Saturday, July 30, 2016

Skip The Purge and Come Out to Play With The Warriors

Is it truly possible to be both a gritty ‘70s New York thriller and also a ridiculously shameless and embarrassing masculine fantasy involving theme-costumed street gangs?  The answer of course is an unqualified yes, with The Warriors (1979), which depicted an alternate New York where the city is ruled by rival street gangs and there only seems to be one handgun. Most of the fighting is hand-to-hand, along with the occasional switchblade and/or baseball bat.
When the presumptive heroes of the movie, The Warriors, are framed for the murder of Cyrus (with that one handgun), the leader of the Gramercy Riffs and the most powerful gang, a hit is put out on them (over the radio, that’s how you went viral in the ‘70’s) and they spend the rest of the night fighting every other gang in New York as the race back to their home turf on Coney Island.  The real joy of this movie are the gangs they encounter; The Baseball Furies in Yankee uniforms wearing KISS makeup, the all-girl Lizzies sporting Joan Jett shags and The Rogues, on roller skates.  
The Warriors is like an American version of the UK mod/skinhead rivalries, but without the scooters and the shaved heads.  Punk Rock is also completely ignored, which is ironic considering the movie came out in 1979.  And it never occurs to The Warriors that they could simply take off their vests that say Warriors on the back, blend into the crowd and take the subway home, but the name of this movie is The Warriors, man, not The Runaways.  Which seems like a far better name for that all-girl gang than the Lizzies…
From director Walter Hill of The Long Riders (1980), Last Man Standing (1996), and Deadwood, the movie predates Escape From New York (1981) and is so much more fun than any of these modern Purge movies.  Michael Beck was Swan, the leader of The Warriors and starred in Xanadu (1980), The Last Ninja (1983) and Babylon 5.  James Remar as Ajax, is best remembered as Dexter’s dad in Dexter, and also starred in Sex and The City, The Cotton Club (1984), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), Blade Trinity (2004) and Pineapple Express (2008).
David Patrick Kelly portrayed Luther, the leader of The Rogues, and went on to appear in Twin Peaks and Commando (1985, “I let him go”).  He played T-Bird in The Crow (1994, “Fire it up!”) and had a cameo John Wick (2014).  And watch out for Mercedes Ruehl, who would later go on to win an Oscar for The Fisher King (1991, with Robin Williams), in one of her first movies as “Policewoman in the Park”.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  i:)  it’s a the first book in a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Friday, July 29, 2016

An Aging Ash vs. An Evil Mummy, or Thoughts on Bubba Ho-Tep

 WHAT IF Elvis were still alive and hiding in a rest home in East Texas, along with JFK?  And what if the residents of said nursing home were being stalked by an ancient Egyptian mummy?  And finally, what if you cast American icon Bruce Campbell as The King of Rock and Roll?  Now you’ve gone too far, you might say, but you’d be wrong because Writer and Director Don Coscarelli of Phantasm (1972), The Beastmaster (1982) and John Dies at The End (2012) brought you the comedy-horror movie Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), and the world is so much better for it.
Bubba Ho-Tep at its heart is an optimistic reinvention of our world as we know it, a world where Elvis faked his own death and JFK survived his assassination.  Much like Elvis & Nixon (2016), this is another Elvis homage with no Elvis songs in its soundtrack, but Elvis wanted to leave his life as the King of Rock and Roll behind him, so it makes sense thematically.  Instead the movie has a blues-y western soundtrack, perfectly complimenting an aging Elvis who has to fight a mummy that can only be seen at the moment of death.
Bruce Campbell is essential to this vision, and rather than watching Elvis, the audience is always aware that they are watching Bruce Campbell doing an Elvis impression.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; Bruce Campbell’s natural sense of comedic timing supplies most if not all of the humor, and he is so well loved as a cult hero that he acts as a conduit or an ambassador to the movie.  We’re convinced we’re going to like this film before we even watch it, and fortunately for us, Bruce Campbell rarely disappoints.
Sebastian Haff, the world’s greatest Elvis impersonator, (and also Bruce Campbell in a dual-role), swaps places with The King in 1972 and actually dies five years later, while Elvis lives out the rest of his life as an Elvis impersonator, finally ending up in an East Texas rest home.  Hidden behind jowly latex and his signature sunglasses and sideburns, now gone grey, he has to walk with a walker on account of his bad hip.  The King may be down, but he’s not out, and he’s certainly not ready to go quietly into the night.
He is joined by Ossie Davis as JFK, his only friend at the rest home, hiding out from Lyndon Johnson and the surrounding conspiracy in the form of a cranky old black man.  It’s best not to ask too many questions, this nursing home also has The Lone Ranger as one of the patients.  And then there’s the mummy in the black cowboy hat and dusty lizard-skin boots, preying on the souls of the elderly, and the only two heroes standing in his way are The King of Rock and Roll and one of the greatest presidents of the 20th Century.  Fighting the mummy and its evil scarab minions reinvigorates Elvis, gives him a chance to showcase his sweet karate moves and have one last adventure. 
Watch out for the Reggie Bannister of Phantasm (1972) cameo as a nursing home administrator.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action, or Thoughts on Elvis and Nixon

These are the historical facts: on December 21, 1970, The Leader of the Free World met The King of Rock and Roll.  Richard Nixon presented Elvis Presley with a badge, swore him in as a “Federal Special Agent at Large” and they posed for the now infamous photo that asks more question than it will ever answer.  This photo, and the days leading up to it is the subject of Elvis & Nixon (2014), a gloriously uneven snapshot of these two American icons and the absurd conversation and karate demonstration they may or may not have had in the Oval Office.
Can you imagine Kanye or Lady Gaga pulling a stunt like that today?  Can you imagine Lady Gaga wanting to be a Federal Special Agent at Large?   Elvis was one of the last conservative and openly right wing pop stars, and certainly the most famous to date.   Michael Shannon, who you know as General Zod in Man of Steel (2013) and from his brilliant journey as Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014) plays Elvis Aaron Presley, and Kevin Spacey, who you know because he’s Kevin Spacey, portrays Richard Milhous Nixon.
It has to be mentioned that this is a movie about Elvis, with “Elvis”” in the title, without a single Elvis song on the soundtrack.  The mood and tone of the decade is instead set with funky hits like “Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave, “Spinning Wheel” by Blood Sweat and Tears and Creedence’s “Susie-Q”, songs that immediately anchor the audience in a time and place, but have nothing to do with Elvis.  The King stood 6’0” tall, and Michael Shannon is a lanky 6”3’.  He may have the drawl, the sideburns and the sunglasses, but his Elvis is far more svelte and towers over his co-stars.  These tiny details matter, especially if you’re not even going to secure the rights to any of The King’s songs. 
The most poignant and effective scene is when Elvis stands in front of a mirror and explains his Elvis personae, and how it swallowed and overwhelmed the “boy from Memphis”.  Michael Shannon’s Elvis is a TV shooting, jangly, and nervous costumed vampire cowboy, his paranoid performance implies his pill addiction without actually showing it.  It’s not what I would call an affectionate portrayal of the literal King of Rock and Roll, and without a love of the source material, what’s the sense of even making this movie? 
Kevin Spacey is always reliable, and his charismatic impression on another iconic president is more traditional and closer to the actual public figure.  A natural mimic, he channels Nixon by way of Jack Lemmon; he has the body language and voice down, and in his own way is just as paranoid and nervous as The King of Rock and Roll.  It’s ironic that he played the singer Bobby Darin in the 2004 biopic Beyond The Sea, where he actually sang, but he steals every scene he’s in with his star presence, sly comedic timing and consummate acting skills.
From Amazon Studios, the movie also features Evan Peters, Colin Hanks (who did such a great job in Fargo Season 1) and Johnny Knoxville, perfectly cast as Sonny West of the Memphis Mafia.  English actor Alex Pettyfer from I Am Number Four (2011) and Magic Mike (2012) portrays Jerry Schilling, Elvis’ long-suffering PR Director, confidante and babysitter.
Elvis lives, in his own movies and fantastic alternate histories like Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), where he’s played by Bruce Campbell and fights an ancient Egyptian Mummy, and also Kurt Russell’s biopic Elvis (1979 directed by John Carpenter).  Watch both along with Elvis and Nixon, and make time for Blue Hawaii (1961), Jailhouse Rock (1957) and Viva Las Vegas (1964).

my first novel? thanks for asking:)  it’s a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, killer kung-fu witches and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Devil Always Throws the Best Parties, Or Thoughts on Ken Russell’s The Devils

Arguably Superstar Director Ken Russell’s most infamous work (in a stellar list that includes Tommy (1975), Altered States (1980) and The Lair of The White Worm (1988)), The Devils (1971) is decadent, stylish and surreal; a period piece set in 17th Century France yet reflecting the mood and aesthetics of the Swinging 60’s.  Based on the novel The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley, the film is tangentially about witchcraft, demonic possession and sexual repression in Loudun, France.
Legendary British actor and personal hero Oliver Reed portrays the impassioned and charismatic Father Grandier, who acts more like a 70’s rock star or a cult leader than a traditional man of the cloth.  He is accused of witchcraft and heresy by Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne of The Angels, the hunchbacked nun who is in love with him.  Her literally twisted performance as she fantasizes of Grandier as Christ on the cross, complete with crown of thorns, is the start of a crazy and profane roller-coaster of a movie that is unrelenting in pushing every boundary Ken Russell could imagine.  And trust me, he had quite an imagination.
Urbain Grandier was an historical figure who was actually burned at the stake in 1634, so you know where this movie is probably going to end up.  The movie paints a bleak portrait of the Catholic Church in 17th Century France, including plague pits, state of the art medical theory involving wasps, leeches, and crocodiles scenes of sexual violence combined with religious fervor and of course, the infamous naked nun-orgy in the cathedral.  Subversively blasphemous, the scenes were shocking enough in the 70’s to merit an X-rating in the UK and US upon release.
With Michael Gothard of Scream and Scream Again (1970) and For Your Eyes Only (1981) as Father Barre, the perverted Witch Hunter and monochromatic sets and costumes by Derek Jarman.  Also featuring Gemma Jones, the Duchess of Duke Street and Madame Pomfrey from Harry Potter, in her big screen debut as Madeleine De Brou, the secret wife of Father Grandier.
The film remains powerful and relevant even today, considering the polarizing stranglehold that organized religion still has on world politics.  And while we don’t burn anyone at the stake anymore we pillory them in the news and social media, and the naked nun orgy scenes seem tame and artistic by today’s standards.

my first novel? thanks for asking:)  it’s the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins,  and a 24hr diner with the best pie in town…

read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Keen Deductive Mind and Killer Cheekbones, or Thoughts on Essie Davis in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Essie Davis is The Honourable Phryne Fisher

Essie Davis, who you might remember as Amelia from The Babadook (2014), the Lady Crane from Game of Thrones, or Maggie from The Matrix: Reloaded (2003) starred as the lovely lady detective Phryne Fisher in the delightfully retro Australian TV series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012).  A thoroughly modern 1920's flapper, especially from a 21st Century perspective, Phryne is often underestimated on the account of her considerable beauty and charm.  The series begins as Miss Fisher, mountain climber, airplane pilot, excellent shot with her gold-plated revolver and all-around adventuress with a Louise Brooks bob, returns to her native Melbourne and begins a new career as a Australia’s first female consulting detective.
Phryne Fisher, an independently wealthy woman of leisure, is assisted in her crime fighting endeavors by Dot, her paid companion/sidekick, as portrayed by Ashleigh Cummings, along with the aptly named Mr. Butler, her butler (Richard Bligh) and her drivers and all around muscle Bert and Cec, as played by Travis McMahon and Anthony Sharpe.  In addition there’s also a dashing police inspector (isn’t there always) as played by Nathan Page, who is always reluctant to take advantage of Miss Fisher’s considerable assets.
Phryne also makes time to adopt a street urchin/ragamuffin/pickpocket named Jane that she met on a case, “Murder on the Ballarat Train.” from Season 1.  Miriam Margoyles, Professor Sprout from Harry Potter, but who will be forever remembered as the Infanta Maria Escalosa of Spain from Blackadder, stars as Phryne’s disapproving Aunt Prudence.  
Less Agatha Christie and more Dash Hammett with Nick and Nora Charles crossed with Downton Abbey, owing to the time period and gorgeous fashions, the series has none of the bleakness of a modern crime drama.   You get your standard murders with uncomplicated, clearly defined good guys and bad guys while still dealing with contemporary issues, such as LGBT rights, interracial marriage, and the drug trade, all from a 1920’s, Jazz Age perspective.
The name Phryne, in case you’re wondering, (and I know you are), refers to an ancient Greek courtesan who was tried for impiety, often described as a “prophetess of Aphrodite”.

 my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Monday, July 25, 2016

When the Monster in Your Head Knocks on Your Door, or Thoughts on The Babadook

Australia is often mistaken for a sunny England in film, but like the landscape, there’s something wild under the surface, just out of view.  It’s a continent that’s still full of mystery and sometimes monsters, as personified in the unsettling psychological horror of The Babadook (2014).  Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent, her impressive first movie succinctly captures the isolation of depression and also the fears of raising a child on your own.
Australian actor Essie Davis, who you might remember as Maggie from The Matrix: Reloaded (2003), the Lady Crane from Game of Thrones, or Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries portrays single mom Amelia, with a troubled 6 year-old son who can’t make friends as is into magic.  She’s already haunted, experiencing flashbacks of the car accident that took her husband’s life and the survivor’s guilt she feels towards herself and her son Sam.  She struggles with the resentment she feels towards her Sam, his birthday is the anniversary of his father’s death and his life is a daily reminder of her tragedy.
Into their lonely lives comes Mr. Babadook, a character from a children’s book reminiscent of Edward Gorey that mysteriously shows up on their bookshelf.  He knocks on your door (“dook-dook-dook”) and hides under your bed, and once you let him in, he never leaves.
The movie starts slow, taking the time for the audience to really get to know and care for Amelia and her troubled son.  She’s had more than her share of tragedy, and her daily struggle for survival hasn’t left any spare moments to deal with it.  Her growing frustrations, with her job at the nursing home, her son, and her circumstances is palpable, and overwhelming.  And then Sam starts talking to Mr. Babadook, and insisting that he’s real.
The Babadook, a cloaked figure in a top hat with long fingers and sharp teeth, moves in a shaky stop-motion manner that enhances the surreal and dreamlike qualities of the movie.  The tension and fear is supplied by clever use of sound and editing rather than CGI, and first rate performances from Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman as Sam.
All horror movies play with reality to manipulate fear and evoke terror, the beauty of The Babadook is that it can easily be seen as a portrait of madness; we watch Amelia’s life come undone as her sanity unravels.  The monster outside the door is already living in her head, and in this sense Amelia becomes the Babadook.  Reminiscent of Nicole Kidman in The Others (2001), another movie about a mother battling internal demons along with an external supernatural threat, The Babadook currently holds a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Y’Know an Aquarium is a Submarine For Fish, or Thoughts on Ghostbusters

It’s not often that the act of choosing to watch a movie takes on a political significance, and controversy and buzz is usually great for box office.  I can think of Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and maybe To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and now in this divisive election year, the Ghostbusters (2016) reboot.  There was an initial uproar over the casting of John Boyega as a black stormtrooper in Star Wars:The Force Awakens (2015), and Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), so I suppose it was inevitable that an all-female cast of ghostbusters would inspire a similar response and become the most disliked trailer on YouTube even before its release.
However I can’t remember anyone complaining about Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, and if you’re going to reboot a classic movie, why not do something new and innovative instead of a raunchy R-rated rehash with the cast of The Hangover (2009)?  If you go into any movie with your arms folded and refusing to enjoy the experience you’re not going to have a good time, to the point of where you should question your motivations as to why you're actually in the theater.  I do believe that history will be kinder to this generation’s Ghostbusters (2016), and once all the negative hype has died down and this movie is revisited in, perhaps five or ten years, it will be viewed in a better light and people will actually laugh.
From Writer and Director Paul Feig, and produced by Ivan Reitman, the reboot follows basically the same plot: disgraced academics start a ghost hunting business in Manhattan, supernatural chaos ensues.  Melissa McCarthy is Abby Yates with an updated PKE meter, along with the brilliant Kristen Wiig as Erin Gilbert in the initially skeptical Bill Murray role.  Chris Hemsworth shines as Kevin Beckman, with something closer to his natural accent and Kate McKinnon as mad scientist Jillian Holtzmann steals every scene she's in, like a new wave, millennial lady-Thomas Dolby.  And I have to admit, I do like Leslie Jones as Patty better than the original Winston; she’s funnier and contributes more to the plot, but don’t tell anyone on the Internet, I really don’t need the heat.
The original firehouse is now $21,000/month, so the gals move above a Chinese restaurant, and like the New York rents, the gags are updated and the ghosts are bigger.  Like way bigger, ghosts are one of the only special effects where CGI really shines, though Ghostbusters has always been more of a supernatural action comedy than a horror movie.  Don’t go to this movie looking for scares, you’d be missing the point.  There’s plenty of snappy dialogue and genuine chemistry between the cast members to distract you from the original, and if you give this movie a chance I promise you’ll enjoy it.  Unless of course you’re dead inside and have no soul, in which case you belong inside one of those ghostbusting containment fields.
A lot of attention has been paid towards the frankly affectionate cameos from the 1984 cast, but I would like to mention what I think we should call the supporting cameos.  Charles Dance, you know, Tywin Lannister appears along with Andy Garcia as the Mayor, Ed Begley Jr., Zach Woods aka Gabe from The Office and Michael K. Williams, aka Omar from The Wire. 
Karan Sonni, Dopinder from Deadpool (2016), and the brilliant Yahoo series Other Space shines as Benny, the Chinese food delivery guy.  Also fellow Other Space co-stars Neil Casey stars as Rowan North, a sort of ghostly agent provocateur and Milana Vayntraub as “Subway Rat Woman”.  (I didn’t actually see her, I caught her name as I was watching the credits and waiting the inevitable sequel tease). 
There’s also an appearance by Daniel Ramis as a Metal Head, which was a nice tribute to his father Harold, the original Egon Spengler and inspiration for Jillian Holtzmann’s character, who passed away in 2014.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Friday, July 22, 2016

Walk Alone With Claire Bloom, or Thoughts on The Haunting

The Haunting (1963), based on the brilliant novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson, (you remember her from high school, she wrote The Lottery) and Directed by Hollywood Legend Robert Wise, is a tense and harrowing portrait of insanity wrapped around a ghost story.  The premise is familiar; parapsychologist Dr. Markway as played by Richard Johnson investigates a haunted house, along with the nephew of the house’s owner Luke Sanderson, as played by Russ Tamblyn.  You know Russ Tamblyn from Twin Peaks, West Side Story (1961) and an IMDb page that spans almost 70 years.
Dr. Markway is also joined by two psychics, Nell as played by Julie Harris, living a lonely and unhappy life of quiet desperation and Claire Bloom as Theodora, the opposite of Nell, glamorous, confident, and also a subversively flirty lesbian mid-century character.  She’s on your gaydar if you look for it, but the signs are subtle enough to get past the censors and social mores of the time.
Dr. Markway provides the exposition, Luke acts as the skeptic, and Nell narrates in a nervous and insecure voiceover.  We as an audience are made to both sympathize and share in Nell’s experiences, and as she is sensitive to the paranormal we are right beside her as she is tormented by the external ghosts and internal demons.  In fact, the whole movie can be interpreted as a slow descent into madness, though author Shirley Jackson has maintained that she wrote a supernatural novel.
The Haunting (1963) remains a very accurate adaptation of a written work, with dialogue lifted directly from the novel, with a surprisingly effective use of sound, lighting and acting to create dread and fear.  The house itself is dark and oppressive, and the black and white film highlights the long shadows and dark hallways.  Reminiscent of The Innocents (1961), The Turn of The Screw (2009), and The Others (2001), it is an effective ghost story that relies on mood, direction and first class acting to build dread and in the end, an overwhelming sadness that stays with the audience long after viewing.
If you haven’t heard of Robert Wise, you’ve certainly heard of his movies: The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965), Audrey Rose (1977) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).   Even before he started directing he edited Citizen Kane (1941). 
There was of course the inevitable 1999 remake by Speed (1994) director Jan de Bont, which I re-watched for this blog because I’m a completionist and I care my readers.  The movie had perfect casting, at least on paper, with Owen Wilson as Luke, Lily Taylor as Nell, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theodora and Liam Neeson as Dr. Markway (now Dr. Marrow, for no discernable explanation). 
Dr. Marrow is conducting a fear experiment with insomnia patients, and the production design, music and visual effects are all turned up to 11.  In fact every aspect of the remake is bigger and louder except for the acting by that perfect cast, which struggles under the weight of all that overblown CGI.  In true ‘90s fashion Hollywood took a quiet, intellectual ghost story and tried to rebrand it as a supernatural action movie akin to The Mummy (1999).  The movie was a summer hit, and currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 17%.  The 1963 version, in case you’re wondering and I know you are, and currently holds a rating of 89%. 

my first novel? thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Now That You Know Who James Cordon is, Go Watch Lesbian Vampire Killers

James Cordon, who American readers know as the host from The Late Late Show, but really should know him from his portrayal of Smithy in the brilliant BBC TV show Gavin & Stacey stars as Fletch, the best mate of Jimmy, as played by Matthew Horne, (Gavin from Gavin & Stacey and The Catherine Tate Show) in Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009), a movie that does its best to bring some much needed comic relief to the lesbian vampire genre, with mixed results.  These two have so much chemistry and banter, much like Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, and are very convincing as best friends.  If Shawn of the Dead (2004) was perhaps 45/55 comedy/horror, Lesbian Vampire Killers is closer to 80/20 comedy/horror.
After Jimmy has a bad breakup and Fletch loses his job as a birthday clown because he hit a kid, the two lads embark upon a hiking holiday in rural England and find one of those obscure English village pubs straight out of An American Werewolf in London (1981), but this one is of course chock full of lady loving vampires.  MyAnna Burning from The Descent (2005) shows up as Lotte, a German backpacker who is introduced, along with her three comely friends, while singing along to “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” by Norwegian neo-punk rocker Ida Marie.
The movie suffers from the unfortunate distraction of having an overabundance of plot, and I think that’s the only time I’ve ever written those specific words in this particular order.  There’s a back-story involving ancient curses, magic swords and Chosen Ones that gets in the way of the fun, and points to a general lack of faith in the main premise. 
However, James Cordon’s and Matthew Horne’s characters are not too different than the roles they played in Gavin & Stacey, and if you have seen the series it is easy to imagine Smith-la and Gav-la having this sort of adventure while researching their beers of the world project.  And if you haven’t seen Gavin & Stacey, you’re left with R-rated Scooby Doo/Hammer movie hybrid with girl-friendly vampire killers, and that will have to be enough for you.
Also watch out for Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor, the I from Withnail & I (1987), and also Alien 3 (1992) and Queen of the Damned (2002) as the local vicar and vampire hunter.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback from these fine (amazon) bookstores.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

New York Notes on the Underground, or Thoughts on C.H.U.D.

Much like Snakes on a Plane (2006), Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009) or Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972), C.H.U.D. (1984) is one of those movies where the title tells you everything you need to know before you even see the trailer.  One of my all-time favorite acronyms, C.H.U.D. stands Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, and that’s exactly what you get and all you really need.
Much like a low-brow, low budget 80’s Mimic (1997, and Guillermo del Toro’s first US movie) with slimy lizard hands reaching out from a manhole cover waiting to drag you under, the CHUDs (because I know that’s the only reason you’d watch this movie) were once human, and are now mutated by the same toxic waste radiation that makes Ninja Turtles or the zombies in Return of The Living Dead (1985).  They’re not exactly frightening, with glowing eyes, shark teeth and big green alien heads, and very obviously a guy in a suit.  I don’t have a philosophical objection to a guy in a suit; Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) was a guy in a suit (Ricou Browning), and so was the Alien from Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien (1976) was also a guy in a suit (Nigerian actor Bolaji Badejo if you care, and I know you do, he was 6’10”).
John Heard stars as one of those freelance New York photographers whot still somehow manages to score a cool downtown loft (it was the ‘80s) doing a photo series on the homeless.  You know he’s a photographer because he has one of those vests with lots of pockets.  Kim Griest is Lauren, his model girlfriend.  There’s a missing persons epidemic among the street people that the police are ignoring under orders from the Mayor, but luckily John Heard is there to investigate.
C.H.U.D. is unfortunately not as frightening or claustrophobic as The Descent (2005) in its depiction of a subterranean homeless underworld of abandoned subway tunnels and sewer lines, but it’s a nice period piece and example of New York in the ‘80s.  So much exposition is supplied by outdated and now sentimental tech like answering machines, land lines, and phone booths. 
Featuring Daniel Stern (Home Alone was only 6 years away, coincidentally with co-star John Heard), as AJ, a sketchy reverend running a soup kitchen.  Also look out for a young John Goodman in one of his first movies as “Diner Cop” and Jon Polito from Highlander (1986), The Crow (1994) and The Big Lebowski (1998) as a newscaster.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Demonic Neighbors But the Rent’s Great, or Thoughts on The Sentinel

The Sentinel (1977), by Director Michael WInner of the Nightcomers (1972) and The Wicked Lady (1983) is one of those 70’s satanic movies very much like The Omen (1976), The Exorcist (1973), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968); let’s call it the Catholic Horror genre.  This forgotten devil-palooza features Screen Legend Ava Gardner in one of her last movies as a sophisticated New York realtor and also a literal metric ton of past and future stars, but more on that later.
Cristina Raines, who had a real Kate Jackson/Charlie’s Angel vibe going on, plays Alison Parker, a 70’s supermodel suffering from some crazy childhood traumas involving the witness of her father’s naked food orgy parties. She moves into an ivy-covered Brooklyn brownstone with an incredible view of the city for $ 400/month that just happens to be built over the gateway to Hell.  What Buffy called the Hellmouth, if you remember the ‘90s.
John Carradine (David’s father), is the blind priest that lives on the fifth floor, along with the original Penguin Burgess Merideth, as another eccentric neighbor.  Beverly D’Angelo is one of the predatory German (maybe Russian?) lesbian neighbors that may seem homophobic from a modern perspective, but help to add an uncomfortable element of psycho-sexual terror to the film.  That’s in addition to the naked zombie orgies Alison encounters on an upper floor.
But getting back to all those cameos: Martin Balsam plays an exposition providing university professor, and Jose Ferrer (Miguel’s father) is another sinister priest, as this is a Catholic Horror movie after all.  Jeff Goldblum is a fashion photographer, Christopher Walken is a police detective, a very young Jerry Orbach plays a TV director and Tom Berenger shows up at the end along with Nana Visitor, Major Kira from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in her big screen debut.

Cristina Raines starred in Nashville (1975), and Ridley Scott’s The Duellists (1979), but mostly appeared on TV in classic series like Kojak, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Moonlighting.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.