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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
6WH: Week 6.5 - Speed Round and Halloween
It's hard to believe that six weeks have passed and the big day has arrived, but here we are. As per usual, I have not actually written up every movie I saw during this festive Halloween season. Sometimes a movie just doesn't fit with a given week's theme, or perhaps I only caught a portion of it on television, and sometimes I just don't have much to say about a movie. So every year, I close out the marathon with a quick roundup of everything I saw that hasn't already been covered. Stay frosty everyone, here we go:
- Sisters - An early Brian De Palma thriller where he, of course, apes Hitchcock... but to good effect. Lots of interesting twists and turns, and a couple of great split camera sequences too. Totally worth watching, actually one of the better things I saw during the marathon. ***
- The Hunger - Tony Scott's first film, it's an overly artsy vampire flick that features a lot of boring long takes and you never really know what's going on and you don't really care anyway and hmmm, lesbian vampire sequence? Visually impressive, with feints towards some interesting concepts, but not much to really sink your teeth into. **
- Idle Hands - Stoner comedy meets horror, and the results are actually a lot of fun, though I think your mileage may vary depending on how much you're into this sort of thing. Which, for some reason, I am. This may have been one of the most enjoyable movies of the marathon. ***
- The Devil's Backbone - This is sorta like Guillermo del Toro's dry run for Pan's Labyrinth. A ghost story set in a creepy school during the Spanish civil war, this one is very creepy, with some great spook sequences, though it doesn't quite put you through the emotional ringer like Pan's Labyrinth (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).
- Assault on Precinct 13 - John Carpenter's first film about the last night a police station is open. Staffed with a skeleton crew, they take in a crazy dude who, it turns out, has been marked by a local... gang? It kinda plays out like a zombie film or a siege film. Some really disturbing stuff (including a brutal child murder), but an ultimately effective and tense affair. I kinda enjoyed the relationship between Napoleon (one of the prisoners) and Ethan (the one cop left at the station) and the whole thing works well enough. I haven't seen the 2005 remake, but this original film strikes me as something that could certainly be improved upon, even if I enjoyed it quite a bit. ***
- Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 - This movie is a bit of an abomination. It's not strictly a found footage movie, but it makes overtures in that direction by having the characters film themselves and watch the tapes later when they're trying to figure out what happened during a particularly raucous night in the woods. Some interesting ideas at the beginning here... It's a movie that acknowledges the existence of the first movie - very meta. But things devolve into silliness and boring shenanigans. A potentially decent twist at the end, but ultimately worthless unless you're a bad movie aficionado. Or Burn Notice fans! *
- Slither - I forgot just how fun and gross and gory and entertaining this movie was. Another take on the pod people, but with some disgusting alien physiology, and lots of other fun stuff. Plus, captain Malcolm Reynolds! James Gunn needs to make more of these (apparently he's been tapped to make the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which could be good I guess, but I'd rather he have the freedom to make something wacky like this or Super again). ***
- Creature from the Black Lagoon - I thought I had seen this before, but it must have been one of the sequels or something because I didn't remember any of this. It's another one of them Universal monster movie classics, but I don't think it has fared quite as well as the others. It was entertaining enough and worth watching, but not one of my favorites. **1/2
- 28 Days Later... - I forgot how effective the first half of this movie is, and was wondering why this movie doesn't loom larger in my mind's eye... and then I got to that final third of the movie, which just drops off a cliff at some point. It's still weel made and effective enough I guess, but to me the emotional center of the film (spoiler!) is when Brendan Gleeson gets turned. It's just so heartbreaking, and the film never really recovers from that. Also, the motivation of the military guys is rather silly. *** (maybe less, but I love that first 2/3 of the movie)
- The Shining - A classic, one of my favorites. I guess it's a little slow moving, but I love it anyway. There's just something so discordant, so unsettling about the movie that really gets under my skin. Also worth checking out, Filmspotting's sacred cow review... ***1/2
- Ghostbusters - Yep, it's kinda an annual tradition at this point, and this is a true comedy classic. ****
- Ghostbusters II - And this was quite a letdown from the perfection of the first one. Vigo is actually a pretty nice villain, but otherwise, this movie just devolves into ridiculousness. Gah, they drive the Statue of Liberty with a fricken Nintendo controller. **
- Paranormal Activity 4 - I almost forgot to include this, which I think says something about the movie, which is fine I guess, but the series is really starting to show some fatigue at this point. The present day setting and fancy tech gizmos don't really add too much to the proceedings (though I guess the Xbox Kinect thing was used well enough) and at this point, I'm happy enough with the series, but for the first time, I'm not really looking forward to more movies. But who knows, maybe they'll surprise me. I'm kinda shocked it's managed to last this long. Worth watching, but probably the worst in the series so far. **1/2
- Phantasm - Another annual tradition, not much else to say about it, but check out Radio Free Echo Rift's most recent podcast for a fun discussion of what makes this movie tick.
- Halloween - "You know, it's Halloween... I guess everyone's entitled to one good scare, eh?"
So there you go. Another year, another crapton of horror movies. By my count, I watched 34 movies and 20 television episodes (I suppose I should have mentioned that I watched 8 Treehouses of Horrorses, but methinks I'll save that recap for next year sometime). This is actually somewhat less than last year, though I did have a film festival somewhere in there, which is tough to compete with. As usual, I'm significantly outpaced by the likes of Kernunrex
, who averages something like 2-3 movies/shows a day. Not that it's a contest. It's been a great season, and don't you worry, next year's marathon will be on us soon enough. Have a great Halloween everyone!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
6WH: Week 6 - No Discernible Theme Week
Coming down the homestretch! Though we're battening down the hatches in preparation for the Frankenstorm (pretty much directly in the path over here), we nevertheless took in some horror films this weekend, because we're dedicated like that here at Kaedrin. Alas, no real theme this week, though that's a sorta yearly tradition
of its own. Let's see how we did:
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (trailer)
- This is gonna hurt... a lot. (Robot Chicken)
- Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (trailer)
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - So, what to do when confronted with a chainsaw wielding maniac? Dennis Hopper knows the score. In this movie, he fights chainsaws with more chainsaws.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This sequel is quite the odd duck. Hopper plays a former Texas Marshall named Lefty who has been hot on the trail of the cannibals from the first film... for a dozen years. So yeah, not very good at his job, but we're rooting for him anyways. It seems that said cannibal family has moved on, settling in the Dallas area and winning chile cookoff contests. Their secret? It's all in the meat. They're also quite the interior decorators. Anyway, when a DJ accidentally records the call of a victim, things get hairy for her. Or something. Plot isn't exactly the strongpoint of this movie. Inbred hicks with metal plates in their head? Hot chainsaw on chainsaw action? Yes. Storytelling? Not so much. That being said, it's an enjoyable enough film. It's a little goofy, but the series hadn't yet completely devolved into outright parody of itself (if memory serves, that distinction is held by the third installment). Tobe Hooper is an effective craftsman, and there's some creepy visuals here, though Leatherface is the sort of guy that's creepier the less you know about him... and we get a little too much of a look at him in this movie. Things go on perhaps a bit too long, but again, this is a mostly fun experience. **1/2
- Jack Chop (short)
- Howling III: The Marsupials (trailer)
- Audition (trailer)
- The Loved Ones - I don't know how I heard of this movie, but here it is, piping hot off the Netflix queue. It's a sorta Aussie torture porn flick, though not quite as extreme as other entries in the sub-genre. On the other hand, it does feature a creepy father/daughter kidnapping (what can I say, dude loves his daughter) and a frontal lobotomy administered via a power drill.
For his part, our intrepid hero does pretty well for himself despite said lobotomy. The main thread here is pretty effective and visually interesting, though I don't know that there's really enough there to sustain the entire movie. As it is, the thing is padded out by our hero's buddy, who is taking a hot goth chick to the school dance. As near as I can tell, there's no real purpose to that thread in the movie at all, except maybe to pad out the length a bit. It's an interesting movie, and worth watching for fans of torture porn. **1/2
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror I: Bad Dream House
- The Raven, read by Vincent Price
- Vincent Price Wine Cooler Commercial
- House on Haunted Hill - Nothing like a little Vincent Price to liven up the Halloween season. In this movie, he plays a millionaire who invites 5 other people to spend the night in a haunted house, paying $10,000 to each person who survives the night. Clearly a movie that owes a lot to The Cat and The Canary, with multiple shots seemingly lifted right out of that earlier film. For a movie made in the 1950s, there's actually quite a bit of spooky imagery, and the film effectively establishes a lot of tension during the early proceedings. As things proceed, we find out that Price and his wife don't exactly have the best of relationships, and are plotting to kill one another and blame it on the other guests. This is all in good fun, though the tension mostly dissipates once you realize what's going on. Still, the twists and turns in the final act are entertaining and well done, and at 75 minutes long, the movie certainly doesn't overstay its welcome. ***
I didn't realize it until now, but if I had been more careful about the third movie selection, I could have done a power-tool murder weapon theme or somesuch (I'd think of a better name, but since I can't actually use that theme... what was I talking about again?) Anyways, it's been a fun six weeks. The big day is coming up quickly, and if my home hasn't been completely devastated by the Frankenstorm, I'll post the annual Speed Round - quick takes on all the other movies I watched this season, but which didn't quite make it to their own post. See you (hopefully) on Wednesday!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The Six Weeks of Halloween horror marathon continues with this BBC series written by Steven Moffat, who would go on to produce the most excellent Sherlock
series as well as take on the show running responsibilities for the most recent seasons of Doctor Who
. Like Sherlock
is a modern-day retelling of a famous Victorian-era story, in this case Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
As with a lot of other British shows, this one is a simple, 6 episode season that has had no real follow-ups (though I suppose Moffat left things open enough in the end to continue the story if needed). Once again, this is a bit of a modernization of the story, so Moffat is able to play with the conventions established in Stevenson's original novel, even to the point of self-awareness by referencing Stevenson's novel.
The show starts a little on the slow side as it establishes the setting and situation our main protagonist is in. Many mysteries and conspiracies are cycled through, and our main character has quite the interesting arc, making you wonder who is the real villain of the story. For the most part, this plays out in a grand tradition of fun, as you learn more and more about Jekyll and Hyde, their origins, and how they impact those around them. I don't want to give much away, but there are plenty of red herrings and mysteries that are eventually resolved in a somewhat satisfactory manner.
The production is generally well orchestrated, with solid visuals and music, if perhaps not quite as polished as a usual TV production would be. It shares a lot in common with Sherlock
, though it clearly retains an identity of its own.
The crucial part of Dr. Jekyll (and his modern incarnation as Dr. Jackman) and Mr. Hyde is played by actor James Nesbitt, who certainly sinks his teeth into the part. He may even delight a little too much in the part, which becomes a bit showy. Of course, it's quite a juicy character, a man with two distinct and opposite personalities, so there's not much to complain about there, and again, he does quite a good job keeping up with the production.
As horror, it's not really gory or scary, per say, but it certainly touches on such sub-genres and establishes a tension all its own. I found the beginning to be a bit on the slow side, but it became more involving as things went on, and there were certainly of twists and turns ans the series progressed, each episode ending on a minor cliffhanger, but proceeding anyway. I wouldn't call this a masterpiece or anything, but I had a fun enough time giving it a gander during the Six Weeks of Halloween...
Sunday, October 21, 2012
6WH: Week 5 - Italian Horror
One thing I've noticed has been missing from this year's Six Weeks of Halloween festivities is, well, craziness. Don't get me wrong, I've watched some weird stuff this year, but let's just say the batshit insane quotient has been lacking. This sounds like a job for Italians! They may not make any sense, but that's what being batshit insane is all about. Things kicked off well this weekend, though they gradually got less and less wacky as time went on. Ah well, there's always next week.
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VIII: Fly vs. Fly
- Kingdom of the Spiders (trailer)
- Black Sheep (trailer)
- Phenomena - This is the most bonkers movie I've seen in a long time. Let's count the ways in which this insanity manifests. Ok, so first we've got a girl (played by a very young Jennifer Connelly) who can commune with bugs attending a prestigious academy in Switzerland (they refer to this area as the Swiss Transylvania on multiple occasions), a pre-CSI entomologist who uses bugs to date murders, a razor-blade wielding chimpanzee that fights crime, and a scene where someone realizes they've taken a poison drug and induces themselves to vomit (a scene that goes on for about 5 minutes). And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It's a little slow to get going, but all of Dario Argento's quirks are on display here. I've already mentioned the school, which is a common trope for him, as is the obligatory girl falling through a window death scene. The music is interesting, though a little too tinged by the 80s to be effective, but Argento has always had a way of matching music with his long, slow tracking shots that works well. Again, it takes its time at the beginning, but the last half hour is quite the awesome bit of gloriously loopy stuff. And the whole thing ends with craziest scene of all. The crime fighting chimp, having vanquished its enemies with a razor blade he found in the garbage somewhere, throws away the weapon like he's fucking Gary Cooper in High Noon. Not really a "good" movie, but I kinda loved watching it. ***
- Honest Zombie (Robot Chicken)
- Slither (trailer)
- Scourge of The Undead (fake trailer)
- Demons - Ostensibly about a demon who opens a movie theater, invites in some victims, then starts converting the audience into more demons, it pretty much plays out like a typical zombie movie (Italians love zombies). You've got the monsters themselves, which are kinda mindless, and they spread by scratching (infecting) their victims. I'm a little unclear on who or what was orchestrating this movie thing, but like a lot of zombie movies, there's some blatant symbolism going on here. It's set in a movie theater that's showing a movie that's and at one point, a demon literally jumps through the canvas screen and starts attacking the audience.
Despite the metaphorical possibilities, there's pretty much no plot here at all. People go to movie theater, get attacked by demons, try to get out of movie theater. Lots of blood and gore, some interesting makeup effects (including a particularly disturbing demon teeth replacing human teeth thing, and the Italian favorite eye gouging gags), but that's pretty much it. Zombie fans would enjoy it, I found it a little on the meh side, though I was entertained enough. **
- Lotion in the Basket (Robot Chicken)
- Suspiria (trailer)
- Deep Red (trailer)
- Tenebre - Another Argento mystery thriller type thing, this one was distressingly normal, though as Giallo films go, it was fun enough. This one plays on that old saw of the killer tormenting an author by killing people in the manner described in the books. There is a sorta whodunnit element to the story, though like all Argento mysteries, you really can't figure it out based on the information you have. Still, there are a couple of nice twists and a bravura crane shot that marks the visual centerpiece of the film. This was engaging enough, but I find I don't have much to say about it. So there. **1/2
That wraps up Italian horror week. I think next week will end up being a "No Discernible Theme Week", depending on what Netflix can get me... Stay tuned, still plenty of horror and mayhem on the way.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
6WH: Halloween Season's Readings
Every year, the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon creeps up on me, and I completely forget to line up some good horror books to read. Well not this year! I've already detailed my first season's reading a couple weeks ago, the near-comprehensive Slasher Movie Book
, and in this post, I'll chronicle some other recent readings along those lines, as well as some genuine horror fiction. Let's get this party started:
- Red, White, and Blood by Christopher Farnsworth - The third book in a series chronicling the adventures of vampire secret agent Nathaniel Cade (I've already written about the first two novels. Highlight: a fictional account of "Bin Laden's assassination - by a vampire who stuffed a grenade in his mouth and then threw him over a cliff so he exploded in midair.") Interestingly, this novel seemingly works on a smaller scale than the previous entries, and that actually brings some much needed focus to the series. In the first book, you've got a shadowy conspiracy creating a small army of Frankenstein-like monsters. In the second book, another shadowy conspiracy (actually, multiple interlocking but distinct conspiracies) unleashes Reptilians on the world. In this third installment, we get the Boogeyman. Oh sure, that shadowy conspiracy angle is still there, but it's pushed way into the background (and it does help set up the next novel), but the general thrust of the story is more personal. Both the Boogeyman and Cade have done battle before (multiple times), with the basic tally of their encounters being a stalemate. And this time, the Boogeyman has switched up methodology! It's not going to win the Pulitzer or anything, but it was great Halloween reading, and the Boogeyman makes for a great pseudo-slasher villain (he even wears a chinsy rubber mask in the form of a big smiley face, which is so awesome I'm surprised there isn't a real slasher movie featuring that kinda mask). Fun stuff.
- Books of Blood Volume 2 by Clive Barker - I don't normally get all that "scared" by most horror books, and even this collection of short stories isn't that fear-inducing, but Barker's shear creativity and inventiveness can get unsettling at times. Nothing in this book stood out as much as some of Barker's other short stories (my favorites being "In the Hills, The Cities", "The Last Illusion", and "Twilight At The Towers"), but there's some freaking, weird stuff going on here, as I generally expected. Reading these short stories, I really wish Barker would get off his butt and finish The Scarlet Gospels (seriously dude, it's been well over a decade, almost two decades actually, since you started talking about that book!) and the third and final Book of the Art (the second book was published in 1994, for crying out loud). Fortunately, I have plenty of other Barker short stories to work through. I forgot how much I enjoyed them.
- Morning Glories, Vol. 1: For a Better Future and Morning Glories, Vol. 2: All Will Be Free by Nick Spencer (Author) and Joe Eisma (Illustrator) - These are comic book collections recommended to me by the Radio Free Echo Rift podcast a while back. It's an interesting series. Perhaps not strictly "horror" but there's enough creepily bizarre events that it sometimes reads like it. The story follows a few new students at an exclusive prep school as they realize that the school is more of a prison with nefarious purposes. I'm actually getting a very Lost TV show vibe from this, in that I'm not entirely sure they'll be able to resolve all the disparate threads and mysteries, but so far, they've done a pretty good job of it... and I have Vol. 3 sitting on my shelf right now...
- Crystal Lake Memories by Peter M. Bracke - If the breadth of film knowledge covered by the Slasher Movie Book came at the expense of depth, Crystal Lake Memories sacrifices breadth for depth. It's actually made a great one/two punch, though I should admit that I have not yet finished it (it's only 300 pages, but the pages are huge and the type is very small!) It basically chronicles the origins and production of the entire Friday the 13th series in exhaustive detail. Bracke seemingly interviewed everyone ever involved in the Friday the 13th movies, from the lowliest crew member or teen victim to the producers to the directors to other folks only tangentially related to the series (like Wes Craven). So far, it's actually been one of the most fascinating books about the film industry that I've ever read. Since Bracke spent a lot of time talking to producers, and since these movies emerged at a key time in the movie industry, when production and distribution were being revolutionized and streamlined, you actually get an intensive look at the business side of things and how studios drove the creation of franchises in the 80s, and so on. Again, I'm only about a third of the way through the book, but it's been a really great read so far. Plus, the book is filled with gorgeous full color images, including a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that I've never seen before.
And that's all for now! Stay tuned for some batshit insane Italian horror on Sunday.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
6WH: Week 4 - Now Playing
Alrighty then, enough with the obscure historical
horror. Out with the old, in with the new. This week, we look at some current horror flicks. Two are still in the theater, one just came out on Netflix Instant (it was apparently in theaters a month or two ago), and all are worth watching.
- Frankenstein (1931 trailer)
- Frankenstein's Fiancee (Robot Chicken)
- The Thing Goes Zombie (short)
- Frankenweenie - A surprising return to form from Tim Burton, this is an excellent, loving homage to all those old Universal horror movies. Obviously the Frankenstein movies are referenced extensively, but it's clearly got a more general love for the genre. The story concerns young Victor Frankenstein and his dog Sparky. Victor is a bit of a loner, and when Sparky unexpectedly passes on, he vows to bring back his beloved pet. He is, of course, successful in his endeavors, drawing the attention and ire of his competition in the school science fair.
The tale of Frankenstein has always been one of caution against meddling, but this film attempts to modernize the idea, indicating that science is basically value neutral and can be used for good or ill. The movie stumbles a bit in the ridiculous town hall scene, but is otherwise pretty successful at stressing these themes. It's beautifully shot in black and white and the stop motion animation and production design are top notch. Ultimately, though, it's a movie with a heart, and I'll admit, the theater got a little dusty in the end. Ok, so this isn't really a scary movie, but it will still appeal to horror fans and is a must see for just about anyone. ***1/2
- Paranormal Activity 4 (trailer)
- The Ring Video Dating (Robot Chicken)
- Insidious (trailer)
- Sinister - This movie was written by C. Robert Cargill, perhaps better known as Massawyrm, who made his name writing about films at Ain't It Cool News. In short, he's done well for himself. The movie is somewhat derivative of the current trend in found footage and passive-aggressive demon possession (popularized by the Paranormal Activity movies and stuff like Insidious), but it puts an interesting twist in both, making this a worthy effort. The found footage portion is exactly that - a character in the movie finds a bunch of old movies and watches them as research for a book he's writing. And the films, chronicling a series of bizarre ritualized murders, are intensely creepy and unsettling. This film might dip into that well a bit too often, but they did such a great job with those in-film home movies that I didn't really mind. There are some typical horror movie tropes going on here too (apparently no one's heard of light switches - this is a dark movie) and there's some clumsy exposition courtesy of a college professor, but I don't know, all of this stuff ended up hitting the right note for me. And the demon at the heart of the mystery is indeed creepy and well done. It's an effective film, if not a perfect one. ***
- The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries, Inc. (short)
- Phantasm (trailer)
- Martyrs (trailer)
- The Tall Man - Writer/director Pascal Laugier is perhaps best known for 2008's Martyrs, pretty much the end-all-and-be-all of torture porn. It's a movie I have a lot of respect for, even if it was an aggressively (and intentionally) unpleasant watch. This movie is the follow up, and no, it has nothing to do with the Phantasm films. Instead we get a twisty exploration of child abducting Urban Legend, starring Jessica Biel as a mother trying to catch up with her abducted child. Or is she? The movie shifts gears early and often, consistently keeping me off balance. This is a good thing, although some of the twists do rely on obscure side characters that I didn't notice much earlier in the film, which added a little confusion at times, but for the most part, the twists worked out well enough. Unfortunately, I don't quite know what to make of the "truth" of what's going on here. I don't really buy it, though it's reasonably well constructed. This is nowhere near as intense or disturbing as Martyrs, but there are some similarities when it comes to the whole secret societies and conspiracy angles. It's certainly well shot and visually interesting, and the acting is fine (music is a bit lackluster, but not distractingly bad or anything). And the movie is gripping and tense enough as you watch, it's just, again, once you learn the full idea behind the premise, I don't know how convincing it really is... A worthy effort, and I'd be curious to see what else Laugier does. **1/2
That's all for this week. Stay tuned, next week is Italian horror week. Got a couple Argento films lined up, along with some other stuff...
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Professor Arthur Chipping's Maddeningly Detailed, Purposefully Vague, Fitfully Out-Of-Focus, Back To School Movie Quiz
Dennis Cozzalio of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog has posted another of his famous movie quizes
, and as always, I'm excited to provide my answers. Previous installments answering questions from Professor Hubert Farnsworth
, David Huxley
, Professor Fate
, Professor Russell Johnson
, Dr. Smith
, Professor Peabody
, Professor Severus Snape
, Professor Ed Avery
, Dr. Anton Phibes
, and Sister Clodagh
are also available... This time around, Professor Arthur Chipping, colloquially known as Mr. Chips, notes that "school is back in session, which means it’s time for yet another movie quiz." There's no real theme to the quiz this time around, but in the spirit of the Six Weeks of Halloween
, I'll try to steer things into the realm of horror whenever possible (Update: only partially successful at this.) Ok, enough jibber jabber, let's answer some questions.
1) What is the biggest issue for you in the digital vs. film debate?
This is a tough one because all of the issues that are coming to mind are sorta meta-issues. In theory, digital lowers costs for productions and makes things much easier to distribute (this includes theatrical distribution, but also stuff like On Demand and, of course, the internets). In practice, the movie industry's obsession with piracy has pretty much muffled most advantages on the distribution side of things, and theater chains haven't exactly jumped at the opportunity to leverage digital distribution in an ideal way. It would be great if my local Regal dedicated a few timeslots a week to offbeat, indy, or even older film series. Judging from my own anecdotal experience with that theater, they could certainly stand to sell a lot of tickets that way. However, I know that this is easier said than done. Studios make showing movies in a theater an expensive proposition right from the get go, whereas, even a handful of tickets for something you already have the right to show will make you money. Again, digital could make this easier, in theory, but from what I've heard of digital distribution, the process is incredibly onerous and painful to use thanks to all of the copy protection, DRM, etc... The future is digital, and from a technology standpoint, we're almost at the point where you'd be able to implement an ideal distribution network for all movies (heck, most media in general). Unfortunately, the business side of things is holding technology back.
2) Without more than one minute's consideration, name three great faces from the movies
Since I've been watching a lot of horror films lately, the names that come to mind are Angus Scrimm, Bruce Campbell, and Shelly Duvall. Distinctive faces, all.
If chins could kill...
3) The movie you think could be interesting if remade as a movie musical
I have a deep dislike for movie musicals. That being said, a full length Planet of the Apes
musical, a la The Simpsons
, would probably still be better than that Tim Burton remake. "I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-A, to Chimpanzee!"
4) The last movie you saw theatrically/on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming
In theaters, Frankenweenie
, which I enjoyed greatly (probably the best Tim Burton movie in a decade, probably more). On DVD, it was The Devil's Backbone
, which I also thought was quite good. On Blu-Ray, I've got Bernie
, a movie that really surprised me in that I totally loved it. And on streaming, Bloody Birthday, a so-bad-its-good Kids are scary and hate you!
movie (part of this past weekend's Halloween horror movie marathon
). Actually a pretty good run here.
5) Favorite movie about work
The obvious answer here is Office Space
, though looking at other answers, I see Glengarry Glen Ross
, The Hudsucker Proxy
, and His Girl Friday
, great movies all. But I'll stick with Office Space
6) The movie you loved as a child that did not hold up when seen through adult eyes
I realize I'm in the minority here, but Terminator 2: Judgment Day
is kinda terrible. It still holds up as a solid action film with good special effects, I guess, but it jettisoned everything that made the first movie special without really adding anything interesting to the mix. I loved it at the time, but as I got older I started to see the cracks. This David Foster Wallace article
neatly encapsulates my view, though I don't know that I'd put it quite the way he does (nor would I extrapolate in the way he does). Ok, fine, it doesn't "neatly encapsulate" my view, but you should read it anyway.
7) Favorite "road" movie
Many possible ways to take this. Mad Max
and The Road Warrior
are obvious answers, but I'm also fond of Midnight Run
(a different sorta "road" movie, I guess), and in the interest of keeping it real with the Six Weeks of Halloween, Road Games
makes for an intriguing concept. It's perhaps not perfect in execution, but the premise of taking Hitchcock's Rear Window
on the road is beautiful and I really enjoyed it
8) Does Clint Eastwood's appearance at the Republican National Convention change or confirm your perspective on him as a filmmaker/movie icon? Is that appearance relevant to his legacy as a filmmaker?
Completely irrelevant and it doesn't change my feelings towards any of his movies, whether I love or hate them.
9) Longest-lasting movie or movie-related obsession
These questions seem awfully imprecise and vague. I'm not entirely sure what this is getting at, but in accordance with my marching orders, I'll say horror movies.
10) Favorite artifact of movie exploitation
Again with the imprecision. Is this asking about exploitation films? Or about artifacts that are exploiting movies? For the former, my answer would have to be the trailers and posters, the trashier the better. For the latter, well, let's just say that this action figure of Boba Fett sitting on my desk here holds a special place in my heart.
Everyone wave to Boba...
11) Have you ever fallen asleep in a movie theater? If so, when and why?
I'm not sure if I ever fell asleep outright, though it was a very near thing when I saw The Squad at Fantastic Fest
. It was a few days into the festival, in the midst of a day with 5 movie viewings scheduled, and it was just an awful, boring, stupid movie. I may have rested my eyes for a moment or ten.
12) Favorite performance by an athlete in a movie
The first thing that popped into my head: Kurt Thomas from Gymkata
(he single-handedly defeated the Soviets... with Gymnastics!) Popular opinion seems to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!
, which is certainly a worthy choice. And if you count wrestlers, you've got Andre the Giant from The Princess Bride
, and Rowdy Roddy Piper from They Live
. But who are we kidding? Gymkata is set in the fictional country of Parmistan. Population: Communists. And they're defeated because of their baffling but convenient placement of pommel horses throughout their country.
13) Second favorite Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie
It begins: I have not seen any Fassbinder movies. As usual, I expect similar answers to be given for several other questions in this quiz.
14) Favorite film of 1931
Hoo man, this is a tough choice. M
? Yikes. I can't decide, as both are superb (though I can decisively pick them above other 1931 movies I've seen, which are surprisingly many).
15) Second favorite Raoul Walsh movie
Oh, this question is diabolical. Back in Professor Peabody's quiz
, you asked for our favorite Raoul Walsh movie. At the time, I hadn't seen any, so I had to abstain, but I eventually went out of my way to watch White Heat
, just because of the quiz (this came in handy on another quiz
). Alas, that remains the only Raoul Walsh movie I've ever seen, thus I must abstain from this question as well.
16) Favorite film of 1951
Strangers on a Train
, hands down. There are other worthy contenders, but no one beats the Hitch.
17) Second favorite Wong Kar-wai movie
I must admit that I'm not a huge Wong Kar-wai fan, though I've seen enough of his movies to declare Chungking Express
my second favorite.
18) Favorite film of 1971
This is another tough one. I'll go with Dirty Harry
for now, but I do have a fondness for The Andromeda Strain
as well. Lots of other juicy choices that year too, but I'll leave it at Dirty Harry
You feeling lucky, punk?
19) Second favorite Henri-Georges Clouzot movie
The Wages of Fear
, after Diabolique
20) Favorite film of 1991
Raise the Red Lantern
is a masterpiece, though it's not something I love to rewatch all the time, like The Silence of the Lambs
. Still, that's a pretty great one-two punch.
21) Second favorite John Sturges movie
I'll go with Joe Kidd
, though I should really watch more of his movies...
22) Favorite celebrity biopic
The first thing that came to mind was Amadeus
(does that count as "celebrity" in the modern sense, especially given that it's more about Salieri than Mozart?), but Ed Wood
is a ton of fun (hmm, Tum Burton getting a lot of action in today's quiz).
23) Name a good script idea which was let down either by the director or circumstances of production
Too many to answer. Most recently, I was thinking this about a few German Krimi movies I watched for the Six Weeks of Halloween
. Some really fantastic ideas there, but they wound up a little on the messy side when translated to the screen.
24) Heaven's Gate-- yes or no?
I haven't seen the movie, but sure, why not? I find it hard to say "no" to a movie, even one I don't particularly like or agree with. I kinda equate "no" with censorship, and fooey to that.
25) Favorite pairing of movie sex symbols
The one that immediately came to mind was Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith
, but upon further reflection, the George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez combo in Out of Sight
is probably a better choice, as that movie is clearly superior. I'm not even that big of a fan of Clooney or Lopez, but I really enjoy that movie and they have great chemistry together.
26) One word that you could say which would instantly evoke images and memories of your favorite movie. (Naming the movie is optional - might be more fun to see if we can guess what it is from the word itself)
27) Name one moment which to you demarcates a significant change, for better or worse, on the landscape of the movies over the last 20 years.
A lot of options here, but in accordance with decorative gourd season, I'll pick something from the horror genre. The Blair Witch Project
wasn't the first "found footage" mock documentary (heck, it wasn't even the only one of those from 1999
), but for better or worse, it popularized the idea to the point where it broke out of the horror genre. Two other horror movies could also qualify for this: Scream
(reviving slashers in particular, and horror in general) and Saw
(popularizing the whole torture porn thing).
28) Favorite pre-Code talkie
Gabriel Over the White House
, a completely bonkers but surprisingly relevant movie. I was totally flabbergasted by this movie when I first saw it
. It's this tacky, unbelievable leftist authoritarian fantasy, and it's utterly riveting.
29) Oldest film in your personal collection (Thanks, Peter Nellhaus)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
(1926), Hitchcock's first movie (part of a collection I bought once).
The Lodger is clearly not evil...
30) Longest film in your personal collection. (Thanks, Brian Darr)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Special Extended DVD Edition clocks in at 251 min (And the other LotR extended editions would probably also top most of my other movies). Coming in second would be the Das Boot
Director's Cut, clocking in at 208 minutes, barely edging out The Godfather: Part II
which is "only" 200 minutes (though, notably, the only theatrical cut mentioned in this answer).
31) Have your movie collection habits changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?
I don't buy nearly as many DVDs/BDs as I used to. This changed most dramatically when I first signed up for Netflix (somewhere around 2005, give or take a year), though more recently the cheap availability of online streaming has also begun to change my habits. Discs are becoming more and more of a pain. I have to, like, get up and walk over to the player in order to swap out discs. Alas, when you're into exploring obscure movies, discs are usually your only options.
32) Wackiest, most unlikely "directed by" credit you can name
I always enjoy it when Alan Smithee
directs a film.
33) Best documentary you've seen in 2012 (made in 2012 or any other year)
I've not watched a ton of documentaries thus far this year, but I did really enjoy Bobby Fischer Against the World
was actually a very interesting discovery, and it becomes more of a meditation on criticism in general than heckling. Ok, so maybe "mediation" is too weighty, but I really enjoyed the movie. Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel
and Machete Maidens Unleashed!
were great fun, but not exactly insightful or anything.
34) What's your favorite "(this star) was almost cast in (this movie)" anecdote?
Well, Tom Selleck was considered for Indiana Jones (apparently he turned it down). I don't think other answers are possible.
35) Program three nights of double bills at a revival theater that might best illuminate your love of the movies
There are seriously way too many options here, but I came up with something that covered a few interesting themes:
Night one: James Cameron (back when he was still awesome)
- The Terminator
- These are just two of my favorite movies of all time. They pair well together and would make for an exciting, adventurous start to my three nights of double features.
Night two: Cultural Cross-Contamination
and A Fistful of Dollars
- Let's see here, John Ford westerns inspired Akira Kurosawa to make structurally similar samurai films, then crazy Italian Sergio Leone takes one of those samurai films and converts it back to the world of westerns, infusing it with spaghetti. Bitchin.
Night three: Sensory Overload Night
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
- This will be an exhausting, but rollicking night. A good way to end a three day marathon of double features though.
36) You have been granted permission to invite any three people, alive or dead, to your house to watch the Oscars. Who are they?
I always stink at questions like these. Let's see here. Stanley Kubrick, Armond White, and Alison Brie. Kubrick and White will either come to blows, or have the most interesting conversation evar, which will represent a nice bonding experience for me and Alison.
37) Favorite Mr. Chips. (Careful...)
Not having seen any of the movies featuring the good Professor, I will have to abstain from this question. I will, however, wax poetic about Charlie's Chips. Does anyone remember Charlie's Chips? It was this giant delivery truck that would tool around town, delivering potato chips in giant tins to anyone who subscribed. When you ran out, you simply put out the bin, and the Charlie's Chips dude would pick it up and deliver you a full container of chips. This was somehow a rational business model in the 1980s. So there, nothing to do with movies, but all this talk of Chips made me think of it, so there. I hope you're happy now.
Sunday, October 07, 2012
6WH: Week 3 - Revisiting 1981
This was originally going to be a week chock-full of slashers, but despite an excellent start on that front, things gradually got less-and-less slashery. As it turns out, all three movies are bona fide members of the horror class of 1981
, a year in which changes in distribution and low-budget independent filmmaking conspired to release an explosion of horror movies on an unsuspecting populace. Much of this was driven by the slasher craze, but horror in general was booming in the early 80s and particularly in 1981.
Naturally, I've already seen a lot of the classics from that hallowed year, but there were a few high profile movies I'd missed out on for whatever reason, so here goes:
- Thursday the 12th (Robot Chicken)
- Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
- Scanners (trailer)
- Happy Birthday to Me - Someone is offing the cool, smart kids (but I repeat myself, heh) at a prestigious prep school, but who? There are approximately a gajillion red herrings in this film, as the mysterious killer takes out each of the "Top Ten" students, and Ginny keeps having weird flashback to past trauma. Lots of suspicious characters, including one of the Top Tenners that specializes in... taxidermy? This leads to amusing puns along the lines of "Hey, stuff it, dude."
Happy Birthday to Me!
Directed by J. Lee Thompson (who made the well regarded Cape Fear), this is one of the more fun examples of the teen slasher genre, with creative deaths (including a neat scarf in the motorcycle wheal death, a death-by-barbell, and the most famous weapon, death by shish-kebab) and a series of goofy, Scooby Doo-like twists at the end. There's even a grand unmasking as the true killer is revealed. Clocking in at 110 minutes, it's one of the longest slasher movies ever made, but it's still a lot of fun. Not quite top tier, but certainly top of the middle tier. ***
- The Evil Dead (Japanese trailer)
- My Bloody Valentine (trailer)
- Driving Lessons - Halloween Deleted Scene (short)
- The Funhouse - This is a film that's generally lumped into the Slasher sub-genre, but in the end, I have my doubts. It certainly starts off by totally aping Halloween and Psycho, but it winds up being a practical joke, not a real shower-murder scene. As the film progresses, things certainly get tense, but it's still not quite like a traditional slasher, as the villain seems to have more in common with monsters like Frankenstein (whose mask the killer wears for the first half of the movie or so) than the past-tragedy-inspired killers of your typical slasher. Unlike most killers, this guy evokes a certain amount of pity, even if he's terrifying and deformed.
The plot revolves around a bunch of stupid kids who elect to spend the night in the titular Funhouse of their local carnival, only to find said deformed monster murdering a fortune teller over an expensive handy. Naturally, all the doors are locked and the carnies can't leave any witnesses... hijinks ensue. This one certainly takes its time, but once it gets going, it's pretty solid. It's atmospheric and tense, featuring much less gore than you'd expect for a movie of this era, but it gets the job done. Not one of director Tobe Hooper's best movies, but a worthy effort nonetheless. Probably somewhere in the middle of the middle tier of slashers, definitely worth watching if you like that sort of thing. **1/2
- Jason's Deceiving Speed (Robot Chicken)
- The Prowler (trailer)
- The Burning (trailer)
- Bloody Birthday - And this one wound up being very light on the slasher elements, probably better classified under the realm of Kids are scary and hate you! movies. In this case, said kids were all born during an eclipse, thus making them into psychopaths who begin exploring their murderous tendencies starting around their 10th birthday. Lots of foreshadowing, as people who deny the kids what they want get their inevitable comeuppance. Not a lot of gore, but they make up for it with lots of boobies. It's not scary or even very tense at all, but it winds up being great fun, as it seems to recognize just how silly it is, and it revels in making you hate those sneaky little shits as they engage in their murderous shenanigans. Kid actors in movies are usually a precarious thing, but here, those eclipse kids are kinda awesome, always smirking and looking all smarmy and evil. Overall, not really a noteworthy film, but I had fun with it. **1/2
So there you have it. Not really sure what next week will bring, perhaps some stuff currently in theaters, or maybe just a week with no discernible theme. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
6WH: Tales from the Crypt - Season 1
Tales from the Crypt was one of those shows I was vaguely aware of, but never really watched much. Let's just say that I was young and foolish and didn't appreciate the Crypt Keeper's puns. Now? I value a good pun. Is that value ironic? Oh God, am I becoming a hipster? Well, whatever, I figured it was worth revisiting this show, and since the first season was only six short episodes, it wasn't too much of a time investment. It's funny, but I never quite realized just how much talent was involved with this show. In this first season alone, we've got episodes directed by Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis, and Richard Donner. And that's not even considering the familiar actors and writers. Plus, the episodes are a relatively short 25-30 minutes, so even if you don't care too much for an episode, you don't have to put in that much time. So let's see how the first season fared. There were only 6 episodes, so I got through them pretty quickly:
- The Man Who Was Death - So what happens when an executioner (the guy who throws the switch on the electric chair, to be specific) loses his job because the state outlaws the death penalty? Why, he simply starts freelancing his executioning, that's what.
This was actually a great start to the series; well acted and visually interesting with an appropriately ironic outcome. Lots of longish takes and breaking of the fourth wall, and well written too. Like The Mad Executioners from this past weekend, this one also has shades of Dexter, as the executioner punishes folks who are getting away with murder... I really enjoyed this one, and it set the tone rather well for what would follow.
- And All Through the House - Regular readers know of my affinity for Holiday Horror, and this tale of murder, greed, betrayal, escaped mental patients dressed as Santa, and general mayhem makes for a fine addition to the pantheon of axe-wielding Santas (of which there are surprisingly many).
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this seems uncharacteristic for him, but the episode's got a goofy sensibility that seems appropriate. Series is two for two so far!
- Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone - A bum is endowed with 9 lives and attempts to get rich at a carnival sideshow by using up his lives as Ulric the Undying. Basically, he kills himself on stage, and people pay boatloads to see it. Great central performance by Joe Pantoliano and you know what, even Robert Wuhl is pretty great as the sleazy sideshow showman. Again we get lots of fourth wall breaking as Joey Pants explains how he came to acquire his 9 lives (let's just say that it involved a mad scientist and a cat), and overall, this is the third straight great episode.
- Only Sin Deep - Well, I guess they can't all be winners. This tale of a gold-digging hooker who sold her beauty to a pawn shop so that she could seduce a rich dude is fine for what it is and certainly better than a lot of other horror anthology episodes I've seen (I'm looking at you, Fear Itself!), but it's a distinct step down from the first three episodes. For a series whose premise essentially boils down to "Isn't it fun to watch bad people get their comeuppance?", it's hard to say that I just didn't like our main character here, but I really just couldn't see much redeeming quality to her character. In the first three episodes, the main characters had at least some likable traits, however minimal. This lends a certain pathos to the tragedy. Here, we've got nothing. And she's pretty dumb to boot. Not horrible or anything, and the premise could work, but I wasn't a big fan.
- Lover Come Hack to Me - Rich but meek Peggy marries handsome douchebag Charles. Aunt Edith is wary of Charles (assuming he's just marrying Peggy for her money), but Peggy just wants to have a nice honeymoon. But, of course, the road is blocked and they're forced to spend the night in a spooky house. Hijinks ensue. Interesting change of pace for the series so far, and a nice series of reversals make this one an improvement over the previous episode, but perhaps not the best of the series so far. Still, I liked this episode quite a bit.
- Collection Completed - Ah the perils of retirement. The great M. Emmet Walsh plays Jonas, the new retiree who doesn't seem to enjoy spending time with his wife and all of her pets. Naturally, he takes up a... hobby. Heh. Solid episode, but a little on the melodramatic side, which ain't really my thing. Still, it's fun enough. Not quite the strongest finale for the season, but a worthy episode nonetheless.
So the quality seemed to fade a bit towards the end of the season, but it was all enjoyable enough that I immediately added season 2 to my Netflix queue.
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