Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Friday, December 19, 2014
Olive Films blu-ray release, 2014
This is a film that is a giant risk on every level. From acting choices (like Jackie Gleason) to crazy writing (at one point a hallucinatory man in a light pyramid has a conversation with Gleason in a prison cell...) this film walks the line of absolute disaster and brilliant masterpiece. I think, in the end, it lies somewhere in the middle. That being said, I thought it was an avant-garde experiment well worth doing and I'm so please Olive has put it out.
The basic premise is this: Gleason is an old retired mob hitman who is called in for one more job. Problem is, he doesn't want to do that work anymore. He now has a loving wife and daughter.
Up to this point, you might think what is the big deal? Well, imagine that all this plays out like a mix between The Pink Panther and Happy Days. Gleason's daughter is a big time hippy.
I'm not getting this across well at all.
This movie is crazy. There are dancing trash cans. DANCING TRASH CANS. EVERYONE ends up on acid. Prison guards do musical numbers. Groucho Marx plays a germophobe mob boss named God. All the villains from Batman: The TV Series show up. A hippy boat army attacks God's yacht with love. Pacifist physicists make hot air balloons out of laundry.
This is the type of movie that fits perfectly within the Laugh-In culture. Completely subversive, absolutely absurd and strangely intellectual. Its about the culture wars and violence and the military and the prison system and drugs. And, did I mention that Carol Channing is genius?
After all that, you also get the soundtrack. Put together by Harry Nilsson, it is absolutely strange and absolutely catchy in a way only he can do. This is a fascinating piece and the blu-ray looks gorgeous.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Friday, December 5, 2014
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Olive Films Blu-Ray Release
http://allstarvideo.blogspot.com/2013/12/interview-with-jesus-teran-of-slasher.html ). Their newest release is a little seen space horror gem called MOONTRAP.
MOONTRAP is the kind of movie that has old scientists telling marines not to shoot aliens because "it's a great moment for mankind." And then in the next breath, in slow-motion, yells "Get the son of a bitch!" Or, in other words, my kind of movie.
Moontrap gets a lot of things right. First, space travel. I'm a huge sucker for all things space, and this film does a great job capturing the immensity of it all. Olive Films has done a wonderful job with the restoration and it truly is a gorgeous looking film. There are plenty of great effects shots that show how tiny we are in comparison to the endless darkness. Our apparent insignificance becomes all the moreso when in comparison the giant cold nothing outside.
The humor is deadpan enough that it doesn't really land anywhere, except when Bruce Campbell is doing it. His genial sarcasm both undermines any tension that could exist in the film and lifts it above it taking itself too seriously. It is a robot alien moon invasion film after all.
But, the thing that really works here is the way they play with the mythology of landing on the moon. I love the stories of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Alan Shepherd. I love how truly mysterious and strange space still seems even after multiple visits. Even in the most trivial of circumstances (Moontrap, for instance), I find myself contemplating my existence. And, I love the fictionalization of true events. Here, we see a little robot head pop out of the moon dust just as Aldrin gets back on the lander and escapes. When Koenig and Campbell return, they aren't so lucky. Now there is a fourteen thousand year old robot base that they need to deal with.
This is a film that could only have been made when it was. The late 1980s was the perfect time for combining different kinds of effects. Light boxes, models and darkly lit sets provide a semi-believable experience on the moon. Pre-CGI and post 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moontrap is able to take cues from the latter and not be hindered by the former. Likewise, it seems that our imagination about space seems to have fettered. Ever since 2003, when the Bush administration responded to the explosion of the Columbia by demanding a re-evaluation of the space shuttle fleet. This set the stage for the last mission to outer-space in 2010. And, here we are, physically grounded. Moontrap could perhaps never have been made in this atmosphere.
No doubt Moontrap is far from perfect. The slow, meticulous pacing is perfect when they are floating in space, but strange and quite dull when surviving in an oxygen igloo. (This particular scene is so useless, that it might be one of the best in the movie). Koenig is stiff and uninspiring. Seems the casting should've gone opposite, but he was the star back then, not Campbell. The villains are very interesting and have a pretty great twist, but are far from terrifying.
But, there is space, Ash, very very random nudity, and explosions. So, worth your time.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Lawrence G. Cohen was born in Kingston, New York in 1941. By the time he reached his twenties (easily the most formative time in adulthood), it was the 1960s. But, he didn't become enamored with the wayward hippy movement or the Beat movement. Instead, he quietly learned the craft of film working on television shows like The Fugitive and writing scripts for The Invaders.
In 1970, he began work on his directorial debut, Dial Rat for Terror (Aka Housewife, aka Beverly Hills Nightmare, aka BONE.) It's a wildly daring debut film.
It begins in a swanky Beverly Hills house with Bernadette and Bill arguing about something or other. Bill begins to clean the pool and discovers a rat. As it just so happens, Bone (the amazing Yaphet Kotto) arrives. Bill assumes he's from the pool company and Bone helps him remove the rat, bare-handed. After letting that symbolism sit with you a moment, Cohen brings Bone into the house with Bill and Bernadette, forcing his way into their lives. He demands money, but Bill has none in the house. So, Bone sends him away to get cash and holds Bernadette hostage.
What makes this film, and all of Cohen's work, special is the satirical social underpinnings that keep the audience thinking. Though the plot could be used simply as comedic fodder (see The Ref (1994), it instead becomes social commentary on suburban white America. It looks at the chaos created by the Vietnam War. It exposes the lies and secrets of middle class debt. It does what Cohen does best, it is entertaining exploitation fare with subtext.
Cohen would go on to make Black Caesar, which carries on many of the same themes and ideas present in Bone. He would become famous for great genre films like Q: The Winged Serpent, the brilliant killer baby movie It's Alive, (http://allstarvideo.blogspot.com/2013/06/review-its-alive.html), God Told Me To (http://allstarvideo.blogspot.com/2013/05/review-god-told-me-to.html) and The Stuff.
What's striking to me now, after seeing a number of his films and then going back to his debut, is how self-aware and intellectual his approach to film-making is. He begins the film with a quote about the weakness of American power and then proceeds to put some of its supposedly wealthiest, happiest couples on screen with an intruder that makes them realize their vulnerability. After which, they proceed to dig in the wounds of each others' faults.
What seems so prescient right at this moment about Bone (beyond the idea that our country's power doesn't make us unstoppable) is the extreme exhaustion that Bill and Bernadette seem to exude. Vietnam proved that money is not power. The States can be intimidated. And beaten. And, we can be exhausted easily when we believe we're in the wrong. Bill and Bernadette put on a good show, claiming they gave up their son to the war, but he gave himself up to something else. And, Cohen digs in the wound. Our morale is broken, because we've been wrong for so very long. It's just too bad we didn't learn any lessons from Dial Rat for Terror.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
92 mins. Color.
In reality, Orca is a lot more like Death Wish, on the water, and Charles Bronson is played by an animatronic aquatic mammal.
The film opens with idyllic music and two whales goofily jumping out of the water in front of a matte painting of a sunset.
Then, we witness a diver being chased by a shark. Said shark gets power-slammed and tossed into the air. Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) stares in astonishment. "What could do that to a shark?"
The diver stands next to Nolan and replies, "The only thing powerful enough to do that to a shark is a Killer Whale."
This scene is then followed by Rampling giving lectures and doing lots of talking about all the astonishing things about the Killer Whale. They have sonar, the fetuses have fingers (like humans), they mate for life, they're crazy smart, etc... And then she mentions that they can also seek revenge.
Then, Nolan decides it would be super sweet to go out and capture one of these whales. It goes pretty poorly. He kills a female, and with it her unborn child. The father is pretty pissed. The way that this scene is done is surprisingly moving. The music and the sounds of the whales are very sad.
You may remember the mediocre documentary, Blackfish. Instead of making that, they should have just re-released this movie. It makes me fear and respect Killer Whales, and it also has really cheesy filmmaking that is pretty sweet.
They have ridiculous scenes like fast-zooms to the Orca's eye staring at Nolan.
I guess after Jaws, there is little room for a realistic ocean advenure, but the absurdity of the whole thing is a bit laughable.
Anyway, the Orca knows its limited to the sea and can't just shoot Nolan with a rocket launcher, so it starts messing with boats and blowing up power plants. Yes. The Orca hits some pipes or something that supposedly starts a fire that then blows up a power plant. As the plant explodes, the Orca jumps out of the water in triumph. It's absolutely ridiculous.
The superb stupidity and genuinely emotional filmmaking make this one of the more enjoyable monster flicks I've seen in a while.
You can find it on DVD or on VHS with one of the sweetest covers ever.
Friday, September 5, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014
When you watch a lot of films, you begin to see that everything thats on screen is a choice. Its amazing to see how Dad here chose to focus solely on Baby. There is no adult life he's concerned with. He simply sets his gaze on her and never turns away. By the choice of music and the editing of shots, it's clear that he spent time wanting it to be something watchable. And, I must say, it was fascinating for what it was.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Don't get me wrong, it is something deeply moving and I now have two little ones that I adore, but the romantic notions of beauty are folly. Its more akin to that scene in THINGS when Don's asshole brother's wife gets ripped open than it is to a beautiful image of rainbows and waterfalls.
But, on to Richard Linklater's beautiful film. BOYHOOD is something deeply special. I'm sure there are more than a few haters who will read this, but I am currently the least jaded I've ever been in my life. I've spent the majority of the last few weeks dreamily staring down at these two marvelous creatures, contemplating my own existence, their future and thinking about THE HUMAN TORNADO. But, I'll get to that. First, BOYHOOD. So, you probably know about it already, but it's a film that Linklater started shooting in 2001 and shot slowly over the course of the next twelve years, chronicling moments in a boys life. Patiently put together, it slowly unfolds to show the creation of a boy and who he will choose to be. Perhaps it doesn't all come together and has a number of flaws, but I'm in no place to pick it apart. I connected to it as a father and a boy.
I work at a movie theater and people love to give their take on films. We're currently playing Boyhood, and a three hour art / collage / biography film is bound to have its fair share of walkouts and unhappy people. But, there was particular interaction about Boyhood that I found startlingly poignant and frustrating. An older couple came out of the movie around twenty minutes before the end. They came charging up to the counter and simply blurted out, "Does anything happen?" I asked some follow up questions like, "Um, what?" and "Do you need anything?" They proceeded to berate the film, and then the man said one of the more shocking things I've heard. In asking about the titular boy (Mason), he asked, "Does he get anything figured out? Does he have any epiphanies, or does he just continue to be a loser?" Now, if you've seen the film you probably understand how offensive and off-point this is. Not only is the film anti-epiphany, but the fact that they see this boy, who they just watched grow up, as a loser is also telling of the problems that Mason experiences during the film. That capitalist, goal-oriented, money-driven view of life is what makes sensitive boys dissociate from society. When being thoughtful and unambitious is seen as being a loser, you create the creeps that run Wall Street, politics and big business.
And so, the sadness of becoming a parent. Watching Mason go through all those difficult moments and pain, trying to find his place, figure himself out and become who he wants to be is close to a tragedy. When I think back to nights of nightmares, bullies, my first year of college, and feeling lost in high school, it's hard to picture those new little guys going through all of that. Even moreso, I lament the fact that they will have to deal with the likes of the old man who considered Mason a loser. Having little to no room in our culture to "find yourself" they will need to fight to become individuals, to not fall into traditional forms of success and to not base their lives on money.
That brings me to Rudy Ray Moore's effusive 1976 disasterpiece, The Human Tornado. It is the second in the Dolemite series, and a real mystery. A mystery because I want to know how he got it made. It is a Blacksploitation stand-up comedy sexploitation kung-fu comedy that seems to "work." And, its about running from the man. Dolemite gets into hot water when some racist white cops break into his big time sweet party house and Dolemite is in bed with the Sheriff's wife. Pretty fantastic fighting, over the top violence, bizarre sexual comedy and Dolemite jumping and then rolling down a hill naked ensue. To be fair, I did watch this movie in a sleepy haze in twenty minute segments inbetween feeding infants, so I don't even exactly remember how it ends. But, the point is this: If someone can make The Human Tornado and then it eventually finds its way into my movie collection and is available for these little munchkins someday, then everything is going to be just fine.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Falling Down is one of those unforgettable films from my childhood. My Dad wasn't really into many movies, but he loved this fucking movie. Here is my hypothesis as to why:
1. He was a middle aged, middle class, white guy that mostly told people what to do for a living.
2. He was a Vietnam Veteran that seemed to be OK with getting violent from time to time.
3. He was sort of a racist.
4. He identified with a privelged white man trolling through the ghetto, pointing out to people what was wrong with their way of life / culture but would never do it himself unless he took one more step towards insanity.
Basically, this cover describes who would really like this movie. Middle Aged white dudes that like guns and business.
This movie is about D - FENS. A defense worker that has been laid off. One day in traffic going to the job he no longer has, he abandons his car and stroll through the ghetto, violently telling people why they suck.
Robert Duvall is a cop on his final work day before retirement. Their stories meet in the end.
I understand what the point of the movie was originally supposed to be. A man on the edge insanity due to things beyond his control. . . but it turns out to be more of a White Collar Taxi Driver where the audience can identify with the madness.
If you haven't see it, you should. It's hilarious. It was Directed by that butthole that ruined Batman.
I'm sure the fact that the cover image is Michael Douglas with a flat top probably sold a million tapes alone.
Friday, July 25, 2014
This week, Matt and John discuss the ALL-STAR VIDEO REVIEW, Mike Miller (SD NO JOKE) and Ngai Choi Lam's crazy alien Terminator Castle episode movie, THE CAT.
*Note, there is an annoying "bump" or "crackle" sound that happens every so often. Not sure what happened, but we'll get it fixed by next week.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
|Cool Teen Violence|
SPOILER ALERT! One thing that I always had a hard time with was the death of Wil Wheaton’s character 3 quarters of the way through. I remember wanting to watch it when it came out because it had Wesley Crusher in it and by God I teared up when he was shot dead in the film. I remember turning to my mom in shock muttering “they killed Wesley Crusher….” That has always stuck with me for whatever reason.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Anyway, here is a short review and discussion with Ti, based on random notes on Holiday Inn notepad:
ASV: So, you've made a really fascinating film with THE SACRAMENT. It seems derived directly from Jonestown. You've also made other films that deal with cults, what is the inspiration for this type of film?
WEST: I really wanted to make a horror film that has no supernatural elements. I used Jonestown as the framework, and I see this human experience repeating itself over and over.
You know I really love the idea of being immersed in the real world, and how horrifying it truly can be. I think the idea of reality being presented in a fun way has always been interesting to me. Hopefully that works in the movie.
ASV: I really love the actor who plays Father. Where did you find him?
WEST: I actually originally saw him on the Louis CK show. He has a really great sense of humor, and I wanted someone I would really like working with. Most people probably recognize him from the coin toss scene in No Country for Old Men. He is a real force in the movie, and provides a huge character at the center of the film. Almost everyone that sees the film talks about how he great he is.
ASV: So, VICE is a real company... what made you want to use a real organization in this situation?
WEST: Yeah, they have a show on HBO. They go into all the same places that CNN or Fox News does, but they do a great job of not being biased, or having a political slant. They do a ton of video journalism, which they call "immersionism." They do a lot of esoteric, provocative and scary stories. It's real life, and far scarier than most things you see in films.
ASV: Did you grow up in Virginiia?
WEST: Delaware. I lived in New York for six years and now am in LA.
ASV: How did growing up in the Northeast shape how you make films?
WEST: Yeah, we shot House of the Devil in Connecticut, and that suited my sensibilites perfectly. The Innkeepers was also shot in the Northeast, and I love how creepy the fall there can feel. It suits my childhood. With The Sacrament, I wanted to move it to a foreign environment.
ASV: Was that choice designed to follow Jonestown as well?
WEST: You know, we shot it in Georgia, and I wanted it to feel very non-specific. It is supposed to be outside the States, and could be in almost any part of the world that is hot. Jonestown is a very specific place, and though that was a jumping off point for me, this is not Jonestown. It's the echo of that event.
ASV: Thanks, Ti.
WEST: Thank you.
I have enjoyed West's films mostly for their setting and pacing. Where House of the Devil is like a 1970s Halloween / Rosemary's Baby mashup, Innkeepers is a modern ghost story. Both capture what they're trying do really well.
The Sacrament, likewise, is a brooding, slow-burn build. A photographer (Kentucker Audley, yes, his name is Kentucker), is concerned about his sister (Amy Seimetz), who has sent some suspicious letters that lead him to believe she's joined a cult. So, a reporter (AJ Bowen) and cameraman (Joe Swanberg) from VICE go down with him to check it out.
As mentioned in the interview, the set-up is basically Jonestown. But, rather than having Jim Jones, you get the awesome Father character, played brilliantly by Gene Jones. Jones is absolutely the standout of the film.
West plays it like a documentary happening real-time. Almost like something in the vein of Cannibal Holocaust, so you expect that its going to get crazy. And, he does a wonderful job of building tension. After the interview, I have since watched VICE and understand better what West is getting at. True life is truly more horrifying than anything in a horror movie.
But, here's where we come to my problems. The "documentary" or "POV" style of film-making is problematic. West manages to do some nice camera set-ups, and keep it looking interesting, but I think that's really the problem with these types of films. It's always a matter of how good it manages to look despite the style. But, that style was ill advised. Like all of these films, it gets held up at moments while characters look into the camera, make pleas for their lives or remind the cameraman to "keep filming" or ask "did you get that?" All of this gets rather tedious fifteen years after Blair Witch.
Likewise, it never really raises above the Jonestown story. It never becomes something more.
But, let me get back to Father. The way that he captures every scene and has a very creepy air, make up for any short-comings. He's a wonder to watch as he enters into his first scene. He has a commanding presence that is chilling.
At the same time, I am fascinated by cults and stories like Jonestown, so I am very pleased to see West head in that direction. He is one of the major names of his generation, and I look forward to see where filmmakers follow him with this one.