Friday One Sheet: Guardians of the Galaxy Retro Poster

Aafter the runaway success, and natural geek alignment of James Gunn’s Guardian of the Galaxy, I expect there dozens, if not hundreds of fan-made posters for the film emphasizing man elements, but I think thus far, this tribute to pulp-science fiction, Amazing Stories slash This Island Earth, by designer Stefan Lawrence is my favourite.

It also echoes the Yellow-Green-Red colour palette of the film, which is a bonus.

Blindspotting: The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and Five Deadly Venoms

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You may notice a distinct difference in the quality of the screen caps contained within this post. 36th Chamber Of Shaolin has a proper widescreen aspect ratio and clear image (straight from the Dragon Dynasty DVD) while Five Deadly Venoms has a poorly cropped 4:3 image that was obviously recorded years ago off TV to well-worn VHS (and then transferred to YouTube where I found it). Was I desperate to catch that second film and willing to watch anything I could source? No. It was actually a bit of a design point.

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Several months ago when I first mentioned this pairing of Shaw Brothers Kung Fu films for my Blindspot, it was suggested to me that I should swing on down to Chinatown and get my viewing copies there. After all, crappy, English-dubbed copies are how most people get introduced to Kung Fu in the first place. Though I completely saw the merit in the idea, I was against it for two reasons…First and foremost, I really can’t handle cropped films and bad dubbing – hell, even Fellini films dubbed afterwards back into their own language (as Fellini intended) drive me a bit crazy since things like intonation never quite match up quite properly when dubbed. I’ve been a stickler for proper aspect ratios since realizing what they were (somewhere during the mid-point of the VHS years) and mostly seethe if I come across a film on TV or DVD in a bastardized form. Secondly, I already had that copy of 36th Chamber on DVD sitting at home on my stack of unwatched films. But the idea of watching at least one of the films in the format in which I would’ve seen my first taste of Kung Fu was still somewhat appealing. My knowledge of Kung Fu is not extensive (loads of Jackie Chan, the more serious Come Drink With Me, the much less serious Mad Monkey Kung Fu and all sorts of clips and scenes from Sunday afternoons long ago), but when I think of it, I do indeed think of desaturated videotape stock, people being cut out of the frame and halting English dubbed in an attempt to match with the characters’ mouths. Oh, and enough whooshing and whacking sounds to make a foley artist break into a sweat.

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Review: About Alex

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Director: Jesse Zwick
Writers: Jesse Zwick
Producer: Adam Saunders
Starring: Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella, Jane Levy
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 96 min.


Regardless of how much or little we use it, technology has affected the way we communicate. It wasn’t uncommon for college friends to keep in touch via birthday and Christmas cards but it seems that in today’s connected culture, even email feels like too much work when you can just send someone 140 characters or a “Like.” Are we really so into ourselves that sending an email to an old friend is too much work?

For his directorial debut Jesse Zwick, son of Hollywood heavyweight Edward Zwick, begina by exploring some of these themes before About Alex turns into a familiar story of old friends coming together after years of not really talking. In this case, they all come together over Alex (Jason Ritter), the shy and sensitive one of the group who seems to be stuck in a pre “always connected” world. He’s been creeping his friend’s social networks but hasn’t managed to really connect with them in a meaningful way and on a particularly bad day, he attempts to kill himself, an event that is considered grievous enough by his college buddies that they all drop everything and come together to support their wounded friend.

In the mix are the Sarah (the unhappy lawyer with killer cooking skills – played by Aubrey Plaza), Isaac (the successful one – Max Minghella), Isaac’s new girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy), Siri and Ben (the apparently happy artist couple – Maggie Grace and Nate Parker) and Josh (the always angry at something – Max Greenfield). As expected, we quickly learn that these individuals bring with them not only the baggage of their current lives but also of their past together, of relationships that were or nearly were, romances that have fizzled out and others that may still ignite.

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Cinecast Episode 362 – Primordial Dwarfism

 
Aafter nearly a three week hiatus, Weeeeee’re Baaaaa-aaack. In what is a true first on the Cinecast’s 8 year history, all three of Andrew, Kurt and Matt assembled in the same space to do a show with no telecommunications/web bridge. So, of course we pick a noisy bar and record over too many cocktails. With munchies and Montreal Smoked Meat, on the docket are three main reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy, Boyhood and Lucy which, oddly enough GotG gets the consensus favourite. Ever want to hear Kurt praise a Disney-Marvel production, now is your chance.

There is no 1984 project this week, but rest assured things will return to tomorrow with 2010: The Year We Make Contact next week, and Stop Making Sense after that.

Kurt does his annual 1+ hour recap of The Fantasia International Film Festival (which was also the source of the imported smoked meat) which is followed by a slew of titles from Matt (James Cameron Rape Sci-fi, Abortion Comedy, Punk Catharsis) and Andrew (Zach Braff, Heavy Metal, Alan Partridge and the last of Phillip Seymour Hoffman) with a little Terry Gilliam to round out the picture. LIVE FROM MINNEAPOLIS it is a lengthy, boozy, robust episode of the Cinecast, where bartenders, paramedics, rowdy billiard players, and the odd waitress all make for background character and salty language is tossed around in public spaces.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 
 

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Trailer: The Theory of Everything

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If there is a modern man’s story worth knowing, surely the argument could be made for that story to be Stephen Hawking’s. He’s no stranger to the limelight and there have been numerous documentaries, books, and profiles of the man over the years, but now we are getting a full-fledged biopic of Hawking’s life both before his motor neuron disease took control of his life and after he had his success in physics.

The film, which is directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire) is titled The Theory of Everything. Starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables, My Week with Marilyn) as Hawking and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) as his first wife Jane, it looks to be a well-made, if not by-the-books examination of the man’s early years in college along with his personal struggle coping with the disease while trying to balance his personal and professional life.

If the trailer is any indicator, there will be a heavy emphasis on the relationship between he and his first wife. I’m definitely interested in seeing this, as it’s hard not to be interested in Hawking’s rather incredible life story.

The Theory of Everything opens up on November 7, 2014.

Weekend of Trash XIV

Being too busy at work to go on holiday for a fortnight, my wife and daughter jetted off without me the other week. This meant that yours truly was left a lonely man with only an ever expanding movie collection for company. There was an easy fix to this dilemma though – pack up a bunch of those movies and head across the country to get together with the guys for a Weekend of Trash! (previous write-ups can now be found in the category archive).

So as ever, here are the reviews of everything we watched over the weekend. The reviews are only brief (I’m not about to start writing notes and getting analytical whilst chain-watching women in prison and kung-fu movies) and ratings are largely based on entertainment value rather than quality, so take them with a pinch of salt. I’ve included clips and trailers when possible too.

Enjoy!

Friday

L.A. Crackdown (a.k.a. L.A. Crackdown II)

Director: Joseph Merhi
Screenplay: Joseph Merhi
Starring: Pamela Dixon, Anthony Gates, Joe Verroca
Year: 1988
Country: USA
Duration: 83 min

Eurgh… Not a great start to the weekend. This ultra low budget ‘thriller’ sees a female police officer work under cover (briefly) as a ‘dime a dance’ girl to catch a psychotic killer who’s also involved in a bank job. It sounds like the perfect setup for a decent serial killer flick, but the inept director instead uses it to setup an hour and a half of filler.

I’ve never seen a more padded out and poorly edited film in my life. Every shot is overdrawn, the background sound lurches in volume horribly and conversations are ridiculously stilted. The plot is simple yet still doesn’t make sense as both the criminals and cops seem to always know what the other is doing for no good reason. I’d forgive a lack of plot if the film was fun or exciting, but instead of having any expositional scenes to aid the narrative the film throws in totally unnecessary pool playing or shopping scenes (seriously).

So yeah, this is bottom of the barrel stuff. I found it strangely more watchable than Roller Blade Seven and Strike Back but it’s still a steaming pile of crap.

One of the few actual action set-pieces in the film:

The whole film should you feel like torturing yourself:


Mind Killer

Director: Michael Krueger
Screenplay: Curtis Hannum, Michael Krueger, Dave Sipos
Starring: Joe McDonald, Wade Kelley, Shirley Ross
Year: 1987
Country: USA
Duration: 84 min

Attempting to tap into a Cronenbergian vibe, Mind Killer doesn’t quite manage to match the brains or class of the Canadian director, but it works well enough as an icky horror romp.

It starts quite slowly with a first half leaning more towards comedy than horror as our protagonist struggles to hit it with the ladies until he finds a mysterious manuscript giving him powers of telekinesis and mind control!

This goofy opening leads towards a fairly creepy and gooey climax. The effects are hardly realistic but still effective, prompting a few ‘ews’ from this reviewer.

It’s a lot of campy nonsense at the end of the day, but as trashy low budget horror it was well worth the watch.

A fan-made teaser trailer:

The whole movie:

Saturday

Foxy Brown

Director: Jack Hill
Screenplay: Jack Hill
Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown
Year: 1974
Country: USA
Duration: 94 min

Pam Grier is at her badass best in this blaxploitation classic. The film rides on her charisma really. The plot is fairly standard revenge stuff involving Grier’s Foxy Brown getting back at those that killed her boyfriend, but the lead actress brings it alive.

It’s quite a brutal film which doesn’t flinch from some of the nasty stuff that goes on in the world of drug dealing and sex trafficking. It has a social conscience like a lot of the blaxploitation movies too, but really the draws are Grier, plenty of cool quips and some bloody violence here and there. Solid stuff.

Trailer:

In the Mouth of Madness

Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Michael De Luca
Starring: Sam Neill, Jürgen Prochnow, Julie Carmen
Year: 1994
Country: USA
Duration: 95 min

I’ve always been a big John Carpenter fan (before he went crap) but somehow this had passed me by all these years. Luckily for me it was the ‘established favourite’ pick of the weekend.

Sam Neil stars as an insurance investigator looking into the disappearance of a hugely popular horror writer. This begins a terrifying descent into, you guessed it, madness.

I really liked this. It’s Carpenter at his best, crafting an engrossing story and supplementing it with great cinematic visuals and a good dose of scares.

It maybe gets a bit garbled by the end and isn’t as out and out terrifying as say The Thing or Halloween, but overall this is classy psychological horror from the king of genre cinema.

Trailer:


Narco Dollar

Director: José Mari Avellana
Starring: Leo Damian, Marcia Karr
Year: 1989
Country: Philippines

A cop that doesn’t play by the rules is caught in between a drug war. You know the deal – people get killed, the police chief gets angry and a kid/wife gets kidnapped.

This was a classic example of what most bad genre movies get wrong. There’s a healthy amount of action with dockland and warehouse gunfights a plenty, but there’s nothing else to engage you so that you give a toss.

The main problem is that it’s really hard to follow. The people you think are heads of each side of the drug war keep getting killed so you’re never totally sure who’s who. Add a dull lead character and you’ve got an action packed film which is still a slog to get through.

* I’d like to note that this film can’t be found on IMDB. It always feels like a great achievement when we manage to track down and watch a film this obscure. It’s just a shame it was crap.

Trailer:


Sunday

Cain’s Cutthroats

Director: Ken Osborne
Screenplay: Wilton Denmark, Ralph Luce, Ken Osborne
Starring: John Carradine, Scott Brady, Robert Dix
Year: 1971
Country: USA
Duration: 95 min

In this 70’s American Western with a Spaghetti feel, Scott Brady plays a former Confederate captain out for revenge after his former soldiers rape and murder his wife and kill his young son. Helping him is John Carradine, playing a preacher come bounty hunter.

This is grim stuff, not shying away from violence or any other nastiness, but at the same time has a lot of dark humour. It doesn’t quite have the style of the great spaghetti westerns and the soundtrack is gleefully inappropriate but it’s a solid down and dirty western nonetheless.

Trailer:


Nam Angels

Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Screenplay: Dan Gagliasso
Starring: Brad Johnson, Vernon Wells, Kevin Duffis
Year: 1989
Country: USA/Philippines
Duration: 91 min

This film by low budget action legend Cirio H. Santiago promises one of the most awesome exploitation concepts and delivers on every level.

When two soldiers are captured deep in enemy territory in Vietnam and there’s only a 1 week window to save them, Calhoun (Brad Johnson) uses a secret weapon to get them out: a group of the Hell’s Angels!

With plenty of explosions, gunfights, motor biking and very little filler, this is one of the rare exploitation titles that lives up to its promise. It never takes itself too seriously, the action is decently enough handled for its type (i.e. lots of machine gun strafing and exploding huts) and the pace never lets up. Perfect video weekend fodder.

Trailer:


Gamera: The Giant Monster (a.k.a. Daikaijû Gamera)

Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Screenplay: Nisan Takahashi
Starring: Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichirô Yamashiko
Year: 1965
Country: Japan
Duration: 80 min

I’m very new to the kaiju genre having only seen the original Godzilla and the American attempts at joining in the fun, but I’m trying to sample more of their joys.

This, the first of the Gamera series, saw Daiei Studios attempt to cash in on the international success of Toho’s Godzilla series by creating their own monster, the fire eating and breathing turtle Gamera. You know the drill; he appears due to an atomic accident, he wreaks havoc on the world (particularly Tokyo) then he is stopped through some crazy trap by scientists.

I enjoyed this. It’s not as classy as the original Godzilla, which is rather bleak and displays a bold political message, but Gamera is entertaining enough and looks quite nice with its black and white photography and cool scenes of destruction. It’s all a bit silly though and the quality of the models is pretty inconsistent. It’s a little slow too, but in general this is a fun piece of early kaiju history.

Trailer:

Gamera on MST3K!


Skills

Director: Johannes Pinter
Screenplay: Tomas Amlöv, Johannes Pinter
Starring: Josefin Ahl, Emil Ahlqvist, Tomas Amlöv
Year: 2010
Country: Sweden
Duration: 86 min

This Swedish parkour martial arts movie sees a teenager try to take revenge for the shooting of his dad and uncover the mystery of a secret tournament which he was investigating before the incident.

Skills was pretty disappointing. The parkour and fight scenes are cool and there’s a decent amount of them. Unfortunately the rest of the film falls flat on its face. Everything is very po-faced, forcing big drama out of plot points which don’t feel like they justify it. The whole idea of the tournament doesn’t seem all that evil or wrong so it doesn’t make sense why it’s kept so secret and the bad guys go to such lengths to find fighters and keep things under wraps.

On top of this core problem, there are also a number of poor performances. The main leads aren’t that bad, but they lack charisma so aren’t interesting to watch.

That said, it has its moments and when the action takes centre stage it’s fun to watch. The finale is clumsily handled though which makes the sense of disappointment linger, which is a shame as it could have been a really cool action movie.

Trailer:

Fantasia Review: The Hundred Year Old Man Who…


For all of us who feel Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump is a sentimental, condescending insult to cinema audiences everywhere, and Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not a helluvalot better, we finally have an entry into ‘the man who bumbles through history’ nano-genre to call our own. Do not let the maladroit title fool you, Felix Herngren’s big screen adaptation of the bestselling novel by Jonas Jonasson, is a Swiss fucking watch in the plotting department, and savagely amusing in its come-what-may temperament. it sneaks up on you in similar ways as Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters even as it dazzles with the sweep of history.

After a tone-setting and highly unfortunate incident involving a sweet kitty, a hungry fox and a bundle of dynamite, one of cinemas strangest heroes, Allan Karlsson, finds himself confined to a retirement home on the eve his centenary year on this little planet called Earth. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (hereafter The Hundred Year Old Man) is the delightfully absurd story of our eponymous very senior citizen who does indeed bail out the open glass portal of his tiny room right on the day while the nurses are attempting to count and light all those candles on his marzipan cake, but it is also the story of us as a conflicted and nutty species.

In surprisingly good health, and armed with only the simple intention of hopping on the nearest train to anywhere; or as the case may be, nowhere, which we will learn, is a highly underrated place to be. But due to a comical bit of mishap-ery involving an angry skinhead and a tiny train station bathroom, Karlsson finds himself in possession of a large suitcase full of money. With any found bag of money, comes pursuit and here it is in the form Swedish biker thugs and an angry British gangster shouting at them in Bali. In short order, we find Karlsson, in his rather zen and unhurried fashion (“life is what it is, and does what it does”), travelling across the Swedish countryside, gathering an odd collection of friends, another old man who lives in an abandoned train station (and possibly the only resident of a town called Byringe) and a 35 year old student who perhaps as the largest number of University credits on the planet (in his own words he is “almost a lot of things”.) Friendship is cool, but they are also more than a little interested in the 50 million euros that Karlsson is carting around.

Just when think you have Karl figured out, he pops someone over the head and ships their corpse to Egypt, so, suffice it to say, the film keeps you on your toes in terms of plot and character.

If it were only the criminal confusion, clueless coppers and comic coincidence with a growing body count, The Hundred Year Old Man would more or less be a Guy Ritchie flick (note: Alan Ford, who played Brick Top in Snatch here is the London baddie in Bali), albeit with a drier Swedish humour. But things get interesting, expensive and very explosive as we flash back to Karlsson’s unique and pathologically significant life. He accidentally saved Franco from a bridge demolition in the Spanish Civil War, contributed to both the American and Russian nuclear bomb program, almost single handedly starting the cold war, and comically might have been key in ending it by catching Ronald Reagan at the wrong moment. The movie, dripping with that special kind of Scandinavian wit, offers an entirely human-nature bit of revisionism as to why the Berlin Wall was torn down.

A life lived well, not straining too hard against the universe, and simply letting things happen, it covers nearly the entire breadth of the 20th century history. These flashback vignettes are invigorating, absurd and violent, just as the details of history, are if you are close to the ground. All Karlsson has ever wanted to do during these historic moments is have a drink, do some work and take the occasional photo, but that doesn’t stop his life from being swept into many crazy situations involving cocktails, cossack dancing with Josef Stalin, clandestine trips in U-Boats, imprisonment in a Siberian Gulag with Albert Einstein’s clueless brother, Herbert. Even a throwaway job having lunch while building the Empire State Building (watch for the hammer!) yields effortless comic timing.

The Hundred Year Old Man winningly posits that we are all photographers of our own lives; our memories and experiences can be futilely sculpted into something that is just as transient as something a little more shapeless with markedly less stress and more time to have a nip of vodka and simply allow things to happen. If the film offers advice, it is this: Watch the road while you are driving. Be careful where you pee. Don’t shoot a pistol at a Elephant. And, there is always a tomorrow, so, keep your your head up and we’ll see you next Wednesday.