Includes cinema reviews and trailers for upcoming films. A digest of the best and worst interviews on movies and cinema.
THROUGHOUT cinematic history, our most beloved monsters — from Dracula and The Wolf Man to Freddy Krueger and King Kong — have returned again and again to haunt our nightmares, and our movie screens.
In any horror movie or monster movie sequel, the primary challenge is thus always quite specific: how do we get our beloved monster back after so thoroughly and completely defeating him at the end of the previous movie? How do we snatch defeat from what seemed like victory?
Some movie franchises have proven cleverer than others at threading this particular needle, finding fresh and inventive ways to get our beloved monsters stalking again.
THE painter Pablo Picasso once asked who can see the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter.
Popular horror films and television programs have long highlighted all three possibilities, but focused most intently, perhaps, on the mirror.
PEOPLE have long chuckled about America’s insistence that people from the Middle East are white. Apart from present day Middle Eastern people of course. They HATE those guys.
We’re talking about the meme that got out of hand. European artists painted Jesus as a white guy and everyone cleverly ignored the fact that he would have at least been olive-skinned, or even darker. He definitely wasn’t some white guy with fair hair and a neat beard who looked like he might be the road manager for Creedence Clearwater Revival.
So too, the rest of The Bible’s important figures found themselves being whitened, in modern American depictions especially. And so, to Noah, who just happens to be the subject of a new film and, unsurprisingly, he’s played by a white guy; Russell Crowe.
I Was G-Man Jerry Cotton: When Hedy Lamarr Performed The First On-Screen Orgasm And Jane Powell Grew Up
SO. What does the music for a 1965 West German movie about a New York FBI agent sound like? That question to you, special agent Jerry Cotton, hero of Operation 100 Dollar Gang.
Cotton was played by US actor and all-round beefcake George Nader. You may know him from his 1958 melodrama The Female Animal, starring 1940s sex symbol Hedy Lamarr and actress-singer Jane Powell, pictured below taking advantage of the warm California winter to relax at pool side on Jan. 16, 1958.
FRENCH cinema’s intense The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups – the French title comes from the idiom, faire les quatre cents coups—“to raise hell”) features a fantastic performance from Jean-Pierre Léaud as the delinquent adolescent Antoine Doinel. For anyone who has not seen this spellbinding 1959 film, here’s an outline of the story from Criterion:
François Truffaut’s first feature is also his most personal. Told through the eyes of Truffaut’s cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), The 400 Blows sensitively re-creates the trials of Truffaut’s own childhood, unsentimentally portraying aloof parents, oppressive teachers, and petty crime. The film marked Truffaut’s passage from leading critic to trailblazing auteur of the French New Wave.
FOUR movies strong, and spanning three decades (the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s), the cinematic Alien saga — consisting of Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997) — is renowned for its titular creature, one of the most terrifying silver screen boogeymen of all time.
Given the nature of this franchise’s hostile (and perfect?) monster, it’s no surprise that the death scenes featured throughout the saga are frequently terrifying, bloody, and brilliantly-orchestrated.
Yet the truly memorable death scenes possess another quality as well. They’re shocking. These scenes strike with a combination of terror, disgust, sorrow, and surprise, leaving a permanent imprint on the viewer’s mind.
For a death scene to be considered shocking, it must be one that the audience can’t see coming. In other words, we expect that Colonial Marines fighting aliens by the pack are going to die, or that confused convicts running from a monster in a dark corridor will come to a bad end.
WITH Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) shattering box office records this weekend, it is an opportune time to recall that this iconic Marvel superhero — and symbol of non-ironic Americana — has not always been treated very well by Hollywood.
In particular, the 1970s and 1980s proved a difficult span for the patriotic Cap, who had made a career in his Marvel comic-book of smashing Nazis and communists.
But first, the 1944 Republic serial, Captain America, created a new character and origin for the superhero.
WHAT’S the worst movie title of all time? Freddy Got Fingered (2001) and Stop! Or my Mom will Shoot (1992) are often cited as contenders. One that nearly earned a victory for worst is Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters (2007) – an immensely serious film which very nearly is The Master Debaters. Close but no cigar. The unpronounceable film The Rural Juror could have walked away with an easy victory. Alas, it’s a fictitious film from the TV show 30 Rock. Disqualified.
Perhaps, it’s best to look back a few decades. It may not be possible to scientifically lay out the all-time worst, but we can certainly make like Freddy and Finger a few candidates.
10. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)
Sometimes a title is just trying to be get our attention by its ridiculousness [i.e. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990). For low budget films without a lot of financial resources for promotion, the best way to lure audiences is via a sensational title. So, I understand the rationale, and am sure it served its purpose; however, the title is still horrible. Functional, but horrible.
NOSTALGIA is a wonderful thing, provided you keep it where it is. 30somethings who have gone back to watch old cartoons they loved as kids are often found sobbing, depressed lumps sat in waterless baths, feeling cheated and hurt, like they’d summoned up a repressed abuse at the hands of school bullies.
Of course, some things stand the test of time, if you don’t pick at it. The Mysterious Cities of Gold is still oddly deep and perfect, but a redux of it would be like taking a great shit on the one meal that reminds you of the glory of your childhood.
And now, the director of The Goonies, Richard Donner, has said a sequel to The Goonies is in the works.
THE new film about Noah, starring Russell Crowe, has been causing a lot of grief among certain religious types. Of course, most religious people have a faith strong enough to brush off some poxy film, but we’re looking at those shrieking mentals who can’t stay calm or, it seems, apply logic to a situation.
The film tells the famous story about Noah and his ark. God gets wrathful and sends a flood which is destined to wipe everything out. Destroying everything in a flood seems a bit snide, but as we all know, God is a vengeful so-and-so. And presumably, floating and water-breathing creatures weren’t at all bothered by this, to which we glean that God has no problem with ducks or fish. They’re the most saintly animals, obviously.
However, there’s a few Christians that are not at all happy with a Biblical tale being shown on the big screen. Instead of being happy that the word of God is being distributed worldwide, coupled with a very famous actor, they are furious.
TO the delight of virtually everyone, the late, great Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988 – 1999) seems to be experiencing something of a pop culture resurgence these days.
April 1st of this year saw former Mystery Science Theater 3000 stars Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy return to top form in National Geographic’s Total Riff-Off, and the cable network Retro TV recently announced that it will begin airing MST-3K reruns starting July 5, 2014.
YOU can buy Horror of Frankenstein playing cards, reliving the Hammer House of Horror 1970 blood and babes fest in the comfort of your own game of Patience.
WITH nearly 3 million films in their database, it’s quite a dubious accomplishment to be ranked in IMDb’s Bottom 100. That’s the bottom of a very deep barrel – the bottom 0.003% in fact. I’d love to explore all the members of this exclusive club; but, in the interest of time we’ll start with the 1960s.
The 2000s are the most represented decade with over 40 films in the Bottom 100. At the moment there are 12 from the Sixties: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964) and these 9 truly awful films (proceed at your own risk):
Monstrosity (1963) AKA The Atomic Brain
IMDb rating = 2.5
An elderly woman hires a mad scientist to transplant her brain into that of a nubile young au pair girl. Somehow this is done without surgery using only the mysteries of radiation. The only way this film could get any worse would be if it starred Adam Sandler.
“Mrs. March had not realized her future body had such a satisfactory shape. Perhaps not as spectacular as the English girl but in excellent taste. She couldn’t help being amused. The stupid girl was not only modeling Mrs. March’s future wardrobe but Mrs. March’s future body: so firm, so nicely round in places men like.”
As luck would have it, some of these films have fallen into public domain, and now you can watch the whole thing for free (the only price you’ll pay is your sanity).
Monster a-Go Go (1965)
IMDb rating = 2.5
The movie begins with the narration: “What you are about to see may not even be possible, within the narrow limits of human understanding.” Oh, how painfully true.
This is the only film in this entire list that defies description because there is literally no plot. It is one random scene after another, with main characters inexplicably leaving midway through the film never to return, and with a twist ending that even M. Night Shyamalan would be ashamed of.
The Starfighters (1964)
IMDb rating = 2.4
There’s a miserable little plot in here somewhere, but this film is basically just stock footage of aircraft lazily pieced together. In fact, there are several – I repeat, SEVERAL – scenes of airplanes refueling… in real time, without edit. It may not have earned the honor of being IMDb’s absolute worst, but it is likely the most boring film in the entire database. When a plane refueling is the highlight of your film, there’s a problem.
For wondrous refueling footage, watch the clip below, but beware of the mind-numbingly infectious “Doo Wah” background music.
Body in the Web (1960) AKA Horrors of Spider Island
IMDb rating = 2.3
“There’s absolutely no reason yet to fear the worst. Until now, we only know that the plane caught fire and we’ve lost radio contact.”
I appreciate his optimism, but that seems like bad news. Indeed, the plane crashes and a troupe of beautiful dancers are stranded on a deserted island. Their routine of skinny-dipping and devising new skimpy outfits is interrupted when a radioactive spider bites their manager and turns him into the dumbest looking monster ever. Recommended for the vision and hearing impaired only.
IMDb rating = 2.1
There’s a serious debate in the film community about whether Arch Hall, Jr. is the worst male lead in the history of cinema. In other words, of the approximately 3,000,000 films in IMDb, the esteemed Arch may officially be counted as the absolute worst. I think Crow from Mystery Science Theater 3000 said it best: “I’ve figured it out. He’s a cyst with teeth and hair.”
Girl in Gold Boots (1968)
IMDb rating = 2.1
A girl with a more than passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie goes from waitress to center-stage go-go dancer. Think Showgirls (1995), but with no gratuitous nudity to redeem it. To quote a reviewer on IMDb: ‘This movie is a big, steaming pile of continuity errors and bad acting.” Truer words were never said.
The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)
IMDb rating = 2.1
The IMDb synopsis pretty much covers it:
A busty Batwoman enlists her beauteous bevy of Batgirls (when they are not dancing the jerk) to help her regain a mad scientist’s invention (an atom bomb made out of a hearing aid) before a costumed ne’er-do-well, Rat Fink, can glom onto it for his own purposes.
Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961)
IMDb rating = 2.0
Again,IMDb explains it best:
A bunch of kids who look like rejects from the Japanese version of ‘Lord of the Flies’ run around while aliens (from Neptune, presumably) blow up stock footage, including a building with a giant mural of Adolf Hitler. After much technobabble and shots of radar displays, they are defeated by a wispy bachelor named Space Chief who has a wobbly flying car.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
IMDb rating = 1.9
A family gets lost and winds up staying with this creepy midget, Torgo, and his caped master who worships the deity Manos. Like most people who’ve seen this film, I came by it via Mystery Science Theater 3000. The plot itself is terrible, but what makes this rock bottom is an almost preternaturally awful execution.
ONCE upon a time, we had the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles on British TV because on these shores, everyone is far too chicken to use the word ‘ninja’. Mercifully, times have changed and now, we’re all set for a brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.
And the new trailer for it has been released.
Of course, there’s only one man childish enough to have fun make a TMNT film, and that’s Michael Bay, who also rummaged through the toybox in his mind to direct the Transformers films.
So how are Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo looking?
THERE’S an old saying that goes: “if you’re going to take a shot at the king, make sure you don’t miss.”
Such words of wisdom also apply to the movie monsters of the 1980s.
Thirty years ago, in 1984, Wes Craven’s “bastard son of a hundred maniacs,” Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) rose up to become the reigning king of the horror film with the theatrical release of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The Gloved One took New Line — “The House That Freddy Built” — straight to the top with him.
IN Ancient Rome, the poet Juvenal coined the term “bread and circuses” (panem et circenses), and to his credit, it is one that remains pertinent to this day, especially in our 21st century pop culture and entertainment.
Specifically, the idea of “bread and circuses” involves an artificial means by which the government or ruling class of a nation distracts or appeases “the common man.” In Rome, for example gladiatorial games in the Colosseum fit the bill, distracting and diverting people from significant issues such as poverty, war, and corruption.
IN 1955, Teaserama featured American stars of burlesque working the stage.
HERE’S a challenge for the intrepid researcher: Go to Google and search for five or so reviews of the Veronica Mars (2014) movie from the mainstream press that don’t include the following term: “fan service.”
For the uninitiated in such things, fan service is a descriptor widely understood to mean the act of “giving the fans exactly what they want,” and for some reason, it is being applied to Veronica Mars on a remarkably consistent, nay universal basis.
Pat Robertson’s Fever Dream: Four Times When Horror Movies Met The Devil’s Own Rock-and-Roll Music In The 1980s
JUST last week, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson spoke out about the hidden scourge of our modern society: those demons from Hell who like to crash your car.
Yes, it turns out that devils can cause really horrible road accidents because — by merely watching horror movies — you have “granted them permission” to do so.
You know who you are…
YOU would think porn was all about happy endings. But you’d be wrong. We’re talking not about the crushing sense of worthlessness after you’ve spent the day searching online for just the right image or scene. We’re talking about the film School Girl Internal, starring Mario Cassini and Brooke Whispers.
The closing scene ends like this:
It reads like a Public Awareness Announcement to teenaged women.
Maybe it’s not awful. Maybe it’s thoughtful…
SNOOPY is back. The best cartoon do of them all is to star in a new Peanuts movie, coming to a screen near you on November 6, 2015.
That’s the good news?
Do you flinch a little when you learn that it’s produced by Charles Schulz’s son Craig Schulz and the screenplay has been co-written by his son Bryan Schulz?
IT doesn’t matter who you are in Hollywood, fact is, you owe something to Hal Douglas.
You may not know who Hal Douglas is. He’s not exactly a household name, and sadly Douglas has just passed away, aged 89. However, we should pay tribute to Hal because he is the most legendary voice-over artist in Hollywood.
Douglas’ distinct delivery featured in thousands of trailers.
Douglas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 and died with his family by his side. He took with him a remarkable, unmistakable, rich baritone which could go from epic and theatrical, to campy and over the top.
He broke from the booth to star in the trailer, with his face, in the Jerry Seinfeld film The Comedian, where he poked fun at his own work and appeared on-screen for the first time in his 40 year career.
One of Hollywood’s true, true greats has left us and, should you feel the need to pay your respects to Hal Douglas, you can do so at http://www.ilasting.com/haldouglas.php