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Baroque

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It's 26 years old, and I still love it!, 19 October 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***Some spoilers may follow***

Yes, I went out and bought the four-disc DVD set several days after it hit the shelves. I love this film on many levels;

The brutal commentary on consumer culture (zombies working on base instinct going to the most important place in their previous lives...a shopping mall!), an independent film made outside the established Hollywood system (and becoming a cult classic), the over-the-top and in-your-face violence and gore (that subsequently made Tom Savini a force in filmdom).

I still remember seeing this at a Midnight Show at the Blue Star Multiplex in Mountainside, NJ. The audience reaction to the "shotgun decapitation" scene was an event I will forever cherish. I have never seen so much popcorn fly through the air in my life! And the sequence where Roger and Steven grab supplies in the gun store had some men in the audience groaning as if it were a porn film.

And now, with the three major versions on DVD, I can see what a great filmmaker George A. Romero is; How he can take such a small budget and little resources and make such a great film. The documentaries that came with the 4-disc set have interviews with people who have worked with Romero, and no one had an ill word to say about him. People I know who have met him echo those sentiments.

There are scenes that stick out in my mind: The one-legged priest who looks as if he has walked through Hell and speaks like a Prophet of Doom; the zombie "storage room"; Roger and Peter running through the mall as if it was their own Christmas present; Francine trying on makeup and posing with a revolver; Steven and Roger posing for the security cameras in the bank ("You never know!"); the looter (only hands are seen) who grabs a button-down shirt and tie, and then throws them back; the marauding biker who smashes the stolen TV set after he realizes that there's nothing to watch on it...I could go on for hours.

The interplay between Roger and Peter just before running the gauntlet of zombies is perhaps the coolest dialogue outside of the Blues Brothers' "106 miles to Chicago" speech.

Roger : Whad'ya think? Bag it or try for it?

Peter : You game?

Roger : I need lighter fluid.

Peter : You got it.

Yes, there are other films that have bigger budgets, more complex plot lines and more sophisticated cinematography, but this works on a gut level...and I love it.

If I ever find a can of Iron City Beer out here in Nevada, I will drink it in George Romero's honor.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Darkly amusing, 11 September 2004

Since "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy" has been spun off from "Grim and Evil", it is a much better show. This deserves to be on its own.

The premise is unusual. Billy (an idiotic little boy) and Mandy (a dark, sarcastic girl) trick Grim (aka Death), who has come for their gerbil, into being their "best friend forever". The show is a series of adventures of the two with their tall, dark and boney "friend".

This is apparently not everyone's cup of tea. The reaction to this show is very strong. Some hate it, some (like me) love it, especially with the rather morbid sense of humor that Mandy has. At the start of every show, Mandy gives a little comment, often relating to the episodes in the show. My favorite is "Evolution takes no prisoners". I'd like that on a bumper sticker!

My only complaint is...Why does Grim/Death have a Jamaican accent?

All in all, if you like "The Addams family", you'll get a kick out of this show.

Decasia (2002)
16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
The Anti-Koyaanisqatsi, 26 March 2004

Close to 70 minutes of footage that is rotting away, accompanied by a discordant symphony. It sounds like slow torture, and to some, it may be. But to me, it was like looking at visions of a lost civilization. Trying to scry the images out of decomposing footage was akin to reconstructing a piece of pottery from shattered fragments.

The "decaying" music was a haunting accompaniment to the film, complete with detuned pianos and an orchestra that played out of phase with itself. But the visuals hit me the hardest.

This is what happens to film if we neglect it. All those visions of the past are being lost forever to time and the elements. The silver nitrate base of those films decomposes at the same rate as human flesh! To me, the film was both a poetic look at decay, something that happens to everyone and everything, as well as how our cinematic history is vanishing as we speak.

It goes without saying that this film is not for everyone, but if you truly want to step outside the boundaries of conventional cinematography, this is it!

37 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
The twilight of Pax Americana, 13 March 2004

Despite having been made back in 1982, this film has not lost any of it's impact...and living in the country where it was filmed, it hits incredibly close to home.

Before you dismiss this as another "Faces of Death" clone, complete with re-enacted scenes, be forewarned. This is real. 100% of the footage came from either TV news departments across the country, or from private collectors! You WILL see newsreel footage of people being shot to death (including one man being shot by police before the opening credits!), and disturbingly graphic descriptions of murders. There is even footage where people leave a courtroom to vomit after hearing a recording made by Lawrence "Pliers" Bittaker during the slow torture death of one of his victims.

Leonard Schrader, the older brother of director Paul Schrader, produced this film for the Japanese film market, where "death films" bring in big money. But instead of an exploitative "shockumentary" as normally expected, this is a detailed examination of how Western Civilization is slowly falling apart.

The assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the attempted assassination of George Wallace, and a number of other people (Charles Whitman, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacey, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Ed Kemper, Brenda "I Don't Like Mondays" Spencer, etc.) who, in their own twisted logic, saw the need to kill people, and acted upon it; all are reported here in great detail.

The film ends with a report on the murder of John Lennon, and a blunt statement that during the public memorial held in his memory, two people were shot.

No, this isn't a gross-out "video nasty", it's a hard examination of how the USA is in a slow collapse before our very eyes.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I laughed so much, my face hurts!, 6 March 2004

Clips taken from an incredibly violent Japanese game show, redubbed into American English with some of the most incredible double-entendres ever mentioned on cable TV, with a dash of low humor for balance.

I can barely bring myself to describe it! It is hysterical! The odd and inspired humor of the dubbing (including the surreal names given to the contestants) adds to the bizarre stunts that these people are going through (Try making this show in the USA and see how far the insurance companies will let you!).

Truly, one of the funniest things ever to be on TV, and one of the reasons I still have cable!

"Right you are, Ken!"

Rating 12/10

45 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
Gomez Addams was my childhood hero!, 8 December 2003

Believe it or not, as I watched this show in syndication when I was a tyke, I wanted to be Gomez Addams. Gomez was rich, happily married, dripping with Old World charm, had loving children, kind relatives, a devoted butler, lived in a great house, and the whole family did everything THEIR way, convention be damned!

He made wild, passionate love to his wife (and could turn his libido on and off like a light...yet all Morticia had to do was speak French!), and instead of drinking with the boys, he'd unwind with either yoga, juggling Indian clubs, bouncing on his trampoline, or blowing up his train set. His only vices were smoking cigars and drinking brandy, yet he seemed to do both in moderation.

I loved the little touches the show had. The coffee table with bundles of $100 bills in the drawer ("Petty cash, my good man!"), Lurch's Basso Profundo groan, the Butler's Chime that shook the entire house (with the pull cord a full-sized hangman's noose), the torture chamber turned into a "play room", the quirky decor of the house and the family taking in the moon while others took in the sun.

Gomez and Morticia were the first TV sitcom couple to have an implied sex life (a rather kinky one at that!), and the whole family was healthy and happy...if rather detached from established norms. It was a cleverly subversive program that shows one could be happy without fitting into society's standards. It was so touching to have the family thinking of OTHERS as being troubled and confused, while their own world was so blissful and joyous...even if everything around them was either Gothic or draped in black.

A show like this deserves to be re-issued onto DVD...and if possible, with the laughtrack removed (That would make it even MORE surreal!).

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Shaggy dog (?) story, 24 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Meeper, the main character of this short film, is a dim-witted janitor at a bar on another world (Ale-E-Inn, not to be confused with the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nevada). He dreams of being a singer, but after being kicked out of the bar for short-circuiting the sound system with a spilled water bucket, his life makes a dramatic turn. A dying alien (modeled after Jar-Jar Binks) warns him of impending doom. The Chubbchubbs are coming! After failing to warn the bar patrons, someone comes in and gives the gruesome news. All run out in a panic, leaving Meeper and several small chick-like creatures behind. In the distance, amid what look like storm clouds, are menacing-looking creatures...Are these the dreaded Chubbchubbs? Meeper heroicly gathers the chick-like critters in his mop bucket, but before he can run away, he is surrounded by the heavily armed warriors...

This Oscar-winning film (2002 - Best Animated Short) film has many references to other science fiction films, and Meeper's mangling of song lyrics is hysterical. In short...I want a feature film out of this!

23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Magnificent, 21 February 2003

A story told in four chapters and in three levels. Flashbacks of Yukio Mishima's life, dramatizations of his written works, and the events of his final day of life.

If Mishima was a fictional character, I doubt if anyone would believe or accept such a creation. But he was a real, flesh and blood, human being, which makes the film all the more incredible. Granted that some of the facts have been dramatized or "enhanced" for the screen, but the story is quite factual.

A man of many contrasts: A devoted family man who kept a gay lover. A writer who saw his words being "not enough". A patriotic man at home in the present who yearned for a return to Imperial Japan's past glory. A man who struggled to unite movement with action, and saw everything he strove for fall apart at the most critical moment.

The film is lovingly made, magnificently acted, painstakingly edited and the musical soundtrack by Philip Glass will stay with you for days. The film's tight budget doesn't show at all.

Now available on DVD, this film is a worthy addition to the collections of true cinemaphiles.

My rating: 10/10

Music for the eyes, 6 February 2003

I went to see this film in New York City many years ago. I knew nothing about the film, except that everyone was raving about it. I sat patiently in the darkness amid hauntingly beautiful music, waiting for a character to appear, for a word of dialogue or narration, anything...then I realized what the film-makers were up to...

This film stars the planet Earth and everything in it!

It went from incredible beauty, to the technological insanity that has become our daily lives, to the mournful tones of the end with scenes of self-destruction, which seem to present itself as a warning for us to mend our ways, with music ending the same way it began. The descriptions of the Hopi prophecies sent a chill through me as I read them for the first time, and I heard an audible gasp coming from the theatre's audience.

A film with no characters, no cast, no dialogue, no narration, no storyline, and no plot. It doesn't need any of them. The visuals and music dance hand in hand with indescribable beauty.

Now it is on DVD, and I can only echo the praises others have left for this film.

Magnificent, highly recommended, and worthy of preservation for future generations. If you want to know what is meant by "cinematic art", this is a shining example.

38 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
A French "Mad Max"?, 9 December 2002

Not exactly. This is a most unusual film. Shot in widescreen and black and white, with Dolby stereo and only one whispered bit of dialogue. The world is in ruins, and our main character (credited as "The Man"), makes his escape from a band of looters by stealing their prized possession, a fully charged automobile battery, and uses it to power his ultra-light plane out of the ruins of the city.

In his travels, he comes across a doctor, with whom he communicates non-verbally (apparently, the atmosphere is so polluted, the human race is rendered mute), and confronts another man, a clumsy, self-styled "barbarian of the wastelands" who wields a sword as if it were a broom.

One of Luc Besson's early works, it is as original as it is imaginative. I had the fortune of seeing it on a wide motion picture screen in New York City. I still haven't forgotten it. Yes, I know that the end of the world makes for a strange concept for an art film from France, but Besson makes this unlikely premise work to perfection.

Highly recommended.


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