Wednesday, 29 April 2009
When Donnie Darko was first released back in 2001, I had to hunt down a cinema that was actually showing it, which wasn't easy seeing how I was living in Cornwall at the time, which only got it's first McDonald's around the same time, so obscure indie films like this were hard to find.
Thankfully the local arts club, showed it on one of their film evenings, were they took over one of the screens at my local cinema, to show films like "Apocalypse Now: Redux", "City of God" and "Bowling for Columbine" and any other films that weren't considered to have mass appeal. It was here in this crappy cinema, with it's really uncomfortable seats, which hadn't been replaced since the cinema first opened back in the 1960's, that I first saw it and from that moment it has been a film that stuck with me, spawning over time a cult like following, which also saw the inferior directors cut receiving a larger cinema release than the original film, before Richard Kelly went on to follow it up with the fantastic "Southland Tales" (2006) which would be the film, that split the fan base down the middle with people like myself who adored it and others who just didn't get it, finding it overblown and lacking the surreal qualities which made Donnie Darko the film it was.
Donnie Darko was always a film that was self contained, requiring no need for a sequel but alas with the studios being keen as always to cash in on a success, with the "American Pie" series being a key example, which is now up to part 6 thanks to the DTV market, which in itself has over last few years lost alot of it's stigma and seen increased sales, as more studios use this as a cheaper way of continuing a series and which, because of which we now are faced with the DTV sequel "S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale".
Picking up the story seven years after the ending of the original film Samantha Darko and her best friend Corey are now 18 and on a road trip to Los Angeles when they are plagued by bizarre visions, after breaking down in a small Utah town, as it soon becomes clear that this might be more than a chance breakdown.
So yes it looks like they are dumbing things down again, which isn't surprising when you consider that Richard Kelly is in no way, involved with this film, already going on the record when he gave this quote recently.
"To set the record straight, here's a few facts I'd like to share with you all -- I haven't read this script. I have absolutely no involvement with this production, nor will I ever be involved."
Still it seems that this hasn't deterred director Chris Fisher who when asked about the film, admitted to being a fan of the original and hopes
"to create a similar world of blurred fantasy and reality."
It would seem though that Fisher would already be heading for trouble, by simply being involved with the film, especially when you consider the rabid following that the original film has, let alone the reaction which current remakes are greeted with, let alone cash in spin off's which share no connection to the original film outside of the title.
Still the release date for Region 1 set for May 12th, so it is yet to be seen if Fisher has managed to make a film, which is able to add to the mythology rather than just leaving a bad taste in our mouths. In the meantime you can see the trailer for yourself here.
Monday, 27 April 2009
This idea having been heavily influenced by the documentary "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!" (2008) which I finally got around to watching this morning and provides a great look at some of the classic films of Ozploitation genre including "Mad Max" (1979), Roadgames (1981) and "Thirst (1979) aswell as some awful movies like "The Howling 3 (1987), with interviews from various directors, crew members and cast, as well as commentary from fanboys like Quentin Tarantino, James Wan and Leigh Whannell
So yes I will be looking at a whole bunch of movies, which fall into the Ozploitation genre, over the month as I attempt to track down cult classics as well as the films that are probably not remembered with good reason.
I'm also opening it up to my fellow like minded blog writers and readers of this blog, to submit your own reviews, essays or just random collected thoughts on the genre and in return I will link to your blog, in return for a link back in very much the same way that the "Final Girl Film Club" works, which will also be responsible for a temporary departure from the theme, as I will once again be joining in the fun of the film club, by looking at "Amityville II: The Possession" (1982) which is the Final girl film club pick for this month.
So if you want to submit something during Ozploitation month and join in the fun and get some free publicity for yourself, either post the link to your contribution in the comments box or drop me an e-mail @ email@example.com.
In the meantime I urge you to check out the documentary, as if the trailer caught your intrest you will adore, this facinating and fun documentary, about one of the lesser known genres of cinema.
Friday, 24 April 2009
Title: Black Belt Jones
Rating: 4 / 5
Plot: The Mafia wants to buy Papa Byrd’s (Crothers) downtown karate studio in an area planned for redevelopment. To help them they call in a favour from local crimeboss Pinky (Carter) and his thugs to help pressure Pop into selling, but accidentally kill him. Upon discovering this the karate students call the kung-fu expert, Black Belt Jones (Kelly) for help.
Review: “Enter the Dragon” (1973) was always going to be a hard film to follow up, especially considering it was one of Bruce Lee’s strongest movies, but it was hardly surprising that Clouse would try anyway, combing elements from the two main crazes at the time blaxploitation and Kung Fu, to create this film which was also intended to be a vehicle for Jim Kelly, who is probably best remembered as Williams in “Enter The Dragon” who was not only the second coolest character in that movie (after Bruce Lee of course) but also has the best lines, including my personal favourite “Man, you come right out of a comic book.” So it’s not surprising that Clouse choose to use Kelly as his new leading man, when it came to this film.
Right from the start we are treated to a reminder of Kelly’s martial arts skills, as Jones takes on a group of would be assassins, which sadly isn’t his best work, with a lot of the moves coming across sloppy and unintentionally humorous, but thankfully after this first shaky fight scene, the later fight sequences greatly improve with Kelly finding numerous occasions to use his skills in a variety of interesting settings, from train carriges to even a car wash and somthing will cover more later. What is important about this opening scene is that right away, we see that the character of Jones isn’t a hundred miles away from that of Williams, as Jones dresses similar to Williams and even has the trademark Afro and funk soundtrack, which kicks in whenever he enters into a fight with anyone, even when he’s having a playful and flirtatious sparing session with Sidney (Hendry). What is different though, is his fighting style which appears to have become more dirty since the last time we saw him in action, as Jones takes great delight in punching and kicking his opponents below the belt, but who can complain when he looks so effortlessly cool when doing it, he even refuses to run after one retreating bad guy, instead calmly walking over to one of his fallen enemies, picking up his gun and shooting the would be assassin in the ass.
Still Jones isn’t the only kung fu expert on hand, as it seems that Papa Byrd also taught his brand of martial arts to his daughter Sidney, played here by the foxy Gloria Hendry, who is probably best remembered for her bond girl role as Rosie Carver in “Live and Let Die” (1973) and here she kicks some seriously ass, especially during a scene, which after attending her fathers funeral, she stops off at Pinky’s pool hall, where she proceeds to beat the hell out of his henchmen, who no doubt at this point were wondering whether trying to take Papa Byrd’s studio was really worth the hassle, seeing how they’d already been beaten up on three separate occasions by this point. It’s just kind of a shame that we don’t get to see more of her in action later in this film, even during the final car wash showdown, were she is pretty much reduced to the role of sidekick, spending the fight throwing bad guys into the back of a garbage truck, while occasionally adding a kick or a punch of her own. Thankfully she’s not reduced to a complete bimbo, in the scenes she shares with Jones, as her character of Sidney, is fiercely independent and more than capable of looking after herself, which makes her a great addition to the list of strong willed women in Blaxploitation, which afterall is a genre much like Anime, renown for producing numorous strong female characters, such as “Coffy” (1973) and “Cleopatra Jones” (1973) who were played by fellow foxy ladies Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson, whose attitudes in those films, has since been given a more half assed copycat treatment by celebrities such as Beyonce Knowles who would even attempt her own ill-advised tribute of sorts in the third Austin Powers movie “Goldmember” (2002). Still seeing Hendry in action in this movie helps to vanquish such horrible memories.
The fight sequences are fairly varied, especially for a plot line which could have kept such sequences solely between Pinky’s pool hall and Papa Byrd’s studio, where it’s true the majority do take place, but thankfully director Clouse also features several other memorable fight sequences including Jones’s showdown with Pinky’s “Bogart Niggers”, in a train carriage in which it seems that he was also going for the world record for the largest number of bodies thrown through a window, during one single fight sequence, especially when it seems that this is Jones’s favourite way of dispatching of bad guys. We also have a decent fight scene at the Mafia bosses house, where Jones and Sidney along with Jones his all female team of gymnasts (one of who is bizarrely called Pickle) break into the compound to retrieve some photos that one of Jones Government contacts is keen to retrieve. Though I did have to ask the question as to why they choose to wear Ninja outfits in the daytime and even more so when the whole of the compound is painted white! I mean it’s hardly the world’s greatest disguise in those circumstances, yet for some strange reason appears to be highly effective, when it comes to evading the Don’s security. However the film does also have several horrible fight scenes, which ironically are the ones not to feature either Sidney or Jones in action, as we see the Students of Papa Byrd fighting Pinky's thugs, which at times almost verges on comical, including one scene in which one of the students spends the whole fight running around the studio like a headless chicken, while his friends fight off the thugs. Another memorable moment though would have to be the students encounter with Pinky's "Bogart Niggers" in which we not only see a student's head knocked through the ceiling, but also get to witness the amazing fighting ability of one of these thugs, which consists entirely of him bashing people with his belly!
Soundtrack wise it’s very funk heavy, which suited the film well, acting at times like Jones’s personal soundtrack, seeing how it’s often most noticeable when he is on the screen, while also unintentionally providing one of the more stranger moments of the film, during Jones and Sidney’s flirtatious sparing scene on the beach, were we see a guy playing the guitar almost in tune with the soundtrack, before Sidney takes the guitar and smashes it, before running off leaving us to look at the man, holding his now smashed guitar, when he before just minding his business, hanging out on the beach, playing his guitar on what was probably his one day off that week, until some crazy chick comes and smashes it…..but hey no doubt this probably me just reading to much into such a throw away scene.
“Black Belt Jones” is far from high art, with it’s Grindhouse style of Kung Fu, Blaxploitation characterisation and stereotypical Italian characters such as Big Tuna (Barbi), who speaks with an exaggerated accent, while shouting “Mama Mia” whenever given the chance, but this only really adds to the mindless fun, which is how a film like this should be viewed, with an open mind and a carefree attitude. It would later spawn a sequel “Hot Potato” (1976), which is not to be confused with “Black Belt Jones 2: The Tattoo Connection” which was released under the Black Belt Jones banner, solely because of Jim Kelly playing the lead, despite the fact it had nothing to do with Black belt Jones whatsoever. Still if you liked Jim Kelly in “Enter the Dragon” you will no doubt dig him in this as well.
Monday, 20 April 2009
With the first half of this article I looked at Vampires, which after all are main selling point of the series, while stating “The Lost Boys” as a better model for teenage vampires than those found in the “Twilight” series.
Thankfully there is one film which bothers to try and do teenage werewolves well, while also taking the time to add a new spin on certain elements of the Werewolf mythos, which is perfectly fine if done in a way that makes sense, as “Johnny 666” rightfully pointed out with his comments to the first half of this article, pointing out “Martin” (1977) as a fine example of this, were we follow the loner of the title, who has convinced himself that he is a 84 year old vampire, using razor blades and syringes to extract the blood he craves, rather than the traditional use of fangs and it’s this freedom to adapt such classic areas of the horror genre, that “Ginger Snaps” shares which lead to me choosing “Ginger Snaps” as the proof of decent teenage Werewolves, a case I will now proceed to put forward to you all.
The plot of "Ginger Snaps" is less traditional than the usual plot of werewolf movies, as it focuses on Ginger (Isabelle) and Brigitte (Perkins) who are two outcast sisters, who share a worrying obsession with death and suicide, however when Ginger is attacked by a strange wolf creature, she soon begins to change and it’s soon up to Brigitte and local doper Sam (Lemche) to find out a cure.
It can also be argued that the werewolf in “Ginger Snaps” as a film is a metaphor for many things, with the most popular theory being, that it is a representation of puberty and the changes, the body goes through at that time, especially seeing how Ginger is attacked after having her first period, but this metaphor could also be challenged by that of the AIDS Metaphor that David Cronenberg would use with both “The Fly” (1986) and “Rabid” (1977) which I feel here too it is equally represented, as Ginger passes on the werewolf virus to Henry (John Bourgeois) after they have sex, with another note worthy scene appearing towards the end when Bridget cuts both her and Ginger’s palms open before pushing their exposed wounds together, causing her too to contract the virus, both incidents of course being subtle changes to the werewolf mythos, were traditionally victims only became werewolves after being attacked, again we also see changes in how Ginger becomes a werewolf, which rather than a quick transformation, it is more of a gradual change over time, into her full beast form at the films climax, in much the same as Cronenberg’s fly remake, with the early changes appearing subtly such as her body emitting pheromones, which make her more attractive the boys at school, while also awakening her inner sexuality, with the changes soon becoming more physical such as her growing a tail, with changes continuing as she nears her final form, which thankfully Fawcett choose to achieve not using CGI like so many films in recent years seem dependant on using, but instead choosing to use old school prosthetics to achieve the transformation effect he requires, which I honestly prefer to see, especially when you consider how many films are ruined due to the lack of believability, that often comes with extensive use of CGI effects, which should always be used to assist rather than being the sole means of achieving such effects.
Still “Ginger Snaps” is not a film without fault, though the majority of which is more to do with me nit picking, than anything that stops the film from being an enjoyable film to watch and these are mainly things such as why Director Fawcett, feels the need to make Ginger blonde as she nears her final transformation, rather than just keeping her ginger, again this could be just my nitpicking (and no doubt largely to do with appreciation for red heads) that I found her less attractive as a blonde and wishing they hadn’t made such an unnecessary change. It also makes me wonder what Fawcett has against dogs seeing how when ever any animal is killed in this film, it’s always a dog, with several of these corpses turning up at random moments, such as one particular corpse which Trina knocks Bridget into whilst playing hockey, which nobody apparently seems to have noticed before this moment, judging how every stands around it looking confused, but these are minor complaints at best and as I stated before, nothing which ruins your enjoyment.
Ginger Snaps was released to a fairly muted reception, which meant that it came and went, only to be later hunted down by the horror fans, upon its DVD release were it gained a strong cult following and giving the studio enough reason to commission a sequel and a prequel, both of which were met with mixed reviews, while the original film still remains one of the strongest werewolf movies of recent years and the lesser films which have followed in it’s wake such as "Cursed", “Blood and Chocolate” (2007) and the “Underworld” series which was keen to push werewolves more towards the villain role, with the only hope at present for the genre being Joe Johnston’s 2009 remake of the 1941 classic “The Wolf Man”.
Instead “Ginger Snaps” deserves its place with such classics as “The Howling” (1981) and “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)
Friday, 17 April 2009
It seems that the studios are constantly looking for new and interesting ways of promoting their latest movies, from the ever faithful teaser trailers and posters, to those ideas which take the whole idea of promoting the film and just come up with something which just brings a big cheesy fan boy grin to my face. One film which managed to do this recently was "Crank 2: High Voltage" the follow up to the bonkers original movie, which basically consisted of Jason Statham, doing what Jason Statham does best I.e running around with his shirt off , looking angry and beating the snot out of anyone who crosses him, kinda like a less subtle (and beardless) Chuck Norris.
Crank might have been mindless fun, much like Statham's other franchise "The Transporter" but it was still enjoyable viewing and personally I'm excited to see just how much further Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor can push the material before it becomes too insane, which was a problem that "The Transporter 2" (2005) suffered from in places, especially with certain CGI heavy moments.
Still in the meantime you can enjoy the latest creative piece of marketing, which allows you control Chev Chelios, through three different missions while constantly trying to find unique ways of charging his mechanical heart, in a way that is none to dissimilar to those "Choose your own Adventure books" that I know I used to read as a kid, were you had to turn to certain pages, based on the actions you choose.
I urge you to check it out for yourselves by clicking here
In the meantime, for the Statham / action fans amongst you "The Transporter 3" get a UK DVD release on Monday, as well as a lovely steelbook containing all three movies, for people like myself who love their steel books.
Monday, 13 April 2009
The plot to “The Lost Boys” is simple but satisfying as Michael (Jason Patrick), his mom (Dianne Wiest) and his brother Sam (Corey Haim) move to a new town to live with his Taxidermist grandpa (Barnard Hughes), were Michael falls for Star ( Jami Gertz ) who his lust for end up getting him involved with a motorcycle gang lead by the charismatic David (Keifer Sutherland) who also turn out to be vampires.
Having been turned into a half vampire by David, Michael now teams up with his brother as well as Sam’s new friends “The Frog Brothers” Edgar and Allan (Corey Feldman / Jamison Newlander) who run the local comic book store, while also having a sideline in hunting vampires to help him defeat David and remove the curse.
Back when I was a kid the cover of the VHS for this film always fascinated me, much like the original green painted covers for “The Evil Dead” and not being old enough to rent them myself, my only options for seeing such films was either by getting my dad or my really open minded (aswell as horror loving) Grandma to rent them for me, or to wait until they came on TV which is how I eventually got to first see this movie and which since then has stuck with me, as an essential horror classic.
"You're a creature of the night Michael, just like out of a comic book! You're a vampire Michael! My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait 'till mom finds out, buddy!"
It's this element of fun that runs thoughout that stops it from being just another run of the mill vampire flick, while in much the same way as "The Evil Dead" series doesn't trade in scares for the purpose of getting a few more laughs.
Another standout point which “Twilight” shares with this film is the standout soundtrack which has plenty of great moments, including the creepy choral voices of Gerald McMann’s theme “Cry Little Sister” aswell as Echo and the Bunnymen’s cover of The Doors track “People are strange” which the track also getting an additional nod, of having Jim Morrison’s picture hanging in the vampire layer.
“The Lost Boys” is one of the few movies, that might convince me that Vampires are cool, especially seeing how I’ve never really seen the appeal, which begs the question as to why Stephanie Meyer choose to use vampires for her characters, when she takes away may of the things which make a vampire a vampire. Surely it would have just been better to make them werewolves (or Lycans if you want to be technical about it) which are much cooler. But were is the cool teenage werewolves? Fear not I am not going to say “Teen Wolf” (1985) but instead point more in the direction of “Ginger Snaps” (2000) which I will be looking at next time in the second part of this article, as I attempt to save what’s left of those Twilight loving souls.
In the meantime if your around the section of your local bookstore, were they keep the twilight series, I can highly recommend “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins which in many ways is like “Logan’s Run” meets “Battle Royale” for kids, but lacking none of the gory moments of “Battle Royale which it could be easily accused of ripping off, but thankfully manages to put it’s own unique spin on.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Title: April Fools Day
Director: Fred Walton
Staring: Jay Baker, Pat Barlow, Lloyd Berry, Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Tom Heaton, Mike Nomad, Ken Olandt, Griffin O’Neal
Rating: 2 / 5
Plot: A group of nine college students staying at a friend's remote island mansion begin to fall victim to an unseen murderer over the April Fool's day weekend
Review: It seems that these days that most holidays have their own horror movie to accompany it which of course good examples of the horror market cashing in being for each holiday.
Christmas = Silent Night, Deadly Night, Jack Frost
Valentines Day = My Bloody Valentine, Valentine
Mothers Day = Mothers Day (You can see they went all out with that title)
Even Thanksgiving has it’s own holiday horror film, thanks to Eli Roth’s fake trailer for “Grindhouse”, which if you happen to live outside of the states, the chances are that the only time you’ve had chance to see it, was via that great waste of time better known as You Tube
The 80’s horror scene was a real hotspot for these holiday themed horror films, with the hit rate for these being mainly sporadic at best, but still they continued to be churned out with “April Fools Day” just another entry in a long line of holiday cash ins.
Now seeing how we have just had April Fools day yesterday, I thought it would be fun to revisit the original rather than the 2008 remake, which has both its fans as well as it’s detractors with the focal point for both camps being around “That ending” which is somthing that I will come back to later.
So having gathered for a party being thrown by Muffy St. John ( Foreman ) on her remote island mansion which she has just inherited the students are your usual mix of pranksters, sluts and jocks, who despite claiming to be friends act like they hardly know each other while all being completely unlikeable from the start, which is worrying seeing how it stops you from actually caring whatever fate is set to befall our party goers. Still that fate is dragged out quite awhile seeing how the first murder doesn’t happen till around the thirty minute mark, by which point we have seen someone get crushed against a dock and a fake stabbing, but little else bar some minor character development as each of the characters has pranks played on them, as after all this is April fools (ho, ho, ho).
The murders are all carried off screen bar the dock crushing which is really a false indication of what is to come, but this is not something I’m going to gripe about, as honestly I didn’t feel that I was being cheated, with these scenes being shot quite well, unlike other parts of the film, were it was impossible to see what was happening, these off screen deaths which is hardly the easiest thing to pull off, as numerous recent horror films can testify to, often with these failures backed up with winey excuses from the director, as to how they always found it scarier when you didn’t see the murders, which something that was a major downfall for the “Resident Evil” movies and their habit of cutting away just when you felt you were going to see something good, which thankfully is not the case here, as not showing the death still feels justified. However I did feel that tension was traded off too easily, by bumping off several characters suddenly at the end, after a huge gap between those murders and the last, quickly whittling the cast down to our token couple, almost as if director Walton suddenly remembered that he was supposed to be making a horror film and not a teen drama, which is more what it felt like at times, with several of the cast far too relaxed in their actions despite their being some killer, bumping off their friends. A great example of this being the scene were Harvey (our token Texan it would seem) (Baker) and Nikki (Goodrich) are getting water from the well, in which we get to hear one of the greatest lines of dialogue and no doubt one of the worst chat up lines, worthy enough to rival that oh so memorable one from “Shark Attack 3” when Harvey says
“Because I would really like to plow your field.”
Seriously this passes for a chat up line, especially seeing how unfazed Nikki seems by it! Even more humorous when you consider that he has just spent the better part of the movie, trying to convince everyone that he’s not a hick.
Still I really can not write about the characters in this film, without mentioning Muffy, who despite clearly having parents who didn’t like her that much, especially when you consider the name that they gave her, I mean seriously what sort of a name is Muffy anyway? (Apologies if you happen to be called Muffy as well. I’m sure your parents don’t hate you) For the first half she’s happy prankster, but then as soon as one murder happens she suddenly changes character completely, withdrawing in herself and only mumbling a few words to the other characters, something that I guess director Walton tries to cover for with a last minute plot point, when an evil twin “Buffy” is mentioned briefly, but despite this multiple personality she seems to process, she doesn’t seem to be friends with any of the party goers like it is claimed.
So I guess this now brings me to what is the subject of much dispute, amongst the horror fans and that is the ending, even though it’s a horribly kept secret, I won’t ruin for you here, but needless to say many consider it a cheat, much like the ending of “Friday the 13th Part 5” where all through the movie, we think we are getting Jason only for it not to be Jason, which its fair to say upset a lot of the fanboys and girls, but something that I was still happy to except as an ending, much like the ending of this film, which is clever but still doesn’t feel worth it after having sat through the movie, which is in parts quite painful to sit through, as nothing really happens to keep your attention and with the tension being like I said earlier firmly in the non existent category it is hard to stay with this film till the end, with your attention no doubt being drawn else where through out, to the point that you will no doubt not bother stopping the film, so you can go to the bathroom or take a trip to the fridge for a snack or whatever. Still it’s this ending which has kept the film in the fan boy conscious since it’s original release and it does help it stand out in a way, from the numerous other horror films of 80’s, but if you expect this to be some lost classic, you might very well find that the joke is on you.