Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Ten Worst Horror Movies of 2000 - 2009

Oh, and I've just posted my list of the ten worst horror movies of the last decade; it's in two parts. Part One is here and Part Two is here.

This piece was originally posted on AMCtv's Horror Hacker site, which is why it's skewed towards US/English-language release.

I'll be posting my Ten Best of the Decade list soon.

And finally, as the holiday season finally begins to wind down, I'd like to put in a plug for one of my favorite documentaries of the decade: What Would Jesus Buy?; it documents the ongoing progress of performance artist/social activist Bill Talen's efforts to rip the scales from the eyes of compulsive consumers via his alter-ego Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping. It's funny and so on-target that it hurts.

New Reviews: Invictus, The Lovely Bones and more...

Yes, I've been neglectful. But my recent reviews of Invictus, Crazy Heart, The Lovely Bones and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, a surprisingly sharp Bollywood picture about the dog-eat-dog ethics of the 21st-century workplace, are live.

RIP Paul Naschy, 1934 - 2009

I must confess upfront that I was never a fan of Spanish actor/producer/director Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina; he adopted his nom d’ecran at the behest of a German distributor) and his hairy histrionics. But I’m saddened by the news of his death after a long battle with cancer. Naschy was was 75.

Naschy figures into two of my indelibly vivid grindhouse memories… one of which didn’t even involve an actual grindhouse. In 1973, intrigued by a creepy newspaper ad for something called Sisters, I made my way to a fairly respectable, if slightly rundown, theater on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It wasn’t in the swank part of the Upper East Side; in fact, I’m pretty sure it was East 86th Street, which was then a low-rent shopping strip studded with movie theaters that only a few years later — right around the time I was a student at Hunter College, which was (and is) on Lexington Avenue and 68th Street, a couple of subway stops south — had devolved into real pits. Anyway, I thought Sisters was pretty great, even if the then-unknown writer/director wore his movie-geek crush on Alfred Hitchcock a little too obviously.

But Sisters was preceded by trailers for a whole lot of crap, including some ridiculous-looking thing called Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror that looked like some bottom-of-the-barrel 1950s b-movie , except that it was in color. Where did they get that fruity voice-over guy? Vincent Price at his campest sounded butch by comparison. What was with those Saturday matinee, monster movie come-ons scrawled in spooky type? “See The Wolf-Monster! The Vampire-Doctor! The Ghoul-Woman!” Please.“A super-shock spectacle of hideous horror in chill-o-rama 70 and gory color?” For God’s sake, who would go see such a thing?

Well not me, that's for damned sure. It was years before I caught up to La marca del Hombre-lobo (1968), the first of some dozen-odd movies featuring of Naschy as reluctant werewolf Count Waldemar Daninsky, and I can’t say it particularly impressed me. But props to Naschy for being so unabashedly into the classic movie monsters — apparently seeing Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) at the age of 11 was a life-changing experience — even if comparisons to Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. were more a product of fanboy fantasies than critical perspective.

Flash forward to 1979, by which time I was a regular denizen of the gloriously seedy grindhouses that lined the late, great Times Square. The ones that didn’t even bother to buy tiny one-by-one inch ad space in the down-market Daily News or New York Post: The only way to know what was showing was to take a stroll down the Deuce on Friday morning.

Which is how I happened on Nurse Sherri (1978), which proved to be a super cheap and stupid Al Adamson movie...

Dig those scratched-into-the-emulsion effects. But then there was House of Psychotic Women, aka Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll/House of Doom/Los ojos azules de la muneca rota (1972), the first Naschy movie I saw on a big screen. It turned out to be a terrific Spanish/French giallo in which rootless ex-con Gilles (Naschy), who’s just served a prison term for rape and fantasizes about strangling women, blunders into a caretaking job at the isolated farm of three weird sisters — beautiful Claude, who has a creepy fake hand; imperious, wheelchair-bound Yvette, who requires the care of a live-in nurse; and nymphomaniacal Nicole, played respectively by Euro-tarts Diana Lorys, Maria Perschy and Eva Leon.

Nicole is upfront with her expectations of Gilles: She wants him in her bed as soon as he's done with his more mundane chores. But it’s pretty clear that her sisters could also use some sexual healing. Oh, and their father committed suicide, their mother went insane, Yvette has a new nurse because the old one was murdered and there’s a serial killer who targets blue-eyed women on the loose.

It all works out about as well as you’d imagine… and I never again want to see Naschy — whose resemblance to John Belushi is remarkably distracting — milk another cow. That said, after having seen many other Naschy films in the interim I feel confident saying that it’s among the best credits of his lengthy career. Not that you'd know it from this awful trailer, whose sole objective seems to be concealing the fact that the movie wasn't made in the USA.

Sadly, that’s about all I have to say about Naschy: For the most part, his lumpen charm eluded me. But I was genuinely moved by these two obituaries. The first is by Arbogast, whose blog Arbogast on Film is one of my must-reads, and the second by Tim Lucas, whose Video Watchblog needs no introduction.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where's the Fire?

There are 14 or 15 emergency vehicles directly across the street from my Manhattan apartment building (see the highly impressionistic view at left).

We're located between two sizable hospitals and there's a firehouse nearby, so sirens are a regular thing... it's remarkable how quickly they become part of the white noise of the city. I do a weekly radio segment on an Atlanta-area radio show and the wailing has become a running joke. I know it confirms their worst ideas about New York, so virtually every week I hear myself saying, "Just so you know, that's an ambulance going to the major hospital center a couple of blocks from my apartment..."

But I have to say, I'm a little unnerved by the sheer volume of flashing lights outside my windows just now. Not so unnerved that I'm doing anything about it, though.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Transylmania and Up in the Air reviews...

...are live on my main site.

I'm not sure I agree with the National Board of Review that Up in the Air is the best movie of 2009, but it's a smart, grimly funny and grown up movie.

Transylmania is boring, bloody dumb-assery, but it least it's trying to be a real horror movie spoof, unlike the Scary Movie franchise, which just string together random, witless pop-culture gags.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Road to Nowhere... My Review

My review of the ultimate holiday downer of a movie, The Road is live. Though extravagantly praised by many critics, I found it admirable but oddly unaffecting, using my own personal "how much time did I spend trying not to let people see I was crying" meter. Because here's the thing — it's really, really easy to make me cry at movies. I'm especially susceptible to cute animals falling into rivers: Benji the Hunted destroyed me, and I saw it on a tiny TV, in a bar, with the sound off while I was waiting for a friend, and I was in my hardboiled twenties. I had to beat a hasty retreat to the ladies room and when I'd composed myself sufficiently, I asked the bartender whether there wasn't a game on somewhere. And I hate sports.

Anyway, I recount this embarrassing tale to give some context to the fact that The Road left me absolutely dry eyed. It isn't meant to be a cheap tear-jerker, which is one of the things I admire about it. But the fact is that the resolution of the film's central relationship — between a boy born immediately after some disaster sent the Earth into a slow death spiral and the father who's trying to raise him to survive in a savage world without becoming savage — should leave any thinking person devastated: Their story is the story of the whole world writ small.

I actually think director John Hillcoat's previous movie, an underrated Western set in 1880s Australia called The Proposition, does a better job of exploring the strength of human connection in the face of unrelenting brutality.

Tell me what you think...

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon Review and Anna Kendrick Interview

Emo vampires, studly werewolves and teen angst: That's the Twilight saga in a nutshell. I see why the books and movies appeal to tween girls, but those Twilight Moms... they're a mystery to me. What grown woman fantasizes about sparkly waif-boy vampires so exquisitely sensitive that they're the ones putting the brakes on while you squirm with unconsummated lust? Sorry, not my kind of vampire. Read my review of New Moon, and hell, check out what I thought of Twilight.

And as a bonus, here's an interview with the astonishingly talented Anna Kendrick, who plays Forks High School's resident mean girl. She's got a co-starring role in the upcoming George Clooney movie Up in the Air, and she stole Camp with this showstopping rendition of Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch," a song written for a character twice her age.

Stunning, right? Oh, and yes that is little Dakota Fanning looking all red-eyed and evil in the photo up top. She's one of New Moon's wicked Volturi, a cabal of bad, bad vampires led by Michael Sheen, of Frost/Nixon and the Underworld werewolf pack. Now, the Volturi... those are my kind of vampires!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Plan 9 from Outer Space version 2.0...

Here's an idea whose day should never have come: A remake of Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space, widely acclaimed as the Citizen Kane of bad films ... I'm not really sure what else to say.

Ed Wood was an appealing eccentric who adored moviemaking and had absolutely no aptitude for it; Rudolph Grey's biography, Nightmare of Ecstasy, and Tim Burton's Ed Wood are loving tributes to the man and his passions. But Plan 9 from Outer Space is a terrible movie. Terrible from top to bottom. We're not talking a good idea undermined in the execution. We're talking a banal, boring idea whose ludicrous execution — from the wretched acting to the cardboard sets to celebrity psychic Criswell's incomprehensible introduction — is the only thing that makes it watchable.

And yet some guy named John Johnson wants to "honor" it with a remake/ (Here's the trailer). I can't see any good coming of this project, no matter how sincere Johnson's website sounds.

I mean, I think Aris Iliopulos genuinely meant well when he brought Woods' unproduced I Woke Up Early the Day I Died back from the dead ten years ago, but I can't say it turned out especially well. Just saying.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Awesomeness of 42nd Street...

Ever wonder where all those backstage-musical showbiz cliches came from? Wonder no more: 42nd Street (1933) is movie zero. And no matter how many times I see it, I never cease to be amazed by how modern it seems: Take away the cloche hats and the silk rehearsal tap-pants and the dated slang and I swear, the backstage scenes could have been set in the 1980s, when I worked for a major NYC-based ballet company.

42nd Street

Arguing With Myself | MySpace Video

The more things change, the more showbiz stays the same.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox... really is fantastic

I'm not a fan of Wes Anderson. I'm not a fan of Noah Baumbach. And I didn't like children's movies when I was a child. So no one could be more surprised than me by how much I loved Fantastic Mr. Fox.

I wish I could say the same of Where the Wild Things Are, but I can't. It's intelligent and beautifully acted, but it left me ice cold.

Tell me what you think...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Clash of the Titans Remake -- What the World Needs Now

Specifically, a star-studded, big-budget remake of the mythological monster mash with loads and loads of CGI effects. (see trailer).

Let me be clear: I'm not arguing that the 1981 Clash of the Titans (see trailer) was any great shakes, even if it did feature the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom and Maggie Smith as various Greek gods, which was a big deal 25 years ago (now actors of their caliber, including Smith herself, are regulars in Harry Potter). It also starred the magnificently wooden Harry Hamlin, whose main qualification seems to have been that he looked nice in a short toga, as the Greek hero Perseus.

But I'm not convinced that a remake that dirties up the action, reimagines Perseus (Sam Worthington, of Terminator Salvation) as a guy who's mad as Hades and isn't going to take it anymore ("it" apparently being marauding monsters), and looks like a high-end video game is going to be any better. Even with Liam Neeson as Zeus (need I say that was the role Olivier played in the original?), Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen, Danny Houston and a host of highly acclaimed character actors on board.

Nice harpies, though, and the gorgon's scalp-full o' snakes looks pretty convincing, at least from the glimpse in the trailer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vampires Are Officially Too Popular...

Far be it from me to begrudge the undead their day in the sun (so to speak), but I find myself feeling nostalgic for the days when vampires didn't sit at the popular-kids table. But with Twilight and Tru Blood casting a long shadow over this year's People's Choice Awards (aka "the lowest-common-denominator popularity contest"), there's no getting around it: They're so mainstream it hurts. At least, it hurts old school fans like me.

Some of which is probably just that I hate the Twilight franchise: Abstinence fables wrapped in a layer of vampire mythology are not my idea of a bloody good time. But it's also that once upon a time, vampires (and horror in general) were a litmus test: People who shared your interest in such things were probably people who were going to be your friends. Even if I were 11 years old, I suspect that I'd find as many kindred spirits among the Twi-heads as I would at a Disney Princess club. And I hate to see vampires — even silly sparkle vampires — hanging out with such simpering wimps.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What's in The Box?

I'm a Richard Kelly fan: I love Donnie Darko and I actually liked Southland Tales... it's flawed, but there's great stuff in it. And that's why I was disappointed by The Box, which gets off to a great start but loses its way in a tangle of big ideas and loopy conspiracies.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lady Gaga or the Elephant Man?

Not to be frivolous, since this photo comes from a red-carpet event at which a paparazzo died of a heart attack, but no wonder.

I mean, it's not just me, right? When diminutive neo-disco queen Lady Gaga comes out looking like the Elephant man, it's pretty shocking.

Read My Review of Eulogy for a vampire...

Or not, depending on how interested you are in gay-themed erotic horror movies. But what the hey — it's a change from the umpteenth remake of some 1970s horror movie that was just fine the way it was, right?

Eulogy for a Vampire.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wired's Halloween Movies for Kids

As a child I wanted nothing to do with childish things: I wanted to read grown-up books, watch grown-up movies and do grown-up things. But Wired's list of Halloween-themed moies suitable for children is actually pretty good.

Read it here. A far as I'm concerned, any list that includes The Monster Club and The Corpse Bride is aces!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Horror Round Up!

Halloween is here, bringing a bumper crop of theatrical horror-movie releases for every taste!

If you need a little guidance, check out my reviews of:

The House of the Devil

Paranormal Activity

Saw VI


Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

The Stepfather

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 Horror Video Games?

In the interest of public service, and for anyone planning a Halloween soiree centered around the ol' point-and-shoot, here are two videos with separate lists of the top-10 "scariest" — word used advisedly — video games. One is by something called G4ME5SPY, which may or may not be related to the TV network G4 or the company Gamespy, and the other by a pseudonymous fan. Consider it a conversation starter for your gathering, which hopefully won't feature The Gathering (2002)

The fan actually has the more catholic, small c, taste; G4ME5SPY's list is woefully trite and repetitive, filled with Silent Hill and Fatal Frame iterations for no less than seven of its ten spots. Take a look, if you'd like, and tell us how badly they got it and what the real top ten should be.

See "Saw" — Or, Rather, Don't

Forgive my tardiness — editing Halloween content for AMC's Horror Hacker site has kept me frightfully busy, if you'll excuse the obligatory "funny" seasonal wordplay. I promise to do better, starting with two, count 'em, two posts today.

First up: What I thought about Saw VI and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Check out my Stepfather review and my interview with Amber Heard

More than 20 years later, the original Stepfather, starring Terry O'Quinn (now of TV's Lost) as a would-be family man who just wants the perfect wife and kids, painted a chilling picture of a control freak with no tolerance for failure. How does Dylan Walsh, of TV's Nip/Tuck, fill O'Quinn's shoes in the current remake? Read my review...

And you might also want to check out my interview with Amber Heard, who co-stars in The Stepfather and has a small but memorable role as an undead babe in Zombieland.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zombiemania post mortem

So, fortified with snacks and delicious beverages, some friends and I gathered to watch the premiere of Zombiemania, directed by Canadian documentary filmmaker Donna Davies... and it was pretty entertaining. Definitely a light, very mainstream look at the cultural history of zombies (that's Starz), but some great interview footage with George Romero (I love that he still wears those giant '70s glasses!), Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, Max Brooks (yes, son of Mel; allow me to put in on more plug for his novel World War Z, which is brilliant), Wade Davis, the ethnobotanist who wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow, and various zombie experts. As promised, I got plenty of screen time.

A warning if you decide to DVR a future showing: It may not be listed as Zombiemania. On our system (the one that comes with RCN), it's listed as "Starz Inside," which is the collective name for the channel's behind-the-scenes documentaries. After inviting friends over to watch, Frank and I had a couple of sticky moments when we couldn't find a Tuesday listing for Zombiemania.

In any event, we finally figured out that it was listed as "Starz Inside" (the generic name for all the channel's behind-the-scenes docs) and a good time was had by all. Except, of course, my cat, who was bored to death and annoyed that all of a sudden everyone was watching the television instead of paying him the attention he feels is
his due. (Confession: the photo was not taken during the showing of Zombiemania -- the sunlight streaming through the window is the tip off -- but is an accurate depiction of Chip's attitude towards anything that isn't all about him.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Zombiemania Tomorrow at 10PM on Starz!

Okay, this is final reminder — no more annoying reminders. But Zombiemania will make its debut on Starz tomorrow night, and I'm interviewed in it... at some length, I've been told.

Here's a preview:


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Me and Call of Cthulhu in Stamford, CT, October 7

I'm going to be introducing The Call of Cthulhu, the best H.P. Lovecraft movie no one's ever see, at the Avon Theater in Stamford, CT, tomorrow at 7PM.

It's a terrific movie, made in the style of a silent movie from the late 1920s and extremely faithful not only to Lovecraft's story, but also to his unique tone, which is the far harder thing to capture. And the Avon is a great theater (click here for their website, which includes directions). I'll be doing a Q&A after the movie, so come one, come all!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

See Me on Starz Talking Zombies!

Back in March, I went to Hallifax to be interviewed about zombies by documentary filmmaker Donna Davies; I worked with her previously on Pretty Scary, her doc abut women in horror.

Th result, Zombiemania, now has an airdate: October 13th.

Here's the office press release:

Zombies the new Vampire? Starz Premieres "Starz Inside: Zombiemania" on Oct. 13th

Move over, Twilight, “True Blood” and “Vampire Dairies,” there is a new breed of monster in town. With the premiere of Zombieland with Woody Harrelson in theaters today and two other projects in the works for DreamWorks, Xombie and Rainbow Ridge, zombies are set to pose some stiff competition to their monster genre counterparts. Starz will explore the world wide craze, from its history to its current role in pop culture with the premiere of Starz Inside: Zombiemania on Tuesday, Oct. 13th at 10pm et/pt. Zombie ‘experts’ including Max Brooks, author of “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z” and the “Grandfather of Zombie films” George Romero will weigh in on the impact of high-profile films like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead and the proliferation of independent zombie films across the country.

...and I talk about pretty much everything else, from Italian zombies to the evolution of the walking dead from Haitian folklore to all purpose metaphor (AIDS, spiritual suicide, the disenfranchised underclass... and much, much more, as the carnie spielers used to say) to Nazi zombies to the great slombie/zombie schism.

I'm sure Starz will be airing it throughout October so please tune in!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pandorum = Alien + The Descent +... a whole lot of other space horror movies. Which isn't to say it isn't pretty entertaining most of the time, only that if you're a genre fan, you'll be ticking off boxes in your head from start to finish.

Read my review here, and then check out my review of German-born director/co-writer Christian Alvart's debut, the serial-killer picture Antibodies — which I liked a lot — here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Freaky Emmy Award Facts!

OK, not such a huge fan of award shows generally and the Emmys in particular, because I really don't watch enough TV to have a dog in that fight.

But my ears prick up when I hear the words "kidney" "Jeannie Epper" and "donate" in the same Emmy Award thank-you sentence.

Jeannie Epper is part of the famous stunt family — she was Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman double (if you haven't seen the documentary Double Dare, starring Epper and Zoe Bell of Kill Bill and Xena: Warrior Princess, do so immediately — and apparently donated a kidney to newly minted Emmy-award winner Ken Howard (Grey Gardens).

Now that's a friend and one hell of a woman.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cole Clemens, So You Think You Can Dance and the Exquisite Embarassment of Silence...

True confession: I've never watched So You Think You Can Dance and I don't plan to start. But I don't live under a rock, so the derisive hubbub that accompanied Cole Clemens' decision to do a solo without music — the consensus seems to be that he's a world-class nutbag (as though that's a bad thing in realitytvworld) — didn't escape my notice.

Before we proceed any further, here's a link to the clip:

Cole's notorious number

A little background: I grew up in the New York dance world and worked for New York City Ballet for twelve years. I think Clemens' piece is pretentious, juvenile folly, plus his hair sucks and he uses the phrase "very unique."

But I also feel compelled to point out that the very idea of dancing without music is neither crazy nor new. Cue the second clip, which includes both commentary and footage of Jerome Robbins' 100% music-free Moves. That's Jerome Robbins as in arguably the greatest American dance maker of the 20th century, the guy who choreographed both crowd-pleasing Broadway shows like West Side Story and purely classical works like The Goldberg Variations.

Moves clip

Moves was first performed in 1959 — that's 50 years ago. And if you're a judge on a show called So You Think You Can Dance, you should know and/or acknowledge as much instead of sniggering.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Final Destination? Hah!

Let's see now, two weeks at the top of the US box office, including Labor Day weekend.

Is Death finally going to take a holiday? Somehow I don't think so. Brace yourself for more Final Destination pictures, and remember: When Death comes for you, just save yourself and everyone you know a whole lot of grief and go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Top 25 Beatles Songs -- Do You Agree with EW? I Don't.

Okay, I’m not really a huge one for making top “Fill in the Blank” lists, and that’s partly because sometimes biology really is destiny. Take it from novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity): Compulsive list making is a guy thing, like slavishly alphabetizing your CDS and books. We don’t understand.

And yet here I am, doing it, because I just can’t get with Entertainment Weekly’s list of “Top 25 Beatles songs,” which appears in the new issue (September 11, 2009). Actually, it’s a top 50 list, but I don’t have the energy for that, so I cut it off at 25 in the name of having the energy to then compile my own alternate list.

Here they are:

EW’s List:
1.) A Hard Day’s Night
2.) A Day in the Life
3.) Yesterday
4.) Strawberry Fields Forever
5.) Something (in the Way She Moves)
6.) She Loves You
7.) Let It Be
8.) Tomorrow Never Knows
9.) Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
10.) Across the Universe
11.) Eleanor Rigby
12.) Penny Lane
13.) Help!
14.) Hey Jude
15.) In My Life
16.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps
17.) You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
18.) Blackbird
19.) Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
20.) Can’t Buy Me Love
21.) Revolution
22.) If I Fell
23.) We Can Work It Out
24.) I’m Only Sleeping
25) I’m a Loser

My List:
1.) Hard Day’s Night
2.) Yesterday
3.) Eleanor Rigby
4.) I’ve Just Seen a Face
5.) I’m Looking Through You
6.) Penny Lane
7.) Your Mother Should Know
8.) With a Little Help from My Friends
9.) She’s Leaving Home
10.) Let it Be
11.) You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
12.) Money Can’t Buy Me Love
13.) Paperback Writer
14.) I Want to Hold Your Hand
15.) Get Back
16.) Come Together
17.) Got to Get You Into My Life
18.) Girl
19.) We Can Work It Out
20.) I Saw Her Standing There
21.) Hello Goodbye
22.) She Loves You
23.) When I’m Sixty-Four
24.) Yellow Submarine
25.) Run for Your Life

Clearly, there’s plenty of overlap: “Hard Day’s Night,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Let It Be,”“Penny Lane,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “We Can Work It Out…” I mean, some of them really are beyond argument. And some of the titles in my top 25 appear farther down on EW’s list, like the seductive, sinister “ComeTogether” (their no.44), the bitingly witty, compulsively melodic “Paperback Writer” (their no.26), the brittle, melancholy “With a Little Help From My Friends,” (their no.40) and the exuberant “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (their no.43).

But for my money (you know, the stuff that can’t buy me love), there’s a whole lot ofpretentious, overrated, simplistic junk on EW’s list. Naysayers can mock “Yesterday” as sappy until they turn blue (meanies) and it will still be a rueful heartbreak song as vivid and timeless as Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “One formy Baby (and One More for the Road).” But I hate “Hey Jude” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and think “Girl” is a way better song than “Norwegian Wood.”

I find “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life” painfully dated, and “Blackbird” and “Revolution” obvious and preachy.

I love the way the bitterness of the lyrics is at war with the bouncy tune of “I’m Looking Through You” and “Hello Goodbye.” “She’s Leaving Home” is an amazing feat of narrative songwriting that manages to contain two completely contradictory perceptions of the same event.

Yes, “Yellow Submarine” is viciously catchy and kinda goofy, but it’s so upfront that its silliness is downright ballsy. And “When I’m Sixty-Four” is all that and then some — marrying a music hall-style, novelty song tune to lyrics that evoke both the first flush of overwhelming love, the kind that makes you imagine blissfully growing old together, and the nagging fear that maybe it won’t last takes a kind of pop genius. Especially when you’re 16, as Paul McCartney was when he wrote it in 1958 (it wasn’t recorded until nearly ten years later).

As to “Run for Your Life,” well, that’s sheer blood mindedness on my part: Recorded for 1965’s “Rubber Soul,” it’s so not early Beatles, and I don’t care that it’s derivative (of “Baby, Let’s Play House, which Elvis Presley recorded in 1955), or that it’s misogynistic or and that John Lennon (generally cited as the sole author, despite the Lennon/McCarthy credit) said it was his least favorite Beatles song. he hated it. I like it. So there.

What about you? (Oh, and check out my review of Across the Universe (pictured above), the Julie Taymor movie that looks at the turbulent 1960s through the prism of the Beatles song catalog. It’s uneven, but when it’s working it makes you hear classic Beatles songs as though they were brand new. That’s no mean feat, and it’s never less than gorgeous.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Halloween and Friday the 13th Intersect at a Jersey Movie Theater...

So here I was, minding my own business and trying to see whether Carriers was playing anywhere in the greater New York area on September 4.... Since the answer appeared to be "no," I widened my search area and low and behold, this theater appeared:

Ritz 16 Theaters
900 Berlin-Haddonfield Road
Voorhees, NJ 08403

Yes, there is a movie theater on Berlin-Haddonfield Road in Voorhees New Jersey. How can these things be?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dalek Love

I'm not a big Who-head (Torhwood is more my style), but I always loved the Daleks. So this video, which recuts clips from a relatively recent episode (the Christopher Eccleston series) into the soiry of a Dalek in love with the Doctor's sidekick really tickled me. Especially because it's cut to a remix of "Tainted Love" and the classic Dr. Who theme.

Click here... and prepare to be amazed at just how many other Dalek-related clips there are on YouTube.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Halloween II and The Final Destination Reviews

My reviews of The Final Destination — yes, in 3D — and Halloween II are online — have a look.

Oh, and may I just say that $16.50 (no, that isn't a typo) is an absolutely outrageous price to pay for The Final Destination in 3D? Not even IMAX — just at a regular neighborhood theater.

Seeing Halloween II and The Final Destination back to back was kind of reminding me of the days of Times Square double bill, until I remembered that I'd just paid $22.50 for the priviledge.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mac is from Mars....

Okay, I'm in the process of switching over from a PC to a Mac and I'm committed, even though I have to say that the much-bruited intuitiveness of the Mac icon system doesn't feel so intuitive to me. I think when push comes to shove, I'm a word (as opposed to an MS Word) girl at heart.

In any event, I just got my copy of MS Office for Mac and I have to ask: Is it just me, or is the cover of my software package written in an alien language? Not alien as in "foreign" but alien as in "from another planet."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Trip Down Halloween Memory Lane

With Rob Zombie's Halloween sequel about to open, it seems time to revisit the original eight-movie franchise, from the highs — the original, of course — to the lows. Was Halloween III really the nadir, or was it just misunderstood?

What do you think?

For my take, visit my Halloween retrospective on AMC's Horror Hacker site.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mother's Day Remake... Will it Never End?

Apparently not.

I must confess that Mother's Day (1980), written and directed by Charles Kaufman — not the Charles Kaufman who wrote the brain-teasing Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the brother of Lloyd Kaufman, who co-founded Troma Entertainment — looms large in my Times Square memories.

Not because it was good, I hasten to add, but because it was so fucking nasty that even the typically skeevy Times Square popeyes and horndick daddies with whom I shared theater space seemed kinda spooked out. Oh, and I have to mention that for a few months Billy Ray McQuade and I used the same second-floor Bally's Fitness Center on Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets; it creeped the hell out of me every time I saw him on the treadmill... But I digress.

Before we go any farther, here's the plot:

Wolfbreath college grads Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson), Jackie (Deborah Luce) and Trina (Tiana Pierce) thought they'd be bffs forever, but no longer have much in common: Trina is living the high life in Beverly Hills; Abbey lives in Chicago and tends to her needy, demanding mom; while Jackie is barely scraping by in New York, in large part because her boyfriend is a boorish, junkie loser (some things never change). Their lives have gone in dramatically different directions, but they cling to their annual tradition of vacationing together, and for their tenth anniversary trip they go camping in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, the girls cross paths with psycho-rapist, junk-culture-addled brothers Ike and Addley (Holdem Mc Guire, Billy Ray McQuade), who share a squalid cabin with their beloved, sadistically deranged mama playeed by one "Rose Ross," the pseudonym behind which veteran character actress Beatrice Pons of TV's Sergeant Bilko and Car 54, Where Are You? chose to hide. She may have been a sufficiently supportive mom to appear in her boys' little movie — yes, she's Charles and Lloyd's mom — but she also knew better than to put her name on it.

Now is the point at which I have to admit that Mother's Day does some things remarkably right. The women's back stories, crudely sketched though they are, have stuck with me for the better part of 30 years, and their late night abduction from the tranquil woods is totally terrifying: One minute they're snug in their sleeping bags, the next minute Ike and Adderly have tightened the drawstrings and hauled them away like so much writhing loot. Hey, that's how misogynistic psychos are.

And then there's Abbey and Trina's reaction to finding Jackie, raped and brutalized by Ike and Adderly and stuffed in a dresser drawer like so much stinky laundry. Do they run or scream or faint? No way: They haul themselves up by their shiny spandex bra straps (remember, this was 1980) and give the brothers hell they never knew existed. Oh, and let's not forget that the momster is smothered with a clear plastic pillow shaped like a pair of breasts. Cheap irony? Sure. Disturbingly potent image? Hell, yeah!

But a remake? Mother's Day was thoroughly of a time, so why would anyone bother redoing it? What does the greasy, gritty, them-against-us Mother's Day have to do with a 21st-century America teeming with rich, privileged, blindingly white tartlets so invested in the notion that they're God's chosen chippies by virtue of their perfect teeth and slammin' figures that they don't even realize there's a notion.

Sure, you can read feminist and anti-consumer subtexts into the original Mother's Day… but seriously, don't bother. And yet Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw franchise is on the case and fresh-faced young things like Jaime King and Alexa Vega have signed on to feign being abused and humiliated.

The Hollywood Reporter says the new, improved screenplay sees Ike, Adderly and Mama returning to their cabin and terrorizing the white-bread family who have the temerity to be living there. Which actually doesn't sound like much of a remake... wait, it must be a reimagining. And ooooh, do I sense an allegory about gentrification? Heavy, dude. Can I go now?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan Stopped at Newark Airport

Okay, I'm not going to say that the fact that Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan was recently stopped for questioning at Newark airport as he attempted to catch a flight from NYC to Chicago was an outrageous case of racial profiling, mostly because I think everything there is to be said on that subject has been said already.

I've been pulled off the line at airports for special screening on more occasions than I care to remember, and believe me -- I don't fit any profiles I can think of... oh, except for all those times at Heathrow, because believe me, it's axiomatic with airport (and water port) security in the UK that all Americans with Irish surnames are IRA sympathizers. Ask me about the time I was stopped at Dover, where I was supposed to be catching a ferry to France, and my luggage searched so thoroughly that I missed my connection -- we're talking my toothpast slit open and my soap cut into pieces to make sure there was nothing hidden inside -- and was put on some smelly little commercial boat in the middle of the night because there wasn't going to be another passenger ferry until the next day. Be that as it may, I doubt that the screeners at Newark even know that Khan is a Muslim surname.

What floors me about this story is that Khan, who was traveling for business -- he was promoting a new film with appearances at India Day events in both cities -- wasn't pre-cleared through some super-deluxe first-class flyers program. I mean, do you think Brad Pitt has ever been singled out for special screening anywhere? That's how big a star Khan is -- mega-superstar, can't-take-a-walk-without-a-parade-license famous. Oh, and the best part is the movie he's promoting: My Name is Khan, about the post-9/11 profiling of Muslims. You couldn't make it up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kurt Russell and Elvis Presley: A History in Clips...

Okay, I missed the anniversary of Elvis Presley's' death by a couple of days, but these clips are too good not to share; they start with Kurt Russell as a Disney child actor with Presley in It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) and ends with a tribute Russell did for Turner Classic Movies.

Russell With Elvis
Russell as Elvis (Elvis — the Movie, 1979)
Russell as "Elvis" (3000 Miles to Graceland, 2001)
Russell on Elvis

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is District 9 the Best Sci-Fi movie of the Summer?

I think so. It's got aliens, action, terrific special effects and it's smart.

That's a tough package to top, especially when the competition is movies like Transformers: Rise of the Fallen.

Here's my review - tell me what you think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ten Most Quotable Horror Movie Quotes

Check out my list of ten horror movie quotes that cry out to be used in real-life situations and then tell me what quotes I missed and how they can be used.

What's Rowdy Roddy Piper doing here? You'll have to read the column to find out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Red Velvet Cake With Slasher Icing...

My good friend Sean Fernald has produced a tongue-in-cheek horror movie starring Henry Thomas (yes, the kid from E.T., but give the guy a break -- he's nearly 40 and has worked steadily since his heyday as a child actor) as a misnathropic oddball who ropes his pretty neighbor (Kelli Garner) -- the one whose fights with her boyfriend keep him up all night -- into a game of "let's imagine the perfect slasher movie." It's available exclusively on Amazon for the next three months, and I can say without fear or favor that Red Velvet is a nifty little picture made by genre lovers, for genre lovers.

The key is that there's more to the story than two people arguing over whether or not the killer should have a pink tool belt and how various characters -- friends gathered at an isolated cabin for a birthday bash -- should buy the farm. Their conversations are intercut with enactments of the gory scenarios they cook up, and I must say, the death by 'gator is an imaginative highlight… something about the sight of two victims-to-be unwittingly dragging the toothy reptile into the pit in which they're trapped is both horrible and very funny. The thing is, it's both a bona fide horror movie with gore galore; a tongue-in-cheek meta-movie that toys with genre conventions; and a loving homage to the stylized look of look of Dario Argento's hightly stylized gialli. It was written by Joe Moe and Anthony Burns, directed by Bruce Dickson and shot by Dickson's dad, veteran DP Jim Dickson, who did The Dark Secret of Harvest Home and who perfectly reproduces the washes of red and blue light in which Argento bathed Suspiria.

Red Velvet has been screening at horror festivals (t's picked up some great reviews) and you can see a trailers and clips here. Check it out!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Dead Walk...

See my review of I Sell the Dead, produced by and starring independent filmmaker Larry Fessenden, who was just signed to direct the American remake of Spanish shocker The Orphanage.

And visit AMCtv's Horror Hacker website, where I consider the career of unlikely horror icon Anthony Hopkins.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ripping Off the Ramones!

Is it just me, or does "I Wanna be Famous", the Total Drama Island /Total Drama Action theme, sound an awful lot like The Ramones' "I Wanna be Sedated"?

Like, at least as much as Avril Lavigne's "I Don't Like Your Girlfriend" sounded like the Rubinoos' "I Want to be Your Boyfriend", and think of all the fuss that stirred up.

Just asking.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

New Reviews -- a Vampire Priest, a Masked Serial Killer and the Wild World of Aussie Exploitation!

It's been a fabulously horrifying week, what with the release of two straight-up horror movies and an unbelievably entertaining documentary about the golden age of Australian exploitation cinema, which included such genre gems as Razorback, Patrick and Howling III: The Marsupials, of which director Philippe Mora confesses that Nicole Kidman auditioned for the lead, but he chose Imogen Annesley instead. Not to mention vulgar sex comedies, white-knuckle road pictures and biker films (sorry, "bikie," as they say down under) up the wazoo.

Park Chan-wook's Thirst is the story of a gentle priest who becomes a vampire after a tainted transfusion and finds that bloodlust isn't the only unruly desire his condition awakens. There are a lot of ways that story could go, but as befits the director of Oldboy, Park takes it some weirdly unexpected directions. Let's just say it's not for Twilight fans. Read my review of Thirst here.

The Collector is a contemporary spin on the down-and-dirty home invasion movies of the 1970s. The Strangers is the classier modern-day variation on the theme, but you know what? Class, restraint and propriety are not a plus in this particular subgenre, which has also undergone a revival in Europe with the likes of Ils/Them and A l'interieur/Inside. Read my review of The Collector here.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! is a blast from beginning to end — the interviews are frank, funny and revealing (and how did those Aussie sex-comedy stars wind up looking so great in their 50s without any evidence of nipping, tucking, botoxing or any other intervention?) and the clips are like beer nuts: After the first one, you're not getting up until the last one is gone. Read my review of Not Quite Hollywood here.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Most Disturbing Movie I've Seen This Year -- Deadgirl

Check out my review of Deadgirl, hands down the most squirm inducing movie I've seen in I can't tell you how long.

It's getting mixed reviews, which I think is largely because it's so unpleasantly on the money about things most people really don't want to think about.
Bookmark and Share

Happy Birthday, Mai Tai!

I'm on vacation, and while that would spur some people to a veritable frenzy of blogging, it did the opposite to me. Just didn't feel like it. Partly that's because we've spent a lot of time on trains -- we did a three-day trip from NYC to Portland, OR; a 17-hour trip from Portland to San Francisco, and we're about to start the three-day trip back (by a diffrent route) -- and there's no wireless access on Amtrak. Except maybe the Northeast corridor; I could swear I've seen poeple working on their laptops on the Philadelphia to NYC Acela... on the other hand, maybe they're not online.

Anyway, the drought has been broken, because I can't resist celebrating the fact that the Mai Tai cocktail is 65 years old. Partly because I love all things tiki (except the too-sweet, too flaming cocktails, ironically enough), and partly because our hotel is right next to "Trader" Vic Alley. The mai tai was invented by "Trader" Vic Bergeron at the original Trader Vic's restaurannt and tiki bar in Oakland, just across the bridge from where we're staying.

Makes me glad that I paid a visit or two to the late, no-longer lamented Trader Vic's in Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, which closed its doors in 1989 because new owner Donald Trump thought it was tacky. Yes, you read that right: Donald Trump thought it was tacky... which it was, of course, but not as tacky as his hair. Not by a long shot. (Who knew there was a Trader Vic's in Dubai, by the way? I guess I was surprised because I made this erroneous assumption.)

Truth be told, I preferred Hawaii Kai, which took Polynesian-lounge tackiness to the next level. We're talking hula floor shows and a very angry dwarf doorman. Somewhere I have a photo of myself with my friend Greg Snead, snapped by a pretty girl in a plastic-grass skirt, who went from table to table with a gigantic old Polaroid and sold souvenir shots to tourists. If I can find it, I'll scan it and put it online. It's quite the artifact, both personal and in lost-New York terms, since Hawaii Kai was shuttered around the same time as the Plaza Trader Vic's. In fact, the whole building at 1638 Broadway, between 51st and 52nd Street was demolished, so Hawaii Kai is truly gone... as is the neighboring RKO movie theater where I saw Bug, which featured flaming, volcano-dwelling insects rather than flaming drinks in volcano-shaped containers. But that's another story, for another day.

Anyway, happy birthyday, Mai Tai -- you look marvelous! ("Trader" Vic Alley photo by Frank Lovece)
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Reviews on

Hi, all! I've been lax about posting links to my recent reviews, but I'm trying to do better.

Please take a look at my reviews of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Blood: The Last Vampire, Public Enemies and Jennifer Lynch's Surveillance and let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

NY Times reports that porn movies have no plots: Stop the presses!

The New York Times is notoriously clueless when it comes to popular culture, but this is an all-time high. On July 7th, an article on the front page of the Business section (below the fold, to be sure, but front page nonetheless) declared that dirty movies don't offer much in the way of "narrative arcs." Say it ain't so!

Okay, I exaggerate the extent of the Times' obliviousness. Reporter Matt Richtel goes on to say that only three years ago, industry leaders like Vivid Entertainment were making feature-length erotic films with plot, while today almost half of their productions are just strings of hardcore sex scenes. Fair enough, I suppose, if you define plot very, very loosely. Even Vivid's Pirates, hailed as an adult-movie groundbreaker for its lavish production design and cheeky tale (born of the longtime industry practice of making movies, um.... inspired by mainstream hits) of warring pirates can't be said to have anything resembling narrative arcs. Actress Savanna Samson (Natalie Oliveros) is quoted lamenting that she "used to have dialogue," and recalling the days when she prepared assiduously for her roles in movies like Flasher because she took her acting seriously.

The fact is, if you want your porn with real plot you have to go back to the '70s, when much of the adult-movie community seriously believed that in the future, the line dividing smut and "real movies" would vanish, and that mainstream movie stars would do hardcore scenes when appropriate to the plot. Nearly 40 years later, explicit sex scenes have made their way into serious-minded movies like Leos Carax's Pola X (1999), Virginie Despentes' Baise-Moi (2000), Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (2004), Catherine Breillat's Romance (1999) and Anatomy of Hell (2004), both starring Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi, and Vincent Gallo's polarizing The Brown Bunny (2003). But you can't really call them mainstream, and the best Hollywood has come up with is the NC-17 rated Showgirls (1995), an instant camp classic.

On another note, the Times seems to love Savanna Samson. In addition to this piece, she was singled out in a report about the 2006 AVN Awards (which also discusses Pirates) and quoted in a 2007 piece about the problem with high-def porn (both by Richtel), the subject of a 2006 feature called Naked Came the Vintner, about her efforts to get into the winemaking business, and spotlighted in a 2005 piece article about Vivid's do-over of The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), in which Samson co-starred with Jenna Jameson. Ironically, Samson admits to having fast-forforwarded through the original because there was so much dialogue.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful, maybe: Nazi zombies in space and Gate remake

Hard on the heels of the Norwegian Nazi-zombies picture Dead Snow (right) comes word of another project that combines the undead and the Third Reich: The Finnish Iron Sky, which features Nazi zombies on the moon.

No, this isn't a joke. Well, actually it is. Sort of. Apparently the tone is tongue in cheek, which it would really have to be given that it's about zombified Nazis who escaped to the moon during WWII and are now plotting to come back to Earth and revive Hitler's grand plan. Oh, and it stars Udo Kier, whom I last saw playing a non-zombie Nazi in the Grindhouse trailer Werewolf Women of the SS. Yeah, I'm there.

And then there's the remake of The Gate, one of those odd little '80s horror pictures that I remember fondly without remebering much about it except that three kids (one played by Steven Dorff) accidentally open some kind of portal in a suburban backyard and unleash a horde of little demons. Loved the little demons Alex Winter (yes, the Lost Boys/Bill & Ted actor) is slated to direct and it's going to be in 3D. I'm intrigued.

So hey: Two things to kind of look forward to -- that's not bad!
Bookmark and Share