Trailer: American Ultra

Is there hay to be made by combining The Pineapple Express (and a dollop of Clerks) with The Bourne Identity? Well, somebody thinks so, namely Project X director Nima Nourizadeh, and his team has gone through the trouble of assembling a pretty fine cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Kristin Stewart, John Leguizamo, Topher Grace, Bill Pullman and Nash Edgerton, and shooting just that: An Amnesiac Super-Spy Stoner Comedy. And an Adventureland reunion of sorts.

Your mileage may vary, but you’ll probably crave a lot of popcorn.

Occultober – Day 23 – The Serpent And The Rainbow

The Serpent And The Rainbow
“Don’t let them bury me…I’m not dead!” Who does get a slight chill when they consider the idea of being though dead and put into the earth still conscious? Wes Craven delivers a lot of exotic-sploitation in the 1988 voodoo-psychological horror picture, The Serpent And The Rainbow. The film is loosely based on the exploits of ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a man who by his own account was ‘turned into a zombie’ and recovered from the experience.

Looking for a ‘natural anesthesia’ for big Pharma, Dennis Alan bounces around in the Amazon jungle, eventually landing in Haiti, where he tries to buy a potent powder from a voodoo priest. Instead he is captured by the paramilitary officers and tortured before being kicked out of the country. But his persistence gets himself back into Port au Prince, for the ‘full experience’ of the powder, which culminates in a trip into his own madness.

Craven layers on a plethora of WTF moments and crazy imagery, mainly because portions of the film take place in Alan’s nightmares — coming off A Nightmare On Elm Street, it becomes clear why Wes got the directing job from Universal Studios after Peter Weir passed on it. In the full Sam Raimi sense, it certainly tortures the hell out of a very game Bill Pullman who is very convincing in the Indiana Jones-esque lead role. In a hollywood kind of co-incidence, Pullman also played a Han Solo character in Mel Brooks Spaceballs which came out within the year of the release of The Serpent And The Rainbow, but of course, has a much less scary vibe join on.

Far from perfect, there is enough going on in The Serpent And The Rainbow to fuel more than a few nightmares for those who discover this forgotten, slightly-unpolished gem.

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Finite Focus: “We’ve met before, haven’t we?” (Lost Highway)

Lost Highway posterI‘ve already professed my love for the work of director David Lynch in my previous Rank ‘Em post. To me he has made some of the most interesting and thought-provoking films ever, whether it be getting under the skin of the everyday (Blue Velvet), getting to the heart of humanity (The Elephant Man) or exploring the myths and pitfalls of Hollywood (Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire), I find his films not only fascinating but weirdly rewatchable in spite of their strangeness.

For this Finite Focus I thought I’d highlight one of my all-time favorite Lynch scenes, from his labyrinthine Lost Highway (which Kurt already highlighted in a previous Finite Focus), in which Bill Pullman is at a party and is suddenly approached by a mysterious pale-faced man (Robert Blake). What follows is a baffling and creepy-as-hell conversation in which the Mystery Man (as he’s credited) seemingly is both at the party and at Pullman’s house. Is it as simple as the Mystery Man having a twin? Or is there something altogether more bizarre and sinister going on? It’s a Lynch film so who knows but the scene stands as one of the creepiest of all time in my eyes.

Whether you’ve never seen it before or just need a refresher, here’s the scene in question below.

Don’t have nightmares, now…

“The Killer Inside Me” Promo

Already a contender for the top ten list of 2010? At the very least maybe it turns out Jessica Alba can act a little? Check out this early promo for The Killer Inside Me starring Casey Affleck and directed by Michael Winterbottom.

UPDATE: It’s occurring to me that this promo reel might not be around for much longer as I think it might be mildly SPOILERIFIC. Watch video at your own risk.


Director: Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, In This World)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Simon Baker, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty, Bill Pullman, Elias Koteas
Release Date: Summer 2010


Cinecast Episode 125 – Cultural Collateral


Episode 124:
Somehow both Kurt and Andrew managed to miss out on Will Farrel running from dinosaurs as well as the Vegas tomfoolery in The Hangover. Instead we watched a bunch of subversive, exploitative and downright nasty cinema on DVD – that includes Twilight. New is overrated. Oh, and three cheers to Don Bluth.
Thanks for listening!

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To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:

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MSPIFF Review: Surveillance

Surveillance poster

Director: Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena)
Writers: Kent Harper, Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Producers: Kent Harper, Marco Mehlitz, David Michaels
Starring: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins French Stewart, Ken Harper
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 97

Not your daddy’s cinema. Sure there’s definitely a trace of fatherly influence here, but this is far more of a Rob Zombie tribute than David Lynch. This is hard exploitation at its finest. Unlike Zombie however (specifically The Devil’s Rejects), this movie doesn’t seem to be here just for the sake of violence and victimization; there are some technical mechanics at work here that really delivered… at least for me. Not to say there aren’t some glaring weaknesses, but for the most part it’s fair to say I was on board with this movie from the get-go.

The first two minutes: a quite brutal murder sequence involving two masked figures (one sort of resemblind Michael Myers) bludgeoning and running down a seemingly innocent couple. Lynch left very little to the imagination here as blood splatters across the opening credits. We then cut to Pullman and Ormond; two FBI agents pulling into a rural police station to set up questioning of three witnesses to a crime. Each witness has a different perspective of what happened and each witness has something to hide. Lynch shows us what really happened in flashbacks mode while simultaneously we hear the witnesses tell their own version of what happened in a series of half-truths and distortions.
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Review: Bottle Shock

Director: Randall Miller (Nobel Son)
Writers: Jody Savin , Randall Miller, Ross Schwartz
Producers: J. Todd Harris, Brenda Lhormer, Marc Lhormer, Randall Miller, Jody Savin, Marc Toberoff
Starring: Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodríguez, Dennis Farina, Eliza Dushku
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 110 min

I read a lot of comparisons to Sideways before taking my seat for Bottle Schock. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ok sure, there’s some wine snobbery and they both take place in California’s wine country, but Bottle Shock is nowhere near as fun or as unpredictable as Sideways was. The story is a near opposite and the style isn’t hip in the slightest – to say nothing about the blandness of the characters; that had real potential to be great. So no, if it’s Sideways you’re looking for, then watch Sideways; it’s one of a kind.

Putting aside the “based on a true story” thing for a moment, let’s assume this is basically an original screenplay as I’m sure much of the dialogue and circumstance are all made up anyway for “dramatic effect.” The problem is that it’s not all that dramatic and it doesn’t have that much of an effect either. I’m one who can easily be suckered into some emotion with a heartfelt father-son story or a lifelong dream shot down by unfortunate circumstances. Unfortunately with Bottle Shock every interaction is played so lightheartedly, that nothing even remotely resembling drama comes forth.

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