Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... BLINDSIDE

Only now does it occur to me... that there's only one venue where one can see Harvey Keitel with an Abe Lincoln beard playing a washed-up scientist-turned-sleazy hotel manager in a poor man's 80s remake of THE CONVERSATION. That venue is "BLINDSIDE."

From the director (Paul Lynch) and composer (Paul Zaza) of PROM NIGHT, comes an experiment in suspense and watered-down De Palma. Keitel features neither of his trademarks: gratuitous full-frontal nudity, nor extended scream-weeping. (See also: BAD LIEUTENANT.)


For a variety of reasons, just trust me when I say you're better off skippin' this one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Film Review: BARB WIRE (1996, David Hogan)

Stars: 2 of 5?  3 of 5?  4 of 5?  Does it really matter?
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Tag-line: "Don't call me babe!"
Notable Cast or Crew: Pamela Anderson (BAYWATCH, V.I.P.), Temuera Morrison (ONCE WERE WARRIORS, ATTACK OF THE CLONES), Xander Berkeley (TERMINATOR 2, AIR FORCE ONE), Clint Howard (TANGO & CASH, ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), Udo Kier (BLOOD FOR DRACULA, BREAKING THE WAVES), Tommy "Tiny" Lister (EXTREME PREJUDICE, RUNAWAY TRAIN), Tony Bill (director of FIVE CORNERS and UNTAMED HEART), Jack Noseworthy (Bon Jovi's music video "Always," IDLE HANDS, ENCINO MAN), John Paxton (SPIDER-MAN, A SIMPLE PLAN), Steve Railsback (HELTER SKELTER, LIFEFORCE, THE STUNT MAN), Victoria Rowell (THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, DUMB AND DUMBER), Shelly Desai (THELMA & LOUISE, ESCAPE FROM L.A.), and Joey Sagal (THE HIDDEN, BEYOND THE LAW).  Written by Chuck Pfarrer (HARD TARGET, DARKMAN, NAVY SEALS) and Ilene Chaiken (THE L WORD, THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR).
Best One-liner:  Uh... "Don't call me babe?"

In a familiar, darkened alleyway:

"So, what's new?"
–"I'll tell ya what's new.  There was supposed to be an 'Only now does it occur to me...' for BARB WIRE, but now there's a full-blown review."
"I remember when that came out.  What is it that occurs to you?"
–"Several things. More than several. But most importantly, only now does it occur to me... that BARB WIRE is a remake of CASABLANCA."

"This?  You've gotta be shittin' me. You're like those people who make claims such as "THE PAPERBOY is the CITIZEN KANE of jellyfish urination movies, or that "BLOODSPORT 4 is the SCHINDLER'S LIST of Bulgarian Kumite flicks."
–"I happen to stand by those assessments, but this is no joke.  BARB WIRE is legitimately a retelling of CASABLANCA, and it's more faithful to the source material than 90% of remakes.  It's possible that Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of PSYCHO is less faithful.  Although, in this version, Pamela Anderson is Humphrey Bogart, and Temuera Morrison––apparently best known for playing Boba Fett's clone-dad or whatever in the STAR WARS prequels––is Ingrid Bergman."
"You're pulling my leg."
–"You know what would probably be easier?  Let's go ahead and re-edit the beginning of the plot description from the Wikipedia page for CASABLANCA. It's sorta like Mad Libs:

"In December 1941 2017, American Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson) is the proprietor of an upscale nightclub and gambling den in the free city of Casablanca Steel Harbor.
"Rick's Café Américain" "The Hammerhead" attracts a varied clientele: Vichy French and German officials Steel Harbor Provisional Gov't and American Crypto-Nazi officials; refugees desperate to reach the still neutral United States Canada; and those who prey on them.
Although Rick Barb professes to be neutral in all matters, it is later revealed he she fought on the loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War Second American Civil War.
Petty crook Ugarte (Peter Lorre) Schmitz (Clint Howard) arrives and boasts to Rick Barb of "letters of transit" eyeballs for retinal scanners obtained by murdering two Fascist couriers.
 
The papers eyeballs allow the bearers to travel freely around German-controlled Europe the divided United States, and are thus almost priceless to the refugees stranded in Casablanca Steel Harbor.
Ugarte Schmitz plans to sell them at the club that night, and asks Rick to hold them hides them in Barb's bar. Before he can meet his contact, he is arrested by the local police under the command of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) Alexander Willis (Xander Berkeley), an unabashedly corrupt Vichy  Steel Harbor official.
At this point, the reason for Rick's Barb Wire's bitterness—former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) Axel Hood (Temuera Morrison)—walks into his her establishment.  She he is accompanied by her his husband girlfriend, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) Corrina Devonshire (Victoria Rowell), a renowned fugitive Resistance leader scientist.
They need the letters eyeballs to escape to America Canada. Nazi Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback)
has come to Casablanca Steel Harbor to see that Laszlo Corrina does not succeed..."
"Wait, you're telling me that Clint Howard is their Peter Lorre?"
–"That's all you have to say?! This is incredible! How is this not the first thing that anyone mentions when they talk about BARB WIRE?"
"I think you're overestimating how many people are still talking about BARB WIRE.  And, I don't know, these images just don't read very 'CASABLANCA' to me.  Looks more like a live action GHOST IN THE SHELL-themed rave or something."

–"Well, I mean, it's not exact––"
"And I don't remember a ten minute opening sequence of a semi-nude Humphrey Bogart cavorting beneath the endless spray of a fire hose."

–"It's been a while since I saw CASABLANCA, I can't remember if that scene made the final cut or not––"
"And I definitely don't recall this many van explosions."


–"They might be in there.  Maybe during the 'fall of Paris' flashback.  And sure, BARB WIRE has a slightly more 'John Woo/Robert Rodriguez' flavor than the original, but..."


"Does CASABLANCA end with the Nazis developing weaponized AIDS and Major Strasser attacking Rick with a forklift while doing Steve Railsback's psycho Manson-cackle from HELTER SKELTER?"



–"You're nitpicking.  But who's to say that wouldn't have improved CASABLANCA?  Now, you've highlighted some minor differences, but come on.  There are only a few things in this world we know for sure.  Soylent Green is people, coffee's for closers only, and BARB WIRE is CASABLANCA!

'Play it again, DJ S.A.M.'

The blocking's similar throughout,


the airport scene in the fog's nearly exact, 
 
'Here's looking at you... babe!'

'Don't call me babe.'

right down to the beginning of a 'very beautiful friendship' between
Barb and Claude Rains!


Hell, they have their own Sydney Greenstreet, for godssake!"


"Alright. You've convinced me that it's CASABLANCA. But you haven't convinced me to watch it."
–"Allow me to make one final observation.  Two simple words: Udo Kier.  I can make it three if you like: bald Udo Kier.  Wanna try for five?  Bald, face-tattoo'd Udo Kier."

"I'm listening."
–"It's even better if you consider that he was shooting this concurrently with BREAKING THE WAVES."

"Can I be honest with you?"
–"Sure."
"I'm probably still not going to watch this."
–"Eh.  That's okay."


––Sean Gill

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"The Future's So Bright" Available to Screen Online for One Week Only

"The Future's So Bright" (a new speculative short film directed by myself and Robyn Nielsen) which had its premiere last week as part of Video Mass' X Fest, will be available to watch online (along with the rest of the X Fest slate) for one week only here!


 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Review: ALICE COOPER LIVE IN CONCERT (2016, Port Chester, NY)

It was my pleasure last Thursday to see Alice Cooper live at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.  Longtime readers of this site will know of my intense Alice Cooper fandom, which ranges from his major albums to his lesser-known masterpieces, his brilliant music video/soundtrack tie-ins for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI and CLASS OF 1984, his bizarre cameos in films like SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, WAYNE'S WORLD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 6: FREDDY'S DEAD, ROADIE, and John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and his lead role in the insane Italian werewolf flick MONSTER DOG, directed by TROLL 2's Claudio Fragasso.

The entire evening was quite a theatrical experience, with the sixty-eight year old Cooper still the consummate showman, and in rare form. He began the proceedings with "Black Widow," dressed in a black-and-white striped Edward Gorey/BEETLEJUICE-style suit and with his energy at full blast (I might even say, at "eleven") and he never let up the entire evening. Had I not known the reality of Alice's age, I would have guessed I was watching a thirty or forty year old performer––and he even meta-theatrically referenced this phenomenon in "No More Mr. Nice Guy" when he reached the line "I'd open doors for little old ladies..." and adopted the physical bearing of a geriatric pushing her walker.

The stage props from the classic 1970s shows were re-imagined and used in marvelous abundance––they rolled out the guillotine to decapitate him, dropped oversized Smiley Face balloons on the crowd during "No More Mr. Nice Guy," wrapped him up in the strait-jacket for "The Ballad of Dwight Fry," and wheeled out the electric slab for "Feed My Frankenstein," which met its conclusion with a twelve-foot tall FrankenAlice puppet chasing the musicians around the stage. He brought out a live snake for "Is It My Body," swung around a saber (stacked high with fake dollar-bills) for "Billion Dollar Babies," and directed his band with a riding crop like it was a conductor's baton. It was magnificent.

By and large, he stuck to the aforementioned 70s classics and others like "Under My Wheels," "Only Women Bleed," and "Halo of Flies," but there was some material from his mid-career reinvention such as "Poison" (and "Feed My Frankenstein"), and even some latter-day works like "Woman of Mass Distraction."

His band contained a great deal of talent––Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and "Hurricane" Nita Strauss on guitar, Chuck Garric on bass, and Glen Sobel on drums.  Sobel had the chance to rock an extended, incredibly impressive drum solo on "Halo of Flies," but the true scene-stealer was Strauss (apparently an actual relative of classical master Johann Strauss and member of the Iron Maidens, a all-female Maiden tribute band!) who roamed the stage with manic, hotshot energy, whipping around her blonde hair and wowing us with extensive and virtuosic guitar solos (to cover Alice's costume changes)!

As the concert neared its finale, Alice delivered a heartfelt tribute to some fallen friends with the songs "Pinball Wizard" for Keith Moon, "Fire" for Jimi Hendrix (which he had previously covered on his compilation album CLASSICKS), and "Suffragette City" for David Bowie.  He closed out with the life-affirming one-two punch of "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out," the latter of which was transformed into Alice's interpretation of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."  But that's not all––there was, naturally, an encore: a balls-out delivery of "Elected," with nearly as many red, white, and blue streamers as at a political convention, and the timely new rallying cry of "Make America Sick Again."

I also must give special compliments to the Capitol Theater itself (a historic three-story structure dating back to the Vaudeville era) and the authentic small-town rocker crowd that it brought.  There was indeed some grand people-watching in store, with plenty of Alice aficionados in their 50s and 60s dressing like it was 1986 again. Glorious!

And finally, for those of you who were not lucky enough to see Alice in concert (though he is touring through the rest of the year), I will leave you with a consolation prize: a picture of a balloon-toting Alice hanging out with Jean Stapleton ("Edith Bunker" from ALL IN THE FAMILY) at Studio 54:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reprise screenings of "The Future's So Bright" at X Fest 2016

After last night's sold out premiere at Williamsburg Cinemas, THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT (a new speculative short film directed by myself and Robyn Nielsen) will have two reprise screenings along with the rest of the Video Mass X Fest slate on:

Saturday, May 14 at 9:30 PM at Videology (308 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn)––Tickets are $5 and available here,

and

Sunday, May 15 at 6:30 PM at Syndicated (40 Bogart St. in Brooklyn)––Tickets are $8 and available here.


 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Film Review: MILLIONS (1991, Carlo Vanzina)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Tag-line: "Some people have it all... but they still want more."
Notable Cast or Crew: Billy Zane (THE PHANTOM, TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, TWIN PEAKS), Lauren Hutton (fashion model, AMERICAN GIGOLO, ONCE BITTEN), John Stockwell (MY SCIENCE PROJECT, CHRISTINE, TOP GUN), Carol Alt (fashion model, BEYOND JUSTICE), Jean Sorel (BELLE DU JOUR, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL), Alexandra Paul (CHRISTINE, 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE), and Donald Pleasence (THE GREAT ESCAPE, HALLOWEEN, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK).
Best One-liner:  "You don't grasp the seriousness of the situation, Maurizio!"

The film is called MILLIONS.  It stars Billy Zane, an "Ama-Zane-ing" and much beloved actor on this site (particularly for his performance as "The Phantom" in SLAM EVIL).  It is a film largely about villas, yachts, comas, backstabbing, sports cars, and visible ass-crack; the typical preoccupations of low-rent Italo-Trash. It has perhaps the greatest quantity of "sleazy saxophone solos" ever to be confined to a 105 minute span.  Not to mention it's produced in part by corrupt, former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi. These are just the facts, ma'am.

Yet I'm still not sure what I just experienced.  It feels like a made-for-TV movie, or maybe a few episodes of a soap opera strung together, but seems to have had a theatrical release.  It's written and directed by Italians with an all-Italian crew, but with a mostly British and American cast, many of whom are culled from John Carpenter (!) movies. So I suppose it's a "Spaghetti Soap" if we need to categorize, and an often unbearable one at that.  (Still, it's a helluva lot better than Danny Boyle's MILLIONS.)

Now allow me to take you on the experience, nay, the journey that is the "DVD of MILLIONS."  It begins with the disc art itself, which is obviously magnificent:

Pretty sure Zane doesn't wear that sweater in the movie.  Pretty sure I don't care.

Then we have the menu, which lets us know right off the bat that this movie is 95% sleazy saxophone solos and lesser-than-VHS-quality picture.


Once inside the film proper, the saxophone only intensifies, as does the "lifestyles of the rich and yuppie" imagery:






SEE!  Billy Zane acting in a variety of scenarios where his scene partner is a bottle of champagne!



BEHOLD!  The "Billy Zane Slow Simmer" turn into the "Billy Zane Full-On Smolder" as he cruises his cousin on the dancefloor while listening to knockoff Madonna and ersatz C+C Music Factory!



GAZE UPON!  Lauren Hutton, tricked into believing this is a Real Movie that requires Real Acting!


CONTEMPLATE! The mysteries of the ages––for instance, what's the most obnoxious yuppified item in this tableau: the pretentious modern art, the designer trench, or the oversized mobile phone?

Trick question––it's the unused gym-grade exercise equipment!

BEAR WITNESS! As Billy Zane's eyebrows steal the movie, like they did in TITANIC:


OBSERVE! A possibly kidnapped (or at least under duress) Donald Pleasence as he appears in a random scene.  Does John Carpenter know about this? 


You know, I'd hate to see the THEY LIVE sunglasses used on this movie:

AIEEE!  Figures it'd be something like this!

Whew.  And though the film is over, the journey continues.  On to the cast bios!

This is clearly one of the best DVD bios in the history of the genre.  Birth Date?  Under control.  Birth Place?  Got it.  Where he randomly attended high school for one out of his four years?  Check.  Er... what?  For those of you who can't read the small print, the full Zane biography is as follows:
"Billy Zane attended the American School in Switzerland for his sophomore year of high school.  Was originally cast as Johnny Castle in "DIRTY DANCING" (1987) but lost the role due to his lack of dancing skills."
There's no page two... that's it!  A high school attendance factoid that no one would care to know (unless you were unsuccessfully trying to guess Billy Zane's email password and were on the "security questions" page), and an anecdote about one time Billy Zane was not hired for something because he wasn't talented enough.  Thanks, DVD!

Finally, we come to the coup de grâce: the "Photo Gallery."

Set to music I would describe as "similar to the ALF or perhaps the FAMILY TIES closing credits," we are treated to a series of wholly unspectacular freeze frames in a slideshow format, projected upon the pixelated image of a hundred dollar bill.  It's the entire movie, without dialogue, condensed to a minute and a half of rockin' sax/house music, and bookended by images of Billy Zane in Full-On Smolder mode.  Needless to say, I approve.

You know what, I'm feeling generous: two stars.

–Sean Gill