Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dragstrip Riot

It's Fonzi versus Richie in this all-singing, all-dancing, no-dragstrip, 1950s teenage drama. After a confusing opening number by The Ripchords, some 30-year old teenagers drive their Corvettes and Thunderbirds to the beach for some mild beach fun, and by "mild beach fun" I mean "an oddly choreographed and unconvincing singalong and some bickering". Then a motorcycle gang shows up, which forces the khaki-wearing kids to the questionably windowless beachside soda fountain where patrons drink bottles of pop. The leather jackets follow, which results in a tepid dance-off that turns into a dungaree-clad slap fight. Then there's some racing footage inserted in the film to pad out the running time and to keep the movie from being called "Bicker On The Beach And Burst Into Song", because no one would go see that, and by "no one would go see that" I mean "teenagers in 1958 wouldn't ignore it while necking at the drive-in". There's more implausibly choreographed singing and dancing, a smattering of fisticuffs, and a hint of unlikely spear-gun brandishing. Dragstrip Riot is a rock & roll delinquent film lacking actual rock & roll featuring approximately a dozen pages of script and interchangeable, uninteresting delinquents. Those expecting a thrill-a-minute rockabilly hot rod extravaganza will be disappointed, as it has no rockabilly, very few hot rods, and no thrills. People who like watching Connie Stevens' backup singers snap their fingers in an off-tempo fashion will be thrilled, however. Watch Dragstrip Riot for the cars, but expect them to often move at a rather slow pace.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


The mythical shoe-mending creature from the breakfast cereal box rides a tricycle, a pogo stick, and a skateboard in this tepid horror comedy. A man steals the leprechaun's sack of gold, and even when bathed in riches beyond his wildest dreams, he still can't seem to afford a quality hairpiece. Then the leprechaun does a little voiceover narration while trapped inside a crate in a cobweb covered basement. Jennifer Aniston shows up to carry the movie, and she does it while wearing white LA Gear sneakers and suspiciously high-waisted multicolored mom shorts. Then the leprechaun eats a plastic basement cricket. I'm not sure why.

Have you ever wondered what lies at the end of a leprechaun's magic rainbow? Well wonder no more, it's a rusty pickup truck. That's not important right now. What is important is this vintage Lucky Charms commercial where two children cross-dress as a seductive horse because that was a apparently a thing that existed during the sixties. Seriously, what lengths would people go to in order to acquire a box of crappy cereal? There's only about a million boxes at the local A&P and they run about $4. It might be a little cheaper if you have a coupon. And why would parents allow their children to play alone in the woods with a seductive horse costume? Why? Because those were different times, my friend, and by "those were different times" I really mean "LSD".

Because there really isn't a whole lot of solid script to work with, the leprechaun runs a lot more than he should, darts behind trees, and polishes shoes. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Leprechaun doesn't really resemble a horror film inasmuch as it resembles an absurd leprechaun workout video. It's laugh-free, horror-free, tedious, and not awful enough to entertain if you're entertained by awful movies. I would avoid it, and by "avoid it" I mean "I can't believe they made a million sequels and a 2014 reboot starring someone named Hornswaggle".

Ha! Actually, the trailer is a lot funnier than the movie, so just watch that.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Welcome Nowhere

The story of a community of Roma who have no other choice but to live in boxcars amidst deplorable conditions is examined in this documentary from Bulgaria. After their homes are razed to build a supermarket, the city of Sofia, Bulgaria temporarily houses the disenfranchised and persecuted Roma in boxcars, but a permanent housing solution never materialized. After 10 years of living in squalor, poverty, and disease, there still is no solution to the problem.

Welcome Nowhere presents the subject matter in a warts-and-all, matter of fact way and places blame equally on both politicians and Roma alike, but I never felt the filmmakers had a particular point of view. I was confused as to whether the filmmakers were trying to enlighten, exploit, or condemn.

Here's a link to the trailer:

Born To Fly

Dancers fling girders, flirt with cinder blocks, become airborne, leap from bridges, and scale walls in this extraordinary documentary about the career of choreographer Elizabeth Streb. Well-shot, dramatic, and more than a little hair-raising, Streb's dance troupe routinely does the impossible, and sometimes get injured in their pursuits. They crash through glass and dangle from ferris wheels. Born To Fly is a remarkable, thrilling documentary about the ultimate expression in modern dance.


An average Danish boy develops super ant powers in this funny, lightweight superhero film for kids.

Pelle Nohrmann is so average no one notices him. While walking home from school he passes the neighborhood haunted house, & he is bitten by an ant. As one would expect from an ant bite outside a haunted house, Pelle begins to notice strange, insect-like powers developing within him. An observant classmate becomes his Alfred of sorts and guides him to a life of super-heroics. Powered by sugar and keeping candy in his utility belt, Pelle as Antboy becomes a celebrity. Then the girl he has a crush on is kidnapped by a villain known as The Flea.

Featuring bright colors and fun graphics, Antboy is a cute, clever, well-shot film derivative of other superhero films like Spiderman or Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. There's some mild toilet humor featuring a melting toilet, but Antboy is probably ok for most kids.

Hammer House Of Horror: The House That Bled To Death

A family moves into a stigmatized property in this made-for-TV movie. So an old man poisons his wife with a cup of cocoa as she knits, then cuts up her body off camera with a curved sword that he just happens to have handy as decoration on the wall. I'm not entirely certain why he is suddenly fed up with her, but I would have to assume that if you're married to someone for nearly a thousand years and they have a couple of rusty swords dangling on the wall, that might be considered a red flag and you probably shouldn't drink any cocoa they suddenly whip up. Heck, I don't know those people, but I certainly wouldn't take a cup of cocoa from that dude. I mean, he owns rusty curved swords as the only decoration in his entire house. Maybe that's just me.

Sometime later, a couple decides to move into the house without even looking at the inside, but they don't seem to make a lot of good decisions as they leave their daughter chilling in the car because it's the late 1970s. After they move in, the daughter unpacks a creepy doll, and sure enough, the paranormal starts happening almost immediately and it's in the script. The house starts to mildly drip blood, and I guess that's why the real estate agent called it a 'fixer-upper' even though it looks like a meth lab. The curved sword inexplicably reappears because it's in the script, and someone claims they're going to collapse under the weight of a couple of folded blankets and she almost believes it. Then the other sword appears, some bad wallpaper appears, and someone is frightened by a set of dentures.

The family throws a birthday party and invites a bunch of kids dressed suspiciously in white, someone serves kids Liquorice AllSorts, and I have to ask myself, "Who the heck serves kids Liquorice AllSorts?"

You know, that's probably not a bad idea, really. Serve the kids the gross black and pink candy, then while they're outside vomiting from eating Liquorice AllSorts, you can gorge yourself on birthday cake. Maybe I'll do that next time in the very unlikely event I'm invited to England or a birthday party or anywhere.

You know, I probably shouldn't malign Liquorice AllSorts like that. Allow me to rephrase: Liquorice AllSorts are slightly better than poisoned cocoa. But only slightly.

Anyway, the partygoers get drenched by blood pouring out of a broken water pipe and it's unintentionally hilarious. Then the movie derails and ends after a dip in the pool.

Dementia aka Daughter Of Horror

A woman sleeps in her high heels in a drawing of a skid-row hotel, then ventures out in the night armed with a switchblade knife in this nearly silent noir thriller. After encountering an unattended infant in a stairwell, the woman reads a newspaper with the headline "Mysterious Stabbing", and I had almost nothing to do with it and you can't pin this rap on me.

The woman continues to wander about and chain-smokes. Someone gets an alleyway beat-down for some unknown reason, and someone does an awkward rhumba that very nearly but not quite shows her underpants. The narrator continues narrating and says something about demons possessing your soul, and I have to stress that I had almost nothing to do with it. I wasn't even in town that week, and I have some shady alibis to back me up. Anyway, avant-garde composer George Antheil's spooky score keeps doing whatever it is that it's doing, and the woman shows up in a fog-enshrouded cemetery. Finally, we might see a little actual horror. Nope, no such luck. Then the narrator says, "Let me show you your mother", and that doesn't seem right at all.

So, the mother is reading a glamour magazine and daddy is looking for a little humpty-dumpty, but she decides against it considering this is a hallucination in a cemetery and that seems like the first reasonable thing anyone has done in this movie. Dad suggestively shows mom a little burned-out stub of a cigar, and she laughs. There are a few more cigars of various lengths, but almost no one laughs at them. Then a guy eats chicken off the bone in extreme close-up and gets a bad case of the meat-sweats, there's another strategically placed cigar, some seltzer erupts, and I'm getting a vaguely Freudian subtext from this flick that I can't quite put my finger on. Beats the heck out of me.

Anyway, Dementia is overwrought and unintentionally humorous. It features stark lighting, deep shadows, and many Dutch angles. I'm assuming Dementia is a scare film warning the viewer against the perils of smoking, eating too many chicken legs, being chased through the streets by a slow-moving squad car and a small dog, accidentally finding a severed head in a basket of flowers, or voiceover narration, but I could be wrong. I have no idea what happened in Dementia, but it looks pretty good doing it and it's recommended if you like stuff that sucks.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Night Of The Howling Beast

Paul Naschy and his wide collars searches for a Yeti and gets bitten by sexy cave-chicks in this dimly lit Spanish horror flick. After a lot of walking through mountains, forests, and caves, Naschy finally gets bitten after about 27 yeti-free minutes. Then some cave-dwellers gnaw on body parts of some sort, and Naschy fights a naked chick wielding a stick. I'm not sure why. Then Naschy staggers around in a day-for-night shot before transforming into Wolfman Jack. After a gunfight with some sherpas, someone inexplicably utters the name Chaka Khan. Again, I'm not sure why.

No one pops, locks, or scratches. Stevie Wonder does not play harmonica. No one gets funky during a Prince-ly break, and Chaka Khan does not make an appearance, which would have really livened up this film. The Night Of The Howling Beast is a snoozefest, and by "snoozefest" I mean "I fell asleep whenever Chaka Khan was not onscreen".

Here's a trailer. It's in French, but you'll get the idea.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hopeless Hopeful

A clumsy guy attempts to rob a bank to fund his wife's heart surgery in this clever Puerto Rican comedy. Although I was underwelmed by the cinematography, I enjoyed the triangle of characters featured in this film. While the script would have you think the male lead is the center of the film, the true heart lies with the two female leads, and I was slightly surprised by the mild twist at the end. I was not surprised by the use of cupcakes as a plot device, but I liked the wife's coworker who could not find the right word for the miniature pastry. It reminded me of this little ditty.

Here's a trailer:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Only Make Believe

After a drug deal goes wrong, a pregnant woman is incarcerated for murder. She leaves prison and tries to reconnect with her daughter, thinking her debt to society is paid. Unfortunately, it isn't. Known internationally as It's Only Make Believe, Eventyrland is a bleak and gritty crime drama featuring a physically demanding performance by the director's actress wife and a believable performance by the director's stepdaughter. I was especially impressed by an emotionally resonant scene in a pond where lead actress Silje Salomonsen strips down to her underwear and searches for a lost ring in a the cold, murky water. What could have been another Lifetime movie increases in intensity until the harrowing ending.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


A hobo sits naked in the center of a wealthy Belgian woman's chest, takes a bath, becomes a gardener, and has a hand in a little surgery in this well-shot, enigmatic documentary. Detractors have often claimed that I misunderstand a lot of artful, inscrutable films with a vaguely supernatural edge, discuss at length subjects that don't have a lot to do with the movie, and somehow make myself the center of the blogpost (and those detractors suck and don't know what they're talking about), so I decided to do my research. Sure enough, there seems to be a myth called 'sleep paralysis' furthered by so-called experts in the extremely scientific and not-at-all-made-up field of research called The Old Hag Phenomenon, where a sleeping individual experiences a form of wakefulness and an inability to move allegedly caused by overlapping sleep cycles, when everyone knows that this terrifying phenomena is caused by a demon sitting in the center of one's chest. Just for my own information, I made a call around to the old hags, incubi, succubi, mares, and hobos I know to see if anyone recently squatted in a wealthy family's concrete mansion, squatted on their chests, and dug up their lily pond, because I'm a gig fan of Brutalist-inspired architecture and that sounds like a pretty solid grift. No one claimed to know anything about it, and since they're all a bunch of shady characters I shouldn't have really been surprised by that response, but regardless of that I'm going to have to go on record and state that the events in this documentary are probably completely fictional.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Robinson Crusoe On Mars

Adam West talks to an obviously distressed monkey dressed in a tiny space suit as a drawing of a spaceship zooms past a drawing of the planet Mars in this science fiction take on the Daniel Defoe story. Some guy that's not Adam West crash lands on Mars and often opens up the helmet on his visor for some reason because that seems like a sensible thing to do on the red planet, then he tries to start a martian rock fire with the valuable oxygen in his breathing tank. When he's not dodging fireballs, he sucks the oxygen right out of the tank with his lips and eats space food from a tube. Then Adam West's monkey raids the food tubes, and that's one of the many reasons why you shouldn't go into outer space with a monkey. They won't keep their nimble, greedy little fingers off your food tubes.

Oops, someone accidentally removed the very scientific clip I had of NASA sending chimps into space with an absurd one of people flinging pigeons around aboard what I can only assume is the Vomit Comet. Having once given a joyless joy-ride to a captive pigeon I had stowed in a plastic beer cooler, I can tell you from experience that this is a really terrible idea. You'd be surprised how much crap comes out of a pigeon on even the briefest automobile trips. Unlike a dog, pigeons don't seem to enjoy rides in the car, they aren't potty trained, they can't stick their heads (or ass, for that matter) out the window, and I can't really recommend it.

OK, you're probably wondering why I drove a pigeon around in a cooler. Years ago, when my now-adult children were still in elementary school, Mrs. Deathrage was having a minor meltdown because an injured pigeon was beneath her car and refused to move. Considering all the pigeon rescue training I've had, which is none, she coerced me into saving this poor bird, whose wing seemed to be bloody, scraped, and impaired. Using a broom and the only container I had available, I gently shooed the troubled creature into a large, plastic beer cooler. Mrs. Deathrage insisted I call Animal Control to handle the situation. After many calls to many animal professionals, no one would take this bird. Maybe the situation has now changed, but there didn't seem to be many injured pigeon resources available. I haven't checked lately. Anyway, I finally found an animal rescue sanctuary 30 minutes away by car. They did not do pickups.

Mrs. Deathrage wanted the bird to be as comfortable as possible, so she placed a small bowl of water and a couple of pieces of sliced white bread in the cooler because it seemed to have a hungry, thirsty look on its face and it's going on a half-hour car ride. Satisfied with this arrangement, the pigeon and I embarked on our journey, with the cooler resting in the back seat of my car. Like I mentioned before, pigeons seem to dislike car rides, and it flapped around frantically inside the cooler. As I was on the highway in traffic, I couldn't check on its safety. I felt assured it was still alive because I could hear it attempting to take flight within the cooler. It very well could have been drowning for all I knew, and I didn't have a miniature pigeon life preserver available. I hoped for the best.

After an eternity of the sound of ceaseless wing-flapping coming from the cooler in the backseat where I pictured its dumb little head submerged in the bowl of water, I arrived at the sanctuary. I'm not sure how long pigeons can hold their breath under water, but I'm assuming its not a half-hour. Again, I'm no pigeon expert. With some trepidation, I looked inside the cooler. Within the cooler sat the pigeon. It was soaking wet, covered in pigeon crap and soggy bread, but seemingly no worse for wear than it was when it was chilling under my wife's car. I took the cooler and its disgusting inhabitant into the building and walked up to the reception desk, and informed them why I was there. The receptionist said, "Bring your pigeon and follow me to one of the exam rooms". I said, "I don't own a pigeon".

I waited for like ever in the exam room, and finally a man dressed as a park ranger came in. He said, "Are you the guy with the pigeon?", making it seem like I hang out with pigeons all the damn time. Not really knowing how to respond to such a question, I said, "I guess". I pointed to the cooler. Not missing a beat, throwing common sense and caution to the wind, disregarding any violent and potentially life-threatening situations that could occur, and certainly not wearing any sort of protective gloves, he fearlessly reached into the cooler and grabbed the filthy pigeon. Flipping it over and over, pulling its wings open to get a good look at its pigeony anatomy, and giving it a nearly everything but a prostate exam, the pigeon remained calm and sedate, as if it's manhandled by strangers posing as park rangers every damn day. The alleged park ranger said, "Thanks", and left with the pigeon, leaving me in the exam room with a bread and crap-filled cooler. I sat there stunned for a moment hoping I wasn't going to be presented with a bill, then I snuck out of the building.

I went back to the penthouse, hoping I wasn't followed by bill collectors who specialize in emergency services for pigeons. By now, the kids were home from school. As we sat around the dining room table, I started to tell my harrowing tale. I said, "So I took a pigeon for a ride in the car...", and one of the kids said, "The one in the bucket?"

Confused, I said, "Wait, what? You knew about an injured pigeon, you kept it in a bucket, and you didn't tell anyone?". Instantly, they all started to cry, exclaiming, "WE THOUGHT YOU WOULD KILL IT!", because apparently amongst my children I have a reputation for murdering pigeons, which is something I don't ever remembering doing before. If that's something I've done in the past during some drunken, blackout, murderous pigeon rampage, how did they know? I'm pretty sure I would have kept that information close to the vest. Anyhow, last time I checked, pigeon murderers don't escort their victims around town out of the goodness of their heart prior to their eventual demise. I'm not really sure, since I don't have an actual human heart, I've never murdered a pigeon, and that seems like a waste of gas. Regardless, I was always under the impression that potential pigeon murderers drove windowless vans, and not Volkswagen Jettas.

While I realize I'm a super villain and all-around awful person, I would never harm an animal. And now the word is out in the animal world that I'm willing to be a pigeon taxi service driving injured foul around to doctor's appointments for free. Swell.

Anyway, Robinson Crusoe On Mars has some pretty cool desert location shots that look a little bit like what Mars looks like, and there isn't very much Adam West in it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Antarctica: A Year On Ice

Featuring stunning time-lapse photography, Antarctica: A Year On Ice is a fantastic documentary about what it is like to live a year on the frigid continent at the bottom on the world, or as I like to think of it, being trapped for 6 months with no possibility of escape in a silent, frozen, windswept, barren landscape that could kill you and you're thousands of miles from the nearest bakery.

Honestly, I couldn't imagine living in Antarctica. It's just about the worst place on earth. The sun circles overhead for months at a time, and then you're plunged into darkness for months at a time. 200 m.p.h winds force snow through every crack and crevice until it fills every available space. There's vast emptiness, and complete silence. And it's cold. After about 5 minutes there I would probably lose my mind. There's like one store, and they probably don't stock Junior Mints. Not to mention if you eat all your Junior Mints, you have to wait 6 months for them to be restocked, and I would probably have killed myself long before then. After watching this film, I can safely say visiting Antarctica would be like someone punching you in the face with an ice cube tray.

Simultaneously beautiful, heartbreaking, frightening, and inspiring; Antarctica: A Year On Ice features awesome footage of the Southern Lights, the Milky Way, and stars spinning around in circles. There's also a nightmarish moment aboard an icebreaker, a harrowing drive in some sort of vehicle during white-out conditions using only GPS to navigate, and Antarctic residents succumbing to a mental issue called T3. Not only is life in Antarctica tough on humans, it kills an awful lot of animals, too, so beware of that.

The Winding Stream

Filmed over ten years, The Winding Stream is a documentary about country music legends The Carter Family. Using family photos, film clips, home movies, and in-studio footage of newer musical acts covering some of their tunes, I was surprised that I felt The Winding Stream actually needed more Carter Family music in it. While I understand having Sheryl Crow cover a Carter Family song in order to show their influence, that isn't why I wanted to see this film. You certainly would not have heard me complain about hearing too much Carter Family music. Since there is no footage of The Original Carter Family performing from their heyday in the 20s and 30s, the filmmaker decided to use some unfortunate and startling CGI animation of the Carter Family to mixed results. However, there was some awesome footage of Maybelle Carter playing guitar and demonstrating her groundbreaking strumming technique known as the Carter Scratch.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Sarnos: A Life In Dirty Pictures

The influential sexploitation director Joe Sarno is outlined in this charming, funny documentary. Actually, the star of the film is his wife and collaborator Peggy Steffans, and I can only hope to be as much of a badass as she is when I am her age, but since I never age because I have a painting of me that no one is allowed to ever see that ages for me, that may never happen. Skinny-dipping in a Swedish lake, showing off her film memorabilia, and riding in Joe's vintage Volkswagen, at 76 years of age the outspoken and vivacious Peggy kicks a dozen different kind of ass. The Sarnos: A Life In Dirty Pictures isn't so much about the films the Sarnos made as it is about their tender, heartwarming relationship both on and off the camera. Still, there are plenty of clips from Sarno's grindhouse films and vintage footage of a much rougher, seedier Times Square.

Here's a not-so-great trailer:

All About The Feathers

A nightwatchman tries to get ahead in life by purchasing a fighting rooster in this absurd Costa Rican film. Quirky and deadpan, All About The Feathers is a little reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite in its humorous examination of a luckless everyman, only with more chickens. I dare you not to snicker during the poultry training exercises. That bird's a star, and is very nearly upstaged by the Bible-verse spouting and often confused coworker.

Levitated Mass

Levitated Mass is a documentary about the moving of a 340-ton granite monolith 105 miles through Southern California to its final home at the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art. Created by Michael Heizer who explores the concepts of absence and emptiness through his 'sculptures in reverse', Levitated Mass is a surprising film about the logistics of conceptual art in an age when art sometimes requires state and local approval and the removal of traffic lights and overhead power lines. I found the film to be stirring when the unexpected consequences of such a herculean effort accidentally brings enormous shrink-wrapped art into local onlookers' front yards. Levitated Mass features beautiful cinematography and an interesting score with music by Akron/Family.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


A man discovers he can control his neighbors' minds using sound and briefly forces them to be in a rock band in this absurd, nihilistic Scandinavian film. Utilizing a brooding, effective electronic score to create an unsettlingly sinister atmosphere, LFO is slyly funny. I was very impressed with Izabella Jo Tschig's subtle acting, where flashes of fear, confusion and disgust often crossed her face at the same time.

Spoiler alert: You know, if I discovered that I could control people's minds using a synthesizer, I'm not certain I wouldn't try to control the world myself. Honestly, there's a lot of improvements that could be implemented in the world, and I'm just the sort of supervillain to do it. Seriously, I would set the planet straight, and everyone would be a lot happier. Given, if I had supreme control of the world there would be a lot more Junior Mints around, in fact, everyone's cupboards would be full of them because they're delicious and no one dislikes them and if they do there will be heck to pay. Let's just cut to the chase, under my benevolent and minty martial law, there will be mandatory Junior Mints for everyone.