Sunday, August 30, 2009

DVD Evaders: Jack's Back (1988)

Essentially a Mystery-Thriller involving a Jack The Ripper clone killer, JACK has some fun twists with James Spader playing twin brothers who get thrust into tracking down the madman. See one Spader play the good, put-upon nerdy doctor and the other sport a leather jacket and earring and emote this side of Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Joining one of the Spaders on his quest to track down the crazy who's taking the 100th Anniversary of the Jack The Ripper legend a little too seriously is the perky-sensational Cynthia Gibb as a colleague and crush who soon pair up to do their best Hardy Boy meets Nancy Drew. The two make an unlikely team but the idea of waspy-ish actors at the heart of a movie putting a blood soaked puzzle together brings a wide smile to my face. Two of my favorite stars from 1986 films (Spader as Stef from PRETTY IN PINK and Gibb as Cece in MODERN GIRLS) are tracking down Jack The Ripper!!!

JACK opened to absolutely no fan-fare (and not to mention any real promotion) in May of 1988, and was essentially dumped by fledgling distributor Palissades Entertainment Group. Luckily Paramount Home Video was distributor of the very few Palissades titles and JACK'S BACK found a life on VHS.

By 1988, the Horror Film Genre was tapering off a bit and quite a few were combining with other genres (Horror-Comedy being the most popular) and thereby becoming something else. JACK plays it refreshingly straight. The movie may technically be more Thriller than genuine Terror Picture, but it still manages to deliver the goods in the scare department. I find myself entrenched into it's mystery and the surprises along the way with each viewing.

And the idea of having 2 Spaders for the price of 1?!... Could one be super nice and the other possibly a misunderstood slime ball? Is that the story of Spader's career or what? Genius.


Friday, August 28, 2009

New Movie Show Review: CRANK 2 High Voltage (2009)

Crank 2 was a hilarious blast. Keep in mind I am not the biggest fan of the modern action movie (the 80's action film will forever have my heart) Most of these newer breeds of action are completely brainless and their aesthetic seems only to beat you over the head with nonsense action that is so badly choreographed you can't seem to make out anything that actually happened (Michael Bay being the master of this technique)

What this film does seems entirely fresh from it's peers. The filmmakers take the extra step from going "Over the top" as fun films like SHOOT 'EM UP and LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD did in recent years and actually go over the ledge. It's a film that is so confident in what it is, that it's only pretense is to dare to take a movie in this increasingly overbaked genre to a place it hasn't gone before.

I have not seen CRANK 1, but the set-up was simple. A man has mere minutes before he expires to basically find those responsible for poisoning him. Along the way he finds he needs to boost his adrenaline levels to slow down the poisoning process. That movie ends with him falling to his death.

CRANK 2 begins with Statham being literally shoveled off the ground and thrown into a van. His heart is harvested and replaced with a battery operated gizmo and he is once again thrust into a situation where he needs to find those responsible. This time he needs to be electrically charged and the movie comes up with some hilarious set-pieces as he's all over Los Angeles getting volts put through him whichever way he can (various low and high voltage sources, friction from rubbing up against old ladies and having hot nasty sex with Amy Smart in front of thousands being some choice examples)

Not only is this setup outlandish and fun, but the movie throws in a wacky array of supporting characters that amp up the insanity. Bai Ling, Efren Ramirez (Pedro from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE), Dwight Yoakam, Julanne Chidi Hill as "Dark Chocolate", Clifton Collins Jr. and the late David Carradine show up to either help or give our protagonist much grief. The plotting and zany band of misfits reminding me greatly of John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. If to recall that great action movie was their intention, Directors Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor really pull it off.

The scene that has Jason Statham and adversary turn into King King and Godzilla-like concoctions is worth the price alone. This is the most derivative yet original action movie I've seen in a long, long time. The DVD streets on September 8th. Check it out!

And yes... That is Corey Haim!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Movie Show Place Love: C 16 by Gene Gregoritis

As you all know, my absolute favorite place in the world is the one in front of a projected image, in a darkened theater. It has been my church since birth, and I worship at it regularly. Good friend Gene Gregoritis recently shared with me his expressions, devotion and love to the Cinema with his recent work: C 16 Here are those haunting and moving words for you all to read... C-16 Gene Gregorits I began running because I’d seen the devil, or thought I had. I began running because His looming face became a constant factor, and the harder I struggled to be good, the more I felt his grin on my back. I remember wanting to cheat the sonofabitch, God, the devil, my mother, my ex-wives, someone, because no matter how noble or how sickening my behavior, regardless of whether or not I felt joy, calmness, or contempt, regardless if I gave myself to something altruistic or to the free-fall velocity of those most desperate appetites, inescapable always was the sense that I was not truly living, not as others lived. This sense of being tested, of being mocked, being watched, being punished for simply existing, has been with me for a very long time. I began running as a toddler, running with a dedication my parents deemed perverse. Patience having never been a virtue, I had to develop (over time) a collection of strange psychological tricks to play on myself while waiting for the perfect moment in which to make a confident and lucid break from those defiling and life-taking gazes. If my captor’s eyes left me longer than a few seconds, I’d be off, running as fast as my fat little legs would carry me. Later, I tried to recall those tricks when working in warehouses, supervisors attached to my shoulders, but only managed to invent inferior new ones. I can not be restful or civilized in my mind under anyone’s stare. In 2003, I found the Cinemark. It became my favorite kind of dope. **** The Cinemark- church, purgatory, lies among ruins today, but with another brutal era of Great Depression closing in, business has never been better. I too, am surrounded by death, my companions have fallen or departed…and I am running from pestilence and shame today, but it was not altogether necessary for me to run to Detroit. I did, a second time, in April of 2009, and the Cinemark had as much to do with that reckless choice as anything else. I fantasized about its banality, and my self-reflective immersion in that broken down, last chance universe, of the universal need for ESCAPE, on a daily basis during the three years we spent apart. I wept when I returned and took in the sight of it, amputated from a shopping center which no longer existed. Cruel steel sheets stood where I once lounged, staring at food vendors who stared in me in turn, grown men reduced to begging goofballs like me for burger purchases. I wept, and I went to the public restroom where I wept some more. Weeping is a delicacy for me. I savor it appropriately. The Cinemark should have been bestowed with, by me, its rightful owner, a poetic name, but as I have rested uncomfortably in the post-industrial inertia which surrounds it, steeped in the heart-crippling pollutants which stubbornly belch forth apocalyptic cloud formations visible only to one such disinherited tourist creepo, to me, truly, “the Cinemark” does just fine. The other 247 Cinemarks which dot the American plains can suck purple donuts for all I care. None of them, I say with tombstone certitude, possess such a toxic singularity as my beloved C-16., the only viral planting set down by the corporation in the entire state of Michigan. As it IS, the Cinemark 16: a spectral void, an aberration of a corporate chain franchise, a cinderblock encased movie-show roadhouse situated at 12 Mile Road and Dequindre Boulevard, in the white-trash overkill sector known as Warren, one of Detroit’s many outlying suburban wastelands. At one time, a tenant of the Universal Mall…to the north of the sprawling shopping structure a half dozen free-standing burger joints, and twice as many strip malls, the skies swallow it all whole. Things have a way of not really existing out here. To the west, south, east: burger joints, strip malls, parking lots, bars, tire stores, garages, motels, diners, America. It’s all the same, but here it’s worse. I feel righteous here. I feel complete here. As it is to ME: the cracked concrete was my blood. The endless boulevards of suburban Michigan were my displaced crying jags, and under the streets lay trapped pockets of warmth left over from my many panicked couplings: barmaids, prostitutes, and schizophrenics who wander these streets late at night. I felt them, their sweat and perfume always a physical presence on my skin as as I whipped across motel entrances, as I crashed speed bumps and defied the overall Midwest FUCK YOU / FEEL IT ALL THE WAY OR LEAVE vibe of uncorrected motor-car terrain on a brakeless 10-speed purchased from Wal-Mart. I crashed, laughing. I made the ride perfectly, laughing. I was almost always sober. In those early days of Cinemark love, I worked frequently on a novel, shoplifted wine, I was basement-stuck and ailing, yet found promiscuous women easily, and I had my Hank, all 18 pounds of his prowling tabby everything, my tenuous line to the life of mortals. Without Hank, I said then, I could do it: suicide. I told myself I was just waiting for him to die. I was sometimes sober. In Michigan: ten cent deposit on beer cans and bottles. In Michigan for bums: shameless hauling of empties across the back in generic Glad bags, or dragged in US Army rucksacks, to the nearest liquor store, they call them party stores, for the refund cash: MOVIE FARE. During these runs to party stores, the dregs of old cans, cigarette ash and effluvium, running down the small of my back, into my ass crack, down my legs. I was never sober. Popcorn liberated from trash bins. Spiked Gatorade. Cheeseburgers and tacos. 200 Hollywood films. I remember them all. Grindhouse redux, without the hipster pretense. My church, my sweetheart, my place of dreams. Five girlfriends knew it with me. Four girlfriends hit the photobooths with me. Only two braved the clandestine, slapdash “Haunted House” with me. Sandwiched between Little Caesars and Taco Bell, a re-designed storage room, shabby cardboard catacombs, white trash boys in slasher film costumes, 2 P.M. on a July afternoon like it was all for her, and it was all for me. White Castle burger grease, skunk beer skunk wine, the photo booths and the arcades, alone in a mall of thousands-to-be. I held Laura tight there, and I held Erica tighter, and I was quick to re-inhabit the vortex alone. At the end of a binge, I thought of no woman. I thought of them all. Poverty was beatable, easily. Sex was a close second. Death could follow, in the cloud of popcorn and video game shrieks and middle aged negroes whose faces bore easy painless acceptance, who sat slumped against the brick exterior of the Cinemark with much older men, begging money for the picture show, bottles and cans semi-surreptitious there in the hot sun, smoking generic cigarettes. Babies and small children by the dozen, in rows and other formations, screaming. Popcorn and cheap wine. Phantom divorce pangs ruined/cured by a little alcohol, by big willful ignorance, by 16 screens. $1 a ticket, every time. Any time. A mercy like no other. Meet me here, meet me by the dead fountain and the kiddie rides, I'll be waiting here when you've had enough out there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gods Of Cinema: Hal Hartley

Long Island bred Hal Hartley brought his "quirky" brand of comedy to the independent film scene in 1989 with THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH. Audiences and critics alike found a new voice with his stylized dialogue and penchants for zany philosophizing. Through the first half of the 90's Hartley churned out a good amount of films, each one better than the one before. He was crafting an alternate reality of modern day New York filled with complex characters always on the brink of crisis. And they were funny. Bitingly so. Hartley's films brought a unique sensibility to the growingly tiresome independent film scene of the time (how many films about guys with tempers and guns can one really care about, anyway?) Hal maintained his intelligence in each and managed to have some sort of undercurrent of satire throughout all. His films were in their own world, but they commented on ours as well. It's also worth noting that Hartley himself often composed the distinct scores for his films. Usually under the pseudonym Ned Rifle. The films of Hal Hartley, when looked upon in reflection, for the majority still hold up. But, I still have my favorites. They are in no specific order: Looking back I must say TRUST is my favorite. Adrienne Shelly's performance is so unique and oddly touching that I get caught up in it's wacky little Long Island love story every time. 1994's AMATEUR is probably the oddest of the bunch, but a real favorite. Isabelle Huppert's nymphomaniac nun role defies all sorts of logic and yet she remains so captivating. Hartley really knows how to direct his leading ladies. Late into the 90's as the indie film scene seemed virtually deceased, Hartley switched technical gears and went the Digital Video route. This gave him a freer hand to make the kinds of films he wanted with tiny budgets and without having to resort to a studio's incessant need to churn out hits with compromised visions. This I must say is supremely admirable. Still, with some exceptions, I feel his films weren't as satisfying as they once were. 1998's HENRY FOOL captured glimmers of once was so great about Hartley's pictures, but I couldn't get around the lead performance by Thomas Jay Ryan enough for me to care about it. Parker Posey was amazing, as usual, but I much prefer Hartley's FOOL follow-up, FAY GRIM (2006) with Posey front and center in the title role. 2001's little-seen warped fable NO SUCH THING for me was the return of Hal Hartley. See it! Currently Hal's working on an Omni-Bus film with other great talents like Atom Egoyan and Julio Medem, but I anxiously await a return to his solo filmmaking projects. Until then, i'll re-watch TRUST or SIMPLE MEN to get a fix. CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON DVD films by Hal Hartley: Possible Films: The Short Works Of Hal Hartley (1994-04 - MicroCinema) Simple Men (1992 - New Line/Image) Henry Fool (1998 - Sony) No Such Thing (2001 - MGM) The Girl From Monday (2005 - Arts Alliance) Fay Grim (2006 - Magnolia) OUT OF PRINT on DVD: The Unbelievable Truth (1989 - Anchor Bay) Surviving Desire (with Theory Of Achievement and Ambition) (1991 - Fox Lorber) Amateur (1994 - Sony) The Book Of Life (1998 - Fox Lorber) NEVER BEEN AVAILABLE BEFORE ON DVD: Trust (1990) Flirt (1993-5)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Orphan (2009) & My 10 Favorite "Killer Kid" Movies

Shockingly, it's taken me a good 3 weeks after it's release to finally get around to go see this summer's Killer Kid Movie offering, ORPHAN. As a big fan of the Killer Kid sub-genre, it's almost an insurmountable crime to miss out on the potential of seeing some troubled tyke take on the terrifying and totally awesome task of playing villain in such the adult world. The veneer of innocence the children have on display in these kinds of films is always their greatest weapon, and the fun is in watching them dole out their lust for blood and mayhem in the most unexpected yet cozily familiar ways. Home is where the heart is, but also where one usually gets thrown out of a window.

Jaime Collet-Serra (House Of Wax) directs Orphan with a most welcome restraint (how unlike the rest of the Dark Castle catalogue) He lets his actors do their thing and bring a reality to a movie that teeters on silliness and total disbelief. Peter Sarsgaard and especially Vera Farmiga manage to make the parents of the film seem fresh & real and not the typical manufactured Hollywood inventions who only exist to cope with and finally deal with their brat from hell.

The child actors of these films are usually hit or miss in terms of their performance but Isabelle Fuhrman brings it on big time and gives one of the very best to be found in a Killer Kid movie. Her role is pretty complex and Washington DC born Fuhrman manages a Russian Accent seemingly without much effort. She's the real deal.

ORPHAN has a good number of scares, some twists & turns (which my fiancee disturbingly seemed to figure out pretty early on) and goes to some wacky and fun places in it's final reels. The movie show goes out of it's way to entertain you and deliver the goods while not compromising too much it's reality [it also adhears to the "fill in the blank from hell" rule of having the dad be an Architect!] One of my favorite movie experiences this summer so far.

A welcome addition to the fold, ORPHAN is in mighty fine company. My love for the Killer Kid sub-genre more than likely started with my favorite horror film of all time, John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) Little Michael Myers started his little murderous rampage with the murder of his sister that fateful Halloween night, and i've been glued to the screen since waiting for some evil kid to pick up where he left off.

Here are my 10 favorites:

THE OMEN is The Godfather of all killer kid movies, there is no way around it. It doesn't get any better than Richard Donner's vision of cute little evil Damien causing such malicious mayhem to a gallery of prestigious actors. The little seen THE PIT is a must-see for fans of weird cinema. You'll never forget it!

I also have love for:

THE CRUSH (1993)
JOSHUA (2007)

What are your favorites?

Friday, August 14, 2009

DVD Evaders: Jennifer (1978)

JENNIFER is one of those special 1970's treats. A movie that is sprung forth from the popularity of another (1976's Carrie) but then goes into it's own direction and you fall for it's charms (Whether they be Bert Convy or an awesome theme song)

Flame-haired Lisa Pelikan stars as Jennifer, daughter of a bible thumping Snake handler, who enters a fancy private school and then is picked on by some of the girls at school. The movie focuses on the dichotomy between the rich/poor class structure (Rich girls are always such the bitches, aren't they?) and Lisa's awakening to the changes she needs to make in her life (and facing her demons) Oh, and there are plenty groovy disco scenes and snake attacks to keep you satisfied. The revenge Jennifer dishes out is all kinds of awesome.

30+ Years later, Jennifer deserves to be appreciated again. DVD, please!

Lisa Pelikan interview (She talks about her JENNIFER experience:
Lisa Pelikan at RetroCrush

The too-cool-for-school Vestron VHS artwork
(WARNING: there are no tigers or mountain lions to be found in this movie!)


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy 25th Anniversary, Red Dawn!

This weekend marks the 25th Anniversary to John Milius' action classic RED DAWN.

Red Dawn opened on August 10th, 1984 at the height of cold war Nuclear threat fear (The russians are com---here!)

John Milius =

Fun Alternative poster:

25 Years later and the film still packs a punch. Can't really say any more than that other than... Wolverines!

Also released 25 years ago this month:
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai
The Woman In Red
Joy Of Sex
Choose Me
Cloak And Dagger
Love Streams
Oxford Blues
and, of course...CHUD

Saturday, August 8, 2009

New To Dvd: Husbands (1970)

Just wanted to remind everyone that one of John Cassavetes' very best films, HUSBANDS, is finally coming to DVD on August 18th from Sony. It will be in an extended cut as well [the most complete version of the film ever seen] Finally, John's film is getting it's due. Here is the intro to the film:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Movie "Stars" I love Part 1

Forget about the big names, "A-List" talent or whatever that means. I'll take a Character Actor or someone beaming with a real charisma over those manufactured Hollywood clones any day. I give special props to those actors who were unafraid to tackle on genre projects. I present you with a list of some of my favorite actors, who within good or bad films, totally won my heart... Let the idol worship begin! JOE DON BAKER of WALKING TALL, WACKO and CHARLEY VARRICK LINDA BLAIR of ROLLER BOOGIE, THE EXORCIST and SAVAGE STREETS ROBERT FORSTER of MEDIUM COOL, ALLIGATOR and JACKIE BROWN ANGIE DICKINSON of POLICEWOMAN, PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW and DRESSED TO KILL HAL HOLBROOK of RITUALS, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and THE FOG PAM GRIER of JACKIE BROWN, COFFY and BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA SCOTT JACOBY of BAD RONALD, THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE and DEADLY RIVALS BARBARA STEELE of BLACK SUNDAY, CAGED HEAT and PIRANHA KEN FOREE of DAWN OF THE DEAD, LEATHERFACE and FROM BEYOND DAPHNE ZUNIGA of MODERN GIRLS, THE SURE THING and MELROSE PLACE TONY ROBERTS of PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, ANNIE HALL and AMITYVILLE 3-D MICHELLE MEYRINK of VALLEY GIRL, REVENGE OF THE NERDS and REAL GENIUS CHRISTOPHER GEORGE of PIECES, GRADUATION DAY and MORTUARY PAMELA FRANKLIN of THE INNOCENTS, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE and SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS JOHN GLOVER of THE CHOCOLATE WAR, GREMLINS 2 and 52 PICK-UP DEBORAH FOREMAN of VALLEY GIRL, MY CHAUFFEUR and APRIL FOOL'S DAY GEORGE KENNEDY of COOL HAND LUKE, AIRPORT '75 and JUST BEFORE DAWN A lot of these folk may not be acting anymore, but may their performances in each of their films live on forever. Part 2: The Revenge to air at a later date, to be determined.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

DVD Evaders: THE BOOGENS (1981)

THE BOOGENS is one of my all-time favorite creature features. Produced on a tiny budget and released to little fanfare in 1981, BOOGENS managed to crawl into my life when it hit a second-run theater some time in 1982. I was appropriately creeped out, and for a long time moments of the film stuck with me.

I eventually found the movie on VHS and was quite surprised how well it held up. The movie sports a fine performance by Rebecca Balding [ever the girl next door] and one of the best dog actor performances ever committed to film. I was so saddened by his demise.

I caught a screening of this film a few years ago, and even though the audience didn't really know the film all that well, they really got into it. It's a movie with characters you care for, and actors who play their roles well. The film has just the right amount of scares and laughs, and a healthy dose of wintery atmosphere. Balding even supplies us with a very unexpected nude scene. And there's even Boogens POV!

There are plenty of low-budget horror films that have been lying dormant for all of the years, waiting to be rediscovered, but right now I can't think of many other than The Boogens that i'd like to see get a new life on DVD. It's a crime this film has been forgotten, and hopefully it's fans will get what they've been waiting for all of these years.

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