Friday, January 31, 2014
This week, I interview Chris Hewitt. Hewitt is the film critic for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. He is incredibly generous with his time and attention, loving to talk about movies. He's not shy with his love for genre films and is a very refreshing voice in the Twin Cities. Our conversation ranges from growing up in a small town to critics' opinions in the Oscars to the future of big press film criticism.
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Check out this episode!
Thanks for listening,
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
94 mins. Color.
Blu-Ray from Drafthouse Films
P.K. is a know-it-all dick who has an unrealistic knowledge of military history and strategy. His best friend, Paul Kwon (not P.K.?) is a dude that just gets captured and tortured. There's a fat kid, a loser kid, a smart chess-playing girl, a red headed mop-top kid that swears a lot and hates God, and then there's Alter Boy, who is a big time sheltered church kid that is pretty much like this kid that I grew up with named Gavin. There's also a really dumb silent character that has a husky. So, pretty much G.I. Joe characters. The writer, Jason Lapeyre, says that this film took him ten years to write, so he could make each character multi-layered. Which seems overkill to me, because they are all recognizable archetypes. The bully fat kid is pretty good, though...
- Don't take this one too seriously. Your frame of mind is important with this one. Lower your expectations.
- Grab some sticks from out in the yard. Point them at your cat like it's a crossbow.
- Prepare your killing techniques.
Monday, January 27, 2014
A big part of finding the obscure has historically involved the very maligned, but necessary, bootlegger. If you were at all interested in films from Asia in the mid 1990s or early 2000s, you most definitely procured bootlegs in order to see things that were otherwise unavailable to you. Titles like Eli, Eli, Lema Sabacthani (or Eri Eri Rema Sabakutani http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0461769/)are still unavailable, except through a very limited run of bootleg DVDs. I was only able to see it because a friend, (Joe Larsen... my interview with him is here if you're interested http://allstarvideo.libsyn.com/interview-with-joseph-larsen) loaned me his copy. I promptly recorded it onto a beat up old VHS so that I would have some way to refer to it if I needed to. It is an extraordinary film that would never have crossed my path had Joe not found a bootleg and then shared it with me.
Presently, it's more common to find bootlegged or pirated material on the internet, and generally it is for films that are widely available. This is not what I'm defending or lamenting the loss of. In fact, I find the practice quite despicable. What I'm talking about are the films you would otherwise never see. For instance, there is a film I just found called Fatal Games. It is an Olympics slasher from 1984. Yes, an Olympics Slasher. You know, somebody throws a javelin through somebody. Anyway, I read about the film maybe two years ago. I couldn't find it for less than $100 on VHS and quickly forgot about it. Then, I recently read the Bleeding Skull review and laughed hysterically. This was a film I really needed to see. So, I went hunting.
The thing about bootlegs is that they aren't easy. You're wading into an unseemly world that is not regulated by the Better Business Bureau. The moment when you could find readily accessible, decent quality DVD bootlegs on Ebay is gone. That shadowy world has retreated, mostly just to the sketchy universe of torrenting. But, that world defeats the purpose of sharing. Sure, you could share a site I suppose, but it's not the same. It doesn't have the same immediacy as a physical disk. It also doesn't work on your shelf, when you want to hunt through your collection to watch a movie with a friend late at night.
Likewise, there is something special about having artwork. Similarly to when reading a book, if your memory is at all visually based, you remember quotes and things based on page and where in the book it was. Seeing the imagery of the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp blu-ray artwork will forever keep it in my memory. And, so, what to do now?
Places like ioffer.com have an okay collective of bootleggers that offer a variety of extremely hard to find weirdo horror films, and is where I found Fatal Games (which I will be reviewing next week for the opening of the Olympics). Though, I don't recommend buying titles like Black Devil Doll From Hell, as you can get a much higher quality version from Massacre Video, a very small one-man-operation that actually owns the rights and deserves your money. But, where does one turn for strange foreign art films (Air Doll?) or films banned in the states (The Devils?) All-Region DVD players are, of course, a great option, but DVDs are not cheap that way.
We're trying to come up with some answers for our own small community for a very small amount of films, which will be available in our 'Zine, to come out this spring. Other than that, its a wilderness out there. Good hunting.
Friday, January 24, 2014
This week, Matt and John discuss the Shot-on-Video slasher film, 555. Perhaps one of the most notorious SOVs, it is notable to us because it was made by adults.
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Monday, January 20, 2014
Rambo was a really big deal in 1984. So big that it was released in pretty much every format available. Here is the short-lived CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc System) Video Disc. CED was originally formatted as a way to increase sound quality and length of recording on vinyl audio records. Originally created in 1964. However, politics within the industry drove the laserdisc up, while the CED (or Videodisc) down. This has a long history of occurences. VHS vs Beta, Blu-Ray vs HD DVD, etc...
And, so we come to Rambo: First Blood Part II. The Rambo naming conventions for that series are perhaps the most confusing of any series ever. So, you've got First Blood, then Rambo: First Blood Part II. Makes sense so far. Then, we come to Rambo 3. Technically, the title should be Rambo 2: First Blood Part III or just First Blood 3. Finally, the final film, Rambo. What?!?
NO MAN, NO LAW, NO WAR CAN STOP HIM!
This is one of those perennial favorites of mine. In fact, I wrote my college thesis on it. And, it's really really bad. Politically it's a mess (very Libertarian, pro-Reagan, etc...) As a film, Cosmatos edited together an extremetly entertaining disaster. The film itself has basically no plot, just premise. No characters develop.
But, A buffed-out Stallone with a rocket launcher in front of a bunch of fire? I will watch that.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
114 mins. Color.
VHS from MGM MOVIE TIME
Before President Bartlett (the incomparable Martin Sheen) was President Bartlett, he was a psychiatrist in wonderful Minneapolis who loved to race the milk man home. Anyway, he gets home, jokes around with his creepy son who is playing with a weird doll and then accidentally electrocutes his wife by spilling milk on the ground. Thus starts Bartlett's rise to become the leader of the free world.
Director John Schlesinger has made some incredible films, Marathon Man being my favorite. His films have a great capacity to capture the strange huge-ness that is New York City. Central Park seems to have a special significance for him. It's as if the wildness in the midst of that giant smoggy grid represents something deep in the subconscious of the city. Case in point, the amazing ending to the aforementioned Marathon Man.
President Bartlett ends up being a psychiatrist for the NYPD. Matthew Santos (national treasure Jimmy Smits) wants to run for president some day, but unfortunately he doesn't know that yet, so he is just a great detective that cracks up on a case. Bartlett comes in to treat him and is dragged into the world of cult ritualism, an off-shoot of Santeria.
Similar to something like The Serpent and The Rainbow, it plays off of American fears of our ignorance of and separation from the "old" spirit world. Here, it is how their religion targets and sacrifices young boys. Bartlett sees it all as superstitious nonsense, but spells, rituals, magic and the fact that they hope to sacrifice his child bring him to the brink of madness. Soon, he has no idea who he can trust, and things get very interesting.
What elevates this film from typical horror schlock of the late 1980s, outside of the amazing performances, are the settings and pacing. One crime scene in particular takes place in a beautiful and decaying old cinema palace. The lighting, grime, and cobwebs perfectly capture a certain humid and dank nightmare. The slow and plodding pace gives the film room to grow and breathe, creating a deep connection to the characters and story.
There is some strange voodoo racism going on that I think would only be acceptable twenty-five years ago. Cliched dancing, drumming, etc... I'm sure there is some truth to the ritualistic nature of it, but I would hope it could be portrayed differently. Those are also the only scenes that don't work well at all within the film. But, then, the film changes tone and it all fits together very well.
Smits and Sheen are perfect, the twists are fun, and it ends perfectly. This is a wonderful little gem that I am surprised doesn't have a bigger following.
Before you become a believer:
- Make yourself a very aromatic cup of tea
- Put on a polo shirt and tuck it into some khakis, for as long as you can stand it.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
In Theaters and On Demand
I recently sat down with John and watched the interesting yet flawed Mexican horror film Here Comes the Devil. What could have been a stereotypical film about demonic possession turned into an intriguing, puritanical look at sex.
The basic premise of the film is a vacationing family stops at a gas station next to a large weird hill. The two kids in the family (sister and brother) want to go explore the hill and the parents let them go. Unfortunately, the kids go into a creepy vagina looking tunnel and disappear for a night, much to the parents displeasure of course. They turn up the next morning but they’ve changed. They are creepy-as-fuck, lifeless bastards. The father is an asshole so he doesn’t notice but the mother begins to notice right away and that’s when things get fucked up.
This film looks at sex as a major sin. The movie starts off with two lesbians grinding cooters like there’s no tomorrow. Once they’ve finished, they sit and discuss the fact that one of them feels extremely guilty for the banging the happened moments ago. This is all cut short when a person begins pounding on their front door. The one that doesn’t feel guilty gets up to answer and is promptly greeted by a psycho who beats her up and cuts off a couple of her fingers. The guilt ridden lesbian runs downstairs and hits the maniac who then runs off and dies in the aforementioned vagina cave. A strange scene but one that really does set the tone of the film, sex and brutal violence. There’s just all sorts of weird extremely sexual moments in this movie and they have this ultimate feeling of perversion. Sex in this movie leads to guilt, perversion, rage and ultimately damnation.
|Pictured: creepy-as-fuck, lifeless bastards|
At moments Here Comes the Devil felt like a grindhouse film with some fun extreme camera zooms and of course the massive amounts of perversion prevalent throughout but it never quite got to that grindhouse fun/extreme quality that makes them so enjoyable. With the amount of weird sexual shit in this movie I feel like it should have been titled Here CUMS the Devil. Overall, I think this movie had some really good moments but ended up falling flat on a lot of notes. That being said, it was more interesting than many American horror films out today and worthy of at least one viewing.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
This week, I interview Kathie Smith. Kathie is a programmer at the Trylon Microcinema, co-founder and writer of the new Minneapolis film blog, Joyless Creatures, programmer for MSPIFF (Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival), works for Raro Video and hunter of interesting film. We discuss Box Office Video, illegal screenings, top-loading VCRs and more.
Monday, January 13, 2014
"The castle of knowledge in a land of contradiction houses the ultimate weapon. Should it fall into the hands of evil, the land would surely die. The Blade Master (Ator), a hero of mythical strength, leads a small band in the defense of good against the overwhelming forces of evil."
"The castle of knowledge in a land of contradiction houses the ultimate weapon." WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!? After watching this movie I can honestly say that I have no clue what this movie is about. I do know for certain that it's Italian sword & sorcery at it's worst. The movie is filled with just a bunch of meaningless, random scenes. The movie opens up with a 10 minute sequence of cavemen eating then fighting. What does this have to do with the rest of the movie? Not a God damn thing. There is a sequence where the main character Ator flies around in a hang glider for about 8 minutes. The scene just never ends. It's like the director Joe D'Amato knew this movie sucked so he was like "MORE HANG GLIDER!". He should have said "More action! More gore!" cause there is seemingly none of that in this movie.
The funniest part of this flick happens around the beginning when the old wizard-y guy explains who Ator is to his daughter. What ensues is a 10 minute highlight reel of the first Ator movie, Ator, The Fighting Eagle. All of the "best" scenes compiled for your viewing "pleasure". I wish I would have just watched an equivalent version of this highlight reel for The Blade Master and saved myself about an hour and ten minutes.
The box is fun. It's got a pretty sweet painting of Ator and a lady in action poses. The lady is a little more scantily clad than in the actual movie which isn't bad. It makes the movie seem way more badass than it really is. The box says "A pure action fantasy." I can find a couple things wrong with that tagline.
The absolute best part about this movie is that when my roommate took the tape out of the box, the tape had no labels whatsoever and the record tab was still intact. It looked like a blank, recordable VHS. We had no clue if it was the actual movie or an old baseball game or a home made porn. It could have been anything but unfortunately it was The Blade Master.
|Pictured: dissapointingly NOT the tape from The Ring|
Friday, January 10, 2014
This animated film from France looks absolutely delightful. The animation style is unique but at the same time reminds me of Miyazaki. It looks as though it's been making the rounds at film festivals in the US but should get a bit wider release sometime in March.
I can barely contain the excitement that I have for this movie. The Raid: Redemption is easily one of the greatest action films of all time in my mind and this sequel looks like it can hold its weight. If you're looking for brutal, non stop action this is probably your best bet for 2014. Look for this in March.
I'm a huge fan of Sci-fi films and this looks pretty interesting. Technology seems to still be a scary thing for a lot of people and this movie looks to feed on that fear. Look for this in theaters in April.
More Sci-fi! I was a big fan of last year's Oblivion and I'm all for more Tom Cruise sci-fi movies so this is a no brainer for me. On top of it all, time travel in movies is always exciting when done correctly. Bill Paxton and Emily Blunt (who are both great to watch) also star in this. Look for this coming in June.
Stephen Chow made some of the most entertaining movies I have ever seen (Shaolin Soccer, God of Cookery and Kung-Fu Hustle) and this looks like it will be much the same, entertaining and awesome. If you haven't seen any of his movies they are just a wonderful blend of action and comedy while being totally absurd and super fun. Look for this in a limited run in March and because it's Magnet they will probably have this VOD (Video On Demand) sometime around there as well.
I am a huge Marvel Comics fanboy and let's all be honest here, Marvel is killing it with their movies. Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero so I can't wait to see what they do in the second installment of the rebooted franchise. I really enjoyed the first one and dare I say it? I liked it more than the first of the Raimi films. Captain America: Winter Soldier looks vastly superior to the first movie. Looks darker and chock full of gritty action, while Guardians of the Galaxy looks fun, funny and frankly pretty awesome. James Gunn in the directors chair excites me to no end. Finally, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I am more excited about this movie than any other movie on this list. I am a die hard X-Men fan and after the horrendous debacle know as X-Men: Last Stand I thought they could never recover. Well, they did with X-Men: First Class and they are pressing on with what looks to be the biggest and best film yet. There are already plans for a third film entitled X-Men: Age of Apocalypse (!!!!!). Spider-Man 2 is coming in May, Captain America 2 in April, Guardians all the way in August and X-Men: Days of Future Past will hit theaters on May 23rd.
Wes Anderson. March. That's all you need to know.
Hayao Miyazaki's supposed final film. Looks as though he's going out on a more dramatic note. Mostly known for his fairy tale like subjects, he focuses on a biographical film about the man who designed Japanese fighter planes in WWII. Look for this movie to hit theaters in February.
Everyone seems to be a little tense about this one. The last time Hollywood tried to make a Godzilla movie it was a total bomb. This time around it looks like they've gotten their shit together. Good cast, good director and one big ass monster. I expect total destruction of the box office with this one. Check it out in May.
It's a Lego movie! C'mon! That just sounds great. If it has the same humor as the Lego video games we are all in for a treat. This one comes out soon, February 7th.
Other films to keep an eye out for: Jupiter Ascending, Big Bad Wolves, The Loft, The Equilizer, Grand Piano, Jodorowsky's Dune and of course the Veronica Mars movie. (Click on the titles to learn more about these films)
I hope this list gets you as excited as I am for the coming year. This is just the first half of the year too! There are more movies that we don't even know about yet. I can't wait!
Thursday, January 2, 2014
95 mins. Dark and ghoulish color.
Republic Pictures VHS
The set-up is nothing really all that special. A long-abandoned mine is being reopened by speculators and two friends, Mark and Roger, are there to work. Roger's girlfriend Jessica and her friend Trish come up from Denver to visit. There are Boogens. The Boogens are dangerous.
What is special about this movie is the execution. The actors do such a fine job and are so likeable I felt myself getting attached to all of them. I can't remember the last time that I watched a monster movie and didn't want to see the monster ravage all the characters. I was attached to Jessica in her cowboy hat and pool-shark skills. I was attached to Mark, because he's a sweet guy and he reminded me slightly of that guy in The Last Starfighter. I was attached to Roger because he's a sex maniac (and brilliantly frustrated throughout the movie). I was attached to Trish because she's bright and capable and charming and can smash Boogen-heads with boulders.
And, mostly, I was attached to the dog, Tiger. Tiger is maybe the best actor in dog history. He awkwardly looks back and forth, has perfect comedic timing and could really use a bath by the end.
The first hour of the film feels as though you're watching any old '80s comedy. Young, likeable people up to young people hijinx. It's all capable enough that the film could've succeeded just fine as a Say Anything or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The characters are wholesome in that early '80s kind of way.
Then, it turns dark.
Once the monsters come out, it proves to also be capable as a monster stalker movie, complete with Boogens POV and great Boogens make-up and effects. Because this is pre- John Carpenter's The Thing, I think it deserves some recognition for the creative monster design. I won't describe it here, but on the small budget, they are pretty successful at not showing the Boogens until absolutely necessary, and then obscuring them in the darkness.
And, so, it works on both levels. But, maybe that's it's problem. The Boogens never really found an audience with the slasher crowd or the monster crowd or the teen comedy crowd. The crossing of genres always seems to leave crowds behind. It's a film that is not built from the beginning to make you guess who dies first or who lives. It's not the type of film that makes you look for the next creative kill. I downright felt bad when I realized certain characters were about to meet their end.
It's bad. Really bad. The cover has some skeleton hands reaching out and some weird ghost eyes hovering above an old cabin. Released the same year as My Bloody Valentine, this film failed to make even close to the amount of money Bloody did. And yet, it's a far better film. I think the first culprit is that title, The Boogens? What's a Boogen? I was watching this with Tom, and he pointed out that a much better title would've been Black Friday (how the townies refer to the original mine collapse.) I agree completely. Also, the tagline he came up for it was, "Boogens will be Boogens." Brilliant. Why isn't Tom in marketing? Also, the poster art and box cover should have something with creepy tentacles, cute co-eds, and a mine shaft. Not some weird skeleton hands and some disembodied eyes.
Before you open the mine shaft:
- Coors. Mark taps the rockies and if you are inclined toward drink, so should you.
- A hot shower. This film takes place in the snowy mountains, and it's cold to watch. The crunching of snow and icy atmosphere is affecting.