Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Updated Browsable List of All Reviews, June '09

7 DAYS IN MAY (1964, John Frankenheimer)
52 PICK-UP (1986, John Frankenheimer)

ACTION JACKSON (1988, Craig R. Baxley)
ALL THAT JAZZ (1979, Bob Fosse)
APPALOOSA (2008, Ed Harris)
APRIL FOOL'S DAY (1986, Fred Walton)

BALTIKA EXTRA 9 (2008, Russia)
BATTLE IN HEAVEN (2005, Carlos Reygadas)
BEAT STREET (1984, Stan Lathan)
BIG BLOW (2000, United States)
THE BLACK CAT (2007, Stuart Gordon)
BLUE COLLAR (1978, Paul Schrader)
THE BLOB (1988, Chuck Russell)
BLOOD WORK (2002, Clint Eastwood)
BOARDING GATE (2008, Olivier Assayas)
BODY PARTS (1991, Eric Red)
BOXING HELENA (1993, Jennifer Chambers Lynch)
BROKEN ARROW (1996, John Woo)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992, Fran Rubel Kazui)
BULLETPROOF (1988, Steve Carver)

CANDYMAN (1992, Bernard Rose)
CASTLE FREAK (1995, Stuart Gordon)
CHAMPAGNE COLA (2009, United States)
CHOPPING MALL (1986, Jim Wynorski)
CLASS OF 1984 (1982, Mark L. Lester)
COFFY (1973, Jack Hill)
COPYING BEETHOVEN (2006, Agnieszka Holland)
CRITTERS (1986, Stephen Herek)
CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988, Mick Garris)
CRITTERS 3: YOU ARE WHAT THEY EAT (1991, Kristine Peterson)
CUTTER'S WAY (1981, Ivan Passer)

DAGON (2001, Stuart Gordon)
THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982, Jim Henson & Frank Oz)
DEAD & BURIED (1981, Gary Sherman)
DEAD HEAT (1988, Mark Goldblatt)
THE DEAD POOL (1988, Buddy van Horn)
DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1988, Jim van Bebber)
DEADLY WEAPONS (1974, Doris Wishman)
DEATH WISH (1974, Michael Winner)
DEEP RED (1975, Dario Argento)
DEMONS 2 (1986, Lamberto Bava)
DIRTY HARRY (1971, Don Siegel)

THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (1953, Max Ophüls)
EATING RAOUL (1982, Paul Bartel)
ENTER THE NINJA (1981, Menahem Golan)
ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996, John Carpenter)
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981, John Carpenter)
EUREKA (1983, Nicolas Roeg)
EXOTICA (1994, Atom Egoyan)

FACE/OFF (1997, John Woo)
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975, Dick Richards)
FEAST II: SLOPPY SECONDS (2008, John Gulager)
FEAST III: THE HAPPY FINISH (2009, John Gulager)
FIRESTARTER (1984, Mark Lester)
FIREWALKER (1986, J. Lee Thompson)
FLASHDANCE (1983, Adrian Lyne)
FLESHBURN (1984, George Gage)
FOXY BROWN (1974, Jack Hill)
FROZEN RIVER (2008, Courtney Hunt)

A GIRL CUT IN TWO (2008, Claude Chabrol)
GRAN TORINO (2008, Clint Eastwood)

HANG 'EM HIGH (1968, Ted Post)
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008, Mike Leigh)
HEARTBREAK RIDGE (1986, Clint Eastwood)
HELLBOUND (1994, Aaron Norris)
HIGH SPIRITS (1988, Neil Jordan)
THE HIT (1984, Stephen Frears)
HOMECOMING (2005, Joe Dante)
HOOPER (1978, Hal Needham)
THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959, William Castle)
HOUSE III: THE HORROR SHOW (1989, James Isaac)

INFERNO (1980, Dario Argento)
IRISH POTCHEEN (2006, Ireland)


KEOMA (1976, Enzo G. Castellari)

THE LAST DETAIL (1973, Hal Ashby)
THE LAST SHARK (1981, Enzo G. Castellari)
THE LETTER PEOPLE, EPISODE 1- MEET MR M (1974, Elayne Reiss-Weimann & Rita Friedman)
LIFE AT THE OUTPOST (1979, Skatt Bros.)
LONE WOLF MCQUADE (1983, Steve Carver)

MAN ON WIRE (2008, James Marsh)
MANHUNTER (1986, Michael Mann)
MANIAC! (1980, William Lustig)
MARY (2008, Abel Ferrara)
MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986, Stephen King)
METROPOLITAN (1990, Whit Stillman)
MISSION TO MARS (2000, Brian de Palma)
MISTER LONELY (2008, Harmony Korine)
MURDER ROCK (1984, Lucio Fulci)
MY OWN WORST ENEMY (2008, Jason Smilovic)
MY WINNIPEG (2008, Guy Maddin)

THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986, Jean-Jacques Annaud)
NIGHT MOVES (1975, Arthur Penn)

THE OCTAGON (1980, Eric Karson)

THE PARK IS MINE! (1986, Steven Hilliard Stern)
PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING (1981, James Cameron)
THE PIRATE MOVIE (1982, Ken Annakin)
PREDATOR 2 (1990, Stephen Hopkins)
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987, John Carpenter)
PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990, Allan Moyle)

Q & A (1990, Sidney Lumet)

THE RAGE (1997, Sidney J. Furie)
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981, Steven Spielberg)
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985, George Cosmatos)
RAMBO III (1988, Peter MacDonald)
RAMBO IV (2008, Sylvester Stallone)
REAL COTTON CANDY (????, United States)
RED DRAGON (2002, Brett Ratner)
THE RESURRECTED (1992, Dan O'Bannon)
RHINESTONE (1984, Bob Clark)
ROBOT JOX (1990, Stuart Gordon)
ROCK 'N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979, Joe Dante & Allan Arkush)
ROCK 'N ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987, John Fasano)
ROLLER BOOGIE (1979, Mark L. Lester)

SALSA (1988, Boaz Davidson)
SAVAGE STREETS (1984, Danny Steinmann)
SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964, John Frankenheimer)
SHARKY'S MACHINE (1981, Burt Reynolds)
THE SHOOTIST (1976, Don Siegel)
SILENT LIGHT (2007, Carlos Reygadas)
THE SILENT WORLD (1956, Jacques Cousteau & Louis Malle)
SILVER BULLET (1985, Daniel Attias)
SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981, Walter Hill)
THE STAND (1994, Mick Garris)
STAR CRYSTAL (1985, Lance Lindsay)
STRAIT-JACKET (1964, William Castle)
STUCK (2008, Stuart Gordon)
THE STUFF (1985, Larry Cohen)
THE SUBSTITUTE (1996, Robert Mandel)
SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento)
SWING SHIFT (1984, Jonathan Demme)

THE TAKING OF POWER BY LOUIS XIV (1966, Roberto Rossellini)
THE THIRD MIRACLE (1999, Agnieszka Holland)
THUNDER ROAD (1958, Arthur Ripley)
THE TINGLER (1959, William Castle)
TOMBSTONE (1993, "George Cosmatos" & Kurt Russell)
TOTAL RECALL (1990, Paul Verhoeven)
TRANCERS (1985, Charles Band)
TRON (1982, Steven Lisberger)
TROUBLE THE WATER (2008, "Tia Lessin & Carl Deal")
TUAREG: THE DESERT WARRIOR (1984, Enzo G. Castellari)

UNDER SIEGE (1992, Andrew Davis)

VAMPIRE'S KISS (1988, Robert Bierman)

W. (2008, Oliver Stone)
THE WANDERERS (1979, Philip Kaufman)
WAXWORK (1988, Anthony Hickox)
WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S (1989, Ted Kotcheff)
WHITE DOG (1982, Sam Fuller)
WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (1990, Clint Eastwood)
THE WILD ONE (1953, Laslo Benedek)
THE WILLIES (1991, Brian Peck)
WINNING (1969, James Goldstone)
THE WIZARD (1989, Todd Holland)
THE WORST WITCH (1986, Robert Young)
THE WRESTLER (2008, Darren Aronofsky)


ZIP ZAP RAP (1986, Devastatin' Dave the Turntable Slave)


Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 89 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jonathan Brandis (SEAQUEST, LADYBUGS), Kenny Morrison, John Wesley Shipp (DAWSON'S CREEK, THE FLASH), theme by Giorgio Moroder (OVER THE TOP, FLASHDANCE, CAT PEOPLE).
Tag-lines: "Begin an all new adventure as a young boy returns to a world of wonder on the wings of his imagination."
Best one-liner: "Ahh, but have you ever read a book twice? Books change each time you read them."

While largely 'just alright,' THE NEVERENDING STORY II: THE NEXT CHAPTER gets some extra points for nearly duplicating the hazy, entrancingly magical atmosphere of the original while not possessing any of the original actors, save for Koreander, the mysterious bookseller (Thomas Hill). Our new Bastian, Jonathan Brandis (R.I.P.) makes up in charisma what he lacks in acting chops;

and his dad, Barney (John Wesley Shipp), has a sort of bad 80's faux-Bruce Campbell charm that makes him immensely watchable.

The film's heart is in the right place, too, (which is more than can be said for the third installment), and it tackles, like part one, some semi-weighty issues for kids, such as the destructive power of existential, unimaginative 'nothingness' and the importance of memories as perhaps your only possession of any real worth. All this, and it looks a helluva lot like David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" music video, so score some points for it in the camp column.

There's mind-blowing costumes; whacked-out creatures; vaginal-looking monsters; a zany bird-man that could be Howard the Duck's cousin; and Rockbiter's utterly macabre son, Rockbiter Junior.

There's an amazing character development scene at the beginning where Bastian freaks out and spills a lot of different things in the kitchen. 'Whoa! Look at this unfocused kid, spilling things! He needs to learn some serious life lessons!' And the big denouement involves slow-motion leaping (and truly the 80's were the decade of slow-motion leaping, if nothing else), so that's definitely a good thing. Fun, fanciful, and more than capable of inducing a few good spit-takes, so I gotta give this thing three stars.

-Sean Gill

Monday, June 29, 2009

Film Review: THE HIT (1984, Stephen Frears)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Terence Stamp, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Laura del Sol, Fernando Rey (VIRIDIANA, THE FRENCH CONNECTION) in basically a glorified cameo), bit part by Jim Broadbent as a Barrister, music by Eric Clapton and Paco de Lucia, producer Jeremy Thomas.
Tag-lines: "Willie Parker grassed... ten years later they came for their revenge."
Best one-liner: "She's already eaten."

THE HIT is a quintessential "existential gangster flick," and, hands down, the best work director Stephen Frears (THE QUEEN, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS) has ever done. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it moreso bears the stamp of its legendary, envelope-pushing producer Jeremy Thomas (BAD TIMING, CRASH, NAKED LUNCH, MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE) than that of Mr. Frears.

With a virtuosic flamenco guitar soundtrack by musical genius Paco de Lucia (and an opening title composed by a Ry Cooder-inspired Eric Clapton) and cool, glossy visuals (which effortlessly accentuate the astounding natural beauty of Spain) lensed by Mike Molloy (HARDCORE, SHOCK TREATMENT), the atmosphere is utterly marvelous and exceptionally immersive. It is at once a world of stark landscapes lit by the torrid Iberian sun and a world of cramped car interiors where airs of impending doom subtly clash with waves of resigned tranquility.

Basically, it all adds up to the best road movie since Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES. Or at least since Bava's KIDNAPPED.

The characters in our chamber piece include beleaguered badass John Hurt, an assassin clad in a white suit and Ray-Ban Wayfarers; 22 year-old street tough Tim Roth as an aspiring hitman who really knows how to work a shiv; gleeful smartass Terence Stamp, who possesses all the blazing, at peace confidence of the man condemned; and mysterious beauty (and Carlos Saura regular) Laura del Sol. This crew deserves every accolade they receive, and no hyperbole can really do justice to the sheer, 'in-the-moment' craft on display here.

This is decidedly a film where the less one knows about it, the better, so I shall dispense with my description soon enough, but imagine the entertainment of Siegel's THE KILLERS combined with the depth and aesthetics of Antonioni's BLOW-UP, and you have a pretty good idea of what THE HIT is all about. Five stars.

-Sean Gill

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Film Review: SILVER BULLET (1985, Daniel Attias)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Written by Stephen King, starring Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Terry O'Quinn, Everett McGill (TWIN PEAKS, HEARTBREAK RIDGE, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS), Lawrence Tierney (DILLINGER, RESERVOIR DOGS), werewolf suit by Carlo Rambaldi, who did the SFX for E.T., Argento's DEEP RED, Fulci's LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN, and scores of other classics.
Tag-lines: "It started in May in a small town and every month after that whenever the moon is full... It came back..."
Best one-liner: "Holy jumped up bald-headed Jesus palomina. From him I'd expect it. Sometimes I think your common sense got paralysed along with your legs. But from you Jane? You're Miss Polly Practical!" (said by Gary Busey's 'Uncle Red.')

Stephen King's best screenplay + a load of Italian names in the credits (De Laurentiis, Capone, Postiglione, Rambaldi, etc.) + Gary Busey (fresh off of the insanity of D.C. CAB) saying "I feel like a virgin on prom night"

+ Terry O'Quinn exuding way more pathos than is necessary + paralyzed Corey Haim in a hot rod wheelchair

+ a really intense priestly Everett McGill (TWIN PEAKS, HEARTBREAK RIDGE) + Lawrence Tierney wielding a ball bat named "The Peacemaker"

+ some good old New England mysticism + nearly as much eye trauma as a Fulci fick = serious, unarguable quality.

That's right, SILVER BULLET is top-notch 80's horror. And somehow, having a largely Italian crew is the best thing to even happen to a Stephen King adaptation. King movies fall flat on their faces when the delicate tonal balance (of scares, humor, corniness, weird speech patterns, Americana, etc.) is upset. And that balance is, unfortunately, VERY easily upset. THE SHINING succeeds because there's only one tone- impassive, emotionless, mind-numbing terror. CREEPSHOW succeeds because it's played only for E.C. Comics-style, blood-soaked laughs. SILVER BULLET has only one tone, too- and it's ITALIANO! The Italians bulldoze through the scary and cornball stuff alike, oblivious to the difference between them, but with a shit-ton of gleefully macabre enthusiasm. And it works!

Then they let Busey do his own thing, too, which is always a must. Busey plays lovable drunk 'Uncle Red,' a man as prone to heroics as he is to passing out in a driveway during a family function. And no one, least of all the script girl, can possibly predict what'll come out of his mouth next. He's on fire. And instead of it merely being a sideshow of insanity, it's perfect for the character, makes Uncle Red a true jewel in the crown of 80's horror flickery, and provides the true humanist core of the picture.

A textbook example of escapist entertainment at its best. Five stars.

-Sean Gill

Friday, June 26, 2009

Film Review: SWING SHIFT (1984, Jonathan Demme)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Christine Lahti, Holly Hunter, Charles Napier (perennial Demme bit player, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS), Roger Corman cameo, uncredited writer Ron Nyswaner (THE PRINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA), and shot by Tak Fujimoto (THE SIXTH SENSE, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, BADLANDS, DEATH RACE 2000).
Tag-lines: "When America marched off to war the women marched into the factory. From then on...nothing was the same."

A solid, Jonathan Demme-directed fusion of nostalgia picture and romantic melodrama that earns its fourth star from a likable, talented, all-star cast. It also presents one of the most impenetrable quandaries ever committed to celluloid, and the dilemma is this: in the battle for Goldie Hawn's heart, should we be rooting for Kurt Russell or Ed Harris? (Within the film, of course; in real life, it would be rather easy to answer.)

Ed and Goldie are married, war strikes, and Ed goes across the Pacific, leaving behind only a paper cut-out picture of himself in his sailor uniform. Then, Kurt Russell, that slick devil, is a jazz trumpeter and lead man at the plant where Goldie the Riveter starts working.

One thing leads to another, and we have the central story arc of this picture. (Which also marks the real-life start of the epic Goldie/Kurt romance.) When Ed returns from the front, rose in hand, only to find... well, it's devastating.

And Ed is brilliantly intense, yet well-tempered; never going too far into sad sack or overly enraged territory, even when he finds out his old lady is steppin' out with Captain Ron.

There's excellent supporting turns by Christine Lahti (Oscar-nominated for her role), Fred Ward (of Altman films, REMO WILLIAMS, and SOUTHERN COMFORT), and Holly Hunter (who is ridiculously good in one key scene where she receives some harrowing news). Four stars.

Side note: The DVD censors the notorious Ed Harris balls-flashing scene. I know everybody's really disappointed.

-Sean Gill

Friday, June 19, 2009

Film Review: DEATH WISH (1974, Michael Winner)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Bronson (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, RIDER ON THE RAIN, MR. MAJESTYK, HARD TIMES), Hope Lange (BLUE VELVET, PEYTON PLACE, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2), Vincent Gardenia (THE HUSTLER, 80's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS), William Redfield (Dale in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST), Jeff Goldblum, music by Herbie Hancock.
Tag-lines: "Vigilante, city style -Judge, Jury, and Executioner."
Best one-liner: "I'm listening to the weather report - why haven't you found my dog - he's vital to my income - he paints such marvelous pictures with his paws!"
Best anecdote: After shooting wrapped on THE STONE KILLER, Bronson and Winner wanted to collaborate again, and discussed future projects. "What do we do next?" asked Bronson. "The best script I've got is DEATH WISH. It's about a man whose wife and daughter are mugged and he goes out and shoots muggers," said Winner. "I'd like to do that," Bronson said. "The film?" inquired Winner. Bronson replied, "No . . . shoot muggers."

"Man, check out that mild-mannered little architect. Classic bleeding heart liberal. Is that a turtleneck? Well, it may as well be."

"Look at 'im. He can hardly lift those groceries. C'mon guys, I'm gonna mug 'im."


Big mistake, buddy, cause you just got blown away by Charlie effin' Bronson.

I guess, in a way, that's the fundamental flaw of this picture- the idea that ANYONE would think they could take on Charles Bronson, groceries or no. Though supposedly an Italian (!) once tried it, attempting to rob him at gunpoint. Bronson later said of the incident, "I am not a Casper Milquetoast. A guy in broken English asked me for money. I said, 'You give ME money.' He turned around and walked away." But who cares- regardless of that story's veracity, or the strength of the concept (that hoods would try to mug Bronson), this is a damned fun time at the movies.

Who cares that it's Fascist: "Oh Christ, you are such a bleeding-heart liberal, Paul." "-My heart bleeds a little for the underprivileged, yes." "The underprivileged are beating our goddamned brains out. You know what I say? Stick them in concentration camps, that's what I say." Ummm... WHUTTTTTT?! Somehow its reactionary political leanings are reconciled by the fact that there's so much cathartic fun to be had watching Bronson kill punks. No one can deny that. Combine that with a super-young Jeff Goldblum as Freak #1 (see him also menace Bronson in ST. IVES), Vincent Gardenia in the now-cliched role of 'cop begrudgingly impressed by vigilante,' and a groovin' soundtrack by Herbie Hancock, and you've got yourself a bona fide classic. Followed by FOUR sequels of increasingly deranged (Cannon Films) quality and literally thousands of rip-offs (MS. 45 probably being the best), DEATH WISH's punch-in-the-guts impact is undeniable. Five stars.

Tangent: And the final scene reveals that a 'forefinger and thumb gun' battle between Bronson and Eastwood would probably be the most satisfying thing ever committed to celluloid:

Look at that smile. The wink! You want it? You got it!

Conversely, Clint takes no pleasure from this.

But hey, now we're gettin' classy, too! I don't think Bronson can top that.

Whoa! I have been rendered speechless. My mind races with the possibilities of a 'Charles Bronson Album.' What if Bronson and Eastwood had recorded 'Beers to You' together, instead of Ray Charles and Eastwood? So many unanswered questions. I'm not sure I can declare a winner at this point. Stay tuned.

-Sean Gill

COMING SOON: Reviews of DEATH WISHES 2-5. And more on the Bronson/Eastwood rivalry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Film Review: TRON (1982, Steven Lisberger)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jeff Bridges, David Warner (TIME BANDITS, WAXWORK), Bruce Boxleitner (KENNY ROGERS AS THE GAMBLER, GODS AND GENERALS), Cindy Morgan (CADDYSHACK, MATLOCK), Peter Jurasik (ENEMY MINE), Dan Shor (Billy the Kid in BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, RED ROCK WEST), composer Wendy Carlos (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE SHINING).
Tag-lines: "A world inside the computer where man has never been. Never before now....Trapped inside an electronic arena, where love, and escape, do not compute!"
Best one-liner: "It's all in the wrists."

How to describe TRON?

The "Money for Nothing" music video


Perhaps a more apt analogy would be "THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI for the Atari generation," for this is pure circuit board, neon, pixelated expressionism. And it's not just a gimmick picture, either. It's a genuine attempt to look back at human oppression through history in order to see where our increasingly (and exponentially) mechanized human society just might be headed.

With allusions from Ancient Rome's Circus Maximus to the Spanish Inquisition to Orwell's 1984, we're entreated to a rich universe soaked in meta-history; and Wendy Carlos' synthesized New Age meets Switched-On Bach score is the perfect accompaniment to this 'you must know the past to know the future' sentiment. But it's also quite fanciful. It imagines that perhaps when you get the mundanely annoying "spinning wheel of death" or a frozen screen, your search engine (represented by a tank) is fighting off hordes of giant floating robots or something.

The acting is top-notch, as well. Fresh off of TIME BANDITS, David Warner is a rather convincing as Master Control (and as his human and computerized minions), which is sort of a Big Brother/Darth Vader hybrid with a touch of ALTERED STATES. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner (!), exude likability, pathos and truly carry the film's human element.

With perfect doses of eye-candy, intellectualism that kids can grasp, action, and adventure, TRON is everything that THE BLACK HOLE wanted to be, but wasn't. Sadly, TRON suffered the same fate as that picture, however, and Disney didn't finance another 'live-action' flick for about ten years. But with subsequent popular reevaluation and a TRON 2.0 (with most of the original cast!) in the works for 2011, it seems that maybe it's succeeded after all. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HOUND opens tonight, 6/17, at 6PM!

Theater director and frequent Sean Gill collaborator Rachel Klein (GO-GO KILLERS!, AENIGMA, The Weirdo in CHEWIES 4) has a new show opening tonight (John Patrick Bray's HOUND) as part of the Planet Connections Theater Festivity. It also co-stars Elizabeth Stewart (Charlotte in AENIGMA and Electra in GO-GO KILLERS!, The Hippie in CHEWIES 4), and features sound design by yours truly. Details are listed below.

Watson, a grieving widower, takes up lodgings once again with famous consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, a man the world believed to be dead. Holmes is approached with a case that involves a Hound from Hell. Could this Hell Hound be the key to the afterlife, and to Watson's lost love Mary? Watson will have to gamble his life, his soul, suffer waking nightmares, and communicate with dogs in order to learn the grisly truth behind the curse of the Baskervilles in this twisted retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic thriller, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

HOUND will feature Cavan Hallman (Watson), Terrance MacSweeny (Holmes), Abigail Hawk* (Beryl/Mary), Elizabeth Stewart* (Dr. Mortimer), Blaine Peltier (Stapleton), Grant Boyd (Henry Baskerville), Jack Corcoran (Barrymoore), Meredith Dillard (Mrs. Hudson/Mrs. Barrymoore), Jason Stroud (Seldon the convict) and Alyssa Schroeter (The Hound).

HOUND will play as part of the world premier of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, June 9-28 at the Robert Moss Theatre inside 440 Studios (Astor Place and Lafayette), Wednesday, June 17 at 6 PM, Saturday, June 20 at 7 PM, Monday, June 22 at 6:30 PM, Tuesday, June 23 at 6:30 PM, Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 PM
& Thursday, June 25 at 4:00 PM. Tickets ($18) are available online at www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com

Film Review: CHOPPING MALL (1986, Jim Wynorski)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 77 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Barbara Crampton (RE-ANIMATOR, ROBOT JOX 2, TRANCERS 2), Russell Todd (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2), Kelli Maroney (NIGHT OF THE COMET, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, SLAYGROUND), Tony O'Dell ( Jimmy from KARATE KID 1 & 2), Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, and Dick Miller!
Tag-lines: "Where shopping can cost you an arm and a leg."
Best one-liner: "Waitress, more butter!"

Let's talk about the VHS cover art for CHOPPING MALL for a moment, shall we? (Click on the art for a larger view.) Right off the bat, I'll tell you this: way more macabre creativity was poured into the title, slogan, and poster art than into the film itself. But I guess that's what 3rd-tier 80's horror flicks are all about. The ghoulish interest begat by the grotesque illustrations that launched a thousand kids' nightmares... Before we can even get to the imagery, we've got a redunkulous tagline that begs repeating: "CHOPPING MALL- Buy or die... half off is just the beginning!" Below, a robotic gauntlet thrusts forth a paper shopping bag, full of severed eyes and ears and noses and feet. I'm repulsed... but I can't stop staring at it. It's the same way it was with the oddly entrancing gore of DINOSAURS ATTACK! or the GARBAGE PAIL KIDS' Ali Gator with his lunchbox full of eyes and toes. It's all targeted toward kids and their morbid curiosity toward all things gruesome. And though the magic was then usually shattered by some straight-to-video nonsense, I feel like that initial marvelous 'hook' is completely gone today. Now we get some Photoshopped stupidity featuring screaming CW actors on their summer hiatuses.

Anyway, CHOPPING MALL is a fun time. From director Jim Wynorski (MUNCHIE, GHOULIES IV) and Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures, it plays out kinda like DAWN OF THE DEAD meets THE TERMINATOR in the framework of a generic slasher.

There's exploding heads, one-liners ("Oh! Fuck the fuchsia it's Friday!", "Let's send these fuckers a Rambo-gram!"); a cameo by Dick Miller as 'Walter Paisley' (originally from BUCKET OF BLOOD, but later appearing in HOLLYWOOD BLVD., THE HOWLING, and THE TWILIGHT ZONE MOVIE);

Dick Miller succumbs to the 80's love affair with animated lightning.

and an unforgettable appearance by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov reprising their roles as the Blands from EATING RAOUL.

Paul Bartel makes a snide remark involving Hispanics.

It all adds up to something that's kinda forgettable, but with a lot of that old Corman charm. But one thing we'll never forget is that creepy effin' poster and the fabulous nightmares that it once was capable of conjuring...

-Sean Gill

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Film Review: EXOTICA (1994, Atom Egoyan)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 103 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Elias Koteas (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, THE THIN RED LINE, ZODIAC, Cronenberg's CRASH), Victor Garber (ALIAS, MILK), Bruce Greenwood (I'M NOT THERE, THE SWEET HEREAFTER, Abrams' STAR TREK), Mia Kirshner (THE L WORD, THE CROW II), Sarah Polley (GO, THE SWEET HEREAFTER), Arsinée Khanjian (FAT GIRL, CALENDAR), Don McKellar (EXISTENZ, BLINDNESS), music by Mychael Danna (THE SWEET HEREAFTER, CAPOTE), shot by Paul Sarossy (SOLDIER'S GIRL, WICKER MAN remake).
Tag-lines: "In a world of temptation, obsession is the deadliest desire." WHAT

Without any context, a babysitter could be easily confused for a hooker (or vice versa) when she's taking money from an older man in a darkened car. And, in a way, this is the premise of EXOTICA. Context, context, context. A great many of us traverse this life quite presumptuously, making ill-informed judgments (be it by thought, speech, or act) based on observations made in an instant; judging the world based on a grain of sand or a drop of water. In Atom Egoyan's world, the basis of human communication should be a mutual admission: "I don't know what you've been through, nor you, I." The record of a human life cannot be told in an hour, or two, or even a thousand. It's a sum of experiences, traumas, realizations, and fleeting moments that only its bearer can truly appreciate. Yet this truth is ignored again and again until the observer is satisfied enough to 'pin down' his subject, catalogue it, and store it away.

The film is full of these observers; police watching potential criminals at an airport, a man inspecting a rare bird in a cage, spectators at a ballet, patrons at a strip club, management of said club keeping tabs on the patrons. Everyone's getting something out of these exchanges, but what? We're drawn to the uncertainty of mystery almost as much as we're drawn to the finality of judgment. The unknown, the inexplicable, the exotic. An 'exotic' baby grand piano, an 'exotic' bird, a session with an 'exotic' dancer. What are we getting out of this? Something different becomes something familiar. All of these ideas congeal quite beautifully into a character-driven drama that culminates in a finale that is truly cathartic. A lesser artist would allow what follows to spiral into violence, but Egoyan finds a way to reconcile his characters, plot threads, and themes into a denouement that is absolutely staggering, completely appropriate, and one of the best filmic payoffs in years.

Now, after all of that, get a load of the DVD cover Miramax has furnished for this film.

They'd have you believe it's a trite, schoolgirl strippin', darkly voyeuristic, knock-off Eszterhas thrill ride. Given the film's lack of faith in deluded prejudgments, I suppose the cover is the perfect prelude to what comes next. Five stars.

-Sean Gill

Monday, June 15, 2009

Film Review: WHITE DOG (1982, Sam Fuller)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kristy McNichol, Jameson Parker (SIMON AND SIMON, PRINCE OF DARKNESS), Paul Winfield (THE TERMINATOR, STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS), Burl Ives, Paul Bartel cameo, cameo by Joe Dante-fav Dick Miller, music by Ennio Morricone, co-writer Curtis Hanson.
Tag-line: "When man's best friend becomes his fiercest enemy!"
Best one-liner(s): "Sour cream....love it!"

Alexander Pope's poem, 'On the Collar of a Dog': "I am his highness's dog at Kew/ Pray, tell me, sir, whose dog are you?" And indeed Sam Fuller's film, WHITE DOG, leaves you thinking that Sam believes there are many members of the human species more deserving of collars than dogs, and many forms of bigotry more vicious than the amorality of the animal world. I must say that I'm inclined to agree with him.

Long suppressed and unavailable to the masses, I'm happy to say that WHITE DOG lives up to the hype. At once wild entertainment and a serious statement on race, its sometimes restrained, sometimes over-the-top acting modes and masterfully emotive Ennio Morricone soundtrack make it feel very much like the work of crazed (but skilled) Europeans.

Much of its success is due to the likability of it's characters- the waifish Kristy McNichol (the same year as THE PIRATE MOVIE!) exudes cheerful grace; Jameson Parker (sans moustache) is a fleeting friend/love interest; Burl Ives is a hilarious, R2-D2 hating (he flings syringes at what he sees as the death of animal stunts!), jolly, roly-poly old man ("Sour cream... Love it!");

Paul Winfield is the determined, black Ahab out to cure the elusive 'white dog;'

and we even get cameos from the likes of Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, and a cigar-chomping Mr. Fuller himself! The script, loosely adapted by Fuller and Curtis Hanson (THE RIVER WILD, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) is at times ridiculous (in the best way possible), but always packs a punch. This tale of trying to "cure" racism (instead of ignoring it or trying to destroy it) is a touch nihilistic, but it is so well-structured and directed that it never rings false. Fuller takes you into the dog's world in a much more visceral way than say, AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (and I'm not talking merely about attack sequences), and the result is a primeval melancholy that's quite unlike anything I've ever seen. Five stars, and one of Fuller's best.

-Sean Gill