Thursday, January 31, 2013

Django Month: Django Unchained (2012)

And so we come to the final review for Django Month! I literally just got back from watching this last night and I've got to say I really enjoyed it. I've never been a die hard worshiper of Quentin Tarantino but I do like his work. I appreciate that there's very few 'auteur' directors like him who are still going and considering how dumbed down and generic films are getting nowadays it's nice to know there's still some directors who have the power and influence to experiment with the medium of film. I must confess I actually haven't got around to watching his last movie - Inglourious Basterds - yet but plan to catch up with that this weekend. I think the reason I skipped that one at the cinema was due to my disappointment with Death Proof - one half of the Grindhouse double feature - that was released on its own in the UK. I felt that movie was very self indulgent and quite frankly a bit of a waste of his talents. I was beginning to question whether or not Tarantino had become a parody of himself. Happily, I can report that this film is a far superior flick than Death Proof.

Django Unchained is set two years prior to the American Civil War when slavery was still rife in the American Deep South. The film basically revolves around two men. The first is Dr King Schultz, an eccentric German dentist turned bounty hunter. The second is Django, a black slave who is rescued by Schultz (initially just to identify a couple of wanted criminals). Immediately after meeting Django, Schultz takes a shine to him and the two start working as bounty hunting partners and, wouldn't you know it, they make a pretty good team. Before long Django mentions that he has a wife who is still held in captivity so the two decide to combine their efforts and track down where she is. Their search leads them to Calvin Candie (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a sadistic but foppish slave owner with a passion for getting his slaves to wrestle to the death. Django and Schultz pretend to be interested in purchasing a wrestler in order to gain access to Candie's plantation. But how long will their ruse last? And will they find Django's wife? 

You know it's always been quite hard to review Tarantino films because he's very much a rule-breaker in cinematic terms. His films are often exciting because he gives them such left-field plots and they have such quick shifts in tone. You never quite know where they are going and Tarantino clearly enjoys doing this. He delights in subverting audiences' expectations. That's why his films are always, on the surface at least, genre films because with genre films you know roughly how they should look and feel. Django Unchained is a western but it goes in many places that westerns have never gone - not least by tackling the subject of slavery. I thought, considering the taboo nature of the subject matter, Tarantino had good handle on how to treat it. The film is very irreverent and often quite humorous but, at the same time, the brutality of slavery is treated with enormous candor. I think it's good to point out that Tarantino isn't referencing actual real life events - there's no known records of the type of wrestling that appears in this film - but what he is doing is using it as a sort of metaphor for the appalling treatment African Americans did experience during the times of slavery. I thought it was a novel idea; wrapping a serious subject matter in a pulp-y story in order to bring it more mainstream attention.

Django Unchained also follows the traditional pattern of Spaghetti westerns by being a revenge story - but it is also a comedy, a buddy movie, an action film and a drama. This eclectic 'scattershot' approach means that there always something new just around the corner to enjoy if this film ever gets stale. For me the highlight was definitely Christopher Waltz, whose portrayal of the kindly Dr Schultz was note perfect. I just loved the little character traits; his delightfully mannered way of speaking, the little brush of his moustache every time he had to think, and just the warmth he shows Django's character (which never feels patronising or cheesy). I also loved how he was, for the most part, religiously devoted to the law. When Django asks for his help to rescue his wife they don't go in all guns blazing, Schultz insists on rescuing her in a (semi-)legal manner. I also really enjoyed the performance of Don Johnson as Big Daddy, another Southern plantation owner who Django and Schultz run into early on. Dressed like Colonel Sanders, Johnson really makes the most of his scenes. Who knew Sonny Crockett was so good at comedy?* The part where Big Daddy and his fellow racist friends have an big argument about whether or not they should wear their KKK masks was the funniest scene I've seen in years.

Jamie Foxx isn't an actor I've seen in a lot of films but he makes a very good fit for the character of Django. I'm glad Tarantino dropped the idea of using Will Smith in the role (not least because I think we all would have got flashbacks to Wild Wild West if that had happened). Strangely, although Foxx's Django is the title character of the film, for the most of the running time he takes kind of a backseat role, allowing the more eccentric characters of Waltz and DiCaprio to take centre stage. It's really only in the last quarter of the film that he emerges as the main protagonist. I quite liked this technique because it mirrors that way that Django grows in confidence throughout the film. Although Django is physically unchained in the first scene he doesn't get spiritually unchained until the end of the film. Similarly, Samuel L Jackson's character Stephen (Candie's head butler) at first seems like an insignificant supporting role but by the end it's more or less made out that he is the major villain of the film rather than DiCaprio. I think what Tarantino is trying to say is that the racism as two enemies. The white people who perpetrate it and the black people who perpetuate it by going along with it. Stephen is a fascinating character and I liked the duality he creates in Candie's character. Candie is a man who enjoys watching black people wrestle to the death but at the same time he enjoys the company of Stephen and allows him the freedom to speak openly and honestly.

I did have some issues with the film though. I don't think it's a flawless masterpiece in the same way that Pulp Fiction was. I found the second half of the film a little jarring in its scale and tempo. And I thought Tarantino should have ratcheted up the tension even more than he did when Django and Schultz reach Candie's house. Similarly, although DiCaprio was very good as Candie but I felt the character wasn't as memorable as it could have been. A lot of actors excel at spouting Tarantino's dialogue but DiCaprio felt a bit stiff at times (maybe I'm being too harsh). A few other minor points that I was disappointed with included Zoe Bell as a masked tracker who gets a lot of lingering close-ups but then we never see anything more from her character (I'm guessing it was a subplot that got cut). I also felt Walton Goggins was severely underused as Billy Crash. Anyone who has watched The Shield or Justified will know how great an actor he can be but he's kind of lost here and doesn't get anything memorable to do or say. I did hear that Goggins character was an amalgamation of two characters, created after Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner dropped out. I think in this case Tarantino's hasty rewriting is probably the reason Billy Crash feels like a half-finished character. My biggest issue was that we see so little of Django's wife Broomhilda. I know it's a western, and westerns don't usually have roles for women but I really felt Broomhilda should have had more lines or more of a story. Kerry Washington does a fine job in the role but ultimately when Django rides off with her at the end she feels more like a trophy than the love of his life.

All in all Django Unchained is a great film. Not perfect but well worth seeing and way above most stuff at the cinema. I guess should probably touch on how this fits in with the other Django "rip-offs". Well, for the most part it stands quite separate. The two major references that everyone are going to spot are the Luis Bacalov's song from the 1966 movie that Tarantino places over his opening credits and the appearance (or should I say "Friendly Participation") of Franco Nero in a cameo role. Nero doesn't get many lines but the exchange between him and Django is a great nod. (Nero: "What's your name?" Foxx:"Django" Nero:"Can you spell it?" Foxx:"D.J.A.N.G.O. The D is silent." Nero:"I know"). There's also a few little touches. The first town Schultz and Django arrive in is swimming in mud just like in Corbucci's original. And, maybe I'm clutching at straws, but the master and apprentice angle to Schultz teaching Django how to be a bounty hunter felt a bit similar to Django The Last Killer. Anyway, I'm going to be interested as to what Tarantino tries to tackle next. He's done crime, kung fu, exploitation horror, war and a western but where the hell do you go next?


* Did anyone else think when they saw Don Johnson and Jamie Foxx on screen that it was (Old) Crockett and (New) Tubbs?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Django Month: Django the Last Killer (1967)

You never know what you're going to get when you sit down to watch a Django film but I've managed to luck out with most of the films I've watched these last few weeks and this one is no exception. While you couldn't call Django the Last Killer a masterpiece, it is well made and quite above-average for the genre. The crux of the plot revolves around Django - now an aging bounty killer - teaching his gun-fighting skills to a young apprentice. This isn't really a revolutionary concept for the genre, the far more famous Day of Anger with Lee Van Cleef came out the same year, but Django the Last Killer still manages to make the story its own by being more earnest and less cynical.

The plot is pretty simple. George Eastman plays Ramon, the son of a Mexican farmer, who gets robbed on his way to pay the local landowner, Barrett, his monthly rent. He recovers from his injuries and continues on to Barrett's place to explain what happened and beg for an extension. However when he gets there he recognises a few of Barrett's men as the very people who robbed him. Barrett's men torture him, burn his farm and kill his parents but Ramon manages to escape and heads to town. When he gets there he inadvertently saves the life of an aging bounty killer called Django (Anthony Ghidra). Django takes pity on Ramon and takes him into the hills where he teaches him how to be a gunfighter. Of course, unbeknownst to Ramon, Django has actually come to town to perform a hit... for Barrett and I'll give you one guess who it is?

The film is quite a low budget affair but it's all decently acted. George Eastman (who had roles in Hands of Steel, 2019: After the Fall of New York and Bronx Warriors) is particularly great as Ramon. He does well to convey the slow character change from naive farmer to deadly gunfighter that happens over the course of the film. Anthony Ghidra is also good as the aging and melancholic Django. The film is at its best when these two are on screen. I really enjoyed the whole master and apprentice angle to the story. It's set up very early on that Django and Ramon are going to have a showdown at the end, so it gives all the lessons that Django teaches an extra layer of doom-laden dramatic irony.

The run time is only just over 80 minutes so everything moves at a very quick pace and there's no wasted scenes. Again, like a lot of Spaghetti westerns, there's an interesting anti-American flavour to the story. You have the evil white landowner Barrett essentially ordering Ramon and his Mexican immigrant family to be removed from their farm despite their legitimate claim to live there. It's never concretely stated exactly why Barrett wants them removed, we just hear him say during a poker game that with them gone he can now create "paradise" for all the good white folk of the town.

The film isn't without its small share of problems though. The locations are a little unconvincing and the score, though good, gets very repetitive by the end. There's also a couple of logic gaps. It's never completely explained why Barrett tells Django he has a job for him but doesn't want to tell him the name of the target until the end of the month. It's seems purely designed so that the audience can benefit from knowing where the story is going. I would have preferred a little better explanation to be given. Also, the final shootout between Django and Ramon happens very quickly and is a little underwhelming. Given the build up and all the lessons that are taught (count your bullets, make sure there's always one in the chamber, don't face into the sun, watch your enemies steps) I was hoping for a bit more a prolonged battle.

All in all, Django the Last Killer is an earnest and worthwhile little western that is recommended to fans of the genre looking for something to tackle after the more famous films of the Spaghetti western genre. Like all Django rip-offs this was only made a Django film during the dubbing process (the original version has Ghidra go by the name Rezza) but let's ignore that because actually I think Django the Last Killer makes a far better follow-up to the original Django than the official one, Django Strikes Again. Check it out if you get a chance, there's full length copies easily found on both youtube and dailymotion.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Django Month: Django Kill, If You Live, Shoot! (1967)

Django Kill, If You Live, Shoot! is quite possibly one of the strangest westerns I've ever seen. Like most of the other Django "sequels" it has very little to do with Corbucci's original film. There's a few similar motifs, such as gold heists going wrong and characters being left for dead managing to survive, but for the most part it is it's own film. The main character isn't even referred to as Django, he's simply "the Stranger". In fact, the producers only stuck the 'Django Kill' part of the title on to the film a few weeks before it was released in an effort to drum up more public interest. They needn't have bothered because actually the shocking and surreal violence in the film gained it much more publicity than expected. A week after its release an Italian court forced the producers to take it out of cinemas and cut 22 minutes. And then later when it was released in the UK and States they cut even more!

The plot begins eerily with the Stranger (played by Tomas Milian, looking a lot like C Thomas Howell and dressing like Han Solo) crawling out of a shallow grave where he recuperates with two Native Americans. We quickly learn through flashbacks that the Stranger was part of a gang (a mixture of Americans and Mexicans) who pulled off a gold heist from the US Army. Instead of splitting the gold equally the Americans, led by a man called Oaks, decide to murder the Mexicans and keep it all for themselves. So the Stranger survives and heads to the nearest town, which the Native Americans call "The Unhappy Place". Here he runs into the unsuspecting Oaks and his men but this time, with the help of the townsfolk, he manages to kill them all. Sounds like your run of the mill western plot but this is only the first 25 minutes. The rest of the nearly two hour film goes off in some very bizarre directions. The townsfolk decide to hide the gold and the film introduces a new antagonist, Mr Sorrow, a larger than life bandit who rides with a group of black clad (and heavily implied gay) cowboys. And these guys will do anything to get their hands on the hidden gold including raping the Saloon owner's son (which forces him to commit suicide), scalping Native Americans and torturing the Stranger on a crucifix with hungry vampire bats!

This is a deeply strange film. It's not incomprehensible - the film is never confusing - it just veers off in so many odd directions that it's difficult to get a bead on it. I enjoyed it for the most part. It's got an infectious energy to it and I'm a big fan of offbeat westerns. Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man and Jan Kouen's Blueberry are two of my favourite films. The fact that the film starts off like a fairly traditional western sort of lulls you into a false sense of security - which is cleverly mirrored by Oaks' gang slowly realising "The Unhappy Place" is far from a normal town when they witness the townsfolk casually stepping on children's necks. Then, slowly, the film gets weirder and more experimental like some sort of feverish nightmare.

I think a lot of the strangeness is down to the fact the makers were working on a metaphorical rather than literal level most of the time. The film is loaded with political overtones. The American characters are universally portrayed as twisted and evil, the relentless and disgusting pursuit of gold by everyone (more on that later) is a heavy handed comment on capitalism and the black clad gang are (according to the director) analogues for Mussolini's Fascist Blackshirts. I think the makers were also trying to deconstruct the western genre itself. The Stranger is a very tortured lead character both figuratively and literally. Rather than being a taciturn anti-hero, the Stranger is a weary and confused character who struggles to make sense of the violence happening around him. There's little catharsis when he rides off into the sunset at the end.

The violence in the film is some of the most disturbing I've seen - I can see why, at the time, the censors were shocked. Again, like Django the Bastard, it's reminiscent at times of an gothic horror movie only this time there's much worse fates for the characters than just getting shot. For example, the Stranger is given gold bullets by the Native Americans and so when he shoots someone, the townsfolk instinctively tear open the dead body to retrieve the bullets - possibly foreshadowing the zombie films of Fulci et al. And the film ends on a truly grotesque scene in which a man dies after accidentally covering himself in molten gold inside a burning house! By far, the most disturbing element has to be the rape of Evan, the saloon owner's son (played by Ray Lovelock who would go on to star in the excellent Italian zombie film The Dead at the Manchester Morgue). It happens off screen but the way it's implied - by the black clad cowboys feasting on a huge piece of meat before hungrily turning their eyes on Evan is really creepy.

The film is actually really well shot, acted and edited. The one thing that lets it down is the very cheap town set that they use that looks like its going to fall down any second. The score by Ivan Vandor is especially good and perfectly mirrors the film's descent into madness. It starts off with a very baroque Morricone-esque sound but halfway through it starts to degenerate until by the end it sounds like some child playing random out-of-tune piano chords. The only major problem with the film is that it feels quite static after the first half hour and the amount of plot involved doesn't really justify its two hour running time. It could have quite easily been cut to 90 minutes AND managed to keep all the surreal and horrific scenes. All in all though, the film’s decision to keep twisting the classic western tropes in new and unusual direction make it a must watch. But I will say that it might be of more interest to lovers of Italian horror films more than lovers of westerns.

Fun fact: According to this film "You Chiseler!" is a legitimate insult!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012: Review of the Year

Well that's it for another year so let's see what caught my interest over the last 12 months.

Favourite movies I saw at the cinema this year
The Raid: Redemption (2012)
This film was absolutely the funnest time I've had at the cinema in years. A perfect storyline, non-stop violence and a brilliant score to boot. I went in with pretty high expectations after all the reviews I'd read. Everyone was comparing it to Ong Bak, saying that Iwo Uwais was the new Tony Jaa. And you know what, I think they might be right. Though I'd give a lot of credit to Yayan Ruhian, who played the psychotic henchman Mad Dog, as well. I really enjoyed the crazy atmosphere of the fights, the way the bad guys didn't get cleanly knocked out but instead got their arms or legs broken and were left screaming on the floor. That was something I hadn't really seen before. And director Gareth Evans captured all the action in clean, straightforward camera work. In a world of PG-13, shaky cam nonsense it was a breath of fresh air. If you haven't already, check out Evans and Uwais' earlier collaboration Merantau. It's a little slower paced but just as enjoyable.

The Avengers (2012)
Sorry, I've picked two very obvious choices this year but I really did feel this was a great movie. I'm a pretty big comic book fan (admittedly more DC than Marvel) and this was hands down the best comic book adaptation I've ever seen. What made it so good for me was that writer/director Joss Whedon didn't play down or rework ANY elements from the comic books. He presented all the characters pretty much exactly as they appear in comics. Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with re-interpreting a comic book like Chris Nolan did with his Dark Knight movies. But it's a far harder (and much more commendable) task to make the characters work without toning them down and without resorting to campy nonsense. Easily the best performance was Mark Ruffalo who I greatly enjoyed as both Banner and the Hulk, I really hope they hurry up and let him have a solo movie soon.

Favourite movie bought from the 2000s
Ripley Under Ground (2005)
This was ridiculously hard to track down. For some reason it's never been released in the UK or US. I had to get a copy from Holland. Anyway, it was worth the wait (just about). I'm a massive fan of the Patricia Highsmith books and what I liked about this version, rather than the Mighella movie or the John Malkovich one, is that it had a sense of humour. I think too many people take the Ripley books seriously. I've always read them as being darkly humorous farces rather than serious psychological studies. Anyway, Barry Pepper was a nice offbeat actor for the lead, not as conventionally attractive at Matt Damon or Alain Delon, and all the better for it. The story was pretty faithfully adapted and the new material - having Heloise turn out to be just as ruthless as Ripley - was an interesting way to give the film more a solid ending to compared to the book's more open one. It's a great shame that no distributor has picked this up.

Favourite movie bought from the 1990s
Pacific Heights (1990)
Damn, this is a great little underrated film. As previously mentioned in my review for The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, I'm a sucker for yuppie horror movies. Michael Keaton is brilliant as the schizophrenic tenant from hell. No one does crazy as good as Keaton. It's still one of my favourite bits in Tim Burton's Batman where he's Bruce Wayne in Vicki Vale's apartment and he gets cornered by the Joker so he picks up the fire stoker and starts shouting "You wanna get nuts! Come on, let's get nuts!". Pacific Heights has lots of flaws - a weak performance from Matthew Modine, a lumpy story, little explanation behind the villain's motives - but it's full of great moments. I just love that weird bit where Melanie Griffiths goes down to the garage looking for a torch and Keaton's just sitting there in his car, a few feet away, watching her while he twiddles with a razor blade in his hand.

Favourite movie bought from the 1980s
Blue Thunder (1983)
They don't make them like this anymore. A superb little techno-conspiracy film from John Badham, who did the equally great WarGames the same year. Roy Scheider plays a helicopter pilot who assigned to fly a super stealth helicopter and uses it to discover that the helicopter's makers are pretty evil people with diabolical plans for the public. Sure, it's highly predictable - for example, early on the main bad guy Malcolm McDowell tells Scheider that it's impossible to do a loop the loop in a helicopter and then guess what, at the end Scheider does manage to do it and McDowell dies trying to chase him - but none of that matters because it's so well told. One of the best performances came from a young Daniel Stern who plays Scheider's peppy co-pilot Lymangood who injects the film with some much needed humour. The stunt work and aerial photography was utterly breath-taking as well. Move over Airwolf, this is now my favourite suped-up helicopter.

Favourite movie bought from the 1970s
The Seven Ups (1973)
More Roy Scheider? Damn right! I've been meaning to track this down for ages. It was directed by Philip D'Antoni who produced both French Connections and Bullitt and it definitely fits in well alongside those films. Once again stunt co-ordinator Bill Hickman pulls off another lengthy seat-of-your-pants car chase that's worth the price of admission on its own. Scheider plays basically the same character as he did in French Connection, heading up a small group of cops who go after the biggest criminals out there (the one who will likely get sentenced to 7 years and up, hence the title). Anyway, things get complicated when a couple of conmen start kidnapping mafia bosses while posed as policemen and Scheider has to sort them all out. Great early performance from Richard Lynch (who sadly died this last year) as one of the disfigured con artists but the film really belongs to Scheider. No one does hard bitten, cynical cops like Scheider.

Favourite movie bought watched from the 1960s
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Shame on me, I haven't bought any films from the 60s this year (bar the Django ones that I've been covering recently). However I did finally get to see this long forgotten TV movie. I'd consider myself a moderate fan of the Beatles back catalogue and really enjoy the two films they did A Hard Day's Night and Help! This is a quite a different beast to those two films. Much more experimental and bizarre, like a long form music video. According to the documentary about it, that I also caught, much of it was improvised and it shows. Plot threads and skits start and then abruptly stop and the whole thing goes nowhere. Still as trippy psychedelic 60s films go you could do far worse. There's a great sense of humour and a lot of the surreal sketches feel very much like something out of Monty Python. It very rough around the edges but feels quite intimate because of that. Also, the soundtrack is, as expected, excellent.

Worst movie bought this year from any decade
Hellraiser Revelations (2011)
I'm not usually one for hyperbole, I try and see the best in any film that I watch, but 'Dear God' was this bad. I'm not even a super-fan of the series but this was a really tough slog to watch. Apparently the film was written, prepped and shot in a hurry and it really shows. It's more or less a remake of the original film but instead of Frank and Julia we have two teenagers Steven and Nico. I didn't really have a problem with this because the series had drifted pretty far from it origins so it made sense to get back to the original story. I even thought the idea of having two teens made an interesting change (after all who is more immoral than a teenager). But just everything sucked. The script, the acting, the sets, the lighting. I collect a lot of DVDs and rarely ever get read of them but this is one that is definitely going. There's no need to see it once let alone more than once.

Favourite movie-related TV series
Swamp Thing (1990-1993)
This was a complete blind buy and I'm so glad I got it. Yes, it a ridiculously formulaic and cheap show but it's so easy to watch. The 20 minute episode run-time means that it's like watching a show on fast forward. Dick Durrock is excellent as the title character and the make up, despite the rest of the show's budget, is actually quite effective. The plot lines are total cheese-fests but it's so earnest I can't help but like it. Right down to the Swamp Thing's hamfisted monologues at the end of every episode. Easily, my favourite bit is the fact that the first season ended on a cliffhanger with the lead character Jim, a ten year old boy, getting kidnapped. A decent beginning to a two part episode you might think, but the studio decided before the second season started that they wanted to get rid of Jim and put in an older teenager in his place. So they just never made a follow-up episode, the ten year old Jim never ever gets rescued. Hilarious.

Favourite movie related books
Seagalogy: The Asskicking Films of Steven Seagal by Vern
Vern is an absolute genius. His reviews seem quite simple at first. They meander all of the place, purposefully spelling words wrong and obsessing on the little details of movies. But it's all part of his plan and it makes them unique and genuinely hilarious. Treating the trashiest of movies like they were high art. I actually bought a lot of the crappy DTV Steven Seagal films he reviews in this but it's not essential, the reviews are plenty funny on their own even without the visual aids. The thing I like is that Vern always seems like he's only half joking and actually a lot of the points he picks up about Seagal seem genuinely true - such as insistence on never playing an active CIA agent, only ever a retired one. And his insistence on always having a scene in which the bad guys discuss Seagal's characters back story and how badass he is. Definitely pick this up, it will make you see On Deadly Ground in a whole new light.

Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted by Matt Yamashita and Chrissy Delk
Well, it seems like Bill Murray is never going to agree to do another Ghostbusters movie so it looks like the comics are probably the closest thing we'll come to seeing anymore of Ray, Egon, Peter and Winston. This was a bit of strange beast. It's not a translation of a Japanese comic but an original American venture, drawn in the Manga style. You get six stories about the gang that sort of link together. The writing and art actually aren't that bad. It's not quite the razor sharp wit of Akyroyd et al but it's not far off. The first story, about a haunted broadway show, is easily the best of the bunch. If you're a fan of the cartoon you might be interested in checking it out. Sadly, Tokyopop closed a few years ago so I don't think we'll get a follow-up to this but IDW picked up the franchise a few year back and have made a few graphic novels that I'll try to get on to soon.

Crystal Lake Memories by Peter M Bracke
Got this for Kindle because it was a little cheaper than the paperback. It's an absolutely enormous book of interviews with everyone involved in the franchise from Kevin Bacon to Kane Hodder. It's great to read through some of the stories but I think it would have been nice if they were cut down a bit. There's a fair bit of repetition here and there and some interviewees are more interesting than others. Still if you're a fan of series you really should get this. I particularly enjoyed the early stuff about how Sean Cunningham worked on loads of cheap pictures (some borderline pornos) in order to make a living. And how the first film got announced and advertised before they even had a script! Still only halfway through it at the moment, it's that big!

Movie collections I've completed this year
All George Romero's Zombie films - Night, Dawn, Day, Land, Diary & Survival
All Kevin Smith's films
Crackerjack 1-3
Feast 1-3
Friday the 13th 1-11
Hellraiser 1-9
The Hitcher 1-2
Midnight Run 1-4
Ong Bak 1-3
Resident Evil 1-4
Saw 1-7
Taxi 1-4

Most embarrassing movie I've never seen until this year
Red Dawn (1984)
How the hell did it take me so long to check this film out? I've had this sitting on a pile of DVDs for ages but I only just got off my ass and put it in the player a few weeks back when I heard the remake was coming it. Holy sh*t, this was tons of fun. Yes, it's a Republican's wet dream and as a dripping liberal I should be opposed it but it was so engrossing. I love how there was no hint of irony or humour. This was deadly serious, the Russians have invaded and they are killing American kids on American soil. I love how director John Milius gives you no time to get your bearings. Within the first two minutes the kids are in school and Russians are parachuting down in the distance. Also, Basil Poledouris' score is utterly brilliant. I don't know how I got to 29 without witnessing Harry Dean Stanton yell "Avenge Meeeeeee!"*

* I'd like to think it's this line that got Stanton the cameo role in The Avengers.