Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Cub

Happy Halloween from the Trailer Park.  Razorblades in apples are the least of your worries around here...

Being the week of Halloween, let's look at an upcoming horror film, specifically a new one out of Belgium, a country known less for its horror movies (even though it has produced its share of fright flicks over the years) and more for its main cinematic export, Jean-Claude Van Damme. That however might change, if this upcoming film is as good as it might seem.
Cub is the film in question and it involves a group of Flemish boy scouts and their scout leaders, off in the woods on a camping trip, being stalked by a psycho killer.  Sounds and looks like something right up my alley.
I was a boy scout growing up so the mere concept of this one hits me just right.  I'm totally intrigued.  Then I read some early reviews (mostly good) and saw this trailer and I knew I had to see this one.  Check it out:

That tagline, "Be Prepared," just hooks me.  It's SO perfect!

Here's the official synopsis from the website:

"CUB is a horror adventure in which a young imaginative twelve-year-old boy named Sam heads off to camp with his Cub Scouts pack, leaders Peter and Chris and quartermaster Yasmin. Once they enter the woods, Sam quickly feels something is not quite right. He soon stumbles upon a mysterious tree house and meets a shifty, masked feral-looking child. When Sam tries to warn his leaders, they ignore him: the boy often tells tall tales and Sam’s mysterious past which he refuses to talk about makes his leader Peter mistrust him. As Sam gets more and more isolated from the other scouts, he becomes convinced a terrible fate awaits them: the Feral Child, it turns out, is the helper of the Poacher, an evil psychopath, who has riddled the forest with ingenious traps and is intent on slaughtering the scouts… one by one…"

Cub (originally titled Welp) was partially funded through crowd sourcing, which is something that usually gives me pause, but I'm into the concept, and the trailer looks good, so I'm going to give it a shot when it finally secures an American release.

Cub sees release in its native Belgium tomorrow, on October 29th.  After that, keep an eye out for it, probably next year, here in The States.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesdays - The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Trailer Park Tuesdays.

Now 87% ebola free.

This week at TPT we got the trailer for the remake of the 1976 true-story horror flick The Town That Dreaded Sundown.  The original film (I reviewed it HERE) has some effective scare sequences (and a great looking villain), but it suffers from wild tonal swings and some bad comedy.  So a remake is not something I am opposed to.  From the looks of this first trailer, it is even something I am going to be supportive of.

From some early reviews, it seems this new version is going in an interesting direction, more of a slasher-type thing, maybe?  Also, very stylish.  And the trombone kill is in there!  YAY!  But there's no Andrew Prine.  Booo!  Guess you can't have everything.

The film is being released by Blumhouse Productions though the long-dormant MGM subsidiary Orion Pictures, and I won't lie, seeing that Orion logo made me smile and put me on this movie's side early.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) is getting a limited release on October 16th, probably nowhere near where you live, so you'll have to seek it out on VOD.  Do it, or The Phantom Killer will get you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesdays: YEAR ONE

A little over a year ago I started my semi-regular column Trailer Park Tuesdays, where I share new movie trailers for upcoming releases, usually stuff that is flying low on the general public's radar.  I started doing it because A) I wanted more content on the site and B) because I'm a sucker for a good movie trailer.

But were the movies themselves any good?

I've shared 26 movie trailers over the past year; out of those, I've seen 12 of the movies.  That's almost 50%!  Were the trailers being honest?  Were the movies good?  Let's see how things turned out:

-(click the titles for links to the trailers):

This was okay-ish.  I appreciate what they did, the clandestine shooting at DisneyWorld/Land, some of it comes off spectacularly, but it does fail to come together as a satisfying whole.  Still, worth a look if you like experimental, low budget fantasy narratives.

I liked this a lot, it's fun stuff.  Brutal, though.  Parts might make you squirm.  Both Ethan Embry and Pat Healy are great.  The escalation of events is nice, the payoff in the end is good too.

Whoa shit, was this trippy.  I loved it.  The stunning black-and-white photography.  The theatricality of the drama.  It's artful and badass, a great combo.  Ben Wheatley is one of the best and most underrated filmmakers working today.

This Carpenter-homage-heavy film is just-above-average stuff.  It's enjoyable, despite being predictable (and featuring some so-so acting).  The special effects are the highlight.

Eh.  I won't talk shit about this, but it really didn't light me on fire.  If someone told me they loved it, I'd say "good for you, I totally know why, but it didn't connect with me in that way."  Maybe if I played more D&D. . .

This was a true stinker.  Not good at all, boring and dumb in equal measures, there were a couple noteworthy scenes, but overall not worth anyone's time.  Watch THIS CLIP instead.

Very solid.  Keanu's directorial debut rips it up; one of my fave movie from last year!  *I double trailered this with the Keanu-starring 47 Ronin, which looked like it might be stupid fun, but from what I've since read, it is just stupid.  So I might end up skipping that one, forever.

Aw, yeah!  Man, this film is epic in both plot dynamics (honestly, I got lost a little bit) and in action scenarios.  The prison yard rumble!  Prakoso's subplot!  Baseball Bat Man!  Hammer Girl!!  I need to see this again.  Oh, yeah.

Ok, so while I did like a lot of the elements within this film, I did not really like it overall.  The human characters were no good and boring.  The pace of the movie felt off too, probably due to the boring humans.  Not the worst Godzilla movie, not by a long shot, but I feel they could and can do better.  I'm not sold on Gareth Edwards as a director.

Loved it.  One of my favorites of the year so far.  This revenge thriller hits all my buttons.  It's tense, bleak, and brutal, but finds time for quiet moments.  Very much RECOMMENDED! SEE IT!

I liked this very much, although I can totally understand why somebody would not.  It is narratively sparse and visually rich.  I've seen it twice now and find it to be mesmerizing, and not just when Scarlett Johansson is nude.

I liked this low budget, sci-fi head trip.  General unease and tension ramps up during the film's brisk running time and the cast is totally game. Not essential viewing or a masterpiece or anything, but a satisfactory watch for me.  I dug it.

As for those I've yet to see:
-Detective Downs and Kid's Police have yet to find US distribution.
-Witching and Bitching comes out on home video in October; The Strange Colour of Your Tears in December.
-Whiplash and Automatá hit theaters soon.  Mad Max roars into theaters next May.
-I haven't seen The Zero Theorem or The Guest yet (can't wait!).
-Nor have I seen BorgmanThe Final MemberThe Dance of Reality, or New Year's Evil.
-As mentioned above, 47 Ronin is something I will most likely not watch.

So there you have it.  Trailer Park Tuesdays: YEAR ONE.
Here's to another great year.
See ya at the trailers.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

RIP, Richard Kiel

Veteran character actor Richard Kiel passed away yesterday at a medical center in Fresno, California.  The exact details of his passing have not been revealed at this time, although it is being reported that he suffered a broken leg about a week ago.

He was 74 years old.
At 7' 2", the very large Kiel got his start playing monsters in B-movies and on television shows, most notably in the classic Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man."  He was also adept at playing thugs and tough guys and was most famous for playing Jaws in a couple James Bond movies.

Personally I am most fond of his goofy caveman movie Eegah, as it is featured in one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, but I also have good memories of Happy Gilmore because my friends and I rented and watched it about 400 times back in our teenage days (don't judge).

From the accounts I've read, from colleagues and fans, Richard Kiel was an immensely nice guy who was warm, funny, and sweet.  The only thing intimidating about him was his stature.   Big guy, big heart, all that stuff.  It's a bummer he's gone.

RIP, Kiel, ya big lug.

One of Richard Kiel's earliest performances was as the sad-looking Solarite in The Phantom Planet (1961)
Kiel really entered the pop culture landscape with his role of Kanamit from "To Serve Man," one of the best Twilight Zone episodes (1962)
Reportedly Kiel was working as a bouncer at a nightclub in L.A. when Arch Hall. Sr. saw him and offered him the titular role in Eegah (1962).  The scene where Roxy shaves Eegah's face is amongst the strangest ever.  
The Human Duplicators (1965)
Kiel, monkeying around in 1967
The Longest Yard (1974)
Silver Streak (1976)
Kiel was originally cast in The Incredible Hulk TV show (1977) before being deemed not bulky enough and replaced by Lou Ferrigno.  They filmed exactly one shot.
Not wanting to hide behind a mask, Richard Kiel turned down the role of Darth Vader to take on the villainous henchman Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)...
...The character proved so popular, he returned for Moonraker (1979)
Kiel and Jackie Chan on the set of Cannonball Run II (1984)
Pale Rider (1985)
Happy Gilmore (1996)
"To be loved is important, as is having a sense of accomplishment, but to love is equally important in life especially when it is combined with taking action to do something for someone else to make their life better."

Richard Kiel, 1939-2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesdays - The Zero Theorem

Trailer Park Tuesdays is everything.
Trailer Park Tuesdays is nothing.

I have long been a big fan of Terry Gilliam's work.  Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys, Time Bandits, etc., he's made some great movies.  His last few films have been. . .well, they've been Brothers Grimm, Tideland, and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, so they've been a mixed bag of not-that-greatness.

Regardless, I still get excited when I hear about a Terry Gilliam project and I get double-excited when he actually finishes it and, hey look!, he finished a new movie!  This one is called The Zero Theorem.  Here's the official synopsis:

"The Zero Theorem stars two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds) as Qohen Leth, an eccentric and reclusive computer genius plagued with existential angst.  Living in a burnt-out church, Qohen is obsessively working on a mysterious project personally delegated to him by Management (Matt Damon) aimed at discovering the meaning of life - or the lack thereof - once and for all.  Increasingly disturbed by unwanted visits from people he doesn't fully trust, including the flirtatious Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), Management's wunderkind son Bob (Lucas Hedges), his unpredictable colleague Joby (David Thewlis), and would-be digital therapist Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton), it's only when he experiences the power of love and desire that he's able to understand his own reason for being."

Yup. Sounds like something Gilliam would make.  Looks like it too.
Here's the official trailer:

The Zero Theorem is available On Demand right now in some places (go look for it) and will open in select theaters starting September 19th (go see it).
Alternative poster:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Whiplash

Welcome to Trailer Par. . WILL YOU TURN THAT RACKET DOWN?!!

Today's movie trailer is for Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury and Audience Award winner WHIPLASH, a movie I have been highly anticipating since reading some early reviews, and now that anticipation has been augmented by a movie trailer!  This looks like a good one.

Whiplash is about a young jazz drummer who wants to be the best.  His teacher is a total dick.
Onscreen fireworks ensue.

The film stars Miles Teller, a young actor who has been tearing it up (Rabbit Hole, The Spectacular Now), and who looks like he tears it up royally in this one.  I've heard nothing but good things about this kid in this movie.  You'll be seeing more of Mr. Teller next year; he just landed the gig of Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four reboot.

Starring opposite Teller is a terrifying J.K. Simmons (Burn After Reading, Spider-Man, TV's OZ).  He's beyond intense.  Jesus. . . who could be taught be this guy?

Whiplash is written and directed by Damien Chazelle (writer, Grand Piano) and will see a limited theatrical release this fall, starting October 10th.
Drum Punch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pit Stop

Raw Guts For Glory!  Flesh Against Steel!

Jack Hill's 1969 auto-racing exploitation movie Pit Stop (filmed in 1967, produced by Roger Corman) is full of real race car action and plenty of fender crunching crashes and even features a couple memorable performances from its cast (one of who would be a future Oscar winner), not to mention the cool blues-rock soundtrack, groovy laid-back 60s vibe, and, hey!, lots of squealing tires on dirt. . . basically what I'm getting at is that this is another winner from exploitation writer/director extraordinaire Jack Hill.

Fun fact:  the original title for this film was The Winner.

Pit Stop follows tough-guy, drag racing loner Rick Bowman (Richard Davalos) who gets bailed out of jail by an unscrupulous promoter and car sponsor named Grant Willard (Brian Donlevy) and pulled into the world of figure-8 racing, which is exactly what the name implies: a looped-track race with an intersection.  It's crazy, but apparently exists in the real world.

Rick goes up against the hotshot local, wild driver Hawk Sidney (frequent Hill collaborator Sid Haig) and they develop a rivalry on the racetrack and off, some of it involving Jolene (Beverly Washburn), Hawk's dark-haired, wide-eyed groupie girlfriend (but as she says to Rick, she's "nobody's girl.")

Eventually Rick proves to be the better driver and Grant gets him into bigger races, real races, as a backup for Grant's ace driver, Ed McLeod (George Washburn), but Rick gets himself into further romantic trouble with Ellen McLeod (Ellen Burstyn, credited under her surname McRae), Ed's wife.
On paper, all of that seems pretty routine stuff for this kind of movie.  In practice, you got a whole different machine.
Here, let me give you 10 Reasons you should roll on over to the PIT STOP.

1.  Jack Hill, exploitation luminary.

In an interview once, Quentin Tarantino called Jack Hill the "Howard Hawks of exploitation movies," and the label has stuck over the years and that is because it's true and accurate.  Just like Hawks, Hill was adept at working in many different genres, all of them confidently.

While Hawks made A-list-type films in the war, drama, comedy, and western genres, Hill of course would make B-pictures (but stellar B-pictures) in genres as varied as horror (Spider Baby [1967]), blaxploitation (Coffy [1973]Foxy Brown [1974]), fantasy (Sorceress [1982]), women-in-prison movies (The Big Doll House [1971], The Big Bird Cage [1972]), girl gang action-dramas (Switchblade Sisters [1975]), and cheerleader flicks (The Swinging Cheerleaders [1974]).

Whatever material he worked with, Hill was able to elevate it.  He often wrote his own movies (as he did with Pit Stop), imbuing them with realistic and snappy dialogue and giving the film a specific rhythm (also with the editing, which Hill happened to do on this movie as well) that keeps things lively with a forward momentum.  It kept his movies from becoming run-of-the-mill drive-in fare and is part of the reason why his films are still enjoyable today and continue to be influential.

2.  The cinéma vérité style shooting, the realism, clever editing, & montage.
The first half of the movie features plenty of figure-8 racing and car crashes, all of which is exciting to watch.  The races were filmed at a real racetrack during actual races, documentary style with five cameras, led by director of photography Austin McKinney.  This guerrilla-style of shooting adds to the authenticness that runs throughout the film, a realism that is accentuated by the use of handheld cameras during the action scenes.

The real race footage is cleverly and seamlessly spliced into the scenes of the actors, most of which was filmed on sets and in non-race locations.  The editing is so superb that it is hardly noticeable and not nearly as jarring as similar tactics usually are on low budget pictures like this one.
The junkyard location, where Rick fixes up his cars and whatnot, usually in groovy montages, is also very cool and is definitely another highlight.  Hill and his crew really maximize the location for production value, with piles and piles of junked out classic cars, ruined from recklessness, that not only look cool onscreen but also perfectly echo the possibilities of living in the fast lane of race car driving.

3 & 4.  Sid Haig and Beverly Washburn.

Sure, Rick is the star of the movie and the main character (and actor Richard Davalos did play James Dean's brother in East of Eden [1955]...), but these two steal the show!  Haig, playing Hawk, is a wild man, with crazed eyes and facial expressions and an almost manic way about him.  He's a lively fella.

In some of the later scenes though, you get the idea that his bravado might be a coverup for some feelings of insecurity.  Haig plays the role large and is great fun to watch.  In a fun bit of trivia, Haig didn't know how to drive a car when he took the role of the fearless-driving Hawk.

His lady friend, Jolene, as played by Washburn, is equally fun to watch in a completely different way.  She's a gum chewing, dark-haired dish who does most of her acting with her expressive eyes.  She's kind of a weirdo in early scenes where she's hanging on Hawk, but later on there's real empathy for the character and the situation that she finds herself in.
One of the best scenes is when Hawk, sore over losing a race AND Jolene to Rick, heads out and gleefully smashes Rick's car up with an axe. . . while Jolene is cowering inside!  It's an intense scene, made more so by the frantic in-your-face handheld camerawork.

At this point in 1967, when this movie was filmed, Sid Haig and Beverly Washburn were part of Jack Hill's acting repertory.  Haig would work on most of the films Hill made; he and Washburn both starred in the excellent Spider Baby, which was filmed in 1964 but not released until 1967.

Fun Fact: Haig and Washburn both had roles on Star Trek: TOS, in Season 1's "The Return of the Archons" and Season 2's "The Deadly Years," respectively.
And of course, there's Jolene's "Why Not?" t-shirt...

5.  future Oscar winner, Ellen Burstyn.
This is one of Burstyn's first film roles and she makes the most of what is basically a wire-thin part as the neglected wife who is nevertheless devoted to her husband's work (she helps with the welding and engine work).  She's very restrained in her performance, and with that she brings a certain dignity to the character, a dignity that informs her later misguided attraction to Rick.

It's a wonderfully understated performance, she's fantastic, making an impression with her limited screen time.
Ellen Burstyn would, just a couple years after Pit Stop, star in Peter Bogdanavich's The Last Picture Show (1971) and receive her first of six Oscar nominations.  She would win a few years later for Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) and she would also star in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), Requiem for a Dream (2000), and, most famously, The Exorcist (1973).

I also have to mention she was a multi-episode guest star on season 4 of Louie, which was excellent.

6.  The cool blues-rock soundtrack.

The instrumental soundtrack is provided by a band called The Daily Flash, a psychedelic surf blues rock group.  Actually, it is just credited to them, as that band broke up before the movie came out and the soundtrack was recorded by some former members of The Daily Flash, as a group called Two Guitars, Bass, Drums, & Darryl.  Either way, the tunes are groovy and they really play well over the montage scenes.

Here's one of the tracks over a series of production stills.  Dig it:

7.  The dune buggy scene.

Dune buggies are cool.  These scenes were filmed at the Imperial Sand Dunes in Southern California, where dune buggy vehicles like the ones featured in Pit Stop are no longer legal to drive due to safety and environmental concerns.  Smaller and safer ROVs are allowed, but nothing like these hotrods here.  This short section of the movie is like a small peak into a bit of regional history.  Plus, you know, dune buggies..

8.  The car crashes - lots of em!
Crash, bang, smash.  If you like cars crashing into one another, this has got you covered.  The figure-8 racing is crazy and a lot of real crashes are captured in the movie.  Nobody was seriously injured while filming so you can enjoy the carnage guilt-free, which is good, because the mayhem is quite entertaining.

9.  The downbeat, somewhat existential, bummer ending.

I did not see that coming.  Sheesh.
Pit Stop ends with a downer of an ending, flipping the definition of a hero with Rick revealing his true character (and Grant, too), further defining his position as an outsider-loner whose selfishness is clearly self-evident (Grant just cements himself as the oily promoter).

I won't spoil the specifics of the ending of the movie, just know that it is decidedly downbeat and quite fitting for the era it comes from.  It brought to mind two wildly disparate things; the endings to both George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).  Make of that what you will.

10.  The cool Crash-o-Rama movie trailer!

And here is the trailer again, but with Jack Hill commentary, courtesy of Trailers From Hell:

Final Thought:  Pit Stop is a great little auto-racing, 60s rock n' roll, delinquent, exploitation, action-drama, rising above its low budget and generic genre premise.  If you see it on your travels, be sure to stop and check it out.
"Is there anywhere in the world there isn't old beer cans?"
Yeah, maybe there would be if you stopped throwing your empties everywhere, ya dink!