Sunday, January 27, 2008

Late Night, Big Nose...

It's 6am and Im watching ROXANNE.

Don't ask me why (just got back driving 2 hours from a long but great shoot), but I remember loving this whimsical little movie when I was a kid, and having not seen it in almost 15 years after a steady stream of repeat viewings back then(big hit on the pre-original programming HBO...ah, DREAM ON, you were so close), I haphazardly put it on HDNET MOVIES, my favorite new channel, and there that big schnoz was.

Instantly, Steve Martin's mini-masterpiece of a script had me, the mix of real emotion and light absurdity (the Martin-induced gymnastics, the knucklehead Firefighters, the legendary Michael J. Pollard, et al) and one of the few Daryll Hannah performances I could stand....the movie is a little slice of perfect.

it reminded me of what made me love discovering films while/instead of doing homework in my bedroom, a mirror trained to catch the reflection of the little 12 inch Sony spouting steady streams of Home Box Office offerings, including movies I remember saying "Wow, who did that?" Movies like FULL METAL JACKET, SOMETHING WILD, or RAISING ARIZONA & LESS THAN ZERO...and of course, RE-ANIMATOR. So many movies that I've watched like that felt almost like new films upon subsequent viewings...because the first time I watched them, I saw the film's visuals backwards in the mirror reflection.

ROXANNE was a film that made me stand up and really discover what great storytelling is, where there's this connect with a star with a style, a script (itself a REMAKE...YES! They remade movies back then, kids...its been around forever; get used to it), and a director twisting it all together. In this case, the helmer was Mick Jackson, who later made me laugh again with L.A. STORY (which, dated and all, I still need to see since moving to (he)L.A...haven't had any freeway signs talk to me either, disappointing) and cry with THE BODYGUARD, and for all the wrong reasons.

I remember at 11, sitting in my room transfixed by the many wonderful montages set to classical music that made me smile not just from the usual "gags" or funny lines or wacky mugging by Martin and his weenie honker, but from how the filmmaking was particular, focused, strong. This movie had a way about it, and I couldn't quite pin it, but it was there. When EVIL DEAD 2 was on, it was another movie that said "Hey, dick-weed, I'm talkiin' here" and your eyes listen. Not saying that ROXANNE has flying eyeballs, Fake Shemps or Ash-Cams, but it's heart and the light brush strokes of comedy, except for the bitingly harsh and hilarious "nose joke" sequence, that give the movie it's voice. The same voice I haven't heard in so fucking long since the last time I watched ROXANNE, and just a few words of dialogue said, and I was back in that room, discovering it all over again.

Martin is one of those comics that has just adapted to the times so deftly and still with a unique edge, even in his stinkers, he's still hard not to watch...your eyes just want to follow that white mane of hair and that style that pokes fun at the simple things in an absurd life. Having just finished his book, BORN STANDING UP, I have even more respect for his wit and intelligence, how he can make even opening a door a complex comic feat. While the wacky & personal favorite THE JERK is by far one of the greatest comic-driven comedies of all tim (boasting the greatest opening line of all time: "I was born a poor black child") ROXANNE is one of Martin's least goofball, at a time in his career when wild and crazy guys wearing white suits and arrows in the head and wild and crazy guys were just being shed like a layer of snake-skin. It was a new, more mature Martin, and ROXANNE is a wonderful evolution for Comedy's Renaissance Man.

...and right before I finally pass out, I get an email from Neil & Axelle, who was in France for the GERARDMER Film festival, which WRONG TURN 2/ DETOUR MORTEL 2 was playing there in the "Direct To Video" competition (along with BLACK WATER, Maurice's END OF THE LINE, which I hear is awesome):

You just won the best movie straight to DVD prize at Gerardmer!!!!!

Neil & Axelle x"


OK, this must be a sick dream brought on by a 2 hour drive, 5am DEL TACO and the hypnotic allure of ROXANNE. Im gonna go to bed now and just forget it, cause that can't be right, can it?

Staying Scary,

Friday, January 25, 2008


S'Nuff Said.

Staying Scary,

PS See the legend at work HERE.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What a week...

Hey all,

Cough cough.

Yeah the bug got me, so Im home today. Still kinda "busy" doing shit but stuck trying not to cough up a lung or give my laptop a Roman Shower. Fuck I feel like 2 tons of AIDS ridden bat guano.

Last week was a helluva one, I will tell you that. LOTS to talk about, but knowing me I'll go on like a David Foster Wallace novel, so instead I'll keep it like Verne Troyer.

MONDAY: FINALLY saw the lil indie that could, ONCE. What an amazing movie. Simple, almost like a Ken Loach musical. I feel terrible that I can't really put it on my Best of 2007 list...then actually contemplate it...then think again. But this film is pure magic, and the songs will stay in your head for days. Luke, you were right again, mate, thanks for bugging me to see it.

TUESDAY: Busy day at work, had to go to the movies during the day. Life sucks, right? It was an advanced screening of the new IMAX wonderment of the eyes, U23D, which every time i see the title I think there's a new STAR WARS: DROIDS tv movie coming. But no, this was the Irish Rock Gods attempt to achieve Rolling Stone status with the obligatory, congratulatory concert film blown up to 70mm to handle their egos, and in 3-D? During the workday???? This I gotta see. Mike D from work and I walked in, sat down, threw on the Buddy Holly's and sat back. First thing I noticed: Mark Pellington's name as co-director, and instantly my cinehackles were up. I LOVE Pellington as a director, first of his original music videos (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy", Foo Fighters recent "Best of You" & Alice in Chain's "rooster" to name a few) then made one of the best paranoid thrillers with ARLINGTON ROAD and then, sadly, he fell off the map after his wife's death, only to bounce back a few years later with new music videos and now this amazingly ambitious effort (he previously worked with U2 on the media collage that was ZOO TV back in the early 90's). So as the music began to throb, I was already smiling.
By the end, I felt TERRIBLE. Because I didn't stand up and cheer and clap....cause I really felt like I was there, front row center, rocking out with Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam. The 3-D is fucking amazing, a huge step forward for the medium, and totally immerses you in the concert. The first 2 songs in the film, you really marvel at the stereoscopic 3-D, which seems to work BACK in the 3-D rather than forward (no shots of Bono sticking his hand out like the old dude with the eyeball in FRIDAY 3, sorry) and created this "box" effect that really did feel like you were in the concert, sitting with the technocrane op as he sweeps around the band fluidly. But by the 3rd song, YOU FORGET ITS 3-D and just fall into the show. The climax regains your 3-D interest with an jaw-dropping visual feast for The Fly, with words and terms flying past your face (a Pellington trademark adapting to the new technology...hemust have been in heaven) and at the end of the film, with all of 30 people in the screening room, I really wanted to stand up and cheer for an encore. You really feel THERE, so much so you feel like a dick for not clapping. If you get a chance, even if you aren't a fan or sick of Bono's World Peace Manifesto (oh, there's plenty of self-hugging, wings flapping and other "give peace a chance, ya fooker" moments he's now famous for. The Edge must just shake his head), see this film. It's a great time, and some of the best 3D I've ever seen. Bring on AVATAR!!!

After work, I met up with Parker to check out this new movie that I've heard a ton about from Screamfest; PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. So we met up at CAA, the final screening before it's premiere at Slamdance, with little to no expectations, I mean, come on...ANOTHER found footage film? How many does this make for the year so far? 6? 7 films just like it? With CLOVERFIELD a few days away, I was skeptical that this little flick about a couple who buys video equipment to document the things that are going bump in their San Diego apartment.

Man, was I wrong.

90 minutes later we walked out in a bit of a daze, seeing one hell of an effective mockumentary that knew how to make the audience jump and shudder in all the right places. There was a Lisa Loeb-looking hip chick next to me who at first thought she was a little too cool for a horror movie screening, but by the end this total stranger was CLUTCHING my arm, mumbling "this is too much, this is too much". Man, was it effective, even getting Parker riled up!

Then i drove home. With the lights on.

Then I went to bed. With the lights on.

It's been YEARS since I was effectively spooked by a movie like this, but PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is the real deal, so to speak. Director/Writer/Editor Oren Peli has crafted a clever and effective haunted house movie in a similar way JJ and co. reinvented the monster movie with CLOVERFIELD. I dont want to hype it up anymore, but just know. This movie scared a dollop of fecal matter out of my ass, and disturbed me for days. MAJOR congrats to Oren and all th best in getting the good word out...if the right distributor picks it up in Park City, I hope they know they have a sleeper hit on their hands if marketed well (unlike say, POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES, which fizzled from bad buzz).

I hope you see the movie the right way and will agree...and believe.

Check out the website HERE and the trailer below:

WEDNESDAY: After a HORRIBLE night sleep (thanks P.A.), tried to get my presentation ready for Thursday's meeting. Im confident, but still a little nervous.
Bri and I finally went to see JUNO that night, part 2 in our "late to the party" screening series (plan on making MICHAEL CLAYTON & INTO THE WILD the weekend picks). Great little flick, that JUNO is, with amazing performances and a unique voice in the script (kick ass Diablo), but also dont know what all the fuss is about. THIS is an Oscar frontrunner? No offense, but it just seems a little too Ordinary People compared to the other possible "Raging Bull" esque contenders....then again, look which film won that year?

THURSDAY: HUGE meeting today, and I think we kicked major ass. Seriously, I haven't been this excited over a project in a while (maybe even more than WT2 before i got it) so cross your could come soon! Directly from the studio where I had my meeting, I raced through Century City traffic over to the Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset for the MOH dinner, which was a trip and a half. We're not supposed to "talk about Fight Club" so you wont get any scoopy details from me, but we all had a great night together, sharing war stories, everyone there being so nice, so supportive of one another...and then of course, there's Landis. An amazing capper to an already killer day.

If you must, check out a link Axelle put up of the night HERE....god, they got my bad side. But what a night, a perfect capper for a pretty memorable day.

FRIDAY: Still buzzing from the night before, had to slog through another work day, but promises of Big Monsters shot with Shaky Cameras danced in my head. After the subtle effectiveness of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, could the kinetic charge of CLOVERFIELD deliver?
Oh it does, and fucking then some. I really liked the movie, cannot WAIT to see it again, and felt like it cleverly pulled out all the stops, plot holes and jumbled geography be dammed (seriously, like this, GODZILLA, DIE HARD WITH A METROPASS...does anyone know how hard it is to get from the Bowery to Central Park? It aint that easy! Especially with monsters hot on your heels!!) So CLOVERFIELD delivered big time despite some over-hyping, and started off the 2008 movie season with one hell of a roar.

...and now this week, Im braving the flu and crossing fingers on some stuff, which could be AWESOME. Sucks being sick, but better its this week and not next week, when Im headed back to New York, so I better rest up. At least i've been able to catch up on some movies, like Ward Robert's LITTLE BIG TOP, which took me week's to watch after he slipped me a copy, and also boasts a career-defining role for "Cap't Spaulding" himself, Sid Haid. It's good cinema like this that's like Chicken Soup for this geeky soul.

God bless bacteria.

Staying Sick,

PS: I havent finished my TOP 07 list, still working on it. Be finished by 09, promise.

PPS: Heath Ledger died yesterday. Fucking unbelievable. I, like you, like the world, took it with a big fat "what?? No fucking way. Huh??" It's still swimming in my head, my heart. Makes you hold that kiss to a loved one just a little longer, doesn't it?
My sympathies to anyone and everyone who has been touched by his amazing talent, either on the set or on the big or small screen. I know there were many who were, and movies like 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (fuck off its great), A KNIGHTS TALE, MONSTERS BALL, LORDS OF DOGTOWN, BROKEBACK and the soon-to-be-unleashed-with-a-dark-CROW-signal-blazing blockbuster THE DARK KNIGHT, will forever seal his dark charm, talent and sheer "ease" on-screen. I wish you well, Sir. Knock them alive up there...Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

HOLY 07!!! A glance back and a frikkin' list, too.

Happy New Ye-oh whatever.

Yup, 2008, here we are. Banzai got new treats, all is well with the world.

Sorry for the delay, but I think I've been putting off doing anything to wrap up 2007...cause i just didnt want to believe it was over.

See....2007 was one of the best years of my entire life.

First off, I FINALLY became an "honest man" and married the love of my life, my muse, my partner-in-crime, culminating in the coolest wedding this side of Santa Carla. Too long coming, but in all honesty, I would not have wanted it to happen any other way, it really was PERFECT in every way. I mean come on, what fugly dork doesnt yearn to marry a beautiful, funny, smart and creative woman who is also a Geek of immense proportions? And in a movie theater no less? Here is a glimpse of the (longish) video we made & played before "Hank" did the deed...

...and oh yeah, WRONG TURN 2 (in case you didnt know) was released in October after months and months of grassroots marketing, convention appearances and even film festivals (huh?!?) to get the good word out there, and boy did we ever.

Im so thankful and blessed to everyone that supported the movie and me over the last year, and blown away that the movie did very well both critically and financially. Not that it mattered, since I was always bracing for a public flogging, but it was nice to know people dug our wares. Thanks again everyone for making WRONG TURN 2 a boner-fied Horror hit!

...oh, and Banzai got new treats. All is well with the world. to measure up 07? God, so much happened, so many amazing people met, that I dont think I'd do justice to any singular event unless I already covered it in previous posts. That's what I love about this blog; my memory of it all is a blur that passes by my eyes like Slayer on Expert in GUITAR HERO 3. So really, I think I'd be wasting your time trying to cull all those memories to lament in this post when you have all those wonderful back posts to enjoy...or not. Just getting married and seeing the birth of the mutant baby that is WRONG TURN 2 was more than enough to solidify this as 2007: The Year Not To Fuck With.

What I will do, however, is FINALLY put up my Top movies in 2007, which I've been toiling with for weeks, having many an internal debate with my crack team of "experts" (all the voices in my head) and I THINK I've come up with a list Im happy with. Now, I will say that I havent seen as much as i had hoped this year and thankfully, the last 2 weeks of holiday has been spent catching up with a LOT of flicks, but there are a few like JUNO & THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY that just slipped through the cracks that I will end up seeing in the next few days, but Im sick of waiting around on this fucking list.

So here is the plan: Each day, Im going to be updating this list with my explanations (and some apologies) for each title as I go along, starting at the bottom and working my way up the list till I finally get to the Nmber #1 sometime around May. So stop by again to see if I did my part by giving a decent reason for each. I could spend hours on each one, but the water is boiling and I got shits to shat, so this way I can enjoy thinking about each one more (hell I might even change the order here and there, it's been tough).

So, without further adieu..



8. SWEENEY TODD: Tim Burton is back bitches, and it's been too long baby. Honestly, I can't remember being so entranced in a Burton world since ED WOOD, and this somewhat faithful adaptation of the musical worked for me on all fronts. From Depp's singing (great) Helena Bonham Carter's Clevage (awesome) and all that tempura blood! Dark and evil yet with a beating heart of sorrow, this is a true return to form for Tim Burton where you can tell he could actually be smiling behind the monitor...doubtful, but I wouldnt be surprised with what he's put together. Like Ridley Scott, you now expect to be thrown into a new world, or at least a fully realized one that thumps with life (like in EDWARD SISORHANDS, BATMAN, hell even BEETLEJUICE) and Burton seems to have a great grasp on the vision while staying true to the source material (especially NOT bringing in his partner-in-crime, Danny Elfman). A great night at the movies and a film I can't wait to spend time with again at home.

9. THERE WILL BE BLOOD: This is one strange bird. I couldn't have seen the film in a worse situation (2nd row front with the music blasting so loud it actually did hurt) and when I walked out, ears still ringing and my head spinning from that sledgehammer of a climax, I wasn't sure what to think really. Then again, PT Anderson's movies have always done that to me. When i saw BOOGIE NIGHTS on the opening day show in NYC in 97 (on a sunday, no less!) and while I loved the spirit, the energy and the performances, I couldn't get around that it was really just another "Rise, Fall & Redemption" flick in the same vein as GOODFELLAS...I mean, it practically WAS the Valley. Yet, I couldn't deny the raw talent behind the camera (at 27, fucker) and when I saw it again in the theater, I fucking loved it. Same with MAGNOLIA...terrible conditions (opening night in NYC's upper west side, where people actually got dressed up for it and the theater was so hot you could see heat ripples) and yet the more I see it the more I fall in love with it. PUNCHDRUNK LOVE I actually liked when we walked out of the Chinese when it opened...and I've only seen it twice since and feel indifferent to it, aside from it being merely a really sweet movie. But BLOOD was something I was anticipating, and when I walked out that night from the screening, I was being very nit-picky on certain things, but I did like it. It took 2-3 commutes to work with me thinking about it all for me to put it on this list, and Im sure many feel the same way, almost like a good book. Many times an engrossing and effective tome wont elicit that "instant gratification" you get from a movie unfolding in real time, usually affecting you after you close the book. THERE WILL BE BLOOD is still with me, Daniel Plainview and his quest to be #1 haunting me, the rich cinematography by Elswit like crude oil spurting, Paul Dano as the sinister preacher with ulterior motives, and of course...the milkshake. I need to see it again, and again...and not sit so close. But a masterpiece of KANE proportions that will only get better every time.

10. THE ORPHANAGE: Del Toro's POLTERGIEST (and as a fan of that "modern ghost story", I mean it in the highest regard, even though he only produced it...think about the claim). Nuff said.

11. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD I read Sidney Lumet's inspiring book MAKING MOVIES almost 10 years ago when I was interning at Nancy "Closure!" Tennenbaum's office (bitch) and it was that book that propelled me to rent and/or buy almost every one of his films, from his early masterpieces like 12 ANGRY MEN to later works like NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN, which was just released. Yet, after that and some smaller films, Lumet seemed to fall off my radar a bit until Aleska from WRONG TURN 2, who was in his last film with Vinny Diesel, FIND ME GUILTY (now that is one hell of a hairpiece!) told me while she was dangling from a log during the "rapids" scene that she was cast again in a Lumet film, some little crime thriller...oh yeah, with Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Ethan hawke and Albert Finney. HUH? She's fucking around with me in Vancouver playing action star and all and then gets to work with Lumet?? Lucky girl. But I always was intrigued with this movie, especially the long-winded title, and when it came and went int he fall I almost forgot it was that film that Aleska did. But after being told time and time again to check it out from other reliable sources, I did, and fuck me jesus was I blown away. This film didn't feel like a hum-drum flick by a once Cinematic master, nor did it feel like it was made by someone who is 82 (!)...this plastic explosive of a twisty NY thriller felt like the first film by some "enfant terrible" who had something to prove. DEVIL is a great, multi-layered story of a family in crisis, and the lengths each member will go to survive on the modern mean streets. The performances are stellar (Aleska KILLS, BTW) the camerawork and visual design fresh and at the same time, classic, and the filmmaker deftly weaves in and out of plotlines with ease, always keeping us two steps ahead. Oh, and it has the most awkwardly erotic doggie style scene in film history...with Marisa Tomei. Oh, NOW I have your attention. Well, not only is she naked in half the film (Thank you sir Lumet) but she's also stellar in the film, as is everyone else. This film might not win anything come awards time (and of this writing, it didnt really) but its one of those movies you'll see, be kicked in the nuts by, and then want to tell everyone else how great your beanbag is swelling right now.
Sidney Lumet is back, and yet...was never gone. Keep 'em coming Sid!!
Check out the trailer HERE.

12. KNOCKED UP/SUPERBAD: Judd Apatow has been a friend of my funny bone since THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW and the poorly under appreciated THE CABLE GUY, and NOW everyone is finally realizing that he truly is the John Hughes of our generation, with these two films proving that he can write, direct and produce with the same "voice" and still create some of the most hilarious and even heartfelt comedies this side of SIXTEEN CANDLES. See you at the backlash!!!

13. BLACK BOOK: IIt's been a while since we've seen anything noteworthy from the Agent Provocateur himself, Paul Verhoeven (sorry HOLLOW MAN fans, I'm not of your kind). I've loved his work for years, but since STARSHIP TROOPERS (one of the most amazing Sci-Fi Satires of the 20th century...if not maybe THE Sci-Fi Satire) it's been a little rocky for the daring director. Well, worry no longer...BLACK BOOK is a total return to form for Verhoeven, back to his Pre-ROBOCOP days like FLESH + BLOOD & THE FOURTH MAN, where you never knew how far he'd take a story, yet always finds a human touch to make the sometimes perverted medicine go down easier. This sprawling WWII epic depicts one woman's amazing struggle to survive admist the horrors of the Holocaust, and how her sexuality serves as a clever ruse...and a powerful weapon. Plus, it's got the stunning Carice van Houten shaving her 20 material in my book. God bless Verhoeven.
Velcome back Paul, Ve mizzed you!
Check out the trailer HERE.

14. RESCUE DAWN I wont lie and say Im a die-hard Herzog fan (That's more Henry's taste than mine), only because I'm only familiar with the man more than the movies. Hell, the guy in one year alone saved Joaquin Phoenix AND continued an interview after being shot with friendly fire, so he's just the consummate badass in my book. But RESCUE DAWN floored me, emotionally and visually. One of the more realistic and grounded (no pun) of the "Triumph of the Human Spirit" films, this journey into the heart of Vietnam darkness is harrowing without being excessive and allows actors like Jeremy Davies to impersonate a skeleton, Steve Zahn to grow a killer beard, and for Christian Bale to continue to solidify his place as one of this world's finest and most compelling actors today who can balance art films like this and studio product like THE DARK KNIGHT with ease. If there was to be the requisite "feel good" dark horse film for the Oscars this year, RESCUE DAWN should be up for the mission.

15. BOURNE ULTIMATUM: Paul Greengrass is my fucking hero. Not only has he cornered the market in the art of "Visual Verite", the acclaimed director (and auteur behind my #2 movie last year, UNITED 93) actually refined his craft with this the final BOURNE installment (or is it?). I don't mind hiring Shakes the Epileptic Camera guy to handle action shots, but Im not the majority,and this time, Greengrass wove a complex tapestry of intrigue and double-crosses that, when I think back on it, hurts my brain and yet it all seems to fit like OJ's glove. What's funny is that I don't even think of the huge New York car chase everyone blows as the's the quiet moments with Albert Finney and Matt Damon...or the cat-and-mouse in the UK...or the moment Bourne reveals his location to his witless persuers (one of the best crowd reactions I heard all year when we went "Ha ha! Sucker!' when David Strathairn realizes Bourne is calling from HIS office). This is the best of the BOURNE's...and Greengrass can shoot blades of grass and still make it heart-pounding.

16.  300: How is it, this Green screened powder keg of a popcorn flick was the talk of the WORLD in March, impressing critics, breaking out as a bonerfied hit, wowing (and pissing off a few of) the masses, and then dissapears from people's minds when it comes to "Lists" time? No matter, Zack Snyder proved he's no one-trick-dick with this faithful and fantasticly visceral adaptation of the Frank Miller Graphic Novel, a breath of cinematic dragonfire that took SIN CITY up to the cockpit and answered "Yes Peter Graves, I DO like Gladiator movies!". Sure, there's plenty of glistening muscles and homoeroticism for all to behold, and Gerard Butler can scream and browbeat with the best of 'em, but it was just the sheer visual scope and daring that Snyder brought to the epic battle film that got everyone in a tizzy, and only allowed the collective online geek community a HUGE sigh of relief that he's tackling the beast that is WATCHMEN. Watching 300 again, it just reminded me of the good ole days of having a great time at the movies with your jaw on your lap, blown away by the visual mastery of his images and the ambition behind the frame. To me, Zack Snyder is the heir apparent to the Ridley Scott throne, with 300 being his ALIEN...hopefully WATCHMEN is his BLADE RUNNER (in a good, "director's cut" way, not the whole B.O. bombing, "takes 10 years to appreciate" way).

17. PERSEPOLIS: One of the best "adult" animated features since WATERSHIP DOWN (and just as stark at times) this political-cum-socialist-slash-autobiographic-novel-turned-Animated film is really a sight to behold. I might not have even seen this if it wasn't for Tim League's amazing FantasticFest; the film was one of the "secret screenings" and while I had no clue what to expect, by the end, I was practically in tears. A wonderfully vivid and sometimes harrowing coming of age portrait of a young woman's life amidst the milieu of a war torn Islamic nation in the 80's, exposing the events and the people who shaped her as as the strong, insightful and world weary woman the narrator is as she sits in an airport. Funny, gripping, sad, exciting...and it has Iron Maiden in it. Score.
Check out the trailer HERE

18. THE DEVIL DARED ME TO: much as I dig the Lonely Island guys and look forward to their SNL Digital Shorts with bated breath each week (well, when there were new episodes of SNL...sigh)....FUCK HOT ROD. Boring and just painfully unfunny. The REAL winner of the "Stuntman" comedy will be cemented once this whacked-out import from New Zeleand explodes onto our shores. Madmen filmmakers/co-stars Chris Stapp and Matt Heath, who also had a popular JACKASS-type show back home, created a feature debut with such a wild, fucked-up style and BAD TASTE-esque sense of humor, you can't believe your eyes...or that they actually were able to tug at your heart strings. Total gonzo filmmaking at it's finest, and you'll never soon forget the legend of Randy Cambell (gleefully played by Stapp) and his wildly fucked up adventures in the quest to become the great stuntman his old man never was. Movie's fucking awesome.
Check out the trailer HERE.

19.  ANGEL-A: What can I say, I'm a sucker for Luc Besson flicks. Even when they are just products of his progeny (like THE TRANSPORTER, KISS OF THE DRAGON & WASABI to name a few), they all bear that unique high energy impact of a Luc besson project. With ANGEL-A, his first film since the dreadful MESSENGER flick, he's gone back to his roots and made a quaint, WINGS OF DESIRE-esque fable that charmed me from first shot to last line. The widescreen cinematography from Thierry Arboghast (one of my favorite DPs) is breathtaking, the performances by Jamel Debbouze (who was magical in AMELIE) and the stunning, statuesque Rie Rasmussen (who fits the "Besson Girl" archetype to a T) are engrossing, and even though the CG at the end was off-putting, the film was equivalent of a fresh baguette: Hot, fresh, crispy and delicious. The perfect date movie to win over that Sophmore art chick.
Check out the trailer HERE

20. TAXIDERMIA: What the hell is this, you're asking? Im a sucker for a film that sets out to deliberately affect an audience, and here, director Gyorgy Palfi has crafted a work of art ABOUT grossing you out, and does it with such a beautiful eye it makes the medicine go down real nice. Set in three different times in a particular (and peculiar) family tree, the film starts out with a guy who pisses fire gleefully in the air, works in a pig-fucking scene (a requisite for good Euro art cinema for me), a display of "Barf Olympics", babies with tails, self-taxidemy...and just when you've cleaned the puke off your shirt, then the film pulls a fast one on you similar to FUNNY GAMES. I watched the film eating a Steak Sandwich and even though I finished that fucker, it was an ordeal. Kudos to that. Brave, gutsy art filmmaking and NOT for the squeamish.
Check out the trailer HERE


ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE: Never expected this one to be as good as it was, but from the opening scene, the "throwback" (boy, is that just becoming the new buzz word people will hate hearing in 6 months?) slasher film actually felt more at home in the 90's era of horror films than the 80's which i've heard it constantly compared to. Truth be told, as much as the acting is really effective (especially the lovely and unassuming Amber Heard as the titular object of desire), the direction by Johnathan Levine crisp and filled with genuine style without resorting to too many visual hiccups, the REAL shining star of the movie is the script by Jacob Foreman, which not only subitly satirizes the slasher trandscends it. It knows the genre well enough, yet Foreman also can paint some really compelling characters and still make the requisite "who done it" twists feel new and fresh...because we care about the characters, and there is a great build of tension courtesy of Levine. A real surprise of a shocker, and def look out for it when it's released later this year.
Check out the trailer HERE.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT: Been a while since i got the heebie-jeebies over a vampire flick, and damn if my skin didn't crawl a few times during NIGHT. Like the graphic novel that spawned the flick, it's an example of style over substance; the story is simple but the execution is where it counts, and David Slade made one of the more disturbing and scary snow-based horror films since THE THING... Wow, Josh Hartnet can act! Wow, Ben Foster does it again!! WOW, DANNY HUSTON IS FUCKING CREEPY!!! "No god". N'uff said.

310 TO YUMA: After UNFORGIVEN, I had kinda given up on the revisionist Western, thinking there wasn't much left to say. Well, there still isn't, but that isnt to say that a great story or two can't still be told! Never saw the original, but this incarnation of YUMA was a blast to watch, and reminded me of the in your face energy of that train car blast in BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID spread out over an entire movie. Can Christian Bale do no wrong?

THE LOOKOUT: Something about Scott Frank's directorial debut just worked for me, I can't really pin it down. Im a huge Joseph Gordon Levitt fan, and love me some Jeff Daniels, so their paring and some great plot twists and pacing kept me rivetted to the final moments. That silent guy with the glasses must be related to Anton Sighur.

SPIRAL: OK OK Im bias, but i fucking LOVED this mix of BARTON FINK & Polanski's REPULSION, and think Green and Moore hit it out of the park. HATCHET naysayers will either fall in love with this jazzy little psychological thriller, or hate Adam's guts MORE.

KILTRO:: Now THIS is a fucking martial arts flick! Brazillian, ferocious, hilarious, warm-hearted. Best use of a Bowie song in SO long. The fights? NEED TO BE SEEN TO BE BELIEVED. Watch these guys VERY closely.
Screw a trailer...check out this kick ass CLIP!

THE SIGNAL: Saw this at FrightFest after much hoopla, and I instantly fell into the idea that at once was well worn as a concept (re: 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER, King's THE CELL) but i loved the ambition behind the 3 directors tackling 3 different stories inter-woven into each other, and even though the tone of each segment is contrasting almost to the point of distraction, you can't take your eyes off of it. Really great work by a true indie mindset.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR: What a fucking punch the nuts. Gregory Wilson's adaptation of Jack Ketchum's novel is structured as if you were home watching STAND BY ME for 40 minutes, relishing in nostalgia, and then your big brother throws on IRREVERSIBLE. Powerful performances all around, especially the children and Blanche Baker as the subtily terrifying mother/ringleader, and one hell of a use of a blowtorch.

VACANCY: Im shocked this made other lists, just because it seemed that noone gave a shit when it came out in April. Hell it came out the same week as my wedding so we had to catch on DVD and surprisingly, I thought it was really gripping at times, and the "snuff film" concept worked in keeping the squirm-factor high, even though it seemed way too short and while I liked the fractured relationship, didnt really believe in Wilson and Beckensdale as a couple. Frank Whaley is officially a creep, and shines here as the bell clerk.

AMERICAN GANGSTER: Ridley Scott can be on auto-pilot like A GOOD YEAR and still make compelling cinema, but here he's relishing in story over style, and it worked for me. Great old fashioned DP work by Harris Savades and the usual amazing performances by Crowe and Washington (with the Brolin 'Stache for support) make it for a great yarn.


AvP:R: Such a waste of one more chance for the fans to embrace this long-worn concept. Great FX work, but unfortunately bore the WORST script of the year, maybe of the past 5. Bah Humbug.

THE HITCHER: Sorry, didn't need ya pal...we were already good with the original thanks....and the action set-piece with NIN playing was one of the most hilarious scenes of the year. Sarcastic, thy name is I.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

An Open Letter to The UK (Re: Wrong Turn 2)

Dear UK,

Hey! How are you? Christ, it's been too long since we last met up. Happy New Year, by the way...hope you guys had a joyous holiday filled with merriment and debauchery. How are the kids?

Im deeply saddened that I can't be on your side of the fence right now on the day of the DVD release, as I really miss being over there. Since FrightFest in August it's been a whirlwind time for WT2. What a hoot that week was, huh? Man, the memories...I cant wait for next year, maybe we can get Green to come back as well and hit The Phoenix for a few pints.

Well, since that magical time (which I'll wax more on in a quick) we hit Austin, where our mutual UK pals Alan and Paul met up and we took Fantasticfest and the Alamo Drafthouse by (fart)storm. It was a great time, the Austin Film crowd are the Prom Queen's Panties:

Then, we had a dual premiere in New York AND LA on the same night, I think a first for a dinky DTV movie! Both nights were a's a few pics from the LA shindig:

...and here is a video that my East Coast mates at IconsofFright did for the New York premiere (thanks Barnick!):

Then the flick was unleashed on Oct 9th, and I gotta admit, I was shocked at the overwhelming response we got, both by the critics & the fans. Sure, there were some who didn't enjoy it, and hey, to each their own; it's a HORROR movie, and thus, not everyone is going to go with the flow, so to speak. I knew I was making a particular blend of flick with it's own tone, one that honestly, isn't for everyone, but those who do enjoy a good "Video Nasty" I think is sure to have a pisser of a time with the flick with a few pints and a few mates on a Friday eve.

But I will admit, it was my time there with you that I might cherish the most. Call me a commie, but it was a dream come true for me to have the first public screening of the movie on your shores, because the first thing that popped into my head when i read the script was "This is a splatter movie!" Oh, the SECOND thing I thought (or was it the third?) was "This is a true 'Video Nasty'!" and that was my goal; to give the audience the same visceral thrill i got from watching movies that were given that kick-ass label, "Nasties" like EVIL DEAD, THE BURNING, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST & LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, movies that I loved growing up seeking out BECAUSE it was given that er, damning stamp, which kinda gives you a hint at my parent's wonderful child-rearing skills (actually, my mom was a huge horror buff, so dunk HER in the river to see if she floats). Seeing how the audience at FrightFestUK, one of the most respectful and rabid of horror devotees this side of a Fango Burbank convention on a Saturday, received the movie when it premiered at the Odeon West on that humid Saturday in August, it gave me such a thrill that people screamed, cheered, laughed and jumped in all the tight placed...even the folks who hated the first one got into it!

In the past, I've heard that you UK fans have quite the discriminating palate when it comes to horror (paging Alan Jones, Alan Jones...), and since a DTV movie like this usually doesn't even get the privilege of a festival screening, I was nervously excited to get a public reaction, especially from the UK, remember the buckets of sweat I was pouring out from all pores? God bless that headband. It was an honor to show it to a few hundred of you at FrightFest, and thanks again for being so hospitable with a sweaty, geeky yank while I was there.

It's a shame that there wont be any more public showings like FFUK again over in your neck of the woods, but believe me, it was worth using the parameters of DVD to give you the "juiciest" version of the movie we could instead of falling victim to the ratings boards, so I hope you enjoy the copious amounts of entrails and incest we snuck past Unkie Rupert's nose. Plus, now it's a TRUE "Video Nasty", so you can enjoy it at home like I did when i was growing up watching EVIL DEAD 2, RE-ANIMATOR, TCM2 & other splatter flicks in the 80's i devoured on VHS. Bon Apetit, and enjoy with a side of mushy peas and a nice roast, especially by the "BBQ" scene....deelicious.

So, give my best to mum, hope you liked THE MIST and hopefully we'll meet up again soon, I do miss the Big Breakfast and the half/half popcorn. Oh, tell Henry I said hi when he stops by.

Staying Scary,

PS: Oh yeah, you can get it right HERE!