Archive for August, 2009

Summer Camp with the Cinefamily!

August 31, 2009

“Dear Mom and Dad,

Camp is great! We’re learning how to use knives and guns and the boys and girls are sleeping with each other. It’s the greatest summer camp ever!”

– SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE

nixon_2_060925_560

I am truly saddened over the fact that I have never been to summer camp a day in my life. I would have loved to have camped out in the woods by a crackling fire and toasted marshmallows while singing, “Koom-by-yah” with my fellow campers. Archery, arts and crafts, and skinny dipping would have been a lot of fun, but this was just not meant to be.

My summer camp memories are relegated to the movies, so I was excited to see that the Cinefamily was throwing an all-night SUMMER CAMP MOVIE MARATHON! I went with my partner in crime, the lovely Grae Drake of The Popcorn Mafia and boy did we have ourselves some fun. The Cinefamily’s main programmer, Hadrian Belove and his staff were all dressed like counselors and there was a wading pool and a crafts table set up for making “friendship” bracelets. There was also plenty of beer on hand for us older campers and I ate one of the most delicious smores ever made. The first movie we watched was the amazing, LITTLE DARLINGS…

Kristy McNichol and Tatum O'Neil spend their summer trying to get laid.

Kristy McNichol and Tatum O'Neil spend their summer trying to get laid.

You’ve got to love a teen comedy that’s this inappropriate. Tatum O’Neil and a chain-smoking Kristy McNichol spend their summer camp experience trying to win a bet on which one of them can get laid first. Kristy has her eyes on a teenage (almost unintelligible) Matt Dillon, while Tatum tries to score some loving from an extremely hairy and waaaaayyyyyy too old Armand Assante. If you like under age drinking and jail bait, this is the summer camp movie for you! Up next was something truly incredible…

ttg6ph53iRqmZNO

Meatballs meets The Beach!

Summer Camp Nightmare

1987’s SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE tells the story of an all boy’s summer camp that’s run by a very strict Chuck (The Rifleman) Connors. He makes them watch religious programs on the only T.V. and cancels the dance with the nearby girl’s camp. That’s when the kids form an uprising and take control by killing him, jailing the counselors and creating their own society with their own rules. This movie was like a cross between MEATBALLS, LORD OF THE FLIES, THE BEACH, TAPS and a half dozen prison films I’ve seen, complete with a shanking, a rape and a lynching! WOW! Next up, it was time to get stupid…

Meatballs2poster

Meet Meathead, the pot smoking alien.

Meet Meathead, the pot smoking alien.

MEATBALLS PART 2 has absolutely nothing at all to do with the Bill Murray movie. It’s about a war between the laid-back Camp Sasquatch and the military-themed Camp Patton. There’s also an E.T. who smokes weed in it, named Meathead, who has been sent to Earth for the summer by his parents to get his merit badge. Pee Wee Herman, John Larroquette, Richard (EMPTY NEST) Mulligan and the guy who played Ogre from REVENGE OF THE NERDS are on hand for the hilarity. I haven’t seen this one since VHS back in the eighties and it was quite a treat to see a beautiful 35mm Sony archive print of it.

Then, our “camp director” Hadrian offered us all a choice between watching the MEATBALLS rip-off GORP or a christian summer camp movie called, GERONIMO.

218845.1020.A

We chose GERONIMO and boy am I glad! It’s the “honky and the home-boys” tale of a born-again camp counselor who’s given the tough assignment of taking care of a group of wild, inner-city kids from Chicago for the summer, all of whom seem very “real” and behave like the cast of Larry Clark’s KIDS. After dozens of lectures about Jesus and a few unintentionally racist comments, the boys finally discover the “joy” of camping, when they’re not stealing everything in sight, picking fights with everyone and sniffing glue. This was truly a “rare” treat to see.

Next up was GORP, but it was about 4 a.m. and we needed to take the big, yellow bus back home. Thanks again to the Cinefamily for all the fun. It was the best summer camp experience I’ve ever had, without all that awkward “growing up” stuff!

Advertisements

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II: More of the same crap…

August 28, 2009

halloween_2_pumpkin_poster

This review contains spoilers.

I went to a midnight show of the new HALLOWEEN II remake/sequel with some friends in Hollywood, last night. I walked into it with an open mind, even though I really wasn’t pleased at all with Rob Zombie’s “re-interpretation” of the first film. The movie had a lot of problems, but my main issue was the “idea” of making the audience feel sympathy for a young Michael Myers. By trying to show him in a “real” manner, everything that’s cool about the character was destroyed. The reason Michael Myers is so fucking scary is because we DON’T know or understand his motivations. He is a FORCE of pure evil that keeps growing larger and more unstoppable. In John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN we are never given any explanation other than that he is inhuman and must be stopped. Like the shark in JAWS, Michael Myers is a monster that just keeps moving. An emotionless creature that hides his face behind a mask that reflects his lack of humanity and who can only express himself by murdering young people who engage in pre-marital sex and drug use. Michael Myers was THE personification of puritanical rage against a changing time.

In the original 1981 sequel to HALLOWEEN, Michael was given the added motivation that he was attempting to finish off his long lost “sister”, Laurie Strode. This plot twist has provided all future HALLOWEEN sequels, including these two remakes, with the mythology behind Michael Myers. He just wants to bump off the rest of his family like the efficient little masked maniac that he is.

In Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake he screws it all up royally, by spending the first half of the movie with a young, white trash Michael Myers and introducing the sister thing right away. I guess he was trying to give some sort of real-life motivation to the reason why Michael kills, so that he can reunite his fucked up family. Once again, I really don’t want to feel sympathy for the guy killing everyone. That’s just me.

He also fucked up the great character of Sam Loomis, by making him an opportunistic sleaze that is around for comic relief more than anything else. The original Loomis character was the obsessively protective force of good and a great “Captain Ahab” to Michael’s “White Whale”. Zombie ruined this element too.

I also hated the way he made his remake take place in the same grimy, white trash universe that his previous two films, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS took place in. HIS is a Haddonfield full of rednecks who obsessively drop “F” bombs and who are as over-sexed as a motorcycle gang O.D.ing on Crack and Viagra. This “slumming” of the original Haddonfield took away from the ANYTOWN U.S.A feeling the first one had and made it a place where I could really care less who gets killed. Fuck ’em all.

"What's my motivation, little boy?"

"What's my motivation, little boy?"

Halloween2_07

The new hobo/8 Mile look.

It wouldn't be a HALLOWEEN movie without a "Weird" Al cameo. What the fuck!?

It wouldn't be a HALLOWEEN movie without a "Weird" Al cameo. What the fuck!?

I really did go into H2 with a clear mind, hoping that it would be good and that it would make up for the last one. I was thinking that maybe Rob Zombie was trapped in a box on the first film and now he was going to break free with the sequel. I was optimistic. Truthfully, I did like it more than his first one, but it really isn’t that much better and it’s basically more of the same crap without the “origin”. But that doesn’t mean we’re done with the “young” Michael Myers story, because the film opens with a flashback of him telling his mom (Sheri Moon Zombie returning because only her husband will cast her in anything) that he dreams of a “White Horse”, which according to the movie represents “pure” rage and more BULLSHIT motivation for his character.

There is a “hospital” sequence in the opening that seems like a nod to the original sequel and picks up right where the last film ended. It’s an effectively scary sequence and it gave me hope that this thing might not be so bad after all. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a Laurie Strode “survivor” nightmare and we find ourselves a year later and still in Haddonfield, Illinois, where Michael Myers’ body has never been found and Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) now lives with her surviving friend Annie (cutie Danielle Harris returns for her fourth HALLOWEEN outing) and her father, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif). But it’s Halloween again and you know what that means. Laurie is dealing with the past, by hanging out with a new group of girls who call each other “bitches” and “fuckholes” and only want to party and get laid.

Meanwhile, Sam Loomis (another awkward Malcom McDowell performance) has survived his skull-crushing from the previous movie and has become even more famous with his new tell-all Michael Myers book. This is the most tragic victim of Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, the character of SAM LOOMIS. In Carpenter’s original, Donald Pleasance created something truly iconic with his performance. His obsessed, gun toting psychiatrist made a perfect counter to the unstoppable Boogieman. He was like a “Van Helsing” to Michael’s “Dracula”, but in H2 he’s nothing more than comic relief. He even has a scene with ‘Weird” Al Yankovic, where they appear on a local Haddonfield talk show together. I don’t know what’s dumber, the “Weird” Al cameo or that a small mid-western town has it’s own talk show, but it was all profoundly STUPID and not even remotely amusing. Also, the script is so poorly written, we are expected to swallow the notion that Loomis’ new book and tour begin on the day of Halloween and are kicking off in the small town of Haddonfield. What a shitty publicist!

Zombie also turns Michael Myers into a hooded hobo with a Grizzly Adams beard, who’s been walking around the mid-west for a year, I guess to recover from the bullet in the head he got in the last movie. He’s come back to Haddonfield to reunite with his sister and bring the family back together, so they can all live in peace with a “white horse” in Heaven. You see, he and Laurie keep having these INGMAR BERGMAN style hallucinations that feature Sheri Moon Zombie in Kabuki makeup and white robes. BIG FUCKING YAWN!

Rob Zombie has a gruesome visual style that at times can be really effective. The best moments in H2 are when Michael kills. He moves now like a vicious animal who grunts and screams behind the cracked mask while he attacks his victims. He stabs, hacks, beats, kicks and crushes into mulch, everything that gets in his way and this is where the direction and visual style are the most confident.

The rest of H2 is like a better shot version of HALLOWEEN 6. It’s ultimately the writing that totally sucks and derails the whole thing! Zombie just isn’t a very good writer. His words worked well in his first two films (especially DEVIL’S REJECTS), because they were white trash horror movies. But when he writes this style into the HALLOWEEN world it just takes me right out of it. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and the reason I always connected sooooo much to the original was that it was a horror movie that seemed to take place on my turf! Even though most of it was shot in West Hollywood, Haddonfield, Illinois looked and felt like the suburbs. It’s hard to believe now, but back then, horror movies didn’t take place in the safe environment of the ‘burbs that often and I think this had a lot to do with the first film’s power and success.

In Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN I and II, Haddonfield is a redneck sewer where mental hospital guards rape patients and ambulance attendants talk about fucking corpses. It’s a town where people call each other suckholes, cuntfucks, and fucktards a lot. Actually it’s a town where the word FUCK is used more commonly than any other word in the english language. There’s even a scene in HALLOWEEN II where a helpless victim screams the word about a hundred times, over and over again. I don’t know if this was a conscious nod to his own “style” or what, but all I gotta say is, FUCK YOU ROB ZOMBIE! Learn how to write a good script man! Here’s an idea, direct someone else’s script for a change! And no more remakes!! What the fuck is this I hear now about you doing a remake of THE BLOB?! The fucking BLOB has already been remade you douchebag! And what the fuck is this I’m reading about it not looking like a BLOB?! What the fuck are you talking about?! And stop casting your talentless wife in all your goddamned movies! She can’t act and most importantly, IT MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE A BITCH!! And how about challenging yourself and doing a movie where nobody says the word fuck at all. And no more of these insipidly juvenile character names like UNCLE MEAT and places like RED HOT PUSSY LIQUORS for awhile. FUCK!

Sorry, I had to get all that off my chest. Please don’t see HALLOWEEN II this weekend. Netflix the original HALLOWEEN I and II instead. Then throw HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS on after, because it’s cheesy as hell, but still a lot of fun (as well as being the first appearance of a 10 year old DANIELLE HARRIS as Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie). And please Rob Zombie do something original and dare I say, a little smarter next time. I truly do like the way he makes a horror movie look and feel at times.

Inglourious Basterds: my review is almost as long as the movie!

August 24, 2009

inglorious-bastards-poster

This review contains spoilers.

It’s funny, but just a few moments before seeing a midnight show of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS at the Cinerama Dome, the subject of “name your favorite Tarantino movie” came up at our table in the Arclight bar. Everyone had a different one. For some it’s PULP FICTION, while others prefer KILL BILL. My favorite was still the brilliant RESERVOIR DOGS (well for another 2 and a half hours it would be), but I’m getting ahead of myself. The conclusion I came to from this conversation was that Quentin Tarantino can make a bank heist film, a gangster film, a blaxsploitation film, a revenge film, a slasher movie and a WW II film and the result is going to always be the same. Regardless of the genre, it’s gonna be a Quentin Tarantino movie and it’s not going to be predictable.

I think I first heard about this movie, when it was being referred to as GLORIOUS BASTARDS, in an Ain’t It Cool News posting almost 10 years ago. QT said he was working on a script that was going to be a WWII movie in the spirit of THE DIRTY DOZEN. He ended up doing KILL BILL instead, but the project was always rumored to be his next. Over the years it has taken on an almost “legendary” status as a movie that the vast geek community has been looking forward to with great anticipation. I remembered reading once that he was going to make it into three separate films, because he had written so mammoth an epic. It wasn’t long after GRINDHOUSE was released that the rumors surfaced again. This time it was called INGLORIOUS BASTARDS and the reports had us believe initially that it was a remake of the same titled film by legendary Italian filmmaker ENZO G. CASTELLARI and who knows, maybe it was. Maybe, but I doubt it because Tarantino can’t make anything that doesn’t exist in HIS universe and under HIS rules. When I read that it was only “inspired” by the CASTELLARI film and was now called INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, I knew we were gonna see something much more unique than we could expect and I was correct.

Brad Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine and he wants his scalps.

Brad Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine and he wants his scalps.

The Cinerama Dome was packed for the midnight show on Thursday night and I was very anxious for the film to start. I knew absolutely nothing about the plot details (even though I’ve had the entire script downloaded on my hard drive for almost a year now), which is my preferred way of seeing all movies, especially a Tarantino movie. I’ve learned from the first time I saw RESERVOIR DOGS that the joy that comes from viewing his movies are all the great “surprises” you always receive. His films are like Christmas and only an impatient lunkhead ruins the surprise of knowing what they’re getting for Christmas. Old Santa Claus himself was in the house that night as Quentin Tarantino took the Dome stage to introduce the film and was greeted with an impromptu standing ovation from the entire crowd. Now, I’ve been in the Dome on midnight showings where the director’s intro’d the movie before. Even Michael Bay got an enthusiastic round of applause at the TRANSFORMERS 2 screening, but I’ve never seen that savvy Hollywood crowd give it up so hard as for QT. Fuck the guys earned it already and BASTERDS only drives it home further. Kinda like the Bear Jew cracking a Nazi’s skull!

Christoph Waltz is the "jew hunter", Col. Hans Landa.

Christoph Waltz is the "jew hunter", Col. Hans Landa.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS begins with an homage to the legendary Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and anyone familiar with the opening of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY will be in geek heaven. Although we are in nazi-occupied France in 1941, the scene is straight-up spaghetti western including the “borrowed” Ennio Morricone music that dominates most of the soundtrack. In this opening we meet the most charismatic personification of pure evil I’ve ever seen in a “movie” villian, Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in a performance that deserves all the praise it’s getting) a.k.a. the “jew” hunter. The ‘cat and mouse’ way he verbally plays with a helpless French dairy farmer that is hiding a jewish family under their very feet is brilliantly written and performed. Like many opening scenes in a QT movie, this one sets up two major characters who will play a larger role in the events to come. And so ends Chapter One…

The Basterds love carving themselves a swastika on a Nazi forehead or two.

The Basterds love carving themselves a swastika on a Nazi forehead or two.

In Chapter Two we meet the “Inglourious Basterds”, a covert squad of eight jewish-american soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), an ex-moonshine runner from the hills of Tennessee who just so happens to have a little Apache blood in his veins for added color. They’ve been dropped behind enemy lines in France to collect as many Nazi scalps as they can and they all really enjoy their work. Like “The Bear Jew” (Eli Roth joyously hamming it up with a 40’s era Boston accent) who loves working on his batting average by cracking open a Nazi skull or two. But my favorite Basterd is the German born Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) who is “inducted” into the squad for his proficiency in murdering SS officers and is given his own ‘blaxsploitation’ styled intro. Even Hitler knows of their methods and how they “mark” their only survivors with a swastika carved on to their foreheads. This stuff is all awesome and does a great job of establishing the “men” on the mission. But I would soon discover that INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is a movie that’s more about the “mission” itself and the many people that play a part in it all…

Melanie Laurent is Shosanna Dreyfus, a movie theatre owner in Paris with a score to settle.

Melanie Laurent is Shosanna Dreyfus, a movie theatre owner in Paris with a score to settle.

The third chapter introduces us to a Parisian cinema owner named Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who is ‘secretly’ the lone jewish survivor of Col. Landa’s cruelty from the film’s opening. She has found herself in a position where she can extract vengeance on the people responsible for murdering her family. A Nazi war hero named Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) is smitten with her and arranges for the premiere of a new German film made about his exploits at her cinema. All the highest ranking officers of the Third Reich will be in attendance to watch the film, including none other than Hitler, himself. She agrees to host the event with the intention of burning all the Nazi’s to death, by torching the theatre and the highly flammable 35mm “nitrate” film collection it holds. But will the appearance of Col. Landa throw off the plan if he recognizes her…

The fourth chapter is about the formation and execution of “Operation Kino”, an Allied Forces mission that involves the blowing up of the cinema hosting the Nazi premiere in Paris. Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is sent by the OSS into France where he is to rendezvous with the Basterds and meet up with Bridget Von Hammersmark, a double agent who also happens to be a famous German starlet. The meeting is held in the basement of a French pub and is one of the most tense sequences in the film, where they are interrogated by a Gestapo officer with a keen ear for accents. The scene gets messy, but the Basterds prevail and get a little closer to their main goal: blow up the theatre with Hitler in it…

Chapter five is all about the night of the premiere and the mission being carried out. There’s a montage set to a David Bowie song from the movie CAT PEOPLE and moments that reminded me of CARRIE, CINEMA PARADISO and the Italian horror film DEMONS. It is an incredibly gonzo sequence and Tarantino brings it all together for a climax that is probably the most satisfying I’ve ever seen. What’s not to love about a WWII film that features Adolf Hitler’s face being ripped apart by sub machine gun fire?

Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is the most insanely violent, brazen and hilarious war movie ever made and is his most accomplished and well written film to date, in my opinion. This is not the “men on a mission” movie we were led to believe it would be, but I think that it is to the film’s benefit. We get to meet the Basterds and see them in action, but most of the team are given no screen time at all. That’s because INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is not about the “men” so much as it’s about the “mission” and all the people and events that lead to it’s conclusion. QT has proven once again that he can tackle any genre, deconstruct it and re-imagine it, all in a way we’ve never seen before and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

inglourious_basterds_xlg

Saturday night sequel insanity: TROLL 2 and HALLOWEEN II

August 17, 2009
The evil goblins of TROLL 2. Huh?

The evil goblins of TROLL 2. Huh?

One of the great things about being a nerd in L.A. is that there is a huge “revival” theatre scene going on that allows a plethora of options for all geek tastes. This last Saturday evening I was faced with two exciting options for my nerd-dollar. The Silent Movie Theatre had a screening of the infamous, so-bad-it’s-awesome TROLL 2 and a few hours later at midnight, The New Beverly Cinema was showing the original HALLOWEEN II. Since the theaters are only a few blocks from each other, I decided to check them both out for an evening of sequel insanity…

Troll_2_movie_poster_by_bonvillain

When TROLL 2 was released on VHS back in 1990, the makers were trying to capitalize on the modest success of the film TROLL from 1986. One of the first wonderful FAIL signs on this film is that it is not a sequel in any way to the original. It doesn’t even have any trolls in it. The evil creatures in TROLL 2 are actually goblins! The film was made ultra-low budget, by a crew of Italian filmmakers in the woods of Utah. The director of this trash-terpiece is a man named Claudio Fragasso, but for some reason he’s credited in the movie as Drake Floyd. Most of the cast is made up of Utah locals, all of whom seem to be acting for the very first time ever. Lots of beautifully awkward performances in this film, but the REAL star is the plot!

troll2_titlescreen-550x307

Meet the Waits family! They have decided to go on a vacation to the town of Nilbog (go on, spell it backwards) where they will exchange homes with a local family. Little 8 year old Joshua Waits has been warned by the ghost of his dead Grandpa Seth that bad things will happen there, but Mom and Dad think he’s insane. His sister Holly wants to bring her boyfriend Elliott along, but he can’t seem to leave the side of his 3 male friends in their winnebago. I’ve never seen SO MUCH implied homosexuality in a film about killer goblins before. The Waits arrive in Nilbog and are treated with amazing hospitality. The family that the Waits are exchanging houses with have left them a huge feast of weird looking green food to enjoy. But Grandpa Seth warns young Joshua that the food will hurt them and that they must not eat any of it. The decision to have the small boy urinate on the feast to protect his family is one of my favorite, “WHAT THE FUCK!” moments. You see, the townspeople are all evil goblins and if you eat their crazy chow you will dissolve into a disgusting green mess so that they can gobble you up easily.

Don't eat the corn covered in green frosting! It's not ripe!

Don't eat the corn covered in green frosting! It's not ripe!

GRANDPA SETH TO THE MOTHER FUCKING RESCUE!!!

GRANDPA SETH TO THE MOTHER FUCKING RESCUE!!!

The town folk of Nilbog. Eat their food and they eat you!

The town folk of Nilbog. Eat their food and they eat YOU!

As Elliot’s “friends” are turned into goblin-mulch one by one, it is up to Joshua and the ghost of Grandpa Seth to save the fucking day for the Waits clan! I will not give away the ending, but it goes out on a perfectly fucked up note that you will not soon forget. All in all, TROLL 2 was exactly what I was hoping it would be. A highly entertaining “bad” movie from start to finish. God bless the talents of Drake Floyd, Utah, Nilbog, the Waits, Elliott, and of course Grandpa Seth (who had the audience cheering his name every time he appeared to save the fucking day). There was a second feature by the same director called MONSTER DOG starring ALICE COOPER, but I couldn’t stay for it. I had a date with Michael Myers…

More of the night he came home.

More of the night he came home.

To this date, the original HALLOWEEN is still the best horror movie I’ve ever seen. I consider HALLOWEEN II to be the second best film in the series and yes, I’m including Rob Zombie’s putrid remake in that equation. The HALLOWEEN series is my favorite horror-franchise of all time and I have seen every single film in the theatre, upon initial release, so I hightailed it to the New Bev to check out the screening of a newly struck 35mm print and was dumbstruck at the sight of the largest line I’ve ever seen there. If it wasn’t for my friend and fellow geek Cat saving me a seat, I wouldn’t have made it in to the sold out show. Which would have sucked, because it was a great time!

Before the movie started there was a Q and A with director Rick Rosenthal, actress Gloria Gifford who plays Nurse Alves and the great Alan Howarth who composed the score with John Carpenter on that and many others. It seems like everyone really enjoyed working with each other and had a lot of fun making the movie.

Gloria Gifford, Rick Rosenthal, and Alan Howarth.

Gloria Gifford, Rick Rosenthal, and Alan Howarth.

Before the movie started we were treated to a trailer for the original HALLOWEEN and then it began…

t7920

One of the things I always thought was so cool about HALLOWEEN II is that it’s the only sequel I know that picks up precisely where the last one ends and is truly a continuation of the first film’s storyline. Without all of the setup from the first, it just jumps right into the terror and I love it! Also, even though the movie wasn’t directed by John Carpenter, he and Debra Hill came back to write the screenplay and produce it and he even creates a scarier score than the first one. Yes, the film is not quite on the same level as the original slasher masterpiece, but it is head and shoulders above most slasher sequels (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE, etc.). You also have all the principal performers returning (JAMIE LEE CURTIS, DONALD PLEASANCE, MICHAEL MYERS, CHARLES CYPHERS, even NANCY LOOMIS returns as Annie’s corpse!) and most importantly, cinematographer God DEAN CUNDEY is back behind the lens. I think it’s a kick ass sequel!

Michael Myers is crying bloody tears over his sisters excellent marksmanship.

Michael Myers is crying bloody tears over his sisters excellent marksmanship.

This is why smoking isn't allowed in hospitals.

This is why smoking isn't allowed in hospitals.

halloween-II-scared-nurse

Haddonfield Memorial is not really the best run place.

After the movie we got a reel of trailers including (the awesome in it’s own right) HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, my second favorite sequel HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS, and HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS. It was a great fucking time and I’d love to see a HALLOWEEN movie marathon some day at the New Bev!

And that was my Saturday night sequel insanity.

District 9 is a fucking 10!!

August 15, 2009

district-9-poster

I became aware of this film back in May, when I saw the first “teaser” trailer for it. I wasn’t sure what it was about exactly, but it looked very compelling to me. As the brilliant marketing campaign grew (featuring billboards all over L.A. that designate the area, FOR HUMANS ONLY!), I became more and more intrigued. I love a good alien-invasion movie and this one looked like it was going to have an interesting new take on the genre. Boy, does it ever! Neill Blomkamp has made one of the smartest, most emotionally gripping films of the year so far, all in the disguise of a summer sci-fi/action popcorn movie.

The film starts out as a documentary that informs us how the aliens appeared on Earth over twenty years ago, when their mothership came to a stalled halt over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Eventually, after no contact, the leaders decided to cut their way inside to see what’s what. Once in, they discovered over a million malnourished “worker bee” aliens without the guidance of leadership. The South Africans, in the spirit of kindness, removed the creatures from their ship and nursed them back to health in a “refugee” detainment center called, District 9. After awhile, District 9 becomes a slum where the black market is controlled by local ganglords and everything is policed by the MNU. The MNU is an agency dedicated mainly to trying to find a way to use the alien’s advanced weaponry that they have seized, which can only be activated by their DNA. Also, due to public protest and unsafe conditions, the MNU is evicting the creatures (which they refer to in the derogatory as “prawns”) from their current homes, to be placed in an “undisclosed” location. During a raid on the home of father and son “prawns”, a top MNU agent named Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is exposed to the aliens’ bio-fuel and finds himself turning into a “prawn”! The MNU uses him as a guinea pig when his DNA fuses with the aliens, allowing him the unique ability to fire their weapons. But Wikus escapes his confinement and hides in the only place safe for him, District 9. He joins forces with the alien responsible for the canister of black liquid that is making him change. They form an alliance to get back the “fluid” from MNU headquarters, which can then be used to activate their ship and return home. Once on board, the aliens have medicine that can change Wikus back to human. But of course, this is all easier said than done.

District 9 is a very entertaining science fiction film with one of the greatest metaphors for apartheid ever conceived. The talents of first time director Neill Blomkamp, producer Peter Jackson and WETA’s amazing effects team have come together to create a really smart genre film that has more brains and awesome action than anything released this whole miserable summer. And they did it all for a mere 30 million?! It was also great to see the old TRI STAR logo appear before the movie, as many geeks applauded the sight of the flying horse, when I saw it on opening night at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Neill Blomkamp was originally going to direct the big budget adaptation of HALO with Peter Jackson producing, but Sony pulled the plug on it. Stupid move! There is no doubt whatsoever that Blomkamp, Jackson and WETA would have made one of the most amazing HALO films possible. It seemed like a lot of District 9’s art design (including the aliens, their weapons, the soldier’s armor and the vehicles) were inspired from HALO a little. I also loved the look of the alien’s mothership, which was more like a cross between an oil rig and an old freighter, rather than the light and beauty of the one from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND or E.T.

The other amazing thing about this film is how I started off being kind of repulsed by the “prawns” in the same way as the humans in the movie were, but by the end I was rooting for them to kick MNU’s ass! Leave it to WETA for creating the most realistic looking CGI characters in film today. They give them such emotion, it’s incredible! I highly recommend this one and look forward to a promising career from Neill Blomkamp in the future.

The Return Of Dante’s Inferno!

August 14, 2009

IMG_0196

The great Joe Dante has returned to the world famous, New Beverly Cinema for another of his amazing festivals. I already reported extensively on the “second” in a lifetime screening of THE MOVIE ORGY, but that wasn’t the only cinematic chestnut to behold that evening. At midnight, after 5 hours of orgy, we all stayed in our seats and were treated to a rare “preview print” of one of my favorite Joe Dante movies, GREMLINS!

gremlins_ver1

It contained two scenes that were cut from the theatrical release. One scene shows Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates snooping in the bank head’s office and finding Miss Deagle’s sinister plan to take control of the entire town. In the other scene, Zach and Phoebe discover Judge Reinhold’s character has gone crazy and locked himself in the bank vault, where they leave him. It was cool to see these scenes, but I can understand why they were cut, since they don’t really add anything to the story.

GREMLINS is a lot of fun to watch with an audience. I’ve always regarded it as one of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s like, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE on acid and has a unique blend of horror and comedy. The scene where the Mom single-handedly fights off the evil gremlins is a great example. I love it when she nukes the little green fucker in the microwave. GREMLINS was an awesome “nightcap” to a great evening.

poster2

The first night of the festival was a screening of Dante’s underrated, suburban-nightmare comedy, THE ‘BURBS, which was on a double bill with the Michael Ritchie satire, SMILE. Star BRUCE DERN was a special guest and he told some great stories about the industry and his days working with ROGER CORMAN. He also talked a little about how great it was to work again with Joe Dante on his upcoming, THE HOLE 3-D.

Joe Dante and Bruce Dern.

Joe Dante and Bruce Dern.

THE ‘BURBS is a very weird black comedy from 1989, that I had not seen since then. I remembered liking it the first time, but I was a lot more impressed with the suburban-paranoia satire this time around. Dante shot the film in sequence and a great deal of improvisation was thrown in. TOM HANK’S character really goes on a journey from normalcy to insanity that was a lot of fun to watch. I recommend picking it up on Net Flix if you haven’t seen it. Another great Joe Dante film to rediscover is the wonderful, MATINEE.

Matinee2

This film somehow escaped me upon it’s initial release and I remember giving it an unfocused look on VHS, back in the day. I enjoyed this film so much more now and I think it’s at the top of my list of Dante’s best. Set in Key West, Florida in 1962 when America was gripped in the panic of the “Cuban missile crisis”, it tells the story of a movie producer/showman, Lawrence Woolsey (modeled after the great WILLIAM CASTLE), played perfectly by JOHN GOODMAN. He is bringing his latest gimmick-laden monster movie, MANT to the local movie house and creates an amazing amount of hoopla in the process. It’s a really fun and nostalgic look back at that time period and Dante nails it perfectly, as usual. MATINEE was on a special, “end of the world” double bill with the fantastic, MIRACLE MILE.

200px-Miracletheatrical

The writer and director, STEVE DE JARNATT was there to tell us about how difficult it was to get such a “downer” of a movie made. The ending scared all the major studios away and the film was finally made independently. MIRACLE MILE is a tense, brilliant film that still somehow makes me feel really “anxious”, even though the threat of nuclear war is no longer as frightening as it was in 1988. Check it out if you’ve never seen it before. But the evening was not over yet….

IMG_0225

After MIRACLE MILE, we received a special “bonus” surprise for the night! Joe Dante showed us all the footage he had shot for MANT, the movie within a movie, that’s featured in MATINEE. It was hilarious stuff and reminded me of all the atomic-mutant-monster movies that were featured in THE MOVIE ORGY. It’s clear that Dante’s influences are always a big part of his style as a filmmaker. He said that when the studio saw the 25 minutes of MANT they suggested doing a feature length version, but Dante felt the parody would only go so far. He maybe right, but I think it would have been awesome if he had!

Joe+D+and+Gremlin.0

I think it’s interesting the way Joe Dante is often regarded as a “horror” film director, when he’s actually one of the most original “satirists” working in film today. With the exceptions of PIRANHA and THE HOWLING (which are both filled with lots of humorous “inside” jokes) most all of Dante’s films are comedies with a great deal of social commentary. The last night of the festival I attended was a double bill of two scorching 70’s satires, COLD TURKEY and THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST. I’d never seen them before and both films were equally funny and smart, just like the man who programmed them. I look forward to Dante’s upcoming return to horror with, THE HOLE 3-D. It’ll be nice to see him go back to his roots once again and make a genre film like only he can.

poster_hole-3d


I attended an orgy. THE MOVIE ORGY, that is!

August 11, 2009
New Bev presents Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy!

New Bev presents Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy!

In April of 2008, the New Beverly Cinema hosted a festival curated by one of my favorite all-time directors, Joe Dante. It was called DANTE’S INFERNO and one of the highlights was a screening of something suspiciously titled, THE MOVIE ORGY. It was one night only and free admission to the general public.

IMG_0219

Apparently, back in 1968 when Joe Dante and Jon Davison were in college, they compiled a huge collection of old film footage and edited it all together in a very clever and self referential way. The result was called THE MOVIE ORGY or 2001: A SPLICE ODYSSEY. It originally ran almost 7 hours long and toured college campuses around the country. The idea was that “baby boomers” could walk in and experience a steady wave of nostalgia wash over them as they view a seemingly random selection of 50’s and early 60’s pop culture. They were invited to have fun and to feel free to leave and come back at their leisure. How sixties, man!

On that night back in April ’08, the full house in attendance was treated to an edited down version that ran about 4 hours and 20 minutes long. It was shown on digital video, because the original film was in such old condition, the possibility of it burning up in the projector was high. When Joe Dante introduced the show he told the audience, “Feel free to leave whenever you’d like. You can go out and get a pizza.This thing was designed to walk out on.” Easier said then done, because for those of us lucky enough to see it that night, it instantly makes the list of ALL TIME COOLEST CINEMATIC EXPERIENCES EVER! It was something that my friends and I have talked about and quoted over and over again. That legendary screening has been whispered about in nerd circles everywhere. Geeks all over L.A. demanding an encore performance and on Saturday, August 8th 2009 they were given a second shot!

Joe Dante is back at the New Beverly with THE RETURN OF DANTE’S INFERNO from August 5th to the 13th. He’s curated another amazing program of films and I will be reporting on some of those later, but the highlight of course was another showing of the orgy. And this time we got an extra 45 minutes of stuff to watch. It was actually called in the title cards, SON OF THE MOVIE ORGY STRIKES AGAIN! Once again my friends all met up at the New Bev for 5 hours of fun.

First off, to make things even more awesome, the New Bev has NEW SEATS and they are a welcome addition to anyone who patrons there frequently. Sitting through a long event like this one was made much easier and I’m grateful for that. I grabbed a pizza and my brand spankin’ new seat and bunkered down for the onslaught of imagery.

How do I explain THE MOVIE ORGY? I guess, for me it’s an amazingly entertaining compilation of footage I’ve never seen before. Everything shown is from before I was born and yet I still get the sixties cynical humor that’s being juxtaposed here. The 5 hours virtually flew by and made me wish for more when it was over. What does it contain, you ask? Here’s a sample of some of my favorite things…

Don't crowd this guy!

Don't crowd this guy!

Andy Devine sings a chilling rendition of "Jesus loves me" to an audience of children...

Andy Devine sings a chilling rendition of "Jesus loves me" to an audience of children...

...while a cat plays the piano...

...while a "drugged" cat plays the piano...

...and a hamster plays the drum.

...and a hamster plays the drum.

A giant bird attacking the shit out of Washington D.C.

A giant bird attacking the shit out of Washington D.C.

Some of the “favorite” things in THE MOVIE ORGY include clips from a juvenile delinquent/road racer movie called, SPEED CRAZY! We meet a guy named Nick Barrow who likes to drive his car fast, love his ladies hard, and he doesn’t want anyone crowding him. He hates it! His intro monologue is SO AMAZING we instantly want to see more of him. He reappears throughout the course of the show and really creates a hilarious arc that truly builds a momentum.

I also love this segment from THE ANDY DEVINE SHOW, where the pedophile vibe-inducing Devine sings a rendition of JESUS LOVES ME to an audience full of children. It did an incredible job of creeping me out while making me howl with laughter simultaneously. In addition to Andy’s singing we watch a seemingly “drugged” looking cat play a piano and a hamster who appears to be “glued” to a small drum. It’s an incredible, “What the fuck?!” moment.

The Andy Divine Show for children. Good Christ!

The Andy Divine Show for children. Good Christ!

Other stuff includes TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE , ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, bizarre BUFFERIN commercials “for sensitive people”, weird cigarette commercials (one featuring a surgeon performing an operation), EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, ELVIS singing YOU AIN’T NOTHING BUT A HOUND DOG to an actual hound dog, a racist LONE RANGER segment, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO trying to sell hats, “monster movies” featuring giant GILA MONSTERS, TARANTULAS, and VULTURES attacking things, GROUCHO MARX interviewing a muscle head, THE ANIMALS performing “House of the Rising Sun”, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and much more.

It was once again, an amazing event for all in attendance and something no one will forget anytime soon. Coming up in future posts, I will be reporting on screenings of Dante’s THE ‘BURBS, MATINEE, and a “special preview print” of GREMLINS with six minutes of additional footage never seen before! Until then, DON’T CROWD ME!!!

My hero, Nick Barrow!

My hero, Nick Barrow!

The Wizards of OZploitation!

August 9, 2009

Print

What is Ozploitation you ask? Exploitation films featuring Dorothy, Toto, and the Tin man? No, although that sounds very interesting. I’m talking about that golden era in the 70’s and 80’s when the Australian government funded the explosion of grindhouse films that came out of the land down under and distributed them across cinemas and drive-ins throughout the U.S. Their films featured explicit sex, gruesome violence, crazy stunt-action and the most dangerous high octane chases ever filmed. There is a new documentary out, NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION, that chronicles this magical time and the maniacs responsible for it all.

Director Mark Hartley covers all the bases. From naughty sex romps like STORK and THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY McKENZIE. Splatter and slasher flicks like PATRICK, HARLEQUIN, ROADGAMES, HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS and FAIR GAME. Kung fu, action, and car crash epics like THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, DEAD END DRIVE IN, TURKEY SHOOT and of course MAD MAX. It even covers a crazy little sub genre called “stuntploitation” that includes the films THE STUNTMEN, DEATH CHEATERS, and the incredible STUNT ROCK (see my separate review).

300px-Turkeyshoot

A70-6115.txt

There are interviews with many filmmakers and actors including GEORGE MILLER, BRIAN TRENCHARD-SMITH, QUENTIN TARANTINO, JAMIE LEE CURTIS, STACY KEACH, GEORGE LAZENBY, RUSSELL MULCAHY and the most gonzo human being who’s ever lived, THE KING OF ALL STUNT MEN, the incredible GRANT PAGE. He is responsible for pulling off the most insane stunts ever filmed and not only is this lunatic still very much alive, but the crazy fucker is still setting himself on fire. But that seems to be the pervasive balls-to-the-wall attitude of most of the crazy men and women responsible for these wild films. They were all fearless and it really shows in their work. The best stories in the documentary are about how insanely dangerous it all was. Like how director Brian Trenchard-Smith convinced actor George Lazenby to actually be set on fire in a scene, by setting himself on fire first. Lazenby obliged, figuring if the director’s crazy enough to do it, why not? Let’s see Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg do that!

One of the films discussed in detail was a 1984 JAWS rip off called RAZORBACK.

Razorback_movie

It played as a midnight show at the Nuart theatre here in L.A., following their run of NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. It’s a movie about a huge wild boar that terrorizes a community in the outback and stars Gregory Harrison (TRAPPER JOHN M.D.) What should be a cheesy little monster movie is elevated to an art house aesthetic by DURAN DURAN music video vet, RUSSELL MULCAHY. It was the most stylish looking film I’ve ever seen about a giant mutant pig.

I have not seen most of the movies showcased in this documentary, but I’m gonna check out as many of them that I can find. On August 18th, the Grindhouse Film Festival is showing a double bill of PATRICK and HARLEQUIN at the New Beverly Cinema in L.A. and I’ll be there for sure. The DVD for the documentary is coming out on October 6th and definitely worth a look. G’ day mate!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

August 6, 2009

John Hughes 01

This sucks! This one is hard for me. This guy was such a big part of my childhood. I know, he was a big part of every Gen-Xers childhood. But not everyone is from Chicago. You see, I’m from Chicago. I was born and raised there. So was John Hughes. He never stopped being from there. He didn’t move to Hollywood. He stayed there. In Shermer, Illinois. That’s where we’re from. That’s where he lived. That’s where all those movies were shot. Not Shermer, because that’s a fictional place. You see, the northern suburbs of Chicago are Shermer. The towns of Winnetka, Northbrook, Niles, Glencoe, Highland Park, Evanston, Skokie, and my hometown of Park Ridge, were where he made those films. Why is this such a big deal to me, you may ask? Because the suburbs of Chicago were not Hollywood. We weren’t even the Valley. We weren’t used to this. Not before, nor since had so many films been shot in these locations. It was an amazing time period to grow up in as a teenager. I can’t even begin to describe how cool it felt to have where you are from, represented so beautifully on film.

51hoNW5ynpL._SS500_

51318EN5VML._SS500_

51C3C9AW28L._SS500_

SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, WEIRD SCIENCE, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, UNCLE BUCK, PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES, and HOME ALONE are films I return to time again, not just because they’re great, but because I want to see what my home used to look like. It’s incredibly nostalgic for me in a way I never could have imagined back then. I love John Hughes for this and I will miss him greatly. They truly don’t make films like his anymore and the era of Shermer, Illinois has faded away. Thankfully, he gave us so many wonderful films to remember him by.

Thirst ain’t no effin’ Twilight!

August 6, 2009

thirst (original)

There have been a great many vampire films of late, dealing with a similar theme. That of the remorseful blood sucker who tragically attempts to love a mortal and must deal with the inevitable consequences of such a union. It’s been there since the original DRACULA and has continued with Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, THE LOST BOYS, NEAR DARK, 2008’s brilliant LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, HBO’s TRUE BLOOD, and of course TWILIGHT. These films point out that it really sucks (OH!) being a vampire and immortality is a lonely-ass gig unless you have an attractive companion to pass the nights with. I can dig it.

Chan-wook Park’s brilliant new vampire film THIRST takes this theme into an even darker and more tragic place than I’ve ever seen. It can almost be viewed as the anti-TWILIGHT in how it shows the horrifying reverse side of vampire love. No flying over trees or going to the prom in this one. Park has given us a film that deals with two people addicted to each other for different reasons and provides great insight into the nature of human relationships.

Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) is a catholic priest who delivers last rites to the dying in a South Korean hospital. He is deeply troubled by his inability to save the lives of the poor souls he prays for. So much in fact, that he decides to volunteer for a possibly fatal experiment to find a cure to a rare blood disease. He is injected with a strain of the deadly virus and when his body begins to shut down from it, he’s given a transfusion of blood from an anonymous donor. Well, the donor appears to have been a vampire, because the priest dies and then miraculously comes back to life moments later. As the only volunteer to have survived the experiment he returns to the hospital as a “messiah” of sorts to the sick, who believe he can cure them by praying for them. But soon the priest realizes he’s not quite the same as before. He can’t eat, his skin burns from sunlight, and he’s starting to crave human blood. Desperate not to harm anyone, Sang quenches his thirst by syphoning a pint or two from comatose patients and an open wrist from his blind father. He seems to have it under control until he meets Tae-joo (Ok-vin Kim), who is unhappily married to a childhood friend of his and forced to live with her abusive Mother-in-law. Perhaps it’s the vamp blood coursing through him, but he begins to crave her in a way that causes him even more anguish and soon his priestly vows are broken. They begin a sexual affair and before long Tae-joo discovers Sang’s secret. The demands the relationship makes after this take a harsh toll on Sang as it all starts to dissolve into something horribly evil.

Chan-wook Park is a master visual stylist with an incredible ability to take a genre and really tear it apart from the inside out. In the same way OLDBOY is not your typical “revenge” tale, THIRST would have been a provocative story of a catholic priest’s struggle with his own sexual identity without the vampire element. With it, the story becomes a dark, violent tale of a man trying to do what’s right but inevitably causing far more damage than good. It’s an erotic, brutal, occasionally humorous, and ultimately tragic film, with one of the most beautiful endings I’ve seen in awhile. This material is very familiar, but THIRST is a film that you will not be able to predict at all. It moves on it’s own momentum and you’ll never see where it’s going until you get there. I highly recommend it.