Sunday, 22 May 2016

My Top 100 Film Moments

Taking inspiration from Patton Oswalt's "100 Favourite Movie Moments" which he includes along with several other pieces of writing at the end of his book "Silver Screen Fiend" I thought I would throw out my own 100 movie moments which have stayed with me since I saw them.

 
When compiling the list I have tried to avoid listing the usual favourites such as the "You talkin to me" scene from "Taxi Driver" or the "bigger boat" scene from "Jaws" as while they are still unquestionably great scenes, their inclusion in this list would only take away space from more less known but none the less essential film moments. Of course it equally goes without saying that this list really is a reflection of my thoughts at the time of writing and like any film junkies top 10 list any number of titles could be replaced with newer discoveries depending on my mood though I would hope that this list even as time passes still provide some kind of insight into my movie watching experiences.



1.       The recently dumped Zuckerberg creates “Facemash” – The Social Network

2.       Neo-Tokyo bike ride – Akira

3.       Introducing “Monster Island” – Destroy All Monsters

4.       The Moloko Milk Bar opening – A Clockwork Orange

5.       The Human Caterpillar rolls a cigarette – Freaks

6.       Kathryn teaches Cecile how to kiss – Cruel Intentions

7.       Major Kong riding the Atom bomb – Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

8.       Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris fight to the death at the colosseum – Way of the Dragon

9.       Why do I have to be Mr. Pink? – Reservoir Dogs

10.   The House of Blue Leaves massacre – Kill Bill

11.   Samuel L. Jacksons motivation speech is suddenly cut short by a surprise shark attack – Deep Blue Sea

12.   Jacques car – The Big Blue

13.   Bob arrives in Tokyo – Lost In Translation

14.   Only the French would put a cinema inside a palace – The Dreamers

15.   It’s not about the coffee in my kitchen – Pulp Fiction

16.   Tank Joyride – Buffalo Soldiers

17.   Pilot takes fluid Karma and dances to the Killers “All These Things That I’ve Done” – Southland Tales

18.   The parents revenge – Lady Vengeance

19.   Olive mimicking pageant contest winners – Little Miss Sunshine

20.   The Tanker Chase – Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

21.   The squid scene – Oldboy

22.   Death Star contractors – Clerks

23.   Asami listens to the phone ring while the sack thrashes – Audition

24.   Jason’s surprise appearance – Friday the 13th

25.   This is Bat Country – Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

26.   Michaud stares down the bomb – The X files: Fight The Future

27.   Hans Gruber – Die Hard

28.   Alleyway fight – Big Trouble In Little China

29.   Popo The Puppet – Beerfest

30.   The opening Knight Rider pursuit – Mad Max

31.   The gangs heading to the meeting – The Warriors

32.   Eric Draven becomes the Crow – The Crow

33.   The support groups – Fight Club

34.   The sign language sex scene – Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance

35.   Valentine’s Day is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap – Eternal Sunshine of theSpotless mind

36.   Brundel Fly begs for death – The Fly (1986)

37.   Kint loses the limp – The Usual Suspects

38.   John Does’ Apartment – Seven

39.   The opening tea-house bust – Hard Boiled

40.   Matt, Jack and Leroy reunite one last time for the Mythical Big Wednesday – Big Wednesday

41.   The Chest Burster- Alien

42.   The final test at the resturant - Nikita

43.   Dr. Dealgood introduces Thunderdome – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

44.   Guido explains the “No Jews” sign – Life is Beautiful

45.   King Kong makes his last stand on the Empire State building - King Kong

46.   Andre’s fly head reveal – The Fly (1958)

47.   Marion is killed in the shower – Psycho

48.   Well I’m a little Bi-Furious – Scott Pilgrim Versus the World

49.   Buffalo Bill dances to Q-Lazurus “Goodbye Horses” – Silence of the Lambs

50.   Mecha-King Ghidorah is revealed – Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah

51.   Putting out the Engine fire – Mad Max: Fury Road

52.   The Lords of Death – Babycart at the River Styx

53.   Magot’s missing years revealed – The Royal Tennenbaums

54.   The restaurant explosion – Brazil

55.   Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Violence  – Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

56.   The Naughty or Nice list – Christmas Evil

57.   The truck flip – Death Race

58.   Euthanasia day at the old folks home – Death Race 2000

59.   The dance routine – Silver Linings Playbook

60.   The secret of Shell Beach is revealed – Dark City

61.   Buttons the Clown is arrested – Greatest Show On Earth

62.   I need a room you mean old bastard – From Dusk Till Dawn

63.   The Training Video – Battle Royale

64.   The cut away boat – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

65.   Stansfield on Mozart – Leon

66.   The Pink Room – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

67.   Pinback gets stuck in the lift – Dark Star

68.   The Wicker Man is revealed – The Wicker Man

69.   The siege of Tir Asleen – Willow

70.   The Dude’s dream sequence – The Big Lebowski

71.   The curb stomp – American History X

72.   Chen final showdown with Fujita – Fist of Legend

73.   Lee in the room of mirrors – Enter the Dragon

74.   Ip Man Vs. 10 Japanese Black Belts - Ip Man

75.   Chase through dreams – Paprika

76.   The Stink Spirit – Spirited Away

77.   Donnie rides home soundtrack to “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen – Donnie Darko

78.   Randy and the former legends at the fan signing – The Wrestler

79.   Pawning the TV – Requiem for a Dream

80.   The Cook – Spun

81.   The Buyers market – 8mm

82.   The funeral procession – Stone

83.   Exploding Head – Scanners

84.   The Alternative opening timeline – Watchmen

85.   Gamera does the parallel bars – Gamera vs Guiron

86.   Enid and Rebecca flip off the school – Ghost World

87.   Leatherface swinging his chainsaw at the sunrise – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

88.   Playing the reel of confiscated scenes – Cinema Paradiso

89.   The Gremlin drawing on the table in the bar – Gremlins

90.   The lady in red prelude – Sin City

91.   The weapons room fight – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

92.   Breakfast with the Pin – Brick

93.   Buster Keaton tossing railway sleepers – The General

94.   Dillion and Ripley face off over the breakfast table – Alien3

95.   Hans Landa and Shosanna eating strudel  - Inglourious Basterds

96.   Chang singing Karaoke – Only God Forgives

97.   Frank Mackey’s seminar – Magnolia

98.   Metatron appears to Bethany – Dogma

99.   The Lair of the Pale Man – Pan’s Labyrinth

100.  Gris licks the blood from the bathroom floor - Cronos

Friday, 20 May 2016

Biker Movies - An Introduction

 
If any aspect of cult cinema embodies the spirit of wild and carefree rebellion it’s the “Biker genre”. From its beginning in 1954 with the release of “The Wild One” staring a young (and less gelatinous and egotistic) Marlon Brando as the black leather jacket clad Johnny Stradler the leader of “The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club) who roll into Carbonville during a motorcycle race with the intention of stirring up trouble. While it might seem alittle twee to modern audiences the film was greeted with shock and hysteria by the press of the day, while the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) banned the film till finally awarding it an ‘X’ certificate (the equivalent of today’s ‘15’ certificate) when they allowed it to be released fourteen years after its original release, the original letter of rejection for certification stating that they were of the opinion that the film presented a
“spectacle of unbridled hooliganism… with no more than a mild censure from a police office, would be likely to exert a harmful influence in that very quarter about which anxiety is felt and would expose the Board to justifiable criticism for certificating a film so potentially danger on social grounds”
Unsurprisingly all this controversy resonated with the alienated youth of the time who loved the idea of the motorcycle riding rebel. While in the UK the battles between Mods and Rockers did little to ease the fears of the censors and general public leaving them to hold out on the film till they felt that the film had become too dated to appeal to the potential delinquents of the film whose rebellious nature they felt the film would only fuel.
Despite the controversy which surrounded “The Wild One” it would take the exploitation cinema legend Roger Corman to really launch the genre with “The Wild Angels” as he saw biker films as a way to revive the flagging Western genre seeing the biker film as its modern day equivalent with bikes replacing the horses. At the same time the wild nature of these films made them perfect fodder for the audiences of Drive-in’s and Grindhouse theatres who made up much of Corman’s target audience for the films he was producing especially with their common themes of revenge and the desire to live free and without the oppression of “The Man” (popular themes for the Blaxploitation films of the 70’s) which played perfectly in a time when civil liberties was still a key subject with the classic “Easy Rider” truly providing the embodiment of these themes.

“Easy Rider” would prove to be another influential title not only for how films were made, but the genre as a whole which soon saw more focus on storytelling as well as more essentially the riding sequences as producers attempted to hold onto an audience that had evolved and now craved more from these films than thrilling scenes of adventure and wild delinquency. It’s would being during these finals years for the genre that we also saw some of the most interesting films being produced such as the Blaxploitation influenced “The Black Angels” and the bikers in Vietnam “Nam’s Angels” aka “The Losers”; a film inspired by head of the “Hells Angels” Sonny Barger sending a telegram to President Johnson offering the Angel services as “gorilla fighters” (sic) which Johnson might have turned down but it did end up making a pretty decent biker movies as well as one can also be seen being watched by Fabienne in “Pulp Fiction”.


While stateside the genre might have been winding down but at the same time it also began to attract international attention with Japan giving us the “Stray Cat Rock” series whose first entry “Delinquent Girl Boss” memorably gave us a motorcycle / beach buggy chase through the streets of Shinjuku, Tokyo. Coming towards the end of the golden age for the genre, its presence would in Australian cinema as Ozploitation memorably brought its own twist on things with Australian cinema at this point already renown for its love of car chases really pushed the action side of the genre with the likes of George Millers “Mad Max” and its sequel “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" both memorably featuring psychopath bikers aswell as some equally memorable stunt work often shot on roads unofficially closed down by the production team. We would also get with “Stone” arguably one of the most iconic moments to be featured in any biker movie as it featured a funeral procession complete with a motorcycle Hearse and hundreds of bikers thundering down the highway.

Not to be outdone Britain too would throw its gauntlet down with “Psychomania” which not only brought a horror element to the biker movie as a biker gang called “The Living Dead” make a pact with the devil to become immortal, while also being led by the frog loving Alex DeLarge clone Tom. Despite gaining a cult following in the years since its release, many consider the film to mark the end of the biker film genre as exploitation cinema moved onto other areas as the times changed. The bikers which had once been the focus now being pushed into the background or taking on the antagonist role especially with the increase of interest in post-apocalyptic movies of the 80’s were the marauding biker gang was a common sight.

Nowadays the biker movie is all but a forgotten concept outside of the occasional throwback that the Neo-grindhouse genre has given us such as the Quentin Tarantino produced “Hell Ride” aswell as the equally awful“Dear God No!” and its sequel “Frankenstein Created Bikers” leaving my genre fans with mixed feelings for the genre. At the same time it’s a genre which hides some great hidden classics especially during the 60’s and 70’s and while a lot of it can be seen as perhaps overly campy or grimy for some tastes for the more adventurous movie watcher there is still plenty to enjoy.

Starting Point – Five Biker Movie Essentials


Motorpsycho – Directed by Russ Meyer’s just before “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” this film is not only noticeable for the lack of his Ultravixens, but also for being the first film to give a portrayal of the disturbed Vietnam veteran, many of which had returned from the war and drifted into motorcycle gangs unable to handle the return to civilian life.  The film has also inspired the name of the Norwegian Progressive rock band aswell as being refrenced by “White Zombie” in the song “Thunder Kiss ‘65’”

Born Losers – The first of the “Billy Jack” trilogy following the “Half-breed” American Navajo Indian, who is also a Green Beret Vietnam Veteran aswell as a hapkido master who has taken to living in the California mountains in his attempts to escape from society. Things don’t however go according to plan as he finds himself having to defend the town of Big Rock against the members o the Born Losers Motorcycle Club. A commercial success despite a negative critical response, the film would be followed by “The Trial of Billy Jack” and “Billy Jack Goes To Washington”.

Angel Unchained – Angel feels that his days as a biker are coming to an end and breaks away his gang “The Nomads” to try and find his own way in the world only to find himself caught up in a conflict between a hippie commune and the local rednecks leading him to call in his former gang to help provide protection for the commune.

Werewolves on Wheels – One of the few films to combine both biker and horror genres see also (Psychomania, I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle) and directed by Michel Levesque who had previously been the art designer for Russ Meyer. This film was largely used as double bill fodder but still has a fun hook as Adam the leader of “The Devil’s Advocates” is unwittingly cursed along with gang with Lycanthropy (the posh term for Werewolf) and its not long before they leave a bloody trail in their wake as they hit the open road.

The Hellcats – A film no doubt already known to fans of MST3K, here the gender roles are flipped as crime boss Adrian uses  the female motorcycle gang The Hellcats to carry out his drug runs. However when a detective is killed by one of Adrians henchmen leading to his army sergent brother and girlfriend to go undercover as bikers to infiltrate the Hellcats to get their revenge against Adrian.
 
Authors Note: Originally posted as part of The LAMB "Cult Chops" feature

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter



Title: The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
Director: Lau Kar-leung
Released: 1983
Starring: Gordon Liu, Lily Li, Wong Yue, Alexander Fu, Kara Hui, Yeung Jing-jing, Wang Lung-wei, Chu Tiet-who, Ko Fei, Ching Chu, Lau Kar-Leung

Plot: When his father and brothers are massacred by the Khitan army after they are betrayed by the treacherous General Pun Mei (Lam Hak-ming). Now seeking sanctuary in the monastery in Mount Wutai Yeung Dak (Gordon Liu) soon adapts his spear technique for use with a pole before he is soon called back to face the Khitans when they capture his younger sister.


Review:  Another key title from the expansive Shaw Bros. library with this film being released in the final years of the studio before competition from the rival studio “Golden Harvest” forced them to move away from films and into TV instead. Director Lau Kar-leung though would be responsible for directing many of the studios most memorable titles including the “36th Chamber of Shaolin” trilogy aswell as the likes of “My Young Auntie” and “Heroes of the East”. Kar-Leung while certainly a noteworthy director not only for the Shaw Bros. but the Martial arts genre on a whole Kar-leung was also one of the main choreographers for the Shaw Bros. aswell as for director Chang Cheh on the likes of “The One-Armed Swordsman”.

Collaborating again with Gordon Liu here the relationship between with Kar-leung and Liu is probably one of the more overlooked director / actor pairings which is only the more surprising when you consider that they clocked up a whopping 18 collaborations together with this film unquestionably being yet another noteworthy addition to the list. The film plot wise of course is nothing too different than we have seen countless times before as we open to Yeung Dak alongside his father and brothers showcasing their impressive spear skills before being overwhelmed by the Khitans who have a special staff to counter their spear use. From here though it’s the usual develop winning fighting technique in this case the titular “Eight Diagram Pole Fighting Technique” before heading off to get his revenge on General Pun Mei.

However despite going through some familiar moves the fight scenes we get here are the real draw as Kar-leung crafts some truly draw dropping scenes with the monks of the film showcasing a defensive pole fighting style based around de-fanging wolves which they practice on a wolf statue. It’s a skill which comes in especially handy at the finale as we get a showdown between the Khitans lead by the general and Yeung Dek with his newly found monk brothers who put aside their non-violent ways to help him as the style they practice proves to be equally efficient against human foes in one of the more bloody finales as numerous henchmen find themselves toothless. While the fight scenes here might be less numerous than in other films in the Shaw Bros. Catalogue, Kar-leung limits himself to a mere 3 fight scenes, he makes them so memorable and integral to the plot itself that here less really is more while the flying headbutt in the finale is something to behold.

The journey however is really were the strength of the film lies as we see Yeung Dak go from a hot headed youngster to eventually finding his peace and heading off into the wild seemingly to continue the teachings he learns at the monastery than return to his violent ways. What only adds to this journey is the fact that he is initially turned away from the Monastery leading him in a memorable scene to suddenly shave his head with a blade and burn holes into his skull with incense sticks. Even after this act of self-mutilation they feel he is still too full of anger to become a monk leaving him to develop the titular fighting style off in a cave as he remains determined that he can get accepted by the monks.

An easy film to watch and well deserving of its status as one of the best titles in the Shaw Bros. back catalogue even if it did come during the dying days of their film productions this film at the same time equally provides a gentle introduction to those curious about the genre or the Shaw Bros. legacy.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Beauty Day



Title: Beauty Day
Director:  Jay Cheel
Released: 2011

Plot: Documentary about Ralph Zavadil better known for his alter-ego “Cap’n Video” whose show on the local Candian cable station saw him performing various outlandish stunts years before the likes of “Jackass” and Tom Green only for his show to get axed after an ill advised Easter special. Now he plans to make a comeback twenty years later but is there still a place for him and his unique brand of anarchic comedy.


Review: While his show might never have made it over to the UK the legacy of “Cap’n Video” certainly did thanks to appearances on clip shows and certainly for myself through the tape trading channels where recordings of his show featuring him constantly finding new and ever more unique ways to potentially maim himself as he performed stunts such as tobogganing off the roof of his house and most cringingly his attempt to take his pool cover off by jumping off a ladder only to land on his head which is also the clip that the documentary chooses to open with. Somehow despite breaking his neck attempting this stunt Zavadil not only survived but would go on undeterred with performing these stunts until the cancellation of his show.

I think one of the most surprising things about this documentary is not only the fact that Zavadil is still alive but just how grounded he comes across here, talking openly about his life and family aswell as the history of the “Cap’n Video” while seemingly never having a bad word to say about anyone. Zavadil here comes off here as a likable guy who battled alcoholism caused by his attempts to deal with his mundane work at the local GM plant. It would however be his video company which consisted of him and his camera and a helmet with lights strapped to it (instant lighting baby) which also had the tendency on occasion to electrocute him which soon saw him drifting into making his stunt tapes.

For those unfamiliar with “Cap’n Video” there is certainly plenty of footage to enjoy here, much of it seemingly coming from Zavadil’s master tapes as stunts often end with relived at having survived another of his misguided stunts and yet he comes back for more the reason why though is never clear especially when Zavadil openly expresses his disdain for fame seekers and as the audience all we can assume is that it’s purely his love of entertaining that keeps him going. That being said it would have been nice to have actually been given some kind of insight into what makes a guy set fire to his face as seen with his “Razor in a bottle” stunt.

While the main interest here is certainly the “Cap’n Video” parts of the documentary the parts concerning his former girlfriend Nancy Dewar whose motorcycle crash due to failed brakes he still feels responsible for having been her mechanic at the time and its touching to see them reconnect years later much like his daughter who he didn’t meet until she was twelve. All these segements really round out his character and never feel like filler much like when he talks fondly about his father who it seems may surprisingly have provided much of the inspiration for “Cap’n Video” even if he perhaps takes things to a more extreme level.

The climax of the film seeing Zavadil putting together his anniversary show while clearly not having lost his lust for his insane stunts as we see him putting together a new showcase for the local cable network. But in these days of heavy censorship and certainly in the aftermath of the numerous copycat attempts that “Jackass” inspired during its original run on MTV is there still a place for him and if not where does he go from here?

A highly upbeat and fast paced documentary which provides a fitting portrait of this cult hero whose legacy I thought had been lost like so much 90’s nostalgia and yet here is fondly celebrated even if it doesn’t go as deep as I would have liked to have seen with director Cheel seemingly happy to just play the onlooker and let Zavadil guide the film than try and figure out why he still feels this urge to constantly put himself through these stunts with only Zavadil’s mother Barbara and ex-girlfriend Nancy to really give any kind of outside perspective.  Ultimatly this is worth watch for those familiar with “Cap’n Video” or for the “Jackass” fans who want to see the man who inspired it all.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Pixels



Title: Pixels
Director: Chris Columbus
Released: 2015
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Ashley Benson, Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean

Plot: Aliens misinterpret a video of classic video games as a declaration of war attacking Earth using the characters from these games and leaving it down to gamers and lifelong friends Sam (Sandler) and Will (James) to use their videogame skills to defeat them and save the earth.


Review: For some reason much like M. Night Shyamalan the mere mention of Adam Sandler’s name being attached to any film is usually cause for the critics to start sharpening their knifes and while it’s true that he now seems to have settled into a routine with his comedies which appear to be based more around where he wishes to take his vacation and keeping his friends employed, let alone a bizarre obsession with “Hooters” which continues to show up in his films.

I’m not even going to try and convince you that this film is the one which see’s Sandler break away from his usual antics and gives us a ground breaking comedic experience as you certainly won’t get that here, neither the kind of surprise acting turn that we have seen him pull out of nowhere with the likes of “Punch Drunk Love” and “The Cobbler”. What we do get though is a fun and disposable comedy which shamelessly plays to the retro gamer fans taste for sure.

Opening in 1982 were Sam discovers that he can master video games by recognising the patterns and looks set to win the local video game championships only to lose to the obnoxious and egotistical Eddie Plant (Dinklage). Now flash forward to present day and Sam is working in home tech support setting up home cinema’s while best friend Will is now somehow the President of the United States….I did highlight this was an Adam Sandler movie right. Of course once the aliens invade Sam is of course the only person who can stop them, because seemingly no one else in the world plays old school video games.

Now armed with a bunch of hi-tech equipment Sam and Will team up with their other friend Ludlow (Gad) and former rival and still wildly egotistical Eddie to defeat the video game sprites which all take on the form of popular video game characters such as a giant Pac Man and Centipede with the weakness’s all matching their weaknesses in the game so hence Centipede has to be shot in the head while Pac Man has to be taken out by the mini coopers all assigned the names of the Ghosts from the game in one of the more memorable set pieces here.

All the cast are likable enough here with Sandler once more bringing his usual laid back comedic style while James and Gad are on hand for the more slapstick antics. Peter Dinklage meanwhile steals the show as Eddie as he constantly has something snarky to say and generally plays up his arsehole nature which seemingly has only gotten worse in the years which have passed since he beat Sam in the video game championships.

As I mentioned already this film really aims to shamelessly play up for the retro video game fans as it not only bombards the viewer with numerous refrences but also features cameos from cult figures from this world including former Donkey Kong World record holder Steve Wiebe whose battle to claim the title was so memorably documented in “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” and who here puts in a cameo as a military scientist while Pac Man creator Toru Iwatani shows up as an arcade repairman while we also get a fictional version played here by Denis Akiyama due to Iwatani not being able to speak English.

While this film is certainly  fun and has some standout moments it equally has some glaring flaws such as Eddie somehow being able to use video game cheat codes in real life with no explanation given to how exactly this is supposed to work. Equally frustrating is the fact we never see the aliens behind the attacks only their video game avatars so after Sam and co. beat Donkey Kong that’s it! No big reveal or anything while the fact that the video game vixen that Ludow unhealthy lusts over gets magically brought back via a morphing Q-Bert just felt too much like pandering to an audience who couldn’t handle any kind of downbeat outcome in the films ending.

While these flaws are frustrating it still does not make the film as bad as many critics would have you believe, perhaps having cast their judgement at the Sandler’s name being listed as the lead. However for old school gamers this is a fun disposable bit of nostalgia that doesn’t outstay its welcome while no doubt leave you wanting to dust off some of the games in your collection for another round.
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