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.

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