Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: High Noon (1952)

dir. Fred Zinnemann

"High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - Tex Ritter

[Unfortunately, the version as used in the movie wasn't embeddable, but you can go to youtube to listen to it.]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Awesome Credit Sequences: Do the Right Thing (1989)

dir. Spike Lee

As I get older, I tend to think more about aging artists and Sick Boy's rule: "First you've got it, and then you lose it." Not that I completely agree with this, though. (Hey, I'm getting old; I gotta keep telling myself it won't happen to me.) Most great directors continue to make great pictures into their fading years. I think the real problem with aging—artistry-wise—is the continued aversion to risk-taking. Sure you may still have your chops. You may, in fact, because of continually working, be better at your craft than you were as a young'un; but so often is the case, that too many artists just lose the taste for adventure as they get older; they lose that youthful urge to try damn near any kind of idea, no matter how seemingly crazy, just to see what sticks.

Case in point: In 1989, a young Spike Lee makes what is arguably his greatest picture: Do the Right Thing. Try as he might, Lee will likely never top this movie. That's not a knock on Lee nor his subsequent output, mind you: This movie's a hard one to top. And, anyway, it's not like he hasn't come close (25th Hour is perhaps the closest he would come again to this level of masterpiece and Bamboozled—though flawed—is perhaps just as daring as Do the Right Thing. I laso have a lot of love for his low-key, personal flick Crooklyn).

What struck me most on my first viewing, years ago, of Do the Right Thing was the credit sequence. I was well aware of Do the Right Thing's reputation as a controversial, argument-starter of a film, so—in addition to being surprised by how entertaining and funny much of the film was—I was taken aback by Lee's decision to open with a solo dance performance by Rosie Perez. More than anything, I love the audacity of this: "I'm gonna open my dramatic, funny, tense, nuanced, stylistically adventurous snapshot-of-a-neighborhood/meditation-on-race-relations film with Rosie Perez showing off her killer dance moves in front of a studio backdrop of brownstones while Public Enemy's anthemic 'Fight the Power' blasts on the soundtrack."

Although I was initially befuddled by this choice of an opening I became entranced. I couldn't think of a better way to open the movie. It amps up the energy of the audience. I don't know; perhaps I give this credit sequence more credit than it's worth. Does it work? Does it fit with the rest of the film? Who knows? It's certainly fucking entertaining, though; and also the kind of risky choice an older, more experienced filmmaker would be less likely to make.

[Unfortunately, the credit sequence wasn't embeddable, but you can watch it here.]

[You know what was embeddable, though? This parody from the hilarious Children's Hospital:]

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Devil Within Her (aka I Don't Want to Be Born, aka Sharon's Baby) (1975)

dir. Peter Sasdy

[Hey, people who make movie posters, just stop. You're never going to top this.]

As we all know—and as I've stated before—70s cinema had a love affair with Satan. There's a reason: The dark one put asses in seats. Some of these movies are of better quality, some are more important (whatever that means), and some are more culturally significant; but one thing is certain: few of these films are as fun as The Devil Within Her, a British entry in the genre starring Joan Collins, Donald Pleasence and a dwarf. And, unlike a certain other dwarf-containing movie, which will remain nameless (but whose name is The Sinful Dwarf), The Devil Within Her is an entertaining, though occasionally creepy, piece of camp. Hells to the motherfucking yeah, I say to this movie.

British Lucy (Joan Collins) is in a loving relationship with Italian Gino (Ralph Bates). Nothing could be better—that is nothing aside from the fact that they've got a motherfucking demon baby to contend with. At first they try to play off the baby's peculiarities like they ain't no thang ("I know my newborn just bit a chunk from my face, but I'm sure breastfeeding will be a pleasant bonding experience.") They soon have to admit, however, that those peculiarities are a thang.

Honestly, the warning signs were there from the beginning—particularly, during the long, arduous birth. As Donald Pleasence—as the delivery doctor, Doctor Finch—states while delivering Lucy's overgrown baby (no, I don't know why one of the alternate titles of this movie is Sharon's Baby), "This one...doesn't want to be born." (Hey, that's a variation of an alternate title of this movie.)

What could the problem be? Where did this demon-spawn come from? Lucy contemplates many an hour before she remembers something from some time back. Back when she was a titty-bar dancer, she had a special relationship with the little person who performed as comic relief in her show. He developed fond feelings for her; she banged the club owner. After discovering Lucy's dalliances with said club owner, the little person did the only thing he could do: corner Lucy and curse her to give birth to a giant demon baby. Oh yeah...that happened.

Of all the questions raised by this plotline, one in particular leaps to mind: Why would Satan decide to come to Earth in the form of a demon dwarf* employed as comic relief at a titty bar, only to develop unrequited love for a stripper who belittlingly patronizes him while fucking the big man behind his back; and whose goal, apparently, is to get revenge on said stripper by telepathically impregnating her lady parts with his demon seed, so that she can produce an offspring** who screams a lot and kills a few random people before being done in by an Italian nun who performs a standard recite-a-few-lines-in-Latin exorcism.***

Can I just say again, how awesome that fucking poster is? This is where I should write a conclusion.

*(Side note: Is this movie saying that this particular dwarf is a spawn of Satan, a demon in disguise, possesed by Satan, or that all little people are Satanic? That The Devil Within Her never answers this question is one of its few flaws.)

**(Side note: This offspring is either: another demon form, a regular baby possessed by a demon, the demonic dwarf in disguise as a baby, a baby possessed by the demonic dwarf, or some combination of those. As with my previous question, this is another to which The Devil Within Her, regretfully, does not produce an answer.)

***(Side note: Why does the devil hate Latin so much?)

[Check out part of the opening scene on youtube]

[What the hell, watch this as well]

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene Streaker [NSFW obviously]

As I mentioned on Friday, I was afraid that, due to Hurricane Irene, I would be without power this weekend and, thus unable to blog. As you can see, it's the day of the storm and I'm posting shit. (Sorry, I don't mean to be blase or insensitive about all this. I do understand that many people have been adversely affected by this storm, and my heart does go out to them; but, in my neck of the woods in Brooklyn, I got not much more than some rain and a bit of wind. Again, I'm not trying to be snarky about this; I am really grateful that we were spared over here.) Honestly, though, although many people have lambasted the media for stoking fear, I am still of the opinion that it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Of course, that's just my nervous personality at work. I came to realize long ago that I'm addicted to stress. Who knows the cause, but it is what it is. If I don't have something legitimate to worry about, I invent something else and put all my energy toward stress over that particular thing until either: that thing is no longer an issue, or I find something new to worry myself over. Maybe it's the post-stress exhilaration that I look forward to: As soon as the thing I worried over is revealed to be not an issue at all (which is almost always the case), I get the kind of high of which even Charlie Sheen could not imagine (my apologies for making a Charlie Sheen joke many months past the "best if used by" freshness date.).

So—my stress being what it is—even though I planned on doing blog stuff yesterday until the eventual power loss kicked in, I ended up searching the web for constant updates on Irene. I had not one, not two, but three separate projected-hurricane-path maps opened (never mind the fact that all three gave the same fucking information), that I continually refreshed. Additionally, I continually scoured google news for any new info on the storm. No one could say I wasn't prepared. (Seriously, I had a weather command center that any news station would have creamed over thirty or so years ago.) So, yeah, instead of doing anything movie-related, I wasted the whole fucking day refreshing the goddamn weather channel site.

Anyway, one bright spot in all my stress-induced news-gathering came in the form of the below embedded viral video. I'm sure most have you seen this already, so I don't have to tell you what happens. To those who haven't seen it, you wanna know what happens? Magic happens; that's what happens. Seriously, this couldn't have played out better if it was scripted. It's one of the best pieces of comedy I've seen in some time. Sure, most people have commented on the streaker—and funny it is—but my favorite thing about this is the reporter's (unintended) impeccable comedic timing. He plays the perfect straight man to all the tomfoolery continually playing behind and, sometimes, directly in front of him.

Two of my favorite bits: As the reporter says, " shortage of incredibly—well, I'll bite my tongue—people," the streaker emerges bare-bottomed; and then, as a vehicle slowly drives by and films the film crew, the reporter scolds, " many people have been driving around—people like what you see behind me, which I apologize for..." Granted, he's basically just mentioning stuff as it's happening, but he couldn't have said or timed it better.

I also dig the background people in the studio laughing to each other before realizing that they are on screen. By the way, how hard must it be for the reporters in the studio to keep straight faces after seeing that kind of shit.

Yeah, I gave this clip much more thought than it warrants, but that's what I do: over-analyze shit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Richard Pryor on Carson

I've been in a real Pryor mood lately.

[Side note: Just a heads up: Being as I live in New York, and being as the city is supposed to get a Hurricane this weekend, and further being that there is a fair chance that widespread power outages will result, I can't guarantee that I will have posts up next week (or at the beginning of the week, anyway). I'll try to get shit done beforehand to automatically post on those days, but, like I said, I can't guarantee anything. Even if I do have power, there's a good chance I will spend most of the weekend shitting my pants in terror. Damn me and my fucking nervous personality.]

Anyway, check out this Carson interview with Pryor. It's super funny.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: Carnival of Blood (1970)

dir. Leonard Kirtman

The narrator of this trailer: "This movie begins where Hitchcock stopped..." You mean, where the celluloid stopped recording interesting? Ohh, look at me being catty. Still, despite my comment from two sentences ago, this movie is worth a watch for Burt Young's hammy performance as a "full-retard" carny.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Super (2010)

dir. James Gunn

I've probably said it many times before on the blog but I'll repeat myself: I was never a comic book geek as a kid. Of all the geekisms that I would eventually become a slave to, why did this one elude me? I could try to come up with some insightful explanation as to what it was about my young, developing personality that lent itself not to comic book fandom, but the explanation is actually pretty simple: I've always been poor as hell and weekly comic buying can be a pricey habit.

Still, I do understand the appeal; and, over the years I have read some of the important entries in the comics canon: Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, the Sandman series. I also enjoy quite a few comic book movies. Recently, though, what with being inundated with goddamn movie adaptations of every comic in existence all the goddamn time, I've grown a bit tired of the genre. Had I grown up a comic book geek, I'm sure I'd be able to tolerate it a bit more, but there's just too many of these movies. I don't really care anymore.

Comic book person I may not be, but one thing I am is a James Gunn fan. When I first saw Gunn's writing debut for Troma, Tromeo and Juliet, I was amazed at the extent to which it transcended the typical Troma output. It had all the Troma trademarks, to be sure, but there was more to it: It had a cleverness, a heart, an emotional complexity lacking in the standard—though admittedly awesome—Troma fare. James Gunn was someone I knew I'd keep up with. And so—Scooby Doo movies aside (Hey, everyone's gotta pay the bills)—I've kept up with most everything Gunn's been involved in. I've rarely been disappointed.

I'm happy to say he's continued his winning streak. What Gunn did for 80s splatter movies with his entertaining Slither (please watch this movie now), he does for the superhero movie with Super. Where most so-called revisionist superhero movies still end up being, like, totally badass glorifications of the vigilante lifestyle, Gunn's film makes you squirm. He rightfully recognizes that the kind of person who would suit up to fight crime would have more in common, emotionally, with Travis Bickle than Superman.

For sidekicking, Super's emotionally unbalanced anti-hero Frank/The Crimson Bolt (Rainn Wilson) enlists the help of comic store clerk Libby/Boltie (Ellen Page), a woman who lost the battle with her id for control over her psyche long ago. If Frank is troubled, Libby is dancing in a pool of madness, exhibiting childlike glee in the maiming and killing of foes, even if it turns out they might not be the baddies she assumed they were.

I realize I've been pretty vague about the plot and details and so on and so forth in Gunn's movie, but it's the kind of movie, full of the kind of surprises, that a detailed review would lessen the imapct of. Full of dark humor, James Gunn's Super manages to turn on a dime emotion-wise, leaving viewers at a loss whether to laugh, cry, cringe, be horrified, or all of the above. Yes, it wonderfully, imaginatively deconstructs the superhero mythos, but, more importantly, as with all Gunn projects, Super is entertaining as hell. This is the movie Watchmen should have been.

[Check out the trailer on youtube]

Dave's Rating:

Monday, August 22, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: Maron's Room

[I usually use only one poster for these posts, but I couldn't decide between these two.]

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry, I propose Maron's Room: a remake/mash-up of...well, actually, it's not really a remake; it's more of an homage to...well, um, that is to say, it owes a stylistic debt to the work, I don't even know what the fuck this is (aside from, you know, the random ideas I thunk up while tweaking on a shit-ton of caffeine). For the first time in this series, I propose a movie that isn't a direct adaptation of previous movies (or, if it is, it's the result of subconscious theft on my part—which is a definite possibility). In this movie, comedian Marc Maron (of WTF podcast fame) plays a fictionalized version of himself who— actually, just read the next paragraph to find out what this is all about.

The Story: After wrapping a probing and insightful conversation with Dave Chappelle (Side note: I know it's a long shot, but I would love for this to be an interview that actually happens at some point on WTF), Marc Maron leaves the cat ranch for to pick up some cat food for his cat-food-loving cats. On his way to the store, Maron runs afoul of a gypsy who then places a curse on him. He tells her off and then proceeds to buy the cat food, fuming the entire time.

When Maron gets home, still seething over the gypsy's rudeness, he slips and knocks his head on the counter. After being rushed to the hospital, Maron is attended to by the best emergency physician on staff; and all is soon ok. Except that all isn't ok. You see, the knock on Maron's head—as well as the surgery to fix said knock on said head—alters some brain parts, resulting in Maron succumbing to the rare medical disorder that is Fregoli Syndrome. From this point forward, all those with whom Maron comes in contact, appear to him as Gallagher in disguise. Surrounded, as he now is, by screechy-voiced mallet-wielders, Maron can no longer lead a normal life.

His only place of sanctuary: his bedroom. It is here that, for reasons unknown, he is Fregoli Syndrome free. Given a choice between miles of endless Gallaghers and seclusion-induced insanity, Maron chooses the latter; he goes full-on Brian Wilson. WTF headquarters relocate from Maron's garage to his bedroom; and he now performs stand-up via webcam. He also, incidentally, produces his best material.

Regardless, acquaintances, friends, and relatives all grow concerned over Maron's descent. Medical professionals struggle with producing a cure. It is Maron, however, who has the life-saving epiphany: The only way to overcome his syndrome is to face down the mighty foe Gallagher.

Flashback to altercation with gypsy:

Gypsy: "Until you complete a full interview with the melon man, the curse will not be lifted—or you can just, you know, apologize for stealing my parking space."

Back to present:

Maron knows what he must do. He contacts Gallgher's people and manages to secure another interview. Maron holds his tongue; he does not argue; he sits idly by while Gallagher expounds on the finer points of not drinking water on stage. Riveting interview it may not be, but it gives Maron the cure he so desperately needs. Gallgher stays for the hour and cordially says goodbye to his host. The jubilant Maron runs out of his house to celebrate his freedom; but is unfortunately met by the same endless sea of Gallghers. Goddamnit. Yep, he still has Fregoli Syndrome.

Didn't you guys read what I wrote up there? Fregoli Syndrome is an actual medical condition, not some gypsy-curse bullshit.

Maron's Room: WTF, Gallagher.

(Side note: I know I say this a lot, but this post was one of the most random things I've ever put on my blog.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: The Italian Connection (1972)

dir. Fernando Di Leo

A fun piece of 70s crime cinema, courtesy of Italian trashateur Fernando Di Leo. In the alternate world posited by the narrator of this trailer, Henry Silva and Woody Strode—rather than being aging actors in desperate need of work, even if it meant performing in ill-regarded, poorly-dubbed gangster-sploitation—were international stars (no knock against these guys—nor this awesome movie—but let's not bullshit ourselves).

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I Don't Do Cinema; I Make Movies"

I think it's safe to say Billy Wilder was the first director I ever fell in love with. Sure I was aware of other directors previously, but he was the first whose entire catalog I made a point of seeing. Looking back on it, it's not hard to see why I fell so head over heels in love with his movies: Not only did he cater to the old, jaded pessimist that lived deep inside my adolescent body (wow, what a horrible bit of phrasing), but his pictures were damn entertaining to boot. There have been many directors since Wilder but he will always be my first. Anyway, you should really check out this entertaining interview with Wilder.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: This Old Dark House

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry, I propose the reality-show-turned-feature-length-movie This Old Dark House: a remake/mash-up of James Whale's campy horror masterpiece The Old Dark House, and Bob Vila's house-remodeling show This Old House.

The Story: Bob Vila and his camera crew travel to a remote castle for to get some remodeling done. What Bob doesn't know, and what his producers decided against telling him, however, is that the castle is inhabited by a motley group of psychos and murders and such. It's up to Vila to get the remodeling done in time before being attacked by the inmates of the asylum that is the old dark house.

Oh wait, what's this? It appears that another reality show crew has also stumbled upon the old dark house. The theme of this second show: springing on ridiculously clueless wives the fact that their husbands are in fact closeted gay men who have dropped plenty of hints as to their sexuality over the years to no avail, so have now decided to enter a reality show as a last ditch effort to get their clueless can-only-comprehend-ideas-when-filtered-through-the-soul-deadening-lens-of-reality-TV wives to understand.

At first the two reality show crews come to loggerheads over their territorial claims on the old dark house, but soon a compromise is reached: The two shows will combine forces and make a competition show that—because it will be over all too quickly—will be released as a movie instead of TV show. The goal: Feed all the crazy people meth and then scramble to be the last person in the old dark house to get done in by the tweakers.

Also Vila bangs the fake-wife of one the closeted men in the old dark house's abandoned hot tub—I mean, the spooky abandoned hot tub.

This Old Dark House: Yeah, folks, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Want Some Motherfucking Royalties

(Side note: I just wanna state the obvious right off the bat that I don't actually think Death Cab for Cutie stole the song Bill Mayo and I recorded back in 2006. Since—previous to my posting of our song on youtube last night—it was only available via a lowly-trafficked myspace page (total plays to date: 199) that I last logged in to three years ago, I doubt anyone aside from friends of Bill and me had ever heard this song. Also,the theme of the song is general (though depressing) enough that I'm sure lots of people have come up with similar ideas independently of each other. Also, the songs aren't completely similar: In the Death Cab song, the protagonist knows that his girlfriend can do better than him but that he can't do better than her; whereas, with the couple in Bill and my song, neither can do better. Not to state the obvious yet again, but this post was done in jest—just a bit of fun. (Second side note: Is it possible to start with an aside? How can you diverge from something that hasn't even started yet? (Third side note: My brain hurts.)))

As I've mentioned before, I used to belong to a comedy group. Seeing as I had (and continue to have) a fondness for biting off more than I could chew, I had notions of creating an epic musical sketch done in a documentary style. Like many other grand ideas I had around then, this particular one came to naught. Well, not completely naught. Before I succumbed to the weight of my ambitions, I did mange to complete one thing for the sketch: My friend Bill Mayo (of the awesome band Black Taxi, currently recording what's sure to be a kickass new album) and I dun writ up a song that we were gonna use for the sketch: a sixties-girl-group-style pop tune called "Dying Alone."

That danged lack of focus of mine being what it was, in addition to never filming the sketch, I also managed to never getting around to assembling some female singers to sing up the song. Bill, nevertheless, did record a demo on which he played and sang. Sure, all we had was the demo, and nothing ever came of the sketch, but Black Taxi does occasionally still play a version of this song in their live shows; so, it wasn't a complete loss.

Cut to: a bunch of years later. So Bill just informed me that Death Cab for Cutie made a song two years ago (yeah, I ain't up to date, music-wise) that like totally ripped off our song. Now I, like, totally know exactly how all those poor, old, forgotten blues musicians must have felt when they heard Led Zeppelin for the first time. This is the exact same thing. Moral of the story: Death Cab, I would appreciate some motherfucking royalties.

[Our song:]

[The Death Cab for Cutie song:]

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Night Passage (1957)

dir. James Neilson

I haven't looked through all the 50's Westerns I've reviewed on this blog, but I think it's a safe bet that almost all of them have my Amelie rating. Honestly, there's a pretty wide swath of pictures that I rubber stamp with this rating. Yeah, I'm lazy handing out ratings; what do you want? You come for the actual writin's and not the ratin's, right? Right?

Anyway, regardless, as I've said many times before, it's very hard to go wrong with 50s Westerns. Like 80's horror movies, these films are mostly interchangeable pieces of background noise (this may sound like a knock but it most certainly ain't). Yeah the stories may differ a bit, and some of them may be of higher quality (see: the works of Budd Boetticher and Anthony Man), but, for the most part, you know exactly what you're gonna get with each movie.

Such is the case with the Jimmy Stewart and Audie Murphy starring flick Night Passage. Stewart stars as Grant McLaine, a former railroad employee/current playing-his-accordion-for-nickels-and-dimes-vagabond who's hired to transport a payroll on a railroad line that has the misfortune of getting robbed more times than...well, um, well...than trains that aren't held up as much. Although Grant's quickness with a gun would seem to make him a no-brainer for such a job, a few of the folks in charge of the payroll have a few misgivings about taking him on. It's not that the busker don't know his way around a gun—as I said, he does and then some—it's that he once kinda, sorta aided the escape of a thief, The Utica Kid (Audie Murphy), who just so happens to kinda, sorta be his brother, and who also kinda, sorta happens to be a high-ranking member of Whitey Harbin's (professional smarm-machine Dan Duryea) gang, the very same group currently treating the train payroll as its own personal cash-machine—a group, incidentally, which has made no secret of its joy of robbing said payroll nor of its intent to continually rob the payroll. So, Grant's got that going for him.

Nevertheless, the guy in charge of the payroll likes the cut of Grant's jib, and so hires him on. Grant takes on the job, getting sidetracked slightly in his coming to the aid of a young'un who's had the misfortune of coming under the protection of Whitey's gang so as to get learned in the ways of thievery. Grant works as the angel on the shoulder of the kid whose opposite shoulder is currently being guided by the devil that is the Utica Kid, Grant's kid brother.

Not to give anything away, but the Utica Kid dies, the kid kid is saved, and Grant is redeemed. And so it goes. Sweet, sweet reassuring predictability.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Monday, August 8, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: My Dinner with Diesel

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry, I propose My Dinner with Diesel: a retooling of Louis Malle’s talky picture My Dinner with Andre, employing the improvised, long-take minimalism of the Gus Van Sant picture Gerry. In place of Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory: The Rock and Vin Diesel.

Background on the movie: Gus Van Sant visits the set of Fast Five and decides, on the spot, to improvise a film using the two leads during their downtime. He tells The Rock and Vin Diesel briefly of his intention to update Malle's picture My Dinner with Andre; the good sports happily acquiesce. Van Sant quickly drives them to his favorite restaurant in the area, pulls out his digital camera, and tells them to go for it.

"Go for it? What do you mean, go for it, Gus?" The Rock inquires.

"The movie. It's happening right now," replies Van Sant.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on, hold on. I didn't sign up for any of this. You didn't say—"

Van Sant interrupts the panicky Diesel, "What did we just talk about? Why do you think I brought you here?"

"To talk about the movie. We don't even know what's happening in the movie—the story...or, well, anything," replies The Rock.

"You're what's happening. This is the movie. We're improvising."

Diesel begins to hyperventilate, "Yeah, but, but, I, I, uh—"

The frustrated The Rock pats Diesel on the shoulder, "Calm down. I got it," before addressing Van Sant, "Look, even if we're improvising, we still need something to work with, a direction to go. Give us at least a framework and I'm sure—"

The frustrated Diesel flails his arms, then tenses up and looks down, "My shoes hurt."

"Great," declares Van Sant. "I'm gonna need you to bring that energy to the movie—starting now."

The angry The Rock replies, "Fuck yourself, Gus."

The Story: Vin Diesel and the Rock sit in a restaurant waiting to order their meals and then they order their meals and then they sit in awkward silence until the waiter brings them their meals and then they eat their meals.

Midway through chewing his porterhouse, the excited Diesel nearly chokes when he has a eureka moment and rushes to blurt out his improvised line, "This is pretty good steak."

The Rock halfheartedly nods, "Yep."

They eat silently for the duration of the movie.

My Dinner with Diesel: The images move...sometimes. This still qualifies as a movie.

[My Dinner with Andre (1981) trailer:]

[Gerry (2002) trailer:]

Friday, August 5, 2011

Awesome Movie Trailers: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1968)

J. Lee Thompson

Long my favorite Planet of the Apes sequel. Whatever the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes may have going for it, one thing it will not have is Roddy fucking McDowall.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"I Think I'm Better Looking Than Godard"

[Sam Fuller on set, firing a gun instead of yelling "action"—because the sky was looking at him funny.]

Obviously, you, my faithful reader, know by now that I sport major wood for the work of Sam Fuller. You also know by now that I've started about eight different blog entries with that same fucking sentence. There's a reason: The man could direct a picture like the fucking dickens. Trained as he was in the sleazy world of Hearst newspaper "journalism," Fuller brought the tabloid mentality to the pictures he directed. He knew you had to grab hold of the viewers in the first scene and never let up. A dull moment is a moment wasted.

With an outsized persona to match the larger-than-life-ness he plastered across the screen, the man, incidentally, always gave great interview. Although there are any number of Fuller interviews I could post here (and probably will at some point) I thought I'd share this interview he gave in France circa 1987. Sometimes, I think Fuller was just as, if not more, excited and enrapt by the ripping yarns he granted interviewers the privilege of hearing.

(By the way, for what it's worth, you should also check out Fuller's autobiography A Third Face. The same urgent, ball-grabbing style he employed in his pictures is put to good use in this page-turner. The first sentence in Fuller's book: "Hammer!")

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Strangers in 7A (TV) (1972)

dir. Paul Wendkos

Sorry for reneging on my movie-reviewing duties lately. I could rattle off a bunch of excuses but there's no point; I just got sidetracked. Mostly, I guess, I just haven't had a chance to watch much of anything, and what I did watch didn't inspire me to write for some reason. Anyway, luckily, I remembered that a few years back I bought a dollar store DVD with two Ida Lupino-starring 70s flicks: My Boys Are Good Boys and the TV movie Strangers in 7A. Being that this slim-cased disc was all hidden in my shelf, I forgot I owned it. Oh what a discovery...that I discovered four years ago...and then forgot about...and then rediscovered. I haven't watched My Boys Are Good Boys yet, but good fuck Strangers in 7A was a find.

I don't remember if I've addressed this topic on the ol' blog yet, but to those unaware, the landscape of 70s TV cinema is a treasure trove of minor gems just aching for rediscovery. TV movies get a (perhaps deserved) bad rap: They're just low-budget, schlocky attempts to recreate the outstanding cinema-fare that people are too lazy to leave the house to watch. In the 70s, however, many TV movies (Bad Ronald, Brian's Song, The Legend of Lizzie Borden, Trilogy of Terror) took advantage of the form, playing to the strengths of the medium. Sure they couldn't match the actual movie film movies for production value but, after scaling everything down, they could focus on great performances of interesting characters in dramatic situations—and Karen Black battling a killer motherfucking doll. These flicks knew what they were and didn't attempt to do more. (Of course, there were also some outstanding TV movies that rivaled big-budget studio pictures in scope and depth—ahem, Roots—but these were more the exception than the rule.)

Strangers in 7A is yet another example of low-key, 70s TV moviing at its finest. Starring two under-appreciated older performers (Ida Lupino and Andy Griffith), this genre picture focuses on Artie and Iris Sawyer, an older couple held hostage in their building by hoodlums intent on robbing the bank in the adjacent building. Standard genre stuff—but with enough heart to elevate it slightly above its peers.

Artie and Iris are a loving, though not uncomplicated, couple. Their troubles, as is so often the case, are financial in nature. The laid-off-factory-worker Artie has dreams of getting a mechanical-engineering degree through a correspondence course. In this way, he can move beyond his present, lowly status as the apartment building's super and make a decent living for his wife and himself. The practical Iris reasons, however, that it could be years before he earns a degree, and at his age, he isn't likely to get employment as a result of it, anyway. Artie, unable to attempt a counter-argument, grows more frustrated and depressed after having his illusion-bubble popped.

When Iris leaves for a weekend, Artie heads to the local bar to forget about his troubles. Artie's faith is tested here when a young woman in the bar eye-fucks-salad-tosses-and-blumpkins the shit out of him. He attempts to resist her charms but he is no match. He brings the woman to an empty apartment in the building and attempts some awkward courting. For those who are wondering: The sight of a shirtless Sheriff Andy Taylor/Matlock awkwardly shuffling around while a hot, young, perkily-titted blond—with whom he plans to cheat on his wife—seductively dances around him, is every bit as cringe-inducing and illusion-shattering as you'd imagine (Say it ain't so, Andy). It's not quite as unsettling as walking in on your grandpa fisting a meth-whore, but it's up there.

My apologies in advance for your inability to unsee the following images:, where was I? Oh yeah, the movie. So yeah, it turns out, the woman's seduction of the aged super is nothing but a ruse. Before they can get their sexing on, the woman's bank-robbing friends enter the apartment and tell Artie they're gonna camp in this apartment for a while, see; and Artie's gonna stay mum lest these folks have a slip of the tongue and gab to Iris about Artie's lecherous intentions toward the young woman. He's stuck but good. Anxious hostaging, bank-robbing, and stand-offs ensue.

Overall, an efficient little pic. Sure it's a somewhat conventional crime story, filled with some queasy attempts at timeliness (my favorite on-the-nose topical line, courtesy of the afroed demolitions-expert in the gang, is addressed to the crazy leader three-quarters through the movie: "Well, like I said, I owe you for saving my life in 'Nam, but when this is over, we're on our own, pretty boy."), and some obvious, predictable plotting; it nevertheless entertains. This is mostly due to Lupino and Griffith: they imbue their characters with history, depth, nuance—all that good stuff. They give the material so much more than it has any right to expect.

Dave's Rating:

Monday, August 1, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: Make Way for Product Placement

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry, I propose Make Way for Product Placement: a morally vacant, near-pornographic celebration of wealth/conspicuous consumption, musical remake of Leo McCarey's Depression-era ode-to-the-aged masterpiece Make Way for Tomorrow. Let me explain.

(Side note: Not to explain the obvious but the ensuing paragraphs do not depict my attempts to get such a movie made. As with all "You're Welcome, Hollywood" entries, this is all just a big ol' bunch of big ol' fakity fake shit.)

The initial idea for the remake: A story that would actually stay remarkably faithful to the original. Barkley and Lucy—out of work, finances depleted—can no longer hold on to their assets, can no longer make mortgage payments on the house they purchased years prior. They have just received news that the bank intends to foreclose. Running out of time before being thrown out onto the streets, the couple asks its uncaring children for help. And help they get; problem is, none of the kids have room enough to take in both parents. For the first time in forty years, the two will be separated. They—

Interruption from studio exec: "The couple, the old people, the stuff with the old couple—gotta lose it."

"Excuse me."

"We've done extensive studies with numerous focus groups; the 18 to 25's don't care much for old people: too depressing, reminds them of their own mortality. Now how about—"

"Yeah, but that's the— I mean you can't make them young— I mean without them, you don't—"

"No, we lose that angle entirely. Now you were saying something earlier about the bank foreclosing; this banker, the forecloser—what's he like? What's his story?"

"He's putting the old people on the streets; he's not really in the movie."

"I bet we could get Bradley Cooper for that part. Young, handsome, rich, go-getter—drives to work in his— what kind of car did you say he drives?"

"I didn't."

"Well, what were you thinking?"

"He'd probably drive a Beemer, I s'pose."

"Oh, perfect, perfect."

"Um but, I thought we would focus on the poor old couple because it would be interesting to update the Depression-era story for our times."

"No, no, I see where you're going. I think we can work the Depression angle—you know, remaking the Depression movie. You're right; I say we keep going with that. What were the— Say, how about this: what was that movie that— fuck it, doesn't matter. Listen, there were lots of musicals during that time, right?"

"Sure. Gold Diggers, the Busby Berkley movies, the—"

"Exactly. That's what I'm talking about: lightening the mood. The Musical. What if we went the musical angle? Sure, it's not as much of a surefire ticket-seller anymore; but your Chicago's and Moulin Rouge's still do pretty well. We put enough star power in it, enough fruity stuff to satisfy the critics; we could get some award-nomination prestige."

"Yeah, but how do the old people fit into this?"

"They don't. Now for Bradley's girlfriend, I'm leaning towards Megan Fox right now. But we can decide that later. Anyways, the two of them could sing about how great their life is, how much they like their wealth."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, those musicals—the Depression musicals—tended to celebrate the victims of, rather know, the causes of the problems."

"I like it. We make Bradley and Megan anti-heroes, a Bonnie and Clyde couple; instead of robbing banks, they—because they're young, cool, modern-outlaw types—make financial deals that sometimes harm others but net themselves much bank...and then they sing about how great their lives are."

"Yeah, but—"

"So we're in agreement on the musical angle. Get started on a new script."

The post-studio-interference story: Brian, a lover of such trademarked entities as BMW ("The Ultimate Driving Machine")®, Coca-Cola ("Open Happiness")®, Exxon ("Put a tiger in your tank")®, Kit Kat ("Give me a break, give me a break; break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar")®, and the National Pork Board ("Pork. The other white meat")®, spends his time, when he isn't busy making lots and lots of awesome money in sweet financial deals (which may or may not have bad consequences for other folks, who may or may not ever appear in the film), sings odes with his hot, hot girlfriend to the aforementioned products.

Make Way for Product Placement: We are terrible human beings.

[Youtube didn't have a trailer for Make Way for Tomorrow, but it did have the song "Make Way for Tomorrow" from the Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly musical Cover Girl (1944). What the hell, here you go:]