Movie A Day!: Valley of the Sabrina

It’s that time of year! Spring has sprung, the air is warm, the sun is out, and I want to burn my life down and walk the earth! Is it just me getting this way every damned year? It makes no sense. The struggle never ends.

It did lead to one of the strongest weeks of films I’ve had in a while.


121 04/30 Valley of the Dolls (1967) 3/5   This one is considered a camp classic but it’s not all that campy and plays it pretty straight as a melodrama. I think it’s rep comes from the Russ Meyer follow up that has nothing to do with this picture. A trio of women, a singer, an actress and a secretary that ends up a model get a taste of fame and fortune, and all the pitfalls that come with it. The book was considered pretty scandalous, the movie is pretty chaste. My main interest was this was the other big picture aside from The Fearless Vampire Killers that Sharon Tate was in, and she is pretty great as the actress that never does break it big. The real star though is Patty Duke as the merciless pill’d up singer. She steals every scene that she’s in, balancing being adorable and miserable at the same time. All in all, it’s not a terrible affair if you can sit through a soapy melodrama.


122 04/30 Beneath the Valley of the Dolls (1970) 4/5   Nudie cutie maverick Russ Meyer signs on for this one, his first major studio picture. Meyer’s ditches everything to do with the original film, it starts with a warning that it is not a sequel, and turns it into the story of an all girl rock band trio seeking fame and fortune. The sex and drugs are cranked up to turn this one into an exploitation classic. Everyone in the picture is overacting, the plot (written with Roger Ebert!) is bonkers, the music is great, the editing is hyper, the pace is lightning, it’s all a glorious assault on the senses and makes you wish Meyer’s always had a big budget for his big titty films. Recommended.


123 05/01 Primary (1960) 3/5   An interesting documentary on the primary race between Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy, shot in the cinema verite style. It’s weird to watch now, Humphrey doing the old school stumping, walking the streets, handing out cards, giving speeches to small rooms while JFK only appears in large halls, packed tight with crowds, being swarmed as he leaves to his car. You can see the old world dying and being left to a media fuelled future..


124 05/01 Six Men Getting Sick (1966) 3.5/5
125 05/01 The Alphabet (1968) 4/5
126 05/01 The Grandmother (1970) 3/5
127 05/02 The Amputee (1974) 3.5/5
128 05/02 The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988) 3.5/5
A series of short films from David Lynch. I wont get into specifics, they are all pretty good with The Alphabet hinting at nightmares to come and The Cowboy and the Frenchman (featuring both Harry Dean Stanton and Jack Nance!)being one of the funnier things Lynch has done. They’re all worth checking out, ranging in length from 1 to 30 minutes.


129 05/03 Adventures On The New Frontier (1960) 3.5/5   A follow up to the documentary Primary spends a day with JFK in the oval office. It’s another fly on the wall affair with little comment on the action and it’s actually fascinating to watch. Part of that is due to modern times and trying to imagine current President Trump in oval office, doing what JFK is. Another interesting fact about these is both D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers worked on these films and it really shows the form that Pennebaker would use on his definitive documentary on Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back.


130 05/03 Eraserhead (1977) 5/5   David Lynch’s debut feature still holds all of it’s power. A true masterpiece, I find it impossible to watch without feeling like a hand is on my heart, slowly squeezing it. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a must own with the film looking gorgeous, all the extras from the DVD ported over, and featuring most of the short films I watched earlier this week.


131 05/04 Crisis (1963) 4/5
132 05/04 Faces of November (1964) 3/5
The first of the final two documentaries in the Drew Associates set on JFK finds Jack and Robert Kennedy dealing with a crisis. The crisis is that Alabama Governor George Wallace is going to physically black the doors on campus so that the first two black students will be unable to register. It’s pretty incredible to witness this today. That this was ever a thing is simply gross, but too see just how badly wrong on the side of history Wallace was, and how convinced he was that it was his moral obligation to both blacks and whites to keep them separate is fascinating and infuriating since it’s still a thing 60 fucking years later.

Faces of November is a silent montage of the mourners visiting JFK at rest after the assassination. It’s sombre to say the least.

It’s impossible to watch this set and not realize just how completely fallen into the shit we are as far as politics goes. I’m not just talking about the United States. I give the set a 4.5/5, it’s pretty near a must see.


133 05/04 Eraserhead Stories (2001) 4/5   This is a feature length doc on the making of the film that is little more than David Lynch telling stories into a microphone with some clips and pictures being shown as appropriate. It has no right being as entertaining as it is, and it’s all due to Lynch himself. The man is just so excited and in love with movies, he’s irresistible to watch. I wish I was as full of wonder about mundane things like inky lights and pie as this man.


134 05/05 Blood Simple (1984) 4/5   The Coen brothers debut with a classic neo noir about Texas infidelity. It’s remarkably accomplished and manages to balance tension and be hilarious at the same time since everyone in the picture comes off as incredibly stupid as opposed to criminal masterminds playing each other. Francis McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh are both fantastic in this and the final shots always make me laugh out loud. Recommended.


135 05/06 Sabrina (1954) 4/5   Audrey Hepburn stars in this one as a chauffeur’s daughter who’s torn between wealthy brothers William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. Hepburn is fantastic and adorable in the lead but the real winner here is Billy Wilder’s clever script and direction that holds a lot of truths that remain relevant today.

See? Not a bad week at all, eh?

This is a gentle reminder that I continue to update the Letterboxd site with my horrid past. Just finished my 2008 Scary Movie Challenge list which can be found here.  If anyone reads this has also set up a letterboxd, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I will be sure to follow. Not to be self serving and I know it’s hard to tell, but I actually spend a bit of time on this. Any sharing and whatnot is appreciated, but not expected.

That’s it, remember to love yourselves.

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Scary Movie Challenge 2016 Part 4

Last week was the Presidential inauguration and I found it to be such a massive cluster fuck that I totally forgot to post this, the last of my Scary Movie Challenge list.The day that this posts is also the Bell “let’s Talk” day on Twitter, where every tweet using the hashtag  results in a $.05 donation to mental health initiatives. A large part of my mental health coping is watching movies.

I’m not sure if watching this many movies in one month helps your mental heath.

080 10/25 Leviathan (1989) Blu-ray 3/5   If I remember right this one came out the same year as The Abyss and was pretty much completely forgotten. The case claims it’s “Alien underwater!” and it really wants to be that. Sadly it’s just a really well done monster movie. No classic, but worth a watch.

081 10/25 Evilspeak (1981) Blu-ray 3.5/5   This is my favourite of the anti-Satan scare films of the early 80’s. A kid who’s being bullied at military academy finds a Satanic text and starts inputting it into his Apple II, awakening all sorts of evil stuff. Clint Howard is great in the roll of the kid, and the film gets totally nuts. Makes me want to track down Mazes & Monsters, the other great scare film from the era. It was also nice to watch this uncut on Blu-ray. My previous viewing was via a bootleg download that had the scenes cut during the Video Nasties period inserted but sourced from a bad VHS looking copy. Funnily enough, most of the cut footage was the goofy Satanic text on the Apple II as opposed to violence.

082 10/25 Attack of the Puppet People (1958) DVR 2.5/5   If your movie has something to do with people shrinking or growing into giants, odds are that Bert I Gordon is behind it. This one was too goofy to really enjoy. A weirdo doll maker is shrinking people into dolls for companionship. They never really “attack” either, and there’s a drive-in scene that showing Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man which is a massively superior film to this one and reminding the audience of that doesn’t help matters.

083 10/26 Cat People (1982) Blu-ray 3/5   It’s not as good as the original, but it’s not the worst thing either. It’s a case of style over substance, and it mostly works. I would rate it higher but it has some pacing issues. Gorgeous soundtrack though.

084 10/26 The Dark Half (1993) Blu-ray 2.5/5   George Romero tackles another Stephen King story and it’s just too much of a good thing. Basic story is a writer decides to “kill off” his more popular pseudonym, only to have the pseidonym manifest and start killing people. It’s not a bad idea, and the book is great. At 2 hours it makes for a plodding movie.

085 10/26 Bereavement (2010) Blu-ray 3/5   I forgot I had watched this one before. Not a bad movie that gets pretty crazy, about a madman that kidnaps a kid. I just found out this is actually a prequel to Malevolence so I guess I should track that one down.

086 10/26 Burnt Offerings (1976) DVR 4/5   This one is supposedly one of Stephen Kings favourite movies and you can certainly see aspects of The Shining in it. A family rents a house for the summer and starts to become affected. This one a really good, mainly due to Oliver Reed being so intense through out. The rest of the cast with Karen Black and Bette Davis were great too, but man Reed is shithouse bonkers in his intensity. Worth it just for Reed’s performance, with the movie being equally interesting.

087 10/27 The Believers (1987) Blu-ray 2.5/5  I had memories of this one being hot stuff and controversial on release but it ends up being a pretty boring thriller. Martin Sheen is a police psychologist who gets mixed up investigating Voodoo crimes in New York. Some neat ideas and fine acting but it never really adds up to much.

088 10/27 Mazes and Monsters (1982) YouTube 2/5   Evilspeak had me craving this one and I should have left it alone. I recall it being great, but it’s just plodding and stupid. Tom Hanks and his friends get way to into Dungeons and Dragons and the result is boring.

089 10/28 Deathrow Gameshow (1987) Blu-ray 2.5/5   Goofy comedy that doesn’t work as a comedy or a horror film where convicts compete for pardons. It’s over the top in 80’s smarm and is more annoying than good.

090 10/28 Nightmare Sisters (1988) Blu-ray 3.5/5   A trio a sorority girls become succubi after playing around with a crystal ball. It’s painfully bad in the acting department, but the trio is played by Scream Queens Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer, and they turn into naked succubi which makes it all worthwhile. It ends up being a lot of fun.

091 10/28 Hobgoblins (1988) Blu-ray 2/5   Not as bad as Troll 2 as far as Gremlins rip-offs go, but it ain’t very good. When you can’t do better than Ghoulies as a horror comedy, you know you’re in trouble.

092 10/28 Pretty Maids All In A Row DVR 2/5   Rock Hudson stars in this thriller about a series of high school girl murders. Except the majority of the film is about a high school boy with boner problems. This one is supposed to be a black comedy but it never really worked and worse, felt like it would never end. Written and produced by Gene Roddenberry. Gene’s better in space.

093 10/28 Murder Weapon (1989) Blu 3/5

094 10/29 Deadly Embrace (1989) Blu 2/5   A pair of erotic thrillers, meaning “Skinimax” type fair in which women with big hair really get off on kissing guys bellies. Both star Linnea Quigley with “Murder Weapon” about a pair of mob daughters getting out of an asylum being the better of the two mainly due to how insanely gory it gets in the latter half. “Deadly Embrace” sounded like more of the same but sadly it’s just a mediocre skin flick about a neglected wife who hires a pool boy. It’s boring.

095 10/29 The Exorcist (1973) (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray 5/5   First time watching the original version in years and it still holds up as one of the greatest films ever made. It’s genuinely spooky, of course, but what’s equally impressive is the craft behind it. The score, sound design, acting, shots, editing, all in perfect harmony.

096 10/29 The Doctor & The Devils (1985) Blu-ray 3.5/5   This one is a retelling of the story of “Burke and Hare” legendary grave robbers turned murderers who sold bodies to the London Medical College. This one was really well done. It’s shot more like a drama as opposed to a comedic horror film that the story usually gets. Really worth checking out.

097 10/29 The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) blu-ray 2.5/5   This one isn’t actually one of the worst films ever made, as it’s routinely championed to be. It is a mess though. Adding a bunch of unnecessary psychic mumbo-jumbo to the story doesn’t help. It’s full of ambition and big ideas, it just never actually works. I think this is at least my 3rd time seeing it, and I have to admit it didn’t drive me crazy like it did previously. That said, why Martin Scorsese thinks it’s so great is still a mystery.

098 10/30 The Exorcist III (1990) Blu-ray 4/5   This is one that I never found that great but really clicked with it on this viewing. George C. Scott takes the role of Detective from the first film, this time investigating the murders of the “Gemini Killer”. This one ditches the psychic stuff and concentrates more on the nature of evil. It’s also hilarious while being scary.

099 10/30 Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) Blu-ray 2.5/5   Better than the Renny Harlin re-shoot, but it still doesn’t work. This one follows the story of Father Merrin that is mentioned in the original film, but they change the entire thing for reasons unknown. It’s interesting, but ends up being too muddled to work.

100 10/30 The Puppet Masters (1994) Blu-ray 3.5/5   Another retelling of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This one switches things up a bit by concentrating on a government agency trying to figure out and contain the invasion. Think “The X-Files” only with Donald Sutherland. It works, though it plays more like an action film that a horror.

101 10/30 Darkman (1990) Blu-ray 4/5   Mix-up the best traits of the Universal Monsters and slam them into a pulpy superhero story and you get another winner from Sam Raimi. Raimi nails this stuff with style and humour and the cast featuring Liam Neeson and Francis McDormand manage to pull this one off.

102 10/30 The Conjuring 2 (2016) Digital 3.5/5   I’m a big fan of the first one so I was looking forward to this one. It’s good, and I found it to be pretty spooky. Only problem is they go too big in the second half so it loses a bit of its charm. That said, it’s still a fun journey.

 

103 10/31 The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976) Youtube 2/5   After hearing about this one for years I finally gave it a watch. I have zero nostalgia for Paul or the 70’s, so my interest was only out of the cult/campy aspects. It’s simply bad. Painful skits, painful jokes, Kiss rock and are hilarious and yeah, it all adds up to being weird. It’s still not any good.

104 10/31 The Initiation (1984) Blu-ray 3/5   The latest from Arrow arrived in my mailbox so I gave it a spin. It’s an okay slasher but nothing special despite one of the most convoluted plots I’ve encountered yet. An amnesiac college girl is being stalked by a killer from her past, only it’s way more complicated.

And that is it. I broke 100 films in the 2016 challenge, the “winner” was 149. Oh well, there’s always next year.