Friday, March 31, 2017

The Music of Chance (1993)

An American drama directed by Philip Haas, starring James Spader, Mandy Patinkin, M. Emmet Walsh and Charles Durning.
A pair of strangers meet. One of them is a gambler and the other has money to bet. They go in together on a card game against millionaires who seem easy prey. When they lose, the gamblers agree to build a wall for the millionaires, but things don't seem quite right.
This was pretty cool. The plot definitely held my interest and the characters were developed amazingly well in a relatively short amount of time. I think the steady pace is what made all the difference. Events take place at regular intervals and the rise and fall of action and pacing is minimal. The video was expertly done to the point that, even with my editing experience and critical eye, it looked seamless. The audio was mostly good. There were a few sections of quieter dialogue and louder music, but not enough to cause a problem. The classical music soundtrack was definitely appreciated. Overall, quite a nice flick that I enjoyed watching. I rate it adequate.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)

An American made for TV horror directed by William Butler and Aaron Strongoni, starring Cory Hardrict and Peter Coyote.
A group of high school students follow rumors of an injured friend being abducted by a chemical company. When they get to the factory, a zombie outbreak occurs.
This is where they lost the magic of the original. I didn't care about any of the stereotypical characters who barely had any back-story. The poorly constructed and underdeveloped plot did not hold my interest. The video looked made for TV and syfy channel all the way. Same with the audio that featured popular hard rock music of the time. Technically speaking, the audio and video were fine, but they were handled badly. The camera-work focused on fast editing cuts that are all too cliche of modern action films. Now that I've seen the whole series, I wish I hadn't. Only the first three films are worth watching. I rate this poor.

Troll 3 A.K.A. The Crawlers, Creepers, Contamination Point 7 (1993)

An Italian Canadian American horror directed by Joe D'Amato and Fabrizio Laurenti.
Because a nuclear power plant dumped toxic waste in a forest, the roots and vines have mutated and attack people.
I could accept Troll 2 having goblins. They may not have been trolls, but at least they were mythological humanoid characters. The acting and lighting were it's worst aspects. Camera-work followed closely behind. The only good thing in the whole film was Paula, the hooker. This movie was worse than Troll 2 because you can mock that easily, but this is more difficult to poke fun at because it's just bad. Overall, it's not worth watching at all for any reason. I rate this bad. DO NOT WATCH!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Room 237 (2012)

An American documentary directed by Rodney Ascher.
A group of enthusiasts explain their beliefs about the deeper meanings of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.
This was pretty cool. I liked the depth and detail of analysis performed on the film, complete with maps, diagrams and side-by-side scene comparisons. The idea that there is no deep meaning to the film is negated by Kubrick's eye for detail. He would not have accidentally made things the way they were. Some people would say that the narrators of this are crazy. Be that as it may, they looked into this subject matter and proposed theories. Their detractors would just dismiss any of this with no research. Overall, a good film for fans of Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, conspiracy theories and film in general. I rate this good.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Empire of the Dark A.K.A. Evil Night (1990)

An American fantasy adventure by Steve Barkett.
A man saves his child from an evil cult, but his wife is left behind. Years later, the evil cult returns with ninjas, magicians and a demon. He must fight them with the help of his son.
They really tried to make a good movie, but it was just beyond their price range and abilities. What we get is something less than good that is easy to mock by non-filmmakers. The plot is simplistic and the characters are poorly acted. I think that some bad writing went into this. The man not recognizing his son who looks just like him was not very convincing. There were definitely video problems. I saw a continuity issue/prop malfunction with a broken bridge repairing itself. The special effects were cheesy and the action scenes just did not stack up as I think they were intended to. The audio was not bad, with the soundtrack music actually being good. Overall, a budget flick trying to be more than it was capable of. I give them 100% for effort, but the end product is definitely lacking in a few categories. I rate this tolerable.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monster Dog A.K.A. Leviatan, Los Perros de la Muerte (1984)

An Italian horror directed by Claudio Fragasso, starring Alice Cooper.
Alice cooper returns to his hometown with some friends to make a video for his rock band. There are rumors of dangerous dogs and werewolves in the area. When some criminals try to attack the group, dogs and a werewolf also appear.
I found this while doing research on Troll 2. The songs/music videos were cool, but as a movie it was crappy. The script was horribly written. This seems to be a re-occurring problem with Claudio Fragasso's films. This means that like Troll 2, the plot did not make sense and the dialogue was nearly incoherent. I could hear every word, but putting them together in this manner was nonsensical. Character depth is not even to be discussed in this case. You need to be able to stand before you can walk. The video was not bad, but was definitely not good in most parts. Shot composition seemed accidental to the point that some of it looked good and other parts looked like a totally different camera operator. Amazingly, it was actually good on the music videos (picture). It makes me wonder what happened there. The audio was mediocre. I could hear everything and it was better than Troll 2 where layering obscured some sounds. However, that did not sound like Alice Cooper's voice. In fact, it seemed like everyone was dubbed. Why? Overall, I would rather have just seen the music videos than the whole film. I rate this poor.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Superior Firepower: The Making of "Aliens" (2003)

An American documentary directed by Charles de Lauzirika.
Interviews about making the movie, Aliens.
Do you remember The Beast Within? this is basically the same film. Some of the interviews were even shot for both films at the same time. When the interviewee is in the same location, wearing the same clothes, with the same camera placement, it kind of gives that away. This version included lots more about special effects, puppeteering and making miniatures. They used in-camera physical effects because digital effects were so costly and time consuming at that time. We get to see lots of alien models and costumes because there were more aliens in this film. There were 2 interviews that rubbed me the wrong way. One was the brothers who worked on models. Only one of them spoke and the other just sat there uselessly. The other was the composer who complained about tight deadlines for over half an hour. Overall, better than The Beast Within and yes, it made me want to watch Aliens. I rate this good.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Beast Within: The Making of "Alien" (2003)

An American documentary directed by Charles de Lauzirika.
Exactly as the title states: how the movie Alien was made.
Continuing the theme of movies about movies, this was interesting to watch, but much of it was obvious and needed little explanation. The interviews were on-topic and people said some good stuff. There was information included that fans of the series will find interesting. People from the cast and crew go into great detail about who had worked with whom before and selecting who would be working on this film. Technically speaking, the audio and video were great. I guess the real question of it's quality would be making the viewer want to watch Alien. I do, so it seems successful to me. Overall, great for those who like Alien lots and know little about how films are made. I rate this adequate.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape A.K.A. Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (2010)

A British documentary directed by Jake West.
The story of Margater Thatcher's censorship attack on horror and exploitation films in the early 1980s is discussed. This is followed by in depth discussion of each film on the list as well as a trailer for them.
The initial documentary was very good. Once they started discussing every film on the list and playing trailers, I lost interest quickly. The interviews were full of good information and interesting to watch. The filmmakers used relevant B-roll to illustrate the points being made by the speakers. I think that they covered the subject matter quite well. The problem with the bonus footage was that it became far too repetitive to talk about the films and play original trailers. The speakers in this section did have interesting insights on how the films were made and their immediate reception, but too much of it was just the same thing over and over. The audio and video were technically good, even for the older films that circulated on tape trading networks. Overall, watch the documentary and skip the Final 39 and Dropped 33. I rate this good.

Swept Away A.K.A. Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto (1974)

An Italian romance adventure directed by Lina Wertmuller, starring Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato.
A rich woman on a yacht cruise is stranded on an island with a sailor from the boat. They fall in love, but are separated when they are rescued.
This was different from the 2002 version. It seemed far more serious and emotional. It lacked the comedy element that the remake used so prominently. I still liked the plot and characters. The video seemed more thought out and carefully planned than the remake. There was a scene in which the characters are sitting on the beach and we can see that the sand around them has no footprints in it. The ending was also different. In this original, the sailor's emotions and consequences are more fully demonstrated, whereas the remake just left him on a pier when the rich woman left. The audio on this was very low, but the subtitles were very good. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see both versions of this. I rate it adequate.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Troll 2 (1990)

An Italian American horror directed by Claudio Fragasso, starring Michael Stephenson.
A family goes on a vacation to a rural community. The son finds out that the locals are all vegetarian goblins and must prevent his family from eating anything, lest they become plants and food for the goblins.
This is obviously not the worst movie ever made. Ben Hur, Some Kind of Monster, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Blues Brothers 2000 were all far worse than this. Sure, it was total crap, but it didn't cause me physical pain to watch. This was poorly written, acted even worse, the editing was atrocious and they screwed up the sound in many sections. In all honesty, it looked like a first year film student made it. Trust me, I've seen much worse. What makes me so sure of this position? The audio was neither treble-bias screechy, mid-bias honky or bass-bias muffled. I could hear and understand most of the dialogue. The image quality was actually pretty good (just speaking of technical specifications). It was cast amazingly well. The poorly acted characters do indeed fit their roles and I found the female antagonist to be quite attractive (picture). The content did not make me cringe like my childhood idols and supposed metal gods behaving like crybabies (Some Kind of Monster). It was not overly long, with vast expanses of underutilized screen time (Ben Hur). It was not a musical with bad music (The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Blues Brothers 2000). Overall, the "best worst movie" is more cheesy, hokey and amateurish than anything else. I rate it poor.

Best Worst Movie (2009)

An American documentary directed by Michael Stephenson.
Years after the original release of Troll 2, the film has found a cult following who poke fun at it. The original cast and crew reunite and travel to some film conventions together.
This made me want to watch Troll 2. I don't remember it being all that funny, but I watched it before I even started this blog, so quite a few years ago. George Hardy, the husband/father from Troll 2 should be considered the star of this documentary. This may be because he was the most outgoing extrovert involved and lacked the prerequisite shame that others felt over the original film. He was shown in his dental office, telling patients to go to screenings. Other interviewees commented that they would hate to be in the dental chair at that point because it was so obvious that dentistry was not his top priority. The director, Claudio Fragasso was initially surprised by the amount of people in the audience at screenings. He later learned that they were making fun of his film and his attitude changed accordingly. Margo Prey, the wife/mother of the original exhibited the most shame concerning Troll 2. I won't spoil the priceless scene though. Overall, a documentary for folks who like bad movies. Hard-core flophouse flick fans will recognize Plan 9 from Outer Space and Santa Clause Conquers the Martians when they are stated to be better films. I rate this good.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology (2012)

A British documentary directed by Sophie Fiennes, starring Slavoj Zizek.
Slavoj explains his thoughts on political and religious belief systems, using films as examples.
This was very similar to The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006) to the point that I think they should be considered a single work. West Side Story was used to compare classical ideology's "they don't know what they are doing, but they are nonetheless doing it" with cynical ideology's "I know very well what I am doing, but I am still nonetheless doing it". He compared M.A.S.H. (1970) with Full Metal Jacket (1987) to discuss obscenity in military institutions and brought in If.... (1968) to back it up. The initiated involve grotesque and crude references to get the attention of new members, but sometimes this can backfire, as in the case of Gomer Pyle. If... was used to demonstrate that this is an institutional operational system that includes not only the military, but academic systems as well, with older students tormenting the younger ones. Jaws (1975) allowed many problems to be personified in a single, easily dealt with package. The concept of "big other" was dealt with in The Fireman's Ball (1967), Brief Encounter (1945) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Big other (not, but maybe is Brother?) is an idea of society as a whole, with leaders and a mass known as "the people" that does not include any individuals. I think that this goes very well with the discussion of Superego from the previous film. Overall, if you can make it through and understand one of these films, the other (not big) is required viewing. I rate this awesome as well.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006)

A British Austrian Netherlands documentary directed by Sophie Fiennes, starring Slavoj Zizek.
Slavoj Zizek explains his views on how psychology relates to film with examples from famous movies.
This is part of my research into movies about movies. I realized that I had seen so many films and was getting to the end of my university education that I needed to learn about film from a perspective outside the classroom and the screen itself. Slavoj may not be the best teacher in this field, but I think that his wild style and "outside the box" ideas make him a good teacher for me. I grasped his ideas on Freudian psychology immediately. I could see how the Marx brothers and the levels of the house in Psycho relate directly to the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego. I also think that I understood his discussion of a "gaze" being returned by inanimate objects. His flower comment questions a long-standing universal opinion by pointing out the blatantly obvious. He went into discussions on fantasy vs. reality and borders between spaces. I had to watch this twice because of his frenetic pace and the depth of material that he covers. I wish my professors would discuss ideas and theories at this level. Overall, this is something that folks will understand or not. Those that get it will find a wealth of knowledge and probing questions. Those that don't get it will call it crazy and stupid trash, projecting their own stupidity upon the thing that pointed out their lack of intelligence. I rate this awesome and am about to begin watching the sequel on ideology.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

An American horror documentary directed by Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch.
Details of the Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise are discussed in interviews with behind the scenes footage and stills. For 4 hours.
This is a piece for die-hard Freddy fans. It begins with conception of the titular character and general plot characteristics. It then goes through each film of the series, showing interviews with the cast, how special effects were done and how successful the films were. There are also original stop-motion animations to booked the pieces. Some of my favorite sections included things that didn't work right, production problems and dealing with a child actor in New Nightmare. I liked the sections on production problems because it shows the great lengths that the cast and crew went to obtain some of their best footage, not because I wanted to see things fail. The depth of the interviews as a whole was great. It seemed like the cast and crew were being asked good questions and speak their mind about working on these films. Overall, only for true Freddy fanatics. I am one and rate this good.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Vampyros Lesbos A.K.A. Las Vampiras (1971)

A West German Spanish sexploitation directed by Jesus Franco, starring Soledad Miranda, Dennis Price and Paul Muller.
A woman dreams of being seduced by a female vampire.
This would have been great as a short porn flick, but it doesn't have the plot necessary for a feature film. The characters were cast well and there were artsy camera shots, but otherwise, it was worthless. Naked lesbian vampires was a cool idea, but it didn't end up working out. There were these shots of a moth in a net, a scorpion on pavement, a kite in the sky and a boat at sunset that seemed to have been randomly thrown in. Other reviewers have called this "effortlessly dream-like" and praised the soundtrack. it could have been saved by adding a plot or making it into a more graphic lesbian porn. I rate this bad. Don't bother watching it.