Posts Tagged ‘eli roth’

THE LAST EXORCISM & CENTURION @ L.A. Film Festival 2010

July 9, 2010

I’ve been a very busy nerd lately, but I have finally found time to catch up on my blog about all I’ve been doing and seeing around town. I attended two screenings at the recent L.A Film Festival that were pretty cool and they both were held at L.A.’s famous Ford Amphitheatre, which is a large outdoor venue that normally programs live stage performances and music. It was really awesome watching two movies there on a huge screen with amazing sound,  right out under the stars in the cool California air. It felt like seeing a drive-in movie without the car. The first screening I saw was the ELI ROTH produced, THE LAST EXORCISM (previously known as COTTON).

ELI ROTH, director DANIEL STAMM and the entire cast came out to introduce the film, as it was the first time it had ever been shown in front of an audience, making it the world premiere! Everyone was very excited and ELI ROTH did all the talking, getting the audience pumped up and reminding us that the movie doesn’t come out till August 27th, so if we like it, we should tell everyone, but if we hate it, we should shut the fuck up. It was funny.

I liked THE LAST EXORCISM. It’s another one of those hand-held “documented” horror films in the style of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, [REC], CLOVERFIELD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc., etc. This one takes on THE EXORCIST, with a scenario about a minister who tries to expose the exorcism racket as a hustle, by bringing a documentary crew to a remote farmhouse so that they can film him perform his “act” on a supposedly possessed young girl. But, wouldn’t you know it, she is actually possessed and it’s by the mother-fucking DEVIL himself!

The cast is made up entirely of unknown actors that really make the film work with some very well crafted performances (most especially the two leads, who totally knock it out of the park). PATRICK FABIAN does a phenomenal job of playing a well intending preacher who ends up way over his head and ASHLEY BELL steals the show with her role of the demon-possessed girl. She’s cute as a button one minute and ready to tear your heart out the next!

There are some really cool creep outs too, including a scene where ASHLEY BELL bends almost completely backwards while standing up straight. It looks insane and I’m told it’s actually HER doing it! The ending is pretty crazy too, where we witness a satanic ritual that’s like an amped up version of THE WICKERMAN mixed with ROSEMARY’S BABY! It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it was a decent little entry into PG-13 horror.

OUCH!

The second screening I saw was NEIL (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT, DOOMSDAY) MARSHALL’S latest genre-bending epic, CENTURION. MARSHALL himself came out to introduce the film to the enormous crowd in the amphitheatre that night and everyone went nuts. I’ve been a HUGE fan of his since DOG SOLDIERS and I’ve been looking forward to his latest foray into the “sword & biceps” genre for awhile now!

CENTURION is about a bloody war in 117 A.D. between the legendary Ninth Legion (the Roman army’s greatest warriors) and the savage and barbarous Pict Clan (whom are sworn to protect their lands at all costs from any invader). When the Ninth Legion faces an ambush, which results in the loss of most of its soldiers and the capture of their beloved general, the survivors must fight their way back from behind enemy lines!

MICHAEL (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) FASSBENDER is great as one of the Romans trying to “bop” his way back home to Rome and OLGA KURYLENKO is one hot, dangerous warrior chick trying to kill him. You could make a drinking game out of how many times she shoots a Roman soldier in the back with an arrow.

The movie is beautifully shot in locations around the european wilderness and it just looks absolutely fucking gorgeous. Which is great, because the cinematography is constantly being splattered with geysers of blood and guts. Lots of beheadings, amputated limbs, eye gouges, crushed heads, stabbings and guttings to behold for all those gore-hounds out there.

I loved it! Great action and very good acting complement this muscular thriller, which features all of NEIL MARSHALL’S staples: gory violence, macho dialogue, tough female characters, and another back-against-the-wall plotline straight out of the JOHN CARPENTER/WALTER HILL playbook. In a way, CENTURION is like a medieval THE WARRIORS, mixed with SOUTHERN COMFORT, DELIVERANCE and ALIENS. It was cool.

That’s all to report on now, but this is gonna be a very exciting month and I’ll be reporting soon on some very awesome stuff (including my upcoming return to the SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON)! Nerd out!

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Holiday slasher triple-feature @ The Cinefamily: Part 1

October 25, 2009

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Last Thursday at the Cinefamily, there was an amazing triple feature of three classic “holiday” theme slashers from the 80’s, as part of their slasher retrospective this month. A “holiday” slasher is one of many sub-genres, that include the “summer camp” slasher and the “campus” slasher, to name a few. Since HALLOWEEN took the best holiday, all subsequent slashers had to take whatever was left on the calendar. I’m still waiting for an Easter slasher movie.

One of the best of the “holiday” slashers was the original MY BLOODY VALENTINE from 1981. It is also one of my favorite “non-franchise” slashers and I’ve seen it many times over since its theatrical release, but it has not had a revival screening to speak of at all, as far as I know of. When the Cinefamily announced that they not only found a 35mm print of it, but that it was an UNCUT print, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Add director GEORGE MIHALKA for an in person Q and A and you got yourselves one happy slasher movie fan!

Then a few hours before the screening I received a panicked call from my friend Gariana Abeyta of THE POPCORN MAFIA. She was serving as projectionist for the evening at the Cinefamily and she needed help figuring out the order of the reels for the film because the print they got wasn’t numbered. It just had these bizarre symbols marking each reel. She had never seen MY BLOODY VALENTINE before and since I’ve seen it almost too many times, I hightailed it to the theatre to lend my expertise in the matter. Actually, they had it pretty well under control by the time I got there, but I did provide a ruling on what the final reel was when I received a text while en route to the theatre that read, “WHEN IN THE MOVIE DOES THE FAT GUY WITH GLASSES GET SHOT IN THE HEAD WITH A NAIL?”

When I arrived, I discovered that the infamous UNCUT version was not what they had received. Although the collector they got it from insisted that there was one bit of cut gore that had been spliced into it from the workprint, there was no way of telling what kind of Frankenstein of a print they had until we all watched it together in it’s entirety. The print itself still had a lot of color, but was pretty scratchy and grinded out. It took major projection skills to pull off as seamless a presentation as Gariana did that night. But more on all that later.

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“It happened once. It happened twice. Cancel the dance, or it will happen thrice!” – Harry Warden

The original MY BLOODY VALENTINE is a great fucking movie that is a joy to see in a theatre with an audience of avid horror fans. It is one of the many slasher films that were released in the year of 1981 and anyone growing up during that golden age can remember them coming out almost week after week. THE BURNING, FINAL EXAM, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, HELL NIGHT, THE PROWLER, MADMAN, GRADUATION DAY, HALLOWEEN II, THE FUNHOUSE, STUDENT BODIES and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME are a few of the great slashers that came out that same year, but MY BLOODY VALENTINE was the best of them all.

It’s the most blue collar slasher film ever made. Every character looks like they grew up in a small steel town. Bad clothes, worse haircuts and the cast consists of normal looking people, unlike the 3-D remake where everybody looked like they were out of the new BEVERLY HILLS 90210. It even has a fat guy who everybody turns to for strength and guidance.

The film is about a particularly nasty love triangle that erupts between three old friends in a mining town called Valentine Bluffs. T.J. has returned home to find his best buddy Axle has hooked up with his old girlfriend Sarah. T.J. is the son of the owner of the mine where he and Axle both work.

To compound the tension, it’s Valentine’s Day and it looks like old Harry Warden has escaped from the booby hatch, where he was sent after massacring a whole bunch of folks at the last Valentine’s Day dance held in the town. He went nuts after being the sole survivor of a mine cave-in and had to resort to cannibalism to stay alive. Christ on a cracker!

Looks like he’s back now, still donning his miner uniform and gasmask, and still killing people with his trusty pickaxe. But when the Sheriff shuts down the first Valentine dance in years, those crazy kids throw one of their own at the mine. Bad idea as they are “picked” off one by one.

Harry Warden has a bone to "pick" with you! Alright, I'll stop.

Harry Warden has a bone to "pick" with you! Alright, I'll stop.

That's one fucked up Valentine!

That's one fucked up Valentine!

Doing laundry at the launderette already sucks. Jesus Harry!

Doing laundry at the launderette already sucks. Jesus Harry!

"No really, I don't want a hot dog!"

"No really, I don't want a hot dog!"

"MY EYE!"

"MY EYE!"

MY BLOODY VALENTINE is a very grimy and mean slasher film that is genuinely entertaining and provides a lot of great scares, as well as the creepiest fucking ending ever. Despite a couple drawbacks, that include a cast of inexperienced actors and a hatchet job by the MPAA on all the gore scenes, the film succeeds on all levels.

One thing I’ve always noticed about it, is that the film reminds me a lot of MICHAEL CIMINO’S classic Vietnam drama, THE DEER HUNTER. The mining town location and the love triangle are very aesthetically similar to each other. It’s as if they took the ROBERT DENIRO, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, and MERRYL STREEP relationship and substituted a masked killer for ‘Nam. I’ve had in depth conversations with other slasher fanatics, where I’ve explained this theory and have been scoffed at rudely. I’ll get back to this.

The cut gore scenes have become a source of legend among horror fans for many years. Back in 1981 the MPAA made an example of it and forced them to trim almost everything bloody out. Just recently a special edition DVD was released with most of the violence reinstated. That’s why the idea of showing a 35mm print of the uncut version was so amazing. Well the print we saw that night at the Cinefamily was the trimmed theatrical version, except for one of the best moments from the uncut workprint! It had been spliced in and involved something particularly crazy that happens right at the already freakish finale. I won’t ruin the surprise if you’ve never seen it before, but let’s just say it gives a new meaning to the term “coyote arm”.

After the film, Hadrian Belove showed a montage he compiled of the edited gore from the movie and the crowd loved it. Then, Brian Collins from HORROR MOVIE A DAY and BLOODY DISGUSTING introduced director GEORGE MIHALAKA who came up and did a great Q and A.

Brian Collins interviews MY BLOODY VALENTINE director, GEORGE MIHALKA.

Brian Collins interviews MY BLOODY VALENTINE director, GEORGE MIHALKA.

He talked about how they set out to make one of the craziest, funniest and most violent slasher films ever made. It was shot quick and cheap up in Canada with an all Canadian cast and crew and picked up for distribution by Paramount. It was a rush to get the film done, because if they didn’t make the February 14th release date, no money.

He said the reason the MPAA decided to take all the gore out was a direct result of the John Lennon assassination and a sweeping backlash against violence in movies. MY BLOODY VALENTINE had the bad luck of being the scapegoat of the week.

He also said that there was even more violence than the stuff from the uncut version, that was originally in the first cut. One scene that has never been in any release, involved a couple having sex that are impaled together with a large drill blade and the guy vomits blood into the girls mouth. It was so gory the MPAA said “We don’t even want to discuss it, just get rid of it.”

It was shot in a real mine shaft and they used a special grade of film stock that was used by the great cinematographer VILMOS ZSIGMOND on of all films, THE DEER HUNTER. This prompted me to ask the question to the only man who could prove my theory, the director. I asked if THE DEER HUNTER was any inspiration for his film at all, for which he replied “We totally ripped it off!”.  I nailed that shit!

GEORGE MIHALKA confirms my MY BLOODY VALENTINE/THE DEER HUNTER theory.

GEORGE MIHALKA confirms my MY BLOODY VALENTINE/THE DEER HUNTER theory.

In attendance that night was director ELI ROTH, who was sporting a THANKSGIVING t-shirt. Because it was a holiday slasher night, I had worn my THANKSGIVING t-shirt to the event as well. In what could have been an embarrassing moment, we both bumped into each other and when he noticed I was wearing the shirt for his hilarious 80’s slasher spoof trailer, he got really excited. “Dude, awesome shirt! Wasn’t my trailer totally MY BLOODY VALENTINE?” he asked me. I told him that he nailed the tone and look of it perfectly and that I could not wait for the THANKSGIVING feature film he plans on making.

ELI ROTH and I sport our THANKSGIVING t-shirts.

ELI ROTH and I sport our THANKSGIVING t-shirts.

During the Q and A, ELI ROTH told GEORGE MIHALKA that the amazing end credits song, THE BALLAD OF HARRY WARDEN by PAUL ZAZA is one of he and QUENTIN TARANTINO’S favorite songs and that TARANTINO was so obsessed with it, he played it constantly while they were filming INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. He added that he and QT mentioned the song to horror filmmaker ALEXANDER AJA while they were all hanging out together and he too was a huge fan. They all started singing the song together and I leave you with the lyrics of THE BALLAD OF HARRY WARDEN. I will post Part 2 of my coverage of this triple feature soon and discuss APRIL FOOL’S DAY and the amazing yuletide slasher, DON’T OPEN ‘TILL CHRISTMAS. For now, gather the kids by the fire and sing along…

Once upon a time, on a sad Valentine,

in a place known as Henniger Mine.

A legend began, every woman and man,

would always remember the time.

And those who remain, were never the same,
you could see, the fear in their eyes.
Once every year, as the fourteenth draws near,
there’s a hush all over the town.

For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day,
is a curse, that’ll live on and on.
And no will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror from long time ago.

Twenty years came and went, and everyone spent,
the fourteenth, in quiet regret.
And those still alive, know the secret survives,
in the darkness, that looms in the night.

For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day,
is a curse, that’ll live on and on.
And no one will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror, from long time ago.

In this little town, when the fourteenth comes ’round,
there’s a silence, and fear in the air.
Remember the morn, that the legend was born,
all the shock, and the horror was there.

For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day,
is a curse, that’ll live on and on.
And no one will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror, from long time ago.

And no one will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror, from long time ago.

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

August 24, 2009

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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.

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