Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Warning: Contains spoilers.
A young girl with a machine gun for an arm seeks revenge on those who caused the death of her brother, in turn causing more revenge killings. Other than some unconvincing special effects and some dodgy graphics, here's a rundown of some of the things you'll see in this movie: Geysers of fake blood. High flying kung fu. Deep-fried tempura-battered hand. Various amputations, decapitations and mutilations. Hundreds of shuriken flung by yakuza. Severed finger sushi. Ninjas wielding katana. Chainsaw. Drill bra. And finally, electrocution caused by pee-pee. Ridiculous, implausible, and would be considered horrific if it wasn't so cartoonish. However, just because I said it's awful doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it. It's still a lot of fun if you like stuff that's bad. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
BTW, I wanted to include a trailer, but I can't find one that's suitable for all audiences. If you're interested, just Youtube it. It's totally your call, but don't say you weren't warned.
A bristling documentary by an heir to the Johnson & Johnson empire about the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Features some shocking footage of post-Katrina tragedy in New Orleans. Leaves many questions unanswered, but you have to give props to a member of a family who's included in the 1% of the population that holds the country's wealth to actually raise the questions. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Monday, March 28, 2011
The Son Of Hercules (a.k.a. Maciste, who's strangely never really mentioned as being ol' Herc's son) drags a harpooned whale to shore for no reason because that's just what needed to happen. Then he's attacked by dudes on horseback who look an awful lot like the Grand Poobah from the Flintstones after an unfortunate laundry bleaching accident. Ol' Son O' Herc is captured, and he's forced to turn a huge drill with hundreds of extras. There's escapes and recaptures, a little wrestling, and at some point he's supposed to fight a 'fierce beast' in a rickety wooden cage, (which looks a lot like a guy in a chimp suit) while outrageously head-dressed extras look on. A washed-out, sepia-toned, and dubbed bore. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
A zombie in a chambray shirt strangles several people in an alley while someone off-camera bangs frantically on some bongos. Why all those people are congregating in that alley remains somewhat of a mystery. Anyway, a cop gets a severed head mailed to him, which then causes a recap and a flashback. Then some guys in scrubs rob a bank, but it's somewhat difficult to concentrate on what's going on with all the hep swingin' jazz blaring on the soundtrack. It doesn't ultimately matter, because John Carradine and Tommy Kirk are in it, it's directed by Al Adamson, and filmed in something called Chill-a-rama. I watched it on Hulu, you can watch it below, but you probably shouldn't.
An eye-opening documentary about the exclusion of feminist art in the modern art world. Featuring interviews conducted over forty years, archival footage, and many images of groundbreaking art. Check out Judy Chicago, Lynn Hershman, Hannah Wilke, Ana Mendieta, Marsha Tucker and Howardina Pindell, artists who are all featured in the film. Music by Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and the very funny IFC television show Portlandia.
A dark Taiwanese comedy focusing on the juxtaposition of the modern and ancient centered around elaborate funeral rites. It has some humorous moments, and the parts concentrating on the rites themselves were quite fascinating. Sadly, it has terrible subtitles. It also had a few moments of striking cinematography, but the film seemed like it was desperately trying to be quirky when it was just desperate and trying. Overall, a disjointed and poorly edited mess. Now playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
A young Muslim boy must serve community service with an old Hindu scientist with a hatred of Muslims. Set amidst religious strife in the Kashmir region of India, this short film is a plea for tolerance and has a green message, but is marred by the boy's performance who seems as though he's cold-reading the script. Now playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Junkies attempt to kick when one discovers they're pregnant. Passionately acted but sometimes the images are gauzy and over-saturated; this short film from the UK rises above the kind often seen on Lifetime, but just barely. Now showing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
An unpleasant family sits around a table celebrating Dad's birthday, and to Dad's chagrin, everyone has something to confess. A short film in French and filmed in lustrous deep focus black and white. Now playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
A well done short feature where a young girl moves into a Victorian mansion. At first charming and idyllic, the tone quickly becomes darkly comedic. I'd like to say more, but I don't want to spoil. Now playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Lackluster computer animation mars this short film. A frog tries to get a bite in the eat-or-be-eaten world of the Amazon. The jpg above belies the true look of the film, the images could have been a lot crisper, and the story was lightweight, even for a five minute run-time. Probably scary for young children. Now playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
A scatter-shot short documentary feature about the complexities of family, especially if those families have gay parents. The interviews with the younger children of these families are often humorous and bittersweet, but the film more often than not has a "been-there-done-that" feel, particularly with the insertion of historical stock footage for levity. If shown without these moments, it could be a very powerful film, and could be particularly enlightening to those who do not know gay people and have no concept of their need to marry and create families of their own. Now showing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
A lawyer and a doctor become involved amongst car crashes and insurance scams in this thriller from Argentina. Hand-held camerawork gives a cinema-verite feel. The warm ochres and cool aquas of the cinematography are quite beautiful. The overall look of the film, the effective use of foreshadowing, and the gritty sets are reminiscent of early 70's New Hollywood films. Martina Gusman gives a tough and caring performance as the doctor. Now playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Now that my blog is an internationally read sensation, I'm taking my private jet to attend the Cleveland International Film Festival. I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to tell the world exactly what I think, especially if free movie tickets are involved.
Two astronomers observe a corkscrew shaped flying saucer through their telescope, and you can tell they're astronomers because one wears gigantic spectacles and the other wears a phony Van Dyke beard. The UFO lands, causing a dog to bark. An alien peeks out and shoots the dog with a laser, causing it to collapse into a pile of dog-shaped bones. The aliens climb out of the ship (which now is oddly reminiscent of Jiffy-Pop), and you can tell they're aliens because they're overly Brylcreemed, carry luggage, and wear matching jumpsuits that look a little like they are in an early 80's Canadian synth-rock band. Like this, perhaps:
The aliens then nitpick one another until one gets fed up and escapes. The remaining aliens then reveal their plan to unleash lobsters upon the unsuspecting Earth, acting as if they're Kang and Kodos starring in Much Ado About Nothing. The escaping alien heads into town, instantly falls in love with the dead dog's owner, somehow rents a room in their boarding house, and meets several other "teenagers", who have all missed being a teenager by a good decade and a half. Many unintentionally comedic things happen. People say things like, "Golly!", "Take heed!", "Holy Mackerel!", "focusing disintegrator", and "I can't work in a place where this kind of thing happens.". It's sometimes hard to tell if it's day or night. The camera and crew can often be seen in reflective surfaces. And lastly, special effects consists of using a disintegrator-shaped flashlight and throwing a skeleton. Amazingly bad, LOL-inducing, and highly recommended if you like stuff that sucks. I watched it on Hulu, and you can watch it below.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Badly mic'ed official looking military types talk via walkie-talkie to a helicopter about a space capsule while someone else does voiceover narration and someone else bangs portentous chords on a piano. Not much else happens. Actors generally sit in cars or stand in fields. Everyone is poorly blocked, some very confusing bird-related foley work happens, and dialogue that sounds as if it was recorded in a bucket consists of gems like, "We don't know if the radiation repellent worked.", "A series of Ifs.", and "With TWO anchovy olives.". Without warning, unconvincing Twisting occurs around the 15 minute mark, and I can only assume that's the GoGo portion of the film because this Twisting is done by very few monsters. After the Twisting, someone gets to first base while necking in a car, and then someone ends up covered in a sheet in the dark by their Galaxie 500. Features several LOL-inducing face-palming moments. It just goes to show you that you don't need $200 million to make a terrible movie. I watched it on Hulu, and you can watch it below. If you watch it don't say you weren't warned.
In the year 3000, 'When man is an endangered species', and they have very little food or shampoo but an abundance of leather vests and net shirts and apparently the populace is fearful of putt-putt golf courses, and in a period of time any move anyone makes is accompanied by a huge, distracting non-diegetic sound effect and everyone speaks in a grandiloquent fashion, and I guess that's perfectly fine because that's acceptable in the future, man (and I mean man because there's literally 2 women in this movie) is a slave to an extraterrestrial race knows as the Psychlos. Suddenly, the cast is in a lushly overgrown abandoned mall, and someone's changed the hue of the picture to a different color, (and you'd better get used to that happening because it's going to happen a lot) John Travolta appears in slo-mo, firing the worst looking laser beam since the early 1980's.
We are less than 30 minutes into this film.
There's a vaguely litigious cantina scene with glowing green liquids, bad teeth and elaborate hair pieces, and you have a distinct feeling someone got in trouble for spending way too much money to have the outcome look this cheap. You have this feeling you've experienced parts of this movie before because it has a Waterworld (sans the flippers) meets Dangerous Liaisons (sans the romantic intrigue) meets Office Space (sans the humor and staplers) in space with dreadlocks sort of vibe about it. You then have the feeling you really don't want to watch this movie anymore, and then you get the treat of seeing someone who looks like Jabba The Hut get his nails done.
Seemingly months later in an obvious comic book mechanism, the superior villain teaches the lowly human hero all about his mad schemes, and the hero foils the villain again and again, who never seems to catch the drift. Which begs the following questions...why would an advanced extraterrestrial civilization reference a long-dead Greek mathematician? Why would this advanced civilization need gold when there are far more valuable elements to science they could mine? Why would these aliens just let the humans run loose without a babysitter if they think there's a possibility the humans will just get into uprise-y and overthrow-y high jinks? How do things like generators and aircraft and flight simulators work after 1000 years with no electricity and no gasoline? Why is the Declaration of Independence and maps to nuclear waste dumps so easily found amidst a thousand years of rubble? Why are there so many codpieces? Why are there so many sideways wipes? Why doesn't George Lucas sue? And most importantly, why am I still watching this movie?
Not the worst movie I've ever seen, but one of the worst modern big budget films I've ever seen. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
A few spots of unconvincing cinematography mar this martial arts film, but you don't want to watch it for the cinematography. You want to watch the thrilling fight sequences. This Thai film is about a young man's journey to Bangkok from his small village to retrieve the stolen head of a sacred Buddha statue, but again, you're not all that concerned about a plot. You want to see Tony Jaa almost impossibly fly through the air, escape from dozens of attackers, and kick tons of ass. Well, he does, and the action and stunt-work are all very impressive. But what impressed me most was a couple of almost imperceptible moments of chutzpah, where the film-makers break the fourth wall and include personalized messages in English graffiti to directors Steven Spielberg and Luc Besson. Apparently it also impressed Luc Besson, who distributed this film in France. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
It's never a good sign when a film is written, directed, produced and edited by one individual. Over-long by at least an hour. Contains distracting intertitles with inspirational quotes that drag down the film's momentum. Whenever something is said, the film cuts to several interviewees backing up that claim in a desperate and dizzying plea to believe that claim, no matter how outrageous. A chore from beginning to end. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I watched 3 of them. They're cheaply done and don't have a lot of screenplay to work with, but they have a naive charm. There's a lot of wrestling, some pseudo-science and clearly these serials were written to keep antsy children in their seats before the main feature, but there's also a lot of steampunk-y flying saucers and Frankenstein-esque Van Der Graaf generators. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
An excellent stage performance by Charles Nelson Reilly, bittersweet and very funny, recounting his life story. While he doesn't mention Match Game or Lidsville specifically, it's still very intriguing and has quite a few shocking moments. I watched it on I-Tunes through AppleTV for the very reasonable price of $1.99.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Miles O'Keefe plays Sir Gawain with some tragic bangs and looks remarkably similar to Sybil Danning in need of a quality hair conditioner. Sean Connery rides in on a horse wearing antlers and man-glitter and looking remarkably similar to a leafy Paul Stanley or possibly a very metal Lucky Charms leprechaun with a codpiece. Miles lops Sean's head off with an absurd ax, though the resulting severed head on the floor now lying several yards away with its mouth opening and closing like a trout doesn't look much like Sean Connery, and then it's on like Donkey Kong. Sort of. The next hour and a half or so is very slowly paced with various Round Table-y hi-jinks, where unicorny things happen, rainbows appear, and gauntlets are thrown. There are many awkward fight scenes (one of which involves a basket of cabbage), and silver lame, puffy shirts, fur stoles and ridiculous headgear are worn, and you often wonder if the cast is in drag and they just don't know it. You hope someone would talk about shrubberies, or gallop in and bang coconuts together, or a homicidal rabbit might appear; but it never happens. An Arthurian nightmare. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Great documentary about the influential avant-garde garage rock group of the 60's with lots of vintage video clips. Check it out. Now Playing on the Sundance Channel.
Here's some info about the band:
Below average documentary about the easily misunderstood hairstyle. Not very well photographed or edited, and doesn't seem apparent if the film-makers are attempting to educate or ridicule. In summary: Don't judge a book (or a person, or a hairstyle, or a lifestyle, or a group, or a culture, etc.) by its cover. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
In medieval futuristic Space England, a new king, a thief, a seer, a sage, a cyclops, a boy, a wizard/comic relief and an expendable cast of supporting characters journey to rescue a girl from a monster and many inexplicable things happen amidst scenic vistas and various green screens while a score by James Horner and the London Symphony Orchestra threaten to bludgeon you to death. Waited patiently for the appearance of a Krull, and it never happened. Dreadful. On Netflix instant Streaming.
Short films, shot both in live action and various forms of animation, by influential film-maker Jan Svankmajer. Sometimes whimsical but more often disturbing with a dark sense of humor, they've influenced Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and the Brothers Quay. Filled with images of murderous puppets, severed tongues, and many bones; these films are not for children or the easily freaked-out. At 2+ hours in length, this compilation may be too much for the average viewer. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Long after the greatness of their early films, the Marx Brothers mug and flop about, play the harp, play the piano, and forget to do something funny. Hackneyed, cliched, and somehow manages to be completely laugh free. Avoid. Watch any of their previous films prior to A Day At The Races. This one's on Netflix Instant Streaming, sadly, only Duck Soup is available to stream, but it's absolutely essential viewing.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
A Kansas soda tycoon's family behaves in a quirky manner and nitpicks one another during a tornado. Crispin Glover plays a guitar, a pony is suddenly in the house, someone allows William Burroughs to handle a pistol, and there are very few actual twisters. Is this supposed to be a comedy? I don't know. It's 100% laugh-free, it seems decades longer than a 93 minute run-time, and it's extremely tedious in every way. On Netflix Instant Streaming, but it shouldn't be.
A potty-mouthed nerdy stoner UFO bromance road-movie filled with many pop culture references, dick and fart jokes, car chases, and explosions, all brought to you by the guys behind Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. Smarter than you think and very funny. Go see it, it's Now Playing in theaters.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
13 Andy Warhol Screen Tests (mostly static high contrast black and white silent films of photogenic people in closeup) of Superstars like Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Lou Reed, and Dennis Hopper synced up to music by Dean & Britta (Galaxie 500, Luna). That's it. It's like watching an oil painting while listening to music, or flipping through someone's old photo album and jamming to laid back indie rock. Fascinating, and I'm giving it a good review because it achieves what it sets out to do. The music is lovely, the films are lovely; but it's probably a test of patience for most viewers. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Bad-ass Japanese chicks mug people, steal, hot-wire cars, smoke hash, go to nightclubs, and fight with knives in the dark illuminated by only flashlights to a swinging 60's jazz-rock soundtrack. People drive around in Jeeps, many bottles are broken, Molotov Cocktails are thrown, and dialogue like "I ordered a whiskey-Coke, not a milk", "Let's be elegant and act docile", and "I bought you a cool leather jacket" are said, often for no apparent reason. Simultaneously awful, absurd, stylish, incomprehensible, and very, very groovy; it's what would happen if you merged Beach Blanket Bingo with Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and have the whole mess directed by a monstrous John Woo/Quentin Tarantino hybrid. Terrible, but recommended if you like stuff that's really bad. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
An upper-class whodunit about an apparent suicide at a dog show, it's filled with tuxedos, fedoras and walking sticks. William Powell plays Philo Vance, an urbane amateur detective who's almost exactly like Nick Charles of the Thin Man, which isn't exactly a bad thing. Containing so many plot twists and turns, you'll probably need a Dramamine. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Occam is attributed to suggesting that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity". The maker of this film must not have read the same Wikipedia entry I did. While I like a convoluted conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, I think I'm going to have to believe that Paul McCartney is actually alive, and not dead and having been replaced by a marginally similar looking fellow who underwent years of plastic surgery and learned to speak, sing, and play bass guitar like Paul McCartney just to perpetrate some huge cover-up orchestrated by British Intelligence to keep teenage girls from committing suicide. There are some interesting coincidences, but really? Come on. Plus, what about the royalty checks? Are the other surviving Beatles just going to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties to some dude to just cover up a car crash? I think that's extremely unlikely. Also, I think it's an insult to the band's enormous creativity to suggest that every Beatles album after 1966 is a ghoulish obsession with every word and note a devotion to the dead Paul McCartney. Any way, this is a cruddy documentary with claims that are tenuous and fluky at best, narrated by a terrible George Harrison imitator who can't control his dodgy English accent while seemingly reading aloud from a script, loaded with cheap looking graphics, and no one involved knows how to spell or use Spell-check. It's a train-wreck. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
A non-stop yack-fest arguing the origin of the sweet soothsaying treats. Talking heads yammer on and on at a breathless pace, and it still manages to bore. Avoid, but if you just can't stop yourself, it's on Netflix Instant Streaming.
A man blames himself after a bus accident leaves a young girl dead. Suffering from a head injury, he's soon after accused of murder. Not a lot happens other than people talking, opening and closing doors, shuffling playing cards, and signing affidavits. It's very nice noir thriller to look at with atmospheric cinematography of bridges, cobblestone streets and train stations. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
An absolutely essential documentary of the band. Having been a fan for nearly 30 years, I'd thought I'd seen and heard it all. I was wrong. Anyway, here's a clip that was featured, but it looks and sounds so much better in the film. I watched it from I-Tunes on AppleTV for the reasonable price of $3.99, and you should, too.
I wanted to like this movie. I also wanted to see more of the hotel. I also wanted to have more interviews with actual tenants instead of actor recreations of Sid and Nancy and Janis Joplin. I also wanted to know who was being interviewed because I had no idea they were speaking to Milos Forman until someone off camera mentioned his name. This movie had a lot of promise, but it was meandering and seemed much longer than its 89 minute runtime.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
A distraught woman runs on a treadmill in front of a rear projection during a dream sequence featuring a gigantic doorknob. Calling out her husband's name, she sounds a lot like Judy Garland. She wakes up and decides to eavesdrop on her neighbor Vincent Price through an open window while he bashes in the head of his wife with a candlestick. While speaking before being hit with the candlestick, the unseen wife sounds a lot like Margaret Dumont. After seeing and hearing all this stuff go down, naturally the treadmill-running woman sits down on the couch and becomes catatonic because that's generally what people do. You realize she's in a catatonic state because she's sitting there all wide-eyed and not blinking while everyone around her talks and talks. The doctor is perplexed by this turn of events, so he calls in a specialist, and lo and behold, it just happens to be Vincent Price. No shock there. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Droning and unsettling music by Aphex Twin, Sonic Youth and Ian Mackaye underscore a well-made, graphic, and disturbing documentary. Featuring grisly war footage, modern and historical interviews, images of worldwide civil unrest, and linear storytelling; this is a tense, gripping and thought-provoking film about the radical left-wing Anti-Vietnam War organization The Weather Underground. Fascinating, rattling and not for the faint of heart, it has several gut-churning scenes of violence and death. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
A mannered British noir wartime medical mystery where doctors and nurses talk and talk and talk, and sometimes things explode but not often enough. Plot: A guy ends up murdered and someone's responsible. Interesting camera work and a witty performance by Alastair Sim keep things moving along, but sometimes actors who are not Alastair Sim (or Trevor Howard, for that matter) have that terrible habit of staring off into the distance and melodramatically emoting in a fashion often confused with acting. And I know London was bombed by V1 bombers and had to undergo regular blackouts, but couldn't the folks in this movie turn on a light every once in a while? It is a hospital after all. Watching this film's an awful lot like watching the X-Files, only it's further back in time and lacking in UFOs and flashlights. Anyway, I thought this movie was alright, I just kept thinking I'd rather watch Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter. Green For Danger, The X-Files and Brief Encounter are all on Netflix Instant Streaming and it wouldn't hurt you to check 'em out.
A condensed version of the 1940's serial about the Golden Age comic book hero who doesn't seem to do much more than have fistfights and shoot guns on cheap nondescript sets without seriously harming anyone. There are some editing flubs, Spysmasher trips on his cape, he makes a phone call in an impossible phone booth, and runs on an obvious treadmill in front of a rear projection. If you're keen on watching serialized comic book stories, check out The Adventures Of Captain Marvel instead, where the flying effects were unmatched until Superman: The Movie came out 30 years later. Spyshasher Returns is available on Netflix Instant Streaming, Adventures Of Captain Marvel is at youtube or on DVD.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
A prisoner sits in his jail cell in a catatonic state and has flashbacks about the good-old-days when he was henpecked by his distant actress mother, then he strangles her. With the power of his mind and a few self-help books, he discovers he can become invisible. Don't start yelling "Spoiler" because this happens during the first 5 minutes of the movie and it's in the title, so relax. Anyway, maybe if he learned that whole becoming invisible thing a little bit earlier he wouldn't have been caught after strangling Mommy, but why quibble over a tiny plot-hole like that when there are bigger fish to fry. A boom appears, there are more tan leisure suits than you can shake a stick at, someone eats at a Der Weinerschnitzel, for very little reason there's some awful choreography, someone else wears a pair of legwarmers, man-perms are abundant, a low-speed boat chase happens, and someone goes to an ESP Institute where someone else moves a ball with their mind (which means they stare at a ball with a constipated look on their face and they wiggle their eyebrows up and down), and the entire time you wonder why Elke Sommer is famous. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
And watch it here:
Also available on Netflix Instant Streaming.
Filled with vibrant cinematography of expansive desert landscapes filmed in deep focus, hundreds of robin's egg blue houses crammed together on a hill, an impromptu carnival and flowing saris in vivid hues; Road, Movie is an archetypical transformation story. Vishnu, son of a hair oil salesman, refuses to follow in his father's footsteps. He agrees to drive a truck filled with films and a projector to the sea. On his journey he meets several colorful characters and surreal events occur. While it didn't have much of a story, I liked where we went. Although the pace was languid and had a couple of plot holes (doesn't that truck ever need gas?), I forgave them and chalked these up to the unreal atmosphere. On Netflix Instant Streaming.