Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The "Van Triple Feature" at Cinefamily

This summer I took a lengthy and much needed road trip along the west coast that took a little over a month and put 5000 miles on my auto. I got to see a lot of friends that I hadn't seen face to face in a long time, which was great. Thankfully none of my "bros" "iced" me nor did they make me kill a kitten. I did accidentally commit possum murder but it's ok, I believe he was a neo-con. I've been back a few weeks now and have finally worked up the enthusiasm to write something. I don't believe I will be able to catch up on everything I've seen the past few months, so I will try to post some highlights and then get back to business as usual. I do suffer from being lazy though. The cinematic experience that sticks at the most was the aforementioned Van Triple Feature which served up The Van (1977), Mag Wheels (1978), and Supervan (1977). It started amiably enough with a little slice of cheese known as The Van about a (you guessed it) a van! Nerdy Bobby thinks that all he needs to get laid (or attempt a hundred different date rapes) is a custom van. But not even a sweet ass van can overcome Bobby's grating personality and annoying face. There are some shenanigans with the cool bully (also in a custom van, 'natch), a race, nudity, a bad ass song, and Danny DeVito as Bobby's boss at the car wash. Things really got truckin' (hehe) with the second feature Mag Wheels. In this trash masterpiece we have the kick-ass girls in their custom trucks squaring off with the town douche bags in their custom vans. This confounding cinematic treat shifts from wacky scenes where nerds are spanked, to several attempted rape sequences including a 12 on 1 scene that is resolved with with some old fashioned racism when the only Asian girl happens to know kung fu and takes out all dozen a-holes at once. The ending is so hilariously awesome I won't spoil it but the crowd did jump to their feet cheering. "She's all right!!". So you'd think that after sitting through two of these inept mind-scramblers you would be rewarded with the greatest of all van movies, Supervan! I mean, this thing looks like a spaceship and on the poster it's shooting lasers! Alas, it sucked. There is a laser shooting scene but it's too little too late. After the opening where the hero saves the female lead from an attempted gang rape! (oh those wacky seventies) the film meanders it's way to a custom van show where it becomes a mondo film to fill out it's run time. My partner in crime, Nick, fell asleep pretty quickly (no surprise to me based on other movie outings with Nick, hehe), but I was totally jealous that I couldn't fall asleep. Mag Wheels is avaible on a 4 film DVD set from VCi but under the title Summer School. The other two aren't worth finding.

8/10 for the evening overall

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Repulsion (1965)

Dir: Roman Polanski
Criterion Blu-ray

I had seen this film when I was much younger and it did leave an uneasy impression on me. I happily picked up the Criterion Blu-ray release for it and finally got around to watching it and when it was over I thought my head would explode. This is one of the best horror films ever constructed. As I watched it I had a since of deja vu, like it was a half remembered nightmare. The film stars Catherine Deneuve as a young woman working in a beauty salon and living with her older sister. She is unlike any protagonist (save maybe Carnival of Souls 1962) that you would find. She seems to live in a daze, is completely afraid of men, and is both vulnerable and tough. Polanski is a master of keeping you on your toes, keeping a sense of dread that lingers long after the film ends and also makes the viewer as paranoid as Ms. Deneuve's Carole . He also uses some bizarre dream imagery to scare the bejeezus out of you. This is a truly unque film that let's the viewer draw their own conclusions about the world this character inhabits. Deneuve is perfect as Carole, the cinematography is exactly what's needed to tell the story properly, and I don't know about Polanski as a person, but he can direct the crap out of a horror film. Criterion's Blu-ray release is packed with making of extras and looks stunning. A must have.


Youth in Revolt (2009)

Dir: Miguel Arteta
Sony Blu-ray

Here's a film where Michael Cera gets to play a typical Cera role (which frankly I don't mind) and also gets to stretch by being the bad boy alternate persona. He stars as Nick Twisp, a geeky boy that knows a lot of pretentious factoids but is unsuccessful with the ladies. He then meets his dream girl, Sheeni, who happens to know even more about the things that Nick is into and is obsessed with the French. So Nick invents the alternate version of himself named Francois and starts doing dangerous things to when her over. Things go wrong, of course, hilarity ensues. It's not much different, plot wise, from a million other teen comedies where nerds try to get laid. The difference here is in the details which border on being too precious but can mostly be overlooked or forgiven as the film provides enough entertainment and cameos to get you to the end. The real crime is the absolute waste of Zach Galifianakis who deserved much better.


Cry of the Owl (2009)

Dir: Jamie Thraves
Paramount DVD

This is based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name and stars Paddy Considine and Julia Stiles. It follows Considine as an awkward man that is in the midst of a divorce and trying to transition into a new job far from the city he was living in. While in this new rural setting, he spots Ms. Stiles through her kitchen window and starts watching, only because she looks "so happy". She catches him peeking one night and the two become friends and quickly into more than that prompting her to dump her boyfriend. As the story unfolds we realize pretty quickly that everyone in this story has a mental problem of some sort and maybe Considine isn't really the problem at all. When the film started I had an unsure feeling about it, there was something about Considine's performance that seemed off (and I generally love this guy's performances), but he does settle into the role and I realized that the style of the film matched the content fairly well. By the end I had bought into it and was quite affected by the end result. It's not a perfect film but surely an interesting one that I would be glad to revisit.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Avatar (2009)

Dir: James Cameron
Fox Blu-ray

If you haven't already seen this or don't know what it's about, then you care even less than I do so don't worry about it. It was exactly what everyone says it is no matter who said it and what it was. It's a big science fiction movie with lots of colors. The only insight I had was that I felt like it was inadvertently about our societies addiction to video games and how we're so unimpressed with our selves we're using avatars of our own everyday to escape reality, or it's about the environment, your call.


Pirate Radio (2009)

Dir: Richard Curtis
Universal Blu-ray

This should have been way better than it was. It's set in the sixties in England, follows DJ's at a pirate radio station playing some of the best music ever made, and stars a handful of likable actors (Chris O'Dowd, Nick Frost, Rhys Darby, Phillip Seymour Hoffman). But to my dismay, the film is a disconnected arrangement of scenes that go nowhere, full of characters that are more caricatures, and feels oddly mean spirited in it's attempts at humor. The "drama" of the story comes from a fuddy duddy (Kenneth Branagh) who can't stand that rock and roll music (much fist shaking) so takes it upon himself to shut down rock radio forever! But these rebels outsmart him at every turn, well not really, they just stay on the air and then are all rewarded with women, seriously. And by the way, not based on anything remotely historically accurate, just a weird ass fantasy. Please to avoid at all costs.


The Internecine Project (1974)

Dir: Ken Hughes
Scorpion DVD

A forgotten thriller Starring James Coburn as an agent that must erase some loose ends from his past and comes up with a convoluted plot to take care of them in one night. The first act is a bore and filled with so much machismo that I thought it was a comedy, but when we finally get to the heart of the story it becomes pretty gripping. The convoluted plot in question is certainly the only reason the film got made and if you have any interest in seeing it I wouldn't want to spoil it. Hughes (director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang !) doesn't seem concerned with keeping his audiences attention and relies too heavily on the script, probably the reason the film isn't more well known. Worth a watch but don't be in a hurry.