Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

War is Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Evil Dead - 1981 - Dir. Sam Raimi
Location: Inwood Theater
Midnight Madness

On my birthday I watched one of my favorite horror films, and favorite zombie flick of all time, Dawn of the Dead. Not only did I love this movie but it was one of the first in the horror genre I saw. Around the same time my dad and I watched another VHS, The Evil Dead, but I'm not sure which was first. I was somewhere around four or five and while I don't remember every detail of the movie I still have memories of bits and pieces. My eyes were opened to the spooky and gorey side of life and I would never turn back.

The film sees a group of five head to a remote cabin for the weekend. Things are certainly going to be fun until they find the odd recording and book in the cellar. Then the forest rapes one of the girls and the possession begins leaving our hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell), to fight off his friends and girlfriend. The forest, or spirits within, won't let them leave so he tries to hang on until morning or until the madness stops. There are scares, gore, a chainsaw and even a pencil in the ankle!

When I revisit films I loved as a kid sometimes I find the magic lies in nostalgia and not in the film itself. Could it be that I hold this among my top horror (and non-horror) films because it was one of my earliest introductions to the genre? Well, I've watched it many times over the last twenty-five or so years and I can safely say that it holds up and validates its place on my list. When I was a kid this was one of the few films that managed to actually scare me to some degree, most of the time I was happily watching others scream and salivating over the gore. At the time I couldn't explain to you what was different about this movie, just that it left a weird feeling in its wake. Now I understand it was the inventive "handheld" camera work and insane sound design which turned this low budget flick into a terrifying classic.

To tackle the point of view of the evil spirit roaming through the woods and in the cabin the camera was evidently bolted to a board and two guys would walk it around where they filmed. The result is a low traveling shaky glimpse into the demonic world. This uneasy technique is enhanced by the brilliance of the sound design. Each little movement is treated with a sound not too overpowering but just right to add to the sense of fear. The moving spirit has it's own sound that you can only hear outside in its point of view, but inside things are symphonic as well. My favorite sequence involves young Ash moving through the house carefully at first and each creaky stair from the cellar builds the tension, until he's running through the cabin to shut doors so the spirit can't get back inside. As the scene progresses the sounds elevate the sense of fear. One of the best is a simple warbled tone as the camera passes by beams while looking down on Ash walking from the ceiling. Such a simple technique adds so much.

Most people know I'm not a huge fan of CG FX in horror films. They rarely look realistic enough to not be laughable, unless you're James Cameron or have WETA on your side. Luckily this was not really done in the early 80s and especially not on a low budget. Here everything is a practical effect, with some terrific make-up on the lovely ladies possessed in the cabin with creepy laughs and oozing wounds all over. More than once stop-motion is used for things they cannot do in real time. They don't look very real but there is something gritty and charming about them. At one point during one of the claymation sequences a girl behind me in the theater let out an "ewww" and it made me smile. Even though it's an old technique that most would scoff at today it still holds the same effect that it did almost thirty years ago.

After the movie ended I was just sitting in my seat and overheard a guy in the theater talking with his friends. He said something like, "this was pretty good but the second one is way funnier." I rolled my eyes, but bit my tongue. People seem to forget that the first in the trilogy is not comedy and more straight horror. Nothing against the other two adventures of Ash but this is by far the best of the three films. I do love Evil Dead 2 for the comedic aspect and ridiculous amounts Kool-Aid looking blood, but the more serious nature of the first film will win out anytime in my mind. There are a few laughable moments in the film, but it should, in no way, be compared to the splatstick style of the others. I was a bit annoyed at some of the laughter, especially during the tree rape scene, but what can you do?

I have a ton of horror shirts, and buy more all the time, but my first horror film t-shirt I bought was from The Evil Dead. Long before I found the many web outlets who carry film shirts I was at a local comic/sci-fi convention with a friend and came across a shirt showing a blood covered Ash wielding a chainsaw high above his head. This was about ten years ago and I still wear it from time to time, though it's quite faded and the image is pretty cracked now. There are many other Evil Dead and/or Ash related pieces of apparel on the market now. Rotten Cotton has a pretty cool design coming out soon in support of the current tour of the uncut print in theaters and it even has the dates on the back (check out the shirt here)! But, by far, my favorite is the super cool special edition from Fright Rags featuring the Ladies of The Evil Dead. As you can see from the design on the right this artwork is insanely cool. The colors jump off the shirt and it brings me joy each time I look at it. Too bad that it's sold out, but hopefully you were one of the lucky ones to get it before they were gone.

There has not been another film to come out on DVD in so many different versions and special editions as The Evil Dead. I've bought a couple of them but have yet to pick up the latest. I really wish they would just pick an ultimate edition and stick with it instead of trying to outdo themselves every couple of years. If you're going to buy it, which you should if you don't already have it, go with either the newest
Ultimate Edition here or you can buy the super cool
Book of the Dead edition here along with the sequels BotD Ed.

I cannot really describe how awesome it was to finally see this film on the big screen in 35mm. I was giddy the entire time and felt like I was glowing when the movie was over. If Grindhouse Releasing's tour of the print comes near your town see it for sure! Find the dates here. Now if someone would only screen Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

Dance or Die - 1987 - Dir. Richard W. Munchkin
Location: Micah's House
Horror Movie Night Bye-Week Pick

Micah posted on his Twitter about this movie he started watching on VHS and about twenty minutes in it crapped out on him. He found another copy and it was watched by the usual suspects, along with Jenny and Melissa (Micah's wife). What a glorious night for us all! This isn't so much of a horror film rather than a thriller about a Las Vegas choreographer, Jason, who is hunted by his recently deceased drug dealing roommate's killer. There is plenty of dancing but not in the way I hoped. It is used as a way for Jason to tell the story of his life and his struggles with kicking his drug addiction.

There is plenty of 80s fun here with fashion, hair and more fashion. My personal favorite scenes involved anything with Jason's AA meetings and sponsor who looked to be much older than she said, even though Jason would hit on her from time to time. The hit of the night would be the killer who is known as Turtle. Jason spends a lot of time looking for this mysterious man and hires the help of a psychic who finds a bag of coke hidden in a two-liter of Coke! When Jason realizes his sponsor has a turtle tattoo he has quite an argument leading to some wonderful dialog.

Sponsor: I like turtles!
Jason: That's not good enough.
Sponsor: Then go fuck yourself!

Genius. Sad to say this is not out on DVD so you can't really watch with friends. But if you ever come across a VHS somewhere watch it!

Rescue Force - 1989 - Dir. Charles Nizet
Location: Micah's House

After Dance or Die we were trying to decided what to watch next and we decided on this interesting 80s action flick. This takes place largely in the Middle East as a huge team of CIA agents go to rescue a kidnapped official. There are tons of explosions (easily a third of the film), bad/non-existent transitions, horrible acting and many weapons. One thing that really stood out is how the majority of the dialog is dubbed in post and those who aren't appear to be reading the lines from a notepad on their respective desks! Good grief.

Micah and Marcus seemed to enjoy this one, but I was bored for the majority of the film. Parts were funny for being so bad, but it was mostly just bad. There was also a lot of confusion with the many characters and the badass, Striker, appeared to be played by more than one actor and wasn't even credited. I can't really recommend this, even if you could find it, but on the plus side the end of the film sees three female agents nude in a hot tub together with champagne.

The Donner Party - 2009 - Dir. T.J. Martin
Location: My Couch

I remember reading about this one a while back somewhere because of Crispin Glover's involvement but it had completely slipped my mind. Then when watching Attack of the Show on G4 as I always do, the lovely Alison Haislip showed a quick clip to promote since she's in the film. I immediately put it in my queue and sat down to watch it as soon as it arrived. The story of the Donner Party traveling to California in the mid-1800s, getting stuck in the snow and some resorting to cannibalism is well known. Still I have not seen much in the way of films about this that weren't awesome musicals by the creators of South Park, Cannibal! The Musical. This film doesn't follow the main group but catches up with one section after they has split from the rest and were stuck with the likelihood a rescue party looking grim. One of the party says they know the way to food supplies and certain help but they need the help of others to make the three day trek and the wealth of William Foster (Glover) to pay a rescue team. As everyone knows, things don't turn out so well and the idea of eating one of the group comes up.

This is not a face paced movie and nothing really action packed happens, but the slow pacing and intimate setting of the freezing, hungry characters packs a powerful punch. You really feel the pain this group faces and the struggle when it comes to the inevitable. Their discomfort is easy to see but hard to watch. Glover has the most extravagant role in the film, and I don't really think he can due subdued anyway. At times it felt a little like George McFly in the 19th Century, but his roles often always feel like McFly to me. There are a few scenes of brutality but overall this is a very simple film that really works. Pick up the
DVD here.

Hot Dog... The Movie - 1984 - Dir. Peter Markle
Location: The Comfort of My House

After watching Hamburger: The Motion Picture a while back I decided to visit the food themed 80s flicks, or at least food-in-the-title. This film was even written by the director of Hamburger! A young hot shot skier named Harkin Banks (Patrick Houser) heads to a skiing competition and picks up a hitchhiker along the way, Sunny (Tracy Smith). When he gets there he meets a world class American on the slopes, Dan (David Naughton), and the rival jerk from Germany, Rudi. Tons of competitive skiing with impressive jumps and runs and plenty of nudity to gleefully remember the 80s.

The jokes are as lame as most films of its ilk, but the good news is the nudity is just as great. Every one of these films needs a playmate or other nude celeb and here we have a small role by Shannon Tweed, now the non-wife of Gene Simmons as Rudi's ex who likes to get around. Plenty of boobs and sex related humor for all like the "steamy" ski lift ride and the country western bar's wet t-shirt night. That scene is epically awesome but it seems to border on some sort of sexual harassment crime at times. These guys get a little too excited and forceful when pulling girls on stage. Plenty of great 80s times are to be had here and it's a shame the DVD went out-of-print. You can still find some
used copies here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Music and More

Spring Breakdown - 2009 - Dir. Ryan Shiraki
Location: On the Couch

I heard bad things about this, but I still had to see for myself. I really like Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and, especially, Parker Posey so I figured it couldn't be that bad. It isn't horrible, but it's also not comic genius. Three best friends are losers in love and the ways of society but their yearly trip to the Women's Music Festival is coming up. This year Becky's (Posey) boss, the soon-to-be vice president, has a problem with her daughter who might cause a scene on spring break. Becky is sent to look after her and the girls come with her. As you can imagine their trip is full of hi-jinks.

There are a few chuckles to be had but most of the film is just there. It's a real shame that everything wasn't a little better because the cast is great. Jane Lynch plays the vice presidential hopeful and her daughter is played by Amber Tamblyn. There are also plenty of smaller roles filled by the likes of Missi Pyle, Sophie Monk, Seth Meyers, Mae Whitman (Anne from Arrested Development) and Will Arnett who plays a blind guy who won't date Poehler's character. Ha! I hate to sound like a pervert or something but for a film about promiscuous girls on spring break there is no nudity. How can you have a spring break movie without any T-n-A? I understand that this is from a woman's point of view and all but...

Meat Market - 2000 - Dir. Brian Clement
Location: The Comfort of My House

Have you ever sat down to watch a movie you haven't seen and realize that you had seen it? This doesn't happen very often, at least to me, but it did with this flick. A very low budget zombie film from Canada that I remember talking about with some gorehound I worked with about ten years ago. He told me over and over that I needed to see this and I thought I hadn't but a few minutes in things seemed very familiar. The good news is that after about the first forty minutes I didn't remember anything else so I must not have watched the whole thing.

There is not much to know about the plot other than there is a zombie outbreak and most everyone is dead. There is a small number of survivors scattered around and one couple is out looking for supplies when they run into a group of three vampires (!) who are also fighting the living dead. Can't have their food supply knocked off by the flesheaters. Together the five, and a blue masked luchador, kill as many as they can and try to survive another day.

The script is pretty standard and the acting is mostly subpar but there are a few redeeming qualities. No I'm not talking about the lesbian vampire scenes in a room with a makeshift bed and plain white walls. I mean the gore! Most all of the bloody FX are all practical and gush plenty of the red stuff. Your eyes are in for a treat but they are kind of ruined when you hear the sound design behind the visuals. Every bit of trickling blood sounds like a water fountain. It gets a bit ridiculous at times.

While this may not be the best zombie film I've ever seen, it's definitely not the worst of the low budget lot and you get some good gore gags to go along. There are also two sequels which I hear are better, and I'll watch them soon. If you so desire you can get
Parts 1 and 2 together on DVD here.

Elvis - 1979 - Dir. John Carpenter
Location: At Home

My dad is a huge Elvis fan so I have spent much of my life listening to and watching things about the man. There have been many movies, for TV or not, about the life of The King but I always heard from my dad that John Carpenter's made-for-TV flick was the best. It came out a year before I was born and was never available for home viewing until now. A couple years ago my dad was at a convention with me and one of the bootleg DVD tables had a copy of the film that my dad quickly picked up. Now, he doesn't have to watch that crappy TVrip in full frame because the new disc has the full version (just under three hours) in widescreen from the original film elements.

The story is the same story of Elvis you've always heard and there's not much new. It doesn't go all the way up to his death in 77 but after his big Vegas comeback. What I was real surprised about was the complete omission of the very famous 68 Comeback Special. Not sure why they decided to leave that out but it doesn't really hurt the film as a whole. The best part about the film is Kurt Russell's performance as Presley. Dad told me he was the best onscreen Elvis ever and I think I agree. He is just perfect in this role and it's a shame more people don't know about it. Hopefully that will change with the new DVD's release. Pick it up
right here.

It may not be as awesome as Heartbreak Hotel (1988), but it's still worth the watch.

ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway - 2007 - Dir. Dori Berinstein
Location: My House

I will watch most any documentary you put in front of me. When I saw this documentary was coming on cable and is not available for rent I set the DVR. It follows four new Broadway shows as they get ready to open all the way through to the Tony Awards. The shows chronicled are Wicked, Avenue Q, Caroline or Change and Taboo. I have wanted to see the first two on that list for a while. They both sound great but Q is right up my alley. Adult themed songs and fun all done with Sesame Street-like puppets. How could you not love that?!

There is not a lot of crazy tension here because it basically just documents what people go through to put on a musical. The biggest controversy explored is all the drama involving producer Rosie O'Donnell's court cases and Boy George's show Taboo. You do get to see some very wonderful performances and talented people do what they do best. You also get to periodically listen to a group of catty New York Theatre critics ramble about the shows.