Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Witching and Bitching

Happy Halloweek everybody!  Welcome to the scariest place in town!  THE TRAILER PARK!

This weeks movie trailer is for a weird Spanish movie and I'll go ahead and warn you that this one won't be for everybody.  It's a strong mix of laughs, action, and gore.  To me, it looks unrelentingly awesome, but I sometimes like this kind of stuff.  Your mileage may vary...

Witching and Bitching (2013), or as it is known in its native Spain, Las brujas de Zugarramurdi (translates as The Witches of Zugarramurdi), is a horror/comedy from director Álex de la Iglesia about a group of thieves who run afoul a coven of murderous witches in a remote village.  Much madness and terror ensues.  Also, some hilarity.  This one looks to be fun, action packed, full of energy, and soaked in blood.  Can't wait!

I really enjoyed de la Iglesia's The Last Circus (2010), which is an insane horror/comedy mixture featuring murderous clowns, with a perfect balance of tones, so I am looking forward to this one.

This is the first trailer for the film:

The use of Refused's 'New Noise' was another big selling point for me.  Also, the gold Jesus.

As a holiday bonus, here's a Vimeo LINK to a second trailer.  It's longer, subtitled, and gives a better sense of what the fuck is going on, plus it's got more action and gore.

As of right now, I do not believe Witching and Bitching has been picked up for US distribution, but I would imagine it will pop up sometime in 2014.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ninja III: The Domination

There is nothing quite like Ninja III: The Domination (1984).  It's basic formula can be broken down as this:  ninjas + possession + revenge killings x the 80s ÷ aerobics = amazing. Unless there is another supernatural-ninja-aerobics movie out there, I don't think you or I are ever going to see a better supernatural-ninja-aerobics movie.

In case you need further convincing, Here's 10 Reasons You Should Check Out Ninja III: The Domination

1.  The Amazing Opening:  Ninja Golf Course Massacre

Ninja III is packed with wall to wall action and the first ten minutes is the most jam packed of them all.  After a mysterious and heavily eyelinered ninja retrieves his ninja gear from a ninja mountain cave, he proceeds to stalk and massacre a bunch of polo shirt 80s jerk-looking guys (and one woman) on a golf course, all in broad daylight, no less.

He crushes a golf ball right in front of one dude's face and then he lifts a golf cart (partially) off the ground with one hand.  After that he runs from the police, jumps over a car, climbs a palm tree, jumps onto a helicopter, and then dives into a lake, all while kicking, punching, stabbing, slashing, and throwing ninja stars into people.  It might just be the most important ten minutes in cinema history*.

*Not really, but check out these screenshots!

Also, I of course gotta mention that there's some squealing tires on dirt when the police are chasing Eyeliner Ninja because of course this is the kind of movie that would have that.
After the police gun the ninja down, he stumbles away after a smoke bomb diversion and manages to catch the attention of telephone repairwoman Christie (Lucinda Dickey, star of Breakin' and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo) who he then transfers all his ninja prowess and powers to via his now possessed sword.  The rest of the movie involves Christie getting revenge on the cops who killed Eyeliner Ninja and it is just as awesome as the opening ten minutes.

2.  Floating Glowing Sword

This sword floats!  It glows!  And it's also possessed by an evil ninja spirit!  What fun!

3.  Aerobics!
This film is drenched in 80s-ness, from the clothes and hair, the music, the decor of Christie's apartment, the arcade game that shoots lasers out of it, the neon, etc, etc, but the most 80s thing in Ninja III has got the be all the aerobics action.  Christie is not only a telephone repairwoman, but she also teaches an aerobics class and seems to workout when feeling stressed about all this possession business.  Basically, what I'm saying is that leotards and leg warmers are a motif in this film.

4.  Flashdance + The Exorcist + Poltergeist

Ninja III is the kind of movie that is an equal opportunity opportunist, stealing ideas from a variety of sources.  This movie really is the sum of its parts.  As pointed out above, aerobics is a part of the larger package, and Christie's aerobics instructor/telephone repairwoman career path is her version of Alex's steel mill welder/exotic dancer double career move in Flashdance (1983).  Also, leg warmers.

All movies that deal with possession are a little indebted to The Exorcist (1973), Ninja III being no exception.  This comes across mostly in the attempted-exorcism/spirit conjuring scene with James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China [1986]) as Miyashima, which causes Christie to flip out (literally), scream in a voice not her own, spit smoke in Miyashima's face, levitate him, and have her complexion change.  You know, just the usual possession stuff...

Not resting on its laurels, Ninja III also has a scene that is a fairly blatant attempt to recreate the closet-sucking scene from Poltergeist (1983), but to much, much less effect (although, in the same scene, the possessed sword slashes her stereo in half, and that was pretty cool).

5.  V-8 Juice:  Aphrodisiac

This shit made no sense.  Is this the possession talking or is she just a weirdo?  I guess the director, Sam Firstenberg, came up with this idea while on the set...  In that case, I gotta ask, what the hell, man?

6.  The Hairy-Man Beast, Billy

So who is Christie seductively pouring V-8 down her body for?  Well, it's her pushy cop boyfriend, Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett), who would be considered the lead male actor of the movie (non-ninja class).  He's mostly notable for being absolutely one of the hairiest men ever in motion pictures (he's right up there with Robin Williams).  He's kind of a doof, but I guess he's well meaning.  Totally pushy, though.

7.   The Awesome Dialogue

Movies like this have a way with words.  Get a load of these quotables:

First, in the straight truth department...
"Only a ninja. . . can destroy a ninja."

and in the villainous taunt department...
Christie (possessed by evil ninja):
"HaHaHaHa!  You fools!  You cannot stop me!  I am a ninja!  No one and nothing can stop me!"

and in the "wait,what?" department...
A Doctor, speaking to Christie:  
"Medically, you're a very fit young woman.  No evidence of any abnormality in the brain, no tumor, you have a strong heart, your diet is better than average.  You are under severe stress, of course, but otherwise doctor Bowen, the psychiatrist you saw, says there's nothing out of the ordinary.  Aside from your exceptional extrasensory perception and your preoccupation with Japanese culture.  No harm in that!"

Oh, Ninja III, I think I might love you.

8.  Eye Patch Ninja, Shô Kasugi

You know this is a serious ninja movie with Shô in town.  Well, maybe not serious, but he does add a bit of legitimacy to the piece as Yamada, the sworn enemy of the evil Eyeliner Ninja.  A movie like this needs some ninja vs. ninja action, and we get that in the form of a sword duel in a temple and also on a mountain top.  Pretty cool stuff.

His eyepatch is 100% badass.

Shô was one of the faces of the (all too brief) 1980s ninja craze and was a trained martial artist and a highly skilled practitioner of weapons.  He starred in the other two (and unrelated) films in this ninja series, Enter the Ninja (1981) and Revenge of the Ninja (1983), as well as Pray for Death (1985), Rage of Honor (1987), and early Jean-Claude Van Damme entry, Black Eagle (1988).

9That Cannon Films Flavor!

Leaders in the VHS revolution of the 1980s, The Cannon Group, ran by Israeli cousins Manehem Golan and Yoram Globus, seemed to specialize in exploiting all and any 80s trends and fads; Vietnam action movies (Missing in Action [1984]), slashers (New Years Evil [1980]), breakdancing (Breakin' [1984]), Charles Bronson pics (10 to Midnight [1983], the Death Wish sequels), Van Damme awesomeness (Bloodsport [1988] AND Kickboxer [1989]), arm wrestling (Over the Top [1987]), and of course, ninja movies.

Most of their output was low budget and made to turn a quick profit, but they did manage to put some of their money behind some talented filmmakers when they produced Barbet Schroeder's first American film Barfly (1987, starring Mickey Rourke in one of his best roles), Neil Jordan's second feature The Company of Wolves (1985), and Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce (1985) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986).

Cannon Films... there's something about them.  The analogy I drew up is that they are akin to a ham and cheese sandwich.  Something that is enjoyable, has very basic elements, and can very easily be snazzed up.  Mmmmmmmm..... that Cannon Film flavor..

10.  The Movie Trailer!

Some of that wonderful flavor comes across in this trailer.  If this doesn't convince you that you need to see this movie, nothing will.  This video is VHS quality, which makes it VHSupercool:
Ninja III: The Domination, what else is there to say?  SEE IT!

Ninja III: The Domination is now available on BluRay/DVD combo from the fine folks over at Scream Factory.  It's a great looking disc; I need to snag myself a copy.  You should too.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Zero Charisma

This week's movie trailer isn't for a horror or Halloween-type movie (for shame!), but instead is for a darkish comedy that you can see right now!  So grab your ten-sided die and your miniatures and read on!

In Zero Charisma (2013), Scott Weidemeyer is your typical fantasy role-playing gamer; overweight, lives with his grandmother, really into his gaming world (of which he is the Game Master, naturally), and complacent with the happiness that his routine gives him.  His world and life is turned upside down when a charismatic hipster joins his gaming group and from there things continue to spiral down for poor old, easily-enraged Scott.

This is, of course, a comedy, one that is a bit dark, but it also seems to have its heart in the right place.  Some early reviews are calling it "the best nerd movie ever" and I'm looking forward to verifying that opinion.  While I have my own nerd proclivities, gaming was never one of them.  Sure, I played video games when I was a kid but I haven't owned a system since the OG Playstation and I've only participated in a few role playing board games back in college, but hey, that was the time for experimentation, was it not?

This looks like a labor of love and not simply a cashing in on current geek culture popularity and the commodification of such.  Plus, it looks pretty funny.  Here's the trailer:

Zero Charisma is available on VOD RIGHT NOW, so you have no excuses.  Also, it is playing in select cities across the USA and opens up here in Portland, Oregon this weekend at the best theater in town, The Hollywood Theatre.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Almost Human

Welcome to the Trailer Park.

Make sure you drive slow.
Dirty, shirtless children are playing...

This week's trailer is for a movie that looks to be right up my alley.  It's indebted to the cinema of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg.  It has an 80s slasher feel (the story takes place in the 80s, without being all in your face about it, so that's cool too).  It has ridiculous amounts of blood, violence, and gore.  I seriously cannot wait to see this one.

One cold winter's night, two small town best friends, Seth Hampton (Graham Skipper) and Mark Fisher (Josh Either, also the film's editor), are caught in a blue alien light and Mark mysteriously vanishes.  Sometime later, Mark reappears.  He is not the same. . .

Almost Human (2013) is the debut feature from writer/director/producer/camera operator/cinematographer Joe Begos and it made a splash at the Toronto International Film Fest (where it was picked up for distribution by IFC) and also impressed the folks down in Austin, TX at Fantastic Fest.  The film will screen next at the Stiges Film Fest over in Spain (this weekend, I think).

No word on when Almost Human will receive a wider release here in the States.  I'd hazard a guess and say early next year, but who knows, could be later.  Either way, here's the trailer, full of bloody gore and mayhem.

Here's the movie poster, which is also indebted to Carpenter's The Thing and is also completely badass.  Check it!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesdays - A Field in England

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesdays, where every week I look at and share a movie trailer for an upcoming release that has piqued my interest.

This week:  A Field in England.

Ben Wheatley.
British filmmaker.
Down Terrace (2009).
Kill List (2011).
Sightseers (2012).
Even his segment, U is for Unearthed, in anthology film The ABCs of Death (2012).
All great.
All unique.
All worthy of your time.
Check them out.
(especially Kill List)

Wheatley is one of the best genre filmmakers working today.
Completely underrated.

His new film, A Field in England, is shot in black-and-white, takes place during the English Civil War in the 17th century, and involves psychedelia, madness, and chaos.  Looks like fun.

A Field in England had its US premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX last month.
Future and further US release dates have yet to be determined, but keep an eye out.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

I chose to watch this film based on two reasons:

One:  that title.  I've always been a fan of wordy, lengthy titles and also of titles that have a person's full name in them. This has both.

Two:  this movie poster:
Holy smokes!  Look at that thing?  It's a naked muscle guy clutching his junk in apparent agony amongst a sea of psychedelic 70s reds and blues!  I don't have to explain it, just look at it up there!  It's electrifying!

So yeah, I watched The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), and while it's not as awesome as the above poster, it was still mildly intriguing and interesting. . . .sort of.

Here's the deal with this one:  Dr. Peter Proud (Michael Sarrazin) is having a series of reoccurring nightmares, the most intense of which is one where he is another man who gets murdered while swimming in a lake at night.  The nightmares, it seems, are not dreams at all, but in fact memories of a life previous lived (by a man named Jeff Curtis [Tony Stephano, whose only other screen credit is in Tron (1982)]).  Peter goes on a search for answers, which lead him to the previous man's wife Marcia (Margot Kidder) and daughter Ann (Jennifer O'Neill).  Peter starts to feel and develop an attraction to Ann, and she to him, but Marcia doesn't trust Peter and his presence has dredged up some old memories and secrets.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is one of those strange, slightly trippy, but serious and arty type of mystery-thrillers that was made during the 1970s.  This movie could be described as sordid, but it's also a well made film, with some strong visuals and good performances, but I gotta say, the main problem with the film is that nothing really happens.

I mean, stuff happens, but it's really nothing.  There is no real tension and there is very little rise in action over the course of the movie.  One portion of the story involves Peter driving around randomly in Massachusetts looking for landmarks that he recognizes from his dreams.  In another, he and Ann go to a square dance.  What I'm saying is that this isn't a thrill-ride suspense mystery and it is less of a slow-burn and more of a no-burn.  It exists mainly in a holding pattern of low-intrigue until the inevitable conclusion.

Peter's attraction and relationship with Ann is interesting because he is the reincarnation of her father and ewwwwwwwwww.  To be fair, Peter doesn't have all of Jeff's memories, just bits and pieces, and he does seem slightly conflicted about Ann, but it's not long before he's all in.  (ewwwwwwww)

The other seedy element in the film takes place in a bathtub scene where Marcia has a flashback to a sexual assault (committed by her husband, who it turns out, is a real jerk-ass) and it is ambiguous as to if she is enjoying the memory.  These two things (the reincarncest and the rape-fantasy) are the two most grindhousey elements in the movie, but they are handled with such seriousness that it feels less grindhouse and much more arthouse.

I, for one, could use a little more grindhouse, but hey, this is nice too.

The likable Michael Sarrazin comes off a little emotionally flat in this, with his self-obsessed pursuit of the truth in his memory/dreams getting in the way of any deeper characterization.  He's the most lively during the square dance, which takes place in a barn and may (or may not) be an homage to his role in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1968).

Margot Kidder puts in a pretty solid if not great performance as Marcia, even though she spends most of her screen time in barely convincing old age makeup (really, just a gray wig).  Haunted by guilt, older-Marcia is a sad sack who seems to always have a cigarette or a drink in her hand, or both.

Kidder was fresh off of Black Christmas (1974) when she made this and just a few short years following she would take two of her most identifiable roles in Superman (1978) and The Amityville Horror (1979), although my personal favorite Kidder performance is her dual roles in Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973).
This is an early-ish role for Jennifer O'Neill, who would also star in Lucio Fulci's The Psychic (1977) and David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981).  In Peter Proud she's the innocent character, unaware of Peter's memories or of her mother's past.  She's quite good; I like her.

The score is one of the best elements of the film, and that should be no surprise, as it comes from the great Jerry Goldsmith.  Mr. Goldsmith has done some of the most well known and iconic film scores of all time, including Planet of the Apes (1968), Patton (1971), Chinatown (1974), The Omen (1977, for which he won an Oscar), Alien (1979), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Poltergeist (1983), Gremlins (1984), and Total Recall (1990).  Most of Peter Proud has this nice, classical and melodramatic score, except for the dream sequences, which are accompanied by strange, piercing electronic synth sounds, probably the most unnerving element of the movie (the blaring sounds actually woke up my fiancé, who was sleeping in the other room, and she yelled at me to "turn it down."  True story).

Director J. Lee Thompson brings some class and style to this dramatic mystery, having previously helmed classics like The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Cape Fear (1962), not to mention the last two films in the Planet of the Apes series, Conquest of the... (1972) and Battle for the... (1973).  After Peter Proud, Thompson would direct the great slasher film Happy Birthday to Me (1981) and would also collaborate with Charles Bronson multiple times, including on The White Buffalo (1977), 10 to Midnight (1983), and Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987).

Cinematographer Victor J. Kempler would get his start on John Cassavetes' Husbands (1970) and would also shoot the underseen crime flick The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973).  The same year as Peter Proud he would also film the great Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and while he has a few other genre film credits, like Eyes of Laura Mars and Magic (both 1978), Kempler would mainly work on a bunch of comedies, including classics like Oh, God! (1977), The Jerk (1979), Vacation (1983), Mr. Mom (1983), Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985), Clue (1985), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Tommy Boy (1995).  Guess the guy liked to laugh...

I wouldn't call The Reincarnation of Peter Proud an exciting movie (not by a long shot) but it manages in sidestepping the terrible movie-sin of being boring by containing some watchable elements and by being just weird enough to hold my interest until the end.  I dunno if this a testament to the film itself or just my personal tolerance for this kind of thing.  It's a toss up.

While I kind of dug it, I have to fully admit that this movie is not for everybody.  I guess I would most recommend it to fans of obscure 70s cinema and also to Margot Kidder fanatics.  Oh, and also to reincarnated-fathers-looking-to-hook-up-with-their-adult-daughters-while-trying-to-stay-classy-about-it.  If you're one of them, totally check this movie out.

One last thing:  the title of this movie is totally wrong.  Peter Proud isn't the one who gets reincarnated.  Jeff Curtis is the guy who is reincarnated as Peter Proud, so the title should be "The Reincarnation of Jeff Curtis", but since that's not as cool sounding, they shoulda switched the names of the two characters, make the dead guy Peter Proud.  Maybe they didn't understand how reincarnation works?
This woman isn't involved in the movie at all, she's just a random weirdo who approaches Peter when he's in an occult bookstore.  She tries to guess his sign.  She guesses wrong.  Random side characters in 70s movies are some of my favorite side characters..

There have been reports (going back to 2009) of a remake of this film going into development over at Paramount and Columbia Pictures with Andrew Kevin Walker and David Fincher, the team behind Seven (1995), attached to write and direct, respectively.  Not sure if anything will ever come of this almost-5-year-old announcement, but it would most likely be pretty interesting if Fincher did tackle this subject.