Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: SKIDOO

Directed by Otto Preminger
1968
97 mins.
Olive Films blu-ray release, 2014

Perhaps you're the type of person that uses words like "madcap hilarity" and "groovy."  Well, then I don't know what to say about your vernacular, but you'd fit right in the world of SKIDOO.

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.


So strange.

-J. Moret

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mr. Mom - ALL STAR VIDEO





John and Matt talk about where they have been over the last few months. Then they talk about Mr. Mom's socio-economic messages. . . It's a bit weird.

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: MOONTRAP

Directed by Robert Dyke
1989
92 mins.
Olive Films Blu-Ray Release

I had never heard of Olive Films (weirdly, as they have released and distributed lots of good stuff now that I'm looking) until they acquired all of the titles from Jesus Teran's wonderful little indie label, Slasher Video.  (You can hear my interview with Jesus here: 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.

The basic premise is this: Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Ash (the crazy charismatic Bruce Campbell) are astronauts who find a giant alien spacecraft with a big robotic egg and decayed corpse inside.  When they bring the egg back to earth, it turns out to have the terminator in it and Chekov dominates the hell out of it.  But, little do they know that the terminator is a combo platter of robotic death and organic matter...

Well, the president decides it's time to go back to the moon.  Chekov and Ash are the obvious choices and off they go. Lunacy follows.



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.

-J. Moret

Friday, September 26, 2014

DIAL RAT FOR TERROR

Bone was released in 1972.


The film opens with this quote:

"The Year is 1970
The most powerful nation on earth wages war against one of the poorest countries - which it finds impossible to defeat.
And in this great affluent nation exists its smallest richest city...
And it is called Beverly Hills"


I think there are few directors more exciting and varied than Larry Cohen.  His films have a very deep and intellectual view of satire, which does not get in the way of great film-making, even when it's about a killer baby.

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.

-J. Moret

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review: ORCA THE KILLER WHALE

Directed by Michael Anderson
1977
92 mins. Color.
Paramount VHS

Orca is marketed as a poor-man's sidekick to Jaws 4.  By extension, you'd expect the idea is that the terrifying seas produce yet another killer animal that rampages a small community.

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.

-J.Moret

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: RESOLUTION (2012)


11168354_800.jpg (800×1164)

Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Scott Moorhead
2012
93 mins. Color
Netflix


Resolution is a clever, subtle, and extremely well made horror film that I can’t recommend enough. While often compared to Cabin in the Woods because of it’s similar “genre bending”, this film takes it’s time and slowly crawls under your skin.

Resolution is about two best friends, Michael and Chris. Chris is a junkie crackhead and Michael is a professional and expectant father. One day Michael receives an email from Chris with a video of him getting really fucking high on crack and shooting things in the woods. Michael decides to go up to the dilapidated house that Chris is staying in and try to get him to go to rehab. Well his attempt is unsuccessful so he does what any friend would do and handcuffs his crack smoking buddy to a pipe and tells him he’s stuck for the next week while goes cold turkey. GREAT plan. Michael and Chris sit and talk about life, jobs, babies, and crack. After a day or two Michael starts finding these stories and thats when the film starts getting really creepy. It first starts with a box of pictures that seemingly tell a story that ends with the main character dying horribly. Then he finds a record with another ill-fated ending which leads to more stories on slides, VHSs, and even reel to reel films. As time goes by and Chris slowly detoxes, Michael becomes obsessed with these stories he’s finding and wonders who is leaving these morbid tales and why does he feel like he’s being watched all the time.

Writer, producer, co-director Justin Benson masterfully juggles the sad story of the two friends and the detox with the horror story of these deadly tales. The detox story is very well put together and while it’s maybe the worst idea in the world for someone to chain another up to get them to quit smoking crack, it somehow still works. The two men actually feel like real friends and their conversations don’t feel forced. I also loved the fact that Benson didn’t give Chris a sad, forced reason as to why he smokes crack like almost every film or television show feels like it must. Usually it’s something like abuse, or financial problems, or emotional problems but here Chris smokes crack because he can. He explains that he just loves it and that’s all the reason he needs. None of the unnecessary reasonings as to why someone would want to smoke crack. He just wants to and that reason is far more believable to me.

I was amazed at how subtle the horror aspect of the film was. Little by little, the film got creepier and creepier. While Chris is locked in the ramshackle house all day, Michael goes on walks and into town and everyone he interacts with is strange and carries a sense of danger with their presence. It really just adds to the experience. I have a feeling that some people might not like the ending but without any spoilers, I thought it worked great and made the film that much more memorable.

resolution-still.jpg (400×225)

Independently produced, cleverly plotted, and subtly terrifying, this film knocked me off my feet. I gambled on a random Netflix film and boy did I feel like I won. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead will be directing a segment in the upcoming VHS sequel, VHS: VIRAL and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with that. Hopefully, they can hold on to the magic that they had while making this little, fantastic film.

-Thomas Reinert


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: BAOTIEN (a home video)

Director: N/A (I'll call him "Dad")
Year: 1997
Format: Home Video VHS

My VCR made a funky sound, then smoke came out and I couldn't fix the tracking...  So, I went to purchase a VCR at Goodwill.

When I plugged it in, I found a mysterious tape labeled BAOTIEN inside the purchased VCR.



It begins with a bit of an Asian soap opera of some kind.  

Then, it cuts in with an adorable baby that sings (yells) karaoke for about five mins, with the echo on.  After about two minutes of black darkness, the baby returns and screams into the echo chamber as her (presumably) mother sings a beautiful song to karaoke.

Of course, this was not intended for someone outside the family to view, so there was a moment of hesitation.  Is this invading their privacy?  Are these private moments off limits?  I can't say for sure whether they would be offended, but I was pretty entranced by the whole thing.  I kept watching, knowing that I would most likely never meet these people.  I would never know their futures, never have any sense of what they hoped to do.  As you watch another family's home video, so many questions that will never have any answers arise.  

I'll never know their names.  But, I certainly got a sense of their lives.



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. 




APR. 6 1997.

When it cuts, baby is watching Charlotte's Web in English.  The label on the bottom reads APR. 6 1997.  She wears a floral dress of some sort, and "Dad" follows her every move.  She pounds crackers by the handful as Templeton goes around the carnival singing "Smorgasbord"

A large selection of DVDs and VHS tapes line the sides of the television.  Wood paneling and orange carpeting.  "Dad" chomps on chips and zooms way in on baby.  the room is full of open boxes, as if they just moved in.

APR. 10 1997

Baby is now wearing red pajamas, and beautiful unknown asian music plays over top.  Dad zooms in on certain objects in the room, but never for long.  Baby is on the move, and she always gets full attention.  At times she pulls up the camera and yanks on it, pleading with Dad to give it to her.  

May 19 1997



Baby is a bit weepy today.  Lots of crying and running.  Watching her grow in this monthly increment is fascinating.  She interacts differently with her dad and the camera.  She is fascinated with her fingers, pushes them into things and stares at them.  The beautiful music plays throughout.  I'm beginning to think that Dad put it in after the fact, and very specifically chose each scene to fit that scene.  Here, it is very beautiful and melancholy and seems to perfectly fit a scene where baby spins in circles over and over, finally spinning herself into uncontrollable staggering and she falls into the TV, immediately beginning to reach out to Dad to hold her as she cries.  

He begins to change light meter and white balance on the camera s baby plays with the blinds, creating flares and white-outs.  

This date is specifically fascinating, because there is more experimentation on all of it.  Baby is constantly exploring and Dad seems content to be a silent observer, catching all of it.  But, he does so more as background now and less as a participant.  



June 18 1997

Baby has a playmate today, and its fascinating to watch her interact.  She is gentle and generous.  She offers her bottle to the little boy and picks it up when he drops it.  

July () 1997

The soundtrack for today is Independence Day on TV in the backgound.  Baby wears light blue sunglasses with Winnie the Pooh on them and she slowly leafs through empty post-it notes.

July 3 1997

The music that he picks for this is an Asian cover of "Song for Woody."  I found myself silently singing along, "One thousand miles from my home" and thinking about how mixed their emotions were.  Here they are with their beautiful little girl, but in a strange land.  When it cuts, it shows tons of traffic going out of town for the Fourth of July.

Finally, it cuts to a soap opera of some kind.  I didn't make it far into that...

To the unnamed family, I wish you the best.  If, somehow, you read this and would like your tape back, please contact us at allstarvideoblog@gmail.com and we'd be happy to get it to you. 

-J. Moret

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: YAMAKASI

Directed by Ariel Zeitoun & Julien Seri
2001
90 mins. Color
DVD

69197732_af.jpgParkour (or freerunning) seems to be everywhere nowadays. In movies like Brick Mansions, Casino Royale and The Bourne Legacy. There are references in shows like The New Girl and The Office. It’s become a full video game mechanic in games like Assassin’s Creed and Mirror’s Edge. However, not many people know that it was started in France by a group called Yamakasi which comes from the Lingala language and can mean “strong body”, “strong mind” or “strong person”. David Belle (of District B13/Brick Mansions fame) created parkour in the late eighties and further developed it with 8 of his friends. It never broke into popular culture until Luc Besson’s scribed Taxi 2 (which unfortunately was never released in America) in 1998. Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element) was so very impressed that he wrote a film for the Yamakasi simply titled Yamakasi!

Yamakasi: Les Samoura├»s des Temps Modernes (or The Modern-Day Samurai) is a simple movie about a group of parkour loving Frenchmen who climb buildings, talk about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and piss off the cops all day. After scaling a rather tall building, a group of young boys become inspired by the Yamakasi. One of these young boys has a heart condition and after pretending to be a Yamakasi, collapses while trying to climb a tree. A. TREE. It’s not even a particularly large tree either. Couldn’t they have him attempt to jump over a trash can or I don’t know… jump OFF something. Anything more than the most basic kid activity of climbing a tree. Although, my heart might give out too if I tried to climb a tree. I’m not what you would call “in parkour shape”. Moving on, The Yamakasi feel responsible for the whole mess. Things get worse when they hear that the greedy doctors in charge of the donor list want 400,000 francs (close to $450,000) for a new heart. They decide to become Robin Hood types, stealing the money from the greedy doctors to flip the bill. Using their parkour skills, they break into each house with the cops hot on their trail.

This movie lays the most basic foundation of a plot in order to highlight the parkour and said parkour is astounding. From free-scaling buildings to an amazing chase sequence with dogs, this movie’s stunts are breathtaking. For whatever reason David Belle is not in this film despite being friends with Besson but the rest of his crew still manages to hold it all together. Each one has their own personality like Zicmu (or music) who likes to listen to loud music or Rocket who runs real fast and then there’s Baseball who, you guessed it, LIKES BASEBALL! Besson isn’t the most clever man, but oh well! He sure makes fun movies.The personalities of the group members might be cliched but that only adds to the fun and whimsy of the film. Each one of their traits is incorporated into their parkour moves in subtle ways making this movie feel more like a live action cartoon than an action film.



While the story lacks any depth, this film is lighthearted, charming and fun. The action sequences, especially at the time, are fantastic and the film keeps a brisk pace. It’s unfortunate that it was never released in the United States. I think it would have done decently at the time and could have introduced a lot more people to parkour a lot earlier. The Yamakasi went on to create a sequel of sorts without Besson called Les Fils Du Vent a.k.a. The Great Challenge. Besson went on to create District B13 for parkour creator David Belle to star in and that movie is really worth checking out, especially since that has actually been released in America. I found a Chinese all-region bootleg of Yamakasi cheap on eBay years ago. The cover is of course covered in Chinese with the exception of “Luc Besson” and hilariously “Hip-Hop”! If you can find a copy of this fun film, it is worth your time.



-Thomas Reinert


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RAMBLING REFLECTIONS ON BOYHOOD, FATHERHOOD AND THE HUMAN TORNADO.

I've been a father for about three weeks and a boy for thirty one years.  Seems strange to try to put this in comprehensible terms, but there is something deeply sad about becoming a parent.  People will tell you the great joy of watching the birth of your child.  The cliche of saying it was the best day of your life seems to me to be either false or spouted by a sort of sociopathic male distance.  Watching your partner labor and your children fight for survival is neither beautiful or magical.  Its a hot, smelly, messy affair that is absolutely traumatic.

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.

-J. Moret

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mid Week Box Art - FALLING DOWN

Monday Box Art
Falling Down
Dir: Joel Schumacher
Rated R, 113 Minutes
1993



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.

- MJ

Friday, July 25, 2014

THE CAT


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.


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: KILTRO

Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
2006
93 mins. Color
Magnet Releasing DVD






Popping in Kiltro for the first time I had no clue what to expect. I mean, to me, Kiltro sounds kinda like Xtro, that British B-movie from the early 80’s and it also makes me think of some kind of killer robot, NOT a Chilean martial arts flick. I bought this movie out of a clearance section on the merits that it had a buff dude with the face paint of the Ultimate Warrior holding two big ass knives on the cover. As it turns out, Kiltro fucking rules! Equal parts Star Wars, Spaghetti Western, Grindhouse flick and Kung-Fu the TV Series, it’s basically Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s wet dream. With a budget of next to nothing this film is fucking weird, hilarious and 100% awesome.


Kiltro stars Marko Zaror as Zami, a no-neck beefcake who’s madly in love with Kim, the daughter of the local Korean martial arts instructor. Kim is hilariously not portrayed by a Korean woman and instead is played by a Chilean actress with painted on eyebrows that make her look more Vulcan than Korean. Zami first meets Kim after beating up the guys attempting to rape her. They kiss and then she pretends to not give a fuck about Zami. Zami in turn, beats up pretty much any dude that talks to her. This fantastically awkward romance goes on for a bit until Max Kalba, a cane-with-a claw-to-rip-throats-out toting ruthless badass rolls into town and fucks up everybody’s shit. Apparently, Kim’s dad banged Max Kalba’s wife back in the day and got her pregnant. Max got super pissed and tried to kill everyone but spectacularly failed, running away to become a badass. We also find out that Kim’s dad used to belong to a secret order of martial artists that Zami is somehow mysteriously related to (spoiler but not really: Zami’s absent dad used to belong to the group). Well Max kidnaps Kim’s dad and Zami and Kim escape near death with the help of a dwarven hermit named Nik Nak. Nik Nak used to be the leader of the secret order but lost his mojo after becoming said dwarven hermit. He sends Zami out to the desert to train tobecome a master in the Zeta style of fighting and save everyone.


This movie is ridiculous in so many ways. Let’s first start off with Zami’s hair. It is the most ludicrous mullet I have EVER SEEN. His mullet has red extensions which are spread out in a way that looks like yarn somehow got stuck in his Kentucky waterfall. It is glorious. Next, during Zami’s training montage the film turns right into a spaghetti western for no real reason except that it looks awesome. It is complete with a cantina scene and training in the cliffs with a giant sunset in the background. Then there is Zeta. Zeta is basically the Force from Star Wars. According to the characters you just feel the Zeta around you. You just know when to punch and kick and do a crazy flip without thinking and that’s when you know you’re in the Zeta state. The movie just steals from Star Wars left and right but still manages to be fantastic. Max Kalba has the presence of Darth Vader. Nik Nak is exactly like Yoda. There’s even a scene where he hops around a cave beating up dudes ala Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The similarities are so much that I thought for sure Max Kalba and Zami were going to have an “I’m your father” scene.
The fighting in the movie kicks ass. Marko Zaror has a great style and, despite his large size, manages to smoothly pull of some great martial arts moves. At first, Zami is basically just a brawler but after training on some cliffs, snatching pebbles out of hands, he becomes a martial arts master. The fights are fast paced and well choreographed for being an independent action flick. During one part of the movie Zami puts bladed spurs on his feet and fucks some people up. It’s really fun.




The absolute greatest scene in the film, which made me fall in love with this movie, is near the beginning when Zami pours his heart out to Kim to which she replies that she’s already got a boyfriend. Zami stands shocked when all of a sudden the beginning of David Bowie’s Modern Love starts playing. The movie then cuts to him moping and walking down an alley. As the song picks up Zami starts running and ends up in a full-on sprint while punching the air and screaming bloody murder. It is epic. I had to immediately rewind it and watch it over again because it was that special. Words don’t do this scene justice as it must be seen to fully enjoy the spectacular ridiculousness of it.


Sometimes brutal, sometimes awkward and always entertaining this movie is amazing. I can’t recommend this enough. Maybe I got lucky and I watched it at the right time and in the right place but I had a blast. I hope more people see this movie and enjoy it as much as I have.

-Tom Reinert

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ms. 45



This week, Matt and John discuss Abel Ferrara's 1981 film, Ms. 45.  Is it Feminist? Exploitative?  Wherever you come down on it, it's a mishmash of brilliance.

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: TOY SOLDIERS

Directed by Daniel Petrie Jr.
1991
111 mins. Color
Sony DVD





Toy Soldiers came out in 1991 with little to no acclaim. Roger Ebert gave it 1 out of 4 stars and it currently holds a 32% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That being said, Toy Soldiers totally kicks ass.


Toy Soldiers is about a group of misfit teens attending an all boy prep school who are suddenly taken hostage along with the rest of the student body and held for ransom in exchange for the release of a terrorist drug dealer. The main group of boys consists of Sean Austin (The leader of the group aka DAVE from Encino Man), Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan (of Adventures in Babysitting and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead fame [Hilarious that those are his two biggest films]), George Perez (of Carnosaur fame) and T.E. Russell (of Toy Soldiers fame). They call themselves The Rejects because every misfit group needs a cool name and it also coincides with the school’s name The Regis School for Boys. These boys are under the constant supervision of the Dean played by Louis Gossett Jr., who lays down the wisdom like a God damn boss. All the fun and games comes to an abrupt end when a terrorist group led by a whiny daddy’s boy takes over the school in hopes of freeing his father from federal custody using the sons of important and rich parents as ransom. What I find strange is that every hour the terrorists let the boys go outside and play everyday and they are shown having a good time during all of these scenes. They workout, throw a frisbee around, frolick, all while smiling and laughing even though they are fucking being held hostage by terrorists with machine guns and rocket launchers! Well, good for them for not letting that bother them in the least bit. The Rejects, however, are a little disturbed by all of this and work together to gather intel on their captors and come up with a plan to free everyone in the school.


This movie really feels like a sequel to The Goonies to me and it’s not just because Sean Astin is in both or the fact that the main bad guy looks a lot like one of the Fratelli brothers. I think it’s the fact that the depiction of these boys’ attitudes very much resonate the “Goonies never say die” mentality. Toy Soldiers has just a bit more at stake with the whole “terrorists with guns” thing happening but regardless, both sets of kids are willing to do what it takes to save the things that mean the most to them. Both films are adventures and both films involve the characters using their specific skill sets to overcome the obstacles ahead of them. I like the fact that the boys are depicted as intelligent and capable. These kids are able to handle themselves better than all of the adults in the film. Most of the adults are just bumbling fools with the exception of Gossett Jr.’s character who believes in the boys more than any adult could.


I think what sets this movie apart is the graphic depiction of violence. This flick pulls no punches in the graphic violence department. People get thrown out of helicopters, shot in the face, necks get slit and dudes get blown apart by machine guns. This movie would have been tough to market because who do you market to? The movie is about teens but you can’t market it to them since this movie is rated R and adults typically don’t want to go see a movie about a rag tag group of teens out smarting terrorists, I mean, that just sounds like a live action disney channel flick. I applaud the risk they took in making this movie they way that they did.

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.



Teens who are depicted as capable and intelligent, tons of action and a lot of heart, this movie is worth your time despite Mr. Ebert’s criticism. At times, it’s very violent but it never went too far to where it detracts from the pacing of the film. A cross between The Goonies and Red Dawn, Toy Soldiers is a decent film that gets more crap than it really should. Check it out.


-T. Reinert


Monday, July 14, 2014

Interview with TI WEST & Review of THE SACRAMENT

So, I happened to be at Cinema Wasteland, not paying attention and I was scheduled for an interview with TI WEST.  I'm stupid, missed the opportunity to do record the interview over the phone, and only had ten minutes.

Turns out this movie didn't get a theatrical release, which is ridiculous when you look at the crap that does.

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.

THE FILM:
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.

-J. Moret


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

THE 1st ANNUAL ALL-STAR VIDEO REVIEW

If you're reading this, maybe you check our site occasionally.  And, maybe you've noticed that there has been significantly less posting as of late.  Well, here is your answer.



I've been working diligently on a 'zine, that I've confusingly titled, The ALL-STAR VIDEO REVIEW.  That's right, ranting and pumping up films that barely deserve it, now on paper!  But, luckily, I'm not the only one writing on this one.  A number of extremely talented people have offered their services and there are some pretty fantastic essays, a directional on how to fix a VHS tape and a membership card to our new All-Star Video Library.  

We're limiting it to fifty copies, hand-numbered.

I know what you're thinking, how do I get my hands on this fantastic pamphlet of useless information?

THE ALL-STAR VIDEO REVIEW Breakfast Release "Party"
Sunday, July 20th
11am
Moon Palace Books

(Free Coffee and Donuts)

If you can't make the party, you can stop by Moon Palace anytime and pick up a copy.  If you don't live in Minneapolis, send an email to: allstarvideoblog@gmail.com and we'll mail you one.

THE ALL-STAR VIDEO LIBRARY


With the purchase of our Review, you will also receive a membership card that will grant you access to the All-Star Video Library.  It will be in a small wooden bookshelf, beautifully crafted by friend of the site, Nick Geiken.  The bookshelf will be located in the entrance hallway to the Trylon Microcinema.


Inside, you’ll find a meticulously curated collection of films.  We have included everything from hard-to-find brilliant art films to hard-to-find Shot on Video trash films to films we just simply think should be included.  Everything was chosen for a specific purpose and with a specific vision.  This collection will continue to grow and change.  Is there a particular film that we've reviewed that you would love to see and can't find?  Contact us, and we'll make it available to you via the Library.  We believe entertainment and enlightenment are not too far apart, and that honest human introspection can be seen in art film and amateur film alike.


Membership
The following films are all shared free of charge with hopes that they will be enjoyed and shared with others.  

In order to obtain a membership and have access to the collection, you will need to purchase a copy of The All-Star Video Review.  You can purchase the Review at Moon Palace Books or write to allstarvideoblog@gmail.com.  We also ask that you provide some information:

1. Your Full Name
2. Home Address
3. Email Address
4. Telephone Number

Once we have this information, we will give you a membership card that has an individual number on it.  Membership will be limited to 50 members.  After that amount has been reached, we will no longer accept new members until a member leaves.

There are no dues, but all films are due back to the Library 7 Days after they have been rented.  If rentals are not returned within 2 Weeks, membership will be suspended for 2 months, if not returned within 4 Weeks, the membership will be cancelled and can never be renewed.  

THE COLLECTION
We believe that all forms of home video should be included where appropriate or necessary.  We have chosen certain formats for certain films because of the original intention of the filmmakers or because of nostalgic style choices.  Please note that some films will be provided in second or even third generation VHS tapes in the wrong aspect ratio.  This is only done when no other alternatives are available but we believe the film itself is worth seeing in any format.

Please remember to look at the type of media before renting a certain film.  If a certain film is only available on VHS, you will need a VCR to play the film at home.  We do offer the rental of our VCR, if you do not own one.  It will need to be returned with the film.  If you'd like your own VCR, they can usually be easily and cheaply obtained at Goodwill.  Likewise, note that Blu-Ray cannot be played on a regular DVD player.  

As a member, we ask that you consider contributing something from your own collection to ours.  If you have a film that you’d like to offer up for rental, please contact allstarvideoblog@gmail.com with a description of the film and set up a time to leave it at Moon Palace bookstore or the Trylon Microcinema for consideration.

If you’re looking for more information on a film or would like to read longer reviews of the films, they are available at www.allstarvideo.org