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Apparently I am the 4th Dr Gonzo on here, if I ever run into 1, 2, and 3 we will definitely have some words.
I am one of those "cinephiles" who loves all types of cinema, someday I hope to have a nice theater room in my house where I will lock myself in and go crazy like Howard Hughes.
Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, John Woo(pre-Windtalkers), Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento, David Lynch, Federico Fellini, Spike Lee, Brian DePalma and others.
I'm a vinyl junkie, dusty grooves, break beats, Pink Floyd, Stones Throw, Bob Marley, DJ Premier, Galt MacDermot, Tangerine Dream, old school hip hop, 9th Wonder, Funk, Soul, crate digging finds.
I tried to limit myself to one film per director, so honorable mentions go to Casino, Pulp Fiction, Heat, Natural Born Killers, Schindler's List, Jungle Fever, Magnolia,
*I apologize if any crucial films were left out, I either forgot about them or haven't seen them yet.
Some names that need to be mentioned although their films did not make the list: Terence Malick, John Woo, The Coen Bros., Sam Peckinpah, Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson.
Mind Benders (1987)
Bad meaning bad, not bad meaning good
So I found a VHS copy of this amongst a stockpile of B-movie horror and the only reason I bought it was because of the cover art and the fact that no one on IMDb had previously reviewed it. After watching it I realized why, it's painfully bad. And I don't mean bad in a fun, laughable Troma sort of way. The worst part of it is that nothing happens for the first half of the movie, its pretty much just a lame high school teen flick. No blood and guts, no T and A, just lame teens doing lame stuff like having food fights and hitting on chicks at the mall. The only noteworthy part of the movie is that Lee Tergeson, star of TV shows like Oz and Weird Science, makes his acting debut. Other than that its a complete waste of time.
John's Rare VHS Reviews 9/20/13
Bomb the System (2002)
Visually stunning, yet unclear on the message...
I've always been a big fan of cult films that expose some sort of cool and/or intriguing sub-culture whether it's rhyme battling in 8 MILE, heroin addiction in TRAINSPOTTING, or even fraudulent stock trading in BOILER ROOM. These films are great because they present the subject without promoting it or criticizing it which draws you into the world and allows you to make your own judgments.
BOMB THE SYSTEM definitely falls into that category and for the first half, had the makings of a cult classic. It thrusts you into the dangerous world of the graffiti artist and makes no apologies for how they go about doing it(by the way, I'm amazed it took this long to make a movie about graffiti). The film centers around Anthony, AKA "Blest", who is part of a "bombing" crew that is constantly hunted by the local Police Vandalism Unit. If you are a fan of hip hop culture, then you are sure to buy into the whole bravura of the renegade street-artist(I am and I did). You buy into it because you feel as though they are carrying on this long legacy of artistic expression.
But then, in the second half, things get a little confusing. First he meets this girl who is part of a political-stencil-message-spraying group that are trying to say that a bumper sticker message like "Don't Eat Meat" is better than artistic graffiti? And then to top it all off, he turns his back on his friends and says that graffiti is stupid? I don't know if I just missed the point of the second half, but it definitely left me scratching my head.
But besides that, the film has some great experimental editing and cinematography that enhanced the overall atmosphere and experience. The acting is great by a cast of unknowns or littleknowns, especially Gano Grills who played "Buk 50." Films like these really bother me because they have such potential for greatness, but then take a left turn somewhere instead of staying on the right track. But then again, it did have a scene in an underground club that was playing Madvillain "Money Folder" so...
Haute tension (2003)
Finally a Horror Movie with some balls...
I had anticipated seeing Haute Tension ever since I first heard about it in Fangoria magazine, there's just something about a woman wielding a huge stihl saw that catches my interest. Let me just say that I was definitely impressed with what I saw. It called to mind the glory days of ultraviolent horror flicks thanks to people like Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento and dare I say Lucio Fulci. The gore effects were top notch, very old school and no CGI enhancements (thank God). They should really use this film as an example to all the studios on how to make a good horror movie. With all these terrible American horror movies being released that fail to deliver the goods again and again, it takes a foreign sensibility to show us how it should be done.
Now I know a lot of people had a problem with that 180 plot twist at the end, but you have to give them credit for at least trying something different. And how many times have we seen twists in American Horror movies that are way more absurd? My theory is this, they originally omitted the twist but when they realized people would be fleeing the French Countryside after seeing this, they decided to throw it in. Can you blame them? This is what we need to get back to - simple stories with a little twist at the end. In America we get so wrapped up in making the story complicated that we forget about the basics - atmosphere, music, a central villain, and above all suspense.
This movie is definitely in the vein of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre with tons of references and even a similar look to the cinematography. I'm not sure if this film is an homage, or if it's just that we haven't seen something as good as this in quite some time. Either way, if you miss old school horror flicks as much as I do and have a strong stomach for gruesome violence, you are sure to enjoy it. And don't worry about the twist at the end, I'm sure if anything it was just poking fun at how ridiculous the American Horror twists can be.
Septem8er Tapes (2004)
Apocalypse Right Now
September Tapes is a brilliant little piece of manipulation that profoundly blurs the line between reality and fantasy. The technique used here, passing something off as "documentary footage" when it really isn't, is definitely not something new but it is tremendously effective in its purpose. If you've ever seen films like 84 Charlie MoPic - a cameraman follows around a platoon in Vietnam - or Man Bites Dog - a French film about a camera crew who follows around a serial killer - or The Blair Witch Project - do I really need to explain what it's about? - or Gang Tapes - a stolen camera documents gang warfare in the inner city. All these films along with September Tapes utilize our voyeuristic side in that we know it's not real but we watch it like it's a car wreck on the side of the road.
September Tapes takes something that was in all of us Americans right after 9/11, the desire to find Bin Laden and kill him, and thrusts it into the screen. There were times in the film when I honestly couldn't decide whether it was exploitative or not. The film carries out much like that of Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now with Bin Laden of course being Kurtz. The only difference being that here, Marlow never finds Kurtz.
All in all I must say they did a great job of establishing the false sense of reality through terrific performances and almost too real locations and events. There is considerable violence, although nothing too graphic. It's not a great film by any means, but it's one intense experience thats easily ten times scarier than Blair Witch.
Giving your first love a second chance...
The latest film from the mind of Charlie Kaufman is filled with experimental techniques and delivers a universal message about first love. Now I loved Being John Malkovich because it was so different and endlessly interesting, yet I hated Adaptation because it practically put me in a coma. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the title taken from an Alexander Pope line and recited by a stoned Kirsten Dunst in the film. Michel Gondry has directed such a surreal and dreamlike journey through the mind and memories. I'm not even going to bother summarizing the plot because it is quite complicated and you just have to see it for yourself. What I will say is that Jim Carrey has once again amazed us with his acting abilities and has shown us a quieter, lonelier side to him. Kate Winslet was the perfect actress for this part, the two of them have created one of the most realistic relationships I've seen on film in a long time. The film demonstrates how as much as we want to forget a troubled relationship, the good memories, no matter how few and far between, are what really shines above the rest. In the end the film poses the question, "What if we were given the chance to start all over again with our first love, knowing how it ended and why it ended, would we do it?" And instead of leaving the answer up to us, Kaufman brilliantly comes right out and says, "Yes we would!" He says we would because a chance to relive all those good memories is worth it. This film hit pretty close to home with me because I experienced a first love somewhat similar to theirs and I'm sure that I am not alone on that. It's a wonderful film that reminds us just how special our first love really is.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Thank God for Michael Moore
Before I begin let me say that I am a big Michael Moore fan, ever since the days of The Awful Truth. But not in any nutso, radical activist kind of way. I love my country. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. But I, like Michael and many others, can't just bow our heads and be good little robots of society. We seek change. Not in a bad, violent revolutionary way, but done democratically through the people. Through all the criticism and backlash this film has recieved, one simple idea was grossly overlooked. What Moore put in his film is exactly the kind of stuff we SHOULD HAVE SEEN on the evening news. All the haters out there are accusing his film of being overly one-sided, well guess what folks, in case you didn't notice those precious television news reports we sit through every night while we munch away at our dinners is INSANELY one-sided and biased in every way, shape and form.
With that said, FAHRENHEIT 9/11 is the most important film in the history of cinema. There has never been a film, documentary or not, that has directly attacked our active President. Michael Moore is not some cook radical spewing unsubstantiated accusations through a Hitler-esque propaganda film (as its been called). If Moore's agenda had simply been to "dethrone Bush at all costs", then he could have left out a good fifty percent of the film and focused primarily on the man everyone is convinced he loves to hate. He is very simply offering us a "second opinion" if you will, on all the news media that has bombarded us since September 11th. He is simply exercising his freedom of speech to the tenth degree and THAT is what I love about this country. If this film was made in any other country about their leader, they would be jailed, beaten, and maybe even killed.
And he has tapped into a very important thing about our society. That MOVIES have power. And guess what, lower and middle-class people go to the movies the most. People who don't normally vote go to the movies. People who have no idea who Michael Moore is will go see this movie. And the YOUTH will go see this movie, and they'll bring lots and lots of friends. You remember the youth of our country right? The apathetic, non-political group of 18 to 20 year-olds that were always ignored by politicians? Not that this film has turned them all into a bunch of Bush-haters, but it HAS gotten them involved. What no person or institution has been able to do for the longest time has been accomplished by one little documentary.
As I sat there in the movie theater, with the end credits coming on screen and the house lights shining brightly down. I saw something that I have never seen in my life. I looked around the packed theater (on a Monday night) and witnessed all different kinds of people, old and young, Black and White, applauding and cheering out of their seats. The hair stood up on the back of my head and a tear came to my eye. I was totally blown away by what I was seeing. As I made my way for the exit, I softly whispered to myself, "Now that is what I call CINEMA".
Please, you owe it to yourself to see this movie with an open-mind and a thirst for not the truth, but a "second opinion". It is guaranteed to make you laugh and cry, it will shock and anger you, and you will DEFINITELY never forget it.
Fahrenheit 451 was a book about a society that burned books in order to censor them from the people. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a film about a society that refuses to show certain newsworthy material in order to censor it from the people and instead substitutes its own, self-promoting news in order to manipulate the people. You be the judge.
The Transporter (2002)
Jason Staham finally makes his mark...
Looking like a Brit version of Bruce Willis, Jason Statham made his debut back in Guy Ritchie's classic crime caper/comedy "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels." Since then he has been given a few side roles here and there in "Snatch" (or Lock, Stock 2 as I like to call it), John Carpenter's "Ghosts of Mars", and then he teamed up with Delroy Lindo to track two Jet Li's in "The One." But who would've guessed that he finally got his own film, and a kick ass action film at that. Ever since Corey Yuen and Luc Besson collaborated on "Kiss of the Dragon," I knew that any film they did together from then on would be golden. And "The Transporter" definitely lives up to that standard. Sure there's nothing new here: how many times is a bad guy gonna get a change of conscience over a hot chick, right? And unlike the others, there is actually some good chemistry going on between our hero and his damsel in distress.
Basically, the film combines some great European atmosphere (The beautiful southern coast of France) with some incredible fight and action sequences. Corey Yuen could pretty much create a fight scenario out of virtually any environment. Now I know you could easily replace Staham with Jet Li, but you know what? He really proves that he can hang with the big boys in this film. I mean, he did ALL HIS OWN STUNTS. How awesome is that? Not even our great American action actors like Sylvestor and Arnold can say that. My only criticsim of the film is that I think they should of beefed it up a little bit and went for the R rating. Other than that I think it's a great little action/martial arts movie with a European flavor. It will definitely make you reminisce over the days when Van Damme and Seagal used to make great Action fliks. I can't wait to see what Turkish has in store for us next. Ladies and Gentlemen, a new action star has been born.
Night of the Living Dead meets Hard Boiled
Ryuhei Kitamura's debut film explodes on the screen with a ferocity not seen since John Woo's glory days or George A. Romero's wet dreams. Versus is a film that is sure to achieve legendary cult status if it hasn't done so already. It combines the best elements of splatter-punk horror, Hong Kong style gunplay, Matrix-style martial arts, and finally 70's style samurai swordplay. Wow, how rare is that?!
Kenji Matsuda literally steals the show during the first half, for his wacky performance that comes off like Chow Yun Fat on speed. The main character (sorry forgot his name) was also great as a sort of Clint Eastwood style anti-hero. If you have a weak stomach or if you are turned off by exquisite action choreography, then this film is not for you. But if you want a film that will literally blow your brains out of the back of your head, then definitely get your hands on a copy. It is definitely one of a kind.
Excellent stuff Joey!
One of the best days of my life was that time when I found a VHS copy of Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane jammed in the blades of a wood chipper. The case was severely damaged but I managed to save the reels and transfer them (I perform VHS Autopsies all the time)into a more suitable plastic shell that happened to belong to The Usual Suspects. I was a little nervous at first, but one of the reviews on the cover of Blood, Guts reassured me that this was a wise decision. Anyway, I'm gettin a little off the subject here, but that was when I first got a taste of what a culinary genius was cookin...
I needed to see Narc as badly as Ruiz needed that fix and let me tell you I sure as hell was impressed. I walked out of that theatre like I had just seen Jesus doing jumping jacks. Narc was as intense as Bruce Banner busting a nut. It transcends its genre by being innovative, bold, and full of surprises. If Narc is really as "old school" as they are saying, then today's crime genre is still in fkcuing day care. Narc made Training Day look like Police Academy...
Excellent choice going with Jason Patric, even though he did bleed to death in Rush. However Ray Liotta makes a much better partner than Jennifer Jason Leigh and just as good in the sack. I was shocked that all we got to see of Joey in this film was his voice on the other end of a cell phone. COME ON! In Blood, Guts we got the performance of a lifetime and all we get here is a fkcuing Nokia commercial?! He probably figured that audiences just weren't ready for his new look which he obviously modeled after Matthew McConaughey in Reign Of Fire...
It's really bizarre but I actually used the pool ball in a sock and the tape recorder in similar ways in my own films way before I even heard of Narc. That happens to me all the time in films. Its all about being first. And Joe Carnahan is the first great director of the new millenium. Maybe if he isn't too busy polishing elbows with Ethan Hunt, he would give a guy like me a shot, I could have one of his next films sitting right here next to me...
Keep up the good work Joey, you're a great inspiration.
Deuces Wild (2002)
A film with a lot of potential, but...
I had wanted to see DEUCES WILD when it was out at the theatres, because who wouldn't want to see a film about rival gangs in 1950's Brooklyn? But I had to wait for it to come out on DVD and VHS. After viewing it, I was kind of left with mixed emotions. On one hand you've got Stephen Dorff giving an awesome and intense performance looking like a young Bruce Willis (DIE HARD not "Moonlighting"). And you've got an equally impressive role from Brad Renfro, who has come along way since his last role as a New Yorker in SLEEPERS. On top of that you won't be able to take your eyes off Drea de Matteo, who looks even hotter than she does in "The Sopranos". But despite these great points I just couldn't get that bad taste out of my mouth, which was a result of all those damn cliches. Cliched characters, cliched dialogue, cliched plot structure, etc. The film ultimately comes off like a silly cross between THE OUTSIDERS, STREETS OF FIRE (you remember that Greaser movie with Rick Moranis and Wilem Dafoe?), and of course WEST SIDE STORY. I also think there was a small case of miscasting here, I mean with the exception of Matt Dillon and Balthazar Getty what are these guys supposed to be Italian, Irish, what? Anyway the film is only mildly entertaining because of its rather brutal fight scenes. Other than that it just could of been so much better with a couple more rewrites of the script and someone else to play Marco. By the way, I'm really getting sick of these movies that get you all hot and bothered and then fail to deliver the goods.