Movie A Day! 001- 010: “A New Beginning”

Decided to keep this going since I track what I watch (and read) anyway, but I’m having second thoughts and it’s all due to formatting. Depending on the browser I use, it adds spaces that I don’t want between the move number title thing and the mini-review. It’s ridiculous and drives me crazy. I have to go into the weird text editor and delete spaces added from the copying and pasting. Nice job, stupid website! So much for for finding an easier way to do this.

A weird hodge-podge of porn, cartoons, Shakespeare and special features to start the New Year.

001 01-01 I Am Always Ready (1978) 1.5/5
This is the second feature on Vinegar Syndrome’s PeekaRama disc with THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE, and boy, was it the lesser film. Another Carlos Tobalina title, this one is about a woman who comes into some cash and decides to make a porn film so she can meet John Holmes, and that’s just the opening 3 minutes! I thought I was watching the trailer! The rest of the film is scene after uninspired scene of the porn being shot. It’s dull with nothing to elevate it and will have you reaching for the fast forward button since the horrendous wigs and set dressing are more entertaining.

002 01-01 The “Scanners” Way (2014) 4/5
I watched all the special features on Criterion’s SCANNERS blu-ray that I watched last October. They’re all really good, the main doc going into all aspects of the filming, including the legendary head exploding scene (achieved via SHOTGUN BLAST!), and the rest featuring new and classic interviews with the key players. You typically can’t go wrong with Criterion, and this is no exception.

003 01-01 Frozen (2013) 3/5
This is the Disney film about the Ice Queen, not the horror film about a trio of skiers stuck on a ski lift. This one was good, there are some fun characters and even better, a kickass “Girl Power” vibe. These Princesses don’t need no Prince Charming to save them and who new Veronica Mars could sing like that? My problem with the film is my typical one with modern animation. The CGI characters look ugly and generic with zero personality and there are way too many songs in the first three quarters. Disney seems to think animated features are the same as Broadway musicals. As a result, the story pacing is completely killed. I liked the little snowman guy, and his little music video summer song thing was cute, but completely unnecessary to the narrative. Cut half the songs (not “Let It Go”, that one was actually placed perfectly) and I’d add another star. The ski lift FROZEN also got three stars from me, in case anyone was curious. Also, the new Mickey Mouse short on the blu-ray was pretty great. Man, I miss “Rubber Hose” animation.

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004 01-01 Stereo (1969) 2/5
This is the last of the bonus features on Criterion’s SCANNERS blu-ray. It’s David Cronenberg’s first film! It’s simply not very good! It’s more of an experimental art film about a Canadian testing on telepathy. So it sounds like a prequel to SCANNERS, but it’s not. A group of people silently (there is no soundtrack) wander around a testing facility, communicating only by telepathy. The only spoken words are chunks of narration throughout explaining the technical experiments that aren’t really being shown. So despite being incredibly well shot and looking fantastic in stark black and white, nothing really happens and my brain just kept buzzing away.

005 01-02 Joe (2013) 4/5
Thanks to the internet and some whack-o parts in the past, people forget just how great Nic Cage can be. Like in this movie, which is one of the darker, more bleak films you see in the “Southern Gothic” genre. I’m guessing that’s what you’d call it. Anyway, Nic is the title character who helps out a kid in town whose dad is a degenerate drunk. A hell of a film that goes all the way, like films of this type should. As a bonus, Cage does a bit where he teaches the kid how to make a “cool face”, which when demonstrated, is the face Cage makes ALL THE TIME. (Make your face like you’re in horrible pain, then smile. That’s the secret Cage Cool Face, I expect pictures.)

Macbeth Movie Poster

006 01-03 The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971) 4.5/5
I’m no Shakespeare expert, far from it. Macbeth would be my favourite of the plays though, and this one is one of my favourite movies based on his works. Roman Polanski shoots this one like a movie, not a play, and with the sets and exteriors you forget you’re watching one of the most famous plays every performed and instead get swept up in the story of the doomed Scottish king. There’s not a single bad performance, the wordplay is accessible and since everything is done realistically, everything seems dripping in fog, dirt and blood. It actually plays as much like a horror film than it does a typical tragedy, and I highly recommend the new Criterion blu-ray that looks breathtaking, especially since my only exposure to the film prior was via a VHS dupe since this one seems to be one of the more forgotten films of Polanski’s filmography.

007 01-03 SexWorld (1977) 4/5
First there was WestWorld, then FutureWorld, of course there should have been a SexWorld since really, all those movies are about are fucking robots. This one is directed by legendary Anthony Spinelli, and he gets a higher budget than the porno chic films typically gets and it shows. Featuring many stars, including cult favourites Annette Haven and Kay Parker (her film debut), this one surprisingly hedges on the Sci-Fi elements (so after three films of robot sex, we never learn who has to clean the cum out of them) and instead deals more with the emotional aspects of being able to live your sexual fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nearly wall to wall sex scenes, but they’re presented in a way that it feels like a “proper” film instead of a loop carrier. So this is a good one, and the Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray puts to shame many legit releases from the major companies from the same period.

008 01-04 Toil & Trouble: Making “Macbeth” (2014) 4/5
009 01-04 Polanski Meets Macbeth (1971) 4/5
These are the main two documentaries on the Criterion blu-ray reviewed above, and both are exactly what you want to see. The first one from 2014 features recent interviews on the history of the film, while the other is a shot on set look at Polanski actually making the movie. They perfectly complement each other without being repetitive and are well worth watching on their own. The other extras, a couple of TV clips, one with the writer of the film on Dick Cavett and the other has Polanski debating Macbeth adaptations with a theatrical director are great as well. So in typical Criterion Collection fashion, this is about as thorough a set as anyone will need for this film.

010 01-04 Throne of Blood (1957) 4/5
Figured I go all out and watch Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth as well. They do a fantastic job adapting the play to feudal Japan, with some neat substitutions like evil spirits in the forest instead of witches. Otherwise, it’s “Macbeth” in plot and Toshiro Mifune is as god as ever in the title role.

Boy, just look at that Criterion cover art for MACBETH. Pretty great eh?

Well, there it is, a new year, an old blog, and more movies no one else is watching. Ten films in 4 days, though most were just around the hour mark so it’s a bit of a cheat. Fun? I hope so. Maybe this year I’ll make it out to the theaters a bit so there are actual current, helpful reviews. (Don’t hold your breath though….)

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Movie A Day!: 300-310 – More Milestones

I hit film 300, and I wanted to cheat so that it was the awesome “Scanners” instead of the not as good “Visiting Hours.” Sadly, I’m too honest. 😦

300 10-17 Visiting Hours (1982) 3/5
This is one of those films that has stuck in my brain as being one of the scariest, greatest horrors ever made. The only reason is due to my parents not letting me watch it after “MY BLOODY VALENTINE” gave me nightmares back in the early 80’s. It’s pretty run of the mill stuff. An outspoken news woman ticks off a psycho misogynist who gets obsessed with killing her. The best part of the film is Michael Ironside as the killer, he genuinely seems like a brutal creep as the psycho, and the film turns the page on the typical slasher film by spending quite a bit of time with him instead of the victims. Otherwise, it’s nothing special, not even William Shatner in a bit part as the TV producer.

301 10-17 Scanners (1981) 4/5
This is one I hadn’t seen since it’s VHS debut in the 80’s, and it’s great that it holds up amazingly well. Telepathic “Scanners” are fighting for control, to possibly rule the world. The better subtext is the military industrialization of people as technology seems light years ahead of it’s time in our current world. Patrick McGoohan in a supporting role is fantastic as always, and it’s got heads exploding for the gore hounds. Pretty near a perfect picture, and David Cronenberg would move on from this one by getting even better.

Scanners II Movie Poster

302 10-18 Scanners II: The New Order (1991) 2/5
Ten years after the first film, a cop is trying to create a Scanner squad so he can take over the city. This one is Canadian in the worst way, and just annoys the shit out of you. All the neat stuff in the original is completely ignored in order to show how hard it is to be a Scanner, and to make heads explode. A garbage sequel. Good thing there’s a third one!

303 10-18 Scanners III: Who Gives a Shit (1991) 1.5/5
Fuck this movie.

304 10-18 Antiviral (2012) 3.5/5
David Cronenberg’s kid Brandon makes his big debut with this one. A near future tale in which people aren’t satisfied with just watching their favourite celebrities, they want to feel like them by being infected by their diseases. It’s a messed up tale, and Brandon does a hell of a job with it. A total weird, creep fest that’s worth checking out.

305 10-18 Rabid (1977) 4/5
Another Cronenberg classic. A woman gets experimental plastic surgery that becomes parasitic, causing her to need to feast on human blood. It’s also contagious, so she is patient zero for a pandemic. Really creepy to rewatch with the current Ebola situation, this one pulls no punches and is just as effective today. Porn star Marilyn Chambers in her non-porn debut does a pretty good job, too.

306 10-18 Driller (1984) 3/5
This one is a porn spoof of Michael Jacksons “Thriller”, and man if only. The first 30 minutes is some of the greatest camp you will see, with 2 big dance numbers to offset some ridiculous sex scenes. It’s as perfect a spoof of a video as you could possible want. Sadly it falls apart after that with most of the middle being weird, camp and dull sex scenes, until the final 20 minutes that see’s the return of the “Pop Star” to finish the film off with more dancing and singing. Actual broadway style singing and dancing to a cliche 80’s beat. So as a campy 80’s memento, it’s pure gold. As a porno, it’s terrible, even by porn standards. But if you like the ridiculous, think the insane 80’s dance number from “Night Train to Terror” but with worse music and more camp, dare I say fey dancing, mixed with terrible porn scenes, there’s a lot to like. I’m surprised this doesn’t have more cult status.

307 10-19 The Victim (2011) 2.5/5
Michael Biehn directed this one. He was going for a “Grindhouse” type vibe, but he failed completely. So what you get is a not very good thriller about crooked cops out in the woods partying who accidentally kill a stripper and try to cover it up. Biehn gets mixed up in it while trying to save the stripper who escaped. It’s just never gets interesting, and isn’t trashy enough to be fun like the “Machete” type films that play as a homage to the seventies.

308 10-19 Chained (2012) 3.5/5
A killer snatches a woman and her 9 year old kid, and ends up keeping the kid alive to be his housekeeper. To say much more than that would ruin it. Incredibly dark film by Jennifer Lynch, it could have fallen apart at anytime but she keeps the idea moving forward in some surprising and complex ways. Vincent D’Onofrio is great and disturbing as the kidnapper.

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309 10-19 The Invisible Ray (1936) 3.5/5

This one features Boris Karloff as a mad scientist, and Bela Lugosi as the good guy scientist. So it’s another rare film where Lugosi is a good guy. Karloff uses a ray to scan a beam from Andromeda that shows where a meteorite struck Africa 200,000 years in the past. They all go off in search, Karloff gets assy, finds the meteorite and is instantly poisoned by it so that he gets a death touch. Karloff gets Lugosi, who is a master of astro-chemistry and is experimenting on “creatures” (black kids, in the gross casual racism of the time), and he manages to find a cure so that Karloff can manage the death touch and not be turned to dust. So while Karloff is busy using radium X from the meteorite to melt mountains, Lugosi is using it to cure all the ails of mankind. It doesn’t end well. This was one of those old films that is so completely horseshit as far as plot goes, that it manages to be quite fun. It’s another Universal Horror that that features a leading love interest dude who is a total garbage leading man that you just wish would be killed. Any film that starts with a placard explaining that all of scientific innovations were once dreams of “mad men” is going to be bonkers in a good way, and this one holds up the theory.

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310 10-19 The Battery (2012) 3.5/5

This one was a nice play on the zombie type film. In fact, as far zombie films go, this one probably is a poor one with it’s lack of gore and all the other things that typically make up a zombie film. Instead it’s more of a character study of two men, baseball teammates but not really friends, dealing with the zombie apocalypse. By not relying on zombie film tropes and instead relying on character, it actually handles this stuff better than THE WALKING DEAD has in it’s four seasons of television. Being a film from a first time director, he can’t quite keep it together the whole time, and as good as the end is, it’s starts to flag a bit. Still well worth a watch though. (I had to look it up.a “Battery” is the team of a pitcher with his catcher in Baseball. So that’s were the title come from. Ugh sports.)

Right, that’s it for today. I might see you all on Wednesday for Star Who? We’ll see! Remember to share with your friends, etc, if you so desire.