3 out of 5 stars
3 stars earned the hard way for this odd little film. With a plot that borrows heavily from REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA (only without all of that annoying caterwauling), MEN begins with a light - almost comical - approach that turns abruptly more serious. The acting is credible (surprisingly it is Whitaker who gives the most uneven performance). The direction is competent enough. The story though… well, that’s another matter. Confused and clichéd, the meandering script - while not without potential - collapses into action thriller mud by the time the credits roll. And then, there’s those pesky WILD internal logic contradictions. Anyway, Sci-Fi fans will undoubtedly enjoy the window-dressing, but non-fans will be frustrated and annoyed. There are some pretty impressive surgery makeup gags, I will say that. In the end though, the good outweighs the bad, but only BARELY.
Joe Rogan: Talking Monkeys In Space
4.0 out of 5 stars
Another rewatch! Joe Rogan proves why he’s one of the most innovative stand-up comedians working today with this spot-on set. Not only is it funny, but there is a Q&A section included that just might change the way you think about him. It’s funny, insightful, and shows the extent of his natural ability to entertain people. Included with the disc is a Zuffa produced Behind The Scenes as well as an excellent mini-doc by Redban that gives the audience an inside view of the way Rogan works. Redban is a member of Rogan’s Deathsquad which was, at the time, Joe’s personal posse & has acted as the comedian’s documentarian for years (he’s the guy who captured the infamous Carlos Mencia confrontation). Rogan & UFC fans will LOVE this. Others - people who may not have seen Rogan's comedy - will be surprised by the quality of his stand-up.
Taking Father Home
1.5 out of 5 stars
Micro-budgeted and shot on DV, this story of a young man who goes off to find his lost father is told at a snail’s pace and suffers for it. The acting is stilted (and wholly amateurish utilizing complete strangers & passersby) and the narrative simple. Really the only thing that makes this film at all interesting are the glimpses it offers into the everyday life of people in China. In the end though, getting through this movie is like running in deep mud - slow going and ultimately not worth it.
3 out of 5 stars
A perfectly serviceable British crime thriller starring Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone. Nothing extraordinary, but still fun. The acting is above the norm and the direction is competent enough, but the script tends to spend too much time on things that the viewer gets right away… thereby hamstringing the pace. Not bad, not exceptional, but still worth of a rental.
Back from Hell: A Tribute to Sam Kinison
3 out of 5 stars
A Comedy Central retrospective on the life and career of Sam Kinison. While it was good to see some of Sam’s old bits and see some of his peers talk about knowing him, this documentary sadly offers nothing new and fails to show anything other than the façade Sam put out there. Some of the interviewees are head-scratchers (as in “Why the hell are THEY in this?”) , but through all of the self-aggrandizing, Sam’s comedy shines through. This is especially worthwhile for Sam fans, but for people who wonder wha the fuss was all about… this isn’t a bad place to start.
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
3 out of 5 stars
Another rewatch! There’s no denying the fact that director/writer Terry Gilliam is an imaginative guy. Visually, his films are feasts for the eyes and the brain. Sometimes though… his storytelling can be long-winded and a little self-indulgent. DR PARNASSUS lies somewhere in between those two things. Visually stunning and highly creative, but there is easily 30 minutes of the story that could have EASILY been cut. In the end though, the journey is worthwhile and serves to shed light on both the audience’s sense of self, but also on Gilliam. Acting is top flight. Direction competent and assured. Sets, costumes, and production design… well, come on, it’s a goddam Terry Gilliam film! Gilliam is effortlessly what Tim Burton wishes he could be. The film is TOTALLY worth the rental. I’m just waiting for the project that perfectly marries Gilliam’s visual style with a more solid story.
Renegade aka Blueberry
3.5 out of 5 stars
We talked about this one the show. In what could very well be the world’s first “psychedelic Western,” director Jan Kounen (COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY) creates a mind-bending ride of retribution, self discovery, and Ayahuasca. Vincent Cassel (BLACK SWAN), Juliette Lewis (CAPE FEAR), Michael Madsen (KILL BILL), Eddie Izzard (MYSTERY MEN), and Ernest Borgnine star in a film that shatters expectations and tantalizes the eye with amazing visuals. The first third of the film unwinds slowly, but things soon pick up and hurtle to the light-show of an ending. Some viewers may be confused as things get a little… ethereal… now and then, but if you stick with it, you’re bound to enjoy it. “Attitude adjustment” will definitely enhance the viewing experience. Admittedly not for everyone, but I enjoyed this one.
The Warrior (aka Jake Sembung)
2.5 out of 5 stars
More Indonesian silliness. This time, we get a film that rips off everything from BILLY JACK to ENTER THE DRAGON to RIKKI-OH and even the story of Jesus and stars Barry Prima (THE DEVIL’S SWORD, FEROCIOUS FEMALE FREEDOM FIGHTERS and directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra (SATAN’S SLAVES, PRIMITIVES). In the film, The Dutch are subjugating the people of Indonesia. “Jake Sembung” (Prima) is a local legend and ass-kickin’ “pacifist” Robin Hood-type who fights for the downtrodden people of… blah blah blah. The end result is a mildly entertaining mix of Action/Fantasy/Horror in which suspension wires are clearly visible, in-camera tricks are ridiculously apparent, and the ending, well… has to be seen to be believed. The film as a whole is not particularly well-done, but it is kind of entertaining in a “wacky” kind of way.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
3 out of 5 stars
Another rewatch! Allow me to say this right off the bat: I love the work of Timur Bekmambetov. With the exception of his 2001 film, THE ARENA, I’ve dug all of his flicks (NIGHTWATCH, DAYWATCH, WANTED). His films have an almost palpable kinetic energy. No one does action like Bekmambetov. Sadly, sometimes, his scripts are, well… wonky. They lean toward the ridiculous – plot-wise – and the acting is never all that it should be. With AL:VH, Bekmambetov does his best with what is admittedly a rickety script, but really the only reason to see the film is the aforementioned action sequences which are great. Sadly, there are far too few of them given the film’s name is ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. With a title like that, you expect wall-to-wall action. Instead, we get a ridiculously contrived – and quite yappy – plot that both is a slave to history and also takes quite a few liberties with it. Don’t get me wrong… AL:VH is a fun flick, but just know going in, it’s kinda silly and stumbles a bit. As the end-title sequence ran, I gotta tell ya… one question keeps coming back to me: Why the fuck hasn’t somebody given Timur Bekmambetov a goddam super hero flick?
The Way We Get By
4 out of 5 stars
Ok, I’ll admit it… several time during this documentary’s run-time I got seriously choked up. The film succeeds on two levels. Firstly, it documents a group of senior citizens who quietly do a job - greeting soldiers as they either leave for or return from war - that most of us (regardless of our political leanings) should do. They are truly exemplary human beings for that alone. Secondly, the film (almost by default) examines the way life changes as we get older. How the things that once mattered to us some evolve and how we can look forward into the dimness of the ends of our lives with a quiet nobility. A truly inspiring film on a number of levels. I went into this thinking it was going to be a lot of flag-waving propaganda and to be fair there is some of that. However, within minutes of it starting, the viewer senses that there is a deeper, more poignant message at play here. This is a truly remarkable film and, while it may not be for everybody, it certainly made for a fascinating viewing experience.
5 out of 5 stars
What a great idea… 4 of the best comedians in the world (Louis CK, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Rickey Gervais) sit in a room and deconstruct what it is that makes us laugh. This is the kind of show I love. As I’ve said for years, “Interesting people talking about interesting things… is interesting.” And while that might seem redundant, if you think about it, you’ll also find it to be very true. Like shows like MEETING OF THE MINDS, DINNER FOR FIVE or THE GREEN ROOM, TALKING FUNNY is people at the top of their game talking about a subject that they are both knowledgeable and passionate about. I hear this is going to be a series… I hope so. I dug this one a LOT!
2 out of 5 stars
Painfully slow with very little payoff, this Korean spookfest tries WAY too hard to be creepy (ala SIXTH SENSE), but fails miserably. Sure, there are a few creepy scenes, but they come too few and way too far apart. When the Big Reveal finally arrives, the viewer is left with a perplexed "That's it?!?!?" feeling. There are literally DOZENS of other Korean horror movies that are worth renting rather than this one.
Naked Rashomon aka Showa Onnamichi: Rashomon aka Graine de Prostituée
2.5 out of 5 stars
Contrary to what the title may lead you to believe, this is by no means a “pinku” rendition of the classic Japanese tale of perspective. NAKED RASHOMON is basically a Nikkatsu style Greek Tragedy set in Pre-WWII Japan. Unfortunately, it bites off more than it can chew and, as it tries to download a LOT of information, the narrative oftentimes seems rushed, meandering, and incomprehensible. Director Chusei Sone (HELLISH LOVE, LUSTY WIDOW) manages to create some interesting shots (there’s a straight-razor fight between prostitutes, a whipping, a mutual suicide, some interesting camera placement) and his camerawork on the sex scenes are exceedingly voyeuristic. Due to Japanese restrictions on certain kinds of nudity, the director is forced to utilize full-blown “fuzzy dots” and black stripes as well as weird pieces of set design (bits of lace in the drapes, an errantly placed flower, etc – sometimes glaringly so) to obscure our line of site to obscure things, but somehow, it makes the scenes play all that much more intimate. It is as if we are there, stealing glances as the characters engage in sex. It both draws us in and distances us at the same time. And that, in a nutshell, is why the Nikkatsu “Roman Porno” (aka “pinku”) films work. Still, with all the intrigue and jumping from place to place, innumerable characters, and differing timeframes, the film all too soon loses its audience attention and we cease to care. Still, as “pinku” films go, this one’s not terrible, it’s just that it’s over-ambitious. Rentable… just not exceptional.if you're looking for a sexy adaptation of the classic story and film Rashomon, this ain't it. Naked Rashomon is basically Nikkatsu style Greek Tragedy, set in pre-WWII Japan. The narrative and images often drift into a dream state and the line between what's really happening and what's not can be hazy. if you're looking for a sexy adaptation of the classic story and film Rashomon, this ain't it. Naked Rashomon is basically Nikkatsu style Greek Tragedy, set in pre-WWII Japan. The narrative and images often drift into a dream state and the line between what's really happening and what's not can be hazy. if you're looking for a sexy adaptation of the classic story and film Rashomon, this ain't it. Naked Rashomon is basically Nikkatsu style Greek Tragedy, set in pre-WWII Japan. Naked Rashomon is basically Nikkatsu style Greek Tragedy, set in pre-WWII Japan. Naked Rashomon is basically Nikkatsu style Greek Tragedy, set in pre-WWII Japan.
2 out of 5 stars
The great Michael Gough (HORROR OF DRACULA, Tim Burton’s BATMAN, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM) acts in this Antony Balch (BIZARRE) directed horror comedy from 1973. Fans of the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW will recognize a LOT of the plot devices in this film. From a sexually active couple in old castle/mansion, leather clad bikers, gore, an evil doctor, brain manipulated minions… even the couple's arrival at the hospital is almost a carbon copy of Brad and Janet's greeting by Riff Raff (who is in this case a freaky dwarf). It’s all very groovy and swingin’ and Michael Gough chews scenery like it was All-You-Can-Eat Rib-Night-At-The-Sizzler! Lead actor Robin Askwith (CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER, CONFESSIONS OF A POP PERFORMER, CONFESSIONS OF A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR) looks and acts like Ron Weaseley’s long-lost mod cousin and manages to basically “oi!” and mug his way through the entire film. All in all, the film is a bit of good-natured fun that makes for a nice little diversion, but it’s hardly an awesome horror movie. The film has its moments, but… it all pretty much boils down to campiness for campiness’ sake. It stumbles where something like Douglas Hickox’s Vincent Price sendup THEATER OF BLOOD (made the same year) doesn’t. A decent little frolic (and a title all horror fans should eventually check off their lists), but… not anything more.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue
3.5 out of 5 stars
Sam Peckinpah was best known as the director of hyper-violent films like THE WILD BUNCH, STRAW DOGS, and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Sadly, some of his “quieter” films (like this one) rarely get mentions except by Peckinpah fanatics. BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE is a - dare I say - light film filled with humor with a very moral core. Robards is terrific here and the supporting cast (David Warner, Strother Martin, Slim Pickens, LQ Jones, and a VERY young Stella Stevens) does journeyman work. If you’re a fan of Peckinpah’s more action-oriented fare, you may want to check this fun little film out. If you’re new to Peckinpah, then see it as a preparation for the more bloody stuff to come. Very fun flick!
1 out of 5 stars
This is the film that caused a lot of controversy at Sundance when, at its premiere, an audience member stood up and started berating the director, Lucky McKee, for being a misogynist. So, first the good news… while there are a few scenes which depict violence directed toward the feral mountain woman, there is nothing here that isn’t in hundreds of other horror movies. You’ve seen “worse” in PG-13 horror flicks. Now that bad news, THE WOMAN is awful. Easily one of the most ludicrous films I’ve seen in recent memory. Author Jack Ketchum’s book was written well (and is quite the page-turner), but it was by no means a shining example of subtlety. The story, as told by Lucky McKee, takes what Ketchum wrote and turn it into a mind-numbing mess of contradictory motivations and leaps in narrative that make absolutely no sense. Most of the acting in the film is of the community theater variety. Angela Bettis does her best “stand around looking wide-eyed and confused” thing and isn‘t half bad, but her contribution is just too little too late for this mess of a film. Don’t believe the hype… THE WOMAN is not controversial nor is it particularly frightening. It is however yet another example of the “more sizzle than steak” school of modern filmmaking.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom
2 out of 5 stars
I decided to revisit this classic film by Pier Paolo Pasolini after seeing CANNIBAL. It had been years, maybe even decades, since I originally saw it. And the truth is, the film simply doesn’t hold up. While its content was undoubtedly quite shocking for 1975 when it was made, now, at a time when Internet porn, bestiality, and beheading videos are commonplace, the whole thing seems rather simple and juvenile. SALO’s main problem (as seen through modern eyes) is that it flinches. When certain acts are portrayed, the camera either turns its never blinking eye away or has its line of site obscured by a well placed table or chair. Now, I am by no means saying that I WANT to see people pissing or shitting on one another, but, if you - as a director - decided to put it in your film, to NOT show it is just weak-spined and pussy. So, in the end, does SALO deserve its controversial reputation? Well, no… while it does imply great deviancy, it lacks the will to actually show it. Again, I’m sure this was all incredibly shocking for its time, but… that was over thirty years ago. A LOT’S happened since then and audience’s tolerances have - for better or worse - matured (for want of a better term. SALO is worth seeing now purely as an anthropological artifact of its time. If you’re looking to be shocked (or disgusted), there are PLENTY of more effective ways to spend your time for free on the Internet.
John Dies at the End
2.75 out of 5 stars
PHANTASM director, Don Coscarelli, directs this horror-comedy to a varied result. First the good news… the monsters and special FX (most of which looked to be practical) were eye-catching without being too “proppy.” The bad news? Well, thankfully there isn’t a lot of bad news here. The performances are all solid, the direction competent (I’d expect no less). It’s just that – once again - I found the script to be a little on the unfocused side. It’s as if the filmmaker were trying to wedge far too much material into far too little run-time. And while the film does a valiant effort at doing something novel, it pulls from such a well-knowntool chest that it all seems too familiar. Put this on the shelf next to films like TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL and JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER. Don’t get me wrong here… The film is fun. It’s just not particularly nourishing.
Ed Gein - The Ghoul of Plainfield
2.75 out of 5 stars
A fairly rudimentary doc on Gein and his crimes. There are some interesting photos (ones I’d not seen), but the film is otherwise pretty pedestrian. If you know nothing about Gein… this is great. If you know even a little, this’ll have a lot of things you already knew. Well-made & well-researched, ED GEIN: THE GHOUL OF PLAINFIELD is worth seeing… with measured expectations.
2 out of 5 stars
While TXT is a predictable, overly-dramatic exercise in cinematic terror, it is an interesting experiment in that it lifts the veil on another culture and what it finds frightening (in the case, The Philippines). The direction and look of the film are a little better than you’d expect. The acting is overly stylized and comes off a little too melodramatic. The story is WAY too convoluted for its own good and the pace is far too slow for the film to be effective, but again… the devil is in the details and there are some effective moments here. Obviously, the scriptwriter watched a little too much J-Horror before sitting down at his word processor since the film rips off half a dozen Japanese horror film of recent years (most notably THE RING & ONE MISSED CALL). The makeup FX are little more than sclera lenses and white pancake makeup. In the end, TXT fails to be an effective horror film, but that’s not to say it’s not a worthwhile watch. Just go in expecting little and you won’t be that disappointed. For a really good Filipino horror film, rent THE MAID.