Blu Ray Bitch’n …just some things I wanna complain about.

image

Recently there has been a few blu ray packages that have come out which have irked me. Now to lay some ground work ahead of time let me say this, I like Blu-Ray buuuuut it’s annoying as all hell! In addition to buying half my collection again, self inflicted I admit, the enthusiasm and eye for detail that had accompanied DVD has suffered a big loss.

Most blu rays for new movies get sparse extras in lieu of the higher bit rate and have the balls to tout themselves as multi disc sets despite being the same product but only in a different formats on separate discs.

image

Also, unless a movie has been officially licensed by a specialty company, most older films only get upgraded to the higher format without any work on the old transfer or negative. Which essentially doesn’t improve the quality of the movie. It only allows a film to NOT look like shit on a bigger TV. You need a company like Criterion, Synapse, Blue Underground or Shout Factory to work on title to see any improvements. Yes, occasionally, a new transfer from a major studio happens and the results are often magnificent. (I.e.: Jaws, Lawrence of Arabia, Blade Runner) But that is far and few between, for the most part we get just a simple upgrade from the DVD and occasionally from way back to the VHS negative! I’m looking at you Echo Bridge.

But amongst these and many other annoyances, recently their have been a few sets released that have, frankly, pissed me off.

image

Robocop, Rocky and The Man With No Name Trilogy are in my sights today, Damn it!

I’m happy that the movie studios decided to give a new transfer to the original RoboCop, Rocky and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but why then package them in with their respective counterpart films and not give those films upgrades? 

This is especially true with Rocky and Leone’s set. I want Fistful of Dollars and Rocky II to get upgrades just as much as the other films. I mean, at least try! You don’t have to spend a million dollars but maybe striking a new transfer, cleaning and new coding could do wonders! At leafs Robocop’s sequels were fantastic so only the original needed work. But Rocky and the Westerns did.

In Leone’s set they definitely could have at least added Duck, You Sucker in Blu called it the man with no name, put Eastwood’s mug on the cover and the fans would have been very forgiving of the misrepresentation if it meant getting an extra Leone movie on Blu as a special feature. No!?

image

Look, studios, Blu Ray is the last physical media that we have before it all goes digital. Then we can say goodbye to special features new transfers and excellent home theater presentation. Until then let’s celebrate classic movies by putting the best foot forward and giving us a reason to spend money. Ok?

And if you don’t believe me as to the futility of the Blu read on..

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/pat-higgins/blu-ray-is-dead_b_3572399.html

Just a little update:

I love how there’s a new Spielberg set with four hotley anticipated films from fans and then the rest are one’s we and every other person already bought! Just to justify the $100 plus price tag. That sucks.

Good is? …Good Storytelling!

Whilst watching the “Kong” animated series with my daughter it struck me that, while the show itself seems like puerile absurdity for kids it actually has a fun serial quality to it that could work. …Were is done better!

image

When I hear a movie’s detractors take a movie down, its usually done with name calling and when asked why specifically, a person will say it was “boring” or “stupid”. When you ask a movie geek ‘why’, they actually have more annoying responses like, “no originality” or the “original is better”.

To me a movie isn’t about one thing specifically and most of all it isn’t about the story! We wouldn’t be so obsessed with sequels, remakes, adaptions or prequels if that was the case. To me a movie is only as good as it’s storytelling. 

I always laugh when I hear there’s a script leak or spoiler released before a movie’s release. Why is Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or any other major book adaption making billions of dollars if that movie’s plot was revealed? Audiences crave an experience and that experience is always better when told to them with atmosphere, mystery, suspense, a climax and intrigue.

image

When watching Back to the Future I was struck at how one scene plays into the next and how it sets up a question for the viewer only to answer it immediately or by the end of the film. Why is Marty interrupted from kissing his girlfriend in the park by a woman who is telling him about a broken monument that was struck by lightning? Why is bad that Marty stopped his father from getting hit by a car? What happens when a teen from the future even meets his father who is also a teen? These questions are meant to compel the audience into watching the next moment of the movie and once you’re hooked a good film ‘gets’ you with a desired conclusion that make the entire expirence worth it.

image

Not all good films work like Back to the Future but the idea of building questions in an viewers mind is usually a basis for most. So how the question is asked is the oat important piece to a good movie. In “Once Upon a Time in the West” we meet the man with the Harmonica played by Charles Bronson. He almost mysteriously appears and suddenly and purposefully puts a monkey wrench in every characters attempt to do anything. Why? Even though the story is compelling enough without him his presence is jarring and almost bizarre. When we do find out what he’s up to the reveal makes watching the movie for 3 hours worth it! This is good storytelling.image

I often get dinged for liking a lot of the crappy, crappy, crap movies. But what people don’t understand, is that often, I like them because they have a nugget of the compelling that, were the storytelling better, the movie would be good. Most storytelling in most films is bad, for a variety of reasons, but that’s just how it is. It doesn’t stop me from liking something but it does allow to differenciate the good and great. 

Kong has fun elements to it: Kong as a hero, a kid as his partner, a goofy friend for humor, his grandma as not only a genius but family and an outsider girl who brings a dash of danger and sex appeal. Where the material written for an older audience with strong story telling you’d have a hit.

Think about what compels you and how the story is told when you watch a movie or series so, at the very least, you have better reasons to hate or love something.

Reel Quick -Maleficent

To sum up. There were countless wasted opportunities to make Maleficent a good movie. Instead first time director, Robert Stromberg, seemed inclined to hit every conceivable fantasy cliche from the Hobbit, Harry Potter and recent Tim Burton. On top of that scenes between actors were stilted, opening shots were awkward and Angelina herself would have seemed to be phoning it in were the role not perfectly fitted to her personality.

Quick point. (spoiler) It would have been much more effective to show only little Maleficent in wings so that at the end of the movie when she gets them back it’s has a bigger impact. Of course that’s what a seasoned director brings and not an effects guy. Remember directing is storytelling.

PS: Disney may want to seriously reconsider their live action out put. I.e. John Carter, Tron Legacy, Prince of Persia, etc..

Ok, Who Likes X-Men 3? …hello, anyone?

Me. That’s who.

image

First and foremost let me start out by saying I’m not an X-Men fanatic. I haven’t read all the issues or very many really. I’ve followed X-Men in the past enough to know most of the big story lines but if I went one on one with a true believer, I’d lose. That said, like many teens in the 80s, I was obsessed with Wolverine and even own a few of the coveted Claremont/Miller issues.

image

Second, I’m not a fan of Brett Ratner. I’ve seen his Rush Hour films and a few others and I’d have to say for the most part he’s a banal director with nothing remarkable to his credit. In fact his take on Red Dragon is pretty crap. But I’m not a “hater” as it were and I do know he’s a bit of a fanboy as he often turns up on featurettes about Jackie Chan and Eddie Murphy. So I know he knows, at least, a thing or two.

image

But ‘X-Men The Last Stand’ has always perplexed me. Simply because, and I say this before taking deep breadth with the knowledge of the ire this comment may inflict upon myself, I find X-Men 3 to be a pretty darn good movie. And more often than not, I see and hear a lot of deriding not only this movie but also Ratner himself. 

Here’s a few comments from imdb:

"F U Brett Ratner your movie is meaningless.."

"Brett Ratner is a chode"

"(Sucks more…)Then being forcibly masturbated with hot sauce as lube”

And that was just a few minutes looking.

image

I mean, I think I get it. This movie has it’s share of plotholes but most blockbuster movies do. What the problem really seems to be, is in 90 minutes Three major characters are killed and three others lose their powers. In one movie six very prominant characters become obsolete. I get that.

image

But as a whole I think this movie is very fun and, frankly, has the best performance by Ian McKellen and Famke Janssen in their entire franchise history. Even the emotional ending between Jean Grey and Wolverine works for me despite it not being entirely logical. In fact I’m not the only one who has this ridiculous thought. Despite a negative review Harry Knowles is forgiving of Ratner:

"This isn’t Brett Ratner’s car wreck… oh sure, he was just the hired hand at the wheel who managed to keep the car basically on the road, but he didn’t pick the car, nor did he fill the tank. No, this car, road and explosions were timed, set and sabotaged by Tom Rothman. I actually believe Brett could have made a pretty decent X-MEN movie had he been given the time to adequately adapt the film. "

image

That comment has sat with me over the years when hearing criticism of X3. Yes, it’s not a great movie: it’s very underdeveloped, characters die and X-Men fans are left behind in favor of “the masses”. But…

As a movie we are introduced to a wrinkle of X-Men mythology that is very interesting. The “Cure” to human mutation. What if, in the mid 60s, African Americans could be turned white? What if a homosexual could take a pill and become hetero? Say what you want but that main plot point in the movie is handled pretty well. It is met, initially, with disdain but then some give it some thought and a few even desire it. Even if a solution seems unethical, often there are many who concede to it. While the main thrust of the movie seems headed to a giant showdown, the internal plight is universal and very relevant. In fact, I find it the most compelling story of the first three films.

image

While some characters have minimal screen time (Storm/Rogue) others seem to enjoy strong arcs. The best of which belongs to Jean Grey, her character becomes the main antithesis to the Cure, once she is, somewhat confusingly, resurrected, she becomes a walking apocalypse to human beings. All the while being torn over her total superiority over humans and mutants alike but also feeling latent compassion for them particularly Logan.

(Spoiler alert…)

This ultimately leads to a somber but emotional finale where Wolverine faces off against her, and despite facing his own demise and losing the love of his life, he kills her. Despite the movies better efforts to just be a popcorn film this scene is still very emotional and worthy ending in the three film arc. Ratner nails the emotion needed in this scene and then ends the movie with some fun teases.

image

Yes, the movie is rushed and yes many of the characters seem bland but compared to most of the blockbusters this movie seems solidly footed in descent material to ponder. Plus while I can appreciate fans being disappointed by this movie, it’s certainly head and shoulders above other super hero movies like: Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Hulk, Ghost Rider, Electra and thouest biggest turdith: X-men Origins: Wolverine. Woof!

I was very happy this weekend when I saw Days Of Future Past and it’s “retcon” of the original X-Men movies. It was a return to form for Bryan Singer and Fox studios. It seems that they are well aware of the mistakes of the franchise has made and, after Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, grateful to the X-men films and what they have done for the studio. While I like The Last Stand, no doubt it, along with it’s idiot brother ‘Origins’, are low points everyone wants to put behind them. 

But let’s still look at the bigger picture when beating on X3. It’s a good movie that could’ve been great but it’s still good.

'Godzilla': 5 Things Roland Emmerich's 1998 Version Did Better
…..Fun article that follows up my post.

'Godzilla': 5 Things Roland Emmerich's 1998 Version Did Better

…..Fun article that follows up my post.

Godzilla!! …and, finally, a reason to forget that other one!

image

I’ve never been a huge Godzilla fan. Except back when I was 11 years old and loved the cartoon from the early 80s. Who’s theme I can sing entirely, even now. I remember desperately wanting the Shogun size Godzilla toy and even had a few issues of the Marvel series.

When I did see the Japanese movies, I remember being quite bored with any semblance of a plot that involved any human being whatsoever. And since, all those films were two thirds people, I kinda found them kinda meh, but, boy, even with the rubber suits I loved the Godzilla battles. Especially with all the weird versions of baddie they dreamed up for whatever particular entry in the series I watched.

image

Now the 98 version was, what I can only describe as a “cinematic fart”. It was hotly anticipated, built up like into a marketing frenzy and when it finally hit, it stunk to high heaven. That said it still has one of the best teaser trailers I’ve ever saw.

So, I was only mildly amused when I heard they were rebooting an American Godzilla movie. I figured since Hollywood fucked it up the first time and what with a strong but small following here in the U.S., I assumed they’d “re-envision” Godzilla as another monster who looks nothing like the original and make it another vehicle for Rihanna. 

image

But then I saw Gareth Edwards was the director. His feature debut, Monsters, was a fascinating alien meets hearts-of-darkness meets indie romance that was wonderfully detailed and well executed. Giving hope that the direct to dvd/netflix market could actually bring thoughtful stuff in a world awash with mega-somethings vs hybridanimals.

image

And luckily, for you, Godzilla is the movie we were all hoping for! Edwards re-introduces us to the monster we know but also uses the mystery of the reveal as an asset not a hinderence. We know the monster is coming, so instead of a mildly interesting but shoe horned storyline before the non-stop mayhem, the new Godzilla eases us into his appearence with suspense and tension. Edwards often shows the creature from eye level up. Letting us expirence it as a person would …were a giant amphibian attack really happening. 

And when the battles do happen they are not over the top prolonged sequences of destruction porn like Man Of Steel or even Pacific Rim. The clashes are used sparingly as the story of a demolitionist is weaved though out.

image

Not that the “human” story is elevated from it’s usual kinda boring placement it usually takes in a Godzilla film. Like those movies, the human story line is filled with cliches and nonrandom events of randomness and has the obligatory “wife and kids” element sized up for plot wedging. But it was only after the movie that the soldiers story came off as absurd and it certainly doesn’t diminish the fun of watching it.

image

And that is were critics of this movie may misguide some people. Yes, the movie has some “Pacific Rim” size potholes and some of the acting seems turgid and unnecessary. In fact none of the actors or any of the acting is really any good here. Which is a surprise since it was acting that drove Monsters and made it such a good film. But then again, that’s more to do with Godzilla being a Hollywood tent pole rather than Edwards’s misstep.

image

Godzilla succeeds because we the audience are treated as passengers rather than spectators. We often experience the grim realty of mass chaos and destruction and the dread that something unnatural and uncontrollable is coming rather than counting minutes until the big showdown. And it’s this reason that Godzilla may be the best monster movie since Jurassic Park and certainly the reason we will be seeing more of Mr. Edwards. …plus Godzilla does the one thing the 98 film did not (spoiler)…

image

…breaths fire!!!!!

Sabotage: Arnie’s Very Last Stand

image

"Les Shitty Sabotage!"

It occurred to me, after watching an hour or so of consistent obnoxious, hamfisted performances and nihilistic violence, that buried beneath the veil of “gritty action” of Sabotage there is a decent movie and, surprisingly, some good acting from Arnold Schwarzenegger!

image

Not happy …about the box office

Unfortunately though, ‘Sabotage’ is just not a good movie. It’s excess of sadistic violence and cookie cutter characters derails what could have been a terrific heist mystery/revenge movie mash up and director David Ayer feels that in order to legitimize his aging action star vehicle he must douse it with as much cruelty, gore and misery as possible. Combining that with some hideous edits, that had a couple audible “what the fucks?” from the audience, and you’ve got yourself a nice shitty diaper of a movie.

image

Hey, I tried!

I firmly believe that if you are going to bludgeon your audience with relentless shocks and violence you better know what you’re doing and Ayer, a screenwriter by trade, just does not! His movie jerks from one grisly image to the next, while only being strung together loosely about a mystery over a $10 million dollars and overwrought murders of shit kicking FBI agents. The story would be enough to captivate the audience were it not for sadistic imagery used to jolt the audience with the “reality” of undercover law enforcement. When a movie’s credits are combined with a woman begging and crying for her life we immediately know subtlety is out the window and, although the grisly nature of the movie may be warranted, it’s story is lost beneath a pile of screaming, head shots and pools of blood. It’s clear the director simply lost sight of his story in order to shock and awe.

image

Still Very Hot

More proof of this are the performances of the ensemble. Manganiello, Holloway, Martini and Enos give some of most over the top performances I’ve seen in years. There’s more subtlety in Chuck Norris movies and if they’re campy performances were intentional, some one forgot to tell the director that they would stick out like boogers in kool-aid rather than jib with his “real life” action. Mean while academy award nominee Terrance Howard is reduced to a throwaway dialogue stiff who’s biggest regret isn’t in the script but rather leaving the Iron Man series.

image

Not as bad as she seems

Meanwhile buried beneath this nonsense are decent semi-compelling performances from Harold Perrineau and, the still very attractive, Olivia Williams. As well as, a rather compelling performance from Sam Worthington. Best all though may be Schwarzenegger, who plays an over the hill oaf who has seen better days. His performance reminded me of Stallone in Rocky Balboa, as a man who, almost pathetically, needs that one last shot.

image

After this movie, I need a drink too.

But what does any of that matter when you can relentlessly bombard the audience with so much grisley “true” violence it become white noise that crowds out the original goal of the movie. So much so, that when the true nature of the visceral dick wagging becomes known, you just don’t’ care. And since the box office was completely unkind to ol’ Arnie, it doubtful we’ll get a chance to see him again. Just when he was gett’n good.

image

Ok, here come the Critics!

Gary Numan @ The Phoenix Theater - March 27, 2014 …my review

image

I’m completely amazed at the amount of people who have no clue who Gary Numan is. I understand he’s “old” and from another era. But in his day “Cars” was a huge hit that remains relevant. I guess I’m from an era where embracing music’s history was as important as being into music itself. You couldn’t just like rock-n-roll and not know who the Beatles and the Stones were. Today the attention span of many is as disposable as music acts themselves are. ..but I digress.

image

You see Numan shares familiarity with many pop stars today. He was the first punk to embrace electronic music and become wildly famous for it. When I hear electronic thumpers from Black Eye Peas, Daft Punk or Lady Gaga, it’s not very hard to see the correlation between those songs and “Are Friends Electric?” or “Every Day I Die”. Luckily since the late 90s there has been a growing admiration for  the “lonely android” years of the late 70s. With his songs being covered by artists from Nine Inch Nails to british pop stars Sugababes.

image

Although, Numan is not in love with his past but he still has incorporated it into his latest era of music. Today he seems more than content reveling in the tradition of Industrial with records like “Splinter” & “Jagged”. Allowing him to keep electronic past but also working within darker heavier genre. Although off putting to some of his die hard Numanoids, his enthusiasm is readily apparent on his latest music which is quite good.

image

And it’s within this ere I saw him on a wet and cold evening in northern Toronto. The Phoenix Theater is tucked within a residential are of town and I drove past it without evening noticing it. Were it not for an obvious touring bus and a well lit sign, I’d still be driving around Toronto right now. But it is a really cool older building that seems at one point could have been a speakeasy. 

When I first arrived I was struck by the age of the people who were there. Many of the people could have been MY in laws they were so old, which only certified how long ago Numan was popular. But soon the late arriving hipsters started coming in along with Goths!?! Whom I haven’t really seen in almost ten years. 

At 8:30 Roman Remains started and I was stunned by the volume of “electronic” music in a small hall. The place shook but the band was quite good, if not remarkable, and I walked to the front to stake my standing claim. Don’t get me wrong the lead singer was very very good and there sound was pretty intense. I could easily see them improving greatly in the future. Next was Big Black Delta from L.A. Again my age hit me, when the lead singer played only a laptop along with a drummer. He actually had a terrific voice but the songs seemed only to meander and, again, weren’t particularly memorable. Still, at some point I’ll pick up Roman Remains music since they’re sound was very promising.

image

Eventually, Gary Numan took the stage. While his current music is completely steeped in the world created by Trent Reznor and company, it was not hard to see the guy who once sold out three nights in Wembley Stadium. The man swayed and posed his way though his set as if he was still a multi platinum artist. I’ll give the guy credit he and his band made a concerted effort to to create an atmosphere steeped in their industrial mix of 80s tracks like “Metal”, “Cars” and “Down in the Park” while delivering rather solid new material like “I Am Dust”, “Here in the Black” and my favorite “Everything Comes Down to This”.

One of my biggest surprises was how influential the keyboards, and Numan cohort Ade Fenton is. While guitars, bass and drums are prominent in the new human era, the songs, and thus concert, are still driven by the keyboards. Fenton’s electronic pulsing and prodding moved each track dramatically and the band responded to each note by moving and dancing to his rhythms. I mean, it’s quite fun watching middle age mean break it down goth like and it certainly elevated the evening.

image

Was there any downside? Well, it may be baseless and controversial but I think, maybe, just maybe ..he lip synced … a bit. Or maybe his vocals are so over powering he can hit the soaring choruses from virtually a foot and a half away from his microphone. I could be wrong, and if someone knows about technology where a mic can pick up a guys singing from a short but distinct distance let me know, but often it startled me how far away he was from his microphone when he sang. Now he did seem to sing the majority of his songs but when those choruses kicked in it looked like Ashlee Simpson. 

Did it ruin the night? No! He’s 56, touring a schedule like a 20 year old, in unforgiving concert halls, so I can see where it might tax him. Plus he was son enraptured in his stage presence that, for me, it worked. I don’t know maybe I’m wrong and again if anyone knows different please contact me and I’ll amend this article quite happily. 

All in all, between the great venue, solid oping acts and, most of all, Numan enrapturing the audience it was well worth the long and tiring drive. And if my suspicions are true, I’m not upset but rather happy to watch a classic doing his best despite. 

image

Some may mark Gary Numan with “has been” status but between his well done new material and his conviction to his fans, I have to say he is worth your time and admiration. 

image

Link to professional shots:

http://aestheticmagazinetoronto.com/2014/03/28/photos-gary-numan-big-black-delta-roman-remains-phoenix-concert-theatre/

Horror Directors …IMHO!!

Genre fans have a tendency to over hype certain films, actors and directors. Ask any self respecting horror nerd what they think of Dario Argento and your likely to hear words like “brilliant” and “genius” peppered into an answer.

It’s not that they’re lying, some truly feel their descriptions are accurate, but more often than not, they are trying to get the point across, that a director is much better than they’re given credit for. Case in point, Argento has done things in cinema that are truly out standing. Compare Suspiria with Children of the Corn and you’ll see where one exceeds in elements like visuals, music and visceral violence, over the other.

But, I find more often that not that, this very enthusiasm often does a disservice. Newcomers to the genre will check out a person’s work only to feel disappointed or cheated that said work never lived up to the hype.

Let’s face it, a Lucio Fulci film will never impress any newcomer to the horror genre, let alone cinema, so I often feel compelled to offer a view with a variety of caveats before watching and hopefully then, a persons talents can rise above.

So let’s take horror’s top American Directors and, with crystal clear honesty in mind, let me break ‘em down:

image

George Romero: I love me some Romero. Even beyond his Dead films he has contributed a solid line up of horror and genre. (i.e. The Crazies & Creepshow) That said, here’s the deal: He shoots all his films like a made for TV movie. Ham fisted acting, slow pace, traditional cinematography and corny characters riddle his movies. Simply compare his Land of the Dead with his remade Dawn of the Dead from Zack Snyder to see the drastic differences between his movies and what most expect from modern film making. It’s only upon reflection, and re-watches that I discover that he’s has compelling ideas percolating beneath his cliche filled movies. Diary of the Dead has very awful storytelling but the idea, of the first person meets living dead experience colliding with societies horrible reaction to chaos, is a really cool idea. But if you actually want to see it done well, try The Zombie Diaries instead. Watch 28 Days Later in lieu of The Crazies. And Frankly Shaun of the Dead will always resonate better than the movies they so purposely serve. Sorry, it’s true.

image

Tobe Hooper: Now here’s a guy who managed to capture lightning in a bottle, then only to wind up chasing it for the next 40 years. Hooper made, in my humblest of opinions, the best horror film in the genre: Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not my favorite but simply the best. If you want all the potential elements of a perfect horror film, Texas Chainsaw has them all. But then he followed it up with one of the very worst movies ever made: Eaten Alive. A overwrought spastic mess that often seems like Tennessee Williams meets Hostel 3.  And while his career would ebb and flow over the years, he would never hit the same level as his first movie. Even his other ‘classic’; Poltergeist, is thought more as a Spielberg rather than a Hooper. Confounding plot twists, bad dialogue and pacing are often the standout elements in his movies. He seems. in many ways. the prototype for a direct to video film maker rather than a master of the genre. Occasionally he stumbles into pure entertainment on accident, like The Funhouse, but more often, even with a big budget and solid production, he turns out embarrassing messes like Lifeforce or Spontaneous Combustion. So that most of his other classics are only “So Bad they’re Goods”.

image

Wes Craven: To me this guy has been given way, way, waaaay too much credit over the years. I don’t care if they’re “grindhouse classics”, Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes are bad movies. Yes, they have a sleazy 70s feel but, again, if you watch them with fresh eyes, I doubt anyone will feel the visceral nature of those movies and will be more annoyed that characters are so dumb to put themselves in that situation to begin with. His other movies like Deadly Friend, Deadly Blessing, Shocker, The People Under The Stairs (like Romero) feel more like shitty plays than classic horror movies. That said he did mange a few times to make some solid horror like the vastly underrated Serpent and the Rainbow and, albeit classic, Nightmare on Elm Street. But anyone who has watched New Nightmare or Vampire to Brooklyn can tell you, more hands were in the til, than not, when he made his unbelievable success: Scream. Case in point, take a look at the recent Scream 4 to see where the wheels come off.

image

John Carpenter: It is with a heavy heart that I must take apart my favorite director. But after thinking about ‘Memoirs of an Invisible Man’ all I can say is, maybe, he has it coming. By the 90s, the standard Carpenter elements, panavision, long takes, synth music and an eye for fun over realism, started to fade away. Giving way to a desire to stay current. Fast edits, over done special FX and, even, sensationalistic gore, never sat well for the director who aways waved the “less is more” flag. Also, a certain laziness started to creep into his filmmaking. ‘Vampire’ and ‘Ghost of Mars felt phoned in and, the less said about his Masters of Horror entries, the better. (Crap!) His movies only seem right from the 80s era his movies helped build and anything beyond that is nostalgia.

Now that’s not to say I don’t enjoy these film makers and their movies. I love a lot of their work, even their bad stuff, but, I believe it’s important to be clear and admit when their shortcomings are apparent. Otherwise, we’re creating world without any scale of talent, where fanboys rule only and there childish whims are the only geiger counter. If you’ve seen Comic Con footage of fans cheering virtual anything, you’ll know what I mean. Let’s be honest, we like some stuff because it’s bad and there is no reason to justify but we do need to recognize it. 

So there you have it. Four scathing refections on the genres “top” directors. It’s important to realize, if you’re new to the genre, that in order to love it you must embrace it’s foibles as well as it’s perks. While that Michael Myers T-Shirt may look good on the Suicide Girl wearing it, doubtful she sat through the movie with zero distraction. Or anyone for that matter. Becasue Horror, like casual sex, is cool but you’ll have to lower your standards, to get it.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS or John Carpenter’s NEW NIGHTMARE

image

By 1995, horror was effectively experiencing a post 80s doldrums. Halloween gave us the slashers, the slashers gave us the sequels and the sequels gave even more horror grist for countless stabs at success. Audiences had enough. By the time the 90s set in ‘Silence of the Lambs’, possibly the best horror film of the decade, tried to distance itself from the genre so furiously that even Fangoria magazine started running a column of movies hollywood wanted nothing to do with the Horror tag.

image

And yet, despite all that, there still was money to be made. Wes Craven, George Romero, Tobe Hooper and even Dario Argento continued to work in the early to mid 90s. Franchises, despite shrinking box office returns, still managed to get green lit. All despite the fact the general public had lost all, but remote, interest. …Until Scream, that is.

image

But one very interesting, if frustrating, 90s horror film, by my favorite film maker John Carpenter, was ‘In the Mouth of Madness’. A movie thats, despite not making much sense, is a very compelling and enjoyable watch and easily Carpenter’s best movie of the decade.

image

Sutter Cane is the era’s biggest writer, bigger than King, and who enjoys an almost cult like following. But Cane is a recluse who highly anticipated book, see title, has not been delivered to it’s publisher. Naturally the publisher’s CEO, played by Charleston Heston, is antsy to find Cane so he employs san insurance investigator, Sam Neil, to find him or the manuscript. He, along with Cane’s editor played by the beautiful Julie Carmen, take a road trip to hell to find the manuscript and the elusive writer. Only to find much much more ….Muh huh haw!

image

Carpenter had emerged from a dark period himself before making ‘Madness’. His late 80s films, ‘They Live’ & ‘Prince of Darkness” saw little success and, he didn’t work for four years until he phoned in a Chevy Chase comedy ‘Memoirs of the Invisible Man’ in 1992. Also, a flop. But Michael DeLuca, the films writer, producer and head of New Line, was a fan of Carpenter and he hired his favorite film maker to helm his conceived project. The results are mixed but none of it having to do with Carpenter himself. Although the story has a ridiculous amount of elusive plot points that head virtually nowhere, Carpenters direction is rather solid.

image

What may strike most folks watching it is how similar this film is to something that Wes Craven might direct. With plenty of needless flash cuts and dream within a dream within a dream sequences, ‘Madness’ could easily be a Freddy movie or, given some tweaking sequel to ‘Serpent and the Rainbow’. The movie soon finds our heroes in Hobb’s End a where everything has tons odd visuals that, while arresting, don’t mean much. Aside from the end of the world. As psycho-babbling as “Prince of Darkness’ is, it has a certain amount of tension that, eventually, leads somewhere. While, with “Madness”, it all leads to an inevitable end that is postponed with a lot of visual hooey. Old people turn into writhing monsters, people bleed from their eyes, monsters come out of walls and posy apaocolyptic mayhem envelops the world. Why? Well, just cause Sutter Cane is weird.

image

Which is too bad since the story really seems to love it’s sources. Sutter Cane is obviously a nod to Stephen King and Cane’s stories, and eventual reality, are lovingly steeped in Lovecraft lore. Carpenter himself pays homage to his influences as his lead characters are nods to Bogart and Bacall. Even Heston, the Omega Man himself, seems to be foreshadowing the end as the last man on earth laughs alone in a theater.

image

Some have said “Mouths of Madness’ is Carpenter’s best work and I for one don’t necessarily agree but it is an enjoyable foray into new territory for the director. His use of the many Cravens motifs only proves that Carpenter is (and always will be) better than the over rated Elm Street horror icon. Don’t’ agree? Watch Craven’s ‘New Nightmare’ from the same year and tell me which is the better film.

image

Either way, if you’re a fan of Carpenter, this is a movie you need to see. If you’re looking for a well done Freddy like nightmare, I also urge you to take the plunge. It may not make any sense but the journey with Carpenter is worth the price of admission.

image

DVD notes: I’ll give WB credit, they may not offer new transfers all the time, but their presentations are still usually stellar and better than most. ‘Madness’ looks fantastic on Blu. No noticeable, dirt or bad color timing issues and details is sharp. Just watching the opening credits and they seem almost 3D. With the Carpenter commentary ported over, as well, this one is definitely worth the upgrade!

image

November Horror: To me Horror movies are not only best in October but also November. November is a great time to bring out the Horror on the Farm, Road or Cornfields! Obviously the above is a collection I love hitting this time of year. But if any of you has some suggestions I’d love to hear them! Thanks #horror #horrornerd #samhain #novemberhorror

November Horror: To me Horror movies are not only best in October but also November. November is a great time to bring out the Horror on the Farm, Road or Cornfields! Obviously the above is a collection I love hitting this time of year. But if any of you has some suggestions I’d love to hear them! Thanks #horror #horrornerd #samhain #novemberhorror

Trick Or Treat …Revenge of Sammi Curr 1947-1986

image

It was 1986 and the year was rife with Metal! Not only was it blowing up the radio airways and MTV, it was also going through a metamorphosis of sorts where more cult like groups where gaining steam and popularity. Metal was also catching the attention of the mainstream too. Motley Crue and Twisted Sister had become household names, while a movie like Trick Or Treat took the music’s image and turned into a horror yarn.

image

Eddie Weinbauer aka Marc Price aka Skippy form Family Ties, is a bullied young angry teen who loves heavy metal music. He is tormented by the local “jocks”, or as they were referred to in my day as the good all American kids we should all aspire to be like …bleech but I digress. So Eddie, seething with anger, plays his new Sammi Curr record backwards. The record, by the recently recessed rock star, starts giving him messages and helps him exact revenge on his high school nemeses. But soon Sammi Curr’s exploits into Eddie’s life begin to raise his suspicions that Sammi is out for more than just high school pranks. Before we know it Eddie is in a race against time to try and stop Sammi Curr and his new found powers from electrifying the teen masses. Or some stupid Freddy Krueger like poltline.

image

Trick Or Treat is like most post Nightmare on Elm Street movies in the 80s. The antagonist slasher now possesses supernatural powers allowing him to do the impossible and avoid basic logic in any script. Used well and a horror movie could push boundaries. Used poorly, like most of these movies in the 80s, and it was just lazy script writing device to have random unbelievable twists.

image

Trick Or Treat falls somewhere in the middle. There are some goofy scenes: like the ending where Eddie goads Sammi Curr into his car in order to trap him despite the fact the dead rocker spent the entire movie trying to take over the radio airwaves. And there are also some great moments: like Eddie destroying his stereo to suppress Sammi only to tell his mom he wanted a new one.

image

That said, the first viewing of Trick Or Treat may only disappoint since the movie never quite lives up to it’s premiss and often resorts to cliche, bland comedy or, it’s most unfortunate mistake, unnecessary character development. We spend an inordinate amount of time on Eddie’s teenage anguish and torment. Ultimately making him rather unlikable. He snaps at his friends and even, Leslie, the, dare I say outta his league, girl he likes. By the finale, she is running arm in arm with Eddie tirelessly helping him despite his cranky and down right dismissive demeanor. Leaving the audience wondering what any one would want to be even near him let alone fond of him. This is a misstep in that, had the material been not taken so seriously, a fun romance might have had abetter chance resonating. I mean look at her:

Lisa Orgolini

Don’t get me wrong, Price is the perfect casting for this part and one that I wished, along with a bigger sucess for the film, had helped compel him to better opportunities. He looked like your run of the mill heavy metal kid who would collect as many records he could. I even appreciated the fact he bleneded other music genres like his Bauhaus T-Shirt. A Metal nerd would have done that but a poser parking lot partier would never have. And most of the time he played the part in spades. Accentuating the humor when appropiate and being the aloof brooding loner who would write to his teenage idol. But I wonder if Charles Martin Smith, himself an accomplished actor often used for comedy, had related with Price’s career and decided that playing Eddie straight, more often than not, was the way to go. When, in fact, allowing the film to be the tongue in cheek b-film, it was written as, may have been a better choice. 

VHS Cover

image

Gene Simmons as ‘Nuke’

These moments of realism, sprinkled through out, only become a disservice to the films natural goofy, yet fun, build to it’s radio brainwash finale. All that said however, overall Trick Or Treat delivers a fun and satisfying 80s horror film with a hair metal heart. Fastways soundtrack is quite good, if not overly heavy, and the pace of the movie clips along well. Despite Eddie’s moody moments, other characters; Eddie’s mom his best friend Roger (played by director Glenn Morgen) and, as stated above, the stunning Leslie, the ravishing Lisa Orgolini, are quite appealing. Even the Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons cameos are very good and very appropriate. And while the hair metal Sammi wasn’t my bread and butter metal in the day, (Metallica dude!) the late Tony Fields performance, particularly his Dee Snider inspired congressional rant, works very, very well. All together, with some great set pieces, including a possessed walkman and fiendish prom concert and, I have to say, Trick Or Treat is worth a revisit more often than not.

image

DVD notes: Ugh! Well it’s on DVD and that’s the best that I can say. In 2002 it came out Full Screen on a cheapo release that is currently our of print. It sucks, plain and simple. Bad transfer, bad sound and fuckin full screen. No extras, not even a trailer. Rumor had it that Anchor Bay was going to release it awhile back but they hit the big snag with music rites. Well you can pick it for $40 brand new and that is a steal..from your wallet. Until Shout Factory, Blue Underground, Synapse, Code Red…anyone!, releases it, just watch it on Youtube.

image

Reel Quick: The Conjuring

This is James Wan’s second strike for me. I enjoyed the first Saw and even liked Dead Silence very much but Insidious was vastly overrated. Speaking of which so is THE CONJURING. Long scenes with nothing happening doesn’t build suspense, it just ensures boredom. Not sure what went through everyone’s skull when this was released. A lot of folks talked about how purely scary this movie is and, I guess it could be, if it’s one of the very first you ever saw.

I’m not trying to be flippant or dismissive but I’ve recently watched Poltergeist II and The Grudge and both movies, as maligned as they are, are both vastly superior to this crud. Frankly speaking, if The Conjuring Scares you, you haven’t seen many horror films.

image

Whatever she sees is better than this film

Metallica Through the Never (whatever that means)

image

It’s hard for me to believe that there are kids now who only remember Metallica as being a band with random records like St. Anger & Death Magnetic. Guys who seem to come out of the woodwork every 5 or 6 years and have this loyal and old following.

So it shouldn’t seem odd that this $18 million dollar film has only made about $3 million. Metallica seemed to hit their peak in the early 90s and then decided to flake out and only make random records. So any huge attempt to redefine the concert film seems to have gone unnoticed. And frankly, it’s too bad because, despite having some undefined goofiness, METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER is quite good.

image

I suppose I should mention why Metallica has become so iconic in the first place. You see back in the day, Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, whatever was a coked up, spaced out playground for guys with moussed hair, spandex tights, lipstick and monster ballads. It was the 80s and ‘Rock’ seemed only represented by songs like “Home Sweet Home”, “Round n’ Round” & “Shot in the Dark”. Certainly not horrible but for kids like me it seemed hyperbolic and fake. Music made by rich druggies who had no time for the parking lots, bedrooms or lives of their fans. Motley Crue were the biggest band in the world and don’t you forget it.

image

Then, out of the back pages of Hit Parader, Metal Mania and Kerrang magazine was a young group of young pimply headbangers that looked like pot heads who spent all day at the local arcade playing Defender and drinking beer in the ally. Metallica was a word of mouth group much in the same vein that Iron Maiden or Judas Priest had been. Despite having no hits or videos Metallica managed to catch the attention of geeky teens like me who couldn’t relate to Vince Neil and his thousands of groupies. Metallica seemed just like me, dirtbags in jeans who liked the metal loud and fast with lyrics about death and destruction not hot n’ wild nights.

image

Metallica’s first 4 records are like a playbook of perfect metal music. Although it seemed slightly overwrought and disjointed, those records, could manage to hit moments of sublime musicianship. Even my father was astounded when our local paper listed “Master Of Puppets” as one of the top records of the year. I spent many a night with my headphones listen to their music and letting my mind wander into the abyss of Metal Militias and Creeping Death.

image

The world finally took notice when “the black album” unleashed Enter Sandman at a time when the Hair Metal days waned and Alternative was making headway. Before you knew it Crue, Guns n Roses and Areosmith were left behind in Metallica’s wake. As they blew up beyond recognition. I know metal purists dismiss the self titles record but I still believe it’s a great record. It may not be trendy but it’s still great.

image

After a long hiatus Metallica returned in 1996 with maybe the biggest disappointment in mine and many others musical life. The separate but similarly repulsive records, Load and Re-Load found this group of young headbangers had grown into pretentious tattooed assholes. Displaying the same pomp and elitism that they seemed so against in the previous decade. Most of all the music was terrible being a miss mash of current and classic rock nonsense that, ultimately, made them sound like Def Leopard.

image

The band would attempt to reconnect over the years with varying results. But even despite the dips their fan base came out for the shows. Metallica can sell out almost everywhere. Even now, they’re like the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, that despite their current output they still mange to elicit fandaemonium.

image

It is with that spirit that Metallica’s live 3D movie is filmed. Make no bones about it, the nice thing about the 18 million put into the budget is you see every penny. This is a state of the art concert film and every moment on screen is part of a tightly scripted, beautifully shot and incredibly sounding performance.

image

The 3D only adds to the experience as well. The immersion in real life shot 3D material adds a wonderful extra layer of intimacy. It feels as if you’re right on stage and the detail caught on camera is sharp and crisp which allows the viewer to experience the show as if you’re a musician in the band. The secret weapo in this film is it’s direcor Nimrod Antel (Vacancy & Predators) who knows how to catch every interesting moment on screen making this one of the finest concert experiences caught on film. I would imagine the 3D blu ray will be absolutely a demo worthy disc.

image

And while the band plays their classic songs (with only a sprinkling of new material) it would be dismissive to me that is all kinda feels a bit choreographed. Camera’s always seem to catch randomly un-random moments and even more apparent, camera moves across the audience always catches the audience doing something but never nothing. Whether it’s a couple making out a guy screaming “woo” or a girl disinterestingly texting Through the Never always has a hip beer commercial feel. No doubt there was an AD getting the crowd to headband in unison or letting folks know that doing something to stand out will get you in the movie. It all lends itself to a feeling of artificiality.

image

But here is where Antal’s work comes in spades. It actually works! With side story sprinkled throughout of Trip and his journey through the city, there is a strong hallucinatory feeling that is only amplified through out the show. So even though nothing is ever random during the concert. Combined with the apocalyptic story that keeps ramping up during the movie it actually seem oddly appropriate.

image

I’m not saying it makes any sense, in fact, it almost derails the entire movie at the end but does actually add a unique quality to the film. Antel has dabbled in these waters before. His first film Kontroll i full of odd imagery so he switches quite easily back and forth and he does the film credit. While the imagery amounts to mere silliness, ultimately, In the hands of a capable director it almost works. And until we get an $18 million Ghost or Die Antwoord movie I doubt anyone will come close to this.

image

I still have a kinda love mostly hate relationship with Metallica but I urge folks to put that on the back burner when watching this film. Since the majority of the music is their classic material, even my personal favorite instrumental “Orion” gets played during the credits, and with the band as tight as they are playing them no one can truly dislike this film. I know it’s vogue for metal hipsters to shit on Metallica nowadays but Metallica wrote an entire chapter to the legacy of metal all on their own and THROUGH THE NEVER makes the argument that we’re better off for it.

image

My Take on Mileygate

Ok, so first things first. I’m not reposting yet another picture of Miley Ray Cyrus. I liked her haircut at first but now I’m sick of seeing her over and over and and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and, (pant, pant) , over!

Look I don’t care that she shakes her flat booty and makes porn faces. From what I gather she’s been running in pubescent place for many years. She had Disney folks scrambling for years, even, before she retired her Hanna Montana schtick. From smoking pot to lap dances and semi nude cover shoots, Miles had no problem teasing audiences and making folks gasp or groan or whack or whatever.

But as these things play out in the media I often bristle at what doesn’t get reported than what does. The argument, by the media, seems to be boiled down to whether she’s a genius for creating controversy or pawn at the hand of record companies who, as Sinead says, pimp her out at her own peril. My answer to that debate is simple: Who cares?

This controversy stuff is as old as time itself or for the sake of the youths, as old as Madonna. Anyone remember her Sex book? Oy Vey! The media FahReeked out! Madonna couldn’t get any lower. Even Vanilla Ice dumped her! And blah, blah, blah.

Now people reluctantly remember Madonna let alone the fact she posed for what amounted to a pseudo-Penthouse shoot. Of corse Miley don’t care, Miley don’t give a shit and that’s fine. It’s certainly in keeping with her spoiled personality.

Which brings me to the point that often goes overwhelmingly overlooked. Why oh why must we lick the boots of vapid self absorbed children for our celebrity entertainment. It’s not just hard up teenagers and preteens who gush themselves over this stuff. It’s bored twenty somethings and middle age parents. All of whom download and buy her music and videos as if it’s normal fun entertainment.

Any talk of actual criticism of this stuff is just ballyhooed away as “hating” or taking your self too seriously. Pop music is fun. No doubt! I’ve enjoyed my share of Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and, dare I say, Katy Perry. Some pop stuff can become sublime being both bubble gum and introspective at the same time. But, although, Doritos may be fun to eat, that doesn’t mean they won’t make you feel sick. Pop music is just that, Pop music, and again, while it’s fun, it’s shallowness often can often make you feel, I don’t know, depressed. No?

But who cares! As Jello Biafra says: “Shut up and Dance everybody!”

We know the best music often doesn’t sell well and there was a time when Rolling Stone, Spin, Alternative Press and Magnet could give a voice to bands, artists and genre’s that were offering something better. When Paula Abdul was burning up the airwaves with “Opposites Attract” in 1990, Rolling Stone still managed to have covers featuring Sinead O’connor, The B-52s, Roy Orbison, Lou Reed, Fine Young Cannibals, etc. My point is that the bottom line of volumes sold, is now, the only voice in pop culture. So we are, now, handing the reigns of taste to marketers and sales guys who could give a fig about descent music.

Nowadays these magazines are going the way of the dodo and so is our taste. I mean, is it really a big deal Miley twerked or is it just the only thing, beyond dozing off, that caught our attention in Cable TV land?

Why are “bad” rich obnoxious children our cultural entertainment? Why can’t we like music that pushes our expectations. I am old yes but I remember watching R.E.M. on MTV and thinking, “Wow, that’s a beautiful song where did this come from?” Before I knew it R.E.M. was one of the biggest bands in the world.

Now I see “Die Antwoord” and think “WTF these guys are amazing!” They’re Rap, techno and pop mushed together into a snarky smart fun mash up of current contrivance that’s also artsy! Imagine if Yolandi Visser had the stage at MTV! But that will never happen because we can’t sell them like horny Disney kids. Something is wrong with society that we are so shallow and predictable. Or as the Moz says: “This World is Full of Crashing Bores” and Miley you are one.

image