28 December 2008

Cat Stevens -- Majikat


We think it's pretty cool that Cat Stevens could fly around on a private jet and have backup singers and magicians and still make a big ass US tour stop like this feel like a sit-down club gig. Majikat is about half early Cat's acoustic troubadourin' and half mid Cat's synthesizer garbage. We dug the lack of corny hippie cut-scenes, and those awesome clips of him yelling at his backing band, and fiddling with the flowers clipped to his microphone stand. What a guy!

27 December 2008

James Ellroy's Feast of Death


Man, Ellroy's fucking great, ain't he? It's rare we come across an author who can affect us so profoundly, but when we read My Dark Places we knew we were onto something goooood. The guy's a goddamn beast, pure and simple. His tone is flawlessly brilliant, brutal, and oozing with a cynicism that's as pragmatic as it is malicious. Every novel comes with a plot only a hair shy of the unnecessarily complex, but one that's wound tighter than a drum.

Feast of Death is courtesy of our friends at the BBC. It's a nice piece that amounts to little more than Ellroy riffin' about his aforementioned memoir* and his 1987 hard-boiled crime novel The Black Dahlia** for a too-short ninety minutes. Our favorite author spends the screen time chewin' the scenery and leanin' in all close and serious-like while he's talkin' his no nonsense Mike Hammer speak with some paunchy off the job detectives as they dine in a swanky Hell Lay restaurant. He retells his own gnarly history and accentuates his haunted and obsessed connections between one Jean ("Mom") Ellroy and one Elizabeth ("hot mama") Short. Then, right as you think the whole thing's done and over, he tops the whole thing off with Larry Harnisch, a reporter so equally consumed by the Dahlia case he claims he uncovered the killer's identity! Whoa!

In short: captivatin' stuff. We couldn't have been happier.

Now go read a book, dammit. Might we suggest:

* My Dark Places, of course -- the tale of Ma Ellroy's murder, Son Ellroy's descent from broken-home child to panty-sniffing bottomed-out drunk, and how a publishing advance paid for a brooding author and a retired LAPD dick to reinvestigate a forgotten woman's unsolved case some forty years later

**about, well, the Black Dahlia...that and a veiled examination of one man's obsession with mysterious mutilated women [see above]

28 November 2008

Poultrygeist -- Night of the Chicken Dead

If there's one thing people can't stand it's shit. Poop. Feces. Hershey Squirts. Why, just the sound of a damp fart will send most of ya runnin' out the room screaming. If you wanna dish our some squirms, and we're talking some serious squirms, then you best leave that eyeball stabbin' and fingernail pullin' on the cuttin' room floor and plop yourself into the nearest toilet stall pronto.

Guess that's our way of saying, "Poultrygeist? What a fantastic film!"

20 November 2008

The Strangers


Funny Games for the learner's permit set.

07 November 2008

Lost Highway

One of our favorite movie experiences (and probably one of our favorite anything experiences) was heading out to see Mulholland Drive back in 2002. See, we'd checked us out some David Lynch during our high school days and each time found ourselves horribly disappointed. Our Clearasil-addled minds were dead set on thinkin' that if something was s'posed ta be "nightmarish" then that'd mean it'd be all gory and Cronenberg-y. You can imagine our surprise when we discovered "nightmarish" really meant "weird and slow." Guess it's no wonder we didn't like Blue Velvet. But we grew up in the next two years and once we were filling up on some good ol' university style tweed sportcoat mumbo-jumbo we thought to ourselves, "Yessir, we think we're finally ready to give that other Big Dave another try. Which way's the theatre, dude with the Peta shirt and At the Drive-In 12"?"

Armed with lotsa Foucault learnings and auteur philosophies, we sat in that cineplex and hung on every image and every word the Drive threw at us. We scratched our chins and let out a "hmmmmm" or two, and when we walked out of there we felt pretty good 'bout having seen a real-deal smart guy flick. And that feeling only got better as we headed down the block to share our pontifications 'bout Mulholland's deep meanings, character inversions, dream imagery, and sweet sweet boobies over a couple of frosty brews.

And now here we are. It's a few of years later, we've abandoned our hairy armpit constructivist affinities, and we've finally sat ourselves down for some Lost Highway. The experience was similar, yes, but this time around there emerged a difference so great that we're not sure we will ever recover. No, it wasn't that we stopped paying attention. It wasn't that we hit the sack without our gray matter a-analyzing. It wasn't that we decided against working on a Highway magnum opus. Our Achilles heel turned out to be something so simple we'd failed to consider it in the first place. It was...

The Internet.

Yup. It was a simple Google search for "Lost Highway." Before we knew it we were ankle-deep in a host of ancient frames-enabled webpages, each one more chock full o' Lynchian theorizing than the last. We never thought it'd be a big deal. Normally we love the imdb trivia and the Ebert review. We want nothing more than checking out the superhighway's infinite peanut gallery. But this time, as we sat in our chairs scrolling through David Lynch tribute pages, we felt like we were committin' adultery against our brains. Here we were, armchair Sarrises who'd put some real time and energy into putting together an amateur tract 'bout meanin' and interpretation and then what do we do? We go and ruin the whole thing with a few simple mouse clicks. We threw away the fruit of our cranial churnin' and bubblin' all 'cause we wanted to read some pretentious nerd's sub-thesis. Sure, maybe it was more thought-out than what we were comin' up with, but goshdammit it wasn't ours, and we walked away feeling a little bit sad and a whole lot dirty.

So sometime in the not so near future when we actually decide to sit down for Inland Empire we're making the commitment right now to get us a trial version of NetNanny and put "David Lynch" into the banned searches list. It may interfere with our Transcendental Meditation research, but you can bet the Empire post will be pure Cinema.

06 November 2008

The Funhouse

We don't have anything new to add to the canon of The Funhouse discussions (that canon being one where it is reiterated that, yes, Virginia, lightning sure don't strike twice), but we would like to point out that we were darn shocked to see Rick Baker's name in the end credits.

C'mon, dude wins an Oscar for American Werewolf and the Funhouse mutant stumbles around wearin' the kind of clawed Halloween gloves you find at Rite-Aid? Sheesh.

02 November 2008

Porn Star -- The Legend of Ron Jeremy


Aargh, what an awful movie. It's not like we expected this would be a Dworkin-esque lambasting of either Jeremy or the adult industry, but the entire runtime is nuthin' but a PSA for how darn charming and fantastic Ron is. Sure, we'll admit that as dudes ourselves it's pretty neato that another hairy fat dude is still earnin' a living boning the young ladies, but shouldn't a documentary tell you more than that? Shouldn't it reveal something...well, human about its subject? That Ron Jeremy is, we dunno, a sleazebag? That someone other than super scummy Al Goldstein should say something bad about him? Didn't you see that Annabel Chong movie? The one where they show the clip of Ron doin' a double anal and emceeing the World's Biggest Gangbang? Kinda gross, right? Not so charming anymore, is he? Porn Star avoids mentioning anything even remotely dark or brooding about the Hedgehog and instead perpetuates the false notion that pornography is innocent mustached Boogie Nights wakka-chikka self-expression.

20 October 2008

Gram Parsons -- Fallen Angel


Going into Fallen Angel we knew Dinosaur did a Burrito Bros tune. Coming out of Fallen Angel we knew we should check out some Merle Haggard.

18 October 2008

Yusuf's Cafe Session


We figured since we could finally give Dylan a chance maybe we should give this Cat Stevens cat another go-round. We have an inherited copy of Stevens' Classics disc in our library, an album that we spun once or twice in our younger days and disavowed forthwith. So full of hippy dippy cliche, we thought. Such a cornball collection of find-yourself, Give Peace a Chance nonsense. But with No Direction Home running through our minds we decided to pop ol' Cat Steves into the hi-fi, sit our broke asses on the sofa, and prepare ourselves for the shock of havin' our minds...changed?

We didn't know what to expect when we pushed play. Would we pull a 180? Would he still sound like a '70s era softie? Well, as it turns out the Cat is, yep, a dyed in the wool dippy hippy. He toured with magicians! Clowns! He has a whole bunch of songs about hittin' the old dusty trail and strikin' out to find yourself. But behind all that bearded open shirtiness is a lot of stuff that sure gets our gears a-turning, by which we mean fingerstyle guitar pickin' and upper register falsetto-in'. Hmmm...maybe Cat Stevens wasn't so bad, we thought. Half these tunes -- the ones without the awful AM radio soft rock overdubbing -- were awfully sweet and poignant. Cliched folk singer themes to spare, but performed with lots o' honest heart and soul, and lots o' honorable love and tenderness.

So, Cat Stevens... No, wait! We meant to say: So, Yusuf Islam, we've done changed our opinion of ya. We think you're pretty neat. Maybe you grew a funny beard, maybe you wrote a (yeeesh) children's book, and maybe you wore some of them godforsaken beaded necklaces, but we think you've got integrity in spades and a damn fine singin' voice to boot. The Highland Cinema seal of okayness? It's all yours. As-Salamu Alakum, brother!

14 October 2008

Derailroaded


Wild Man Fischer: developmentally disabled vagrant or exemplar of unadulterated self expression? To our eyes he looks like a guy hollering at passersby for nickels, but to Mark Mothersbaugh he's a Platonic form. We've tried to put ourselves on both sides of the Outsider Music fence and as far as we can tell the dialogue is equal parts record geek snobbery, half-baked and horn-rimmed undergraduate theorizing, and the privileged elite's sublimated mocking of retards.

One thing we do know is that someone really should do a documentary on this Dr. Demento fella. We thought he was just a trivial novelty like Weird Al, but it turns out he's a music historian like Tiny Tim!

13 October 2008

The Beast Within

When The Beast Within showed up on our front step we were like, "Goddammit!" Not like we haven't wanted to see this thing since, like, '95, but it'd been on the back burner for so long we plain weren't thrilled to have it in our hands at all. Just weren't in the mood, ya know? And most of the time if ya ain't feelin' it, it ain't worth it, right? But tonight we'd committed to watching something by Jove, and thankfully once we loaded the projector and fired the sucker up this flick turned out to be not so half-bad.

The Beast Within is a standard issue monster movie, the kind of old-timey picture that's an hour and fifteen of talking and a final ten to fifteen of darn cool special effects. That much we liked. That and the parade of under the radar character actors and early '80s film stock. But the thing troublin' us was why was such a piss poor etiology of why that teen turned into an insect monster in the first place. 'Cause he was possessed by ghost of a murdered townsman? Come on! If ya gotta get one thing right that's gotta be it, don'tcha think? We're fine with explaining one crazy thing (murderous half-man/half-insect chimera) with another (vengeful demon spirit), but we think these filmmaker guys owed it to us to hammer it home better than that.

Eh, oh well, guess that's what you get for doin' it when ya ain't in the mood.

09 October 2008

Masters of Horror -- Imprint


The Masters of Horror episode so unsettling Showtime refused to air it! Takashi Miike strikes again with both a needles under the fingernails torture scene and a few good ol' flashbacks of countryside abortions. Strange and dense, Imprint is exactly what we expected: second-tier pay cable production values coupled with impenetrable hallucinogenic story arcs that could only come from the Ray-Banned mind of Miike hisself. What the hell was that end about anyway? You see that head and hand grow out of that prostitute's right temple?!?

05 October 2008

No Direction Home


Looks like we're finally comin' to terms with the fact that even though it all reminds us of a super lame dumbed-down basic cable documentary, some of this stuff from the sixties was pretty fucking good.

21 September 2008

Talk Radio


So there was this one Saturday Night Live sketch that pitted Eric Bogosian against Spalding Gray. It was an epic battle of wits, and a rather clever one at that. There in the ring sat two thespians trading barbs, spinning yarns, and vying for the illustrious title belt. Who will be the Master...of...the Monologue?!?

At least we think it was pretty clever. We can't remember much more than the premise. And by "not much more" we really mean the only thing we do remember is how stoked we were to be high school freshmen getting such an erudite bit. Thinking back on it right now, we're still pretty impressed with ourselves. Guess some things never change....

Now if only NBC would archive all o' them SNL skits on the YouTube. That way we'd know for sure if this thing was anything at all like what we've made it out to be. If nothing else, at least we could spend every night refreshing Eddie Murphy's "Hymietown" sketch just like the good Lord intended.

18 September 2008

The Dead Zone

We've yet to see M Butterfly, but this one here just has to be Cronenberg's worst. Now you all know that if there's one thing we love it's fawning over Big Davey Crones, so of course you've gotta understand that our hands are really tied here. We can't do anything but jam our fingers in our ears and look the other way with this flick. See, we're throwing all rationality out the window and refusing to believe that The Dead Zone's faults 'n failures belong to Canada's gloppiest Cartesian auteur. Now who's to blame you ask? Why, Stephen King of course. Sure, his book might be good. He may have an interesting premise about soothseeing and political intrigue, but, c'mon Stevie, you know we don't want to see anything on the big screen that's even inspired by you unless it's got some flying Coke cans in the treatment!

The Cinema suggests that if you're wanting something Croney or Kingy you direct your attention over to The Brood or Pet Sematary. Maybe even try Firestarter or that Anthony Michael Hall show on for size. But whatever ya do, just remember that no matter how intrigued ya are by Chris Walken's signature mugshots or how badly you wanna see Tom Skerritt in a policeman's uniform for the hundreth time, The Dead Zone is hardly acceptable even when ya've stumbled home from an all-night bender.

07 September 2008

Heartworn Highways


For a bunch of drunks they sure play some good tunes.

02 September 2008

M*A*S*H


A Dad Movie if we ever saw one. We can just hear Pops and his buddies quotin' Sutherland's lines and talking about that really stupid football game that sucks all the energy outta the end of this flick. There's the old man laughing 'bout Elliott Gould hitting the links and that part where the whole army doc camp listens in on Bobby Duvall's late-night romp in the sack. Ha! How great. Can't ya just hear your old man too?

The weird thing is, and the thing we couldn't stop thinking about while watching this, was how when we say this is a "Dad Movie" we're picturing Dad as we knew him: a middle-aged dude with a mustache and kids. We're thinking of Little League Dad and waiting for the PGA tournament to end so he can clip the hedges Dad. But when M*A*S*H hit the big screen, Dad was just a young man who still couldn't buy his own twelver of Olympia. So when we imagine him and his other mortgage-havin' pals recountin' these scenes at the Fourth of July barbecue it's really like the Cinema jawin' on and on about Fight Club or the time we saw that Enemy of the State/Faculty double feature. Isn't that weird? Dad was a dumb kid just like us, and here we are watching all these Dad Movies thinking it was Adult Dad who liked all this stuff instead of Wild and Crazy Dad out on a double date. In fact, maybe Young Dad didn't even like these here '70s movies anyway. Maybe he just liked the '70s.

24 August 2008

The Savages

Aren't you excited to take care of your parents? Before you know it they're gonna lose all control of their faculties and functions and you'll have to make all these great decisions about who's gonna take care of 'em and how you're gonna pay for it. Sure, it's a tough thing to think about at this stage of the game, so why not channel that energy into fostering good relationships with your own children? Don't wait, act now!

21 August 2008

Visitor Q


What was the fucking point? We don't claim to understand any of Miike's films, but at least Gozu felt like it meant something. It's possible Visitor Q really is a disturbingly absurdist representation of Freudian familiar dynamics, but we think it's more likely a litany of sexual perversions. Necrophilia, rape, incest...yep, all here, right alongside lactation, poop, and mom abuse. The thing that troubles us most of all is our compulsion to watch Zebraman, Ichi the Killer, and all three Dead or Alives!

20 August 2008

1408

We liked the false ending, but the real ending totally let us down. At least it wasn't a giant spider or a space alien or something.

18 August 2008

My Kid Could Paint That


Everything you've ever thought about "art" is in this movie. Not bad!

10 August 2008

McCabe & Mrs Miller

You know, we'd probably be pretty down with Leonard Cohen.

28 July 2008

Tsotsi

Remember that scene in Get on the Bus where the Muslim guy confesses how he smoked them fools back when he was gangbangin' and then cop sitting next to him says, "Yeah, that's nice you turned your life around and straightened up, but once we get back to L.A. I'm booking you into county"? Remember that? How you felt like the cop was being a dick, but also how there's no fucking statute of limitations on murder and how you wouldn't want a killer to skate no matter how much he'd reformed? The final scene in Tsotsi is kinda like that. The kid's a cold-blooded murdering thief, but, yeeaaaah, he did shape up a little bit when he had to take care of that baby. You know, the baby who's mother got shot just so Tsotsi could steal her car!

23 July 2008

Whole


What is this, Psych 101? We thought a movie about amputee fetishism would be icky and mean, but "Body Dysmorphic Disorder"??? Booooo-riiiing.

21 July 2008

Cruising

Billy Friedkin -- jack of all trades, master of one. Is this guy really any good? We've sat through a whole bunch of his not-so-classics and we're convinced the stories behind the stories are better than the stories themselves. Hmmm. Well, regardless of all o' that the Fried at least knows how ta bring the big time adrenaline scene. To Live and Die in LA had that wrong way highway chase, The Hunted had that beyond bloody knife fight and Cruising has Bruno Kirby lookalikes fisting each other. Ha! Billy's best gimmick yet!

20 July 2008

Paper Moon


Part Kramer Vs Kramer and part Catch Me If You Can -- inoffensive, fun, and a good story played well, but if it wasn't a part of an Easy Riders, Raging Bulls milieu we'd probably just think it cutesy cornball schmaltz. The father-daughter team of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal have understandably great chemistry together, the hundred and twenty minute runtime is perfectly shot thirties Americana, but, really, it's a movie about a little girl and a heartless grifter who learn a little bit about life but a lot about how to love one other. Come on.

17 July 2008

Honeydripper


You know, seeing a real movie is fucking great. Say it with us now, "a real movie" -- one that's not about focus groups and bullshit soundtracks and explosions and blockbuster actors. One that's not making anyone money or launching a career or about to fall prey to a studio's desperate Oscar campaign. One where every character has depth and pain and sadness and hope and a goddamn history so heart-wrenchingly real and true you catch yourself smiling as the tissue soaks up your tears. One where each and every second builds on each and every other one that came before it. One that could've only come from the master, John Sayles.

City of Men

Standard issue no-daddies/gang warfare flick a la Baby Boy or any number of the post Boyz in the Hood outpouring, only City of Men mixes it up by sharing the Sex in the City movie's modus operandi.

Now we know what Deutsch meant when he went off on how "foreign" doesn't mean a better "film."

13 July 2008

Five Easy Pieces


Made us think about our dads. Then about ourselves. Hey, was that Toni Basil?

We Jam Econo -- The Story of the Minutemen

We watched this again just to see if it'd convince us to buy Double Nickels on the Dime. We still don't have it, we've still only heard "History Lesson Part II," and we think it's gonna stay that way.

Not that we think the Minutemen weren't the the real deal. It's not that they're lame-ass or pretentious. Not that Watt isn't doing exactly what YOU wanna be doing right this very moment. In fact it's far from it. We just think we finally figured out that the music wouldn't mean anything to us. Yeah, we'd appreciate it. We'd dig a song or two on the iShuffle, but if we were without it...well, we'd be just as well off.

Remember when we watched that Tad movie awhile back? The whole time we could see ourselves at a club just rocking the fuck out to that shit. The music had all of those qualities that make us want to spend our Friday night talking about rawk music instead of doing anything else. But as we sat there watching fat guys in flannel, we knew something just wasn't there, and that we'd never ever have a drunken spiel-session about 8 Way Santa. We'd never like Tad as much as we would have in 1990. And y'know, we'll never get into the Jesus Lizard or the Birthday Party or the Cows or any other one of these bands that were brimming with dangerous, challenging, and goddamn exciting rock music because everything they did is two decades old.

The Minutemen are right alongside 'em.

We're not going to stop romanticizing these guys. We're not gonna stop reading Watt's hootpage. We're not gonna quit copping a bastardized Pedro 'tude. But we know that when the day finally comes that we cash in our record store punch card for SST028, it'll be an acquisition we'll listen to once and only so we can get some more cred on the Electrical Audio forum.

Butthole Surfers -- Blind Eye Sees All

Live Buttholes from '85. We like their early '90s "rock" output more than their rambling shambling peeing in a whiffle ball bat Touch and Go catalogue, but we wanted a taste of that acid-drenched '80s live show and this is the only thing available. Cool to have something, but this one's kind of a letdown since it's all tribal bash-bash drumming and guitar noise and none of the strobe lights and penis surgery footage that put these guys on the map. The seizure inducing stuff and smoke machines are what did it, right? No one really liked the vibrato arpeggios did they?


Hmm. Well, it's still pretty neat to see a group of complete lunatics make such a racket for such a sizable crowd. Coolest part for us was how Paul Leary comes off like the band's big swinging dick; up on stage with short hair and slacks he takes on a whole slew of lead vocals where he just screams his fucking head off, all the while playing nothing but great, frantic, feedback-laden guitar solos. Sure, he hasn't fully realized his sustained, delay pedaled genius this early in his career, but it's pretty easy to see that he (and, heck, everyone) was committed to creating some of the strangest music you'd ever heard. "Frontman" Gibby Haynes is a hollering, saxaphoning lunatic, a guy that's either on his way to pathetic drug-damaged paranoia or is a free-form avant garde genius. And the rest of the guys? Solid basslines and mirror imaged drumkits lay down churning, pounding repetition. And then some guy plays a tuba. All of this concert footage really shows off the band's damaged frenzy, but knowing the full-on media assault they were known to put on just a year or two later you leave feeling kinda cheated.

And speaking of cheated, did you know that in '99 the band pissed off every single cool person by suing their former indie record label? Now they're trying out some reunion gigs, but will anyone even want to go? If they come to our neck of the woods, we'll think about it.

15 June 2008

Death Bed -- The Bed That Eats

So the guy who made this thing claimed he forgot all about it until he read some dude's fawning message board post twenty-some years later. We find that pretty hard to believe. Death Bed, however, is equally as hard to believe and way way stupider! It's about -- and are you ready for this? -- a bed that eats! Just like it says in the title. Weird thing is, this bed doesn't really eat, it just kinda dissolves people in this Piss Christ solution. Oooh, except in that one scene where it sends a sheet across the room to reel in a helpless victim.

We know that sounds so cool you've already added it to your NetFlix queue, but Death Bed is really fucking weird and cheap, and it's totally fucking worthless -- we shouldn't've spent our time on it and we know we'll be talkin' about it for the rest of our natural lives. The sad part about this one is really that it coulda been so much more. A bed that eats! Come on, how great! Why didn't they set it in an fleabag motel instead of an abandoned farmhouse? Why did they spend all that time telling us the bed was a lovesick demon who lived in a tree and then became the wind and then turned into a four-poster Victorian canopy? And did we mention there's a nineteenth-century ghost who communicates with the bed in a corny Bri'ish accent? Yeah, he lives behind the painting.

Interesting, right? No.

02 June 2008

Repo Man


Repo Man's soundtrack changed our lives. Repo Man the movie satiates our 80's fetishism to a T. Dig the American made autos and Harry Dean Stanton, the punk rawk cameos and sleazy surf music. Emilio!

loudQUIETloud -- A Film About The Pixies


loudQUIETloud shows us one thing and one thing only: the Pixies had no business reuniting whatsoever. We think Frank Black and company are a sonic equivalent of junior high -- simplistic and pretentious and full of an exuberance that's equal parts annoying and naive. Ugh. We don't get it. "Crackity Jones"? A superhero named Tony? Give us a break. Now we know a little something about revisionist nostalgia, but there's certain bands we think have no business being the Don't Look Back honorees they are today. This distaste may have you wondering why we wanted to sit through this in the first place, and while, yeah, we think "Debaser"'s pretty cool, we honestly think we wanted to add more fuel to our "Pixies suck!" diatribe. And we think loudQUIETloud came through in that regard. It's not so much that we hate these guys or think they're incompetent, but there's no reason for anyone to get excited about watching this. You like the Pixies? Great. Here's ninety minutes of them not interacting with each other at all! Look at shirtless Frank Black give a phone interview. Here's the Deal sisters sitting on their Winnebago. Here's Joey Santiago on his iMac. No two people in this movie have anything in common at all. We think a better movie would have just been about drummer David Lovering whose Nye-informed magician schedule was put on hold so he could embark on this lucrative reunion tour.

01 June 2008

Miami Blues

Like a James Ellroy book filmed by the Coens, only much worse and horribly pointless. We liked watching Fred Ward chew the scenery and Alec Baldwin play a violent, incompetent, DeNiro aping villain, but the updated film noir vibe fizzled out after the first reel and by the final twenty we felt like we'd really been cheated into sitting through something that shoulda been left on the shelf.

26 May 2008

Mad Max


Back when we were nine our camp counselor told us once we were older we'd think Mad Max was the best of the trilogy.

We still think the The Road Warrior's better.

Basket Case

We saw this in high school and thought it was stupid because we were idiots. We also saw a shitty video transfer. But now we're super sophisticated and we have a bright 'n shiny new and improved print. "So what's all that mean?" you ask. Why...

Basket Case is the greatest movie ever!

Well, at least really darn good. So good we're putting it right at the top of the Cinema's chart. In league with Dead-Alive and Street Trash and, we dunno, King of the Kickboxers or something. Basket Case is top notch drive-in, made at a time when shootin' on film and peddlin' to sleazy theaters was on its way out and VHS and scrambled pay cable was bursting through the door. Director Big Frank Henenlotter really knows his shit and it shows. A crazy story, some late nights, and a few outlandishly bloody deaths are all anyone (errr...we) needs to have a great time and that's exactly what this flick delivers. We're so smitten we think we're finally gonna watch the two Case sequels. They were made ten years later to cash in on a decade of video store hype wethinks, but we don't mind one bit. Can you say "exploitation?"

Hey, and here's an interesting side note: the day before we watched this we finished a book on a boy's medical penis mishap. And then we read Paul Auster's book on coincidental anecdotes. How about that? A botched surgery tome followed by film of Siamese twins? That's a coin-ki-dink all by itself!

25 May 2008

The Running Man


The best Arnold films don't always translate into the best ArnoCorps songs. The Running Man is such signature Cinema that it'd be a nearly impossible task for any song to measure up. "Running Man" has some nice guitar interaction and follows a similar narrative arc as "The Terminator" inasmuch as the focus relies solely on Ben Richards' plight and attitude rather than attempting to capture each and every plot details. Lyrically, it sticks straight to the facts -- Richards' set up for a slaughter of the innocents, the Running Man's premise and relation to an oppressive, exploitative "is it media or is it government?" controlled society -- and it is for this that we can appreciate the song. "Running Man"'s downfall, however, is that in spite of its sing-along chorus, it never reaches the anthemic nature of an "Last Action Hero" or the crushing aggression of a "Predator." It is for this that it will be forever be a lower-tier 'Corps product.

We're also bummed that a great line like "now...Plain Zero" didn't make the final cut.

18 May 2008

The Mist


Wow, what a shitty movie. The only part we liked was when Thomas Jane is so hopeless about man's survival that he shoots and kills his own five year old son only to witness the military's containment of the bloodthirsty alien hordes minutes later. Wah wah. Too bad, huh? We know that's the end of the movie, but what the fuck? You don't want to see this.

We also liked that part where the cocooned MP falls to the ground and hundreds of baby spider monsters burst out of his chest cavity. But the rest of this movie was so lame that we had to amuse ourselves with the fact that Jane's character's surname is Drayton (like Flavor Flav) and the film's co-star is William Sadler (surname of The Bomb Squad's Eric "Vietnam").

20 April 2008

Lars and the Real Girl


The Highland Cinema vastly preferred Love Object, a film that, in spite of its late night cable salaciousness, portrayed the creepiness of Real Doll-dom with far more accuracy. Lars is bleeding heart specialty theatre fare -- a This American Life tale of despair and misguided coping wherein a human simulacrum is anthropomorphized by an entire town in an attempt to soothe an ailing native son. Lars and the Real Girl isn't all bad -- yes, it's slow and unconvincing (evidenced by the calculated wardrobe design for leadin' man Ryan Gosling), but the film's closing third is surprisingly full of an honest and affecting poignancy. Even for us.

13 April 2008

Is It Really So Strange?

Is It Really So Strange? introduces itself as a look into Morrissey and The Smiths' Latino fanbase, but it really amounts to a simple interview hodgepodge about everything involved in Moz hero-worship. This isn't entirely bad (such idolatry is what brought us to Manchester's finest in the first place), but the film feels incomplete and unfocused -- its monotone narration, lifeless static shots and editing, and queer-centered kino eye make it the most "San Francisco" doc we've shown. Watching this, The Highland Cinema felt like we were both UCB lecture hall and KQED-informed East Bay sublet.

But to get back on track, Is It Really So Strange? has at least one surprisingly effective moment early on as director William E Jones reaches for his introductory thesis. His ten minute Burns-esque photograph montage of the real HelL-A, the one of polluted sprawl, third generation immigrants, and plain old regular folks is the most honest depiction of California livin' we think we could ever see. It's too bad Jones doesn't delve deeper into this idea of working class suburbs and Taquerias as hotbeds of "Suedehead" worship. While nearly all of his interview subjects are of non-Caucasian descent, the interviews themselves are little more than a litany of fanboy recollections involving KROQ's Smiths airplay, Tower Records Morrissey spottings, and pompadour upkeep. The love both for and of Steven Patrick Morrissey is made rather apparent (as is Morrissey's perfectly calculated iconic persona), but there's no story here. And half of these guys get the song titles wrong. Some fans -- sheesh!

Born Into Brothels


I thought I was being an overly cynical jerk when I thought this was an oversimplified PSA for the National Endowment for the Arts, that it was just a way for privileged New Yorkers to pat themselves on the back for exposing themselves to the squalor of this world and taking comfort in the almighty healing powers of artistic expression. But then I talked to some people who had reactions even more negative than mine and I realized I was giving this film the benefit of all doubts.

Born into Brothels shows the world how children sired by Calcutta junkies and prostitutes are really just regular kids who have, gosh, immense creative talent! Look at all those fantastic photos they took with simple point and shoots! They are geniuses they are! And here we thought they were a pox on humanity. Whatever. I don't honestly believe these kids are trash, but the idea that meaningful salvation can come from a camera lens is a notion of Western bleeding hearts. There's one boy in here who's a real artist, but the rest of them are kids plain and simple, and no matter how fucking horrible it sounds their destiny is joining their mommies in the red light district and hoping for a too-soon chancre-ridden death. Too bad.


I'm well aware how much the filmmakers cared about these children and the work that they went through hounding boarding schools and shipping in photo supplies, but much of the film felt like an exercise in cause celebre, like a Save the Music campaign gone NPR. I don't believe the kids really took those pictures anyway -- they set the shots up, sure, but prints like that can't come without contrast filters and ritzy Leibovitz labs.

Yeah. You know, I am an asshole.

05 April 2008

The Smiths -- Under Review


VH1 style biopic that sticks mostly to the band's A to B to C historical/recording progression instead of tabloid tales of infighting and pomposity (the internet-capable Cinema thinks we prefer the latter). We've secretly liked Morrissey and Marr (eh, and probably Rouke and the other chap too) for a coupla years now, but it's only been in recent times that we've decided shit yeah we really really like these guys -- something that strikes us as pretty funny since we were a bunch of years out of high school before we heard that first Manchester-bred note. Your enjoyment is based on your tolerance for fawning talking heads and, of course, for the almighty Moz croon. And as much as we like this band even we had a tough time stomaching all the praise heaped on these cats, especially considering how at least half the catalog is awfully boring.

31 March 2008

Hostel: Part II

More like Hostel II: Electric Booga-ewwwww. The Cinema actually liked this one a little more than the original, probably 'cause we had no expectations other than it'd be really bad. Once we got into it, though, we noticed ourselves taking perverse pleasure in how it was increasingly cementing a new horror movie franchise, a "Hostel" trademark style of film that would give us an endless number of similar but different stories. Hostel II never felt like an in and of itself movie or one that could stand on its own as a veritable classic, but it succeeded in opening up many a possibility of future story arcs. Much of the plot focus had shifted to the sadist clients and their eBay style bidding wars, but we saw even extra potential in the in the know townsfolk out to warn the Daddy's-money spendin' tourists. Sure, both the gang of street kids and the Satanic ritual killing of Heather Mats were over the top updates on conventional gimmicks instead of genuine terror, but we thought the end result was a Saturday Night at the Movies story of grisly revenge that had us wanting more of those cliches and conventions we horror fans hold so dear.

08 March 2008

Tad -- Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears


Sure it's just another self-serving musical "documentary," but given our predilection for heavy duty rawk n roll and the '80s indie scene, Busted Circuits was a home fuckin' run. We're convinced Tad would be the Greatest Band of All Time had we been temporally fortunate enough to see 'em live and in the flesh, but now that we're somewhere twelve to twenty-two years after the fact we'll NEVER get into Tad at all. Not that we won't drop a "bad-ass!" when we hear that "Wood Goblins" riffin' or see them onstage Jazzmaster headbangs, but there's something missing for the Cinema, something we can only put our finger on as a Here and Now component. Tad is still cool, clever, and Grunge, and we wholeheartedly commend their legacy, shoulda-been legendariness, and "duuuuude" enabling heaviosity, but without the prospect of performance and products we have to put 'em next to David Yow and company in the Almost Hall of Fame.

02 March 2008

Hostel


Remember when we drove down to Arroyo Grande to see this opening night and it was sold out so we went to that bar in Pismo Beach instead and our friend tried to hook us up with that middle aged lady while a bar band played Ozzy covers? And then how we called up our bros later that week and they'd all caught Hostel without us? We weren't that heartbroken 'cause we were still looking forward to all the other sleazy horror flicks coming down the pike, but we're sure we'd have loooooved this Eli Roth torturefest oodles more had we caught it in its first run.

Watching Hostel the other day, the Highland Cinema was struck by how...well...just plain not good it was. We know we're tough to please (and tough to gah-ross out), but we expected so much more from this thing, 'specially considering its legendary hype. We were actually let down by the lack of torture (confined to the second half!) and to the not so squirmishness of the much-lauded blowtorch/tin-snips/buckets of pus eyeball scene. Funny enough the stuff that impressed us most was the wince-worthy Achilles heel slicin' and the super street cred Miike cameo. Hostel's notoriety is still well-deserved, even in the middle of this Saw world it helped spawn and the Last House world it helped resurrect; just that something this repulsive got a major studio release is a thing for the record books. And speaking of repulsive, the thing that bothered us the most? The film's overt Maxim-linity wherein pompous, unsophisticated, arrestedly developed college fucks drink and screw their way through Europa. What a bunch of douchebags.

03 February 2008

Teeth


Ouch! Gave me the not so willies.