Movie A Day! 397-407: Last Christmas To The Head

We have nearly made it, only a few days left and 2014 is put to rest. Everyone making out okay? This time of year can feel like survival sometimes. My holidays are going okay, so far. It’s been mostly quiet and low key, which is what I wanted. It’s the first Christmas without dad, and mum and I are accepting it quietly while cracking the odd joke about how dad wouldn’t be impressed with us and our celebration since we’re going small.

I passed 400 titles this past week. Not bad. Watched some great, classic films, and some not so great films. As per usual. Here they are!

397 12-21 Christmas Evil (1980) 4/5
My (and John Waters) favourite Christmas movie looking fantastic on Blu-ray via Vinegar Syndrome! This one came out in the midst of slasher mania and was obviously designed to be the Christmas version of HALLOWEEN. Surprisingly, they went more psychological, so the first half plays more like a TAXI DRIVER style character study before going completely loopy. Believe me, it gets deliriously loopy, so check it out.

398 12-23 Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale (2013) 3/5
Yup, still watching Christmas specials. This one was one of the better ones mainly because Clarkson can sing anything in a way that doesn’t drive you up the walls. The sketches aren’t as good as the performances, but the performances are all good and Clarkson has a fun personality.

399 12-23 Masterchef Canada Holiday Special (2014) 3/5
Stumbled on this one. They brought back 5 contestants from Season one, who along with their families compete in cooking challenges with the winning family getting $10,000 for their favourite charity. It was surprisingly fun, and since it’s Canadian, everyone was happy, working together and having a good joyous cry instead of baiting and trying to screw everyone over like the American version.

400 12-24 Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls (1979) 4/5
This is one of the porno chic titles that gets tossed around as being a classic so it was nice to finally view it via Vinegar Syndrome’s release. Directed by Bob Chinn, this one fits right in with the teen sex comedies that were popular at the time. Think of PORKY’S or ANIMAL HOUSE type comedies, except with hardcore sex. John Holmes starts as an owner of a pizza shop who has a gang of sexy, skateboarding delivery girls who deliver pizzas throughout San Francisco on their skateboard as a cover for hooking. There is a mysterious “Chicken Rapist” out to get them, run by a fried chicken group who want to put the Pizza Girls out of business. Desiree Cousteau is back playing her naive dumbbell persona that she did so well in PRETTY PEACHES, and future feminist porn director Candida Royalle is memorable as well as one of the Pizza Girls. Cut out the porn, and it would still be a fun and funny little film.

401 12-25 2014 Disney Parks Christmas ‘Frozen’ Parade (2014) 2.5/5
This was on Christmas morning and was probably your last chance to see Ariana Grande soullessly warble out a Christmas song. Seriously, if it was a variety type special from this year, Grande was part of it. I guess she won the magic ticket.

402 12-25 All Is Lost (2013) 3/5
This one has Robert Redford as a guy dealing with sail boat that has a hole in it. In a twist, that it all this movie is about. All of it. No kidding. A guy on a boat, by himself. So your enjoyment will be based on if you don’t mind watching a guy on a boat with a hole in it for ninety minutes. I liked it, and I thought Redford did a really good job. That said, I don’t think I’m going to be spinning it a ton. It’s a neat experiment and change of pace, but not completely successful. I have a sneaky feeling that this one was made as Oscar bait to get Redford a statue.

403 12-26 The Green Mile (1999) 4.5/5
This is the best of Frank Darabont’s Stephen King prison novel adaptations, which is saying something since the other one he did was THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. I like this one better though, since it has gruesome executions and Tom Hanks pissing all over the place to balance the sentimentality that is borderline over-sentimental. Plus it has that god damned mouse!

404 12-27 Doctor Who Christmas Special – Last Christmas (2014) 2/5
405 12-27 Black Mirror – White Christmas (2014) 4/5
These should be the last of the Christmas specials for me. Doctor Who had Nick Frost as Santa, sorry, as Father Christmas since it’s British. Anyway, he was a great Father Christmas but the episode dealt with Jenna and her dumb boyfriend. For fuck sakes, that shit was wrapped up in the season finale! I thought we were done with her and her horseshit. I’ll give next season a chance, but I’m far from excited for it.

I never did watch BLACK MIRROR SEASON 2, and I’m going to rectify that toot-sweet since this Christmas special was excellent. John Hamm and some other guy are working at some unexplained job on Christmas, and Hamm is telling stories of what brought him to the isolated outpost. It’s smart and cynical, Brooker has a dead tight script and Hamm has never been better. I want more Black Mirror please, even though season two is supposed to be a bit dodgy.

406 12-27 Bullet To The Head (2012) 2/5
Walter Hill finally gets a new movie out, and it sucked. Walking human Growth hormone experiment Sylvester Stallone is a hitman who gets set-up on a bad job and has to work with a cop to sort things out. It hits every dumb cliche there is to hit. The cop is Korean, so there is way too many Asian jokes at his expense to get a pass in this day and age, and 90% of the dialogue seems to be exposition to explain what the characters are doing, and why they are defying all common sense and logic. So skip this one.

407 12-27 Oui, Girls (1981) 2/5
A detective goes undercover at a swingers ranch to solve a murder. I think that’s the plot. This one was spoken of pretty highly in the book THE OTHER SIDE OF HOLLYWOOD, and was considered to be director F.J. Lincoln’s best film. As a porno, it’s not bad, but as a movie it just didn’t make any sense with way too many plot holes. I know, it’s a porn, but I expected more. Pizza Girls delivered a plot, no reason this one shouldn’t have. F.J. Lincoln is also mostly known for his role as one of the attackers in Wes Cravin’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, so between that and the hype from the book, this one was a let down.

That’s it for now. There will be one more post, The wrap up for 2014! I’ll try to post it this week anyway.

I’m on the fence with continuing this blog into 2015. It’s actually a bit of work writing these dumb mini-reviews and finding the posters and math. Ugh. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Movie A Day!: 390-396 -“Work? I saw a baby blown apart at my ‘Work.'”

How is everyone doing? Everyone holding up? Christmas and the holidays are descending like a fog and it’s hard not to get caught up in it. I continue to not feel the spirit. Maybe it’s from being old, single and childless, but in the “take it or leave” it side of Christmas, I could leave. Except for the turkey dinner, I like that part. I’m going to try to get out a bit over my Christmas week off work and hopefully not get totally despondent like I usually do. Hopefully all of you do the same.

Here’s my last week of films, some really good ones!

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390 12-15 Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943) 4/5
I’m rating this one higher than a non-fan of the series would. This was the first big monster meetup picture for the Universal Monster series, and as such acts as a sequel to THE WOLFMAN and THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. That said, it’s more of a sequel to Wolfie since it largely follows the story of Talbot and his werewolf curse. Anyway, it totally delivers and manages to be a really dark picture as far as tone goes. It’s also notable for being the only time Bela Lugosi would play Frankenstein, and he does a pretty good job other than they fucked him over. Carrying on from GHOST, the monster was supposed to talk in this one, but the studio thought it looked corny and cut all the dialog. So you have poor Bela stumbling about with arms flailing looking a bit wonky when he’s actually playing the monster blind, which you will never know since they cut the dialog explaining the blindness. Still, in the end, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, I just wish Universal would get off their asses and restore these since the print used on the DVD is the worst one in the set, so far.

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391 12-16 Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York (2014) 2.5/5
12-16 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 5/5
12-16 Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002) 1.5/5
Yup, I’m still getting rooked into Christmas specials. This year, 2014, is the year in which some new singer named Ariana Grande is on every TV special. Some how dopey Canadian crooner Buble roped her into singing on his special. Grande is technically a good singer in that she hits the notes, but she’s one of those soulless, mechanical singers that appear to be reading a phone book, with no care or effort happening, that always spooks me and makes me not like them. This special is also the second special to feature the legendary Rockettes kicking their legs all over the place. I don’t get them either. Give me some tap dancers and I’m in. This corny revue stuff leading into leg kicking is a bunch of bullshit. The highlight, and the reason I’m giving it 2.5 stars. is Buble sings “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Miss Piggy, with Miss Piggy taking the rapist part that the guys usually sing. Awesome!

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is a classic that you should have seen by now. The other one was terrible, featuring gaggy vignettes that I’m guessing were taken from the actual daily strips. It didn’t work as a cartoon special, and actually put me off getting some of the beautiful strip reprints that Fantagraphics have been putting out.

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392 12-17 Captive Wild Woman (1943) 3/5
Ever wanted to see a movie where a mad scientist turns a gorilla into a beautiful woman that can control lions and tigers to help a circus act? Here’s your chance! This is as wonky a Universal Horror title as you will find, and a heck of a lot of fun. To a point, and that point is to be found in how much animal mayhem you can enjoy before thinking thay should leave the poor wild beasts alone. Seriously, nearly half of the 61 minute running time is tiger and lion taming, and it’s just inherently cruel right? At least they got to be in the movies so we could enjoy their torture forever and ever. Right? Hello? Still with me?

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393 12-18 Zatoichi in Desperation (1972) 4/5
Zatoichi star Katsu directs this one, the second last film in the original series, and holy shit is it a dark one. At this point, Zatoichi is pretty much running on instinct and barely able to live with himself after all the constant failures of redemption and killings that go with them. It’s got the typical, trying to help people and gets mixed up with the Yakuza plot, but everything is gritty, poor and brutal. Katsu does some unnecessarily flashy flourishes in the directors chair, but it doesn’t take away from the naturalistic feel of this one. One more film and I’m done. I DON’T WANT IT TO END!

394 12-19 Noah (2014) 3.5/5

Maybe it was low expectations due to this one getting a critical thrashing but I really liked it. It’s a gonzo version of the Noah’s Ark story, but I’m fine with the filmmaker taking liberty with the source material, especially if it’s Darren Aronofsky. Visually impressive like all his work, and the film moves at a pretty quick pace. Russell Crowe and the rest of the cast are just as good, and it’s nice to see a Bible film deal with the real world ramifications of “miracles” in a more realistic way (despite this being a fantasy picture) than in wonder and awe of how amazing things are. If that makes sense.

395 12-20 Prisoner of Paradise (1980) 3/5

Adult auteur Bob Chinn takes on WW2 with John Holmes with this one. Holmes washes up on a deserted pacific island, only it’s not deserted after all. Nazis have set up a secret listening post, run by a porky dude, and two wicked female guards, one of them porn legend Seka. Everything is set-up to be some prime, gonzo Nazisploitation, but Chinn plays it more like a straight WW2 actioner with porn in it, so it never really takes off despite the cast all doing a pretty decent job acting. Seka as the nasty bitch head guard and Holmes as the burned out navy survivor steal the show, but there isn’t much to steal in this one.

396 12-20 Out Of The Furnace (2013) 3.5/5

This one seemed to sneak out last year with no one really talking about it. Christian Bale stars as a steelworker who is trying to keep his family together after a brief prison stint for a DUI accident. It plays like the character study type noirs that came out in the seventies, in a good way. Pitch perfect performances abound with Casey Affleck as his troubled little brother, Willem Dafoe as a small town gangster and Woody Harrelson as a violent, hillbilly sociopath. This is such a different film than what typically comes out these days with a cast like that, it’s well worth a sit down to watch.

There it is, not a huge week compared to some I’ve had, but all the films were good so I’ll take it. OUT OF THE FURNACE is really sticking with me, two days later. Definitely one I’ll spin again at some point and will recommend.

This is probably my last until Christmas, so have a happy one doing whatever you do or don’t do around the holiday you may or may not recognize. To quote Paul F. Tompkins;

“Don’t get drunk and fight each other.”