Monday, February 22, 2010

Cult and Classic

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.


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