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excellent, though not as good as the film
Adam Rifkin's small-screen spin off of "Look", his brilliant 2007 film about lives in L.A. being filmed through surveillance cameras is more of the same. The stories are strong but not quite as compelling or as tight this time around. We follow various groups as they pinball around the city, stumbling into or out of trouble.
There are two teenage sexpots who shop obsessively and are privately torn apart by their mutual desire for the same guy, a lawyer whose nagging, cokehead wife cheats on him with a slimy auto mechanic, a group of stoners who monitor the security cameras at a mall and skateboard in their off-hours, a homeless man with a strange and tragic past, a taxi cab driving rapist, a mini mart cashier who dreams of being a rock star, a group of teens who do drive-by shootings with paintball guns, a cop with anger issues, and a young, hip television executive desperate to fire an aging weatherman who works at his station.
Some of the characters, like the two sexpots and the mini mart clerk are retreads from the big screen. The sexpots are also played by different actresses and were infinitely more believable as high school students in the movie (though Sharon Hinnendael creates one of the most odious teenagers in recent memory as the creepy and manipulative Hannah)
There is always the sense that danger is lurking just around every corner. The plot threads may feel random at first, but if you stick with it Rifkin brings the whole thing together full circle in an amazing way.
Big Business (1929)
I had the pleasure of seeing this Laurel and Hardy short recently at the Old Town Music Hall theater in El Segundo, Ca. Totally brilliant comedy has Laurel and Hardy as Christmas tree salesmen in Los Angeles going door-to-door trying to peddle their flimsy products. They come up against a particularly cantankerous older man and hijinks ensue.
The genius of this one is the way the situation builds upon upon a single small incident until things reach truly catastrophic proportions. When you think it can't get any worse, it does. And when you think they've gone far enough, they go even further.
Watching this with a large audience of all ages really was proof that great comedy is timeless. Everyone in the theater was roaring with laughter by the time it was through. Just wonderful.
Fascinating movie about a rather creepy guy
I found Surfwise to be a compelling watch. It's all about Dorian Paskowitz, a Stanford educated doctor who, after two failed marriages, decides to travel the world as an organic- living surf bum. With him is his wife Juliette, and their brood of nine (yes, nine) children. All boys and one girl. They travel everywhere in a camper, living poor and off the grid, going from wave to wave.
The Paskowitz family found some fame in the 70s and 80s, when their kids were young and winning surf contests. But as each child hit their late teens or early 20s, they wanted to go their own way, and this was considered treason by Dorian.
We meet each of the Paskowitz kids (now in their 30s and 40s) and Dorian "Doc" (in his 80s) and they each recount the adventures of traveling around like nomads and being the envy of normal, school-going kids wherever they went. That's the other thing. Dorian didn't send his kids to school. Whoops.
Bizarre as it may sound, this Stanford-educated guy actually rationalizes his unbelievably poor decision to not school any of his children. His attitude towards everything is self- serving. Did he never once pause and think "what if one of my children wants to become a doctor?". Maybe, but he didn't seem to care.
In fact, he rationalizes A LOT of self-serving decisions. Like trying to have sex with a 100 different women as fast as possible. Like having sex with his wife every night in the camper while his children were forced to listen.
As a result of the lifestyle they grew up with, the Paskowitz's seem fairly bitter. Like they were forced to stay on vacation for a decade. If you think about it, what would a childhood spent riding in the back of a camper with nothing but your siblings to keep you company be like? After the first few weeks, it would seem LIKE HELL!!!!!!!!!!
And Dorian's wife is eerily complicit with everything. The kids admit that they were beaten and that Dorian was basically a dictator. Did she say nothing?
I found the surfing aspect to the story fascinating as I can certainly understand Dorian's love of the sport and desire to drop out of mainstream existence. But in between his flights of poetic description in comparing surfing to "the jaguar, and the leap of the gazelle" (admittedly enticing) is his creepily propulsive swearing and messiah complex.
Frankly, Dorian just struck me overall as kind of a creepy weirdo who I wouldn't let near kids in the first place. Him and his wife. Their blank stares as they gaze at the cameras reminiscing about how they told their daughter to always thank someone for having sex with her. Bizarre.
Anyway, good surfing footage, and watch this movie for a good examples of how not to raise kids.
cheesy, but a lot of fun
I have a soft spot in my heart for Escapes, mostly because it was filmed around my hometown of Sacramento and also because it's a horror anthology (and what horror film buff doesn't love a good ol' cheesy anthology once in a while). I first saw it around the time it came to video and watching it reminds me of the countless happy hours I spent in mom and pop video stores (so sad they're all gone now!) where a curious movie lover could find the most obscure and wondrous garbage imaginable on those dusty video shelves. Especially horror movies.
Escapes is a wraparound tale (with intro and outro by Price) involving a young guy who gets a video tape in the mail, which happens to be exact same Escapes tape the viewer is watching (how meta!). Each of the stories is basically Twilight zone/Tales from the Darkside type stuff. There's one about a fisherman who gets the surprise of his life. Another about an obnoxious young deliveryman who ignores the advice of a local while trying to find his way home. And another about a jogger who is menaced by creatures that may have escaped from a scientific laboratory. I think there's one or two more but I can't remember.
Anyway, these are really good. But they have special meaning to me because when i watch the video it reminds me of where I grew up. Good times.
TV Funhouse (2000)
A very funny show. With some weak spots
I really love TV Funhouse. Love the format and the irreverent humor and the politically incorrect nature of the whole thing. However, I think the basic problem with this show and why it never caught on is because the anipals grow tiresome after a while. After the third or fourth episode their sketches start to blur together and none of them are that interesting. They always do the same thing: take drugs, hump other animals, act like idiots, get into trouble, etc, etc. It's decadence piled on top of decadence and the characters are so thinly drawn that it becomes easy to lose interest.
The real genius of the show is in the animated bits. Stuff like the Dennis the Menace take-off where the Dennis character torments his neighbors because they're Jewish, and "Stedman", where Oprah's boyfriend uses the ruse of being a secret agent to escape from having to make love to Oprah. Also hilarious are some of the live-action bits like the ad for the doll that acts as a surrogate parent for the little girl.
I think if they had found a way to move the show along a little quicker it would have caught on with more people. But too many of the anipals jokes fall flat and sometimes the moments are very static. And some of the characters are simply not funny. Like the out of water fish who is always gasping and the dog who spends every episode chasing his tail.
One of my other favorite shows is Wonder Showzen, which certainly borrows a lot from TV funhouse. It uses the same kid's show format and is very politically incorrect, although Wonder Showzen has a slightly nastier edge to it. But I think one of the things Wonder Showzen does do successfully that TV funhouse doesn't is keep the pace clipping along so things never become static or tiresome.
The Big Trail (1930)
An extremely impressive visual experience
Just wanted to add my two cents about this film and my experience viewing it. I've always been a big fan of Raoul Walsh and loved High Sierra and White Heat. I consider The Roaring Twenties to be his real masterpiece and one of the best gangster films ever made.
I was lucky enough to view a print of The Big Trail in the theater when it happened to be shown in the grandeur format in 1996 and could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like it. It presented such an incredibly vast and panoramic landscape that it was really breathtaking. At that time, I think the only way you could rent it was to see a chopped up pan and scan VHS copy.
To this day it remains one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a movie theater and I would jump at the chance to see it in the grandeur format again.
Sharky's Machine (1981)
One of the best (if not the best) films Reynolds ever made
Superb, brutal, hard-boiled crime drama starring Burt Reynolds as a burned-out Atlanta cop transferred to the absolute slime hole of Atlanta's vice department after a drug deal turns sour. He's assigned to watch a high-class prostitute (Rachel Ward) and eventually gets caught up in some political double-dealing.
Superb action and a serious performance by Reynolds make this one a winner. It's also a complete change from the silly, lighter stuff that Reynolds had been doing for years prior to this. His performance was waning somewhat and this was a great way for him to prove he still had it.
One of the things I love about this movie is the texture of grit and sleaze. It really feels like a brutal, hellhole world that these guys live in. At the same time, the film finds ways to interject humor at the coolest moments. Henry Silva's villain is another strong point. There is a moment near the end where you see his gasping and wheezing silhouetted form, rasping out Sharky's name. It's a hard image to shake from your mind.
Endangered Species (1982)
excellent and unorthodox film about conspiracy theory-type stuff
this is a fascinating film. I remember it vividly as my father took me to see it when I was about 12. Come to think of it, my parents took me to see some really odd films when I was growing up in the early 80s. Before I was even thirteen my parents took me to see such films as "Heavy Metal", "Eating Raoul", and "Blow Out". What the hell were they thinking? lol.
Anyways, this film is about cattle mutilation and delves into the world of conspiracy theories involving black helicopters, satanic underground networks, and all that other stuff people were starting to get worked up about in the early 80s.
Robert Urich plays an investigator from the big city who comes to the rural town where the mutilations are happening. With him is his delinquent teenage daughter (who is quite good. whatever happened to that young actress??). Urich also becomes romantically entangled with the local female sheriff played by JoBeth Williams.
I have to give special mention to a couple of things. This film (in my opinion) is easily the best that Alan Rudolph has ever done. He's always been somewhat of a cult director but I never found his films very impressive. But "Endangered Species" is just superb. If you're going to create a film about conspiracy theories, this is the way to do it, folks. By NOT spelling everything out for the audience. But suggesting a great deal. By NOT treating the audience as though they are idiots. The cinematography is also very impressive, as is the droning, disturbing score. A definite winner! I used to have a copy of this on VHS and I gave it away a few years back. I'm still kicking myself for doing that!
One of my favorite Barker stories makes a so-so film
I may be biased because "Dread" is the story that turned me on to Clive Barker originally. I love the story and was so blown away by it I actually made my girlfriend at the time read it (I probably should not have been surprised when she broke up with me soon after) and I still consider it one of his best. I was slightly hesitant to see the film because i knew the filmmakers would change all kinds of stuff around, which they did. Unfortunately, not much of it is for the better.
Basic setup is the same as in Barker's story: Quaid, a mysterious and wealthy young college student who suffers from recurrent nightmares enlists classmates Stephen and Cheryl to help him conduct a Kinsey-esque "fear study" to find out what people dread the most. Stephen and Cheryl have their own fears: Stephen is scared of driving ever since his older brother died in a car crash and Cheryl won't eat meat (for reasons that are revealed about halfway through the film). Another character, who isn't in the short story at all, is Abby whose face is half covered with a dark birthmark. Another character, Joshua, a student in the study, is fairly important as he fears what Stephen originally feared in the short story. The original story only had three characters whereas the film has many.
I think the basic problem with the film is one of padding. They've taken a simple story and padded it out to feature length but in the process they've made it a lot less interesting. Also, in order to cater to the blood and guts crowd they've taken the motivation behind the Quaid character and made it less fascinating. In the short story Quaid's recurring nightmare was of a clown with an axe slowly coming to get him in the middle of the night. Why he had the dream or what it represented remained a mystery. We knew only that it haunted him. In the film, Quaid's dream involves witnessing the murder of his parents by an axe- wielding psycho. We've seen that done a million times in a million movies. Who the hell cares about yet another run-of-the-mill axe wielding psycho? Boring!!
Additonally, in the short story Stephen's fear is going deaf (a fear transplanted to the Joshua character) and one of the most compelling parts is when that fear is realized. But the filmmakers botch this completely. They go for the easy way out. The only thing the movie gets right is Cheryl's fear of meat and the way Quaid exploits this. It plays out pretty much like it does in the short story and is very well done.
Other than that, I thought the cinematography was really nice. The direction is pretty decent. The acting is above average for this sort of film, particularly the girl who plays Abby. She has one scene where she comes on to Stephen that's heartbreaking. The guy who plays Quaid is pretty good as well, although it might have been better if he had been more sympathetic.
All in all, not bad. But I would still read the short story before seeing it.
Just One of the Guys (1985)
Surprisingly excellent teen comedy from the 80s
I saw this when it first came out and thought it was a laugh riot (I wasn't even a teenager yet) and just re-watched it again after many years. The screenplay is awesome. It's very funny. The movie's not nearly as funny as I remember. The acting is certainly a lot stiffer than I remember. But not bad.
Basic premise is that Terri, a gorgeous but brainy senior is convinced her teachers aren't taking her seriously because she's a girl. While her parents are away she dresses up like a boy ("Terry") and spends two weeks at a nearby school to prove her point.
It's mostly comedy of errors type stuff (nothing too raunchy) involving her sex-crazed younger brother, a hot-to-trot girl who falls for "Terry", and her superficial boyfriend who's oblivious to the fact that she's dressing up like a boy. She also meets a guy at the new school (Clayton Rohner) who she kind of takes under her wing and helps him get a prom date. Oh yeah, she also crosses paths with William "Karate Kid" Zabka as an iron pumping bully.
What really surprised me about the film was how easily I was able to accept the Terri character as a boy. And yet, she and the Clayton Rohner character have a chemistry that's undeniable and quite touching. You can see her character slowly falling for him. It almost makes you wish that the director had focused less on the younger brother's hijinks and more on the relationship between Terri and Rohner.
Quite a good movie.
La nuit des traquées (1980)
underrated Rollin feature is a haunting curiosity
This interesting film from Jean Rollin is somewhat of a departure from his usual vampire films. There is no supernatural element to be found in this one. Here the terror is more of the David Cronenberg variety.
Plot begins with a man encountering a young female amnesiac wandering along a country road one night. It turns out she has escaped from a lunatic asylum which is inside a very futuristic-looking skyscraper (one of the film's best touches). All of the other patients are also amnesiacs. They are unable to remember anything but the last 15 to 20 minutes. Inside the asylum they are basically just left to wander aimlessly. There's quite a bit of violence and sex with patients attacking each other, having hot sex, etc..
I really enjoyed this one. I am surprised it is considered one of Rollin's weaker films. I tried watching "The Iron Rose" right before this and found it such a crashing bore that I couldn't finish it. But I really like "Night of the Hunted". I can only imagine people think this one of Rollin's weaker films because it lacks the Gothic element of some of his other films. The futuristic architecture is a neat touch. Also, Brigitte Lahaie is gorgeous and she has a certain deer in the headlights look that is perfect for this.
Unfortunately, Rollin totally botches the ending. It could easily have been haunting but what he goes for (in my opinion) does not work. It ends up being unintentionally funny. Oh well. Besides that it was good.
sorry, but Nicolas Roeg is not a good director
Did you ever someone who is intelligent and well-spoken but who just won't stop talking. And the more he talks the less sense he makes, and yet he speaks so eloquently and with such style that you feel compelled to listen, even though the headache growing in your brain screams at you to run away. That's a lot like Nicolas Roeg's films. And that's a lot like "Walkabout". Beautifully shot, very stylish, and yet so...soooo vague. One vague scene drifting into another. One ponderous moment oozing into the next. As it just goes on and on and on...and the buzzing in your head gets louder and louder.
I've encountered this with Roeg's films before, to greater and lesser degrees. I am aware of the beauty of what's on the screen and of Roeg's talent, but I can't get past this feeling that he doesn't really want to make a film that's about anything. And the ponderousness of the stories becomes oppressive.
"Walkabout" is supposedly a classic. I admit it has very good cinematography. And Jenny Agutter is lovely, but beyond that I don't see a lot else. The whole nature vs. technology metaphor is so pounded into the viewer's skull you want to scream "all right!! I get it!! I get it!!" And Roeg is the king of mixed signals (not in a good way, either), as in one scene we get shot after shot of the aborigine teen slaying animals intercut with full frontal nude shots of sixteen-year old Jenny swimming around while muzak plays (???) That nonsense of showing beauty/slaughter intercut was old by 1969, so Roeg was not doing anything new.
Honestly, I would avoid this movie. It's just frustrating. If you want to watch something good, check out some of the films of Donald Cammell (who co-directed "Performance" with Roeg), he is less well-known, but was a far superior director.
Another brilliant Wiseman documentary
"Welfare" is the fourth Frederick Wiseman documentary I've seen and they have all been outstanding. The others I've watched, "Primate", "Law and Order", and "Titticut Follies" I would rank slightly above "Welfare" for the simple reason that they are harder hitting films. "Welfare" is very long and totally mesmerizing but it's all about the process of waiting and people drifting endlessly through the system. It's all conversations between welfare caseworkers and people who are trying to get their checks.
As usual, Wiseman finds some of most astonishing footage imaginable. Some of the stuff its hard to fathom how he managed to film it. You wonder if the people knew they were being filmed, and if so, did they care? They don't seem to. It was shot in 1974, and presumably on film, so the cameras would have been noticeable. The thing I love about Wiseman is that he doesn't stand in judgement. He just shows. And when you expect his camera to pull away it doesn't. And then something even more astonishing happens.
Admittedly, in "Welfare" the astonishment is on a more subtle level than in some of his other films. There are no moments that make your jaw drop in horror at the human condition like in Wiseman's "Law and Order" when two cops chokehold a cowering prostitute into oblivion or the nightmarish talent show in "Titticut Follies".
The moments that stand out in "Welfare" are the smaller ones. The way one couple's story about how badly they need their welfare check slowly dissolves as they get caught in one lie after another. The hippie girl who complains about her apartment being declared an unfit home for her infant just because her boyfriend's "diseased" dog also lives there. The way one caseworker (who seems like a wimp at first) is able to firmly (and justly) stick up for one of his cases.
But the real treat of seeing a Frederick Wiseman documentary cannot fully be described in words. I think he is the greatest documentary filmmaker in history. His films are truly like social x-rays. Every one of his films I've seen is far and away better than any other documentary I've seen by any other filmmaker.
Friedkin thriller based on chilling real-life events
I may be biased because Friedkin is one of my favorite directors so I am giving this film a 10. Friedkin is one of those rare directors who creates cinema with true compact urgency. He seems to be a throwback to John Ford or Howard Hawkes. His films are stripped to the bone and economical. Exciting.
Rampage is no exception. This is the tense (though admittedly dour) story of the capture and trial of serial killer Charlie Reece (a character based upon real-life serial killer Richard Chase), most of which is orchestrated by a district attorney character played by Michael Biehn. To be honest I have not watched this film in a number of years but I felt compelled to write about it because i so vividly remembered Alex McArthur's portrayal of the psycho, which is superb. He is frightening, especially those close-ups of his eyes in the courtroom scenes.
This film is interesting because we don't really see much killing on screen. Almost all of it happens off screen. Surprisingly, this makes it almost more unbearable because Reece's (and the real-life killer's) crimes were particularly hideous (he thought he was a vampire).
Additionally, I lived in Sacramento during the time Richard Chase was active and remember it quite well (my parents remember even better). This was not a pleasant guy. He was dangerous and what he did was unnerving. And I think the film captures that.
Lake Mungo (2008)
Great ghost story! Genuinely scary (and horror movies don't scare me)
I really enjoyed "Lake Mungo". It's a basic ghost story structured like a mockumentary. An Australian teenager named Alice drowns while swimming in a lake. After her death, her family (mom, dad, and younger brother) try to cope with her loss. Dad hides in his work, mom suffers from nightmares and guilt that she wasn't emotionally there for Alice while she was alive, and younger brother focuses on his photography hobby.
Strange things start to happen around the house and the family begins to hear sounds at night. They decide to call in a psychic researcher for help. I won't reveal any more but I will say the film is basically one long, creepy slow-burn up to one heck of scary moment. Seriously. I watch a lot of horror films (and I do mean A LOT) and I honestly cannot remember the last time a horror film actually scared me. It's probably been at least ten years. Well, this film did. I think that's recommendation enough.
I give "Lake Mungo" a 9 instead of a 10 because I think the story has one glaring problem. I'm not giving away anything by saying this but I think the writer/director tried to fit much extraneous story into too little time. There is one entire section of the film that probably should have been tossed. But that's just my personal opinion.
Disappointing outing from Rotsler
Fairly tame and unexciting, Mantis in Lace is about a stripper in a club who tries acid one night while out with some groovy cat and has a bad trip. She hallucinates weird lights and patterns on the guy's face. Then she stabs him repeatedly with a screwdriver. End of date. She proceeds to go find other guys and brings them back to her place and does the same to them.
I was expecting more from this one. It's very, very low-budget, even by films of this type. The main actress isn't anything to write home about and the lensing by stud cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs isn't that hot. It also drags in a big way. This feels almost like a short that was padded to feature length.
Film has none of the mind-bending visuals or stylistic flourishes of Rotsler's brilliant "Like It Is" which was also released in 1968.
Brutal look at the underbelly of capitalism
This is an unpleasant film to watch. It is about a "Slasher", a guy who goes in and stages huge sales at used car lots where they clear out all their backed-up inventory at slightly lower prices. The slasher brings in a DJ and his own sales force and the lot is extravagantly decorated with balloons and streamers and beautiful girls are hired to act as models for the weekend. It's kind of like a party.
In this case, director John Landis and his documentary crew follow Southern California Slasher Michael Bennett (and his crew) to a used car lot in Memphis, TN where they ready the lot for the sale and get pumped up to try and sell at least 50 cars so they can win their bonus. In between, they spend a lot of time drinking beer, smoking, hanging out at strip clubs and looking generally unhappy.
It's sad and gut-wrenching. You can't help but feel for Michael Bennett. You certainly feel how much he cares for his family but it's also clear what a skin-scraping profession he is locked into. You also feel the horrible tension between him and his DJ, especially in an argument they have at the end (about the best way to get to the airport!!) that nearly erupts into a fist fight. Bennett drinks almost constantly and you can see the wear and tear on him.
What's doubly horrific is watching the Slasher rip off honest people who have come in to try and buy a car and then are bullied into a buying a total lemon. You come away feeling awful for everyone in the entire movie. Also, the pacing (lots of jump cuts and lively Memphis soul) doesn't really reflect the gravitas and misery that's captured on the screen. I think it was assembled in kind of a slap-dash fashion. Maybe the director thought he was filming something more fun than he actually was.
The one oasis of sanity in the whole affair turns out to be "Mud", Slasher's mercenary closer. A towering, militaristic figure, Mud at first comes off as unsympathetic but is ultimately revealed to be a shrewd thinker and devoted family man. He also gives the film its one true moment of levity as he describes (with great humor) how it was only after his wife "kicked his ass" did he realize she was the one he was going to marry.
beautiful, bizarre, scary, and very sad tale of an abused child
at first a disorienting mixture of childhood whimsy and Gothic dread, Gilliam's tale of a little abandoned girl in a Texas farmhouse, slowly evolves into a full-blown attempt to thrust the viewer into the mind of a disturbed child.
"Tideland" may be better suited to two separate viewings, as the beginning, dominating by young Jeliza-Rose and her parents is perhaps the most disturbing. Her junkie mother dies first, and when her father follow suit Gilliam purposely shows the child not reacting, and then tips the film sideways to show that there is something very, very wrong about the fact that she is not reacting, but rather retreating into a fantasy world.
she attempts to form a bond with the disturbed brother and sister who live in the farmhouse next door, with unfortunate consequences. A transformative, immersive experience, even more so than Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas".
Critics panned this one not because it scared them, but because they were not prepared for the experience.
Smiley Face (2007)
did Araki really direct this?
Nice (cute even) little stoner comedy about a girl who goes on a strange one-day odyssey through Los Angeles trying to fix problems created as a result of her eating some pot cupcakes. Kind of weird, but fun.
Stoners looking for a yuck-fest ala Harold and Kumar should probably rent something else as the unfortunate truth is Gregg Araki does not direct comedy very well. The bits aren't real funny and the situations rely more on how a stoned person (you'd probably have to throw in some LSD, too) would act to a non-stoned person (or how a paranoid stoner would act). Faris is cute and her performance is entertaining but does get tiresome near the end.
The guy who plays Brevin is hilarious, however, and the interplay between him and Faris is the best thing in the movie. The conversation on the way to the dentist is the one truly accurate stoner conversation in the whole movie.
I actually only rented this because Gregg Araki (one of my favorite directors) made it and his previous films - all of them heavy on hyperbole and menace, give no indication he'd be the right person to direct this kind of movie (or even that he's ever smoked pot in his life!) Because Araki made it I boost this one up a couple of stars, but it's really just a colorful, meandering time-filler with a bad, meandering script and not a lot of laughs.
I don't think this film is a sign that Araki is "dead" as someone else said. Although it may seem like a step backwards I think Smiley Face is something Araki did to take a momentary break from the dark stuff he does so well.
Probably the oddest thing about this movie is the total absence of dread and disorientation that Araki has always injected into his work. I was really disappointed it was gone in this one. Oh, well. Maybe next time/
so-so experimental film from Russia
ultra low-budget gore/surrealist flick from Russia starts off very well with a KGB hit man smoothly executing his latest targets then coming home to a barren, depressing flat. He tries to sleep but is haunted by strange, unnerving sounds and spectres from his past as gruesome images of people he has killed enter his mind without warning.
After much pretentious head-banging he comes across an article on the art of pounding nails into one's head as a way of relieving mental agony. He gives it a try and (understatement of the year) gets a little carried away.
Film is very gruesome but also has a lot of nice touches of surrealistic weirdness to keep it afloat. The whole thing takes place in the hit-man's apartment - very low budget. It's a nice idea but more like a student film than anything else. It's shoddily photographed in places and the pacing is slow and draggy (even at an hour long).
Best aspect is probably the sound design, which is very odd and seems to contain a lot of distortion and sound f/x played backwards.
It's basically kind of a rip-off of Tetsuo, only Tetsuo is about a hundred times better (and was made twenty years ago).
GG was the real deal
Surprisingly unsettling documentary about legendary cult rocker GG Allin and his cadre of followers, this film follows Allin about New York City as he plays gigs, gets kicked out of venues, and deconstructs his punk creed for the camera. Film also takes time out for revealing interviews with childhood friends of Allin, fans, Allin's high school teachers, Allin's relatively articulate brother Merle, and one humorously disgruntled ex-bandmate.
If you've never heard of or seen Allin before, he's basically this punk rocker whose act is a (literal) assault on the audience. He plays naked, cuts himself, defecates onstage and rolls in it, vomits onstage, attacks members of the audience (and is attacked). It can be quite jarring to watch a GG show, even from the relative safety of one's own living room. There's the twitchy sensation that he is erasing any boundaries between performer and audience and the sense of danger becomes very real and scary.
This film presents a somewhat one-sided view of Allin, I think. We see him in rage-mode, basically. I used to frequent mondo video in LA a year or two after Allin died and they had practically a library of concert footage on the guy. The people who worked there said he came in often and was just a mellow guy. It was when he got booze or drugs inside him that he became wild.
Director Phillips does a very good job of chopping his footage up for maximum potency. And anyone doubting Todd Phillips' bravery need look no further than this footage or to his brilliant, incendiary banned HBO documentary "Frat House" about fraternity hazing.
Unfortunately, Phillips doesn't dig too deeply into what may have caused Allin's crazed behavior. We hear a little about his abusive dad, but not nearly enough.
Perhaps the best footage on the DVD is the bonus feature which shows GG's last show in NYC and it truly is disturbing stuff. Allin is frighteningly whacked-out on drugs and the camera follows him nonstop as he sings a song, then goes berserk when the sound cuts out. He attacks the venue (and several people in it) then spills out into a NYC street, naked, bleeding, and covered in feces, runs around the streets for a time generally being wild. Pretty great footage.
Runaway Train (1985)
Voight should have won the Oscar for that monologue alone
I remember watching this as a kid and thinking it was an incredibly powerful film, but i forgot how strong the performances are, particularly Voight's. Roberts is good, but he's basically playing second fiddle to Voight's hulking, frightening, feral, almost mythical Manny, a con so dangerous the warden has kept him in solitary confinement for three years straight.
Roberts is a younger convict who idolizes Manny and helps him escape from the Alaskan prison where they both reside. they end up on a train barrelling down the tracks at 90mph with no conductor and no way to stop it. The film is based on a screenplay by the legendary Akira Kurasawa.
Great action scenes. Muscular film-making. It just seems they don't make films like this anymore. Films that aren't trying to pander to a certain demographic. This is lean, mean action all the way.
And that "little biddy spot" monologue Voight has halfway through the film is really breathtaking. He should have won an Oscar for that alone.
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Wow! This movie is brilliant. One of the 10 best sci fi's ever
I felt compelled to write about "Colossus: the Forbin Project" as it is still on my mind. I had a somewhat strange reaction to it. I can't remember the last time I was actually frightened by a film in the same way that I was frightened by this one. Typically, my fear response only kicks in when I see a potent image thrust at me quickly or when a movie uses unusual, eerie sounds to induce anxiety. Most films tend to frighten people by this primitive jack-in-the-box method.
But the fear "Colossus: the Forbin Project" gave me is the same fear I experienced after reading Orwell's "1984". It's the fear of being taken over. Of losing personal freedom. As the Colossus computer's demands and actions grow and become all-encompassing the audience's reactions seem to mirror the Forbin character's reactions. To watch him slowly crumble in the face of what he has created is frightening because he seems so implacable for most of the movie. We put our faith in him because he reacts to each twist in the plot with a knowing smile.
This is a film that gets under the skin in a big way. You have to think, after watching it: is this the way it happens? someone with good intentions doesn't realize the full extent of what he's created (whatever it may be) and it simply blossoms out of his control.
A disturbing and important film.
what did I just watch?>?! This movie is garbage
Awful, awful, awful film. I mean, I like B movies as much as the next person but this is just pathetic. This is actually not a B movie. This is a Z movie. It is inept in every way. Scientists try to find a guy in the dorkiest-looking rubber monster suit you will ever see in your life. The whole thing looks like it was shot for about 25 cents by people who had no script and had never seen a movie before in their entire lives.
And maybe it was the DVD, but at all costs avoid the Retromedia copy of this, because it looks like you are viewing everything through a blizzard. It's HIGHLY annoying. If I hadn't paid only .99 cents for the stupid piece of junk I'd demand a refund.
Video Violence (1987)
impressive no-budget slasher from the 1980s
nice, fast-moving no-budget slasher film from the mid-1980s was somewhat ahead of its' time (it predates the homebrew shot-on-video horror boom by ten years) and offers a nice plot and ample gore to keep viewers' interest.
Husband and wife move to a small town and open up a video store to find the people of the town are obsessed with violence and watching violence on video. Crudely-made snuff films start popping up and the couple start to feel that they are being targeted.
Film is very, very low-budget but works well within obvious monetary constraints. The killings veer between sickeningly gross and uncomfortably, creepily realistic. Film occasionally attains a "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" level of flat, you-are-there queasiness that many bigger-budgeted films have been unable to capture.
Very well done. Also offers a welcome dose of nostalgia for anyone who grew up spending time in video stores in the 1980s.