out for is the beating and attempted rape of his teacher (Rae Dawn Chong). Luckily he has the help of the head of school's security Louis Gossett, Jr!

There is so much cheesy dialog in this film it's hard to believe. I can understand the need for Belushi to stand up to the kids and try to change things, but does he have to sound like such a lame-o while doing so? The action is decent at times, especially when Belushi races through the halls of the school, and up the stairs, on his motorcycle. So many absurd things are crammed into this film that when you get to the climax of a student coming to kill the principal with no cops around you just accept it. I guess that's how things work in that neighborhood. If you want to enrich your life by watching this grand piece of cinema then pick up the
DVD here.

Prom Night in Mississippi - 2009 - Dir: Paul Saltzman
Location: Marcus' House

Here is a documentary about something I didn't think even still existed. The film takes place in 2008 when actor Morgan Freeman made an offer to a high school in the small town of Charleston, Mississippi that he would pay for their prom if they would integrate the students. That's right, in 2008 this school had separate proms for the white and black students, even though the school had been integrated since 1970. The filmmakers follow along with the students as they share their thoughts on the situation and the few bumps along the way.

I find it hard to believe that this small town, which is predominately black, puts up with something like this. The few they talk about say that it's basically not worth the fight and just accept it as something that happens in this town. It does seem that not many people move into the town, most people have been there for quite some time. Still, it's shocking that the rest of the country hasn't been in uproar over this. I can see this doc being shown in classrooms all over the U.S. to bring a new view to students who, like me, thought these practices died out before they were born. Check it out
right here.

Gomorrah - 2008 - Dir: Matteo Garrone
Location: The Comfort of MY House!

Now that I was finally back on my couch and had electricity and heat I was ready to watch something. I picked the Criterion Blu-Ray release of this recent organized crime themed film. This is very different from The Godfather films or Goodfellas. There isn't a lot of glitz and glamor on the screen, just the dirty underbelly of modern day Italy's crime syndicate. Five different stories play out in the way they deal with the mob and what becomes of their lives because of it. This shows that just because Hollywood tells you these criminals live lavishly that doesn't mean it's true.

Gamorrah also doesn't move as quickly as the mob films you're used to. In fact, it's quite slow most of the time. But if you stick with the picture things build into a really strong film with an eye-opening effect. Using a mostly handheld camera/steadicam technique it really adds to the realism and feels like a documentary at times. Don't expect the high action and intensity of City of God but the message is just as strong. You can grab Criterion's Blu-Ray here, or their DVD here.

I've gotten quite a bit behind on my movie posting, mainly due to being without power for four days because of the great North Texas snowstorm of 2010. I'm going to try and burn through a few of them really quick to catch up.

Frozen - 2010 - Dir: Adam Green
Location - AMC Mesquite

Since first hearing about this film from Green I had been wanting to see it. Everyone at Butt-Numb-A-Thon already saw it and I heard plenty of good things. When realizing it was only getting a limited release I waved bye-bye to my chances, but I was shocked to see Dallas was one of the few cities getting the film. Micah and I met up at one of the AMC theaters showing the film on Super Bowl Sunday because neither one of us care for the sport and would rather spend the time with a thrilling flick.

Going into it I was not quite sure how watching three people stuck on a chairlift would be scary but Green managed to pull of a pulse pounding film. The three college aged skiers con their way onto the lift and late at night are forgotten about and stuck halfway up the mountain. A winter storm is coming in and, if that weren't bad enough, it's Sunday and the place won't be open again until Friday. There are plenty of "edge of your seat" moments throughout and the tension could cut you like the sharp wire holding the chairlift. Even though this is not really a horror film there are plenty of wince inducing, gore filled moments. I could hear people squirming around in their seats in the theater. I love that.

This is a highly effective film Green managed to pull off and I look forward to see more from him in the future. This film has expanded since its first week so it should be at, or coming to, a theater near you soon. Get there!

Hatchet - 2006 - Dir: Adam Green
Location: The Comfort of My House

On the high from Frozen when I came home I wanted to revisit my first taste of Adam Green from a few years ago. I originally saw this at Fantastic Fest in Austin with Green in attendance and it was a great experience. You can tell this man knows and loves the horror genre with this love letter to slasher flicks of the 80s. He really went all out here and called in the big guns with appearances by Robert Englund (Freddy), Tony Todd (Candyman) and playing the killer Victor Crowley Kane Hodder (Jason). Boobs are aplenty and blood flows just as freely - the key components to a good slasher flick. In this genre kills scenes and inventive deaths are very important and there are some great ones here. My favorite would have to be ripping a woman's head open from her mouth, but they are all great.

A lot of this film is either funny or scary and all bloody but well worth the time. Be sure to pick up this
uncut DVD here, and get read for Hatchet 2 which is shooting now.

Baby Blood - 1990 - Dir: Alain Robak
Location: The Comfort of My House

I've had this DVD for a while now but never took the time to watch it, but now I wish I had. This is the tale of a carny woman who runs from her abusive husband after an alien being burrows into her womb. Now she's out on her own with a thing growing inside of her which she can hear talk to her and it needs blood. The middle act is kind of slow but by that last third things get really bloody and crazy. It doesn't hurt that the woman, Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou), has a great body that she shows off quite a bit. Her teeth have a huge gap in them but it's not enough to ruin ogling at her.

This indie French flick will wet the throat of any gorehound and I highly recommend it to all. The DVD is available
right here. One of my favorite parts shows a poster in the background advertising Baby Blood 2, which never came out. Howevery there is a yet to be released sequel filmed a couple years ago called Lady Blood starring the same woman. She was even a co-writer! Hopefully it will come out soon.

Disorderlies - 1987 - Dir: Michael Schultz
Location: The Comfort of My House

It has been years and years since I've seen this film. When I worked at the wonderful mom-and-pop video store B.J.'s right out of high school may have been the last time. I probably rented an old copy from the comedy section with its faded cover of The Fat Boys pushing the old man in a wheelchair. Ah, the good old days. The story involves a very rich man whose nephew wants his money, and will get it when he dies so he hires the worst orderlies he can find. Of course hilarity ensues along the way and The Fat Boys' odd brand of healthcare actually works for the old man.

Everyone loves the bumbling character foiling the plans of criminals and this should be no exception. The DVD is not readily available but you can get a used or new copy from an
individual seller here.

Here's a look at the rap The Fat Boys do during the film in beautiful high-def. Could a Blu-Ray be on the horizon? Ha!

The Hills Run Red - 2009 - Dir: Dave Parker
Location: The Comfort of My House

I never would have watched this film, but I read a few good things about it online. While I don't think this is brilliant by any means I did enjoy the film. It concerns a young filmmaker looking for info on the infamous lost film The Hills Run Red. He begins to make a documentary about the mysteries surrounding it and tracks down the deceased director's daughter. She's a drug addicted stripper who he helps clean up and has her take them out to the filming locations in hopes that they will find something. When they get there things become a lot more violent then expected.

Parker is someone who really loves the horror genre and it shows in this film. I really enjoyed one of his previous movies, The Dead Hate the Living (2000), about zombies and horror filmmaking. It's nothing spectacular but it has a ton of fun stuff for the horror fan, which is exactly how this film plays out. Some good gore and a few twists and turns will keep you interested. Most people may not really get into this, but film fans and horror hounds will get a little more out of the experience knowing how much they would love to track down a lost film. London After Midnight anyone? Pick up the
DVD here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Psycho Beach Party - 2000 - Dir: Robert Lee King
Location: The Comfort of My House

Another one of the film I've heard about for years now, but somehow managed to not see. This is a fun, campy murder mystery set in the world of the 60s surf flicks. Florence (Lauren Ambrose) is not lucky in the ways of love but tries to find her way into the cool group and become the first female surfer in their area. What the guys don't know is she has a personality disorder and at times the sweet girl turns into Ann Bowman, a foulmouthed over-sexual woman. Around the same time that she hits the waves strange murders begin happening around the beach and you are stuck trying to figure out if she's the culprit or one of the others in the odd cast.

This is a very fun film that really nails the beach movie look and vibe. Originally it was a play and the part of Florence was performed by the man who wrote it, Charles Busch, in drag. When they got around to making the film version he was too old to reprise his role so he wrote himself a part as the female police captain. Busch also threw in a couple of surfer guy characters who seem to enjoy the company of each other more than any woman who comes by. There are also plenty of lovely ladies for the straight guys, like myself, to gaze upon including the beautiful Amy Adams and Kimberley Davies playing a B-horror actress.

This is suggested viewing for fans of fun indie cinema and tongue-in-cheek spoof films. You can pick up the DVD here.

Three... Extremes (Sam gang yi) - 2004 - Dir: Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park & Takashi Miike
Location: The Comfort of My Home

This film has three shorts, around forty minutes each, from three different Asian horror directors. Nothing really binds the three together story wise, except for maybe a weird tongue thing in a couple of them, but they do run the gamut of extremes and styles.

Dumplings - Fruit Chan - China - This tale has Bai Ling as Aunt Mei, a woman who makes the best dumplings around. The food is very expensive due to the nature of their main ingredient - aborted fetuses. According to Mei this will help you stay young looking and she uses herself as an example because she's much older than she looks. I have never really found Bai Ling attractive but here in this short film dressed down she is quite hot in my opinion. Of course you really don't care about how good looking I think someone looks, you want to know about the "ick" factor. Thing gets a little stomach turning when you see the tiny unborn babies being chopped up and many people have had their stomachs turned. Me, I craved dumplings and even ate them the next day when out having lunch. I guess I'm just a weirdo.

Cut - Chan-wook Park - Korea - From the director the awesome revenge trilogy (including Oldboy) comes another tale of vengeance about an extra getting back at a nice guy film director who seems to have it all. He kidnaps the director and his piano player wife and binds them on set and will cut off one of her fingers unless the director will kill a child who is also tied up. Out of the three this is the most kooky with the extra's wacky approach and monologues he spouts off to the hostages. This one also plays into more of the standard slasher gore with some wonderful bouts of bloodshed.

The Box - Takashi Miike - Japan - The infamous director takes his turn at a tale of a writer who has dreams of when she and her twin sister were performers in a circus with a magician where they would end up folding into a small box before disappearing. Something horrible happened in those boxes and you follow along through her recollections of the events. This is definitely the most stylish out of the three, but also the most "out there." Things move a bit slower in this entry and there is much less dialog but if you let yourself follow along you will get just as wrapped up in the story and find its merits.

It's hard to pick which is my favorite out of the three. All of them are great, but such different styles that it makes them hard to compare. I did really enjoy the film and look forward to watching it again. My only real complaint is with Dumplings and how it seems to move a bit fast and just kind of end. Chan also made a feature length version of this short, which is on the second disc of the DVD, and I will be watching it soon. I hear it's much better, and I still loved the forty minute version.

Pick up the two-disc DVD here.

Mau Mau Sex Sex - 2001 - Dir: Ted Bonnitt
Location: The Comfort of My House

This brief documentary is about the wonders of exploitation films. Everyone loves them, whether they want to admit it or not, but you should be proud of the sleaze and gratuitous violence. While quite a few clips are shown throughout the film the primary focus in on two producers from the good ol' days. Dan Sonney had a hand in many films (like working on the infamous Maniac from 1934) and his father traveled around in the silent days with exploitative films of how he caught criminals as a cop. Then there's Sonney's friend and colleague David F. Friedman. Anyone with the slightest interest in exploitation should know this name. He has been an actor/writer/director/producer on numerous films like She Freak (1967), The Defilers (1965) and many H.G. Lewis films including the highly influential Blood Feast (1963).

Between their tales from the old days are the thoughts of film historian, exploitation enthusiast and filmmaker Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker). This is a must see for fans of the genre. The stories these guys tell are full of laughs, though it really makes you wish you could go back in time to see these films first run in the grindhouses and drive-ins around the country.

For those of us who love and collect films you will really enjoy a few screenshots. I drooled over these.

Henelotter's wall o' exploitation!

This is in Friedman's detached garage turned museum. I wonder what films are in the boxes and reels behind him?

This is from the warehouse of film archivist and owner/operator of Something Weird Video Mike Vraney. And this is just one of the aisles!

Unfortunately this DVD is out-of-print but it is available for rent on Netflix.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Death Ship - 1980 - Dir: Alvin Rakoff
Location: Micah's Theater
Horror Movie Night

This week's Horror Movie Night selection was a classic horror at sea film that I had never seen but glad I watched. A cruise ship goes down and only a few people remain alive on a raft floating in the middle of the sea. This group boards a mysterious black ship anchored in the middle of nowhere and strange things begin to happen. Evidently this was a Nazi torture ship and some ghosts still exist if for no other reason than to kill off anyone who comes aboard. Along the way the sunken cruise ship's captain, Ashland (George Kennedy), is possessed by an evil Nazi spirit and he helps the ship try to kill off the rest, including is second-in-command Trevor Marshall (Richard Crenna) and his wife and two kids.

I'm not sure if this is the best horror film set on a ship, but it's certainly better than Ghost Ship. There are some pretty weird choices when it comes to the use of things like slow-motion. In a big chase sequence the slow-mo is just plain weird but that's not the only odd thing about this film. Marshall's young son spends half of his screen time peeing, or asking to pee. At one point they even show the boy urinating on the deck of the titular death ship. The gore is relatively light in this film save for a couple brief scenes but there is a blood shower and that is definitely awesome.

My favorite comment about this movie has to be something Micah said via his twitter. "You can tell George Kennedy has turned evil because he's reading from a German Bible (Picture to prove it). That about sums it up.

Black Caesar - 1973 - Dir: Larry Cohen
Location: Micah's Theater
Alamo Drafthouse Weird Wednesday

What a great way to kick of February, aka Blaxploitation Month!

This film is the story of Tommy Gibbs who spent the majority of his youth behind bars for whatever B.S. reason the man had to put him there, but dreamed of a time when he would get out and run things like the crime bosses he admired. He takes the initiative and kills a guy with a contract on him and becomes the first black guy to get in good with the Italian crime syndicate. Over the years he rapid moves up and starts to run things just the way he always wanted. He gets the power and the money but he still wants revenge.

First and foremost the awesome that is Fred Williamson plays Gibbs and he is the epitome of badass. It's not hard to see why he was such a mainstay of Blaxploitation films. The film tells a great story that's much like Scarface and other organized crime films in a way except taking place in Harlem in the 60s and 70s, and it's much shorter. This is one of those instances where the film is not long enough Marcus hit the nail on the head when he said this should have been a mini-series. If not that, having another hour to the runtime could have only helped the story because it seemed to skip over things. There is a sequel, Hell Up in Harlem, which I will definitely be watching.

Many of the Blaxploitation films are known for a ton of racial slurs but this one might take the cake for the widest variety. Anyone can throw around an N-word, but I think every race gets every derogatory word thrown at them that I have ever heard, and probably some I didn't even know existed.

This is still a great Blaxploitation flick you should check out, made by the man behind such classic films as The Stuff and the original It's Alive series. Luckily it's still available on DVD so pick it up here.

Alternate Title
- The Godfather of Harlem

Return to Horror High - 1987 - Dir: Bill Froehlich
Location: The Comfort of My House

This DVD has been on my self for at least a couple years now and I just finally got around to watching it. What I got was something very different than what I expected. The plot concerns a school where a bunch of grizzly murders occurred and the film crew who came years later to make a movie about the story. While there they are all killed except for one, by an unknown person so you are left with a movie about making a movie about some real horrific events.

This is not all horror because there are plenty of laughs thrown in, some on purpose and others from 80s cheese. There are mullets a plenty, including one adorning the scalp of a young George Clooney! His performance is brief, but funny nonetheless. Another famous face in the film is Marcia from The Brady Bunch, Maureen McCormick. In the film she plays a very sexual police officer in the wraparound story who has a very odd side to her. She comes out from the school with her uniform shirt unbuttoned most of the way, blood all over her kneck and chest and looks sexier than I have ever seen her.

At times during the film it's hard to tell what is actually happening or if it's part of the fake movie being made, but that's part of the fun. Then you get to the end and everything gets really weird. I was very confused, but in retrospect I can't think of a better way to end the film. It must be seen to be believed, as does the FX guy's hair, lucky for you the DVD is only ten bucks right here!