27 June 2008

Guest OLR: Wanted (2008)

Crap, somebody dropped the screenplay for The Matrix into a highly corrosive, irresponsibly stylistic vat of testosterone. (6/10)

d. Timur Bekmambetov

26 June 2008

OLR: Cinematic Titanic: "Doomsday Machine" (2008)

A whole bunch of good riffing, two MST3k references ("It's like watching people watch Manos: The Hands of Fate," heh) and some actual CinTit story make for an enjoyable time. (8/10)

d. Harry Hope & Lee Sholem & Sharp-Ford

[Thanks, Trace! The surprise signed silhouette photo inside the DVD case made my day.]

Guest OLR: Cache (2005)

Unstated equations to an ultimately subjective solution make the film worth sitting through once, but only once. (5/10)

d. Michael Haneke

25 June 2008

TTT: Demented Death Farm Massacre... The Movie (1971 / 1986)

Ah, redneck horror movies. I love 'em. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Redneck Zombies, Two Thousand Maniacs, Mother's Day, Deliverance: the drunk, insular and uneducated are a gold mine for terror. Which makes this flick kind of interesting. Though the main redneck is a drunk, Bible-quotin' bastard, you actually start to feel sorry for the guy when four jewel thieves move into his shack, screw his wife and try to steal his moonshine business. When he gets these (slightly crossed) puppy dog eyes after the city-slickin' thieves shove a gun in his face, you can't help but root for him a bit. Some of that sympathy disappears when you learn he bought his hot wife from her father for $200, but hey, that's his culture.

Schlockmeister Fred Olen Ray bought the movie in '86. Besides changing the title to Demented Death Farm Massacre... The Movie (to differentiate it from Demented Death Farm Massacre... The Salad Dressing, I'd imagine), he also shot a handful of minutes of John Carradine as The Judge of Hell. Randomly, the movie cuts to this frail, 80-year-old as he spouts biblical verses ("Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword," "The wages of sin is death," etc.) vaguely related to what just happened in the movie. I can't tell if this is horribly annoying or one of the coolest parts of the movie.

Great character actors, halter tops, a still and a rusty pickup make for a good-bad movie (even better if you have a jug o' shine).

aka Death Farm
aka Hillbilly Hooker
aka Honey Britches
aka Little Whorehouse on the Prairie
aka Moonshiners' Women
d. Donn Davison & Fred Olen Ray

24 June 2008

TTT: Scream Baby Scream (1969)

The oldest of the Toxie's Triple Terror movies, written by my man Larry Cohen. While it's no God Told Me To, Scream Baby Scream ain't a bad way to kick things off. It tells the tale of a pair of lovebird art students who meet professional painter Charles Butler. Butler paints ridiculously amateurish paintings of mutilated people... and he creates his own real, live models for these paintings out of innocent victims!

That all sounds like a standard horror movie and it has a nice horror movie title, but a chunk of of the middle of the film is pure, '60s hippie-movie. There's a party at a hip club for young, '60s kids complete with a crappy rock band playing their hit single and dancers in front of a psychedelic backdrop. My favorite part is when the lovebirds and their friends decide to try acid for the first time. They immediately jump on motorcycles -- riding double on motorcycles while on LSD?! -- and the film goes into double-exposure mode as trippy jazz plays on the soundtrack. Cut to: the trippers petting a baby elephant. What the f... ah, they're annoying the hell out of animals and people at a zoo. How considerate. It ends with, unsurprisingly, a "have you ever really looked at your hand, man?" comment. Awesome.

Vaguely similar to 1965's Color Me Blood Red, but much more fun due to the hippie stuff. Verdict: a good-bad movie.

aka Nightmare House
d. Joseph Adler

Toxie's Triple Terror-o-rama-thon

I've been thinking I don't have enough bad movies in my collection. Not bad-bad movies; no one should ever own garbage like Wolves of Wall Street or Crash. No, I'm talking good-bad movies: poorly shot crapfests with hammy acting, visible monstersuit zippers, nonsensical stories and a just enough entertainment to make it all worthwhile. I'm gonna fix this. I picked up all 7 volumes of the Toxie's Triple Terror series. These box sets -- produced through an unholy alliance between Troma and Brentwood in 2004 -- each give you three flicks culled from Troma's vast bad movie vault. It's a 21-movie crapshoot. What've I got? Is it 21 movie's worth of sheer boredom or 21 movies filled with the bad-movie goodness of excessive nudity, gore and cheeziness? I'm gonna watch 'em all to find out.

Ratings will be on the new Melvin scale. It's currently calibrated to
= Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV
and down to
= The Beast of Yucca Flats.

22 June 2008

OLR: Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008)

Not unlike several season finales rolled into one; not a bad way of clearing the slate for some non-TV-story-dependent movies. (7/10)

d. Robert C. Cooper

21 June 2008

Guest OLR: Funny Games U.S. (2007)

Improvements in some areas, failures in others, but for the most part, it's the same as the excruciating original. (7/10)

d. Michael Haneke

OLR: Commando (1985)

If your kids ever ask you: "Daddy, who was Arnold Schwarzeneggar?", pop this movie in and all will be explained. (8/10)

d. Mark L. Lester

OLR: Cloverfield (2008)

I didn't realize it until I'd seen it, but this is precisely what I want out of a monster movie in 2008. (9/10)

d. Matt Reeves

Guest OLR: Funny Games (1997)

Executed with an inhuman amount of restraint that is truly frightening in and of itself. (7/10)

d. Michael Haneke

17 June 2008

OLR: Elvira's Movie Macabre: "The Devil's Wedding Night" (1983)

Once the shots of random maniacal laughter was cut into the lesbian vampire sex scene, I was hooked. (7/10)

d. Larry Thomas & Luigi Batzella

15 June 2008

OLR: Elvira's Movie Macabre: "Legacy of Blood" (1982)

Snooze-fest with the Please Don't Eat My Mother guy in it. (4/10)

d. Larry Thomas & Carl Monson

OLR: Killing Birds (1987)

Whole lot of nothing, with the best full-body burn stunt ever in the middle. (4/10)

d. Claudio Lattanzi & Joe D'Amato

14 June 2008

OLR: After Death (1988)

Pointless and boring, with a few neat gore effects. (4/10)

d. Claudio Fragasso

OLR: Masters of Horror: "The V Word" (2006)

Though not great, I enjoyed seeing Michael Ironside get his head sawed off. (6/10)

d. Ernest R. Dickerson

OLR: Zombi 3 (1988)

If you marathoned Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, The Crazies and Zombi 2, this might be one of the dreams you have that night. (7/10)

d. Lucio Fulci & Claudio Fragasso & Bruno Mattei

11 June 2008

OLR: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Goofy fun that makes me want to play some NES and drink some Tab. (7/10)

d. Steve Barron

09 June 2008

Terry Gilliam (The Brothers Grimm | Tideland)

2005 | The Brothers Grimm
Stale. That's the word that pops into mind when I think of this movie. If Gilliam were a chef and Brazil was the best steak you've ever eaten, Grimm would be something approaching soda crackers and 7-Up. The spark of life usually present in his films is neigh-absent here, replaced by poorly computer-animated creatures jumping all over the place. At times -- and this might be an extraordinarily cruel thing to write -- I felt like I was watching Van Helsing.

The story of supernatural scam artists who run into the real thing isn't particularly original. Gilliam has already explored the collision of evil French rationalists with heroic German dreamers much better in Munchausen. Hell, I'm sure Gilliam was well-aware of this: he cast Jonathan Pryce in essentially the same role from that movie. The performances -- with perhaps the exception of Heath Ledger -- were either lifeless or, in Peter Stormare's case, spastic and almost unintelligible (a Swede trying to do an Italian accent in English?).

According to Wikipedia (and according to the DVD commentary), Gilliam didn't like the script, but had no other projects to direct at the time. Fair enough. This was something for him to do because -- due to an undeserved reputation as a madman -- no one wants to give him money to direct his own projects. It worked. Not only did Grimm make a respectable $105 million worldwide -- presumably helping his rep a bit -- but it also helped him line up the financing for Tideland, which was something he really did want to direct. A film technically directed by Terry Gilliam, but not really a "Terry Gilliam Film," I figure. (5/10)

Watched: Blu-ray released by Miramax in 2006. Worst video quality I've seen on a BD so far. Embarrassing.

2005 | Tideland
On the DVD before the movie begins is a short introduction by Gilliam. He predicts that some people will love the film, others will hate it and many won't know what to think of it at all. I think I fall into that latter category. I know I don't hate it, but I'm not sure if there's much to take from this film other than some excellent performances and cinematography.

I've owned the DVD for a year and the movie was released over two years ago. During that time -- patiently waiting to watch the movie at the end of this chronocinethon -- I fastidiously avoided spoilers about the story. Still, I kept seeing one word popping up in reference to the movie: "disturbing. Coupled with the knowledge from the trailer that it was about a girl with a drug-addicted father who escaped into her fantasies, I was prepared for the worst. Memories of Ketchum's sledgehammer-to-the-gut of a novel, The Girl Next Door -- easily the most disturbing work I've ever read or seen -- danced in my head. What horrors were going to befall that poor little girl? What did madman Gilliam have in store for me?

Nothing too bad. I forget, as a horror movie fan, that my definition of "disturbing" is about thirteen levels beyond the general public's. My guess is that normal folks were most bothered by Jeliza-Rose preparing her father's heroin, cuddling with his dried-out, taxidermied corpse and having innocent kisses with a retarded man twice her age . Nothing new for horror fans in the first two instances.

For the latter, J-R and Dickens' relationship certainly had the potential of going the wrong way. I'll admit I felt some tension while watching them, hoping that Dickens' man-body would not overpower his child-mind. I think this tension was a part of Gilliam's intentions for the pair. He mentions in an interview on the DVD that the hysteria in recent years over pedophilia bothers him; that it forces adults to view everything -- no matter how innocent -- though a lens of sexuality. In the end, J-R and Dicken relationship really was purely childish and innocent; Gilliam gets to say to the viewers: "see, you're the one who is corrupt, imaging the evil that wasn't there to begin with."

The film is beautifully shot. The prairies really do look like golden seas as Dickens scuba dives through them. Jodelle Ferland gives what is probably the best child performance in the history of film. She's in nearly every scene of this 120-minute movie and never falters a step, as far as I can see. Guiding a child actor through nearly every single scene of a 2-hour movie while dealing with her limited working hours is also a strong testament to Gilliam's directing prowess. Brendan Fletcher as Dickens is equally as good; he's far more deserving of an Oscar nomination than Brad Pitt was. I enjoyed the world Gilliam created and wouldn't have minded an even longer cut.

But, what's it all amount to? I'm still not sure. Basically, we view a few very odd days (weeks?) in a girl's life. She watches both of her parents die (peacefully) of drug overdoses and sublimates her grief though fantasy and semi-insanity. She stumbles upon a pair of rather improbable characters nearby, who create a sort of substitute family for her. There is a musical cleaning montage. Her substitute family also falls apart, due to the instability of the improbable characters, and she is delivered into the caring arms of a woman who's survived a train explosion. "If you drop them, they bounce," says Gilliam of children. Is that all there is to this film? That kids can survive the damnedest things thrown at them? I don't know. I do know that the more I think about this strange, unique film, the more I like it. That is the damnedest thing. (8/10)

Watched: NTSC 2-DVD set released by THINKFilm in 2007. A failure of a DVD release: these morons present the film in the wrong aspect ratio. It's 1.78:1 on the DVD and Gilliam's intended ratio is 2.25:1. Though they promised they would release a corrected version, it's been a year without any news on this. I'm guessing the real reason for the botched release was a misguided idea that it would make the movie more palatable to the mouth-breathers who "hate them black bars." Embarrassing.

06 June 2008

OLR: Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

It being damn pretty on the eyes helps me put aside my great dislike of Hal Jordan and the laziness of putting Superman out of the action during the first 3 seconds of the final battle. (7/10)

d. Dave Bullock

05 June 2008

OLR: Superman: Doomsday (2007)

I'm not happy that Superman ended up murdering his clone -- part of an overall "look at how PG-13 we are!!" problem -- but the fights, animation and most of the voice acting were great. (7/10)

d. Lauren Montgomery & Bruce W. Timm & Brandon Vietti