Saturday, January 31, 2009

Film Review: HELLBOUND (1994, Aaron Norris)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Chuck Norris, Calvin Levels (JOHNNY SUEDE, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING), Christopher Neame, Sheree J. Wilson (CRIMEWAVE, WALKER: TEXAS RANGER).
Tag-lines: " Mess with this Chicago cop and there's hell to pay."
Best one-liner(s): See review.

"The Captain has taken some chunks out my ass before, but this time, she left nothin' but bone." Imagine GHOSTBUSTERS II meets BEVERLY HILLS COP in Israel, starring Chuck Norris, and you got a pretty good idea of what this is like.

We follow Chuck as 'Shatter' and his Tony-nominated partner Calvin Levels as 'Jackson,' as they traverse the globe in search of Satan's proto-Satan (a classic Vigo from GHOSTBUSTERS II knock-off), aptly named Prosatanos.

There's medieval flashbacks, foolish treasure seekers, archeologists, rabbis, heart-rippings-out, and all manner of things of that nature. But at it's heart this is a goofy 80's movie, and it even looks it, despite being made in '94 (a fact that lends further credence to my theory that the 1980's actually spanned from 1982-1994).

Chuck's partner is over-the-top and a pretty good counterbalance to his epic stoicism. He says lines like "Say...WHAT?!" and "Why don't you cut my nuts off with a dull butter knife!" with completely committed elan. He takes more shit from Chuck than any character in film history. There's a running gag where Chuck won't let him eat anything until the case is solved. By day 5, it's getting ridiculous. "Shatter! When we gonna get something to EAT?!"

George S. Clinton's score is spot on. I bet he thought 'Shatter's Theme,' with its funky bass riffs, was gonna be the next 'Axel F.' He's got some whacky Israeli themes, too. In fact, there's a lot of whacky goings-on in Israel: a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out between two rambunctious boys and there's some zany driving where a man gets smacked by a car... right in the tight jeans.

There's an oddly out-of-place Ross Perot endorsement, too. And if you need to make a drinking game of it, try drinking every time director Aaron Norris shows a shaft of light. By the film's end, all you'll remember is the whirl of a whacky Israeli night on the town with Prosatanos as your wingman. Oh yeah, and it ends on a freeze frame.

Damn! Alright, Chuck. Just cause it's you, four stars.

-Sean Gill

Friday, January 30, 2009

Film Review: BATTLE IN HEAVEN (2005, Carlos Reygadas)


Stars: 1 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Carlos "Butt-horn" Reygadas.
Tag-lines: This film is too REAL to have a tag-line.
Best one-liner(s): Try someplace else, bud.

Ah, Carlos Reygadas. A brilliant man who had a compulsion to commit REALITY, pure and simple, to the mechanical artifice of film. No smoke and mirrors. Just plain, unadulterated REALITY. And TRUTH. Just like his forefathers, just like Carl Th. Dreyer, Yasujiro Ozu, and Michelangelo Antonioni. Just like them. Good ole' Reygadas.

A man so steadfast and unwavering in his ideals that he would NEVER market a film as pornography in order to create scandalous buzz in order to get his sorry name on the map. The sex is necessary, obviously, because it's real, everything about this film is REAL, Carlos Reygadas' ideals are REAL. Wait, I'm sorry, what? They used prosthetics for the sex scenes? That's interesting. That's an interesting way for you to manifest your ideals, Carlos, after all you've prattled on about. And what's this? Is that the worst CGI I've ever seen standing in for a rainstorm?

Click on the image for a larger view, but this freeze frame cannot possibly do justice to how bad the CGI rainstorm actually looks.

Wow, Carlos. Here you are, trying my patience, and the patience of everyone who believed enough in you to invest their time into watching your film, and YOU didn't have the patience to wait and film on a day that it was ACTUALLY RAINING?! That kinda makes me lose faith in your principles, Carlos. You're already a feeble self-construction, trying to conjure the success narratives of long dead, far more talented art film directors who would twirl in their graves to see their names placed next to yours, and then doing your damndest to affix yourself to shock cinema's coattails?! Good combo, good buddy. You may have snookered Cannes, but you haven't snookered me. And yet, it's the CGI that is the final nail in your coffin, you preening, pretentious butt-horn. And it's not even GOOD CGI. So Michael Bay movies STILL have one-up on you. No, wait, you're right, Carlos. I'm sorry. Dreyer totally would have used CGI flames in THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and CGI fog in VAMPYR and CGI zombies in ORDET.

Note Dreyer's austere use of CGI.

Keep wowin' 'em, Carlos.

-Sean Gill

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Film Review: HANG 'EM HIGH (1968, Ted Post)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley, L.Q. Jones (BULLETPROOF, Peckinpah movies, LONE WOLF MCQUADE), Dennis Hopper.
Tag-lines: " The hanging was the best show in town. But they made two mistakes. They hung the wrong man and they didn't finish the job."
Best one-liner(s): "When you hang a man, you better look at him."

There are three types of Clint Eastwood Westerns that spell quality. Those directed by Sergio Leone, those directed by Don Siegel, and those directed by Clint Eastwood. Nowhere on that list is there any room for a gentleman by the name of Ted Post. This is not a bad movie, but it was an attempt to cash in on Eastwood's success as Sergio Leone's "Man with No Name." The Leone westerns are gritty, grimy, and dusty. They're loud and violent. The soundtracks are punctuated by primal shrieks and grunts, courtesy of Ennio Morricone. This is a Hollywood film. A Hollywood still clinging to an old type of Western, now tainted by years of televised Westerns and the decline of Hawksian filmmaking. Not until the next year, 1969, with THE WILD BUNCH, would Hollywood get with the program. To illustrate my point, HANG 'EM HIGH depicts The Man With No Name taking a woman on a picnic.


Let me say that again. THIS FILM DEPICTS THE MAN WITH NO NAME AND A LADYFRIEND ON A PICNIC. If you do not understand the horrifying implications of that statement, then maybe you shouldn't be watching Clint Eastwood movies anyway.

-Sean Gill

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE trailer released!

Junta Juleil Productions, LTD. presents a Sean Gill film.

Inspired by the youthful whimsy of, say, 1980's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels, BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE follows the escapades of Maxine "Max" Quint, the world's youngest astronaut, and her faithful robot companion, M.E.L.V.I.N., as they traverse the galaxy in search of knowledge, thrills, and discovery. But, then again, everyone has some growing up to do.

Starring Jillaine Gill. Coming Soon, 2009.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Film Review: BULLETPROOF (1988, Steve Carver)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Gary Busey, Henry Silva, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Darlanne Fluegel, William Smith (ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN), Juan Fernandez (Miguel in CROCODILE DUNDEE II, FEAR CITY, CAT CHASER). Director is Steve Carver, who did BIG BAD MAMA, LONE WOLF MCQUADE, and JOCKS.
Tag-lines: "Improbable odds. Unstoppable force."
Best one-liner(s): See review.

"I think we blew him off." "You don't blow off a guy like McBain!" BULLETPROOF is a half-hour of third-rate LETHAL WEAPON, a half-hour of rip-off OCTAGON, and a half-hour of faux RAMBO III held together by the super-glue, the incredible human cement that is Gary Busey. Busey, as Frank "Bulletproof" McBain, strolls into this film with his tight jeans, white sneakers, and ginormous, shining teeth and sets it ablaze with four simple words: "Your worst nightmare, butt-horn!"

Even besides Busey, this film's got it all: young Danny Trejo as the rocket-launching, ice-cream trucking intro villain Sharkey; ridiculous banter with a Danny Glover-esque sidekick and a running gag involving calling for back-up; TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.'s Darlanne Fluegel telling an evidently Arabian Henry Silva to "go fuck your camel!;" a top-secret tank code-named 'Thunderblast;' nuns getting machine-gunned; and Peckinpah-fave L.Q. Jones acting like he huffed too much glue. But back to Busey.

Did I mention that there's a scene where he lays on his bed with his saxophone, deep in thought... remembering back to when he was playing some reverb-heavy 80's sax... ON THE BEACH?! Did I mention McBain has been shot 39 times and carefully preserves all the bullets in an old Mason jar? That he greets and addresses inanimate objects like jukeboxes and motorcycles? Did I mention that he slides a glass ashtray into some dude's nuts? Did I mention that 'BIRD SEASON IS OVER...BUTT-HORN?'

This movie is perpetually perched in the rafters, ready to call you butt-horn, and for that it earns five stars. "McBain!" "YEIAH!"

-Sean Gill

Monday, January 26, 2009

Film Review: GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE (1991, John Carl Buechler)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), Jason Scott Lee (MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART, ALADDIN TV Miniseries), Stephen Lee (ROBOCOP 2). Directed by John Carl Buechler, director of TROLL 1 and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD.
Tag-line: "Out of the bowl... and TOTALLY out of control!" (as opposed to just merely "Out of the bowl...and out of control" as was the case with the previous film) AND "Everybody's favorite troublemakers are on the loose again!" You would think that they would come up with a collegiate-related tag-line given the setting, but the GHOULIES series was never known for its attention to detail... but wait, they did! At the end of the trailer, the announcer says "They put the animal back in the house!," which I guess should count.
Best one-liner: "They drank our brews! This means war!"



Alright, let's stop kidding ourselves here. You're probably thinking it: anyone with the desire to see this film is probably a bad person. Time is a precious commodity, and anyone who would invest 94 minutes of it watching GHOULIES III is likely just as cavalier with other resources and likely is contributing to the downfall of society. Well, I'll have you know that that's not necessarily true. I even contributed to the global economy by purchasing the used VHS from Australia via eBay. But what was the initial hook? Perhaps I do owe an explanation. Maybe I was won over by the fact that B-horror legend Kevin McCarthy stars in it. Maybe I was just won over by the fact that the Ghoulies are depicted on the cover wearing little caps and gowns and tassels and such. Regardless of the specifics, I ended up with GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE. But let's not beat around the bush. How is the movie? The movie is bad.



So our tale is spun on a college campus where Kevin McCarthy is the dean of students.

"You won't get away with those foolish pranks THIS year."
The campus is besotten with pranks of all kinds; and nary a moment can pass without someone being struck with an egg or water balloon, or some poor, unsuspecting mark slipping on grease or oil slick, invariably with a whole lot of important papers and books flying about, and the pranksters themselves celebrating with a ritualized high-five.

Kevin McCarthy decides that the best way to deal with these pranksters is to summon the Ghoulies to put an end to them; which, had he seen GHOULIES 1 and 2, he would realize is a terrible idea, since the Ghoulies themselves are basically the pranksters to end all pranksters. I guess from that, you could logically derive the idea that the Ghoulies would then 'put an end,' to the pranksters themselves, but would not, in fact, put an end to the pranks themselves, which the Ghoulies would be proliferating exponentially as soon as the pranksters themselves were dead. Basically what that all means is, strap yourselves in, folks, cause there are going to be a whole lot of pranks going on. Some of the pranks, especially those perpetuated by the Ghoulies, are going to be deadly. And that's going to put a bad taste in your mouth if you're the sort of person who enjoys viewing pranks without moral consequence.

Now, the Ghoulies themselves talk in this one, tossing around colorful words like "schmuck" with reckless abandon. Though in 2, they were given a higher degree of sentience, and frequently would high-five each other and have fun perpetuating violence, here, they're dropping bad one-liners, engaging in panty-raids, and drinking beers as they sow mayhem.

It's a little disconcerting to see the Ghoulies cracking jokes like Borscht Belt comics, but, I suppose, it ought to be considered par for the course at this point.

There's a really clever running gag where the Ghoulies open up cupboards or closets or refrigerators, and a whole ton of stuff falls down on them, and they moan and groan as if they didn't really expect it to happen.



And hilarity ensueth.

The film does succeed at building a certain type of atmosphere. A kind of creepy, jokey, eerily childish worldview where murders-by-pranking-monsters don't seem out of place. It's almost a supercilious view of death, so by-the-numbers and matter-of-fact, that it partially succeeds in being unsettling. It reminded me of films like the original GHOULIES, Stuart Gordon's DOLLS, and WAXWORK, all of which are far superior. Kind of like the cinematic equivalent of gummy candy in the shape of eyeballs or bloody brains; gross, puerile, and slightly visceral, yes; but ultimately leading to unnecessary feelings of disgust. It all adds up to something kind of depressing. Kind of depressing for all the panty raid victims who had to be naked as they were killed by plungers and whatnot; kind of depressing for Kevin McCarthy, who, though he hasn't always made the best career choices, is a fine actor, and something of an icon for B-horror enthusiasts; and, ultimately kind of depressing for the people who made the time investment to watch the film, and all they're actually taking away from it are hazy half-memories of monsters dropping one-liners, ridiculous collegiate pranks, fog machines, and glowing green toilets. Still, though, I must give it two stars on account of the little guys posing in tiny caps and gowns for the promotional photos. And with that rating comes the admission, that, yes, I do suppose I must be a bad person. But at least I haven't been yet tempted to view GHOULIES IV. (Probably just because it doesn't possess a subtitle. If it were entitled: GHOULIES IV: GHOULIES GO TO GRAD SCHOOL... I cannot lie- a copy would currently reside on my shelf.)

-Sean Gill

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Film Review: TROUBLE THE WATER (2008, "Carl Deal & Tia Lessin")


Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Tag-line: "It's not about a hurricane. It's about America."
Awards: Nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary, Jury Award Full Frame Documentary Festival, Best Documentary at Gotham Awards, Honorable Mention at the Silverdocs Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE is basically the definitive Katrina documentary, a film as devastating as it is epic. TROUBLE THE WATER's scope is much smaller- we follow Kimberly Roberts and her husband Scott (and some people they pick up along the way) as they survive the storm, attempt to receive FEMA funds, and try to forge a post-Katrina future. It's in turns tragic (we see the ease with which they become accustomed, even blase, to discovering corpses) and darkly hilarious (the tourism PR girl who dances along with an offensive video while saying people don't want to hear about the destroyed 80%, they want to hear about the unscathed 20!). We see bewildered FEMA crony Michael Brown fumbling on TV as, literally, an ocean rises on their neighborhood street. The most cutting moments are some of the simplest- audio recordings of 911 calls where the dispatchers tell the drowning and dying that no aid will be sent; or Kimberly's brother describing survival in a prison abandoned by guards. Kimberly's footage is raw, matter-of-fact, and representative of a growing media alternative. She is the auteur of this picture. Tia Lessin and Carl Deal just meet up with them along the way, bringing nothing to the table except poor choices in music (banal "be sad now" music, forms of which are used in almost every Sundance doc), public domain news footage, and the holiest god of American indie film: contacts for distribution. But make no mistake, for better or worse, this is Kimberly's film, a depiction of her life and worldview. Also, Kimberly and Scott's relationship is largely unexplored (one of her songs refers to slicing his face with a razor at 16, from which he has a nasty scar, then him giving her a wedding ring just a few years later). If Deal and Lessin were worth their salt at all, they would have at least followed up on intriguing nuances like that! Herzog would've. Instead, it seems that they stumbled upon Kimberly and her footage at the right time and place...I mean, come on, at least give her co-director credit.

-Sean Gill

Friday, January 23, 2009

Film Review: HOOPER (1978, Hal Needham)

Stars: 3.9 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Brian Keith, Adam West, Terry Bradshaw, Robert Klein, John Marley, a shit-ton of stuntmen.
Tag-lines: "It just ain't summer without Burt!" AND "Ain't nobody can fly a car like Hooper!"
Best one-liner(s): "Everyone get drunk and be somebody!" AND "Somebody call him a cab." "I don't need a cab...I AM a cab."

This film doesn't quite deserve four stars, but there's something about the giddy, incorrigible, self-reflexive final freeze frame that leaves me no other choice. Burt Reynolds IS Sonny Hooper, the greatest stuntman alive, doubling on a film for Adam West, who plays himself. Burt's girlfriend, as in real life at the time, is Sally Field, and her dad, Brian Keith (REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE), is a stunt legend and Hooper's mentor. Jan-Michael Vincent (AIRWOLF) is the brash up-and-comer. A few large stunt setpieces, a bar fight, and a smidgen of human drama are woven across this tapestry of characters, and that's about all there is to this movie, besides it being the most comprehensive and in-joke-filled tribute to stunt people ever. But there's some great stuff in there. Burt & Co. taunt local cops, get in barfights with Terry Bradshaw and then become friends, go drunk driving, do inappropriate things to women's asses while in Friar Tuck costumes (and this a full five years before the famous goosing on the poster of STROKER ACE), taunt animal rights advocates, etc. Yep, it's whacky, alright.

Hijinks to ensue in: 5... 4... 3... 2...

But the thing that truly pushes this thing over the edge is Burt's laugh. It's usually pretty girlish, and that's always been one of his trademarks. I don't know if he just feels more comfortable here since Sally Field's around or something, but here there is ZERO restraint. The laugh goes up another ten notches, to the point he could conceivably be auditioning to do the voice of Elmo. So you gotta enjoy the unrestrained Reynolds glee, which ultimately manifests itself with a look straight into the camera, a silly grin, and the 'okay' sign, captured for all-time as the closing freeze frame.

Bravo, Hooper. Though the film probably would have been a bigger hit if they'd called it SMOKEY AND THE HOOPER. This is just the goofy primer, however, cause now you gotta rent SHARKY'S MACHINE and travel into the tortured inner depths of Burt's soul...

-Sean Gill

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Procurement Review: ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA

I was doing research for my forthcoming film, BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE, which I've already begun to shoot in earnest (a trailer for it will be posted on this site shortly), and I was scouring books, old and new, for information that would make my film scientifically accurate. Then I remembered someone who might be able to help, might provide a unique window into the answers to the questions I'd been asking.

Remember him? He had a report due on space. Then he found himself swimming in a veritable font of information. Almost too much. So much, that if you'll recall, he actually received a B+ on that famous report on space. It was too long, too professional, too above and beyond the call of duty, that his teachers couldn't even handle it. I, however, had need for all the help I could get. So, while a couple of friends were visiting, I popped in the old VHS I keep all of my Encyclopedia Britannica commercials on, and gave it a whirl.



I had forgotten about the meta-commentaries provided by the omniscient voice. It's interesting, almost as if the producers had such a lack of faith in The Encyclopedia Britannica Kid's (to be subsequently referred to as 'The Kid') abilities to carry the commercial on his own, that they created this meta-narrative to showcase their own insecurities. It was common practice in the 1980's, as my forthcoming review of the MR. AND MS. PACMAN STORYBOOK ALBUM shall illustrate.

In any event, the producers of the commercial created 'The Kid.' Child voice actor Donavan Freberg breathed life into him, gave him flesh. Yet then they insert this omniscient voice to deride The Kid, to tear him down, to dismiss him. Not completely, but overtly enough. They have the voice insert bored, condescending responses ("Uh-huhhh...," "Um...yes," "Uh...good," "Hmm," "Mm-hmm") as if the voice simply can't wait for The Kid to stop talking so that he can take over. I'll tell you what was happening: the producers were afraid. They were afraid viewers would disrespect The Kid. Tear him down themselves. So they acted preemptively. If we tear The Kid down first, we'll take all the fun out of it for them. In fact, they might even start sympathizing with The Kid, and then we'll sell more encyclopedias. It's basic psychology, and it's clever psychology. Let's say that it worked on me. Alright, so let's have that 800 number. And there it is:

And, shit the bed! Just for previewing Britannica, they'll send me, for free, a three-volume desk reference set of $14.40 value.

It's been a number of years since this commercial aired. I'm excited right now, but I'm probably just setting myself up for disappointment. It's late, too. It's almost three A.M...maybe I should try tomorrow...no! A helpful, visiting friend-of-a-friend from Buffalo makes up my mind for me, ends the paralysis that grips the room. He takes his phone, dials the number, and it begins to ring. Everyone in the room awaits the pick-up with baited breath. It feels as if the phone rings ten or twelve times.

Suddenly, a female voice:
"Hello?" She fails to immediately identify herself.
"Hello, I'm calling about the Encyclopedia Britannica, about the free three-volume set, of $14.40 value being offered right now."
"One moment, please."

Our minds would be racing if they hadn't just been blown. Have we wandered into some Twilight Zone time loop? Is it possible to go back? Is it truly possible to go home again? Can we find ourselves in a world where one can eat Dunkaroos and wash them down with Coke II and Ecto Cooler and then brush our teeth with toothpaste that comes out of the tube in the shape of a multi-colored star? Does time have no dominion over the promises made by 80's television? Can we indeed get our free books of $14.40 value?

The passing of time seems interminable. The phone's on speaker, and we can all hear clinking and clacking, office noises. It's real. This is really happening.

"I'm sorry, we don't carry that product, sir."

The inevitable disappointment. The patchwork dreamworld shattered by a dose of reality.

"No, I'm telling you, I'm looking at the TV right now- looking at this phone number-"
"I'm sorry-"
"No, there's this kid. I'm watching it right now! He's got a mullet, this red shirt, black pants–"
"
We carry no such product, sir."
"Well, what products do you carry?!"
"Golf Digest magazine, sir."

This continued only a little longer. After a brief discussion involving the merits of golf, the beleaguered operator woman decided to let him go, probably figuring we were a couple of smarmy kids having a laugh at her expense. She couldn't have been more wrong. Now I find myself on the other end of the ouroboros. I've been spat out by the beast and swallowed once more. Now I'm the kid who has a report due on space. Only there's no due date, and I no longer can claim to be a 'kid.' It's all a big mess with the wreckage piled atop itself into infinity. And somehow I get the feeling the answers were all floating out there on the frigid, hazy January night we tried to meld past and present...

Remember me? ...I'm the kid that had a report due on space...

-Sean Gill

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Film Review: FIRESTARTER (1984, Mark Lester)


Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Stephen King, Drew Barrymore, George C. Scott, Louise Fletcher, Art Carney, Moses Gunn, Heather Locklear, David Keith, Martin Sheen, Freddie Jones, and a soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.
Tag-lines: " She has the power . . . an evil destructive force."
Best one-liner(s): "Get out of here, you bastard! I'll burn you up! I'll fry you!"

Imagine something lackluster in a TV movie kind of way. Like a two hour pilot of CARRIE- THE SERIES. But they wanted to get her out of the high school, reach a wider kind of audience, so they made Carrie nine years-old, and- you know what, Carrie's powers are kind of obtuse, abstract, kind of hard to pin down. So let's make her have just the power to start fires. Then we can team her up with her dad, and give him the esoteric powers that we can define later when it becomes a series. That's what FIRESTARTER kind of feels like at first, and you think it should be a two or three-star movie, tops. (And the presence of Art Carney and Heather Locklear does nothing to dispel this sensation.) But then there's more to consider. Like a wonderfully pulsating electronic soundtrack, courtesy of Tangerine Dream. George C. Scott in a ponytail. And sometimes an EYEPATCH.

Well worth the price of admission.

And the cast has a combined two Oscars and three nominations between Scott and Louise "Nurse Ratched" Fletcher, not to mention the acting talents of Martin Sheen, David Keith, frequent Lynch collaborator Freddie Jones, and Obie-winner and 80's movie favorite Moses Gunn. They give this film its fourth star and make it a damn good time at the movies. It's also got a very similar feel to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and its scene at Chimney Rock almost seems like an attempt to reference THIRD KIND's Devil's Tower.

In closing, along with Dario Argento's INFERNO, and to some extent, PHENOMENA, FIRESTARTER is one of the best early 80's films with fire as its main visual trope that uses giant-fan-blown hair to represent the supernatural.

Charley the Kid starts a fire in FIRESTARTER (1984).


The Mother of Tears starts an ominous wind in INFERNO (1980).


Jennifer calls the insects in PHENOMENA (1985).

-Sean Gill

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Film Review: THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (1953, Max Ophüls)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Boyer, Vittorio de Sica, Jean Galland, Danielle Darrieux.
Tag-lines: " It was her vanity that destroyed her." By the way, I don't think that's an official tag-line, but it was on IMDB, and I love it.
Best one-liner(s): "I spend a very great deal of money." Yeah you do, Madame de.

Yes, yes, I understand that life's all one endless, whirling dance. But may we focus on some more interesting partners? THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... is all about Madame de, and Madame de is a total dick. She's spoiled, whiny, bored, and in debt because she spends so much on her extravagant lifestyle. I feel so sorry for you, Madame de, you must decide which of your myriad gems and furs you must pawn.

What a dick.

And the whole 'We're going to stop short, or obscure it from view, or have a loud noise every time we're about to reveal Madame de's full name' thing starts off as contrived, becomes fairly irritating, and then finally is full-blown annoying. But the film is beautiful. The lighting, cinematography, and tracking shots are exquisite. But it'd be like if Errol Morris poured in his heart, soul, majestic visuals, and a Philip Glass score into a John Stossel "Give me a Break" segment on 20/20. It's all for naught.

And we're supposed to sympathize with Madame de when she cheats on Monsieur de (Charles Boyer), who is a little old and crusty, but he's a fairly solid dude. He's totally thoughtful, too- he spends 20 some minutes senselessly looking for the earrings that his wife pawned earlier.
Vittorio de Sica (director, BICYCLE THIEVES, etc.) is the dashing, elderly "other man," and he's a pretty nice guy as well. It's too bad they have to duel each other over Madame de. "How can you fight over a woman like me?" she says. I couldn't have put it better myself, Madame de. Two and half stars, only for Ophuls' flowing editing and glorious visuals. If you're in the mood for a serious French drama with greater emotional weight, check out Jacques Becker's CASQUE D'OR.


-Sean Gill

Monday, January 19, 2009

Junta Juleil Presents: Browsable List of All Reviews

A
ACTION JACKSON (1988, Craig R. Baxley)
APPALOOSA (2008, Ed Harris)

B
BALTIKA EXTRA 9 (2008, Russia)
BATTLE IN HEAVEN (2005, Carlos Reygadas)
THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970, Dario Argento)
BROKEN ARROW (1996, John Woo)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992, Fran Rubel Kazui)
BULLETPROOF (1988, Steve Carver)

C
CANDYMAN (1992, Bernard Rose)
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)
CRITTERS 4: THEY'RE INVADING YOUR SPACE (1991, Rupert Harvey)

D
DAGON (2001, Stuart Gordon)
DEAD & BURIED (1981, Gary Sherman)
THE DEAD POOL (1988, Buddy van Horn)
DEEP RED (1975, Dario Argento)
DEMONS 2 (1986, Lamberto Bava)

E
THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (1953, Max Ophüls)
ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA PROCUREMENT (2009, United States)

F
FACE/OFF (1997, John Woo)
FEAST II: SLOPPY SECONDS (2008, John Gulager)
FIRESTARTER (1984, Mark Lester)
FIREWALKER (1986, J. Lee Thompson)
FLASHDANCE (1983, Adrian Lyne)
FLESHBURN (1984, George Gage)
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989, Rob Hedden)
FROZEN RIVER (2008, Courtney Hunt)

G
GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE (1991, John Carl Buechler)
A GIRL CUT IN TWO (2008, Claude Chabrol)
GRAN TORINO (2008, Clint Eastwood)

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

I
INFERNO (1980, Dario Argento)

J
K

L
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)

M
MACSHAYNE: WINNER TAKES ALL (1994, E.W. Swackhamer)
MAN ON WIRE (2008, James Marsh)
MARY (2008, Abel Ferrara)
MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986, Stephen King)
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)

N
THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986, Jean-Jacques Annaud)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989, Stephen Hopkins)

O
THE OCTAGON (1980, Eric Karson)

P
PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953, Sam Fuller)
PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING (1981, James Cameron)
PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965, Mario Bava)
PREDATOR 2 (1990, Stephen Hopkins)
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987, John Carpenter)

Q

R
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)
THE RESURRECTED (1992, Dan O'Bannon)
RHINESTONE (1984, Bob Clark)
ROCK 'N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979, Joe Dante & Allan Arkush)
ROCK 'N ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987, John Fasano)
ROLLER BOOGIE (1979, Mark L. Lester)

S
SEINE GROSSE ERFOLGE (1969, Heino)
SHARKY'S MACHINE (1981, Burt Reynolds)
SILENT LIGHT (2007, Carlos Reygadas)
THE SILENT WORLD (1956, Jacques Cousteau & Louis Malle)
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008, Danny Boyle)
SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981, Walter Hill)
ST. IDES MALT LIQUOR JINGLE (1992, Ice Cube)
THE STAND (1994, Mick Garris)
STAR CRYSTAL (1985, Lance Lindsay)
STEPFATHER 2: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY (1989, Jeff Burr)
STRAIT-JACKET (1964, William Castle)
STUCK (2008, Stuart Gordon)
THE SUBSTITUTE (1996, Robert Mandel)
SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento)

T
THE TAKING OF POWER BY LOUIS XIV (1966, Roberto Rossellini)
THE THIRD MIRACLE (1999, Agnieszka Holland)
THE TINGLER (1959, William Castle)
TOMBSTONE (1993, "George Cosmatos" & Kurt Russell)
THUNDER ROAD (1958, Arthur Ripley)
TROUBLE THE WATER (2008, "Tia Lessin & Carl Deal")

U
V

W
W. (2008, Oliver Stone)WAXWORK (1988, Anthony Hickox)
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)

X
Y

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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Junta Juleil Presents: The Best of THE WILLIES

I recently uploaded these seminal clips to YouTube and figured that they should be archived here, as well, especially since I reviewed THE WILLIES for this site last fall. The following clips include the entirety of Clu Gulager's performance in the film and the mind-numbing, earth-shattering conclusion, oft-referred to in the original review.






-Sean Gill

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Film Review: THE TAKING OF POWER BY LOUIS XIV (1966, Roberto Rossellini)


Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jean-Marie Patte, Raymond Jourdan, Katharina Renn, Dominique Vincent.
Tag-lines: None.
Best one-liner(s): "Music, please, my brother!"


This film isn't really BAD, per sé, for a TV movie, but maybe they should have titled it THE TAKING OF QUAALUDES BY LOUIS XIV. Yeah, not a whole lot of energy there. Louis himself really pisses me off here. I don't know if it's his squashed, chubby face, or the fact that he's READING EVERY LINE OFF OF CUE CARDS, but I'm gonna go ahead and say it: he sucks. I mean, Rossellini's not exactly my favorite director of all time, but if I was cast as the lead and TITLE CHARACTER in a Rossellini film, I'm pretty sure I would take the fucking time to learn my lines.

That's the insufferable little cue-card-reading snot on the left.

The pacing's a little off, too: Mazarin takes like a half hour to kick off (yep, time to smell his bedpan again) and we don't even get the fancy period costumes till well over an hour in. And even then, the costumes still smack a little of community theater.

Louis gets a little less annoying when he gets his 'stache, but then most of the screentime is wasted on the notorious marathon eating scene.



Let's go back in time. Back to when the gods of Italian cinema were meting out various filmic talents. They messed up. They accidentally gave ALL the restraint and subtlety, intended for entire generations of filmmakers, to just a couple guys, like de Sica and Rossellini. The others had to compensate for lack of self-control, and it wasn't even their fault. If Lucio Fulci had directed this, Mazarin would have died by ever, ever so slowly having his eye impaled by a sharp object. If Mario Bava had directed this, Louis XIV would have rolled around in bed naked with a pile of money and a bodacious German babe, and his court's fashions would have changed to black and yellow leather outfits with spandex accents and insanely popped collars. But Roberto Rossellini directed it. Which means he probably did his research and everything depicted on screen is gonna be pretty accurate.

Hey, if Rossellini put it in the movie it must be historically accurate.

It might even make a great background movie for some history professors having an 'Age of Enlightenment party.' But it kinda fails as entertainment... of any kind. Two stars.

-Sean Gill

Friday, January 16, 2009

Film Review: CRITTERS 4: THEY'RE INVADING YOUR SPACE (1991, Rupert Harvey)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif, Anders Hove, Eric DaRe, Don Keith Opper, Barry Opper (writer and brother of Don Keith), Terrence Mann, Anne Ramsay.
Tag-lines: "In space, they love to hear you scream!"
Best one-liner(s): "Rick has got a bug up his butt. See. He's gone and discovered himself a magnetic space anomaly. And he's gotten stiff in the jock." (Now, imagine that being said by Brad Dourif, who's chewing gum and taking the part as seriously as everything he does, from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST to DEADWOOD.)

Space. The final frontier. Where movie series frequently go do die, or at least to get a little more decrepit. (JASON X, MUPPETS FROM SPACE, LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE, PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE, etc.) But in the midst of a lot of general dislike for CRITTERS 4: THEY'RE INVADING YOUR SPACE, I'd like to offer a dissenting voice. I approached the film with trepidation upon seeing the poster. With a tagline like "In space, they love to hear you scream," and the fact that the poster art clearly previously depicted only three Critters and then the fourth seems to have been haphazardly inserted when somebody said 'Hey isn't this Critters FOUR?,' I feared the worst. I mean, really.


Quite unfortunately, this is not a scene from CRITTERS 4.

It's unlike the other installments in that Critter antics and mayhem take a back seat to other elements. But the other elements are damned good.

We got totally-crazed gum-chewing, ex-wife-joke wise-cracking Brad Dourif acting like he's in a film directed by Crispin Glover; Eric DaRae (Leo from TWIN PEAKS) playing basically Leo... in space!; Lars von Trier-alum Anders Hove in a flask-swigging, Kinski-esque mania, trying to outdo both Dourif and the Critters at chewing the scenery; Angela Bassett fooled into thinking she's in a serious STAR TREK drama; Don Keith Opper back as Charlie, the series' anchor; and the unexpected return of a fan favorite, now transformed into a villainous corporate sell-out. On a futuristic space station, the Critters don't have kitchens and fast-food restaurants to ransack, but they can still kill people and type like madmen on computer keyboards. The series began in space and it ends in space, so it lends an air of finality to the proceedings. It all adds up to a Mexican stand-off; a Critter frozen to death, shattered, and one-linered,

"Chill out.....asshole!"

and some head-scratching upbeat honkytonk music over the end credits. Four stars and a proper end to the CRITTERS films, though I certainly wouldn't say no to another.

-Sean Gill

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Film Review: CRITTERS 3: YOU ARE WHAT THEY EAT (1991, Kristine Peterson)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 86 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Leonardo DiCaprio, Frances Bay, Don Keith Opper, Barry Opper (writer and brother of Don Keith), Terrence Mann.
Tag-lines: "First they destroyed a farm. Then they terrorised a town. Now they're ready to do some real damage!"
Best one-liner(s): "I still don't know what the hell is going on here." – "Ain't no rats, you can be sure of that!"

It's CRITTERS meets THE TOWERING INFERNO. When all else fails, move the franchise to the big city: BABE 2: PIG IN THE CITY, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, LEPRECHAUN 5: LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD, THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST, the list goes on. And if that fails, move it into SPACE. (More on that in a subsequent review).

I'm not gonna lie: CRITTERS 3: YOU ARE WHAT THEY EAT is a step down for the franchise, but not really for any particular reason other than "we made it all the way to CRITTERS 3." A jabbering, slavering Critter attached to a mop handle and getting smacked around every which way is still gold, it's just sort of lost its luster. Some of the magic's gone, and we're never gonna get it back, and that's part of growing up, it's part of life. Now, on to the film: I'll start with the bad. The child actors who haven't been nominated for three Oscars really suck. They do. And Ug (Terrence Mann), the fan-favorite bounty hunter, isn't around save for a cameo at the finale, tantalizing us to watch CRITTERS 4. Now, the good: Charlie (Don Keith Opper) is back in a big way, becoming to the CRITTERS series what Reggie the Ice Cream Man is to the PHANTASM films. There's Frances Bay (TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, BLUE VELVET), the sweet old lady who always exudes depth and magical, alluring menace.

The Critters, as always, are up to no good: watching cooking shows, drinking dish soap to frantic MIDI music, eating baked beans, attacking bunny slippers, and throwing pies at each other. The people asked for Critter-related mayhem, and by gum, we got it.

Par for the course.

There's even bowling for Critters. And then there's Leo. Leo DiCaprio. He's a fine actor, even as a kid, and he uses his talents to emote lines such as "I...can't believe he's dead," and violently beat a Critter trapped in a towel while exclaiming "I hate you! I hate you!" He even gets shot in the neck by one of their spines.

Leo: "I...can't believe he's dead..."
Near the end, he gets to wear a pink and purple-striped wave t-shirt that is probably the most macabre thing in the movie.

The macabre tee-shirt.

Three stars. A must-see for CRITTERS fans and, as far as these things go, can you really expect anything more from a film entitled: CRITTERS 3: YOU ARE WHAT THEY EAT?

-Sean Gill

COMING SOON: A review of CRITTERS 4: THEY'RE INVADING YOUR SPACE.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Film Review: CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988, Mick Garris)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Terrence Mann, Don Keith Opper, Sam Anderson, Eddie Deezen, David Twohy (writer of WATERWORLD and G.I. JANE), Eddie Deezen (LASERBLAST, MIDNIGHT MADNESS, GREASE, WARGAMES).
Tag-lines: "Get ready for seconds... they're back," "The most illegal aliens of all are back -- and they're hungrier than ever," ""Critters 1" got your blood pumping... This time they want more than a taste," and "It's Everyone's Turn For Seconds."
Best one-liner(s): "What is this bullshit? Them man-eating dust mops got us roped up tighter than a blue-ribbon bull and all you folks can do is stand here and play kick-the-can with some punk kid! "

CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE is a pretty solid flick, and the first feature from horror director Mick Garris. Not to deride the man, but this was probably his high-water mark (THE STAND? The 'Hand of God' in THE STAND?! THE SHINING remake!?!). Now it's difficult enough to make an 80's creature feature that isn't entirely terrible, and CRITTERS managed to pull that off; but it's a near-IMPOSSIBLE task to make a sequel worth its salt. But that's exactly what Garris has done here. He learned a lot from Steven Spielberg, story editing on AMAZING STORIES and documenting THE GOONIES and TEMPLE OF DOOM, and those lessons are certainly on display here (I believe they were lost by the time THE STAND rolled around).

Lean, mean, and with an awesome subtitle (THE MAIN COURSE), CRITTERS 2 delivers. And like another quadrilogy involving appalling, deadly orbs (the PHANTASM series), much of the success is dependent on the continuity and returning cast members from the first title. Action, suspense, character, and bizarre visuals are heaped on in B-movie portions, and it manages to have some elements that make the sequel a distinct entity (i.e., the notorious Playboy model- complete with staple- transformation, the ginormous rolling ball of a thousand critters). Toss in an excellent sympathetic performance from Sam Anderson (Bernard on TV's LOST), a cameo from 80's uber-nerd Eddie Deezen, extra points for getting a 'PG-13' on what I feel would be marked a hard 'R' by today's pansies, and you have a film that is basically as good as a film called CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE could possibly be.

-Sean Gill

COMING SOON: Reviews of CRITTERS 3: YOU ARE WHAT THEY EAT and CRITTERS 4: THEY'RE INVADING YOUR SPACE.

Also see: CRITTERS 1 Review.