I came across this awesome piece of art today and thought I had to share for the Twin Peaks or David Lynch fans out there. I must admit, that is one gnarly print!!
Here are the details via Welcome to Twin Peaks :
|Never Too Young To Die Japan VHS Cover courtesy of robotGEEKSCultCinema.blogspot.com|
I must admit, I'm a bit over the moon right now. I think I'm still in shock that I was actually able to get this in my hands after so many years. Here's my story, if you care to know.
This immediately became one of my all-time favorite films ever the second I was done watching this. Of course I had seen it upon it's first release in '86 on VHS, but hey, I was but a young lad and except for the fact that it starred Gene Simmons in drag and the sex scene between Vanity and John Stamos (which my mother made me close my eyes during!), I really didn't remember anything about it. Then I decided to check it out a few years back and to my surprise, this ended up being one of the biggest "WTF?!" films I'd ever seen. I mean, seriously. So much of this ridiculous film makes no sense! But it's so much fun! You can check out my original review HERE.
A few months after that re-acquaintance, I came upon an online shop that sold rare hard to find Japanese VHS tapes. I had purchased one of these tapes on eBay, and when I received my order it included a card to this shop from the same seller. So as I browsed this guy's selection on his official site, BOOM! There is baby was and it was cheap! I almost shit myself. I never knew this existed in the Japanese VHS market. Suffice it to say, it was an immediate impulse buy, a no fuckin' brainer. Then, a few days after my payment, I get a refund email with a note saying that unfortunately while the site listed this as for sale, they couldn't find the actual item in their inventory. It was like a punch to the gut. So naturally ever since then I've been on the lookout for one, to no avail.
Flash-forward to about a month ago and through the powers of the universe, I met a Japanese seller online who asked me to send him a list of movies I'm looking for. Out of that list, this was the only one he could find, but that's more than fine by me! Some negotiating back and forth and I have this beauty in my hands and I couldn't be happier. As much as I've been wanting this, the price he initially threw at me was just insane. I think with the current VHS explosion a good half of the sellers from all over the world just assume we will pay anything for these tapes, and that's just not the case. We know what they are worth and won't be suckered into paying ridiculous sums of money for a tape that in reality, not a lot of other people would want. And that's what I told the guy; that it was great he found one, and that I did in fact want it, but I know it's not worth what he wanted and I can guarantee nobody else would pay that price either.
So there you have it! I've got my Never Too Young To Die Japanese VHS Tape and the world is alright again.
Directed by: Quentin Dupieux
If you've read my review of Rubber, director Quentin Dupieux's previous film from 2010, then you will pretty much know how I feel about this new film. Instinctively, I feel about the same way. I'm finding these films by Dupieux to be extremely frustrating, because whether you like them or not, you can't deny the talent involved; yet at the same time, they're never as good as they should or could be. With both Rubber and Wrong, you can see he possesses an undeniable talent behind the camera; quite frankly both of these films look amazing. But it's with their level of absurdity that seems to get under most peoples skin, including mine. I'm all for ridiculous and absurd films, in fact I love them when they're "ridiculous and absurd" films. Dupieux's films however try so damn hard to convince you that while they are in fact absurd, they are also clever, and for me, that's the most annoying part of his films. They could very well be good in their own right, weird-yes, but decent little films. Yet he keeps throwing in your face that things don't have to make sense and things don't have to be explained. Weird shit just happens so we should just accept it. That's all fine and dandy, except the weird shit that he has happening in his films are not based in reality. Sure odd and strange things happen all the time, but the unexplainable things that go on in his films are so absurd that rather than go the David Lynch road - where things are weird, surreal and strange yet after careful analysis, answers and/or a hypothesis is often produced - he decides to just go full on "I'm smarter than you are and so I don't care if you understand my films or not".
Much like Rubber, Wrong isn't a total loss though. It looks great for one. Quentin Dupieux is an extremely talented visual filmmaker. With Rubber he gave it a darker exploitation type of look, yet sleek and incredibly inventive. With Wrong he gives this film an extremely professional and polished look, yet sustaining a lot of his trademark style. It's cleaner and it works effectively well for this type of story. The cast is pretty spot on also, with William Fichtner obviously stealing the show. It's sad that his part isn't bigger though. His character is often talked about throughout the entire film, yet you only actually see him in a handful of scenes. And it's with these scenes where Wrong really comes alive. It's moody, hip, atmospheric score also set's the tone rather well.
So right there, you've got 3 things that work in it's favor. But it's really it's "What the hell am I watching?" vibe that is it's ultimate downfall. This is an extremely slow film. Billed as a dark comedy, it's just not. Actually, I wouldn't know what to call this. A surreal drama? It's not funny that's for sure. Even the absurd elements just kind of leave you confused and scratching your head more than making you laugh or even crack a smile. And you know, I can enjoy a slow moody film any day of the week. In fact, as the trailer makes this out to be a surreal trip, I actually found a good chunk of this film fairly cohesive. Yes it was slow and odd, but you could tell what was going on. That is until the very last act, when you're sitting there and the only thing running through your head is "Uuuummmm......what?".
The bottom line is that while I can dig these kinds of films from time to time, this one felt like a missed opportunity. While it looks great, it's too slow and dull to keep you interested. At least in Rubber, you have a fucking tire rolling around killing people. Here the main character is looking for his lost dog and in the process, encounters a random array of unusual characters. But nothing ever really happens, except for the constant head scratching when you're trying to figure out what it is you're supposed to be watching, because it's certainly not funny, not even in a subtle way. Sadly, the best part of this film is the trailer, which looks a helluva lot better than the film ends up being.
Directed by: Franck Khalfoun
I'll be honest, I'm a little torn with this one. Maniac (2012) has just as many good qualities as it does bad, so trying to find the right balance in how I ultimately feel about it will be a hard one to pin down. That's a hard thing to admit to considering how excited I was to see this. And this is coming from someone who generally loathes remakes. But I figured with Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha 3D) both penning and producing and original Maniac director William Lustig on board also as a producer, it couldn't be horrible right?
Hhmmm, I still don't know. On one hand I like that instead of doing a full blown remake of the original classic, they tried something different with the "first person POV" angle, which 99% of the film being shot that way. Don't worry though, it's not shaky-cam bullshit......it actually looks pretty decent, only ever really seeing Frank in reflections or in mirrors; a very tricky and cool technique and one that they pull off really well for the most part. They also infuse the film with a really stellar 80's synth infused score, reminiscent of Drive and the second half of You're Next. The effects work is also done really well, but none of it really stands out the way some scenes do from Lustig's original film, with Tom Savini on makeup duties on that one. Yea there are some scalpings, and a cool scene involving a butcher's knife, but I don't really recall any particular scenes that knocked my socks off. And lastly, I gotta give major props to Elijah Wood for turning out a pretty chilling performance. I'm not saying he made the film or anything, but as much as I was opposed to seeing him take over the role that Joe Spinell embodies so perfectly as a man struggling with childhood abuse issues and taking out his anger towards women, I felt Wood did a damn fine job, if you can wrap your brain around the fact that he was a hobbit for so long. It's a different take on the character obviously since they look so drastically different, but as a psycho with mommy issues, Wood will surprise a lot of people. Or maybe he won't. To each their own.
On the other hand though, did we really need a Maniac remake? I dug how director Franck Khalfoun took a different approach by shooting "first-person point of view", but it didn't always work. Mainly because as you're seeing the film through Frank's (Elijah Wood) eyes, you pretty much know what the fuck is going to happen right before it happens. There's really no mystery involved. He hates women because his mother was a whore, so he kills them whenever he can. But placing the viewer through the killer's eyes takes away any sense of tension. You know he's about to kill someone before he even does it. And going back to a comment I made earlier, while the effects work was good, there wasn't any kind of "wow" factor....nothing that stood out. For example, remember that scene in the William Lustig's original Maniac where Tom Savini is in a car trying to get it on with a babe when all of a sudden Frank shows up with a shotgun out of nowhere and blows his head off through the windshield? Was that really necessary or integral at all to the story? No, but it looked fuckin' awesome! And we still talk about it to this day because it was so unexpected and brutal. There's none of that here.
Director Franck Khalfoun also took some liberties with the POV shots. Every so often he would actually pull the camera away so you could see what Frank was doing to a victim. It's not a big deal, but when the film is supposed to be seen through the killer's eyes, it's an odd artistic choice considering 99% of the film is shot POV. This is also where some of my issues also lie. For the first act of the film this look is sleek and inventive, but halfway through begins to get tedious and uninteresting. It's hard to make a film look stylish when it looks like you're playing a game of Doom or Call of Duty.
All in all a bit of a letdown for me, which is a shame because I really wanted to like it considering the talent involved behind the scenes and all promotional artwork for this has been pretty stellar. While I will probably never see this again, I will be picking up the amazing soundtrack by Rob immediately. It's that good.
Directed by: Christophe Gans
This was a film that blew me away the first time I saw it. So much so that as soon as I did, I went out and bought myself a copy. At the time, I remember it being one of the best films I'd seen in a long while and such a breath of fresh air. A unique story blending history, action, horror, martial arts and mysticism all set to an 18th Century French setting.
It had been a while since I'd seen this, so I decided to throw it on again and wow, what a difference a second viewing made for me. While I still think it's a great film, I found myself utterly bored for long stretches of time and wondering why the filmmakers felt the need to make this as long as it was. 30 minutes could easily have been cut from this without affecting anything important and it would have flowed so much better and faster. Instead of focusing primarily on the hunt for the strange beast that has been killing hundreds of people in a small town in France......and the reason why these two main characters are even there to begin with, the story goes into so many other subplots that half the time you forget what the movie is supposed to be about. Subplots, I might add, that are just insanely dull. It's not until the last act that things finally get back on track and you're finally treated to the film that you had initially thought you were going to see. But by this time, it's already too late for some people.
Don't get me wrong, overall it's a great film that has incredible production value and the mish mash of genre's works effectively well. Director Christophe Gans can shoot the hell out of anything, which surprises me that he hasn't made more films. In fact, he hasn't directed a film since 2006's Silent Hill. I still haven't seen Crying Freeman though, but I'm dying to. I've heard good things. But the work he does here is utterly impressive. A lot of times these types of period films can look dull, but Gans gives it a gothic flavor, almost delving into del Toro territory. Sleek and stylish, with a gothic/horror sensibility.
I'm always surprised when someone tells me they haven't seen this yet. It's such a unique take on the period film and I would have thought it would or "should" have a bigger audience. Despite my gripe about the subplots, a lot of this film works exceedingly well. It's got a great international cast with some notable names like Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci. But the real surprise is of course Mark Dacascos as the Native American companion Mani. Hey, he's Mark Dacascos, so even though it's a period piece set in France and he's a Native American Indian, you know he's gonna throw down some martial arts skills, which he does.......and it's awesome.
The effects work as well as Gans impressive and often times stunning visuals make this a pretty badass film in it's own right. They just should have cut a good half hour out of this thing, it would have made it flow so much better and you wouldn't have forgotten that you're supposed to be watching a movie about 2 hunters who are after a mysterious beast roaming the country side killing hundreds of people. That's what we want to see, not the various subplots on political jargon, romantic escapades and witchery. Yet, minor diversions aside, it's a quality film with a lot to offer.
Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
It's safe to say I have never seen anything like Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain. Only being vaguely familiar with his brand of films, and only having ever seen El Topo many years ago, The Holy Mountain is a tour de force of images and sequences that will leave you in awe of his masterful ability to conjure images that can both shock you, disturb you, and leave you breathless.
I knew I was in for a surreal vision from someone who has been deemed the David Lynch of his era, but I was not prepared for the onslaught of artistic brilliance thrown at the screen from all directions in this sometimes overbearing 1973 visionary experience. As I watched this, I could not imagine the amount of time it took to construct these massive sets, to set up some of these ingenious shots, and to come up with the plethora of surreal images the leave you stunned, impressed and confused all at the same time. With El Topo being my only other Jodorowsky experience, that film is much smaller in scale compared to this sprawling epic.
The scandal of the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky's flood of sacrilegious imagery and existential symbolism is a spiritual quest for enlightenment pitting illusion against truth. The Alchemist (Jodorowsky) assembles together a group of people from all walks of life to represent the planets in the solar system. The occult adept's intention is to put his recruits through strange mystical rites and divest them of their wordly baggage before embarking on a trip to Lotus Island. There they ascend the Holy Mountain to displace the immortal gods who secretly rule the universe.
I'm not a religious person, but it helps if you are to understand what's going on here. I myself was lost for most of it, with my movie partner having to fill me in on all the religious and sacrilegious imagery and the meaning behind them (she's a nut for this kind of stuff). Personally, being as I didn't understand a lot of it, I couldn't really be offended. Yet I can see how it can and did do just that upon it's original release, resulting in it being banned for so long. But for me, it was the visual artistry that had me hooked immediately beginning with it's opening shot. Each shot and each sequence is so meticulously put together and planned out and flawlessly executed that it's quite frankly hard not to be impressed.
Not told in any normal type of narrative, you have to really be submerged in this type of film to be able to sit through it, and I'll admit, if you don't have an open mind, it will be a tough sit for some with it's crude depiction of sex and violence interwoven with surreal religious imagery, along with the occasional depiction of animal violence. The animal violence was really the only issue for me. I can't stomach that stuff.
This film has an equally fascinating history from concept to production. I won't bore you with all that backstory though. As much as I find that stuff fascinating, I know a lot of others don't. If you are interested in reading up more on the making of this film, and some insight into how it was ultimately made, released and the reason why it wasn't available for 30 years, definitely check out Alejandro Jodorowsky's Wikipedia page, which you can find HERE. If you're into this kind of stuff, it's a fun and insightful read.
After making this film, Jodorwosky was in talks and preparing to make Dune, with Pink Floyd supplying the score, H.R. Giger on character design and Salvador Dali and Orson Welles for the cast. My feeble little mind just can't comprehend how badass this film could have been with Jodoowsky's unique vision behind it. EPIC is the only word that comes to mind. There is documentary by director Frank Pavich titled Jodorowsky's Dune that's been hitting the festival circuits and should be making it's way to the home video market soon. I've heard good things and I personally can't wait to check that out.
Not for the faint of heart, but a fascinating journey if you're willing to take it. At times disturbing, weird, surreal and beautiful, Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain will leave an impression you won't soon forget. Not so much a film, but an experience.
The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation
Directed by: Mark Hartley
Written and directed by Mark Hartley, who gave us the incredible and fun as hell documentary on Filipino Jungle filmmaking Machete Maidens Unleashed, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining documentaries I've seen in years. In fact, it may very well be one of my favorites. It's that fuckin' good.
Not Quite Hollywood centers around the Ozploitation genre of films that came out in the 70's and 80's. And I'm talking "all" kinds of films; horror, drama, post apocalyptic, thrillers, sex comedies, KUNG FU (!!), you name it. As much as I love cinema and these particular types of films, I was unaware that so many of them fall under this category or that most of them even hailed from Australia. Not to mention I haven't even heard of half the films showcased in here! Films, I might add, that look just simply amazing whether in the "surreal/psychedelic" or "so bad it's good" or "WTF?!" categories respectively. One of the best things about watching this exhaustively entertaining documentary is that you'll be taking notes and making a list of all these films so that you can hunt them down. I've already compiled mine, and I know you'll be doing the same.
Directed by: Mark Christopher Covino, Jeff Howlett
Another great in the documentary category, this one from Drafthouse Films tells the story of 3 teenage brothers from Chicago who formed a band in 1973 called Death. This was before punk even existed, yet these guys were making it, albeit for a very brief period in time before the pressures of constant rejection forced them to disband and seek out other projects, never knowing their first band when they were teenagers would be considered groundbreaking decades later. This incredibly satisfying documentary, which is currently streaming on Netflix, follows the story of when they were first conceived as a rock n' roll band (not realizing they were in fact punk) in their house to the struggles of trying to make a name for themselves, to disbanding and seeking out other projects, making families and ultimately forgetting they were at the forefront of the punk movement. That is until they learn that almost 35 years later their music is being circulated underground and they've amassed a huge cult following and the respect they never received back when they were tying to do something different. This is their story. This is the story of a band called Death.
Directed by: Eric Red
By now, you surely have heard of Eric Red. If you haven't, then that's something that needs to be rectified immediately. For starters, he's the guy who wrote the original The Hitcher, an all-time favorite of mine. He's carved out a distinctive career mainly as a screenwriter with some pretty great genre films like Near Dark, Blue Steel, Bad Moon and The Hitcher under his belt. He's also responsible for the Cult Classic Cohen & Tate, which I have yet to see. Hard to believe it's taken me this long to finally sit down to watch this one though.
Body Parts has an interesting premise. Jeff Fahey plays a criminal psychologist who loses an arm in an automobile accident. A doctor has come up with a new revolutionary procedure where she transplants body parts, in this case an arm, from a donor. After a series of freaky events Bill (Jeff Fahey), begins to wonder if it has anything to do with the arm he's just received. After some digging he discovers that it belonged to a serial killer and he begins to wonder if the soul of someone is also transplanted with these operations as he seems to be experiencing the thoughts and emotions of this former killer. Meanwhile patients of this radical new procedure start turning up dead with their newly implanted body parts missing. Is this somehow connected?
So we've basically got a sort of Frankenstein premise going on here, but more in line with a psychological thriller/horror film. An interesting concept and a very unique one, one that I found fascinating, made all the better having been made in the early 90's, giving it that specific look and feel. But at the same time it can also be a difficult idea to tackle. You can certainly go in different directions and different genre's with this premise. So how does Body Parts fare?
Body Parts mostly works. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Eric Red again delivers a genre film that entertains from beginning to end, relying mostly on it's constant sense of dread. Much like in all his films, there's always a feeling like something bad is about to happen at any given moment. The Hitcher is a prime example of this. Yet, as much as I enjoyed this film, it felt like it could have been better somehow. For a film of this type, it feels surprisingly small scale. However, Red is able to make a film look good and for these types of films, that can go a long way. But it's also Fahey's standout performance that draws you in and keeps you hooked. The guy delivers the goods here as a man who starts off as your typical family man and then suddenly begins to slowly morph into something else mentally. I'm always surprised when I see films like this and wonder why his career never got any bigger than it did. For a lot of scenes in the second half of this film, he more than proves he's got the intensity.
I think a lot of people didn't really take to this film or it's concept, which shows in it's poor box office results. I'll be honest, I didn't really take any interest in seeing this one myself back then. I think the 90's turned a lot of people off to horror. The 80's were where it was at. The 90's just seemed to be a letdown in terms of original output, but that's not to say some certainly tried. Though not a hit when it was originally released, time has certainly been kind to this film in general. And why not? It's got a lot of things going for it. First of all, the film looks slick. Not sure why Eric Red didn't take the directors chair more often, but the guy's got a natural talent behind the camera. Not being overly stylized, yet maintaining a constant slick 90's look to it, Red infuses the film with some really top notch standout sequences. For one, the car accident in which Fahey's character is involved in is just plain brutal and amazingly shot. There's also a kick ass car chase midway through the film that was just about as expertly choreographed and executed as could possibly be. But it's a scene at the very end of that sequence that just kind of made the film for me. You'll know which one I'm talking about when you see it. It's literally the highlight of the film for me. If the whole film had sucked, yet still had that one badass scene, I think I would gave still liked it. That's what 90's Cinema was all about.
Warning: Minor Spoilers!
So Body Parts has some other killer scenes and sequences, as well as a pretty eclectic supporting cast with faces and names you'll most certainly recognize from other films and television shows, most notably Brad Dourif (This guy's in everything!). It's got a unique and semi-surreal score, which I liked quite a bit, a constant eerie sense of dread and something else I forgot to mention, some badass practical effects and makeup work. Yet somehow it feels slightly off. I think some of the promotion of the film led you to believe that Bill is having trouble becoming accustomed to both his new body part and the thoughts, delusions and feeling that came with it, causing him to act out and becoming almost uncontrollable. Yes, that's part of the story, but it's only a very little part of it. Most of it deals with Bill's becoming acclimated to this new foreign body part and the things that start happening seemingly because of it, but the entire second half of the film takes on a different storyline and it's with this one where Body Parts really shines. You see, someone is out killing all the transplant recipients and stealing back the body parts. Very cool idea indeed and effects-wise, pretty gory and fun. So I feel the marketing was a bit off. I mean, it didn't ruin the overall experience, but I can see how some might have gotten the wrong idea going in thinking it was going to be about some guy who starts going crazy after receiving this new limb. For sure, that would be a badass film in it's own right, but at it's heart, that's not what Body Parts is about. It's almost like two stories that shift at the halfway mark. But oddly enough, it's the slightly different first half that sort of warms you up for the killer second. It's slower, yes, but it doesn't mean it's any less entertaining. It's a slower buildup than what I was expecting, but it's only to knock your socks off with the second half, which it does, gleefully. And at running only 1 hour and 20 minutes, it's a shorter film than I'm used to, but it's as short and as long as it needs to be.
Great look, great effects, great performance from Jeff Fahey, along with some really standout sequences make this one you should definitely seek out.
|Poster courtesy of JapanMoviePosters.blogspot.com|
Directed by: David Lynch
Category: Psychological Thriller
Up until this point, I considered myself a "casual" David Lynch fan, never really being a big fan growing up. Especially not after the mindfuck that was Eraserhead. I have friends who are obsessed with his work, but I never was. I found his style of "weird" too much for my taste. That is until Twin Peaks came out, one of my favorite shows at the time. Even so, I never grew an appreciation for his brand of filmmaking until recently, when I was encouraged to watch Mulholland Dr., a film I already knew was initially intended to be a television series and then re-edited with more footage shot to make the film. It just didn't seem like anything I'd personally want to invest any time in. But boy was I wrong. In fact, I fucking loved it. To this day I would consider Mulholland Dr. my favorite Lynch experience. While not a perfect film, it's beautifully made and wonderfully surreal and odd. And yes, also confusing....naturally. But I can certainly now add Lost Highway to my list of favorite David Lynch films. Absolutely.
Confusing would be an understatement in trying to describe Lost Highway. It's probably one of Lynch's most profoundly confusing and surreal works to date. Hell, when the cast who actually acted in the damn thing can't tell you what it's about, then it's safe to say the general movie-going public is going to be completely lost, as was I for a good half of the film. It's funny, because for the first half, you pretty much get what's going on. It's pretty straightforward in terms of story progression, yet not without plenty of Lynch quirks and oddball characters and completely random and unexplained bits of weird. But hey, that's why we love the guy! So it's flowing pretty naturally (as naturally as a Lynch film can), until you have the rug pulled out from under you smack in the middle of the film and you're completely taken in a different direction with no rhyme or reason or explanation and you are now pretty much watching an entirely different film, with different characters and a different storyline. That is until slowly, but surely, these two seemingly different storylines begin to converge.
Of course, even when it's over, nothing is laid out all nice and neat for you. It just wouldn't be a David Lynch film that way. Instead you're left pretty dumbfounded and more accurately "lost"; much like I was when I finished Mulholland Dr. But I enjoy these kinds of films, because they bring up some incredible discussions among your friends when trying to decipher what it all means. Expectedly, Lynch does this on purpose. Even Rob Zombie has adopted this approach recently with his Lords of Salem. He stated in an interview "Why does every fucking thing need to be explained?". Good point my man. I dig that approach from time to time. I enjoy being able to sit down and discuss and dissect what it was and what it all meant. Stanley Kubrick did that with 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Richard Kelly with Donnie Darko. Even to this day, I doubt anybody undoubtedly knows what that ending meant in Kubrick's 2001, not even Arthur C. Clarke, who has repeatedly stated so in interviews. The beauty of these types of films, and David Lynch films in general, is that they are open to multiple interpretations; no two are alike. You are forced to think.
Recently, the more I find myself exploring Lynch's filmography, I find myself enjoying them. Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, Mulholland Dr., Lost Highway, all great films in their own right. Sure he doesn't always deliver (Inland Empire?), but when he's firing on all cylinders, Lynch delivers something wholly and truly unique the only way he can. Nobody makes films the way he does, and that's what I respect most about him. He's one of my generations most gifted, daring and original filmmakers.
So before I go into a Spoiler Heavy dissection of what I think Lost Highway means, in case it wasn't necessarily made clear by now, I really enjoyed this film. David Lynch has crafted a stylish, surreal film noir that while not quite as enjoyable as Mulholland Dr., still comes pretty damn close. It's a bold and accomplished vision from someone who doesn't cater to the masses. Someone who's made a reputation out of making "weird" films.
SPOILERS!! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS YET!!:
So here's my attempt at trying to understand Lost Highway based off of a discussion I had with my girlfriend that followed immediately after. She could just see the confusion on my face for those last 30 minutes, so she was ready for a good discussion.
Basic plot is as follows:
Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is a hip saxophone player living a very posh life in a very dull and unhappy marriage. He seems to be going through the motions until he randomly meets a mysterious stranger at a party dressed in black (Robert Blake), where a series of odd events begin to unfold that ultimately leads to him discovering his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) murdered in their bed. Blamed for her murder he is sent to prison and it is here where the film takes a complete shift at the halfway point and practically becomes another film altogether. On a daily check up on the prisoners, one of the guards notices that there is someone else in Fred's cell. Fred is gone, and we then see the story of Pete (Balthazar Getty), a young mechanic who wakes up in this prison cell and doesn't know how he got there or where he's been for the last few days. In this storyline we follow Pete as he works his job as a mechanic, does some side work for mob boss Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), and has an affair with Mr. Eddy's girl Alice (Patricia Arquette again), who ultimately seduces Pete into committing a murder.
Here's our interpretation, with a LOT of input coming from my my partner Kat. When Fred (Bill Pullman) is sent to prison for the murder of his wife (which he's committed but doesn't remember), he decides to create a fantasy world and live out the remainder of his last days as someone else entirely in his head. This is all based on comments he made earlier in the film. This is one of those films where it's important to pay attention and to catch everything that's said. Everything has a meaning and whether it makes sense or not, comes into play later in the film. So from the moment he's put into his cell he has a mental breakdown and from that point on we are seeing a story that is playing out in his head in his final days. A life much more exciting than his reality. And this is where the tonal shift happens because it sort of becomes more of a pulp/film noir kind of film. Sounds odd, but it works amazingly well. So here we have a good looking young guy who falls for the mob boss's girl, and ultimately gets seduced into doing something incredibly stupid with dire consequences. Sounds like your typical film noir from the 50's right? And it certainly plays out like one, yet with plenty of oddities to boot. This is where things get really confusing. You wonder if Renee is pretending to be Alice, or vice versa. You wonder if Pete is imagining some of this, or if the Mystery Man (Robert Blake) even exists. At the end of the film Fred (Pete has transformed back to Fred at this point with no explanation) is on the run leading a trail of cops in a police chase where he all of a sudden begins another sort of transformation where it looks like he's being electrocuted when the film suddenly ends. My theory is that is the moment Fred is being fried in the electric chair, thus ending his fantasy adventure and the film.
Of course there are lots of unanswered questions, lots of things that don't add up and things that still don't make sense, but I feel confident in this theory, which most of comes from my girlfriend. Of course, there are lots of other theories I've read online, but I find this one the most plausible. In my opinion, the Mystery Man didn't exist. He was more of a scapegoat for Fred's actions. The first time he appeared was the first moment Fred began to crack and unravel believing his wife was having an affair and just being in an unrelentingly dull marriage and existence. In the very beginning of the film a completely random and inexplicable thing happens. Early one morning Fred hears the buzzer of his callbox at his door. When he answers it from another room inside his home, a stranger's voice speaking into the box outside his front door says "Dick Laurent is dead". When Fred goes out to investigate, there's nobody there. Confused, he ponders this for a while. My feelings are that this was someone at the wrong address delivering a message. But it set's into motion a story in his head about a mob boss named Dick Laurent and your typical run-of-the-mill-don't-sleep-with-the-bosses-wife type of crime story that plays out as an alternate reality the moment he realizes his life is over after he's finally understood that he murdered his wife and will be sent to the electric chair.
In closing I'll say that of course, David Lynch's brand of films aren't for everyone. I didn't particularly enjoy them myself until recently. But I've learned to appreciate his unique and original voice in an industry filled with copycats and talentless hacks. The more the film industry keeps going in the direction it's headed, the more I seek out film's from 10, 20 and 30 years ago and the filmmakers who made them. That was the way to make a film.
Directed by: Don Mancini
I think we can all agree that after Part 3, the series got incredibly ridiculous; almost like a caricature of itself. But at the same time I think it shows a lot of balls on Mancini's part to embrace that ridiculous vibe and just go with it. I'll admit though, for all it's lunacy and comedy, a far cry from the first Child's Play, Bride of Chucky was pretty fun. But then after that it just got more and more silly and they lost me.
Well it seems Child's Play creator Don Mancini, who's written every Child's Play film to date, decided to get back to basics with the franchise and really go back to full on horror, because let's face it, the last few just weren't scary anymore.
Curse of Chucky was a nice return to form for the Child's Play franchise for me. It was slow, dark and most importantly, they got rid of all the "silly". CoC also boasts an impressive number of things that actually make it good. Immediately, one of the first things I noticed was it's impressive and dark score. Hey, when a score can stand out these days, much less a DTV flick, they're obviously doing something right. And it also looks like Mancini did his homework on this one, where he returns to the director's chair after having only ever directed Seed of Chucky. He's made a small scale yet stylish little horror film, and the thing looks good. You'd never know he's only ever directed one other film, especially when you consider 95% of the film takes place in one house. I'm sure you can imagine how difficult it is to try and make one house look interesting for an hour and a half, but he manages to do just that.
But CoC is not without it's problems. While I dug the whole moody and slow buildup vibe, for the first hour, it was almost too slow. I'm all for a slow intense buildup, but once I passed the halfway mark I was wondering when the heck things were going to finally start happening. By my estimation, that was at 1 hour. But it's not really all that bad. The performances, style, score, and just the overall vibe of this new installment all just gels so well together that it's surely enjoyable.
Another thing I had an issue with was the use of CGI. From what I understand, this is the first time using CGI for Chucky in any of these films. Granted, it's not for every scene, mainly for the closeups, but it just didn't look very good. Actually, from one scene to the next, it looked like a completely different doll. In fact, whenever they implored the CGI for the closeups, Chucky looked like a girl. But thankfully, it was mainly used for closeup shots. I just wish they hadn't have used them period. It's so noticeable and when they try to get Chucky to make an evil face, he comes off looking goofy and silly, not the least bit scary. You have to remember, this is also on top of the already redesigned Chucky doll. Even in practical form, he looks noticeably different. And I'm not sure how or why, but in the last 30 minutes of the film it looks like a completely different version of the doll. Different hair, different face, everything. But hey, it's Chucky. "You" know it's fucking Chucky and that's all that matters right? Maybe I'm just nitpicking? Does it take away from the experience? Not at all. It's just unnecessary, so Fugedaboudit!
The events of this film make no mention of the events of the last few films, instead being more of a direct sequel to Child's Play 3. So I'm a little stumped at why writer/director/creator Don Mancini decided to call this one Curse of Chucky instead of Child's Play 4 or something, because right off the bat, you're expecting something along the lines of Seed or Bride of Chucky with a title like that.
Alright, alright, enough of the nitpicking. I have to give credit to the pretty outstanding casting here. Not only does the one and only Brad Dourif return to voice the little guy, but his daughter actually stars in this thing as a wheelchair bound shut-in who's pretty much shut herself off from society and holed herself up in this big house with her overbearing alcoholic mother until they receive a mysterious package containing DUN..DUN...DUN....a Chucky doll. Naturally, this is where the shit hits the fan and events are set into motion. And was it just me, or was the one male lead a dead ringer for Mark Ruffalo?
What surprised me a little was the very sparse use of gore. Sure there are some pretty cool and inventive kills, as with any Child's Play film, but it wasn't nearly as gory as I was expecting it to be. However, there are a few sequences of gory bloody delight and man are they pretty brutal. So when the scene calls for it, the effects work is pretty damn awesome.
Overall a solid film and a nice detour from the things we've come to expect from a Child's Play film for a little over a decade now. It's surprisingly slow first half might throw some people off, but stick with it because the second half delivers the goods. I for one am happy to see the franchise embrace it's roots again.
Directed by: Tommy Wiseau
Every so often a movie comes around that words alone cannot describe. I've been hearing about this film for quite some time, and decided it was about time to see what all the fuss was about. Let me begin by saying we were not prepared for what was about to unfold before our eyes. The experience. It's all about the experience.
Deemed one of the worst films ever made, and even described as "The Citizen Kane of bad movies", writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau's The Room will leave you scratching your head repeatedly at the amount of completely random and inexplicable things that happen, don't happen, and well everything in between.
At it's heart, The Room is "supposed" to be a "drama" about a "good man" named Johnny, who is in love with a woman named Lisa, who decides she's bored and starts causing trouble by making shit up about Johnny and cheating on Johnny with his best friend. Yet, you'll barely remember the story, as cliche as it is, because what sets The Room apart from any of the other hundred or so Lifetime movies with the same premise is Tommy Wiseau's complete lack of ability to put a movie together, follow a cohesive storyline, adhere to any sense of logic, or even understand the most basic and fundamental elements of filmmaking.
But it's all those things that make this film such an amazing experience. What can you say about a film that has about 5 sex scenes in the first act of the film? Aaaaand, they just recycle one of them and show it again as another sequence. Hilarious. And why does it look like Wiseau is fucking Lisa's navel? Or why is there a picture of a spoon in a picture frame? Or what's with the constant and odd use of a football at completely random moments. There's a sequence where Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) and gang are all in tuxedo's in an alley waiting for something and for some reason, they decide to toss around a football. The reason for them being in tuxedos and in an alley are never explained, much less the reason for the football tossing. And why does Johnny's best friend Mark sport a beard for half the film, and then inexplicably doesn't for the second half, with no explanation? Why did he choose to shoot the rooftop sequences using a green screen? What's with Johnny's constant laughing? Why did Tommy Wiseau dub his own lines of dialogue with his own voice? I mean, honestly, that's just the tip of the iceberg with all the "WTF?" questions.
I should also mention that you should prepare yourself for the one-liners you'll be spouting off repeatedly. It's been 2 weeks since we've seen this, and we haven't stopped quoting this thing at any available opportunity. It's priceless.
You could rent this thing on Netlfix, but in all honesty, you should just buy it, because it will be a film you will show all of your friends and begs for repeat viewings. What's funny is that there's nothing new to offer in this genre with The Room. The story is as basic and cliche as you could possibly imagine. No, with The Room it's all about the hilarious and confusing lines of dialogue that are spoken so seriously by the cast. Lines that often times make no sense or are so absurd that you just can't help but laugh, made all the more enjoyable by Tommy Wiseau's atrocious acting.
If you feel up to it, I suggest doing some research in the making of this film, which you can find a good chunk of on Wikipedia. It's just as fascinating and hilarious as the film itself. Also, the guy who played Johnny's best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), who is also writer/director Tommy Wiseau's friend in real life, wrote a book about his experience making this certified Cult Classic called The Disaster Artist: My life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, which you can purchase at Amazon by clicking the link. You can bet your ass I will!
I think I'm just gonna stop right there. I don't want to spoil it too much for you. Rest assured, if you give The Room a try, you will be handsomely rewarded. Gather some friends, invest in some good alcohol and let the magic happen.
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Category: Badass Cinema
Do you remember the very first time you saw that fake badass trailer for Machete when you first saw Grindhouse? Oh I did. In fact, to most people, those fake trailers by the likes of Eli Roth, Rodriguez and Rob Zombie among others were the definite highlight of the entire Grindhouse experience. But it was really Machete that stood out. Who can forget that shot of Machete flying through the air on a motorcycle with an explosion going off in the background and while a huge cannon is firing off endless rounds mounted on his handlebars. Fuck yea! We hoped and salivated at the thought that Rodriguez may some day actually deliver on the promise of those few seconds of badass. Then came the word that Rodriguez and company were finally going to make that dream a reality and we nearly lost our shit.
Three years after the debut of that fake trailer Machete premiers and while it didn't necessarily deliver 100% on the promise of that sweet trailer, it was a helluva lot of fun. We saw the potential. We saw the dedication and we saw the passion that went into bringing this truly unique character to the big screen. We also saw what we hoped would be the birth of a new franchise starring one of cinema's most underrated and overlooked character actors by the name of Danny Trejo. You might not have known his name, but you've certainly seen him in something. A guy who's certainly paid his dues and deserves his slice of fame. So while Machete was fun and slightly underwhelming, another 3 years later and we now have the much promised sequel Machete Kills. Did Rodriguez learn from mistakes made during the first one? Did he finally decide to embrace the Grindhouse experience 100% and deliver us the film that trailer hinted at 6 years ago?
After leaving the theater and digesting this film for the remainder of the afternoon, my feelings are pretty much what they were when the first film came out. It's ridiculous fun depending on how much you're willing to embrace the "ridiculous" aspect. But there are so many things wrong with how this film is made and with the plot in general that you leave the theater again underwhelmed and surprised that Rodriguez didn't take any of the critiques of the first film to heart in figuring out how he was going to flesh out this second film.
Let's begin with the problems. I'm sure we can all agree that writer/director/editor/producer/composer Robert Rodriguez just needs to lay off filming in digital and go back to shooting his films the old school way, on film. It kills me to admit this, but the last film of his I truly 100% enjoyed was 1996's From Dusk Till Dawn. That right there is a crazy thing to say when you consider it's been almost 20 years since that movie came out, but I'm being brutally honest here. He's made some fun films for sure since then; most notably Sin City and Planet Terror, but have any truly kicked our asses as much as Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn? For me, the answer would have to be no. By shooting these Grindhouse-style films in digital, he's taking us away from the experience of these films "looking" like actual Grindhouse films. Everything's too clean, too crisp. And his overuse of CGI violence and gore instead of practical effects only adds to the frustration. These Machete films NEED to look and feel old school, that's half of the charm. We need to see that this is actually shot on film. There's just something so special, organic and significant about the quality of film as opposed to digital, and Rodriguez just doesn't seem to get it. And let's say for budget's sake that it was just cheaper to shoot digitally. Was it too difficult to go in and add a grainy and scratchy texture to it? Like they did in the trailer and in the beginning credits? It's almost a sin to be watching these films looking so crisp and clear when we all know they should be dingy and dirty.
Another thing Machete Kills suffers from is that it's just so completely uneven. The second half is definitely stronger than the first, and for me, that's due to how insane and ridiculous it got. But even then, so much of the humor, ultra violence and shit, just most of the action sequences in general all fall flat. I can't be the only one who thinks this, but for me, it feels like Robert Rodriguez has seriously lost his mojo. I can't remember the last time I felt a film felt like a Robert Rodriguez film. Do you remember those days? He had a certain way of shooting and editing; or what I like to call Rodriguez-isms. We don't get any of that here. Instead he shoots pretty straight-forward, almost like he's adopted the Uwe Boll style of filmmaking. Now hold on before you start sending me hate mail. I'm not saying he's anywhere near the shitty style of filmmaking as that guy. I'm referring to the fast and cheap over quality and substance approach. I know what type of film this is supposed to be, but it honestly looks like no thought went into how this thing was going to look. In fact, anybody could have directed this and you'd never know. And even though there was a healthy dose of insane violence and decapitations, I ultimately found myself kind of bored for most of the first two acts because as I stated before, they just fall completely flat and uninspired. And when you can't even get some excitement out of some mindless ultra violence, then something's not right here.
Machete Kills is just too complicated and convoluted for it's own good. Whereas it should be a pretty simple and straight-forward tale of a guy being hired by none other than the coolest president that ever lived to hunt down and destroy a revolutionary and the missile he has set to destroy Washington, it easily becomes so much of a jumbled mess that while it's not necessarily hard to follow, it just seems so incredibly unnecessary. A "lot" of that has to do with the insane cast this thing boasts. By cast I mean reunion for pretty much every actor Rodriguez has previously worked with, and any other actor he hasn't already worked with. So many characters just come and go within the span of just a few minutes that offer absolutely nothing to the story that it's almost overkill in the casting department. What the hell was Lady Gaga doing in here? Why was she even there? And was she supposed to be sexy? 20 minutes could easily have been cut out of this thing and it probably would have made the film flow so much more smoothly.
Machete Kills isn't a total loss though. Danny Trejo, as always, is just one complete badass. Even when the guy isn't uttering a single line, which he rarely ever does, he's exuding tough just with a glare of his eyes or the clenching of his jaw. And holy shit was Mel Gibson just awesome in this. He was just nuts and man he made this so much better. Wait till you see what happens to him at the end. Pure genius and fucking brilliant. All I can say is that I hope that "if" they do make a third film, he reprises his role as Voz. I can't see anybody else playing this madman. Speaking of said third film, before Machete Kills begins we are treated to a trailer for a possible third film Machete film called........well you should just experience that for yourself. It's brilliant, crazy, ridiculous, and plain fucking awesome. Actually, it's probably one of the best things about the Machete Kills overall experience. If it ever gets made, you can guarantee I'll be first in line for that one.
Ultimately not the Machete film I was hoping for. Again, you see the possibilities, but Rodriguez, for whatever reason, is unable to fully deliver. You just can't help but feel that this could and should have been so much better. Luckily that badass last act really turns things around and reminds you why you came to see a film called Machete starring Danny Trejo. It's just all kinds of nuts and ridiculous and I loved the hell out of it. Now with how this one ends, it leads off into the third film, and if that third film ever gets made and can deliver on what the end of this film and it's trailers promise, I think we might get the most far-out there Machete film to date.
Directed by: James Isaac
Well here we are. It took me long enough, but I've finally gotten around to watching the infamous Jason X. After my "Best to Worst List" of the Friday the 13th films this past Friday the 13th - which didn't necessarily include all of the Friday films - I was asked why Jason X wasn't included in the list, both here and on my Facebook page when I listed it. So I figured what better excuse to finally sit down and check this sucker out.
I think I never "wanted" to see Jason X because quite frankly, it looked stupid. That was my thinking when it first came out and that's my thinking right up to the minute before I sat down to see this. "Jason Vorhees in space? They've surely run out of ideas and it couldn't possibly be good, let alone decent." (That's me talking to myself by the way). But honestly, all you need to do is prod me about it a little and I'm in. Maybe that's what I needed all along, because while I love a good solid horror film, I also love me some "So Bad It's Good" horror, which is the category Jason X certainly seems to fit into. Plus, I figured, It couldn't possibly be any worse that Part 5 or Jason Takes Manhattan..........right? Boy was I wrong. Dead wrong. *Pun intended. Get it?
I really hate to admit it, but Jason X was probably one of the worst films I've seen in a very long time, and not anywhere near in a good way. I can go on and on and on about all the things that make this film suck balls, but the one thing that keeps popping into my head more than anything is that above everything else, it's just inept. Every single facet of the production was just incapable of delivering on the premise of a badass horror film in space that it manages to epicly screw up the concept. And that's where all the problems lye. How in the hell can you screw up a movie about Jason killing a bunch of people on a spaceship? Well they figured out a way here.
Here's the first thing I noticed immediately. The quality and look of this thing makes you feel like you're watching an episode of a bad science fiction show on the Syfy Channel. I'm not exaggerating one bit. It's so poor and it looks like they used television camera's rather than professional grade camera's that........aw who gives a shit. It looked like crap. But that's just for starters, we've also got some rather amusing set design. Amusing in the sense that it looks like they were on a theater stage. And the costume/wardrobe. Oh man, where do I begin. This was actually quite funny and I did laugh about this, quite a bit. They're in space. It's hundreds of years into the future, they're all scientists, yet every female character is dressed like they're ready to hit a club, or like a hooker. The guys are dressed fine, admittedly a little awkward, but they're dressed. The women, not so much. And I know, I know. The Friday the 13th series has built a reputation on scantily clad women having sex whenever and wherever, but even I found this whole "scientists in space in the future dressed as hookers" bit to be a bit too ridiculous. And that's the kicker here. I've heard and read that maybe the filmmakers were in on the joke. That they "had" to have known how awful this was and played it up. After seeing the "special features" on the DVD release, I'm not so sure. If anything, they were proud of this film, repeatedly boasting about the amount of digital effects in it. Digital effects I might add, that even by 2001 standards, are just terrible.
I've stated this repeatedly and I'll say it again; I love bad movies. I really do. But this bad movie has no redeeming quality for me, it's just bad. Not bad in a fun way, just bad from every angle. Even the kills did nothing for me, a usual high point . And honestly, as I hate to lay the blame on any one single person, in this instance I feel the majority of the blame has to go with director James Isaac. I think had this been in someone else's hand, someone capable of taking this ridiculous concept and spinning it on it's head, it could have really been something. But that's not what we get here. Instead we get a film that looks like it was made for television with everything that we don't like about sci-fi and horror films made for television. I'm honestly not surprised though, Isaac doesn't have an impressive filmography. I think his most notable film is The Horror Show, with the late great Brion James and the always awesome Lance Henrikson. That film wasn't half bad, and a vast improvement in quality over this film, which is surprising since the budget of The Horror Show was minuscule compared to this.
When the hell did Jason grow hair? For real. He's a zombie, yet he's able to have hair? How is that possible? And what's with all the eye action going on here. It seems they did everything possible to have the one and only Kane Hodder "act" as much as possible through the use of his eyes, which is a huge significant change from any other Friday film. Like they're trying to give the guy some personality. While usually not a bad thing, it just seemed out of place in this film.
I do know a few that actually really like this one. And who knows, maybe a few years down the line I'll appreciate it differently. Right from the beginning I knew it was such a ridiculous concept, but held out hope that it would be so over the top or so bad that you can't help but appreciate the balls or ingenuity to go in this direction, but all it does is lack any talent or originality from every angle, leaving it a shallow extremely low grade and uninteresting bore. It seems in this case, my instincts to stay away from this for 12 years were spot on.
Directed by: Wes Craven
The Serpent and the Rainbow may very well be director Wes Craven's most mature and visually arresting film to date. Though he'll always be known for having created Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise more than anything, when you look at his filmography as a whole, the guy is about as hit or miss as you can get. And let's be honest here, the misses far outweigh the hits. What's even more startling is that he made this damn fine film in '88, then makes the crapfest that is Shocker the very next year. So that right there is the perfect example of his hit/miss and completely random in quality output.
I had seen this when first released, but remember nothing about it other than it was about voodoo and it starred Lone Star eeerrrrr....I mean Bill Pullman. And I remember it not really having much of a reputation or a following, like some of his other films. It seems to be sandwhiched between the successes of his Nightmare and the Scream films (yes, unfortunately he will always be the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream guy, despite everything else he's ever done). But as with most films from around this period, I was too young to really appreciate a film like this. I mean, I'm pretty sure my fool head probably dismissed it after seeing his name attached, and it ended up not being a film about a killer, thus disappointing me in my juvenile immaturity. But alas! I've seen it again and I'm here to impart some words that will hopefully get you to check this one out again.
The Serpent and the Rainbow is good. In fact, it's one of Craven's best films. Strange that it doesn't have more of a reputation though. Maybe it's due to the fact that it's not really a straight-up horror film, as we are used to having from him, and more of a mystery/thriller, with a lot of supernatural overtones. Let's face it, Craven hasn't outdone himself since the first Elm Street film. And between that first Elm Street and the first Scream film, his filmography is peppered with a lot of duds, so it was quite refreshing to sit down and experience The Serpent and the Rainbow, and actually enjoy it. And I did, immensely. This film has such a different visual style and tone compared to anything he's ever done, which is almost shocking to learn that right after this he made Shocker; a film I wanted to like so much, but was just not very good overall, for a lot of reasons. Let's be honest, Shocker truly had the potential to be a great 80's iconic horror film, and even if you overlook the horrible effects work, it's just not a very well made film. But I digress.
What I loved about The Serpent and the Rainbow was that it played it straight, and didn't try to come off as a horror film, which makes it much more effective. Sure, there are some truly horrible things that happen in here, and some of the characters are just pure evil, but you don't get the sense that this was intended to be anything but a dark thriller about voodoo, which it is. It does go a little "out there" in the end, but it's never really done in a cheesy way that takes you out of the experience.
Overall, a solid dark film with some truly iconic imagery and a standout in Wes Craven's career.
Okay, so yes, this is everybody's least favorite film in the Alien franchise, but just hear me out for a bit. I'll be the first to admit that overall, this feels like anything "but" an Alien film. Honestly, even after watching all the documentaries associated with this particular film, I still don't know what the writers and producers were thinking when they decided to go this route. What's even more shocking is that this is the film that came after the previous Alien film, James Cameron's Aliens; a huge financial and critical success. Sure, Sigourney Weaver and many a fan have publicly stated that there were just too many aliens in the last film for their taste, but man it was one helluva ride. So I can understand there desire to scale back and get down to the bare bones of the whole Alien mystique, where you have 1 single alien picking off characters one at a time, much like in the first Alien film. And you know, that concept would have worked absolutely fine, had it been done correctly, because unfortunately, it wasn't in this case. But that's not to say this is a total loss, because far from it. By choosing to hire video and commercial director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club), Alien 3 becomes it's own individual beast. How so? For starters, nobody working today, or in the last 25 years, directs a film the way David Fincher directs a film; nobody. He's one of the few filmmakers left in the world with their own distinct style, a style he never once deviates from in all his filmography. You can look at any one of his films and say "That's a David Fincher film". How many times can you say that about a director these days? Not many.
Let's just get this out in the open, Alien 3 is a bad film.
Why is it a bad film? Because the script is just awful.
When Alien 3 was greenlit, it was under a different director, storyline and a vastly different approach to the material under Vincent Ward. Creative differences soon followed and Ward bowed out, leaving the producers and screenwriters to scramble for a replacement before deciding on David Fincher. I can only imagine the thinking was that maybe they could strike gold twice since they hired another unknown commercial director for the first film, a man by the name of Ridley Scott, and look how amazing Alien turned out. Literally, a game changer. But with Alien 3, changes needed to be made with this new vision and there was no actual finished script once filming went underway with Fincher. Literally he'd be fed pages as production went along and nobody knew how the film would even end. Frustrating as you can imagine for a first time director. And as obsessive as Fincher is over the smallest detail, tensions rose between Fincher and Fox studios, making it an utterly miserable experience.
So Alien 3 is deeply flawed, there is no doubt about that. And you can tell that Fincher was obviously limited in scope and budget, made all the more worse by not having a finished script to work with. I mean, how can you make a decent film, when you don't even know how it's going to play out? But you know what? Despite it's huge flaws, despite it's miserably slow pace and the fact that there's no real action, tension or scares, Alien 3 is a beautiful film to look at. I know, I know, we could spend hours ripping this thing apart. But you know, sometimes I just want to watch a film that looks good. And sometimes I want to watch a science fiction film that looks good, and more often than not, I pop in Alien 3.
Once you get past the awful script, the subpar effects, and the fact that it's hard to tell who the hell is who since everyone is British and bald and running around covered in muck, you start to see some of the things that make it a unique sci-fi film. Not only that, but a sci-fi film that's directed by David Fincher. And take a moment to process that little bit of info. David Fincher directed a science fiction film once. Sure, he's practically disowned this thing, not willing to participate in any sort of documentary or commentary regarding Alien 3, but his stamp is all over this thing. For starters, the visuals are classic Fincher, and stunning, made all the more impressive with Norman Reynolds gothic/industrial production design. Think Tim Burton's first Batman film and you'll know what to expect. Yes, it's that badass. The set design is just enormous. And Fincher decided to take an interesting approach to how he shot this, choosing to shoot a good 95% of the film from low angles looking up. I remember that was one of the things I noticed immediately when I saw this in the theater and it was an issue for me. I just didn't like it then. Yet I watch it now and I love it. I think it's a bold and ingenious move, one that works effectively well. So even with all of it's problems behind the scenes, Fincher produces a stunning work of visual art with Alien 3.
So you've finally decided to give Alien 3 a shot again, but which version do you choose? The 1992 Theatrical Cut or the 2003 "Workprint Version"? While neither comes close to Fincher's original vision, a cut that runs somewhere along the lines of 3 hours or so, the Workprint Version is as close as you're gonna get and for me personally, makes the film so much better overall. It's significantly longer than the theatrical Theatrical Cut, after the credits roll, we begin with Ripley being brought into the prison station apparently after being found in a crashed pod (which we don't see). So we're told after that she was in a ship that dispatched an emergency escape pod that crash lands on a prison planet. Fun right? Well in the Workprint Version we actually see the pod crash land, followed by the character of Clemens (Charles Dance) finding it as he's roaming the baron and desolate landscape. He recruits some help from the prisoners to help free her and they bring her in. Now this whole sequence plays out so much better than the original and even with some unfinished effects work, you see how awesome this looks and "could" have looked had it been completed. And that's just the tip of the iceberg folks, as Alien 3: The Workprint Version is just saturated with extra footage that further expands and fleshes out the storyline, as mediocre as it may be. So the answer is pretty simple, if you're gonna take the time to actually sit down and watch this, it needs to be the Workprint Version cut, and you see so much more of Fincher's grande scope of things.
While no masterpiece of science fiction filmmaking, and arguably the worst of the Alien franchise, it's able to hold it's head above water just enough for you to admire it's visual brilliance. Seriously, that's all you're going to take away from this, so don't try to analyze the thing to death, because it'll drive you nuts. Instead, take the time to appreciate the visual beauty of it, and ignore the shoddy effects work and lazy as hell script. And whatever you do, try not to laugh at that scene of Ripley throwing herself into the fire at the end, undoubtedly the worst effects shot in the entire film. A scene that's so crucial to the entire film, a scene meant to invoke emotion and at long last, a final resolution, only comes off as somewhat comical with a truly disastrous effects shot. I mean, it's pretty fucking terrible. So bad that you wonder if it was meant as a joke. Of course it wasn't, but how could anyone look at that shot and take it seriously?
So it's time to wrap this up. If you're going to check this thing out, make that little bit of extra effort and look for the 2003 Special Edition of this film, which includes the Theatrical Cut as well as the Workprint Version, both of which can be found in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set as well as the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set. Not a great film, but not a terrible one either, as we're all led to believe. For a brief moment, just forget the fact that you are watching an Alien film, and try to imagine it as just another B Movie about an alien killing off prisoners on a desolate planet one by one and you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.
Directed by: Adrian Lyne
Jacob's Ladder is a film I remember fondly. The surreal aspect of it just always stuck with me. To this day I consider it one of the best examples of this kind of film. But here's the funny thing I learned revisiting this recently after not having seen it for a really, really long time. It's kind of dull.
Most of the time a slow film is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in this case, it really made the film drag for the most part, despite how ultimately fascinating a good chunk of it is with it's inventive story and tripped out sequences. And of course, that is what most people will remember about Jacobs Ladder; the trippy sequences, which are pretty badass. I always felt director Adrian Lyne, who is mostly famous for erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction and 9 1/2 Weeks should have done more things like this. He's such a natural with this type of material, giving the film such a haunting look not easily matched.
One of the main things Jacobs Ladder has going for it is it's bleak washed out and dingy look. It's quite unsettling and sets the tone for things to come, especially it's early 1980's New York setting. Even when nothing is happening, you feel this eerie sense of dread. And then when Jacob starts noticing and "seeing" things, it's just all creepy as hell. But pretty soon he starts seeing even more fucked up shit on a regular basis, and you wonder if he's just hallucinating, or if there actually are demons and creatures roaming around the city. It's a fascinating concept and it's done so effectively well with Lyne choosing to just tease you with little bits and pieces of this surreal reality rather than to show you everything. Sometimes its a much more effective approach.
As great as these parts of the film are, it's the rest of Jacobs Ladder that seem to hurt it's potential. There's a subplot of Jacob mourning the accidental death of his little boy, which does tie in to some of the events to some extent in the end, but not much else is going on here. I really hate to admit it, but I actually got bored a few times to be honest. But then the film reverts back to "eerie" mode and recovers nicely.
I can't really go on any further without mentioning how great this cast is. Tim Robbins as Jacob is excellent, but the one I really gotta give it to is Danny Aiello. In his extremely limited role, he reminds you why he's so great at what he does. But this film is peppered with a "lot" of notable actors from various television shows, some who went on to great success. Hell, George Costanza eeerrrr, I mean, Jason Alexander is even in this. Is it me, or does playing a douche bag come naturally for him?
I want to just love this film. I thought I did, but after revisiting it again I'm made more aware of it's structural problems. At times it feels like it's missing a beat, and at others, mainly when it's dealing with Jacob's hallucinations/visions/terror, it's a thoroughly provocative and engaging work of art. So much so that you wish more of the film stayed with these elements. Alas, it doesn't, and Jacob's Ladder suffers for it. But it's far from a lost cause; not even close. It's just that the lagging sections make you wish for more of the horror elements, as the trailer promises. But despite it's issues, I have to give mad props to director Adrian Lyne for making something so dark, unique and different. The gore is kept to a bare minimum, but it's the eerie images that leave a lasting impression, and again, so much of that is attributed to Lyne's brilliant take on the material. Shocking the guy hasn't made very many films at all (the guy hasn't made a film since 2002!), and when he does, he takes enormously long pauses between projects, yet none of them match the sheer creativity or flat out darkness of this film. We're talking Kubrick and Malick territory here. Not in terms of quality of course, but in terms of output. But seriously, the guy needs to make dark films like this again. Maybe even some badass detective thriller. Enough with the erotic thrillers.
Overall, I'd give this a solid 8. Were it not for the dull spots scattered throughout, it could easily be a 9 or 10 just for the daring subject matter alone and all the badass elements that make it so memorable even 23 years later. Some might even say it's "Ahead of it's time".
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Category: Science Fiction
Ever since Tron: Legacy came out, I had been egearly waiting for director Joseph Kosinski's next film. While Tron didn't really blow me away like I had hoped it would, you can't deny that it's a beautifully shot film. You can tell Kosinski is an artist, carefully framing each single shot with such precision that it's really hard not to be impressed. So 3 years later we have Oblivion, another sci-fi film, this one starring Tom Cruise. Does it fare any better than Tron: Legacy? Has he improved as a filmmaker?
The answer is a yes on both counts. In fact, it's a big yes. Not that I was surprised that it was good, because I knew it would be. I think what surprised me most was how much I ended up enjoying this. For me, to be able to enjoy a certain genre of film I need to be invested in that genre wholly, or I just won't be into it. So while I had this in my possession for a few weeks, I had to wait for the right opportunity to sit down and see this, and for me, that makes all the difference in the world. So my mood this particular night was that I wanted to see a sci-fi film. A slow, visually stunning sci-fi film. Something along the lines of 2001, Alien, Moon or Outland. Oblivion certainly fits the bill. This is sci-fi epicness at it's best, and that's all due to a tight, polished script by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Star Wars: Episode VII), Kosinski's amazing, lush and gorgeous visuals and Tom Cruise's searing performance. You know, with the exception of a misfire like Rock of Ages from time to time, the guy just does not make any bad movies. So despite Oblivion having such an insane amount of eye candy, it's really Cruise who carries the film as the majority of Oblivion is just on him, rarely ever interacting with any other human beings. It works effectively well here, all due to Cruise delivering the goods.
So what Oblivion ended up being was more of a solo project as Cruise is front and center for the majority of the film. He does have his job partner Victoria there also, but they usually communicate through radio as she mans the computer and he does the physical grunt-work out in the field. What I think is funny is that they tout Morgan Freeman as costarring in this thing, yet he's honestly barely in this, and when he does first show up, it's about the halfway point in the film, then he disappears for a large chuck again. He does add a bit of weight to his role though, I will give him that.
But you know what? It's really the visuals that draw you in more than anything. Oblivion is just gorgeous right from it's opening frame down to it's closing shot. Epic in it's scope, yet with an old world touch. And Kosinski takes great pains in setting up each and every single shot with such elaborate precision that you're just left in awe of the result. There honestly is no other director out there like him, especially not in the science fiction genre, who shoots clean and efficient, and can produce such stunning results. Well okay, let me take that back. In my excitement I may be getting ahead of myself. There "are" other directors out there that can and do produce similar results. Right off the top of my head Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) comes to mind. But really, there are not that many of these types of filmmakers left out there working today. So back to Kosinksi. Not once does he ever revert to hand-held camerawork; not even in the action sequences. In this era of filmmaking, that's a rare thing indeed. Oblivion is one of the most gorgeously shot science fiction films I've ever seen.
I am a HUGE fan of the original Tron film. Some would say a little too obsessed. I just love that film to death. So you can imagine my shock and utter joy when hearing upon the news that 30 years later, a sequel was finally in the works. And with today's technology, the possibilities were endless. And the I saw the film, and well.......I was disappointed. I'll admit, some of my issues were with the script, but I also didn't really dig the new look of the programs. I prefer the old school way everything looked, but hey, it's a new era and they were trying to introduce a whole new era into the world of Tron. Start a new franchise, sell a shitload of toys, you know how it goes. Well Tron: Legacy didn't explode like Disney had hoped it would and well, there are a whole lot of reasons why that is. But despite it's many issues, it's a visually impressive film to say the least. If anything, we got some great visual eye candy and a groundbreaking film score by Daft Punk. So we all know that even though he was a first time director, Joseph Kosinski can put a film together, and the guy knows how to shoot with an architect's eye. Learning a few things from Tron, Kosinski now tackles another sci-fi film.
So what kind of film are we ultimately left with? Oblivion is a slow film. Tom Cruise spends the first half of the film showing us what he does on a day to day basis as a drone repairman, roaming the desolate and seemingly empty planet for drone's that need repair. It's a dull and stale existence as most of the time there is nothing to do. His partner Victoria, who mans the control station; his only source of human interaction. But it's his job, and it's a job he's been doing for years. A job he's very good at. Yet he begins questioning things, much to Victoria's dismay. And that's where the second half of the film takes off. A space pod crash lands on Earth with a few survivors and what he discovers on the wreckage of that pod shatters everything he knew about everything, including himself.
So here's why Oblivion is so great. While slow for the first half, you're never once bored as it's a fascinating example of impressive filmmaking, a thoughtful approach to the material, a haunting score reminiscent of Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy score, and jaw dropping special effects all anchored by a strong performance by Cruise. If you're in the mood for epic sci-fi that's one of the most beautifully shot and designed films in years, you can't go wrong with Oblivion.