Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Favourite movies I saw at the cinema this year
Of about the five films I did go to the cinema to see, Drive probably had the biggest effect on me. Very slick direction, long periods of silence, jarring horrific violence, pitch perfect casting. Refn's movie was a breath of fresh air, a real wake up call to how stale a lot of big studio pictures have become. A lot of people have pointed out that the film is highly reminiscent of an early Michael Mann and they are absolutely right; there's a lot of similarities between this and Thief and Manhunter with heavy emphasis being put on the soundtrack. My favourite Drive related story has to be the woman who tried to sue the makers for making the trailer look like it would be Fast and Furious-type movie.
You're going to notice that there's a big gap between what I enjoy at the cinema (introspective, arty flicks) and what I watch at home on DVD (stupid mindless action films). Monsters was another very artsy movie with long periods of silence. I thought it was a genius idea to have a science fiction film that, for the most part, ignored special effects and massive fights/explosions in favour of just telling a story of two people caught in the middle. And I'm completely in awe that the film was shot mostly on-the-fly. The relationship between the two main characters really drew me in and for a first time director Gareth Edwards had a very strong handle on what he wanted. Looking forward to revisiting it again soon.
Favourite movie bought from the 2000s
I can't remember whether I first watched this movie this year or just got around to buying it on DVD. Primer again is a movie by a first time director who took a creative, low budget approach to making a science fiction film. Essentially, it's about two amateur scientists who accidentally create a fully working time machine. This film really messes up your head trying to follow the plot (you'll want to watch it again as soon as you've finished, trust me). Part of the difficulty is down to the slightly rushed running time and part of it seems to be a creative decision by the director to put you in the same state of mind as the scientists as they repeat the same timeline over and over.
Favourite movie bought from the 1990s
Taking Care of Business (1990)
I should really be adding Richard Stanley's Hardware but I wanted to avoid putting another Sci-fi film on this list. I'll cover that movie eventually. In the meantime, the only other film I bought this year from the 90s was Taking Care of Business, a rather formulaic but enjoyable comedy with James Belushi. Charles Grodin plays an uptight businessman who loses his filofax, which he depends on so much it ruins his day. Meanwhile Belushi, an escaped convict picks it up and starts taking over his life. This was a nice little reminder of what comedy films used to be like. I grew up in the 90s and used to watch loads of movies like this as a kid but never managed to catch this one before. Random trivia: This film was JJ Abrams' first script.
Favourite movie bought from the 1980s
The Gate (1987)
Man, the eighties had some awesome horror comedies: Gremlins, Monster Squad, House. They just don't make stuff like this anymore. The Gate was one of the few I'd missed. Essentially, a young Stephen Dorff finds a hole in the garden at the bottom of his garden that unleashes little demons that wreak havoc. I liked this a lot, it's low budget but the effects work is very creative and it's actually pretty horrific at times. This deserves to be known a lot more than it does at the moment. Apparently, Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted) is directing a remake next year:- “Don't mess it up Preston!”
Favourite movie bought from the 1970s
Animal House (1978)
I've watched loads of “college hijinks” movies over the years: everything from Revenge of the Nerds to PCU to Van Wilder to Real Genius and I like the genre a lot, however I realised I'd never seen the original; the prototype. I'm glad to say I enjoyed it a lot. It's got a very meandering plot (that by the end you realise isn't very important at all). John Belushi's performance as Bluto still stands up today. It's an almost completely silent performance but it's perfectly played. It was also very awesome to see Karen Allen looking even cuter that she does in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Favourite movie bought from the 1960s
I know a lot of people will think I checked this out because Tarantino's doing Django Unchained next year but I actually picked it up a few months before that movie got announced. I went on a bit of western binge this year following watching Young Guns 1 & 2. Django was one of my purchases, it's a very good spaghetti western, very stylish and violent (much more than Leone's Dollars movies). Franco Nero is great as the lead character and the ending in the graveyard is brilliant. I also got the “official” sequel Django Strikes Again which I'm sad to say wasn't very good, and at times very very weird.
Worst movies bought this year
This is an eye-gougingly bad movie. I'm going to blame Mitch at Video Vacuum for this one (Damn you). I read a review mentioning how the film was vicariously tied to the Deathstalker series, going so far as to reuse a fair bit of footage and was intrigued having watched the campy (and somewhat enjoyable) Deathstalker movies earlier in the year. This film is massively disjointed and embarrassingly acted even by producer Roger Corman's lowest standards. The worst character has to be Wooby, who seems to be a Ewok(!) and whose costume is so low tech you can see the stitching on the bottom of his feet.
Ten Dead Men (2008)
As a (sometime) amateur filmmaker I'm always interested in low (or very low) budget films. This film was made in Britain by a bunch of filmmakers for something like £100,000 so it feels bad to really rip into it. Brendan Carr plays a former hitman out of revenge on his old colleagues, killing them one by one. I've got to say I was rarely bored watching this but it wasn't very good either. The technicality of some of the fights was good but the direction, acting and everything else was poor. It's a shame because with a better director this could have been an interesting film.
Favourite movie-related TV series
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (Vol 1-3)
I completely dismissed this show as a boring piece of trash when I was younger but felt an urge to rewatch it recently. For DVD it's been reedited from the original broadcasts, cutting out the 90 year old Indy bookends (which admittedly were very cheesy) and mashing two episodes together to make a series of 23 x 90 minute movies. The show wasn't really about Indy at all (none of the episodes have the same feel as the films), it was just a way of getting kids interested to history. Sean Patrick Flanery was pretty good as the teenage Indy and the adventures during his time in World War I (which made up most of the series) were, for the most part, pretty riverting. Funny how being older made me appreciate this series more.
FX: The Series (Season One)
I'll be covering the FX movies with Bryan Brown in the New Year. I picked this box set up as I was intrigued to see how they converted the story to the small screen. It's a quite formulaic show (as were a lot of shows in the 90s) but the effects work is fun and Australian actor Cameron Daddo actually makes a decent laconic lead. I'm a sucker for stupid little formulaic action TV shows like this. It's not something I watch compulsively but is good for when you've had a long day and you just want to switch your brain off for 45 minutes.
Favourite movie related books
X-Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker by Alex Cox
I like Alex Cox a lot as a director. His films are very unique but sometimes frustrating in terms of quality. After his career suicide movie Walker he's been forced to work on increasingly smaller budgets. We'll likely never see anything a big budget as Repo Man or Sid & Nancy again. X-Films documents each of his movies from 1984-2008 in intricate and brutally honest detail. I'm currently slowly making my way through the films, watching them on DVD then reading about them in the book, which helps makes some of his more ropey efforts more enjoyable.
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Not really a movie tie-in (yet) but Don Coscarelli (the genius behind the Phantasm movies) is currently filming/editing the movie version with Paul Giamatti and it's set to be released next year. Check this book out now, its very, very funny. Two slackers face off again an increasing number of evil demons and hellspawn. The writer David Wong works for Cracked.com and carries over a lot of the same humour from that site. He wrote it installments and it feels like it, constantly stopping and starting, but overall the books a great read.
Lost Journal of Indiana Jones by Henry Jones Jr
As you can tell I went on a bit of an Indiana Jones shopping spree after rediscovering my love for the series (thank you Lego Indiana Jones on the PS3). This is a very funny but quite short book that's written as if it's Indy's own journal. Lots of sketches, letters and funny memos that correspond with the events of both all four movies and the TV show. The best bits are the few pages where Short Round starts writing his version of what happened during the events of Temple of Doom, mostly told through broken English and crude stick men drawings of Indy and Willie.
Movie collections I've completed this yearDeathstalker 1-4
The Substitute 1-4
American Pie 1-7 (Don't judge me!)
Van Wilder 1-3 (Seriously, don't judge me!)
Friday the 13th 1-10
Missing in Action 1-3
Young Guns 1-2
Teen Wolf 1-2
Bronx Warriors 1-2
Highlander 1-4 (part 5 doesn't exist)
National Lampoon Vacation 1-4
Die Hard 1-4
A Nightmare on Elm Street 1-7
The Crow 1-4
Lost Boys 1-3
Every movie John Carpenter has every directed (Hell yes!)
Most embarrassing movie I've never seen until this year
Lethal Weapon, all of them. Yep, never watched them. Not sure why but I rectified that quickly one weekend. Ironically I've seen Loaded Weapon, the spoof with Emilio Estevez and Samuel L Jackson, countless times. In hindsight I probably should have watched them when I was younger as I didn't find them as engaging as I was hoping.
Well, that's it for 2011. Check back in the New Year for more reviews!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Much like Texas Blood Money, one problem is that the film has a little bit of a sluggish pace and only really comes alive when the action kicks in. Another problem is that obviously the budget has had to stretch further than the second film, because it involves period settings and costumes. The Titty Twister was a huge lavish set in the original film and the makers of this film have clearly struggled to recreate it's earlier incarnation. Also, the set for the bar is quite confusing, I'm not sure if it's the way it's edited but I got really confused as to where everyone was located at times.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Wait, wait. Just read this. Yes, I'm doing a post about a movie starring Jason Priestley of Beverly Hills 90210 fame but just stick with me because Coldblooded is a stone cold classic of a movie which shamefully has never been released on DVD. In fact, I only stumbled across it one night on TV and had to wait another 5 years to catch it again and record it.
Okay, I know it's hard to talk about a Jason Priestley film but let's try referring it as a Wally Wolodarsky film. Who's he you say? Well, he was one of the early staff writers on The Simpsons responsible for such classic episodes as 'Krusty Gets Busted' and 'Bart the Daredevil'. Coldblooded was his directorial debut and sadly, despite being executively produced by Michael J Fox, it just got buried and sent straight to video but it really deserved way better.
Jason Priestley plays Cosmo Reif, a bookish accountant for a bunch of mobsters. When the their favourite hitman gets iced Cosmo is given the opportunity to step into the role and is taught the ropes by seasoned veteran Steve played by Peter Riegart. As it turns out Cosmo has a natural gift for shooting and killing people and his life starts to blossom, eventually falling in love with a yoga instructor. But how is he ever going to resolve his double life as a loving boyfriend and a mafia assasin?
Honestly this is a great, great little indie and way more humourous than the synopsis makes out. Priestley plays the role of Cosmo brilliantly, at times almost make him seem a little autistic. Essentially, nothing fazes him and nothing seems to excite him. He takes to the part of being a hitman and killing people with a cold dispassionate point of view. And there in lies the humour, being a hitman isn't as exciting as it sounds. Peter Riegart is also great as his mentor. He's not an actor who I've seen in a lot stuff (other than Animal House) but he's great at deadpan humour and fits this film to a T. Michael J Fox also pops up for a great little cameo about halfway through as well.
There were a lot of offbeat crime films that came out in the mid-nineties in the wake of Pulp Fiction. Everyone and their grandma seemed to be trying to emulate that film's colourful style and hip dialogue to various degrees of success (see Things to Do in Denver, Two Days in the Valley, The Boondock Saints). Coldblooded definitely has the same elements - talking hitmen and casual disregard for violence - but feels very different from Tarantino and his knock-offs and it's a shame it got lost in the shuffle. The film has a lighter, breezy touch that's obviously come from Wolodarsky's work on The Simpsons. Based on the subject matter it could have easily been done much more seriously as say American Psycho but Wolodarsky (who also scripted) plays it much more like a light black comedy.
I don't know where you'll be able to find this. I don't think it really got a retail release, so you're only options are to catch it on Netflix streaming, on cable TV or ex-rental video. Happy hunting!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Space Truckers (1996)
I'm one of those rare people who prefers Stuart Gordon's trashy science fiction films like Robot Jox and Fortress over his horror films like Re-Animator. Space Truckers is a great “you-can't-make-this-sh*t-up” film. Dennis Hopper plays a trucker in space transporting a dangerous cargo with Debi Mazar and an eye-linered Stephen Dorff (or Stephen Dwarf as my girlfriend likes to call him). Oh wait, Debi and Dorff aren't the dangerous cargo! Hopper's unknowingly carrying a bunch of killer robots. And Charles Dance plays a space pirate with a wind up c*ck who wants the robots back. I kid you not.
Chances of upgrading: Pretty damn high.
These got released on video around the time the Sam Raimi film came out. Two sets of edited together episodes of the 1970s live action TV show that starred Nicholas Hammond. The Dragon's Challenge was the two part season finale where he goes to China to help a man accused of being a spy while Strikes Back was the second and third episodes and sees ol' webhead try to stop a group of students detonating a bomb over New York. Look out for a dapper Ted Danson in Strikes Back playing a military man. Never did get to see the pilot or the rest of the series.
Chances of upgrading: Pretty slim but I might watch them again, if I'm bored.
I love Hunter S Thompson and thought this was a pretty decent attempt to get his words and style on to the screen. Haven't got a massive urge to watch it again, wonderful though the imagery was. Gilliam sort of made the film seem like you were on a drug trip with the characters I don't know if I want to experience that again. I'd rather just read the book. That said, there is a double pack DVD of this with Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray, that I haven't seen yet.
Chances of upgrading: If I can find that double DVD for a cheap price I might consider it.
This was one of the first Jackie Chan films I ever watched. It's his directorial debut and, as you would expect, the stunt work and fights are superb. The final 10 minutes long fight is very impressive. The comedy sketches that string it all together are less impressive though. I've collected most of Jackie Chan's stuff on DVD now (except anything after Rush Hour) but this one is always so expensive. Oh well, I'll have to stick with this video for now. It does have a pretty awful/funny dub done by a bunch of English guys. I mean really, at least dub someone who's Chinese with someone who sounds Chinese.
Chances of upgrading: Just waiting for a cheap price on ebay.
Ah, double feature videos. They were the bomb. Bought this a long time ago based on the first Dolph Lundgren film. In actuality, I far prefer the DTV sequel which doesn't star Lundgren and to be perfectly honest is pretty unconnected. Matt McColm leads a group of mercenaries in infiltrating a white power movement. The action sequences in this film are pretty freakin' sweet and it scores bonus points for having Michael Ironside play the group's mentor. The original film though, urgh, maybe I should watch it again but I remember being really unimpressed. That was about 10-15 years ago though.
Chances of upgrading: Argh, the sequel's not out on DVD so probably. Might watch the VHS again though.
Don't want to say too much because I'm hoping to do a complete guide to the Scanners and Scanner Cop series soon. Need to get around to watching them again. Actually did get a copy of Scanner Cop 1 on DVD a while back but have yet to get part 2. I know it's out in the US and there's a copy in my ebay watch list, just waiting until I've watched a few more films before purchasing. Love the Scanner Cop movies. He's a cop who can make bad guy's heads explode! What's not to like?
Chances of upgrading: Will get part 2 soon. Just a matter of time.
Another classic video double pack. Only reason I don't have these is that they are always on TV. Literally every week either one or the other is on TV. If I have to pick a favourite it's Tango but just because it's got 100% more Kurt Russell than the other film. Cobra I initially thought was too dumb, even for a dumb action film. I mean Tango is dumb but knows it, I got the sense Cobra was dumb but didn't know it. I've come round over the years and have a begrudging respect for its stupidity (and excessive product placement.) Man, I feel like having a Pepsi all of sudden.
Chances of upgrading: Eh, I guess I could but they'll just be on TV next week. But then as Stallone says at the beginning of Tango and Cash - “Let's Do It”
I know next to nothing about this film other than it's one of the few live-action films to feature giant mecha robots. I'm not a massive mecha fan but I'm curious to see what it looks like. Plus, I freakin love miniatures and models in movies and this seems to have a butt load. Apparently, the film is a messy 90 minutes of incomprehensibility but it's also got Brenda Bakke (Under Siege 2, Hot Shots Part Deux) who is a damn hot so can't be all bad.
Chances of upgrading: I need to give the VHS a spin first to check if it's worth upgrading. Based on reviews I've read, probably not.
I'm not going to wax lyrical about George Lucas, there's mountains of hate letters floating about on the internet. I think people have elevated the original trilogy to a status usually reserved for holy scriptures. Chill out people. That said, I can't understand why he won't release unaltered versions for the rest of us. I don't even mind it they aren't cleaned up. Just slap them on a disc and push them in my direction. Spielberg recently said he regretted updating ET (remember when he digitally removed the shotguns the police carry to walkie talkies?) maybe he could have a chat with George.
Chances of upgrading: When those unaltered versions come out on DVD (and not those half-assed Laserdisc transfers he added as a bonus disc a few years back) or Blu-Ray I'll happily buy them.
Any films you guys have still got on video that you can't let go of?