Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Incredible Torture Evening

Because a few films were expiring on NWI and not available as DVD rentals, I made a point to watch a couple. First up was Joel Reed's bizarre torture porn feature Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), which is as blatant and explicit as anything you might see today. And in some ways even worse as Sardu's magic act is really no act at all yet to the unsuspecting audience they have no idea that the gruesome bits are very real. No, this is not a good film tho highly exploitative. But still worth watching for fans of exploitation, horror and the time period.

Next up was the now OOP The Children (1980). Always quite horrific when the children are the monsters and here they are radiation infected zombie children that are unstoppable... until their hands are cut off. While not great this is still a decent siege film.

Lastly on NWI for the night was the animated science fiction horror flick Dead Space: Downfall (2008). They manage to cram every device from this mixed genre into a tight, thrilling ride of scenes you've seen in most live-action features of its ilk. Not original or inspiring but a watchable animated flick that plays like a clip reel of the best scenes from every other sci-fi horror film you've already seen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prowling Iceland

It may have been a post on Cinematical that prompted me to drop Astropia (2007) into my Netflix queue. Possibly the geekiest & goofiest Icelandic film I've seen. Okay, the only Icelandic film I've seen. Truly a fun yet odd film from Iceland rife with geek pop culture (think Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings meets The Matrix in a crime comedy). As the highest grossing film in Iceland in 2007, this is a thoroughly entertaining watch.

Followed that with Joe Zito's brilliant slasher The Prowler (1981). Agree w/several of my peers that this is an underrated film that suffers from its original poor distribution during the height of slasher films (it was overshadowed by all the other slasher flicks that received better theatrical runs). Has some great Tom Savini kills and a great location on the Jersey coast. The DVD commentary w/Zito & Savini is also a fun listen. The extras also include many of the original adverts. Great stuff to see.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cat Scratch Fever

Thanks to a recent user post on Flickchart I ordered Grandma's Boy (2006). I can see why this film gets the love; it's deeply rooted in early naughts geek culture. Cute flick and super hot Linda Cardellini. Must-see for gaming nerds.

Crossed off another recent blindspot with the Coen Bros.' Burn After Reading (2008). While this film does have its moments and some stellar acting from an ensemble cast, I wasn't in to it. It kinda just ebbs and flows but never peaks. Bit of a disappointment.

Got wind of Uninvited (1988) from my tallyteer friends and knew it was something I had to see. This is one helluva horror flick and maybe the best (only?) one featuring a mutant cat terrorizing a group of people on a yacht. Hilarious attack scenes esp. when George Kennedy gets his ankle chewed. Also features a young Rob Estes (Silk Stalkings anyone?) and the great Clu Gulager.

From a recent /filmcast suggestion, I also watched The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), the feature anime based on the '94 TV series (& novel). Genuinely a very sweet film with an interesting take on time loop device.

Hollywood Video Close-Out Sale (129 DVDs)

I knew long ago that Hollywood would be shuttering its doors for good but thanks to my twitter friends in Austin & Portland, got wind over the weekend about some insane final days sales. With half the stores in Chicagoland already closed, the nearest one was 45min from my home and as of today it's no more. Here's my spoils from 2 store visits (each w/diff. pricing).

Hollywood Video (Bridgeview)
Hollywood Video $1 DVDs

2046 (Wong Kar Wai)
A Better Tomorrow*
A Better Tomorrow II
A Mighty Wind*
Adventures of Johnny Tao
Alone in the Dark*
Bad Taste*
Barb Wire* (yes, Barb Wire)
Battle Planet
Bollywood Hollywood
Chungking Express*
Convict 762
Crows Zero* (Miike)
Cyborg 2*
Dead or Alive* (Miike)
Dear Zachary*
Disco Godfather
Donovan's Brain (midnight movies)
Drive Thru
Dungeons & Dragons Wrath of the Dragon God
Eden Log
Foot Fist Way*
Her Name Is Cat
Inland Empire
Jack Brooks Monster Slayer*
Knock Off* (JCVD)
Kraken Tentacles of the Deep
Lethal Force
Man Who Would Be King*
Meatball Machine*
Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-Ho)
Missing In Action* (Chuck Norris!)
Monster (Octopus!)
Moon Child
Mummy's Kiss
Mystery Train
New Rose Hotel
Nowhere to Hide

Planet of the Vampires (midnight movies)
Project Grizzly
Razor Blade Smile*
Red Sands
Red Serpent
Red Water (sharks!)
Rest Stop
Return to Sleepaway Camp
Scrapple (1998)
Screamers The Hunting
Shaft in Africa
Shanghai Kiss
Silver Hawk* (Yeoh)
Sisters (Criterion)
Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (Jackie Chan)
Southland Tales*
Stardust Memories*
Sukiyaki Western Django*
Synecdoche New York*
Tears of the Black Tiger
The Fountain*
The Last Supper
The Lone Gunmen Disc One*
The Lone Gunmen Disc Two*
The Lone Gunmen Disc Three*
The Myth (Jackie Chan)
The Namesake*
The Proposition*
The Straight Story
The Way of the Gun*
The Yakuza Way*
Twin Daggers
Two Lovers
Wild at Heart*
Wolfhound (2002)
X The Man with The X-Ray Eyes (midnight movies)
Z Channel
Z Rock Episodes 1-6

$2 DVDs (new releases)

The Brothers Bloom*
Triangle* (2009)

Hollywood Video (Streamwood)
Hollywood Video $1.66 DVDs

Beowulf (1999)
Beowulf & Grendel
Black Rain*
Deathbed & Castle Freak (double feature)
Dynamite Warrior*
Eaten Alive
Foxy Brown
Gene Generation
Green Legend Ran
Head of the Family
King Kong* (1933)
Leatherface Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
New World Disorder
Red Shadow*
Renaissance Paris 2054*
Rise Blood Hunter
Save The Green Planet
Speed Grapher Vol 1*
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)
The Host*
The Killer Elite*
The Legend of Red Dragon
Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me

$3.33 DVDs (new releases)

Assassination of a High School President
Not Quite Hollywood*
The House of the Devil*

(* Films I've Seen)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shadows of Government

In peppering my viewing with more bad 80s horror flicks, Mutant (1984) arrived from Netflix. Not a lot to say about this Bud Cardos flick starring Wings Hauser and Bo Hopkins as it lives up to being pretty lousy. The creature designs and practical effects were really the best things in this.

A film I really wanted to see last year, In the Loop (2009), I was lucky enough to pluck from the quick picks shelf at my library. It is everything I had heard and then some. Damn funny film and already want to watch it again to pick up on the nuances I missed the first time around. Highly recommended!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Repossessed and Undressed

Via NWI I devoured Roberto Mauri's Slaughter of the Vampires (1962), a delicious b&w Italo-horror w/a bevy of beauties (Graziella Granata is crazy beautiful and sumptuous). Story isn't all that and silly at times (they can't find a coffin in the wine cellar?!). But a fun watch w/nice contrasts.

Don't normally gravitate towards Adam Sandler flicks but needed to cross Big Daddy (1999) off the list. Not great but not terrible. Better than I expected (which still isn't saying much). Passable and I like Leslie Mann.

Headed out to catch Repo Men (2010) trying to keep my expectations in check based on all the bad I'd heard / read about the film. Definitely has several issues (an identity issue being the biggest one) but the more I think on this one the more I like it for what it is. Definitely has some great scenes, in particular, the Cronenberg-esque ending. Understand why the critics piled on but this film isn't any worse than Daybreakers and will find an audience when it hits DVD (kinda like Law Abiding Citizen).

Thrilled to witness the Fred Olen Ray / Jim Wynorski collaboration Dinosaur Island (1994). Incredibly stupid yet incredibly sexy thanks to April, May & June. Don't necessarily need my fantasy adventure flicks to be so overtly sexual but these guys know how to pull it off (literally) and make it fun. Hoping that with the release of the Popatopolis doc some of these films will be re-released in a Wynorski collected set.

Finally watched my blu-ray of Stargate (1994), which is to say I finally watched Stargate. Almost criminal that I've watched a episodes of the television series yet never managed to watch the entire film. Also sad that I've seen most of Emmerich's other features before this one and yet this is the best of the lot. Kurt Russell is great, natch. Holds up rather well.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two Sides of Insanity

Val Lewton's Bedlam (1946) is the main Lewton horror flick Scorsese borrows from for his Shutter Island. This might be the most speaking I've seen Boris Karloff do in a film and yet he's still quite smarmy. Anna Lee pushes the film along for another strong edition in the catalog.

The animated Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1986) is a strange piece indeed. Clearly made for children yet still possessing the elements that make the Robert Louis Stevenson novel rather haunting. Unfortunately it doesn't succeed in balancing both these aspects.

I could write many words on Dreamworks' latest How to Train Your Dragon (2010) but suffice it to say I've said all I want to say on my twitter and frankly I just don't care anymore. Yes, I like the film. No, it's no where close to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Yes, it has some wonderful flying sequences & touching story. No, it's not the best Dreamworks film to date. The amount of praise I've seen / heard some movie bloggers / podcasters heap on this film is astounding. Seriously. Act 1 is sorely lacking and dull. Act 2 & 3 are sweet yet predictable. Animation is average. Did not see 3-D version but hear it's the best way to view this. Lastly, thought the character models resembled Rankin & Bass designs (which I liked) but the voiceovers were meh. Good one for pet owners. Go see it.

Finally crossed Erin Brockovich (2000) off the blindspot list. Another film I wasn't keen on viewing but captured my attention with excellent acting and good writing. Glad I had lower expectations settling into this otherwise I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. Albert Finney is a treasure.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Death of the Drive-In

Gotta say that I really dug Ed Brubaker's Angel of Death (2009), starring the perfectly capably Zoë Bell (performing all her own stunts, natch). Interesting tale of an assassin fixed on redemption and revenge. Film succeeds the most when Bell is kicking ass onscreen. Solid.

Brian Trenchard-Smith's Dead End Drive In (1986) wasn't at all what I expected. Probably a good thing as I was completely surprised by the chain of events that take place. Made for an exciting watch for a not-so terrific film. Honestly, BTS's commentary is more interesting. Still enjoyed this flick but main plot point just seemed implausible. Amusing to see the New Wave Aussie kids of the 80s.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warriors of the Wasteland

Enzo Castellari's The New Barbarians (1982) is an Italian post-apocalyptic sci-fi film and not surprisingly features Fred Williamson in another great supporting role. Absolutely hilarious film. Probably my third favorite genre from the 70s & early 80s.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Porky's For Kids

I know there's a story behind The Black Cauldron (1985) and why I didn't see it back in the 80s. I remember reading about it in my Starlog magazines and highly anticipated it. According to wiki it was too violent and had to be cut down upon release. And it failed at box office. Suppose that's why I missed it. Not a bad little fantasy adventure film.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Clue of the Identities

In the lead up to Shutter Island, Scorsese admitted to being influenced by Val Lewton, and having seen his film I felt it was worth revisiting some of Lewton's productions. In Isle of the Dead (1945) the easiest comparisons can be drawn from the mysterious island to the enforced stay of the visitors. Also it's incredibly scary (for those frightened by the living dead). Well worth a look before or after seeing Shutter Island.

Finally spun Clueless (1995) in its entirety. Only seen this movie in clips, bits & pieces. Wild to see these actors so young, esp. Paul Rudd, yet sadly being a film of its time it doesn't hold up all that well. Maybe more nostalgic for those that grew up w/it.

Sometimes it's surprising how lauded David Cronenberg is by Criterion considering the bulk of their releases. But for film geeks it should be no surprise. To think that even Dead Ringers (1988) was granted a Criterion seal of approval is a feat. Not that it isn't worthy (it is) but given the material it might come as a head-scratcher for those Criterion buffs out there (or not). Certainly Jeremy Irons deserves all the accolades for pulling off two convincing and distinguishable roles but it's really Cronenberg that deserves all the credit for crafted this film.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just Run Away, Alice

Headed out for the early screening of Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways (2010) at Village Crossing. Lots to love in this film besides the dead-on 70s look & feel. Kristen Stewart & Dakota Fanning are quite good. Also Michael Shannon & Riley Keough were great. Only real disappointment was the lack of any characterization or story around Lita Ford, who I've always considered 2nd best legacy from The Runaways.

After that went over to Kerasotes Showplace 12 to be underwhelmed by Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010). Maybe because I was fighting the sleepies (or just bored) this film didn't work for me. Mia Wasikowska makes a good Alice but wasn't thrilled with Depp, Carter or Hathaway. Always nice to see Crispin Glover but that's about it for this one. Typical Burton vibe & theatrics but a whole lotta meh.

Rested up I braced myself for the deeply saddening The Cove (2009). Been putting off viewing this one due to the content even tho I know it's one that must be watched. Do yourself a solid and watch this film. The drama of documenting the video evidence of mass slaughter of dolphins in Taiji is intense throughout. It is required viewing for everyone.

Needing an emotional break after that I dropped in the period piece shark attack flick 12 Days of Terror (2004). Like the premise (shark attack off pre-war New Jersey at the turn of the century) but again the execution fails as the terror wasn't very terrifying. Wonder if John Rhys-Davies even cares anymore about the roles he takes.

Unsatisfied I went back to another Andy Sidaris staple in Do or Die (1991), featuring both Pat Morita (as the villain) and Erik Estrada (as a hero) as the two top-billed leads even tho Sidaris' stable of beauties & brawn carry the majority of the film (and I just love Roberta Vasquez). As I exclaimed on twitter, "Walking cane rocket launcher, baseball bomb, RC helicopter w/missiles, homoerotica, T&A, awful ADR... must be an Andy Sidaris flick!" That sums up this flick. Love it. Like the rest of Sidaris' catalog it's now unavailable. [sadface]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Terminal Velocity

Going into Spielberg's The Terminal (2004) I will admit to not being all that enthusiastic about it based on what I knew and the trailers. Nor was I all that keen on seeing Hanks playing the fish out of water foreigner. But something happened as I watched... I was taken in by the story and wonderful acting. Didn't realize that Diego Luna & Zoe Saldana were in this or how incredibly stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones would be. On record as stating this is the best she has ever looked. Tho I had a few problems with the film, glad it didn't have a Hollywood ending (as much as I kinda wanted it). Thanks to my low expectations I was impressed.

Dipping back into the early 80s sci-fi adventure genre I opted for Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983), which I expected would be another one I'd enjoy. Instead I was rather bored by it despite the inclusion of Michael Ironside. Molly Ringwald is cute and Peter Strauss is good but overall it just didn't come together very well. Disappointing. Can't believe this was released in 3-D.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great White Gunfighter

Have I mentioned how much I love 70s sci-fi fantasy adventure flicks? Thanks to Hulu I caught up with yet another Kevin Connor classic in At the Earth's Core (1976), featuring none other than Doug McClure along w/a humorous Peter Cushing and longtime crush Caroline Munro (mmm). Yes, this film is awful particularly the opening capsule scene of the journey. So damn corny yet so damn delicious (to probably only me). I'll probably should buy the midnight movies edition.

Jaws 2 (1978) I haven't seen since sometime in the 80s. The only things I remembered were that fabulous poster and how it ends. Going in I thought it wasn't too bad but as this film progresses I realized what makes it bad (at least compared to masterpiece before it). There's not much character development or great dialogue. It's one set piece after another to get to the finale. Still worth seeing for the great, late Roy Scheider.

A couple Kinji Fukasaku films were added to NWI so naturally I had to watch one. Blackmail Is My Life (1968) is enjoyable as it follows a group of hustlers looking for the next big score. Glad films like this are available via Netflix WI.

Another film I haven't seen since I was a child is John Wayne's last feature performance in The Shootist (1976). I'm not fully cognizant of the details behind the making of this film so whether intentionally or not it parallels Wayne's real life struggle with cancer in his final days. Wayne as a gunfighter accepting his inevitable demise is simply exceptional here as are Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and Jimmy Stewart. Didn't remember much of story details but the final gunfight has always been unforgettable. Truly a fine, fine film.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Terrorized In Time

I find myself often embarrassed when I admit to having not seen such films like the Coen Bros.' sublime Barton Fink (1991) but I have no excuses. This is definitely one of those films that I'm already looking forward to seeing again. So many little touches to notice. And possibly my favorite John Goodman role.

A film I'm not embarrassed having not seen until now is Brett Ratner's Red Dragon (2002). Not to say this is bad film because I actually rather enjoyed it. But it doesn't resonate nearly as well as the other Hannibal films. But Ralph Fiennes was entertaining.

An old school sci-fi b-movie I found on the wire Time Travelers (1966) is quite silly but, strangely enough, an interesting tale of time travel. Really dug the creepy cyborgs and how they provided the creation of them. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Galaxy of Terror (1981) is yet another terrific little early 80s science fiction film from Roger Corman's stable of films. The assembled cast is also quite interesting w/a post-Happy Days Erin Moran (Joanie), pre-Nightmare Robert Englund, Ray Walston, and Sid Haig among others. Very fun watch 'cept for the ambiguous limp finale. Sad this film is OOP but look at that film poster! Amazingly cool.