Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Day Off #1

E-Card Awesomeness provided by fellow Splatterpunk Rick Ragsdale...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Welcome to Grindhouse...for real...

OK, we have now all been taken to school by two true MASTERS....

If you could go back in time about 10 years and told me two of my newfound heroes, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, would team up to attempt the greatest night of geek cinema ever made, I would have said "dude, I HAVE From Dusk Till Dawn on Laserdisc? Duh..."
...but GRINDHOUSE is another beast all together.

and now the trailer is out, and it might be the closest thing to pulp perfection I've ever seen. It seems to be sticking true to the experience of the Grindhouse experience, rough splices and moog music et al. It also boasts one of the greatest casts ever, and I never thought Kurt Russell could get any cooler, and Rose Macgowan...any hotter. If you haven't seen the trailer yet and gotten your keyboard slick with geek goo, behold it HERE.

Funny how it takes seeing the trailer in pristine HD to get the full "film wiped on the ass of the projectionist" look they are going for.

Speaking of which, I got to hit the "Real" Grindhouse at the New Beverly on Tuesday, where they were playing the appropriately programed original version of BLACK CHRISTMAS and the lesser quality SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT. The place was PACKED, and the energy was high since director Bob Clark, stars John Saxton and Olivia Hussey were in attendance (as well as 2 stars from Clarks seminal holiday classic A CHRISTMAS STORY, Scott "Flick" Schwartz & Zack "Scut Farkus" Ward) and once the movie rolled (after a slew of poorly selected trailers cut by some guy named "Trash" who we will get to in a moment) the crowd was RAPT by it. This is a testament to the quality of the original film, since it's truly a well crafted horror film with a perfect smattering of dark humor, and it will take a LOT for the remake to surpass the freaky tension the original film creates. THIS version of the script, with it's healthy use of the "C" and "T" word (you know which ones...) and also an ambiguous sensibility that would never pass the studio walls. Like I mentioned with ROCKY BALBOA, they just don't make horror films like this anymore. I will see the remake, but it's gonna be a tough sell after such a powerful flick that predated the "slasher" genre by 5 years (It truly has the first great "Killer POV" shot that I still can't figure out how they did...Fuck you STRANGE DAYS!). See, that is the strange thing with the grindhouse at the New Beverly. Things have been a little TENSE since a few "GH's" back one of our crew got into a fight with a twunt who thought that noone should talk during the show. See, people go to the Grindhouse TO talk during the show, to laugh along with buddies, sneak in a pint of Jack Daniels and try to out-quip the rest of the audience who generally welcomes the commentary. But since there's been a few serious-minded GH-goers who think that this is the MOMA, and that's put a damper on our monthly ritual. Now half of our gang won't even go, which really sucks because it was a good excuse for us all to get together and have a great night. But here is the kicker....the grindhouse programmers actually came up to our buddy Dan (who is also the sick fuck who wrote SEE NO EVIL) to tell him to monitor the rest of us so we're not rowdy. Then, the penis dribble that put the trailers together (Eddie "Trash" or some shit like that) proceeds to drink himself silly and scream and yell through the film...and got kicked out! Afterwards the programmer apologized to Dan and said "I can't yell at you guys anymore" and thank fucking god it worked out the way it did. Hopefully the GH will keep it's integrity in the next few months (coming in January: Jack Hill night! Woo!) with the dawn of Rob and Quentin's GRINDHOUSE which will surely make the New beverly the hot spot for a clip, but now hopefully the fun will come back to the place and we can all make fun of SWITCHBLADE SISTERS without the fear of B-Movie Blacklisting. See you there!

In the spirit of Xmas, we got a tree. Not quite a "Charlie Brown" but it does the job nicely, thank you. Bri and I couldn't help but notice that some trees in the lot were upwards of 450 dollars in price. Um....what? Welcome to the Hollywood Holidays, I guess. Im sorry but a 450 dollar tree better wrap my presents and give me a Cleveland Steamer as well. If you pay more, do you receive MORE Holiday spirit?
Bah Humbug.

DREAMGIRLS- Got to see a screening at the DOME (God I love it there) and I wont bore you with the usual gushing over the flick. I HATED CHICAGO. Im proud of that claim. It wasn't for me, and neither was DREAMGIRLS really, but it didn't mean I didn't enjoy most of it. The first hour has the rapid-fire energy and verve of an R&B BOOGIE NIGHTS, and both Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy should get ready for heaps of award talk and praise (seriously, both are amazing and Murphy is the best he's been since PLUTO NASH...har) but when they leave the world's story in the second act, the film falls flatter than farina. Everyone else in the cast is great but the story NEED the arc both Hudson's and Murphy's characters go through, their stories are much more compelling than the Motown madness that encompasses the second and third act. When both performers return front and center, the film's live is revived, and it's a thrilling and heartfelt conclusion. I did enjoy the film, I won't lie. But it's far from completely "Dream-y". Christ who am I Joel Segal???

Christmas looms....I need to watch SCROOGED....

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Travis and "The Guac Shot"

Hi All,

Might be a bit belated, but it was Travis Betz's 30th birthday this weekend.
Who is Travis Betz? Get off this site NOW!
...go go rent JOSHUA, which was one of my favorite movies last year. Travis is one hell of a guy and one of the most creative dudes I've ever met. He also creates one of the best shorts series on Youtube called THE RECEPTIONIST that is by far one of the most enjoyable things to watch on the web. What this guy can do with one webcam and some construction paper would make Michel Gondry leak brown tar from his choco starfish. You can check out some of his videos HERE.

Travis is a savvy guy too, and actually chamred many of his friends to make a video for his party which he called the 2nd annual DrexelBox Film festival which was a stroke of genius. Luke made a great one called THE RECEPTICLE which you can see HERE....and he helped Bri and I shoot THE GUAC-SHOT, which was shot, edited and burned to DVD in 5 hours, which might be a new record. God bless Apple for making creativity so easy! The best part? That night at the party, before we premiered the video, Bri whipped up a batch of her special recipe and it was GONE in 5 minutes...and then we showed it...

So, without further adiewwww...and you will probably say is my latest Magcum-opus. Big thanks to my lovely co-star/co-director Briana and my co-DP Luke for all the help and for Banzai for being my post coital clean-up crew.

You can see the video HERE.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Santa Carla, Crazy Mel and the true Underdog is back..

Hello from Santa Carla!

We're in the thick of "The Murder Capital of the world" where rocker vampires roam and "People are Strange". Ok before you get your Google Earth out and start zeroing in, hopefully you got the joke. We're actually in Sunny/Rainy Santa Cruz on another "Pre-Pro trip" and after starting out horribly (including having to take The Banz with us, which is always a fuck-all with our appointments), the trips working itself out. We love it here, absolutely and just taking in the cool air last night on a late dog walking session infused us with a sense of calm. There is a modern Bohemian feel to the seaside burg that is a VAST contrast to the ADD-addled sensibility of LA...things ARENT bigger, smaller, faster, sexier, better, cooler...there just isn't a lot of "er"s here, and that is it's charm. I personally think that time is a half second off around here, and that isn't a bad thing. We need to slow the fuck down, not checking out treo's ever 60 seconds, desperate for another email or txt message, or be 20 places at once or need to consume "day-of-date" (unless it's when WRONG TURN 2 comes out, and then I expect all (or both) of you reading my diatribes to be first in line buying copies)....Santa Cruz operates on a different life CPU...think of it as the ANTI dual core Intel processor.

Oh hold on I have a text message on my Treo I'll have to finish this blog...from my treo...later. Im pathetic....look a black kettle!

...But until I came here physically, I've felt like I've known the town for years thanks to a little film close to my bleeding heart, LOST BOYS. To me its one of the quintessential 80's movies, and the new DVD that was released is "totally awesome". Great commentary by Joel Schumacher, a reunion of "The Frog Brothers" and other great extras that will satiate any 80's horror fan. A must buy...but Santa Cruz was always this fantasy town to me and I never knew it ever really existed until Bri introduced me to it a few years back (she was born there) and I was hooked. It's so NOT L.A. Going to The Cruz is like a total disconnect to the attitudes of this town...
...People say hi when you walk past them on the street.
...The speed limit of 35 isn't enforced, it just is. People are not rushing from place to place and not everyone has a cel phone glued to their hands at all times. Its so nice to get away and to a place that not only embraces that sleepy-town lifestyle (even though every chain known to man has set up shop there on the main street) but is also a horror film landmark. So fucking cool.

Here's something funny about the internet: shit gets around.

I was told last week that my little love letter to PAN'S LABYRINTH was actually posted on Del Toro's site...too funny. I mean, who the fuck am I? Im in no way shape or form a critic, nor do I have any real qualifications, but if I feel passionate about a film, I need to talk about it and tell people to experience it as well. if i have a problem with a movie, as a filmmaker, I would need to at the very least offer my own ideas from my perspective, but only on a "craft" level. It's hard for me to totally HATE films like many critics seem to pride themselves on (echoes of Jon Lovitz proclaiming "It ssstinks" from the CRITIC dance in my ear) but when I see a film that touches me in one way or another like Larry Clark at a Abacrombie & Fitch fashion show, then I gotta talk about it...if people want to call it more "legit" than someone who gets paid to review movies, fine with me. Hell, Stephen King, God of gods, called PAN's the best film of the why haven't you seen it yet?

Speaking of which, two films I saw recently kinda kicked my ass, and never would have thought they would have.

First we have APOCALYPTO, or should I say MEL GIBSON'S KICKASSPOLYPTO. When it was first announced last year, we all just shrugged and said "Oh Crazy Mel is at it again!" but I would have never thought that the film was what was produced, which Im sure you've heard about countless times now that it's actually Number #1 and taking our money greedily, but I don't think anyone had a clue that Mel was making the most subversive Summer Action movie in years, and I was hooked from frame one. I've always loved his work, both as an actor and a director (I can't begin to tell you how much shit I got for liking MAN WITHOUT A FACE and while PASSION was expertly made, BRAVEHEART is a masterpiece of mayhem, agreed?) but went into this with very low expectations....which were discarded right from the start. This film is CRAZY. Sure it gives you a bit of insight in the Mayan world, but it's also a simple story of survival and family set among the jaguars and jungles in a world we see little of. Gibson has learned from the best directors during his salad years (George Miller, Dick Donner, Peter Wier, et al) and when our hero narrowly escapes human sacrifice (In a scene that stretched the limit of suspense and dread) and hits the ground running, the film NEVER lets up...
...and for us splatterpunks, this fucking movie is GROSS. Severed heads, entrails, chewed off faces, bloody testicles...Gibson clearly likes his gore. But the film has heart, and in the end, even with a somewhat downbeat climax, you walk out exhausted but exhilarated, like a healthy burp after a good meal...a totally satisfying experience at the movies, nothing more or less.
You know what? Mel can hate on whoever he wants, just keep making awesome movies dude.

ROCKY BALBOA. The name to most of us instantly conjures up so many feelings, images. We grew up watching this character (and the former porn star playing him) go from being the Philly Pallooka to the World Champ and back down to underdog again by the time we get to the dismal and misdirected ROCKY V (funny note: Rock was originally going to die and thankfully they cut that ending out...not so sequel friendly I guess) but now Stallone is back in many respects with ROCKY 6-er...ROCKY BALBOA. Like APOCALYPTO, I went in with little to no expectations, knowing how burned i was over ROCKY 5....i mean, it's been 16 years since that nightmare-on-film, what's left for the Italian Stallion?

Well, quite a lot it seems. ROCKY BALBOA isn't about the fights, it isn't about his opponent or the training montage (I mean, you gotta have a montage, right Trey & Matt?)'s about coming to terms with destiny and death (sorry THE FOUNTAIN) and finding it in yourself to get one last chance for greatness. This film is the perfect bookend to the series, a true climax to Balboa's story, and Stallone, who also wrote, co-produced and directed, was smart in making the biggest challenge for Rocky being simply fading away into old age and obscurity.

The film FEELS old-fashioned; the pacing is deliberate and not catering to an A.D.D. addled audience of today, who needs an action scene every 8 minutes (Thanks Joel Silver). The tone is melodramatic, borderline saccharine and dips occasionally into schmaltz, but never seems false and pandering. Even the style feels saturated in the gritty Cheesesteak streets of downtown Philly with the high grain and harsh lighting...but go back and watch the first film and it's all there too, which makes this new film feel like an old friend with a few new stories to tell. ROCKY BALBOA is a total throwback to cinema of yore, the old-fashioned "feel good" movie that actually delivers on it's promise that many films forget to infuse.

Stallone himself, paunchy and weathered from the Hollywood storm after a few years of anonymity (and "D-TOX"...yuck), is fucking wonderful in the film, balancing the weight of being a local champ (one of the great little touches is wherever Balboa goes in public you hear "Hey Champ!" or "Rock-ee!" as people pass which really grounds the reality) and the desperation of wanting one more shot despite the odds and everyone around him saying otherwise, which many will see as a reflection of Sly's recent career. I dont think anyone felt SPY KIDS 3-D was what Stallone had in mind for a "comeback", but this is the film to do it.

In BALBOA and as Rocky, you believe him. You believe the pain he goes through, the aching joints on a body pushed to the limit all too often, the mental strain of affecting those around him with what seems to be an insane idea (Basically Rocky's being challenged to a high profile exhibition match in Vegas with latest champion Mason "The Line" Dixon, who a "virtual Rocky" beat on ESPN when they created a "what if" match) and there are at least 3 monologues that Stallone delivers that are inspiring and emotional, and it reminds you that Sly is a well-versed writer as well.

Kudos also to HEROES' Milo Ventimiglia who plays Rocky's son (I guess Sage is on a timeout after doing David "The Demon" Defalco's CHAOS), also conflicted with living in his father's shadow, and not only is it perfect casting -fuck they really do both have the crooked lip-but Milo really holds his own against Stallone. Of course Pauly is there, as well as the requisite training montage (which is fucking awesome...people cheered upon it's arrival) but this new ROCKY is infused with a sense of fatalism that hovers over the story. This REALLY is the last we/the world will probably see Rocky in the ring again, and the audience who attended ATE IT UP. You'll be hard pressed to escape the new "I Liiike" overused catchprase in "Hurtin Bombs" when it's delivered by Rock's old trailer Duke.

This is a true crowd-pleaser, the kind that makes old folks say "they just don't make 'em like theyy used ta!" between oxygen tank breaths, and perfect for the holiday season filled with dour and downbeat Oscar entries (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, THE QUEEN, ERAGON...ok maybe not the last one). There were two separate moments where a crowd was roaring and clapping or chanting "ROCKY! ROCKY" where i though how amazing the surround sound in the Fox screening room where we saw the flick was...and realized it was actual audience members doing the cheering! That to me is the definition of a true "crowd pleaser" one we don't see too often, one we deliberately go to the movies for, that communal experience, and ROCKY BALBOA delivers a knockout of a family friendly holiday film that will have you walking out smiling...and humming that goddamned theme song.

Nothing much on the WT2 front right now as all the studios are closing for the holidaze, but I'll keep you posted. Actually, Im thinking about posting my old production blogs from pre-production to the actual shoot here...any interest in that?

Finally, i WISH i could tell you more about what happened to me this past Monday night. Im sworn to secrecy and hoping the info comes out from another source, but I will say that i was invited to THE coolest little secret gathering someone like me could ever hope to be part of. Hopefully more news comes out from elsewhere but for my own safety Im gonna keep it on the down low....but let's just say that every fiber of my geek was on fire and I was honored and humbled to be amongst gods.

FUCK...this weekend has been insane, to much for one post. Check back, much to talk about...and it's Christmas already?? Jesus Christ!

Staying Scary,