Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Of Dolls And Murder

Of Dolls And Murder is the delightfully morbid, grisly, and fascinating documentary about The Nutshell Studies Of Unexplained Death, which are dollhouse crime dioramas created by heiress Frances Glessner Lee in the 1930s. These intricate 1:12 recreations of hideous murder scenes helped train future police detectives and revolutionized crime scene investigations. Not for the squeamish, there is footage of actual dead bodies in the film. Of Dolls And Murder is very well done, and features narration by cult film-maker and bad-ass John Waters. I watched Of Dolls And Murder on Netflix. Here's a trailer:

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

The owner of the 3-star Michelin guide reviewed sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro is examined in this zen-like documentary. Very well shot, the main focus is on the food as seemingly dozens of artfully prepared $300-a-person dishes are shown. There is also the bittersweet subplot of Jiro's sons' struggles to be recognized as chefs in their own right under the formidable shadow of their father's achievements. The pained looks on the sons' faces show the realization that success after they eventually must take over for their father is not necessarily assured. A very lovely and contemplative film, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi also features minimalist classical music by Philip Glass. I watched Jiro Dreams Of Sushi on Netflix. Here's a trailer:

Mutant Girls Squad

Mutant Japanese school-girls battle one another in this gory comedy. Let's break it down: Hundreds of gallons of fake blood, arterial spray, Japanese girls in sailor outfits, brains with spinal cords attached being flung willy-nilly, heads cuts in half by any number of sharp implements, bloody nipple hand puppets, severed heads on a birthday cake, samurai with nose guns, ass-chainsaws, a game of "don't Drop The Cabbage", and tentacles. It's a mess, but an entertaining mess if you like absurd and splattery Grand Guignol-type live-action manga. I watched Mutant Girls Squad on Netflix. There are several NSFW trailers on Youtube if you want to check it out.


The history of puppetry is briefly discussed but then casually tossed aside in this well-done documentary. The latter half of the film concentrates on puppet-theater producer Dan Hurlin's efforts to stage a work based on the life on reclusive photographer Mike Disfarmer, who claimed to have been birthed by a tornado. Seeming overlong at 70+ minutes, it could have made two very interesting documentaries. Still, I enjoyed it. I watched Puppet on Netflix. Here's a trailer:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

It's only 71 days until the most wonderful time of the year. No, not THAT holiday (bah humbug), but Halloween. Someone should enact legislation substituting every sucky holiday with Halloween. Instead of St. Patrick's day, we'll have Halloween, and everyone can dress in orange and drink pumpkin ale. Instead of Valentine's Day, we'll have Halloween, and everyone can eat chocolate and not feel depressed because they're single. And instead of that dreadful mess on December 25th, we can carve pumpkins and not spend every cent we have because pumpkins are only 25 cents a pound and a couple of bags of Halloween candy only costs you about 3 bucks each. Instead of caroling those terrible songs, we can trick or treat. So we can have a whole year of Halloween because every other holiday sucks. It's settled. I'm a genius.

Speaking of geniuses, I watched At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, which is a movie where our hero Coffin Joe lurks around Brazil wearing a top hat and cape. He dislikes superstition, values intelligence, and believes he is superior to others; which are qualities I can sympathize with. His only drawback is that he has ridiculously long grody fingernails and occasionally kills people in a gruesome manner, but no one's perfect. So, like any good Halloween movie; there's skulls, candelabras, screaming, cackling, thunder and lightning, drownings, hangings, severed fingers, and gouged eyeballs. I watched At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul on Youtube. Here's a trailer:

Snakes On A Train

10 or 11 snakes are covered in lime jello, fall into or out of people's mouths, live in jars, and sometimes unconvincingly appear to wreak havoc on a m'f'n train in this Asylum film. 6 or 8 passengers ride a train, and I'm not sure that's a thing people still do. I once saw a circus train travelling somewhere; so I know circus animals and carnies travel by train, but I don't think anyone else does. Since there are so many clips of stock footage of various types of trains standing in for the one that gets swallowed by an enormous snake like the one seen above, I'm still not convinced a single one of them carries passengers.  The interior of the train's windows are all nearly blacked-out, and the sumptuous vinyl upholstery of the train's sets could all use a little freshening up. Maybe they could use a little K-Tel Vinyl Repair:

Anyway, only a couple of cars on the train contain illumination; so what little action happens is barely visible, and it doesn't really matter because the action only consists of sweating, vomiting snakes, smoking, punching tickets, and the cast homo-erotically shooting one another. Snakes On A Train takes itself very seriously, sort of like what would happen if Zalman King directed a snakes-on-a-train disaster film. It's boring and dreary. I watched Snakes On A Train on Netflix. Here's a trailer:

The Wicker Man

Oldest Child Deathrage has been home from college this summer. About a month ago, she adopted a pit bull. He's awfully sweet, but he's very large and awkward. Joyfully bounding through the penthouse and across several pieces of furniture, he knocked a full glass of fruit juice into a tub containing Oldest Child Deathrage's DVDs. After threatening to murder her pet, we cleaned up the mess. In the bottom of the tub of DVDs was Nicolas Cage's remake of the 1970s cult classic The Wicker Man. I had not seen this film, and was very excited to watch it with Oldest Child Deathrage. She was having no part of it. She claims to have watched it many times at college, ridiculing it with her drunk college friends. I don't know where she would learn such behavior. I shrieked, "Watch this terrible movie with me!". She said no. I shrieked, "You don't love this family!", to which she said that I was right and went to her room to watch Pretty Woman. I don't understand children nowadays.

Anyway, The Wicker Man stars Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, and it is the story of grieving parents in Venice being haunted by the apparition of their dead daughter, I think, or something suspiciously similar to that. Here's a clip:

Then Nicolas Cage and his distractingly wispy Just-For-Men'ed hair travels to an island inhabited by a cult of vaguely threatening women wearing cable-knit sweaters, which sort of looks like a coven of Coldwater Creek witches. Then he breaks several laws, some of which include trespassing, breaking and entering, and stealing several bicycles. Here's a clip:

There's something about a missing child, some bees, and jars filled with fetusy liquids. That's really about it. Neil Labute directs in a painterly style; sort of like what would happen if Maxfield Parrish directed a nymphy J. Crew ad. It's dreadful, but not as bad as I'd hoped. I watched The Wicker Man on a fruit-flavored DVD.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2-Headed Shark Attack

Like I mentioned in my Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies review, I don't like picking on The Asylum because picking on The Asylum is like shooting 2-headed sharks in a barrel. It's too easy, their films aren't very good, and they suit my crappy film watching needs. If I'm thinking to myself as I often do, "Hey Stabford, you awesome guy, you could really go for a crappy movie, but Netflix is full of crappy movies and there are too many to choose from.", and just I continue clicking and clicking and clicking until 2 in the morning; I can easily pick one of the Crocasuarus/Octapus/Transmorpher/Haunting hot-messes that The Asylum cranks out and get on with living my life. Movies by The Asylum a lot like the movies by legendary low-budget studio American International Pictures; it's going to be dumb and awful and fantastic in a dumb awful fantastic way.

Anyway, 2-Headed Shark Attack is a film where a group of disposable and interchangeable bikini-clad thirty-year old teenagers who shout "Whoo!" a lot go on a oceanic field trip to a sometimes-it-is-and-sometimes-it-isn't-sinking atoll and get eaten by a poorly-realized sometimes-huge-and-sometimes-conveniently-normal-sized CGI/foam-rubber two-headed shark, and Dr. Carmen Elektra sunbathes like she's riding the brass pole. Seriously, how could you not watch that? Anyway, the technical problems with this film are too numerous to mention, so I won't. It doesn't matter. 2-Headed Shark Attack does everything it's supposed to do, which is to be awful and dumb and fantastic. 2-Headed Shark Attack is highly recommended if you like watching Carmen Elektra try to sensuously writhe or try to act, if you like watching buxom Abercrombie & Fitch B-squad models get torn to shreds by a rubber shark, or if you like watching stuff that sucks. It's on Netflix. Here's a trailer:

21 Jump Street

The Olympics are finally over. Thank goodness. I don't care for the sports. To paraphrase Marge Simpson, "Sports are none of my business.". However, I do like watching little-seen Olympic past-times like badminton, rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining, and synchronized swimming, because I don't think the average beer-guzzling, tail-gating, jersey-wearing, gigantic foam finger-waving sports-fan considers these events actual sports. By no means am I disparaging these events. The physical prowess of the athletes participating in these events at the Olympics has been superhuman, and the determination, talent, and sportsmanship on display has been awe-inspiring. Only by calling these events something other than sports can I allow myself to view any of them, and IMO viewing them once every four years is plenty. The Olympics are eating into valuable movie screening time. Mrs. Deathrage watches hours of the Olympics, Oldest Child Deathrage watches hours of The Office, I have almost no access to the TV, and I have lost all control of my life for the past few weeks.

After visiting the local big-box home improvement retailer because she wants to build a replica of Stonehenge out of small brown landscaping bricks which is a thing people do, Mrs. Deathrage said, "Can we watch a movie?". I enthusiastically said, "Of course!", to which she said, "No, I mean a good one.", and naturally I said, "Probably not.". She decided on 21 Jump Street because she watched the television show the film is based on and because it has Channing Tatum in it, which has me confused as I didn't know she knew who he was as I don't really know who he is and I'm only mentioning him in order to drive page-views. Apparently, she does, and apparently, he's an actor.

Like I said, 21 Jump Street is based on the television series I didn't watch from the distant past, and it's witty and self-aware. It turns every buddy/cop/high school cliche on its head, and I enjoyed that for awhile. It became a little wearying, though. Still, 21 Jump Street was charming and entertaining. I pay-per viewed it. Here's a trailer:

Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies

Ol' Honest Abe scythes through the undead in this well-shot Asylum film. It's pretty easy to pick on The Asylum. I won't. They make cruddy low-budget genre films 'inspired' by popular blockbusters, they fill a void in my Netflix queue, and they're a quick go-to when I need to watch something that sucks. I know that sounds harsh, but it's a compliment. I don't care for the blockbusters they borrow from, the selection on Netflix is lousy, and I watch too many crappy movies. The Asylum is very useful to me. Anyway, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is the best Asylum film I've seen so far, but that still doesn't make it very good. The acting is bad, the dialogue is bad; but Bill Oberst makes for a believable Emancipator and the tintype-like cinematography was pleasant to look at. Here's a trailer:


Thor was always my least favorite Avenger. I don't know why. Actually, I wasn't much of an Avengers fan. I always like The Vision, but he didn't end up appearing in that blockbuster movie this summer. I think I read The Defenders more, but that was years before discovering The X-Men. I was a DC fan anyway. DC has a higher ratio of jacked-up superheroes. I was fascinated by the heroes with the worst powers: Mr. Terrific, the man of 1000 talents who rarely displayed any of them, Ferro Lad, who could turn himself into solid iron, the original Red Tornado, who wore a bucket on her head as a disguise, Matter Eater Lad, who could eat anything; they were fallible and interesting. Thor, with your flying and strength and lightning and flowing blond locks; to you I say "Meh".

None of that is really important right now. I watched Thor on Netflix, and it was dimly lit. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it reminded me of Hamlet only with muscles, dodgy CGI, and explosions. Since I hadn't seen Thor before watching The Avengers, a couple of things I didn't quite get makes sense now. Thor was alright. Here's a trailer where someone needs to turn on a light occasionally.

Tim And Eric's Billion Dollar Movie

The awkward anti-comedy of Tim And Eric's 12-minute Adult Swim programs is stretched into a full-length feature, and my patience was stretched as well. Intentionally awful; the unflattering pauses, the low-budget irony, the poop jokes, the homoeroticism, the's boring and dreadful and and plotless and not in a good way. I was convinced I would be shocked at least once or twice, and I was. Somehow, that's a letdown. I would've expected more from the comedy team when they make a 90-minute movie. And there's not a single bowl. I watched Tim And Eric's Billion Dollar Movie on Netflix. Here's a trailer:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hotel Torgo

Sorry for the infrequency of my reviews. I've been busy with two things. First, I've been doing a little landscaping; and by "doing" I mean I hired some landscapers, and by "hired" I mean forced and by "landscapers" I mean minions. And second, I've been doing P90X. Really. No quotations this time. I've been a sweaty, sloppy mess for over 3 weeks now. I know, it's surprising to me, too. I don't like physical activity of any sort, but the alternative of physical decrepitude is equally as unappealing.

So, I'm several reviews behind. I have Thor, Tim And Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, and Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies in my drafts, but they're not ready for publication. I know what you're going to say next, that "Even when you publish they're not ready for publication.", and that's hurtful and correct and not important right now. I also watched Eegah, Pumaman, Glen Or Glenda, and Manos: The Hands Of Fate again for fun (fun?), and I will publish those at a later date. I just learned today that a working print of Manos: The Hands Of Fate has been found, is being restored, and is going to be released on Blu-Ray this fall. This is very great news. Here's a couple of links:

In the meantime, I watched a short documentary about the making of Manos: The Hands Of Fate featuring an interview with one of the last surviving members of the crew. My only criticism of Hotel Torgo would be that saying that the cast and crew died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances would be something that I would like to know more about. You can't just say something lurid and sensational like that and not have at least a couple of facts or anecdotes to back it up. According to the news article above; Jackey Nehman-Jones, the 7 year old actress who played Debbie, is still alive, and so is her father Tom Nehman, who played The Master. John Reynolds, who played Torgo, killed himself with a shotgun a month before the film's premiere in 1966. And Bernie Rosenblum is interviewed in Hotel Torgo. That's it. We need facts people. Anyway, I watched Hotel Torgo on Youtube.

There doesn't seem to be a trailer for Hotel Torgo, but here's a clip from Manos: The Hands Of Fate. It would be awesome to see this cleaned up and in Hi-Def. It'll still be terrible, but it will be in HD.

Monday, August 6, 2012


A flavoring manufacturer's life goes into a tailspin after meeting an attractive con-artist in an another workplace-centric Mike Judge film. Somehow Mike Judge; creator of King Of The Hill, Beavis And Butthead, and Office Space, has done the impossible and made Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristin Wiig, David Koechner and Gene Simmons not funny. There's a scene involving a phone booth because those still exist, many testicle jokes, and a scene where Jason Bateman has a meeting with an ambulance-chasing lawyer and doesn't have his own lawyer present. I watched Extract on Netflix.

American Grindhouse

Exploitation films are explored in this documentary. Featuring brief clips and interviews with critics and various film-makers, American Grindhouse is probably pretty informative for people who haven't seen 95% of the movies discussed. Sadly, I have. I watched American Grindhouse on Netflix just to get it out of my queue. Here's a trailer complete with black bars over the naughty bits for those in the audience with delicate sensibilities.