Thursday, December 31, 2009

The H-Man (1958)

Director: Ishiro Honda
Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection / Columbia DVD

Kudos to Columbia for putting out these "Icons of.." sets on DVD. Two of them were invaluable to Hammer fans and this one is a must for Japanese Sci-Fi fans. Particularly fans of Honda's ("The Father of Godzilla" & Kurosawa's assistant director on five films) as he directed all three films in the set. The H-Man varies in sone degree from his better known pictures as it is not about a giant mutated creature attacking Tokyo. The story here is still about radioactive fallout from the H-Bomb (hence the "H" in the title) but the main threat here is that it is turning people in a goo that absorbs other people, leaving a piled of wrinkled clothing behind. This film was made at the same time as another, more famous one about a pile of slime that eats people, The Blob. That's pretty much where the similarities stop. While the The Blob is about thirty year old teenagers trying to get the squares to believe their story, The H-man is about drug dealers, cops, and scientists trying to solve a mystery. So yes, in a total "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter" moment, this is a sci-fi/crime film. After a drug dealers clothes are found on the street, the cops, the crooks, and the wife are all searching to find out what happened. A young scientist shows up after reading about the story and believes it is connected to his research and that basically this guy melted. Unwilling to believe but still interested, the cops listen to his theories and check in with him occasionally until all is revealed and they must defeat the slime! It's a briskly paced and fun film to watch with some excellently staged sequences. The best being an abandoned boat that is investigated where the slime pours out and forms glowing apparition-like human forms and absorbs a few people before they make it off the ship. The second is the ending where teams of officers armed with blowtorches burn the sewers to get every drop of the evil liquid detergent. This is another fascinating take on the fears people in Japan were dealing with in a post-war society and an exponentially increasing reliance on technology.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Director: Marc Webb
Fox Searchlight DVD

The word most associated with this movie that I heard was "precious". So already the film is fighting an uphill battle to capture my affections. Then the film starts with text where the filmmaker calls someone (presumably an ex-girlfriend that this story is about) a "bitch". Now the hole is dug even deeper. The film that followed is nothing more than a love story with an unhappy ending that is packaged in an arty way so you won't notice that nothing new is going on here. At least nothing that Godard or Hal Hartley haven't done before and done better. But the most annoying aspect is really the director's inclusion of 80's pop culture references that are constantly being shoved down our throats by characters that look way too young to know what they're talking about. Unless the film is set in the nineties and I missed it. The leads (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) are charming enough but their characters are hard to relate to. I also have to take points away for naming the main character "Summer" and another character (SPOILER ALERT!!) "Autumn" in a truly groan worthy scene that I refer to as "Handle with Care" moments (Simpsons reference). On first viewing it, I didn't have a strong dislike for it, but it's shortcomings seem to be more pronounced the more I think about it. Therefore, I will stop thinking about it.


District 9 (2009)

Director: Neil Blomkamp
Sony DVD

A lot of hype surrounded the release of District 9 this past year. Presumably because this sci-fi actioner from a first time director leading a cast of unknowns would save us from the mindless popcorn movies and sequels of the summer season. Brought to us by king of the geeks himself, Peter Jackson, the film delivered pretty much exactly what every other sci-fi action film does. Sure, there's a new take on the alien invasion, the aliens stop at our planet because they are out of food and fuel. They are then herded into a camp near Johannesburg and live there for 20 years. The aliens come across as fairly idiotic bug creatures begging the question of how they could have created the technology that brought them here. This is where the film begins, in a documentary style, as we follow a man that is in charge of relocating the aliens further away from humans after the task has been privatized by a company that is more concerned with weapons than human/alien relations. About 20 minutes in, the documentary is dropped and we are thrown into the narrative told in a similar style. The story follows Sharlto Copley, the company man who gets blasted by goo and is now turning into one of the aliens he looks down upon. Hello racism parable, there you are. That's fine as some of the best sci-fi has been used to disguise more important messages hidden within. The problem here is even though the world that Blomkamp has created is quite interesting, the story set in that world isn't. I always felt one step ahead of what was happening and the action sequences were incredibly long and not interestingly staged. The alien effects looked great but some of the scenes revolving around a robotic suit of armor appeared cartoony. It certainly isn't a bad movie, but nothing to get excited about either.


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Entity (1981)

Director: Sidney J. Furie
Anchor Bay DVD OOP

It's safe to say I am a horror fan (though my tastes do lean to Gothic & classic horror) but I seldom find horror films scary. While the cheap jump/scare moments can be effective, very few horror films make me genuinely nervous. But watching The Entity, my nerves were definitely rattled. The problem is what it took to throw off my iron constitution. We're told that the story is based on fact. Barbara Hershey plays a single mom of three that is attacked one night by an invisible force. This is the first of many attacks that are depicted in the film and by attack, I mean sexually assaulted by a ghost. Each one gets progressively more violent and one is even witnessed by her children. If the subject matter and it's supposed truth wasn't disturbing enough, it's accompanied by a loud metal clanging noise on the soundtrack that sent me into fits. In fact, the noise probably contributes to about 70% of my jangled nerves during the screening experience. The problem of the film, however, is the fact that we are told that these are based on true events. The moments we see re-enacted are in no way presented in such a way that they're are open for interpretation. In such outstanding films as The Haunting or The Innocents, the events could be just figments of imagination or conversely, in something like Poltergeist, we know we're in a fictitious story and are not supposed to think these things actually happened. The other major flaw with the film is not knowing anything about the Barbara Hershey character other than that she is a struggling single mother. The scenes between the attacks, like her seeing a psychiatrist played by Ron Silver, are tedious and feel like nothing more than filler to get us to the set pieces. The largest of which is the rather ridiculous ending on a giant sound stage that is built to recreate her house. Overall, it's not a film I ever wish to revisit, but I have to give some credit for it actually being a disturbing experience.
The DVD on Anchor Bay is now out of print and getting pricey. I was able to get this pretty easily on Netflix but who knows how long that will be available. The print is fine and the disc contains a half hour interview with one of the parapsychologists that worked on the real life case. He reveals that the story is exaggerated for the film (big shock!).


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wandering Ginza Butterfly (1971)

Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Synapse DVD

Here's a seventies Japanese action flick that's light on the action and made infinitely more watchable by the presence of it's star, Kaji Meiko. She plays a bar hostess that was just released from prison after killing a man. She tries to give her money that she makes to the man's widow and son, but she doesn't want it and is very forgiving. Eventually being in the corrupt town of Ginza leads to a confrontation with a local yakuza boss who is trying to steal away the club she works at. Her solution? Play him in a game of pool, winner takes all. But it's that weird game with no holes on the table and they only use three balls. I'm sure I could look it up, but that's too much effort. Thankfully Yamaguchi uses this moment for a clever freeze frame tutorial to explain the game to the uncultured. The following sequences offer the most stylish and violent parts of the film. It starts to veer into territory that Kaji Meiko fans were probably looking for but is over with quickly. All in all, an ok actioner but nothing too memorable.

Synapse's print is terrific and there is a super long interview with director Yamaguchi.


Burke & Hare (1972)

Director: Vernon Sewell
Redemption DVD

If you're interested in the real Burke & Hare or a fan of the other films based on their grave-robbing exploits(Flesh & The Fiends, Doctor & The Devils, The Body Snatcher), then avoid this like swine flu. I should have known what to expect once the film started and a peppy theme song (lyrics and all) kicked in. What followed was amateurishly staged dreck that's more sex romp than horror film. There are several asides at a brothel with shots of random wackiness, like a man being ridden like a horse set to jaunty piano music! How crazy is that? Derren Nesbitt tries his best to create a character (he's one of the title characters but I've already forgotten which one) amidst this uninspired snore fest. Some of the walk on actors look like they're reading cue cards just off camera. It hits all the major plot points and combines details of the other versions, which are all better, making this an exercise in pointlessness. Unless you're a Yutte Stensgaard completest.

The print is barely passable. It's fuzzy and dark with several jump cuts. Fail.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Silent Scream (1980)

Director: Denny Harris
Scorpion Entertainment DVD

With a cast that included Barbara Steele, Yvonne De Carlo, Cameron Mitchell, and Avery Schreiber I was excited to see this. Unfortunately, they're all supporting players in this mediocre, slow-moving thriller about four college kids that rent rooms at an old house by the beach and it turns out there's a killer on the loose. The cast is led by the amiable Rebecca Balding but the storytelling is sluggish and nothing new. The killer is revealed with a third of the film left to go, so no real mystery or tension is ever created. And, as I mentioned, Barbara Steele is in it, but has a non-speaking role. You do know that she is cuh-ray-zee though because she opens her eyes very wide and tilts her head. Looking Denny Harris up on IMDB revealed that he has no film credits besides co-writing and directing this at the age of 50. The story behind that would be more interesting than the film. I am always curious in one time only directors.

The good news for fans on the film (and there are more than I would expect) is that the print and transfer look excellent. It's just too bad the movie wan't more interesting.


Criss Cross (1949)

Director: Robert Siodmak
Universal DVD

Here's a well made noir from the director of The Killers (1946). The story concerns itself with an armored car robbery planned by Burt Lancaster. The interesting twist here is that he doesn't plan on being a crook, he just blurts out the idea when Dan Duryea catches Burt with his wife, Yvonne De Carlo. Since Lancaster works for the armored car company, the plan seems believable but forces good ol' Burt into a life of crime to keep the story up. Duryea is always good as a sociopath and Lancaster is good as the hero despite the embarrassing zoot suit he's wearing. The film drags a bit in the middle, but the robbery is excellently staged amidst a flurry of gas bombs and the ending is as downbeat as it gets.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Arrangement (1969)

Director: Elia Kazan
Warner DVD OOP

The opening sequence of this one is pretty attention grabbing. Kirk Douglas plays a rich white guy that says goodbye to his wife, gets in his convertible, and then drives it under a semi for a suicide attempt. Well, unfortunately this is where the movie takes it's own turn for the worst and he lives. Now we are forced to suffer through two hours of whiny melodrama as we learn the nature of the attempt. I'll sum it up for you! He's a successful ad exec, his wife will tolerate anything, his mistress left, and he hates his dad. The end. What begins as a precursor to the more exciting films of the seventies that were full of existential dilemma, turns out to be nothing more than midlife crisis. Combined with the fact that the film starts with a feel and format similar to the new wave movements of the sixties (telling the story non-linearly, comic book style word balloons) and then moves into more typical storytelling methods makes it a painful two plus to sit through. Unless you're just a completest for some of the big name cast (Hume Cronyn anyone?) or a Kazan fan, please avoid at all costs. Even if you feel like you need to own it because it is out of print, don't watch it. Just let it collect dust.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Acroos 110th Street (1972)

Director: Barry Shear

This is a film I have watched before but had been wanting to revisit. I had fond memories of it and thankfully it holds up exceptionally well. Although Shear and the rest of the production crew were mainly television veterans, this is a masterful example of crime cinema. It's tense from beginning to end, appropriately brutal, and has a tight script with sharp dialog. The story starts with a mob number's bank being robbed by three guys. Things go wrong and they kill five criminals and two cops in the getaway. The mob then sends Anthony Franciosa to find the robbers and the police send in Anthony Quinn (the aging vet) & Yaphet Kotto (the up and comer). The movie also takes on an interesting social context here as Kotto has trouble getting respect from his peers because he is black and a hard time with the community because he's a cop. Paul Benjamin gives an excellently seething performance as the lead robber whose speech to his girlfriend is a shockingly honest take on the nature of crime. This is a movie that deserves to be more well known.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Razorback (1984)

Director: Russell Mulcahy
Warner Archive DVDr

This debut feature from Mulcahy (Highlander fame!) is a pretty excellent monster movie set in the Australian outback. The monster, in this case, is a giant boar that stealthily shows up periodically and mauls/eats someone. But, eating humans is just in the razorback's nature and we soon find out the the ultimate evil is ... MAN!!! I mean the razorback is pretty bad, his first victim is an infant, but man is worse! The story follows an animal activist named Bath Winters (Judy Morris) who heads to Australia to expose the hunting and processing of kangaroos. That's when she meets the grandfather (Bill Kerr) of the first victim and gets caught with the boar through a series of events that leads her husband (Gregory Harrison) to fly to Australia to search for her. The film is atmospheric, using stylized lighting, fog, and low angle shots that give the outback an eerie feel. The script is unpredictable and often witty. This is one of the better films I've seen from the Warner Archive so far and it's a little disappointing that it is also the worst transfer I've seen from them. Certain shots have hazing and pixelation and the opening credits looked fuzzy. I also had to turn the sound up to "11" on my TV to hear the dialog. It's still a fun way to spend 90 minutes.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Made In U.S.A. (1966)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Criterion DVD

Admittedly, this is a challenging film to watch, Particularly if you have any preconceived notions from the fact that it is based on "The Jugger" by Richard Stark. It's hard to understand why Godard would have chosen to base it on any novel as by this point in his career he had moved past using typical narrative let alone the trappings that would go along with making a genre film like a thriller. While it does use some very basic plot points, like finding out who the murderer is, tricking the murderer into confessing, this would qualify as a deconstruction of a thriller with most of it's running time devoted to the actors talking about politics or making pop-culture references. For me, it was a rewarding viewing experience. I caught a lot of the references and always enjoy time capsules where political opinions are expressed. Visually it pops with color. Anna Karina's super-cool sixties clothing looks like it was designed by Mondrian and certain shots and moments evoke a Lichtenstein vibe. It's also very interesting to note that this was Godard's last collaboration with Anna Karina and they had already been divorced for two years when it was made.

Criterion's disc looks incredible and is loaded with extras. So even if it's not your favorite Godard, it is a must have for the interviews with Ms. Karina and actor László Szabó and the short documentary.


The Stuff (1985)

Director: Larry Cohen
Anchor Bay DVD

This is a fun satire on fast food/consumerist mentalities in the 1980's, but makes perfect since today as well. The "stuff" of the title is a supposedly low-fat, all natural desert treat that comes in a bucket and looks like marshmallow cream. No one knows where it came from or what's in it, but everyone loves it and it's highly addictive. All we ever really find out about it is that it comes from the ground and when eaten, it compels people to get others to eat it. It essentially turns people into zombies so the social commentary here moves into Dawn of the Dead territory. The story follows and corporate saboteur (Michael Moriarty), the woman in charge of "The Stuff" ad campaign, and a young on the run from his family after refusing to eat said Stuff once he saw it crawl, as they try to expose the grand conspiracy to the world. They go to the FDA employees that passed it (only one can be found), they investigate a town where it was test marketed that is now deserted, and then finally find the factory where it is packaged. There the "stuffies" uncover them and try to kill them, Moriarty calls in Paul Sorvino as a racist Colonel to help save America, they convince the populous the stuff is bad, then there's an ironic ending. It's all pretty convoluted but entertaining with overt social context. One of the best moments has some average Americans blow up a "Stuff" fast food restaurant that is standing between a McDonald's and a KFC leaving both of those two intact. The effects work is very good all around, the "stuff" oozes and bubbles with menace and pretty gross practical effects of bodies being torn apart by the stuff leaving them.

The DVD is presented anamorphically, has commentary by Cohen, and a trailer. It was released in 2000 by Anchor Bay and may be out of print as I believe a lot of things on Anchor Bay are now, but it is still easily available


Bad Ronald (1974)

Director: Buzz Kulik
Warner Archive DVDr

This is a title I had heard of for years, presumably because of the outlandish scenario. A nerdy high school boy who lives in an old Victorian house with his ailing single mother, accidentally kills a neighbor girl. He panics and buries the body in a shallow grave and the mother has the bright idea of hiding Ronald (the title character!) in a bathroom that they build a fake wall over. Then once the heat cools down, moms will sell the house and they will move, fool-proof. But did you catch the part where I said she was ailing? Well mom kicks the bucket on the operating table and Ronald is stuck in his bathroom hideout getting nice and crazy, a prelude to being bad. While he is in there, a family with three teenage daughters moves into the rest of his house.Meanwhile, Ronald is writing a novel about a magic kingdom where he's the prince, his murdered neighbor's older brother is an evil duke, and the youngest daughter of the new family is the princess. He covers the inside of his potty room with giant paintings of his characters and leaves reality behind as he transforms himself into "Prince Norbert", because that's such a cool sounding name. He knocks out the Duke, kidnaps the princess, and then gets caught, the end. It's actually not a bad made-for-TV movie from Twilight Zone vet Kulik, it passes the 70 minute run time pretty quickly and there's a genuinely great scare moment towards the end. I couldn't help but think that if Ronald had had the internet in his barricaded bathroom that maybe he wouldn't have gone nuts, I mean, isn't that all the human interaction we need?


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)

Director: Michael Mann
Universal DVD

The problem with Public Enemies is the same problem I have with most biopics. We've heard of these people (in this case Dillinger, Purvis, etc..) we may have even seen movies about them before (as is the case here), and we know what's going to happen. So the only thing left is to tell the story in an interesting way. But that brings up a new predicament. How much of the story should be dramatized to make an interesting film that has a cohesive narrative? I think the easiest answer is don't make biopics. Since that won't happen, I believe it's important to come up with an unconventional way to tell what fundamentally becomes conventional stories. The best example of this is Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch (1974) which has a camera crew making a documentary about the subject and has the actors, in character, give interviews to the camera but still set at the turn of the century when this technology obviously didn't exist. This film came to mind immediately while watching Public Enemies as it is shot with a lot of hand held digital video giving it a cinema verite quality. And while this allows Mann to get some very interesting compositions in real world settings, it can also make the movie claustrophobic and almost small in it's vision. This could also be construed as a way to create intimacy with the characters, but after spending nearly 2and 1/2 hours with them, I didn't feel like I learned very much about them. In fact I got more information in the 10 minute bonus feature, particularly on Melvin Purvis. This isn't to say I disliked the film, it just didn't resonate at all once it was over. The story was very similar to that of Mann's Heat which is a far better film.

The DVD looks as good as to be expected from a new release and the DV used to make the film looks particularly cool during shoot-outs. The video production also allows for a lot of natural, low light giving us a sense that we are there. The only other extra, besides the 10 minute doc, on the single disc edition is a commentary by Mann.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rogue (2007)

Director: Greg Mclean
Dimension Extreme DVD

Rogue is a modern day creature feature about a giant crocodile that attacks a boat full of tourists on a remote river in Australia. It does two very important things right. It plays it straight, avoiding comedy at all costs, and it takes great care in not showing too much of the killer croc that's wreaking havoc. Unfortunately though, it does very little to work outside of the well known formula of it's sub-genre. Radha Mitchell plays the boat's driver and guide, Michael Vartan is the city slicker, magazine travel writer that's out of his element, and budding action super-star Sam Worthington plays the local redneck that Mitchell has apparently spurned. Then there are a handful of other victims you know very little about, but all serve their purpose in establishing the story. A major problem that arises from the familiarity of the narrative, is that it fails to provide even basic scares as you feel like you know everything that's about to happen. It's a solid effort, but for a scary movie it plays it pretty safe.


The Limits of Control (2009)

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Universal DVD

Mr. Jarmusch's latest feature stars Isaach De Bankole as, well, as a hitman? A criminal? It's hard to say. The character doesn't speak much and seems to just journey from location to location (apparently in Spain) picking up coded messages in matchboxes from various international characters. The film resides in a dream logic world that is filled with repetition, recurring motifs, and a deliberate pace. Art, music, and classic film are all referenced in dialog and in visuals. The narrative structure actually feels more like a piece of music told in movements than it does a traditional three act structure. This combined with an outstanding score by the Japanese band "Boris" make for a surreal viewing experience. It resembles the Jarmusch of Dead Man more than say, Broken Flowers. The rest of the cast is filled out with what could be considered extended cameos from a plethora of current art house superstars such as; Tilda Swinton, Youki Kudoh, Bill Murray, Gael Garcia Bernal, and John Hurt. While I would be hard pressed to recommend this one, I found it the kind of thing I enjoy. I won't revisit it the as much as I have other Jarmusch offerings, but the reference to Aki Kaurismäki's La vie de boheme gives it bonus points.


Friday, December 11, 2009

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

Director: William Dieterle
DVR from TCM broadcast

The story of The Devil and Daniel Webster is essentially "Faust" transported to New England and set in 1840. A poor farmer, Jabez Stone (James Craig) sells his soul to Scratch (the always awesome Walter Huston) for a pot of gold and seven years of good fortune. As with any "Monkey's Paw" scenario, things go wrong and ol' Jabez should have been careful with what he wished for. While he starts off with good intentions for his money by helping out fellow farmers and offering money to a politician (the Daniel Webster mentioned in the title) that supports farmers rights, he is soon corrupted by greed. The story then jumps ahead several years and Jebaz has a son who's a brat, a nanny (played by Simone Simon!) who has seduced him away from his wife, and everyone in town hates him as he has turned into a ruthless loan shark that is taking away everyone's land. Closing in on the final days of his deal, Mr. Scratch shows up to collect a soul, presumably killing off Jebaz in the process. When Jabez tries to bargain, the Devil wants only his seven year old son in exchange for an extension on his life. At this point, Jebaz Stone finally realizes he's a creep, begs his family for forgiveness, and asks Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) for help who then declares he would "fight 10,000 devils for a New Hampshire man!". This leads to the most interesting scene in the film as Scratch conjures a "Jury of the Damned" into Jeb's barn where Webster and he face off for the man's soul. The jury is brought up from an expressively lit trap door in the floor and consists of famous murderers and crooks from American history (Captain Kidd, Benedict Arnold, uhhhh and ten others). This scene also starts with a nice dialog exchange where Webster accuses the Devil of not being American and mentions that he was there when the first Indian was killed, when the first slaves were taken off the ship, and that basically his name is synonymous with America (ouch!!). But Webster gives a rousing speech about second chances or some-such thing and the good guys win. I guess they win if you think of Jebaz Stone as a good guy. Here's a character that makes seven years worth of horrible decisions and only asks for help after the immediate punishment of death is put on the table and the blame game doesn't work. He's scared into becoming a good person, he doesn't arrive there on his own, but I guess that is the very basis for religion. Overall I would say I was entertained watching the film, particularly Huston's performance as the Devil and an eerie scene with Simon as she dances away a man's soul, but I found it next to impossible to care about the Stone character and Craig's performance comes across as anxious and one-dimensional. Perhaps it's growing up a product of Seventies cynicism, but the film seemed hopelessly out dated with too many characters that supposedly didn't care about money at all. I, unfortunately, have only lived in an America where there are more people that will sell or do anything for money than there are that only care about living the simple life.

Criterion has released the film on DVD this year but I had recorded this from a TCM broadcast a few months back. The Janus logo did come up before the film, so I assume it's the same print used on the disc. It looked good and the only major flaw were a few missing frames towards the end of the film.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Crowded Sky (1960)

The Crowded Sky (1960)
Director: Joseph Pevney
Warner Archive DVDr

"Dana Andrews and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. play pilots on a crash course with destiny in ...THE CROWDED SKY!" I assume that the trailer would have ended with that phrase but Warner didn't include it on the disc. And even though the film's main plot can be broken down to sound like a precursor to the disaster films of the seventies, Charles Schnee's intelligent script is about much more than that. At it's heart, it's a story of people not wanting to commit the mistakes of their pasts or the sins of their fathers. The story starts with Zimbalist Jr. who is flying from the west to the east coast with a young navy man in tow. At the same time, Andrews leaves the east coast flying a commercial airliner full of passengers to the west. You probably guess where that's heading, but along the way we're introduced to our main characters and the main players in their lives through a series of flashbacks that have led them to this moment and the circumstances that have created a dangerous situation in the air. The dialog is intelligent and mature and touches on some surprising subject matter for 1960 including abortion, pre-marital sex, and adultery. But the most shocking aspect deals with the idea that some of the characters don't like their children and the kids know it, and that's just the way it is. It deftly shows a deconstruction of the nuclear family image that was so popular in the fifties. But it's not all lollipops and rainbows, the film has it's low points too. The score ranges from generic to ridiculous with tonal shifts of sit-com cues to foreboding within the same scene. There is also an over-use of comic relief from periphery characters that don't add much to the main proceedings. And even though the movie has a downbeat ending, there's an epilogue that's way too happy so you didn't have to leave the theater too sad.

The Warner Archive produces these discs on DVDr manufactured on demand (MOD).The quality is better than gray market discs I've seen and this one has less hazing than others from the archive. It's presented anamorphically in a 1.85:1 framing.

7 / 10

and in case you forget what movie you're watching, they say the title aloud twice!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dead Air (2009)

Dead Air
Director : Corbin Bernsen (that Corbin Bernsen!)
The Movie Channel HD

Caught this on cable and felt like I should have full disclosure on the crap I view. This doesn't necessarily fall under the crap-ola category but it's nothing to revisit. This starts as a cash-in on the run of zombie/infected mad-cow-esque human/cannibal movies of late with most of the running time taking place in a radio station's recording studio. Some angry terrorists release a chemical at sporting events turning a bunch of lunkheads into the running dead. Bill Moseley plays a popular nighttime "shock jock" who sits at his mic collecting and relaying news to his audience while his partner runs the streets on his motorcycle looking for info and Moseley's family. There are occasional cuts to gore to keep our attention and then one of the terrorists sneak into the studio to steer the film into socio-political territory as he forces the DJ to rant about Muslims. Even though it's done competently enough and Moseley's performance is right on as a radio personality, the premise and the limited sets ultimately leads to a really long 85 minutes. You have to give some sort of credit to any horror film that even tries to have a message though.

Inseminoid (1981)

Director: Norman J. Warren

Well I thought I'd start this off with a bang of mediocrity and this was the first movie I watched after I decided to start on this project, so...

Inseminoid is a completely fresh and original concept. Sometime in the distant future, a group of space miners come across an alien that impregnates humans. The cast is full of strong female characters, wait, what? Alien you say? Oh yeah, this is a blatant rip-off of Alien, my mistake. But don't let that deter you. There's a strong tradition of "borrowing" heavily from successful genre films, it's just usually an Italian production. While it doesn't have the production value or Giger alien design that it's predecessor had, it's not an altogether unpleasant viewing experience. There's almost nothing in the way of exposition happening here, which is a good thing. We are just thrown right in to the story with an explosion happening to three of the miners and one of them going comatose after grabbing some crystals that ate through his glove. He then gets the Space Madness and starts to killin'! But Stephanie Beacham will have none of that and takes care of him with some sort of space gun, or nail gun. Before anyone can take stock of what's happening, Judy Geeson gets impregnated by E.T.'s d-bag cousin using a clear tube and some Hordak slime. This gives Geeson the Space Madness and she goes on a slaughter spree of her own, even taking out Victoria Tennant with a pair of scissors in the movie's bloodiest scene (and the scene most watched by Steve Martin). This is where we veer far from Alien territory, at least in theme, as the remaining crew is terrorized not by the alien, but by a pregnant woman. And for those you who have lived with a pregnant woman, ha ha ha... just kidding (sorry dear). After killing off most of the crew, she gives birth to twin rubber alien babies that are hungry for humans! The positives here are the complete lack of explanation, of everything! We learn absolutely nothing about the characters, relationships, alien origin, you name it. It's actually really refreshing and the cast plays off the shenanigans with a straight face. Warren pulls off a few cool compositions and downbeat tone even with the film being overlit.
The DVD on Elite is now out of print but is easily available at Amazon. It's a good deal if you pick it up in the "British Horror Collection Set" because even though the entire set is OOP, the set sells for cheaper than the discs do individually. Features wise, you're looking at nothing except the trailer. The film is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (non-anamorphic) and looks just fine. It has been released under the title Horror Planet but I believe this is the only scope version available in the U.S.

if I decide to go with a ratings system, ummmm
5 /10

why a blog?

Good question with no good answer. I'm not really a fan of blogs and I completely hate the word and every variation of (blogger, blogging, etc...) so why bother writing one? Because I think the world needs one more person writing their every thought about pop culture and posting it on the internet. But the main point of this is to write brief, unprepared thoughts down of every film I watch (hopefully) posted within 48 hours of watching it. So I'm curious to see how long I can keep this up. Left, enjoy!