Movie a Day!: Hidden Money

The week of this viewing saw the weather go from a paralyzing -20C to breaking within 24 hour period yesterday to 5C. There’s a subconscious stress level living in a part of the world with such weather fluxes that one never gets used to. We just enjoy not having to dress so that the environment wont make you euphoric before killing you. It’s too early to know if this warmth will last. Which adds to the stress.

As threatened last blog, this week saw me balancing the classy 2016 Oscar noms with the usual sleaze people typically don’t admit to watching in public if they ever hope to have a long lasting relationship. If I’m going to be alone, I might as will be free!


033 02/05 Fences (2016) 3/5   Denzel Washington directs and stars in this story about a working class stiff trying to keep things together in lower income Philly during the 50’s. Great acting and an interesting slice of black life that isn’t usually shown in the movies keep this one mostly interesting. My issue with it is it’s based on a play and the constant dialogue (very theatrical dialogue with all the beats you would find on the live stage) with little action or change of scenery pretty much keep this one on the stage. I prefer my movies to feel like movies as opposed to adaptations like these and despite at how good this one is.


034 02/06 Hidden Figures (2016) 3.5/5   The fun thing about watching the Oscar Best Picture nominations is I have done zero research and am going in mostly blind about what these movies are actually about. This one was a pleasant surprise. It tells the true story of 3 black women who were key figures doing the big work during the space race. The blatant racism and misogyny as depicted in 1961 NASA is infuriating to watch today, but they never hit you over the head with it in an over the top way. I found some things problematic, like the modern music choices (I’m guessing at the insistence of Executive Producer Pharrell…) and some little bits of “sassy tropes” that seemed like caricature and kind of took away from how smart these women actually are. (That could be my white old guy bias, persons of colour, please correct me.) None of it is enough to be completely distracting though, and in the end, it’s a damn fine film and one that deserves to be seen.


035 02/07 Don’t Answer The Phone (1980) 4/5   A Vietnam vet is bonkers and going around strangling pretty girls and stalking/harassing a radio therapist in LA. This one was downright nasty and mean, with a ton of sleaze to boot. Which means it was great and really delivered! That’s how it works with genre films, the more they live up to their depraved expectations the better. I didn’t make the rules! Anyway, it fits right in with Maniac, The Toolbox Murders, and other Taxi Driver style horror films from the era.


036 02-08 Hell or High Water (2016) 3.5/5   A couple of brothers can’t seem to shake Jeff Bridges giant, float-y head, based on the promo above. In actuality, a couple of brothers go on a bank robbing spree in Texas and ridiculously old Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges has to try to catch them. Seriously, if Bridges gets anymore growl-y he’ll be forced to play wolf-men for the rest of his career. They say this one is a modern western, but it’s not really. Can there even be a modern day western anymore? It is a really good modern day crime film though that takes place in the south. Everything rings pretty true, performances are top notch, there’s a bit of business that is a little extraneous (they seem to be setting up a female character only for her to vanish without a trace) but otherwise it works well enough to keep you interested. It also plays with a bit of the stereotypes that are found in these “western” films which helps keep it current and more than a smadge political. Good stuff, but I don’t think it’s “Best Picture” material.


037 02-10 Hacksaw Ridge (2016) 4/5   The true story of a war hero medic who entered World War II as a conscientious objector and refused to carry a weapon. First half plays like a rehash from better films, mainly Full Metal Jacket. The second half when they go to war redeems it though. This one has the action in the Pacific and anyone who’s seen a documentary on the pacific war knows it was one of the most brutal theatres. The film does not shy away, and actually seems over the top if you didn’t know better. It’s great stuff. The only real problematic thing with this for me is it’s directed by Mel Gibson. Old Mel has proven himself to be a piece of shit anti-semite. Like Polanski and Woody Allen I find myself conflicted with these guys, separating the person from the film, that kind of thing. That aside, dude knows how to direct an action picture.


038 02-10 A Place Beyond Shame (1980) 2.5/5   Poor Seka has fears about sex so she’s sees a therapist to unlock her sexual prowess. Directed by adult legends FJ Lincoln and Sharon Mitchell, I was hoping for more to this than basically being a loop carrier.


039 02/11 Manchester By The Sea (2016) 4/5   Casey Affleck stars in this one as a working class guy who is struggling to get his life together and has to take responsibility for his nephew when his brother passes away. So it’s a pretty heavy drama and the main draw for this one is the brutal reality. It never really gets sentimental, which makes it great in my book.


040 02/11 Blue Money (1971) 4/5
041 02/12 The Affairs of Aphrodite (1970) 2/5   A duo of films directed by Alain Patrik, Blue Money was a real surprise. Produced by Bob Chinn, this one was their first crack at a legitimate movie after toiling away in the world of softcore. The film is about pornographers struggling to get their films made while avoiding the vice squad. What makes it so interesting is that it’s actually made by pornographers who were actually dealing with the arrests and vice issues at the time so there’s a ring of truth to this as opposed to typical exploitation fair. It makes for a really well done character study that really fits in with other films of the New Hollywood era. Patrik would drift away from softcore films to pursue acting, and Bob Chinn would move on to discovering John Holmes and creating the Johnny Wadd series that was referenced so heavily in Boogie Nights.and cement his place as one of adult’s greatest filmmakers.

The Affairs of Aphrodite is pretty typical softcore dribble about a princess kidnapped and forced into Aphrodite’s harem. Mainly of interest on this disc in being the type of film that the lead in Blue Money would of made, since it was literally made by the same director/star. 

So basically my picks for best picture are between Blue MoneyDon’t Answer The Phone and Manchester By The Sea. Says where I am at this point in my terrible life. If I had to pick a fave, I’d probably lean to Hidden Figures or Manchester By The Sea. Next week I should have the rest of the nominations watched so maybe I’ll love La La Land as much as everyone else in our currently free world.

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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.”

Movie A Day! 282-289

Another big weekend of movie watching due to the scary movie challenge. My eye’s are still in my head, and I’m barely functioning. Lots of good movies in this one so let’s have a look!

282 10-10 I Bury The Living (1958) 3.5/5

This one is about a guy who is appointed by a town council to take care of the cemetery. He accidentally uses a black pin signifying dead, instead of a white pin signifying reserved, to mark a grave that had been purchased by newlyweds on the map of burial plots in his office. The next day the couple are found dead. So it’s about a ouija like map in a graveyard. It sounds stupid on paper, but this one was really good, and most of that can be attributed to the rock solid direction that is full of style and gets the film looking downright surreal for the last third. This one was the third film on that disc I mentioned earlier I got for $10, so that means 50% of the films were really good surprises. I’ll try to watch the last one this weekend.

283 10-10 The Black Cat (1934) 4/5
This one features the first time Lugosi and Karloff would be featured in a film, and it’s a good one. Lugosi plays a Doctor who was imprisoned in WW1 for 15 years, returning to the confront his rival Karloff who was responsible for unspeakable war crimes, and the death of Lugosi’s wife. So it has nothing to do with the Poe story the title comes from, but don’t let that throw you. This one is a surprisingly twisted, satanic thriller with great performances by both leads, and a rare chance to see Lugosi play a good guy.

284 10-11 Blood Sucking Freaks (1976) 3/5
Ultimately this one is trying to be a satire of the New York theater. It’s not enough to actually elevate it since it’s basically just non-stop scenes of S&M, nudity, violence and some of the most ridiculous gore you will see. It’s all part of it’s charm. I have a weird history with this one. Old people like me will recall the 80’s VHS scene where fake documentaries like FACES OF DEATH were still being banned. A friend and I found a knockoff version of the FOD series, and on it were these ridiculous scenes of a midget cooking eyeballs and a guy drilling into a head and drinking the brains from a straw. Years later I stumbled on Blood Sucking Freaks and there were those scenes! I think because of that, I like this one way more than most people do. It’s definitely a Grindhouse classic, and Troma’s new blu-ray looks fantastic.

285 10-11 The Toxic Avenger (1984) 4/5
Figured since I watch Blood Sucking Freaks, I might as well watch my other Troma blu-ray. I’m counting this as a first time viewing since this was my first time seeing the whole thing. It’s crazy that I have never seen the Toxic Avenger films. I plan to correct that as they release them in blu-ray. Anyway, I won’t get too deep into this one. It’s basically a horror satire on super-heroes. It’s tasteless and goofy in the Troma tradition, but it works and is a hell of a lot of fun.

286 10-11 Phantom of the Paradise (1974) 4/5
Slowly but surely, I’m seeing all the films featured in that TERROR IN THE AISLES documentary that I’ve loved since seeing it on PBS or something in the 80’s. Another film I’ve been wanting to see for ages and never have until now. It was worth the wait. It’s first and foremost a musical, and a damned good one at that with some fantastic songs and performances. It’s also a great satire of the music business, and maybe not so much a satire but a critical look at the performer/audience relationship. As a bonus, it pays tribute to a whole slew of horror stories and films. Lots of fun and De Palma is in complete command of the whole thing. Recommended.

287 10-11 Dracula Sucks (1978) 3.5/5
This is one I’ve been wanting to watch for years, ever since David J. Skal praised it in his all things Dracula book “Hollywood Gothic” (which is a must read if you’re a Drac fan). First off, while it’s a porn, in the version I saw it’s barely hardcore and more of a gothic horror. It actually works, and Jamie Gillis is a surprisingly good Dracula. Sure, he’s doing the Lugosi voice, but he nails the performance. The rest of the cast are varying degrees of good to awful. for seventies porn fans though, this one might have the greatest cast ever assembled with legends Annette Haven, Serena, Seka, John Holmes and others. Anyway, production value wise, it’s all works, it’s kind of both a follow-up and remake of the original Todd Browning Dracula and the Vinegar Syndrome dvd is pretty great. You get the cut I watched, which as far as anyone can tell was never properly released, that features barely hardcore mixed with some cheap gore and kill scenes to be more horror, and the re-cut that cuts out all the killing, adds in more hardcore porn and tags on a happier ending that got more widely released as “Lust At First Bite” on a second disc. So if you’re a fan of this type of stuff, this is another VS disc well worth getting.

288 10-12 The Snake Woman (1961) 2.5/5
A woman in late eighteen hundreds England is given a medicine featuring cobra venom as a cure to her madness. She has a cold blooded baby, and 20 odd years later, people are going missing on the moors. This one never really gets going and putters along non-offensively until it’s conclusion. This was the last feature on that Timely Media 4 movie disc, so for $10 I got two really good movies; The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, and I Bury The Living, and two stinkers. So I guess it’s still wasn’t too bad a deal.

289 10-12 Seizure! (1974) 2.5/5
An author with a heart condition is having bad nightmares that become a reality when his creations invade his home over a weekend. this is Oliver Stone’s first movie, so you hope that it’s better than it is and it’s just not. Even Herve Villechaize kicking the shit out of everyone and cult icon Mary Woronov running around in her underwear can help it as this one just plods along, never really succeeding as a thriller or campy fun.

That’s about it for this one. It’s a long weekend as I post this, and I’m burned out. I can;t handle massive family events like thanksgiving dinner was yesterday. They just completely, emotionally exhaust me. Even drinking free booze doesn’t help me handle it, I get full of anxiety and totally shut down. It takes me days to recover from it. Ridiculous, I should have a handle on this stuff at my age.

Until next time.