Monday, May 10, 2010

From Gimmicks to Shock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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