Monday, August 3, 2009

Fucked-Up Movie Night!

You don't know where this movie is going. That's a pretty bold statement. In this day of gory horror flicks, fans have been either numbed to most of what special effects crews can churn out, have learned to expect what is on the next frame of celluloid or have spoiled themselves with the invasiveness of the Internet. Well, I am in the hopes that if you have happened to hear about the 2008 movie Martyrs that you haven't heard much besides, "This movie is fucked up!"

Having listened to an episode of the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema I learned of the movie through another listeners voice mail to the podcast berating the Pascal Laugier film. The man voiced his opinion that the film was trash and needed to be discarded as pornography. As having been witness to violence himself he poses the thought that no one needs to see this film as it depicts what could morally be construed as garbage and in having watched it one is perpetuating violence upon women and fellow human beings. The hosts of the show rightfully defend their stance as film watchers and advocates of free speech. Violence aside, Martyrs is a fairly competent film. Yes, it depicts violence upon "helpless" women and their childhood counterparts but it goes further than that and explores what is rarely posited in mainstream consciousness; that the surrender to and acceptance of pain can lead to pleasure and other planes of consciousness.

The film arrives at this hypothesis in a most deliberate and graphic way but if one can get around that and just think about it on a deeper level one can arrive where the film is daring you to go. I truly doubt that Pascal Laugier means in his optional introduction to the unrated DVD that he dares you to hate him for the film that he has written and directed. He also goes so far to say that he is sometimes ashamed from what is Martyrs. I want to believe that his idea all along was to bring this thought provoking concept to an otherwise less than original revenge film and go so far as to say that his "apology" for the movie in the introduction is nothing other than a thinly veiled marketing stunt and controversy starter.

Whether or not this is true I can only guess. What I cannot guess at is the craft that this man has brought to his film. OK, so this is no 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is far beyond the reach of the Platinum Dunes remakes that Michael Bay is bankrolling. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Martyrs is a French production and is immediately outside the influence of Hollywood. Or perhaps it is that the director simply knows what he is doing. Watching the making-of featurette, I came away with respect for Mr. Laugier. He commands his crew well and in turn, the film is much better for it. I'll be looking forward to future works from he.

Besides any implied or deeper meaning, the reason I, among other people, are seeing this movie is because of the bloodshed on screen and the realistic, albeit slightly over-the-top, depiction of it. From the beginning I was floored by the severity and brutality of the murders and torture committed by the actors. Several times I had the uneasy feeling that I get when watching true life medical surgery television; something rare for me while watching the typical horror flick. Laugier uses his craft, that so many others fail to do, to create an ever present unease with the viewer. His knowledge, accompanied by exquisite make-up artists, make his bold decisions in his film making pay off so much more than in lesser hands. In one particular scene, Laugier shuns the use of slow-motion photography during the massacre of an entire family by shotgun because of the ferocity needed. He felt that the viewer would be that much more knowledgeable that they were watching a movie if he used slow-mo. It's true. The exclusion of the slow-motion just ratchets up the impact of the scene. Oh, what a scene it is.

What follows is a non-stop barrage of slices, dices, bludgeons, screws being ripped from someones skull, gunshots, self mutilations and a climax that if I spoiled, it would be a damn shame. What I can tell you is that I couldn't believe it when I saw it but once I did...creamed jeans. Martyrs belongs on my DVD shelf as well as yours, reader.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Shatter Dead = Awesome!

After starting this blog I haven't felt the need to update on a more than weekly basis. In fact, it hasn't been updated even that often. I apologize to Jonah and Bryce(my only readers, I believe) for this. There haven't been a shortage of movies passing my eyes lately, I just don't have the compulsion to write about what has been written about by many a blogger, I guess. Terminator 4 and the Hangover I had the upper hand with. Sneak passes, you see! One of the first to write about, was I! Pushing material out to the interweb results in boring words. For now shit will flow when it flows.

Moving on.

After graduating from high school I happened upon the most magical of movie rental houses. Movie Madness, located on SE Belmont, houses a vast selection of titles separated by genre, director, actor, sub-genre, country, era, and more. Even before their expansion it felt as if you could get lost in movie heaven and if there was a chance of seeing daylight again that you wouldn't want to leave. Racks upon racks of movies before me. Never had I spent so much of a night trying to figure out what I wanted to watch. There was just too many choices and not enough money. Being able to purchase Red Vines by the piece is a nice touch.

Among the many sections that Movie Madness has amidst the walls of classic film memorabilia and official props was and is the Bizarre section. Being the person that I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out what could be in the Bizarre section. Most of the titles were VHS tapes and still are as the DVD counterparts have never been distributed and require an upstanding rental history at Movie Madness or a $100 deposit. Movies like Nekromantic, Snuff, the Faces of Death series, the CKY series, Richard Kern films, Raymond Pettibone films and more shelved on just two cases but more than enough to peak my interest and taste. I spout these names off not because they meant anything to me at the time but because they do now. Being 18 at the time meant that I could rent anything and there were quite a few movies on those racks with an 18 and over sticker. One of those stickers meant a free pass for me and a trip to Movie Madness almost certainly ended with another morality bending film under my arm along with whatever else I originally came to get. Whether or not that sticker meant quality wasn't of concern. That sticker meant that I was about to watch something that no one I knew knew anything about.

Intrigued by the title and the cover art of a woman looking through a bloody hole in a door, I picked up Shatter Dead. Directed by Scooter McCrae and released in 1993, Shatter Dead was one of my first forays into the direct-to-video/shot-on-video horror genre. It has also become, in time, one of my favorite movies of all time. It was also a movie that I could watch alone in the basement at my parent's house without them wondering first what I was watching and second why I was watching it. Full of boobs, blood and killing, Shatter Dead gets three big points right off the bat for me. That is not to say that those are the only things that I look for in a flick but back in the days of high school and right after high school, they could have been.

Shatter Dead tells the story of a world where the Angel of Death descends to Earth and impregnates a mortal woman and, in turn, destroys the notion of dying and resting peaceably underground. After death, one retains consciousness and thought but are hunted and destroyed by the living minority. Among this world is Susan, a woman trying to get across town to her boyfriend and other friends, where there is safety and shelter. After gathering supplies from town she is relieved of her vehicle by a man known only as the "Preacher Man" and his undead congregation. She is left to walk away as he foresees that she will choose to come to their side as it is the righteous way and smarter path. After stealing a car and stopping in a neighborhood to sleep, Susan is awakened by a night patrolman and taken to a shelter where she can get off the street due to martial law. There she bunks with a woman and they both take a shower together because the woman she just met wants to give us an eyeful. In the Shower Susan discovers by the bruising of pooling blood in the new roommate's backside that she is another of the walking dead and proceeds to be talked out of blasting a hole in her head.

What follows is an unrelenting series of situations and images that are still ingrained in my head, begging to stay. And, stay, they will. Naked women, shotgun blasts painting a white room red, a voyeur jerking off while looking through a keyhole, zombies lit afire, birth from a shotgun wound, oral play on a pistol, actual vaginal penetration with said pistol, this film does not let up on "mature" storytelling devices and as a result, I love every moment of it.

Though the film was shot on a very small budget the ingenuity involved in its production forgives many of it's glaring defects. The acting is almost entirely horrible, the sound design is crappy and the script inspires me to crap one out. These aside, Shatter Dead is an amazing ride and I implore my friends to borrow this movie or distant readers(if ever I get one) to queue it up on Netflix Instant Watch. It's time for a great movie night!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Good Sci-Ii Making a Comeback?

Plain and simple, Moon is a movie to watch as soon as possible. Today marks the first time in a while that I have been to the Fox Tower theatre downtown since Juno was released. I don't like downtown but I think that I am going to have to venture there to visit this theatre more often as it houses the more independent movies in town. Actually, the Hollywood theatre and Cinema 21 do as well, but I'll just lump them in with Fox Tower.

I'm getting pretty tired of the big blockbusters and their rehashing of tired old stories. While the Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay movies serve their purpose a shift in the flow of my money that goes to those pictures is going to have to be diverted to more independent films. Not to say that I'm smarter than the upcoming 2012, because I'm not, I am very excited for that one, but I am more excited for the underdogs nowadays. I am excited for the filmmaker's attention to be focused on the story and tone and the craft of the film instead of money being thrown at effects. I love big effects movies and again, I bring up 2012 because I've never seen world destruction in a trailer look more convincing. But those movies will always be there. Films like Moon won't be. They are too risky and I can't see Moon raking in many millions. But I hope that it gains an audience in time or gets a wider release soon.

Intelligent Sci-fi is something lacking in today's cinemas. Knowing could have been it if there was about $100 million dropped off the budget, major recastings, and the ideas that were there, further explored. With only a $5 million budget, director Duncan Jones puts his efforts into the story and creating a believable world. The lunar effects are all done with convincing miniatures and practical mock-ups and the set is all interconnected, lending to a cohesive and claustrophobic feeling. Being the first in a planned trilogy of Moon films, this is a great entry in what is shaping up to be an amazing story arc.

Where the film really shines is in the performance of Sam Rockwell. Not really a big Hollywood leading name, Rockwell has stuck to a more supporting character role in his career up until last year's Choke and completely holds his own in this film. Being the sole person on screen for the majority of the film there wasn't a moment that I wished he hadn't gotten the role. This film has solidified Sam Rockwell as one of my favorite actors working today.

I am aware that I haven't written anything about the plot of the film and that has been intentional. All you need to know is that it takes place on our moon. Avoid the trailer if you can and go watch this movie. That's it. I'm done. You can go back to watching your soccer game.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bring On the Trash!

Having an affinity for things below the mainstream, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are companies with my thoughts in mind. One in particular is Synapse Films, specializing in releasing hard to find "digitally remastered films in the Horror, Science Fiction, Cult and Independent genres on available Home Video formats". Through Synapse I have purchased Thriller: A Cruel Picture and will follow that up by purchasing Nail Gun Massacre and Brain Damage at some point. Synapse has a series of DVDs pulling trailers of old exploitation films together in volumes entitled 42nd Street Forever, the first of which I have just watched via Netflix.

42nd Street Forever (Vol. 1) showcases films from such typical exploitation genres as horror, britsploitation, blaxploitation, juvenile delinquent teensploitation, martial arts, giallo(Italian horror/slasher), splatter, slasher, shock, sexploitation, rape/revenge, mondo, and biker films. These films are short on morality but full of blood, guts, boobs, drugs, sexism, words unfavorable to certain races and all other sorts to get people like me "excited" to watch film. Many trailers feature scenes of a graphic(awesome) nature. Scenes that might have religious believers or followers of a more conservative closed-minded ideology shut their eyes in disgust run rampant here and beg to be flaunted in front of them if for only the elicited reaction. Exploitation cinema, by definition, often "exploited" lurid subject matter to get viewers into the theaters or drive-ins. The resulting films often suffered in film making "quality" through the use of gimmicks but often excelled in innovation through their unfortunately low budgets. Among the chaff that were the majority of grindhouse films were gems that have since been lost to time or through resurgence in appeal found a new audience. Thriller: A Cruel Picture(They Call Her One Eye), Vanishing Point, Cannibal Holocaust, Last House On The Left, I Spit On Your Grave, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre have since come to be known as classics. A few on this DVD could, if given a wider audience, possibly gain notoriety in film appreciation circles.

A few favorites of mine on the DVD follow:

Thriller: They Call Her One Eye

Boss Nigger

the Pink Angels

the Crippled Master

the Italian Stallion

Blood-Pattered Bride/I Dismember Mama double feature
This is quite the production for a trailer.

Death Has Blue Eyes

Other great trailers include:
Teenage Mother
Charlie and the Hooker
the Undertaker and His Pals
the Flesh and Blood Show
Women and Bloody Terror/Night of Bloody Horror
the Green Slime
the Depraved(a.k.a. Exposed)
Maid in Sweden
Secret Africa
Shocking Asia
the 44 Specialist
Death Drive
the Raiders of Atlantis

At over two hours in length the DVD is most suited to breaking up into multiple sittings. I encourage anyone with an interest in grindhouse films to get the DVD through Netflix. It's not worth buying but is necessary viewing for fans of exploitative film.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Todd Phillips Has a Thing For Wang

I guess that it is fitting that I had a headache throughout the entirety of the Hangover. That is not to say that it was induced by the film, however. Standing outside in the sun without sunglasses to shade my delicate eyeballs for great lengths of time surrounded by fat, wastes of life chowing down on fast food while roaming in scooters spells a good chance for my head to swell.

Signing up for sneak preview programs affords me the chance to see upcoming movies that I have been interested in but unfortunately too indebted to afford. On the other hand, I am "afforded" the chance to build a tolerance to the other group of people that use these services: poor, obese things that either have succumbed to their shear massiveness and now move about with the help of a struggling Hoveround or are on their way to the same inevitability with cane in hand. I'm used to sitting at home in a more or less controlled environment. When in public I am forced to keep my mouth shut and resist the urge to jump onto the lap of a human beanbag chair and whip it repeatedly, urging it onward toward the middle of the street by removing their headphones expectorating the clash of top-40 and whispering "mush". The result is a twitch that starts in my eye and slowly builds to a crescendo encompassing my pate as I labor to unravel why people do this to themselves. At this point I have to remind myself to calm down lest I end up like the guy in Scanners.

At this point I should embrace humanity's collision course for failure and make light of the situation but I fear the consequences will send me into a never ending fit. That said, after three hours of waiting for the movie to start, I was joined by my friends Phil, Jonah, Oinkey, Cash, and a new acquaintance, Andrea(?), in a very enjoyable flick. Having not been a fan of Todd Phillips previous comedy, Old School, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself forgiving the woman who was talking behind me and enjoyed the ninety minute Hangover.

I don't know if I have been watching the lamest comedies for the past number of years or if I have entered into a universe where only Wayne's World, Anchorman, Ace Ventura, Dazed and Confused and Solomon Brothers exist. Most comedies fall flat for me either through bad writing or because I am desensitized to the point that I need hairy, Asian balls on the screen to muster up a chuckle. I am here to say that the Hangover is HILARIOUS. I don't say this lightly. I loathe watching comedies except for the aforementioned few. I'd rather spend my time watching rape-revenge or borstal system movies filmed twenty years ago. I'm going to catch this one again either in the theatre or when I buy it on DVD. There is a new breed of comedic actor now and I am excited about the new direction in which these filmed gags are being taken.

I'm not going to list a run-down of the movie's plot because that is not what is important. I'm not sure that this will be that type of blog, anyway. The important thing is that you go see this movie with a friend or loved one when it comes out. Enjoy it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Afros Do Not Belong In the Future

"TODAY IS OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!" Bill Pullman the Suck once said. This, however, is not our independence day from silly Terminator movies. Today, along with my friends Josh, Jonah and Brad I observed the new Terminator movie, Terminator: Salvation. What befell my eyes, I believe, was an honest attempt at the future story line. The movie, directed by McG, was a step above the third film in the series but had none of the heart that the second film had. The main thing that sets the third and this one apart is the color pallet and the absence of our favorite Californian governor. The film sets a tone with it's drab greys and browns and dust throughout, a far cry from the daylight and bright colors of Rise of the Machines. The set design is very good. I can bet a good portion of the film's budget was utilized in creating a believable world. The buildings and sets looked worn and crumbling as if a sneeze will knock down some of the structures amidst the sands. As a post-apocalyptic world should be. Yet, in spots, all that stood out was some poor lighting, pulling me right out of the experience.

Another complaint was the stupid mute eight year old girl. I have no idea what purpose she has in the story except to infuriate me. She doesn't say a word the entire film and yet has a fair amount of screen time. Add on top of that a giant, wild afro. Yes,in the post nuclear destructed world she inhabits there are no barbers and, yes, she lives with Kyle Reese eating dingo or whatever, but, that doesn't excuse the her blatant Hollywood hair or her lack of emotion. I'd like to think that if a building was falling around you, the fright just may might be palpable or if the leader of the human resistance was close to dying I wouldn't expect to see her being the only one in the background looking as if she just missed her first acting lesson and picking her nose.

With the exception of Michael Ironside, Moon Bloodgood and Sam Worthington, every other actor within the film should have been replaced. Common's perfectly sculpted beard has no place within the confines of film. Period. Helena Bonham Carter, though bald-headed, should have been eschewed from the DataDyne storyline, and yes, Christian Bale, or, dare I say Batman, could have been looked over for someone else. The look of John Connor, through Mr. Wayne, I mean, Bale, was there. The belief in him and the struggle for the human race was not. The Batman voice is back in full force and that is exactly how it sounds: forced. There were a few moment when standing side by side I could not distinguish who was talking, Bale or Worthington. That is not a good direction. I wonder if Sam Worthington would have been more convincing as John Connor. He was the best part of Salvation. I'm taking it that his organic heart within his metal skeleton was the "heart" of the film.

I am a fan of needless explosions and there are many in this film. I was riveted in a few of the film's action sequences, especially the first that introduces John Connor to us. In an extended shot we follow him from the exterior of a helicopter to the inside where he pushes a dead body from the pilot's seat, which he climbs into and proceeds to, unbelievably, take off. The shot follows his ascent from the ground, to his his connection with a rocket, through the descent to the ground and his unbuckling of the seat belt. To which he falls to the top of the screen, as the heli has landed on it's roof. This was a well directed sequence and there are others to add to it.

As I understand, this is McG's first true action film and I am going to say that it is a very good effort. May I repeat "effort" and not success. The direction and screenwriters relied heavily on throwbacks to the second film so much as to include, but not limited to, basically the same set design and cues from the climax between Arnold and Robert Patrick in the metallurgy plant. The fight between the two terminators was reminiscent of the showdown between the T-800 and T-1000 and when Kyle Reese is sent up an elevator, it recalls Arnold sending John Connor up almost the exact same one.

This "review" may seem altogether harsh but, as it stands, my Best Movie Ever pedestal has on it's surface seated Terminator 2: Judgement Day and this fourth movie in the series just does not compare. James Cameron was right in ending his involvement with the series after the second. He achieved the vision he set out for. The future war between man and machine is enticing but there is no heart to this tale, just Batman playing war.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Batman: The Killing Joke

After a month of pestering Josh to lend Alan Moore's take on the Joker origin story I sat down to dive headfirst into the wacky and hallucinatory world that is the Joker's mind. At once I noticed the beautiful visuals and the stunning coloring that gave the pictures a roundness that is lacking from most comics that I have had the chance to read. But my pleasure ended there. Having just exited the world of 1980s New York with Moore's work of art, Watchmen, I had high hopes for this book. What sat before my eyes was a ship-shod poor excuse for a story. The book is over before it begins and the implications that the Joker is trying to drive Comissioner Gordon mad with the shooting of his daughter and the fun ride providing photographs of her prostrated in all her gory detail are ultimately underwhelming. The Joker's efforts to drive the Commissioner insane should very well have involved more than twenty in-world minutes of horror. Commisioner Gordon is a strong man and the Joker knows that. He is a "by the book" guy and it would take much more than that to make him forget his scruples. Batman is an afterthought, and while this is the Joker's story, he definitely could have had a larger part. As for the Joker... I'm sorry but a normal man taking a job with the mob because of financial hard times and falling into a chemical bath does not make for a riveting origin story. Yes, Alan Moore writes a slightly intertesting spin to how he went mad but purely falling into a pool of chemicals and coming out laughing like a hyena doesn't make me say "wow, that's awesome." In fact, Tim Burton's Joker went through the same process. The mystery surrounding the Joker in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" is a far more compelling because we don't have it spelled out in ten pages, but it's left to our own imaginings. Overall, it was a half hour well spent but, ultimately, I was disappointed. Alan Moore is a crazy man. After watching "the Mindscape of Alan Moore" I will look forward to reading any of his work. In any case, I am reading V For Vendetta next. Hope it is better.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday May 9, 2009. Start of something.

So today, as per usual, I spent my Saturday cordoned off on my throne, exploring the finer films of our time. Today could be the start of a series of blogs that chronicle what I watch and spend my limited time doing. Or it could be the start of a short series of needless Internet chatter. I haven't made up m mind yet. I'm really tired now so I better start before I fall asleep.

Film I

Good luck Chuck

Director: Don't Care.

I had heard that this flick was a hoot. Previously had never thunk it to see. Glad I did. Having never laughed out loud at most comedies I was pleased to find myself constantly stifling my laughs as to not wake my girlfriend. I like Dane Cook. I'm a terrible person. Plus Jessica Alba is now hot in my book(pants).

Film II

Death Sentence.

Director: James Wan.

Star: Kevin Bacon.

As I am not a huge fan of the torture porn genre or a fan of the first Saw film at all I believe that the film would have passed by my eyes unseen had it not been for the bald Kevin Bacon on the cover of the DVD. I'm pretty glad I picked it up. A thoroughly better film than Saw, I found myself actually riveted by the happenings onscreen. While I could find little to no pity or empathy for Kelly Preston's character or her children, the less whiny artists and hockey players the better, I almost believed in Sir Bacon's performance. His depiction of a father who seeks revenge for the deaths of his family was by no means phoned in. This film most likely had backing by the studios because of the obvious success of the Saw films but I'm sure was mishandled when being promoted. I had never heard about this until it hit DVD. It is a shame because I would have enjoyed a night out at the cheap theatres, Pabst in hand, watching the destruction caused by Kevin Bacon.

Self note: Seek out more James Wan.
Self note(reprise): Checked Scratch further viewings of James Wan flicks.

Film III

Thriller: They Call Her One Eye.

Fucking Christ. Brutal. Young girl is raped and therefore never speaks again due to the mental distress. Years later, she gets picked up by pimp at bus stop, sold into prostitution and hooked on heroin. After lashing out at customer, her eye is taken by pimp and is given one more chance to behave. Now, eye patch in hand, the young woman, with one day off a week, uses it to train in gun handling, martial arts, and driving skills with the extra money earned from her Johns and her unfortunate-looking Jane. In a series of revenge killings that I can only describe as beautiful and vicious( displayed through the use of some interesting slow motion photography) I was taken aback as I rarely am in reaction to the cinematic violence. There is a sort of realism and feeling that flows freely from this film. I'm not sure if it is the graininess of the film or through the performances of the actors but I will be seeing this again and searching out the actress's other works.

Also watched the last chapter to Dogville. Impressed by the delivery. Also watched the Fifth Element. Forgot how good it was.
OK. about to fall asleep. feeling sick. this has been a terrible post. will refine.