Thursday, March 24, 2011
Thursday, August 12, 2010
How about that? A reason to write something. And what a reason at that.
My beloved Toronto After Dark Film Festival rolls back into town (can you figure out what town? There's a hint earlier in this post. Good luck!) and I'm gonna watch some of the films they've been so kind to present.
Unfortunately it's a busy, busy time at work so I won't get to see them all (those puppies won't kill themselves! LOL ;) ) but I plan on making a decent go of it. And you 13 lucky readers will get to read all about it and maybe in 10 years time I'll write something else too!
First up will be The Last Lovecraft, which my lovely wife has agreed to see with me. So stay tooned! (get it? because I draw cartoons on my blog. funny)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Throughout my life I've always had a go-to video store. Some were amazing, but even the ones run out of a variety store hold a warm spot in my heart. When I was moving around as a student and in between school, the first thing I'd do once I got all settled into a new place is check out the nearest video stores. The excitement I'd feel as I cruised up and down the video aisles, finding treasures and trash, hasn't really been duplicated in any other form of cinema viewing. I grew up in the age of the video store, and I'd have it no other way.
Most of the quality video stores I'd frequent, usually have knowledgeable staff who I could discuss films I love or hate, and would help me discover many films that would become my favourites. There is a real sense of community in some of these shops, especially those that cater to the niche market of the "film buff", whether it be cult films (my poison), classics or others. Another customer could easily get involved in a conversation you may be having with your "DVD Dealer", and next thing you know there's a group of people talking film and even introducing you to films you might have never seen (this happened to me less than a week ago). I can't tell you the number of times I've asked a counter person, "Seen anything good lately?" and have come home with films that knocked my socks off.
I too was a "counterperson" for years, mostly at video stores that are the Corporate monsters everyone hates. Yet, I remember when Blockbuster first opened in Canada, and I was living in Welland, Ontario (not much of a variety of video stores) and I was thrilled with many of the films they carried that I could never see earlier, since they were either censored in Canada or just unavailable. They had Day of the Dead Unrated! I had only seen the chopped up Canadian version, so when I rented the uncut one this film skyrocketed from being a two and a half star film to a five star film that night. There were all those scenes I'd seen in my Romero book and Fangoria. That tape got rented by all my friends afterwards too, along with Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Man Bites Dog, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eyes Without a Face and many more. Blockbuster may be a heartless, faceless corporation, but I definitely have very fond memories of going through their selection.
Sadly, the video store is dying a slow and cruel death. Where there once was the joy of discovery and the magic of being in a place that was devoted to film, there is now a fairly desolate place with the odd folk coming through to browse the aisles to get a good idea of what to download that night. With video stores closing all over the place, not surprisingly it's the big chains that are pulling the plug first and getting out after pillaging all the smaller video store's customers (isn't it odd how Blockbuster always opened up near another video store? That wasn't a coincidence), it's only a matter of time until they are all gone. Films are disposable now, they hold no importance to a lot of people. It makes sense, when there is so much available (at the click of a button) it's only natural to think of something as common and not at all special. Even film buffs plow through films so fast they don't appreciate them the way they would if there was even a little bit more difficulty in seeing them. With the loss of the video store, we are one step closer to losing film as art.
I'm sure lots of people out there still support the video store, but I'm terrified that most are waiting for 5 years after the final one closes it's doors before they get nostalgic about something they killed.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Porn. How many have you actually seen? If you're anything like me you could probably count them on both hands... if they're not busy. Of course, that's not including clips here and there (daily) with the sound turned down. I was actually thinking a while back about whether I've seen more porn clips with or without audio. I realized the answer would be silent, by a landslide. To watch porn now with the sound actually on might blow my mind. That's right, my mind.
If you're a fan of bizarre and offbeat cinema you more than likely have made your way into the porn section of your local alternative video store. Rumours of films so unhinged and removed from the mainstream perhaps lead you there or maybe utter despairing loneliness. Either way, there is a treasure trove in the XXX world of strange, strange films. These are some of the porns I actually sat down and watched like a would a non-porn film. This list is in no way comprehensive, I seldom rent pornos to view this way. The main problem being is that the sex scenes are usually so bloody long, and I'm one of those weirdo purists who believes that if you fast forward through even a minute of any film you can't honestly say you've seen it. So if there are any truly awesome films I've missed, please leave a comment with your recommendation since I'm always happy to explore good films in any genre. With or without kleenex.
I thought I'd start off with my favourite. When I was around 19 years old I read about this magnificent flick in either Cult Films volume one or two. I couldn't believe what this movie promised.
In the future, after a nuclear holocaust, there are now two groups of people. Sex Negatives, folks who get sick if they are even aroused too much, and Sex Positives, those who can still have sex. The Sex Positives are forced to perform lifeless sexual acts for the Sex Negatives to view passionlessly at a club called Cafe Flesh.
The director, Rinse Dream (Stephen Sayadian) has made a stylish, surrealistic, well paced (sex scenes too!) and visually interesting film regardless of it's XXX rating. And the story is intelligent and funny. In fact, many are pissed off that it bites the very hand that feeds it. This is a damning condemnation of porno and the folks who watch it. Back in my early 20s I worked for a short time at a rental store that specialized in adult entertainment and I recommended this film to one of the customers. When he returned it he simply said to me, "Don't recommend this to anyone else". I guess it has it's detractors.
I guess you should see this if you are a fan of weird cinema, but not if your thinking of spending a romantic night alone.
HYPERTROPHY GENITALS GIRL
The most recent of my XXX viewings. This is a new film from Noboru Iguchi, the director of Machine Girl and Sukeban Boy. I've yet to see Sukeban Boy (to watch pile) but Machine Girl is one of my favourites of the new batch of Japanese gore films. I remember hearing that Machine Girl is littered with porn actresses and after seeing Hypertrophy Genitals Girl I looked into his back catalogue and see why. What a pornographer his guy is! If those porns are anything like this bizarro piece he could be one of the world's greatest dirty movie makers.
I bought Hypertrophy Genitals Girl (from the wonderful and wacky Eyesore Cinema) without subtitles but was assured that this would not hamper in any way my enjoyment of the film. Actually , the fact that there were no subtitles made the film possibly more entertaining since I had to imagine what the characters were saying, which in a movie with such fucked up scenarios, made the movie more surreal. Here's what I could make out:
A Japanese girl runs into friend while she seemingly has to pee very badly. They encounter a silver, penis headed alien that punches them in the gut and gives them enlarged genitalia by ejaculating laser beams from his head (sold yet?).
The "has to pee" girl discovers she now has an enormous penis and is immdiately attacked by street youths (one looking like a Japanese version of Lipps from Anvil) who, of course, want to play with her penis. Kids these days.
She makes her escape, only to pop a boner. She runs around a small town with her massive erection sticking out from her skirt and is eventually accosted by the townfolk who hold her and take pictures of her wang. In restraining her they use the "hold by the breasts" method that the street youths did. Is this a legit way of restraining people? She escapes again to hide and masturbate, so obviously she has "possessing a dick" mastered. Here we get the pleasure of seeing that along with growing a giant pecker she has also gained a bush the size of someone's front lawn. Yikes.
The other friend wakes up to discover she now has an enlarged vagina. The same group of punk kids attack her. I guess penis or vagina mean nothing to these dissatisfied youths. Do they just roam the park in search of engorged genitals? Later, a man in a white lab coat punches her in the gut (another traditional move along with the "breast grope"?) and she blacks out.
Big Dick discovers her boobs have now grown enormous as well. At least she seems delighted at this. She's discovered by a couple who tie her (and her dick) up to apparently keep as a sex slave. They have sex. For a long time. Here's where porno scenes pretty much take up the rest of the film.
Big Vag wakes up tied up to a chair and a sweaty doctor (?), who is fascinated with her newly engorged hoo-ha proceeds to fondle her (I'm sensing a running theme of sex here). He's interrupted by penishead alien, who puts him into a trance like state so that he might help penishead get it on with big vag, with his penis head not surprisingly. And vibrators... surprisingly. She squirts (I believe that's the medical term) all over the joint and both penishead and the doctor die painfully. Big vag realizes that this could very well be her superpower.
Big Vag finds Big Dick, worse for wear after being a sex slave, and carries her away. They find a romantic hideaway and (spoiler alert) get it on. It's like they were made (by a penisheaded alien) for each other. Fuck The Notebook.
Whoa. I read about this years ago in Shock Cinema and just had to see it. And unbelievably, it actually has a legitimate DVD release in North America. Made by Shaun Costello and starring Harry Reems, this is one messed up film. A Vietnam vet, who has many flashbacks, giving Costello the chance to show tons of war atrocity footage (in a porn!), follows women home to rape and/or kill them. This is what is termed as a "roughie", and boy is it ever. There are some films you feel like you need to shower immediately after seeing, but I suggest you watch this one from the shower. And you still won't be clean. Ever again.
Another Shock Cinema recommendation. Not quite as brutal as Forced Entry (not much is) but is still a surprisingly rough XXX film from sleazemeister Shaun Costello. This is known as the Taxi Driver of porn/enema films (is there a Sound of Music of porn/enema films?) and really does bring to mind Scorsese's classic. The always lovable Jamie Gillis plays a Travis Bickle type of character who stumbles upon a live enema show. It seems he found his calling. He goes back to his filthy, porn magazine decorated apartment to begin his new life as "The Enema Bandit". He breaks into women's homes, rapes them and gives them enemas. Fortunately, the sex scenes are reasonably short in this one. Gillis' narration where he obsesses about women who need to be cleaned up is both hilarious and unsettling. Both this and Forced Entry are very stylish and well told downbeat stories that fit well into the American seventies cinema canon.
NINE LIVES OF A WET PUSSY
I saw this no more than a year ago and barely remember a thing in it, but I do remember liking it. Abel Ferarra's debut feature, where he plays a role himself (with a stunt cock I've been told), this is a must see for fans of his early work. How many directors have a porno in their repertoire that you have to view in order to be a completist?
LET MY PUPPETS COME
The Muppet Show with XXX scenes. It's been a while since I've seen this oddity, but I remember it seeming like a real product of it's time. Definitely worth seeking out.
Pure insanity. A black and white porno that takes place in a creepy old dark house with an insane resident who takes in guests on a dark and stormy night. It gets very bizarre as the hostess' performance goes balls out crazy, the set pieces become more surreal and a gorilla makes it's way into the plot. Considered more of an arthouse item than a porno, this is an all time classic. I would recommend this to anyone seeking a strange porn, but for those wary of watching gay goings ons, there is one scene of man on man action. Highly, highly recommended.
PARTY DOLL A GO GO
Rinse Dream takes his stylized dialogue from Cafe Flesh even further. He experiments with editing, performances and images, but it's not near as transgressive as Cafe Flesh. I like this one a lot, it plays a lot more like an experimental film than a linear movie.
THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES
It's been ages since I've seen this one, but I distinctly remember the beginning and ending, which I thought were pure genius. Opening a porn film with a suicide was something that was rarely seen but the ending with Miss Jones trapped in hell with the director in a cameo is truly something to behold. I wouldn't want to spoil it, but it really is wonderfully bizarre. I should probably get around to re-watching this one day, I remember it being very stylish as well.
Another film I saw so long ago I barely remember anything about it, though I do remember it was much funnier than I thought it was going to be. I don't know if I'll ever revisit this one, but I will probably watch one or two of the many documentaries on the film.
The mother of all pornos. Such an unbelievable turkey that it really must be seen to be believed. One of the main problems is the editing, which is credited to "the production". No pacing whatsoever, it seems they use more outtakes than real performances (and it has been suggested that they do on the amazing 3 DVD must have set). Watch the scene where Caligula carries his sister up the stairs. It's done in a wide shot, and stays there, never cutting away as Malcolm McDowell seems to overact along with grunt and struggle to get the actress up the stairs.
This is one of the craziest films ever made. A star studded movie that the producer Bob Guccione (Penthouse magazine publisher) added hardcore scenes to after it was shot. That helped catapult it to the status it has today, but even without those scenes, this is possibly the biggest train wreck put to film. Extravagant sets that were too big to capture on film, director and producer disagreements and actors that knew they were in a spiraling out of control plane crash of a flick. If you don't own the 3 disc special edition and have any interest in the film at all, you need to get it. It covers almost everything you could ever want to know about this amazing failure. A must see.
THE TEXAS DILDO MASQUERADE
Another film I heard about from Shock Cinema, this is a great porn parody of the original classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Along with my buddy Timbo, I rented this film and we sat down to enjoy this little gem. Only problem, the sex scenes are super long in this one. Sitting next to your buddy on the couch as an actress yells in a deep, guttural voice, "Fuck my ass" for the 40th time, gets a little uncomfortable. But the non-sex scenes are priceless, as the cast and crew put their hearts into everything about the film. It's obvious someone involved in this film really loves The Texas Chainsaw Massacre very much. I haven't really seen any other porn parodies, but I can't imagine any being much more sincere than this.
The only horror/porn hybrid I've watched to date. Since it attempts to be a horror film, the pacing is severely flawed due to it having to pause all the time so people can have sex for generous gaps. Sure they pile on the gore, but the filmmakers needed to figure out a way so that the sex and horror worked together rather than having both elements seemingly fight each other.
Well, there you have it, for now at least. As I wrote earlier, if there are any that are absolute must sees let me know. Unlike other genre films, there are few magazines or reference books that point the way to interesting and strange XXX works. Now back to watching 5 minute clips with the sound off!
Monday, February 1, 2010
GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS
This certainly was not what I expected. What I thought was going to be a funny, low-budget creature feature turned out to be pure madness. In brief, Eddie, a sheep herder goes into town in the back of a pickup truck shared with half a dozen sheep, accompanied by church music of course, and enters an empty casino as creepy music plays on the soundtrack. Cut to a bustling casino and Eddie has come into some money! Some dude invites Eddie to accompany him to a bar in another town only to have Eddie's money stoled by a woman of the night. He accuses her and everyone in the bar takes a turn at beating him up. The local doctor brings Eddie back to his stable where Eddie has a vision and one of his sheep gives birth to a monster fetus. That's probably the first 10 minutes. Then Eddie and our monster are left by the wayside as we have a businessman vs the restoration committee, the doctor performing experiments, a lynch mob, a relationship with Eddie and the wonderfully named Mariposa and the monster actually goes on a rampage within the last 20 minutes.
Godmonster is packed with entertainment. Filled with subplot upon subplot and a hilarious monster suit there is seldom a moment of boredom. I've read that this film was considered lost for a long time, but thank goodness it was found. There is so much more to this bonkers film than just a monster movie.
THE FORGOTTEN ONES
Oh dear me. Here's a movie filled with unlikable characters doing dumb things in a silly story. But if you are a bad STV movie fan, you could do far worse.
The movie is about a group of friends (who don't seem to like each other very much): a douchebag boyfriend and his nagging girlfriend (the hero of the film), a ditzy blonde bimbo and her goofy overweight, rich boyfriend and some other douchebag who is upset with the bimbo for dumping him for fatso. Sounds like a fun trip, don't it? All they needed to do was invite a date rapist and they could be characters in a reality show.
Anyway, boat crashes, they get stuck on island with a killer tribe of neanderthals and the naggy heroine finds her inner strength. Actually, the film has a decent opening showing a group of researchers in the past getting killed, but about 20 minutes later I was fading fast. Then something miraculous happened. I was already sick of the nagging lead character who, upon getting stuck on the island, demands that she and her boyfriend abandon everyone by taking off in the only life raft that made it out of the shipwreck. Rather than the boyfriend saying, "Are you fucking kidding me? Wait, you are, aren't you? You almost had me there. I really thought you wanted to take a life raft and paddle into the vast ocean rather than waiting to be rescued using the radio readily available to us. You are kidding, right? You have to be. I mean, it would really be fucked up if you were serious... right?" he walks away. Then our heroine (Liz, to us in the know) storms away to go to the bathroom in the jungle. As she is piddling away she cuts a fart. A big one. And does not acknowledge it at all (me guesses the editor was allowed to put this in since no one had any faith in the movie anyway), so at this point the movie could do whatever it wanted, I was now happy I saw it.
And there are unintentionally funny moments:
-There's a stock shot of an iguana that's obviously taken in a zoo since it has it's food (two strips of beef and a lemon) sitting right next to it
-When they are apparently in the middle of nowhere at sea, in one shot there is clearly a ship behind them
-During an argument Liz pronounces ogle as oogle
-Liz's boyfriend gets a small cut on his leg and leaves a river of blood in his wake
-Liz manages to nag a dead body
-The climax, where Liz becomes a pantless Rambo
Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not recommending this film in any way, shape or form, but if you happen to stumble upon it, you might get a laugh or two between the yawns and cringes. And the hero farts!
Most know Eric Tsang as the mob boss in part one and two of Infernal Affairs. From what I've seen, he's now quite a well respected actor in his homeland (and we even brought him to Canada for the miniseries Dragon Boys). But back in 1989 he wrote, starred and directed this CAT III gem about a group of tourists vacationing in the Phillipines being taken hostage by a group of rebels. As with any self respecting CAT III film, the film has a sleazy vibe (rape seems to be always just around the corner in these films) and lots of bloodshed. In Fatal Vacation, everything is over the top. Tsang has crafted a fun action film that would satisfy anyone who also liked Born to Fight or Rambo (IV). The hostages decide they need to kick some ace or succumb to certain death and along with moments that will leave the audience cheering, there's also those wonderfully downbeat moments guaranteed in a CAT III flick. Also, I think this might be the only non-American film role I've seen Victor Wong (the squinty eyed actor from Big Trouble in Little China) in. Highly recommended for action and CAT III fans alike.
THE LAST GATEWAY
What did I just watch?
The doorway to hell is opened by a sorcerer. Only one problem. It's in his neighbor's stomach. What sounds like a comedy/horror hybrid is played mostly with a straight face as his neighbor, Michael, goes on the run from Satanists (?) as hell's foul creatures keep escaping from his gut. For the most part, the film works well, having an almost Lovecraftian feel (the first scene in the film involves 2 boys catching a monster along with some fish) and it contains some cool monsters and gore. It was shot in english in Argentina, so it takes a while to get used to every actor speaking with an accent and at one hour and forty some odd minutes, it is a little long in tooth. But for fans of bizarro cinema like myself I would absolutely recommend seeing this highly ambitious and imaginative low budget flick. I'm looking forward to the director's next work.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
10. Enter the Void
A theatrical experience that I doubt will ever be duplicated (and I'm certain it's detractors consider that a good thing). Gaspar Noe proves again and again that he is the most innovative director working today by taking film to areas no one thought possible. With Enter the Void he attempts to capture the out of body experience of a junkie who is killed during a deal gone wrong. Noe uses the camera much like one would anticipate, as a voyeur looking down upon the world he's left behind, but he doesn't stop there. This film is far from a story told from a ghost's POV, Noe never does the expected. I can't wait to see this in the theater again.
9. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
A hoot and a holler. It's great to see Cage back to making an art out of overacting. This film serves as a great companion piece for Abel Ferrara's original masterpiece, playing with the same themes of redemption, morality, the soul and final judgement, but in a much different way than it would be expected. What originally seemed like the stupidest decision ever made by a film studio; the pairing of Cage and Herzog to remake the seemingly unremakable Bad Lieutenant, turned out beautifully and I'm grateful someone was either brilliant or dumb enough to make this happen. Now let's see if we can make a franchise out of this seemingly unfranchisable property. C'mon, it would have to be better than most franchises out there. Highly watchable.
8. The House of the Devil
I've been a big fan of Ti West since seeing his Trigger Man. It was like a combination of The Most Dangerous Game and Gerry and I was at the edge of my seat through most of the final hour. Then I checked out his debut film, The Roost, and once again I was pleasantly surprised at this methodically paced creature feature. While every horror filmmaker is out there trying to wow the audience for fear that they might be bored for even 3 seconds, West goes at a leisurely but controlled pace and heightens everything that is great about the horror genre. The characters are better, the tension is better and the shocks are better.
House of the Devil is his best and most accessible film yet. It concerns a college girl who takes on a babysitting job that requires much more than she expected. The film is a directing tour de force as West completely manipulates the audience into experiencing the night of terror along with the protagonist. He's like the Michael Heneke of the horror genre (without the moralizing everyone is so appalled by of course) as he gets more and more comfortable with the medium. House of the Devil may be an instant horror classic, but I'm anxiously awaiting what he will do in the future. Who would have thought the most exciting new horror director working today shows restraint instead of trying to constantly entertain with shocks, wows and whatnot?
7. Crank: High Voltage
As I've written before on Cool Stuff for the Uncool, I do have some problems with the overwhelming use of racist terms this film revels in, but I can't help but completely love everything else about it. The insanity of this film only matches the heights Takashi Miike achieved with the beginning and end of Dead or Alive. And unlike most films that try and be frenetic throughout their whole running time, Crank: High Voltage never becomes meandering or simply exhausting. Hopefully, much like the original, this gets a renewed life on DVD after completely bombing in the theater so we can see the further adventures of that lovable scumbag Chev Chelios.
6. A Serious Man
The Coens go back to their more cerebral filmmaking a la Barton Fink and The Man Who Wasn't There, and succeed yet again. The Story of Job and Schrodinger's Cat are two of the inspirations for this dark tale of a good man being put to the test as his world crumbles. He's a mathematician, so he looks for answers in this unfair world, and if he isn't careful he just might find them. I loved that A Serious Man is taken from a Jewish perspective, something I rarely, if ever, see in mainstream films. Another masterpiece from the Coens, and the scene with Columbia records might be my favourite scene they've ever written.
5. Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Your heart would have to be made of shit, piss, snot and puke for you not to be touched by this one. One of my favourite documentaries of all time, Anvil: The Story of Anvil tells the story of Lipps and Robb Reiner (one in many Spinal Tap connections), friends from childhood who have never given up on the dream of being in a heavy metal band. After any sane man would have called it a day, both of them keep looking on the bright side and always keep in mind that it could be much worse. The film also manages to be funny without mocking them, which with some of their antics would seem the easy thing to do. After I saw the film I felt the urge to look for my Strength of Steel cassette (though I'm sure it's long gone) and maybe buy a couple of their new albums. Even if I don't like them, I couldn't be helping out two nicer guys.
My favourite film I saw at TIFF this year. Hitoshi Matsumoto's masterpiece of comedy, surrealism and deep personal vision proves that Big Man Japan wasn't just a fluke. He's definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on, I suspect he'll have a lot more great films to offer us in his hopefully long career.
3. Inglourious Basterds
My favourite war film and not only a return to form for Tarantino (it's not like he went too off course, though I wasn't a big fan of Kill Bill Vol 2 and Death Proof) but also an indication that he's maturing as a filmmaker (which is exceptional, since he was shockingly talented to begin with). Much like his other work, Inglourious Basterds does invoke other films (which is good. I think people who get their panties in a bunch at Tarantino for paying homage to other films are more interested in proving how smart they are rather than actual criticism) but his plot driven story and dialogue is some of his best work. This is simply a great film that will be remembered as one of Tarantino's best.
One of the few examples where the movie improves upon the amazing source material. Time will be very kind to this movie and much like The Thing and Blade Runner, film fans of the future will wonder what the hell was everyone's problem with this masterpiece.
1. Drag Me to Hell
Only Raimi could make a movie where a child, a pet and an important character die horribly and the audience leaves the theater with a big smile on their face. They could have called this Evil Dead 4 and I would have been cool with that (the Evil Dead franchise being my favourite films). Also, this makes a great companion piece to the Coen's A Serious Man in that they're both very tragic/comedic morality tales. A pure joy to see Raimi's triumphant return to the horror genre.