Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Roar

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesdays.  This week we're looking at the movie trailer for Roar (1981), not a new movie, but an old movie that is now being released for the first time in the U.S.

Roar is quite possible the most irresponsible movie ever made.  Producer Noel Marshall and his wife Tippi Hedren (star of The Birds) set out to make a film that would bring exposure to big cats and their plight in Africa from game hunters, as well as to the inhumane treatment of big cats in captivity...or something.  They would do this by using the hundreds of wild lions, tigers, and other cats and animals that the couple had gathered and used to populate their animal sanctuary located north of Los Angeles.

This (crazy) idea was first (ill)conceived in 1970 and after the success of The Exorcist (which Marshall produced and made a lot of money from) they started filming in 1974.  Things did not go well as the cats proved unpredictable and unable to take direction.  This led to as many as 70 members of the cast and crew getting attacked or harmed while making this movie!

Noel Marshall was bit and clawed multiple times, Tippi fell off an elephant and broke her leg, and their daughter, Melanie Griffith, who was just starting her acting career, suffered facial lacerations and needed reconstructive surgery and 100 stitches.  Not to be outdone, director of photography Jan De Bont (future director of Speed and Twister) was SCALPED by a lion and required over 200 stitches!

Not surprisingly, the film took a total of 11 years to make and when it was finally released in 1981, it was only done so overseas and not here in America.  Until now. . . .

Drafthouse Films has acquired the film and has been releasing it in various cities the past couple weeks.  Check out HERE for full details on where you can see this amazing motion picture.  If you're like me and you live in or near Portland, Oregon, you can see Roar this weekend, May 2nd and 3rd, at the great Hollywood Theatre.

Here's the amazing and dangerous trailer:

This movie looks INSANE!  I've been looking forward to it greatly.  It looks like a visceral and surreal experience, a real jaw-dropper!

For more info on this crazy story, read THIS from Drafthouse Films founder Tim League, THIS blog post from crew member Randolph Sellars, and watch this piece from CBS This Morning.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

RIP, Tom Towles

Veteran character actor Tom Towles passed away earlier this week due to complications from a stroke he suffered while in Florida.  He was 65.
Not known to casual movie fans, Towles should be instantly recognizable to fans of the horror genre.  His IMDb bio describes him as often playing "scumbags or obnoxious men," which maybe seems harsh, but that is an accurate description.  Towles was real good at playing sons-of-bitches.

His first big role was in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (filmed in 1985, not released until 1990), opposite Michael Rooker.  The pair would prove to be electric.  Towles' character of Otis was based on real life serial killer Ottis Toole.  He's an absolute degenerate and sociopath and Towles is fantastic, displaying those qualities with a scary realism.
The thing I am most familiar with and am a fan of is Towles' turn as Harry Cooper in Tom Savini's under-appreciated remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990).  Good god, is he so hatable in that movie!  He shouts and he's stubborn and he's one of the supreme jerks of all time.  He's so damn good!
"Bunch of yo-yos!"
Towles would go on to star in smaller movies (like Adam Wingard's directorial debut Home Sick [2007]) and be featured in bigger movies (The Rock [1996]), usually in the horror or action genres.  Like any character actor, he also had a string of television appearances in everything from comedies to dramas to science fiction.  His gruff and rough demeanor served him well throughout the years.

It's a shame he's gone.  He was a good actor.  RIP, Tom Towles.

Tom Towles would reteam with Henry director John McNaughton on The Borrower (1991).  This trailer name drops Hellraiser, Reanimator, and, uh, Warlock, so maybe it's worth checking out:

Towles would co-star in Stuart Gordon's The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), reminding me once again that I need to see that movie.  The very next year he would co-star with Christopher Lambert in Gordon's science fiction action movie, Fortress (1992), reminding me that I once saw that movie.

In a first season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) he played a Klingon who dies on the transporter pad.  It's a brief appearance but he's a catalyst for the events of the episode.

In 1997 he would double dip into the Star Trek universe, playing a different bumpy headed alien on a season three episode of Voyager.

Seinfeld ("The Glasses," 1993).  Towles is credited as "Tough Guy."

Inspector Anthony Lastarza on NYPD Blue (1993-94).

Gridlock'd (1997)

Firefly (2002)

House of 1000 Corpses (2003), as George Wydell.  
He would reprise the role in The Devils's Rejects (2005).  I think his performance in Corpses might be better, but Rejects is the superior movie.

Miami Vice (2006)

Werewolf Women of the S.S. (fake trailer from Grindhouse [2007]).

Tom Towles

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Spring

It's Trailer Park Tuesday and spring has sprung so we're gonna look at the trailer for Spring!

Ah yes!  Springtime!  When a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love...

The classic setup:  boy meets girl.  Attraction and emotions run high, love is fallen into.  Then girl reveals deep dark truths and secrets.  Terrible things happen.  Seem about right?  That's the basic set-up for Spring, although it comes with a bit of monstrousness..

I've been jazzed on seeing this one, it's been getting good reviews and word of mouth is positive.  The film stars Lou Taylor Pucci, who I liked a lot in Thumbsucker (he was also in the Evil Dead remake), and Nadia Hilker, a German actress and relative newcomer.

The  pull quote at the top of the poster describes Spring as a "hybrid of Richard Linklater and H.P. Lovecraft," and it seems as if directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead have crafted a lovely romantic horror film.

I'm going to share two trailers for the film.  This first one from Drafthouse Films (who are distributing the movie) plays up the romantic angle while hiding most of the twists and turns.  Check it:

Not sold?  Want to see more?  This second trailer (the "official" trailer) has a bit more plot details and, while not exactly spoilery, it gives a more revealing look at the genre elements at work within the film.  So keep that in mind:

Spring is playing right now in limited release in select cities and is also available online at iTunes, Googe Play, Amazon Instant, and a whole bunch of other places.  Check HERE for all that info.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

RIP, Robert Z'Dar

On March 30th, cult movie actor Robert Z'Dar passed away.  He was in Pensacola, Florida, where earlier this month he was hospitalized with chest pains, before suffering cardiac arrest Monday night.

He was 64 years old.
Z'Dar was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1950 and he attended college at Arizona State University where he played football while studying acting.  Returning to Chicago he played keyboards and sang in a rock band called Nova Express, their name taken from the William S. Burroughs novel.  After that, he held jobs that ranged from police officer to Chippendale's dancer before finally taking off for Los Angeles to become an actor.

Z'Dar was known for his unique facial size and features, caused by cherubim, and he was able to parlay that into a career playing bad guys and heavies.  He was in B-movies mostly, but his face is not one you forget.  I'm pretty sure the first thing I saw him in was either Tango & Cash (one of the few non-B-movies he was in) or Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.

The Maniac Cop movies might be what Robert Z'Dar was most known for, but he did gain a lot of fans after two of his movies, Soultaker and Future War, were featured on cult favorite TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.  In addition to that, in recently years there has been a resurgence of interest in his cult classic action movie Samurai Cop.

Always working, Z'Dar amassed 121 film and television credits during his career (although a couple of those are in "pre-production"), including the upcoming sequel Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, although I'm not sure if he started work on that or not, I've read conflicting things.

His longtime friend and manager, Jim Decker, had this to say:  "We've been together through thick and thin.  He was the first actor I took on in my career as an agent.  We spent many weekends on the road together and a lot of time enjoying each other's company.  I miss him dearly."

RIP, Z'Dar.

An early role of his was on the hit television show Moonlighting (1985).  He was a security guard.
If I were to recommend a single Z'Dar movie, it would be Maniac Cop (1988).  That movie and it's two sequels were mainstays of video store shelves in the '90s.
In Tango & Cash (1989) his character's name is Face.  True story.
Gathering souls with Joe Estevez in Soultaker (1990).

Killing American Style (1990).  This is the first of four movies Z'Dar would do with Iranian director Amir Shervan, including Samurai Cop, Gypsy (1991), and Young Rebels (1992).
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)
Mobsters (1991), in which Z'Dar co-stars with Christian Slater, Patrick Dempsey, and Richard Grieco, proving that the early '90s were a special time.
Samurai Cop (1991): pure cinema gold.
Frogtown II (1992).  I haven't seen this movie.  I just liked his mustache.  It's the sequel to Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), which starred Roddy Piper in the lead role.  That's another movie I haven't seen, but at least I've heard of it.  Anyway, the character is named Sam Hell, which is cool. 
Future War (1997), "the movie that delivers more HUH?s per second."

Robert Z'Dar - 1950-2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesdays - It Follows

After and extended and unplanned absence, I'd like to welcome you back to TRAILER PARK TUESDAYS, a place where I like to share movie trailers for upcoming releases, usually something that might not be well known or is maybe flying under your radar.

This week:  indie horror creeper It Follows!

It Follows has been getting a lot of positive buzz since premiering at Cannes in May of last year and the positive reviews continued at the Toronto International Film Fest and Fantastic Fest in Austin, where it won New Wave Best Film and Screenplay.

-- Read some reviews HERE, HERE, and HERE --

The film is, quite simply, about a sexually transmitted curse.  When someone who is cursed has sex with you, the curse passes to you.  You keep the curse until you have sex with someone else.  What exactly is the curse?  Well, it's being endlessly pursued by a silent, expressionless entity that can take on the appearance of anyone and who can only be seen by the cursed individual.  If it catches you, you're dead.  If it kills you, it will next pursue the previous person who had the curse.

Watch the trailer, get creeped!

I've been sold on this one for awhile.  I'm ready to see it.  I love a good, scary movie that also works as metaphor (in this case the metaphor is for STDs, but maybe also for the angst of adulthood?).  I'm into it!

Star Maika Monroe was in last year's excellent action-horror-thriller The Guest and between the two movies she's positioning herself to be a new Scream Queen, something I'm can't complain about at all (I thought she was great in The Guest).

It Follows opened up in major markets last weekend and is expanding into more cities over the next couple weeks, including my town of Portland, Oregon on March 27th, so if you're in Stumptown, head out to the wonderful Hollywood Theatre or the also really good Cinema21 and check it out.

If you live anywhere that is showing It Follows, go see it.  Smart, cool, good horror films need to be supported in theaters.  If you live somewhere lame that doesn't have good theaters that show cool movies, keep an eye out for it when it hits VOD or whatever streaming services you use later this year.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

Yesterday was Friday the 13th and, even though I tried, I failed to finish my new Friday the 13th review on time.  But hey, I like to think it's always Friday the 13th somewhere...

-Check out previous Fridays:
Original Flavor
Part 2
The Final One!
JK, here's A New Beginning
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) is, as the title implies, the one where Jason comes back.  His absence from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) was not appreciated by fans (and critics, as usual, hated the film), so the producers decided to course correct, bringing Jason back and making him near indestructible, just for fun.

Fun is the key word with Jason Lives, as this is considered the "fun" Friday of the series.  The humor is of the meta variety, with plenty of winks and nods to the audience, and this gives the movie a lighter tone, which pairs nicely against Jason racking up an absurd body count (18, the largest for a Friday up to this point).
The movie opens with Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Mathews) speeding down the highway with his friend Hawes (Ron Palillo, Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter) on their way to destroy Jason's body.  It seems Tommy is still having nightmare visions of Jason (as established in Part V), so he feels the only way to free himself from torture is to dig up Jason's body and burn it.

Once they are at the cemetery and start digging (in a scene that is reminiscent of Tommy's dream from the opening of Part V), Tommy and Hawes unearth Jason's coffin and find him rotting inside.

Having some sort of anger flashback, Tommy flips out and grabs a metal fence pole and stabs Jason through the chest.  Tommy calms down but his relief is only temporary, as a pair of lightning bolts strike the metal pole and reanimate Jason's maggot-ridden corpse.
Jason's first order of business?  Kill Hawes by punching his heart out.
Tommy speeds off in his truck and heads directly to Crystal Lake, which is now called Forest Green, to warn the sheriff about Jason.  Of course Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) thinks Tommy is crazy and promptly locks him up for attempting to steal a gun.
Meanwhile, Jason finds his next two victims, Lizbeth (Nancy McLoughlin, the director's wife) and Darren (Tony Goldwyn), a couple lost on some backwoods road in their VW bug.  When they see Jason standing in the road, Lizbeth quips "I've seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly."  This sort of self-referential humor is the hallmark of Jason Lives, commenting on the absurdity of slasher movies and of the Friday movies in particular.

The next bit of humor comes just a few short minutes later when, right before Jason impales and drowns Lizbeth in a puddle, she offers him her wallet and money.  He doesn't take it and there's a close-up of her American Express card floating away from her lifeless hand, a "never leave home without it" heckle-ready moment if there ever was one.

The next morning, the sheriff's daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) shows up at the station with few of her friends, looking for Darren and Lizbeth.  They're all working together at a newly opened summer camp for kids that is (of course) at the old location of Camp Crystal Lake.

Tommy warns them that something bad might have happened to them and Megan takes this as an invitation to flirt her ass off with Tommy (who is behinds bars, mind you.  Makes you wonder how often Megan gets all flirty with the prisoners..).
From this point on, Jason slaughters his way through everybody, the counselors, some paintball players, the cemetery caretaker, a handful of police officers, and a bunch of other random people, while Tommy, with the help of Megan, tries to put a stop to Jason once and for all by using a giant chain tied to a large rock.
That seems ridiculous out of context, but Tommy's idea is that maybe he can lure Jason to Crystal Lake, his original resting place, with the intent of wrapping the chain around his neck and drowning/defeating/trapping him under the water.  It works, but as we find out in the subsequent sequels, this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Jason Lives is one of my favorite of the Friday movies (it's third or fourth on the list), as it's a fun and fast paced film with plenty of kills and jokes and a couple action scenes thrown in for good measure.  Amongst fans, it is generally well regarded and it even garnered a few positive reviews from critics.  Financially however the movie failed to gross $20 million at the box office and it didn't even nab the number one spot on it's opening weekend (Aliens was on it's third week and was killing it), making Jason Lives the first Friday film to not accomplish either of those things.

This decline for the Friday series was due to a few reasons:
1).  There was a lot of competition at the box office that summer and Jason Lives couldn't survive against Aliens, The Fly, Karate Kid II, Stand By Me, and Top Gun.
2).  Audience fatigue had set in regarding slasher movies and by 1986 the genre was basically dead, even if the kids were still going to see. . .
3).  Freddy Kruger.  By 1986, two Nightmare on Elm Street movies had been released and Freddy's ascension in popularity parallels with the decline in Jason's.

Not that any of that could deter a large, unstoppable zombie mass murderer from stalking, slashing, and wrecking his way through two more movies before the 1980s were done (and four more after that!).  Jason was back and he wasn't going anywhere (except New York. . .and hell. . .and outer space. .).

Random Notes:

It isn't made clear how much time has passed since Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, which takes place in 1992 according to the series timeline, but it must be less than five years, since the next film in the series takes place in 1997.  Enough time has passed since Jason died in The Final Chapter (back in 1984) that Crystal Lake has changed their name to Forest Green and, interestingly, Megan and her friends refer to Jason as a legend and not something that really happened.  Since they would've been children back in 1984, I guess it is possible that they could've been raised to believe that Jason was only an urban legend as the townsfolk suppressed the true history of the town...  Believe me, I've put too much thought into this, I'm just going to move on..

In a strange way, this movie shares similarities to the classic Universal monster movies, specifically the Frankenstein films.  Jason is reanimated by bolts of lightning, a dead creature brought to life, and he gains extraordinary strength and becomes virtually unstoppable.  Tommy takes on the role of the creator and feels responsible for Jason's destruction, a task he sees to personally.  On the technical side, the lighting and the use of fog during the night forest scenes adds to the gothic atmosphere.

After Jason's resurrection the opening credits start and, instead of having an exploding title screen like they have in the previous few movies (which I always think are great), there is a parody of the James Bond opening with a tiny Jason slashing from within his own eyeball.  This establishes the goofier tone of Jason Lives.
Another goofy moment:  when the caretaker looks directly at the camera and says "some folks have a strange idea of entertainment."

The special effects in the film are adequate but they aren't exactly spectacular.  Many scenes are the obvious victim of the censors demanding they be trimmed.  The two best kills in the movie, the triple decapitation of the paintball players and the death of Sheriff Garris, both work fairly well as they are in the movie, but they work even better when you see what was cut out (the deleted material is available on the most recent DVD and Blu-ray collections and can also be seen here).
Fun Fact:  This is the only Friday movie to have no nudity!  There is a sex scene but Cort (Tom Fridley) and Nikki (Darcy DeMoss) both leave their clothes on.
They do it in a camper van and after getting spooked when the power goes out, they peel out of there which is cool because it totally leads to some SQUEALING TIRES ON DIRT!

Also, it leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie, when Jason, having snuck onto the camper, kills both Nikki (face smash through the side of the van) and Cort (head stab), which causes the camper to flip over and crash spectacularly.  Then, in what is one of the best shots in the movie, Jason crawls out of the wreckage and looks completely unfazed.
Another thing I love in this movie:  there are actual little kids at the summer camp.  For a small portion of the movie, the kids are actually in danger, but honestly they aren't in danger enough for my tastes.  Hell, the kids aren't even really in the movie that much at all, especially the boys, as young Nancy, who sees Jason a couple times, is pretty much the main kid in the movie.

Also, what kind of summer camp is being run here?  There is apparently a staff of six counselors, and only four of them show up ('cause two were murdered) before two of them take off (Cort to have sex, Megan to help out Tommy), leaving only Sissy (Renee Jones) and Paula (Kerry Noonan) to look after the kids.  Is there no additional staff at this summer camp?  Who's making meals for all these children?  The conditions of this Forest Green Summer Camp are suspect at best.
Classic Friday move: Jason smashes through a door:
Oh!  Another thing I love!  During the climax, Tommy taunts Jason when he's luring him out to the lake!  He calls Jason a "meathead," "chickenshit," "asshole," and a "pussy."  It's so great!
Tommy is played by Thom Mathews, who had just scored a horror hit with Return of the Living Dead (1985).  He's maybe the best of all the Tommys.  This movie is definitely his story and since he's the one who has the final confrontation with Jason, this slasher movie lacks a true final girl character.

Megan is the closest thing we have, and even though she does give Jason a bit of motorboat propellor to the face, she never has a one-on-one throwdown with Jason and her main function in the movie really seems to be helping Tommy out.

Jennifer Cooke was also on the sci-fi TV series V and she quit acting not long after Jason Lives.  Her husband is one of the founders of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Company and she is now involved in the tea business.
David Kagen is considered one of the best and most sought after acting coaches in Hollywood and owns and operates the David Kagen School of Film Acting.  So he knows what he's doing playing Sheriff Garris, who could just be a generic small town cop character, but Kagen gives him plenty of levels and some interior life.  Plus, he basically becomes the secondary protagonist towards the end of the movie, taking Jason on himself, and making a good go at it, before getting folded in half.  I wonder how often that comes up with his acting students?

Renée Jones would go on to star in over 1,000 episodes of Days of our Lives as Lexie Carver.  That doesn't mean anything to me, but maybe it does to you.

Tony Goldwyn can currently be seen on your wife or girlfriend's favorite TV show Scandal.  He plays the president.

Director Tom McLoughlin also wrote the screenplay for Jason Lives.  One of his original ideas was to introduce Jason's father, Elias, late in the movie, implying that he knows he's been resurrected and that he's looking for Jason.  This idea would be incorporated into the novelization of Part VI.  McLoughlin got the gig on Friday because of his work on One Dark Night (1982) with Meg Tilly and after Friday he would direct Date with an Angel (1987) with Phoebe Cates and Sometimes They Come Back (1991) with Tim Matheson and Brooke Adams.
The original score is once again provided by Harry Manfredini with additional songs provided by Alice Cooper.  "Teenage Frankenstein" and "Hard Rock Summer" appear, but the single and closing credits track is "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)," which even had a music video:

Final Thoughts:  Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI is the last really good Friday movie.  After this we get six more films, the total of which don't really stack up against the first six, even if parts of them are intermittently fun.  2015 has a third Friday the 13th this year (in November), so when that rolls around we'll check out The New Blood.  I'll try to have that review done on time.  See you then.

"So...what were you gonna be when you grew up?"