Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So Long., farewell...

So I looked up movie deaths, and besides a bunch of gruesome horror movie deaths, this is one of the first pictures to come up. Poor Spock. He sacrificed himself to save so many. Anyway, I have decided to move my blogging "duties" here where I will be sharing space with two friends (and now, blogging buddies!(ugh)) I still hope to be doing much the same, but expand out a little into other parts of the pop culture wheel. A wheel, of course, that were aren't reinventing but we thought it might be a fun idea. So feel free to follow me over there if the feeling hits you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My B-Movie Vacation

So here I am. I have been back from vacation, officially, for about an hour and a half. It was amazing, everything on my checklist and then some. Most of which involved, beaches, swimming, eating, and drinking. So, you know, amazing vacation. I even took in a few end-of-summer movies. Both of them falling strictly in the B-movie/exploitation vein.

Piranha (3D) (2010)

Truly embarrassing true confession time: we ended up seeing this movie three times in one week. Sadly its true. We went one late night. Then a friend came to the beachhouse to visit and we decided she needed to see it, then the same situation happened the next night with one more friend when we all decided he should see it as well. Up until now Monsoon Wedding was the only movie I had ever seen in an empty theater. Add Piranha to that list. Yes, there might have been alcohol involved, why do you ask? Anyway, this is probably exploitation in its truest form, it takes place during Spring Break, on a lake, and I won't reveal where the piranha come from because thats part of the "fun". There is a lot of blood and a lot of bare breasts. And it is ridiculous in the most fun way possible. I'm not kidding, this movie was audacious, and just plain crazy. Sure the two leads, one of which I will get to in a minute, were awful. But they were surrounded by the likes of Elisabeth Shue, still beautiful, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd-doing his best Doc Brown, Richard Dreyfuss in a super-brief role, and Jerry O'Connell, who deserves some sort of special recognition for his off-the-wall performance as a Joe Francis-like svengali running a "Girls Gone Wild" type of operation. It never, for a second, takes itself seriously. And in the greatest exploitation tradition pads its running time out with a tequila body shots and, I kid you not, water ballet. Its so nuts and so ridiculous, and so much fun at least to see with a group of people. I don't know how it will play in different conditions. I do know it probably didn't need to be 3D, but thats true for most movies.

A couple of interesting things:
This, of course, being a remake of one of the better Jaws ripoffs from the 70's, one thats actually great campy fun, made in 1978 and directed by a young Joe Dante through the Roger Corman factory. Although the reason the piranha exist is different in the remake than the government engineered ones in the original....its something even more ludicrous. Well, there are a couple little homages, from Richard Dreyfuss (as "Matt" in the credits) brief appearance, to Ving Rhames remarking that a body being pulled of the lake couldn't have been mutilated by a boat propeller, is just one of the many nods to the king of them all. Although, they pretty much remove the financial reasons for not closing down the town, even the Dante Piranha had a plot about a crooked real estate man who wouldn't shut down the river...there wasn't time for anything like that. Things moved at a pretty swift rate. But, the boat that Jerry O'Connell took out his crew to shoot for his videos was called the "Barracuda". This is funny only because there was actually another z-grade Jaws ripoff in 1978 also called, yup, Barracuda.

No joke.

Thats a deep cut right there. (Also, I found this truly niche-y blog, The Jaws Ripoff Blog" Which is devoted to these sorts of movies.)

So I mentioned the two teenaged leads. Well, the female "lead" was Jessica Szohr, who played Kelly, and she was truly awful. (Another exploitation flick mainstay: bad performances!) Well, the lead is someone I found out is on a show called the Vampire Diaries, believe me, he's no prize either. But his name is Steven R. McQueen (seriously) Check out this family tree:

Who's father, is Chad McQueen, also known as Dutch, the arguably a bigger dick than Johnny on the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid (also an Elisabeth Shue co-star! I wonder how that made her feel?)

And, their father and grandfather, happens to be a legend, of course, that's Steve McQueen:

Weird, huh?

Machete (2010)

Now, what's weird is Robert Rodriguez set out to consciously make an exploitation movie (Mexi-ploitation? Maybe?) He and everyone involved is having a good time, clearly. The one thing Machete could have taken from Piranha is the power of keeping things movie. When Machete was good, it was really good. But the thing is it tended to drag a little bit in the middle, and the plot was sort of needlessly complicated. But the rest was fun in a way Rodriguez seems to be going for. Danny Trejo was awesome, and Steven Seagal and Don Johnson were clearly having a blast playing the bad guys. And, I have to admit, this was the most I have enjoyed a Robert De Niro performance in a while. But I do appreciate the mini-Jeff Fahey comeback that seems to be going on and he milks his part for all its worth. Its also ludicrous, but thats sort of the point.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted. Vacation, All I Ever Needed.

So in a little more than four hours I am going to be out of here, officially on our annual late-Summer vacation. This is what I want to do in no particular order: go to the beach, swim, see friends, eat seafood, drink beer, maybe see some crappy late-August summer fare (Takers? The Expendables?) You never know. So the excitement has me thinking about Vacation (obviously, as I have established) and Vacation movies. Here are a bunch of good ones:

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Vacation (of course) (1983)

Summer School (1987)

Summer Rental (1985)

Stand By Me (1986)

Roman Holiday (1953)

One Crazy Summer (1986)

Meatballs (1979)

Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation (1962)

Adventureland (2009)

FInally, a music video which always reminds me of Summer and Summer Vacation:

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Sean Connery: Zardoz (1974)

Thanks for the heads up

Well, if Sean Connery was eager to shed his James Bond image, Zardoz certainly goes a long way in helping him out in that endeavor. Wow, just wow. I was trying to find an image that could capture how weird this movie was, and the above one only goes part way in showing that. Yup, its just as odd as everyone says it is, both the picture and the movie. Ostensibly, an extended treatise one class and religion, it takes place in the year 2293. Connery plays Zed, an Exterminator, who just kills for his god and to keep the population down, he finds himself with a group of immortals, who alone keep track of humanity's achievements......from there it even further down the rabbit hole, if thats possible, and it is. This must have been some personal vision for John Boorman, it seems after getting some particularly good Thai stick and then staring at his lava lamp, he had a totally mind blowing vision of how to break people out of their cages of class and religion! I mean maybe who could know. But he DID write, direct AND produce this. Between this and Exorcist II, he seemed to spend the mid-seventies in a very weird place after the success of Deliverance. This movie plays out like a weird fever dream, and yet its sort of impossible to avert your gaze, because, being so odd, you really have no idea where they are going to go next. And, don't get me started on the "twist" at the end where they reveal where their "god" Zardoz got his name...oh man, its just, well, kind of amazing.

Ten Good Non-James Bond Sean Connery Roles:

(no particular order)

1) Professor Henry Jones, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
2) Marko Ramius, The Hunt For Red October (1990)
3) Jim Malone, The Untouchables (1987)
4) King Agamemnon, Time Bandits (1981)
5) Pierce, The Great Train Robbery (1979)
6) Major General Urquhart, A Bridge Too Far (1977)
7) Daniel Dravot , The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
8) Mark Rutland, Marnie (1964)
9) Pvt. Flanagan, The Longest Day (1962)
10) Robin Hood, Robin and Marian (1976)

Here's one more just because it's odd to see him like this, to me, in a different way: Michael McBride, Darby O' Gill and the Little People

Casualties of War (1989)

This has been sitting on my Netflix Watch Instantly Queue for quite some time. Brian De Palma is an interesting filmmaker to me, its strange because he always inspires such strong opinions on both sides of the fence. There are people that can't stand him, and then there are people that will defend even his worst work (Mission To Mars). I'm somewhere in the middle, I think. When he's good, I feel he's very good, and when he's not, he's not. Basically like any other human endeavor, I guess. But I guess what I am trying to say is that he is, at the very least, always interesting. Casualties Of War is an interesting movie, and I feel like it would take someone with De Palma's, excuse me here, balls, to be able to even attempt. Its interesting watching this after reading this which is about an episode of M*A*S*H, but talks about a British documentary about the Vietnam War, made in the 60's, that congressmen wanted to keep off the air. Its interesting that by 1989 that De Palma could make a movie like this to little or no fanfare. I was twelve, so I am not sure if there was a lot of controversy surrounding the release. But, after having finally seen, it, its a pretty powerful movie which manages to make a point not only about ethics, but about war as a whole. Michael J. Fox plays Eriksson, the lone man in a unit who refuses to participate in the kidnapping, rape, and eventual murder of a Vietnamese villager woman, and then tries to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is makes up part of Fox's unofficial "dark" trilogy (along with Bright Lights, Big City and Light Of Day) I think he's good here as the junior man in the group, the one it seems who still has is morals intact, he plays it well for the most part. Although there are some Vietnam War cliches in the beginning, as the main plot sets in they are done away with. Fox's sense of betrayal is pretty palpable as people he initially sort of looks up to, start to turn on him, particularly Diaz, played by a young John Leguizamo, who at first says he isn't going to along with the rest of the group, but eventually gives in. Also interesting to note that this is John C. Reilly's first movie, and he is pretty good, obviously, at playing the easily-led lummox. One sequence, in particular, is pure De Palma, and its really good: the scene where they actually kidnap the girl from her home is pretty amazing. All in all, this is pretty dark, and made even more so since it is apparently based on a true story, but I feel like it deserves a higher place on the De Palma canon, or at least a second look.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Vicious Kind (2008)

This has all the earmarks of an indie movie, because, of course, thats what it is. It threatens to be overwhelmed by the sort of indie cliches that pop up so very often, but the performances are so good, particular from Adam Scott and J.K. Simmons that it never topples over. I also happen to like that it is set in a small town in Connecticut in the Winter, around Thanksgiving time to be exact. The story centers around Caleb, played by Adam Scott, who is, not to put too fine a point on it, an asshole, but his terrible attitude stems from a recent breakup and....a family secret that he has been carrying around for eight years. Until about the last part of this I really thought this would end like so many indie movies with nothing resolved, and it only playing like the first act to a familial tragedy. Yet in the very end, while, for part of the cast it might not be perfect, but for the other two, the father and son, there looks like there might be a step forward and a breakthrough. I have to admit, I liked that. I liked the fact that, as written, J.K. Simmons and Adam Scott, the estranged father and son, are more alike then they care to admit, and thats probably part of the problem. And those two, probably more so than Brittany Snow and Alex Frost as the brother and the girlfriend, are really good here. Sure, they are playing variations on characters they have already established, the unrepentant asshole and the out-there father, here they play it dramatically and I think they are really really good. This was written and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who is like 24 years old, and it definitely feels like something a 24 year old would write and make. And thats not necessarily a bad thing, I would like to see what he does in the future. Because this looks really good, even if the story isn't the best in the world, I liked the setting (the cold Northeast is always fitting for these sorts of familial dramas). There's one dolly shot in particular, thats not too long, of Adam Scott rushing out of a bowling alley that I found pretty impressive. So the acting saves this one, I think, in the end.

On a sidenote that has nothing to do with anything besides the fact that this was set in the chilly, Northeast. I have been reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and have been wondering 1) Why has no one made that into a movie. Small colleges dotting the New England landscape have to be ripe for a lot of things-drama and horror being right up there. I mean look at what Lovecraft did. And 2) I guess my number 2 was in there but yeah, like The Vicious Kind why not more films set in the Northeast, I feel like its ripe for these kinds of things, the Northeastern mentality and all, and hasn't been used to its full potential. Even watching Jaws the other night, and this might also be because of the good writing, I was thinking of this watching the cast of colorful characters, many who seemed uniquely New England, who filled out the town/island of Amity. Of course, it would probably take someone from the area to get it exactly right, I suppose, but that goes without saying.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

This is the kind of movie that, back in the day, one would stumble across on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon on WLVI or WPIX and was so fast moving you would get caught up in it. While not great cinema by any stretch of the imagination, this is actually a fun, quickly paced movie, following the adventures of American prisoners who escape from their prison transfer convoy and try making their way across France to Switzerland. Sure the voices are badly dubbed, and for whatever reason there is no subtitles when characters speak in German, making it difficult to sometimes follow EXACTLY what was going on. But, it moves swiftly, starting out like The Dirty Dozen, becoming an adventure of men trying move incognito through a battlefield to safety, to a mid-movie twist which turns it into a "man-on-a-mission" movie. It really pulls out all the stops, even finding a way, at one point, to show topless women. Fred Williamson, a veteran of blaxploitation/grindhouse movies by this point is particularly fun to watch here. While I'm glad Tarantino didn't decide to do a straight remake of this (there is only a couple of small elements, besides the title, he took from this) it actually is a fun little time waster on its own.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lock and Load.

Guns, guns, and more guns from the movies.

This is long, but it's worth it:

Lock & Load from Steven Santos on Vimeo.

A couple things:

-I should really see Love and Death. I am not sure how I missed it.
-I mentioned this earlier today, but Hot Fuzz is so good.

-Everyone always talks about the shootout in the hospital at the end of Hard Boiled. But the opening shootout in the noodle place is as good if not better.

The Other Guys (2010)

Ugh. So I was really looking forward to this. For the most part, I think Will Ferrell is funny and I usually enjoy his "man unaware" shtick. And I think the first half hour to forty-five minutes of this are really good, but then the plot kicks in and it just seems to go on for too long. I know thats a weird thing to say, but its hard to do action-comedy right. Usually its not funny enough by comedy standards, and the action isn't good enough by, uh, action standards. I really do think this starts off well, but, in some ways, the mystery was too much "in the real world", if that makes sense. If you want to see this thing done right, watch Hot Fuzz, where everything is just sort of nuts. I don't want to watch a Will Ferrell comedy and try to parse out the specifics of some intricate plot. I keep mentioning there is some good here, I like Will Ferrell, he probably got the most chuckles from me, I like Rob Riggle and Damon Wayons Jr. (I know, holy crap) as Wahlberg and Ferrell's rivals, I like that this is the summer of the Michael Keaton mini-comeback, and I thought he was funny.(Slight Spoiler Ahead) They lost Duane Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson way too early, they could have been funny to play off of for a while more. But I don't know, it just couldn't sustain itself, and ended up, for me, being disappointing. I mean I can't expect every Ferrell-McKay collaboration to scale the heights of Anchorman, but this definitely didn't come close. So I wonder what next? Because I think Ferrell is at his best when working with McKay, but also think it might be time for McKay to try something different-so we'll see, I guess. I'm a fan of of the Sideshow Bob Rake Theory (which I just named) which basically is that if something repeats itself enough it goes from funny to weird/possibly annoying to funny again. They seemed to try this here with a few gags and it just didn't work for me. Ah well, they can't all be winners.