Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman

To tell you the truth, I thought Bergman was dead already. I haven't seen anything from him since FANNY & ALEXANDER.

I was fortunate to have a professor in college who was doing research for a book on Bergman back when I was taking his class (the result is Hubert Cohen's Ingmar Bergman: The Art of Confession). This was a great opportunity for a up-and-coming cinephile to be exposed to Bergman via SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, THE SEVENTH SEAL, FANNY & ALEXANDER and the questionable film, THE TOUCH.

You couldn't believe my shock to see a young Max Von Sydow in these films when my only previous exposure to him came from FLASH GORDON and DREAMSCAPE. But the real star of the show was Gunnar Björnstrand. Cohen was always quick to point out how great and under appreciated Björnstrand had been. I still picture the poor guy with a candle on his head in FANNY & ALEXANDER.

But, uh, yeah. Bergman's dead and that's a shame.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Danielson - Did I Step on Your Trumpet

Pretty great music video for Danielson's "Did I Step On Your Trumpet?" from Ships.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 7

HELL'S GROUND / ZIBAHKHANA (Omar Khan, 2007, Pakistan)

The makers of HELL'S GROUND really did themselves a disservice at Fantasia by showing a collection of bizarre clips from "Lollywood" (Pakistani) films before beginning the feature. With segments from other Pakistan fare like HASEENA ATIMBUM / ATOMIC BEAUTY (Saeed Ali Khan, 1990), DA KHWAR LASME SPOGMAY / THE CAT-BEAST (Shehnaz Begum, 1997), and more, the audience was prepped for some absolutely bizarro fare.

What they saw in HELL'S GROUND, however, was not bizarre. Rather, it was the same, lame crap that connoisseurs of amateur horror cinema have seen time and again; bad acting, horrible production values, and a lame script. The only difference between this and any number of shot-on-video craptastic horror films that flood my mailbox every month is that the cast is speaking Urdu rather than English. The winking in-jokes ("Look, there's a Leatherface doll!"), the casting of has-beens (Rehan from THE LIVING CORPSE makes an appearance, surely Lloyd Kaufman or Conrad Brooks would have been in a U.S. version), and so on. HELL'S GROUND hits all the marks of bad cinema. In any language, it stinks.

HELL'S GROUND holds the dubious distinction of being the only film at Fantasia that I walked out on.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 6

HATCHET (2006, Adam Green, USA)

HATCHET comes knocking with a doom-laden, stark teaser trailer featuring moody shots of a swamp, a terrified woman whimpering offscreen, and such glowing critical quotes as:

“The best slasher film in twenty years” - John Gray, Pit of Horror

“A new and unexpected benchmark in post-modern, zero-pretense horror” - Giles Edwards, Time Out London

The trailer climaxes with a great shock cut of its hulking killer, Victor Crowley, springing out before his victims, and a close shot of a swinging, bloody hatchet. Then the tagline: “Old School American Horror.” This teaser would lead you to believe that HATCHET is the second coming of the original HALLOWEEN, or at least THE BURNING. Something scary. There’s nothing in it that reveals what HATCHET really is: a hilarious, over-the-top gore comedy. The last movie to pull this bait-and-switch was CABIN FEVER, which alienated as many horror fans as it won over. That probably won’t happen with HATCHET, simply because it tries so hard to be as disgusting as possible, in such a winningly cheerful way, that a gorehound can’t help but love it.

HATCHET follows a motley group of tourists (college students, a middle-aged couple, a porn producer with a couple of “actresses,” and a mysterious young woman on a mission) who take a break from the public nudity and vomiting of Marti Gras in New Orleans for a boat tour highlighting the mysteries and legends of the Louisiana swamps. Their boat runs up on the rocks, stranding them, and they then have to deal with one of the legends on a more personal level: deformed madman Victor Crowley. Victor, played by Kane Hodder (Jason in several of the later FRIDAY THE 13th sequels) bares a slight resemblance to Sloth from THE GOONIES (as Mike White astutely observed) and he picks off the hapless tourists one by one; tearing their heads apart, chopping them in half with his hatchet (it takes a lot of swings to accomplish this) and ripping their faces off with an electric belt sander.

Like gore comedy classics RE-ANIMATOR, EVIL DEAD 2, DEAD ALIVE and 2007 Fantasia Festival favorite FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, most of the humor in HATCHET comes from the total excess in which these scenes are played, going way past the point of being disturbing into the realm of the giddy. In a Q&A after the screening, writer/director Adam Green said there have been some cuts to the gore to obtain an R rating for the theatrical release later this year, so we'll see how that affects the movie's tone (the uncut version that screened at Fantasia will be released on DVD). Hopefully the cuts won't hurt HATCHET too much, because it's that gleeful overkill, along with the quick pacing, quirky characters and funny dialog that makes HATCHET a seriously good time. – Rich Osmond

Friday, July 20, 2007

Definitely Thrilling

"Thriller" as performed by inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center

Not exactly "Thriller" but pretty darned fun from SHAOLIN SOCCER.

Transformers Thoughts

This isn't a review. I really don't care to even take the time to review TRANSFORMERS (Michael Bay, 2007). It didn't do a lot for me. Mostly, it left me confused. Not in that PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3 head-scratching way, but in that "Confus-O-Vision" way that too many action movies are filmed in lately.

Moreover, the logic of the film eluded me at times with the biggest gap coming before the third act when a group of military guys decide to take the movie's MacGuffin from a relatively isolated area to a metropolis; a place with lots of buildings to damage and civilians to injure or kill. That's what they call military intelligence and the need for spectacle.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Amok Closer

Ponfar Trent Reznor style. This really works off of the whole "slash fiction" thing in a fun way. Great use of the sepia filter!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 5

VIVA (Anna Biller, 2007)

I went into the Fantasia screening of VIVA expecting a faithful recreation of/homage to early-seventies exploitation movies, along the lines of such recent indies as PERVERT! and SLAUGHTERHOUSE OF THE RISING SUN. VIVA is that exploitation tribute, for sure, but it’s a lot more: a musical, a campy, surreal comedy, and a cutting satire on sexual politics in general and the sexual revolution specifically. Sometimes it’s all of these things at the same time, leaving the viewer as bewildered as its protagonist, suburban housewife/call girl Barbi, played by writer/producer/director/star Anna Biller. But it’s all part of the plan, making VIVA one of the most original indies in a long time.

The film is set in suburbia, 1972, a world that is obsessively realized in the movie’s costumes and production design (also handled by Biller): it’s as authentic a recreation of that era’s movies as anyone will ever make. Barbi Smith is a devoted young housewife who always makes sure dinner is on the table for her businessman husband Rick (Chad England) and is always ready with his slippers when he comes home from work. She loves Rick, but she’s also bored, and has been reading issues of Viva and Playboy while she takes her many bathes. There’s a sexual revolution going on and Barbi wants in! Her sexy neighbor Sheila (Bridget Brno) feels the same way. When both of their husbands leave them, it’s time to break out the see-through blouses and have an adventure. They soon sign up to work at an escort service (“I've always wanted to be a prostitute. It sounds so romantic!” says Sheila), and assume new identities, with Sheila becoming Candi and Barbi taking the name Viva. Sheila soon hooks an elderly rich guy who gives her everything she wants, including a white horse. Barbi has a tougher time, having bummer encounters with one loser after another, getting more and more abuse heaped onto her as she runs a gauntlet of nudists, swingers, would-be “artists” and assorted weirdos.

Everything is played with an exaggerated, stylized tone, which adds to the campy humor. But as it goes on, Barbi’s trials become more painful to watch, as she (and the audience) begins to realize that despite the “free love” hype during the sexual revolution, things didn't suddenly become as equal for women as they were made out to be. Without realizing it, you actually start to care about Barbi, and even her asshole husband Rick; they go from being comic caricatures to real characters, without the movie ever dropping its hilariously deadpan, campy sensibilities. After all the laughs, musical numbers, and outrageous performances (Barry Morse as Sherman is at least tied with Skip E. Lowe’s Artie from BLACK SHAMPOO as the screen’s ultimate gay hairdresser), I walked out of VIVA thinking mostly about just how much heart it has. It’s a great feature debut from Biller, and I can’t wait for the “circus sex witch” follow-up she described in her Fantasia Q&A. – Rich Osmond

Friday, July 13, 2007

Toronto Peeps

Just sharing a photo of two of my Toronto peeps -- Dion Conflict and Rita Su -- while we were shopping for stuff at Pages Bookstore on Queen St.

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 4

OFFSCREEN (Christoffer Boe, 2007, Denmark)

This mockumentary (or is it?) opens with a montage of Danish newspaper clippings on the disappearance of actor Nicholas Bro, the discovery of video footage shot by Bro beforehand, and the announcement that director Christoffer Boe has assembled this footage into a film. The rest of OFFSCREEN, a la THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, is that footage.

Bro (playing himself), who’s comedy ADAM’S APPLES also screened at Fantasia, has caught the filmmaking bug. He borrows a camera and equipment from his pal Boe to make a “love film”, a document of his wonderful marriage with wife Lene (Lene Maria Christensen). He begins filming, oblivious to the fact that Lene has no interest in the film, or, at this point, the marriage. She walks out, moving to Berlin without leaving a forwarding address. But Bro continues filming; now chronicling his attempts to find her and win her back.

This could be the set-up for a romantic comedy, and there are some funny scenes early on, such as when Bro finds an actress to portray Lene so he can finish the love film as originally planned. But soon it’s clear that Bro’s obsession isn’t movie world wacky, but real world dark. He sinks deeper into the depths, friends urge him to seek help before they drift away, alienated by his bizarre behavior, and the viewer starts to wonder just how dark this is going to get. Spoiler: it gets really dark.

That an affable Bro was on hand at the Fantasia screening to introduce the film thankfully answers at least some of the questions of how much of what we are seeing is real. But the fantasy vs. reality issue is ultimately irrelevant. OFFSCREEN feels real, from beginning to end, thanks to Bro’s fearless performance and the equally fearless way Boe documents his disintigration. Playing like a cross between SHERMAN’S MARCH and IRREVERSIBLE, OFFSCREEN was the most disturbing movie I saw at Fantasia, and the one that may stay with me the longest. – Rich Osmond

WOLFHOUND, THE / Volkodav iz roda serykh psov (Nikolai Lebedev, 2006, Russia)

A throwback to the better sword and sorcery films of the ‘80s (KRULL, THE SWORD & THE SORCERER, DRAGONSLAYER, et cetera), THE WOLFHOUND begins like CONAN THE BARBARIAN before mutating into an amalgamation of CONAN THE DESTROYER and BEASTMASTER. The film stars Aleksandr Bukharov as the titular warrior. His family was killed by the evil overlords Ogre and Zhadoba who sent him to the mines to work as a slave. Wolfhound won his freedom and, now, walks the path of revenge against those who wronged him.

Along the way, Wolfhound collects a bunch of misfits such as blind seer, a bookworm, and a bat with a torn wing. Rather than forming a wacky, rag tag group of adventurers (like WILLOW), these compatriots stay out of the way when Wolfhound needs to tie back his hair and kick some ass. He has ample opportunity to do so as he escorts Princess Helen (Oksana Akinshina) to her betrothed.

Ancient curses, angry gods, magic, revenge, swordplay and chivalry abound throughout the 136 minutes of THE WOLFHOUND. This film is ideal for a Saturday afternoon cable television extravaganza. -- Mike White

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bizarre Hotel Art

The above is a picture of some wall art from my hotel room in Montreal. Essentially, it's a photograph of a polar bear over which someone drew/painted a naked woman. At first I thought it was graffiti but I really think that this over drawing was intentional. Strange.

P.T. Barnum Would Be Proud

As I drove behind this trailer on the way to work I wondered, "How many people think than an 'egress' is a female eagle?"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 3


Welcome to No Use High, a religious school that could only exist in an Internet comic world ("Multi-Cell Girl"). Our story takes place in Atheism class where a rash of rashes spells out how promiscuous the itchy student body has been. It seems that the only students not engaging in extra-curricular copulation are Cyclops (Kyeon Lee) and hopeful prostitute, Poor Girl (Ok-bin Kim). She’s trying to earn enough cash to rid herself of the grey, fuzzy beast of poverty that’s constantly (and literally) on her back.

The story of Poor Girl is the central narrative thread of the film. Her adventures introduce audiences to Big Razor Sis (Won-jong Lee), a beefy gangster transvestite to whom Poor Girl promises her school uniform upon graduation. We also follow the exploits of Anthony (Jin-woo Park), the Swiss exchange student who often breaks into song (complete with karaoke sing-along lyrics on screen) about his love for Cyclops’s sister, Double Eyes (Eun-seong Lee). And, just for fun, the final narrative is a mystery story; why are the girls of No Use High suddenly virginal lasses, concentrating more on study than being slutty?

The tone of DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS often borders on lunacy but this vignette-heavy tale eventually wraps up the loose ends after taking viewers on a wild ride. -- Mike White

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 2

TEKKON KINCREET (Michael Arias, 2006)

American animator Michael Arias’ Tekkon Kincreet, based on Taiyo Matsomoto’s manga “Black and White,” follows street urchins Black and White as they try to survive on the streets of the surreal Treasure City. Black is the streetwise, tough one, protecting his younger, innocent brother White. They run Treasure City, as far as they are concerned, and prove it when other street kids try to muscle in during a great opening chase/fight sequence. But can they also fight back against the yakuza and dirty cops who have their own plans for Treasure City?

Tekkon Kincreet is old school, hand-drawn animation, and is definitely an impressive technical feat. After the exciting intro, though, the story slows to a crawl, and it never grabbed me again. It didn’t help that White (the anime’ character, not the Cashiers du Cinemart editor) drove me absolutely nuts with his would-be adorable antics, gibbering constantly with snot oozing down his face, and, during the final act, screaming, screaming, screaming.

Disclosure: This is the first feature length anime I’ve ever seen, and the first animated movie I’ve seen in a theater since THE FOX AND THE HOUND. So take those credentials into consideration. If you’re already an anime’ freak, you may love TEKKON KINCREET, the Fantasia Fest crowd sure did. – Rich Osmond

THE SIGNAL (David Bruckner, Don Bush, Jacob Gentry, 2007)

Late one night, a mysterious signal overrides all electronic media. Appearing as a psychedelic swirl on video monitors and an oscillating screech on phones and radios, the signal transforms anyone exposed to it into a homicidal maniac. On the night the Signal is broadcast, the unhappily married Mya (Annessa Ramsey) is preparing to leave her exterminator husband Lewis (A.J. Bowen), who’s already insanely jealous before seeing the signal. When the signal hits her apartment complex, the halls fill with neighbors murdering neighbors with knives, baseball bats, and garden sheers. Desperate to reach her lover Ben (Justin Welborn), Mya flees the complex while Lewis, now a fully functioning psychotic killer, attempts to stalk her down.

The “mysterious phenomenon turning everyone crazy” scenario is a staple of modern horror, but it’s rarely been done better than it is here. Unlike most stories like this, the signal doesn’t turn its victims into mindless, mute zombies. Those affected still retain their personalities, can talk and reason; they’re just also batfuck crazy. The atmosphere of paranoia this creates gives directors Bruckner, Bush and Gentry lots of opportunities for both laugh out loud black comedy and grim, bleak horror. The movie flips between both modes literally second by second, and pulls off the tonal changes effortlessly.

THE SIGNAL is split into three segments, or transmissions: “Crazy in Love, The Jealousy Monster, and Escape from Terminus,” and each segment is written and directed by a different filmmaker. Each has its own distinct tone, with The Jealousy Monster having the most laughs, but they all balance scares and laughs with equal ease. The Signal is probably the best indie horror movie since Sam Raimi’s THE EVIL DEAD in 1983. – Rich Osmond


If THE SIGNAL is a 21st century THE EVIL DEAD, then FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a 21st century EVIL DEAD 2. There has been steadily building online buzz for this one (originally entitled PLANE DEAD) for awhile now, and it definitely lives up to the hype.

The plot synopsis is the title; this is basically SNAKES ON A PLANE with zombies. But while SNAKES ON A PLANE (which I liked a lot) calmed down a bit after its initial crazed snake attack sequences, FLIGHT never lets up, throwing one outlandish slapstick gore set piece after another at the viewer, none of which I’m going to give away here. Characters flying the zombie-filled skies include a Jeff Lebowsky-esque sky marshal, played by Richard Tyson (Buddy from the eighties classic THREE O’CLOCK HIGH) a no-nonsense cop and his effete, white collar criminal prisoner (David Chisum and Kevin J. O’Conner, respectively) a young African-American golf superstar (Derek Webster) who carries a putter with him wherever he goes, which comes in handy when the ultraviolent zombie plague hits, and, of course, a nun.

Sure to inspire repeat party viewing and drinking games worldwide, FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has been picked up by New Line Cinema, so watch for it. – Rich Osmond

Order from Xploited Cinema

200 POUNDS BEAUTY / MINYEO-NEUN GOEROWO (Yong-hwa Kim, 2006, Korea)

Another entry in the “fat girl makes good” school of cinema, 200 POUNDS BEAUTY (sic) falls closer to SHE-DEVIL than THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO or DEATH BECOMES HER. This time around, Ah-jung Kim dons a fat suit as Hanna, a clumsy, dirty oaf (no stereotypes there) whose only redeeming quality is her killer pipes. A kind of singing Cyrano de Bergerac, Hanna is the behind-the-scenes voice of Ammy, a pretty vapid pop sensation. In love with Ammy’s producer, Sang-ju (Jin-mo Ju), Hanna decides to undergo radical plastic surgery to turn her life around.

Like Hanna, 200 POUNDS WOMAN suffers from an identity crisis. It wants to be a comedy, love story, and poignant treatise on identity. In a culture that supports and decries cosmetic surgery with equal fervor (a procedure to Anglicize Hanna’s new features is suggested upon her “discovery”), 200 POUNDS BEAUTY hopes to posit thought-provoking questions but fails to deliver. Instead, the uneven tone of the film derails any attempt at depth. The hackneyed plot has characters attempting suicide whenever things don’t go their way and the soundtrack orchestra goes into overdrive during the multiple tear-jerking endings. A cross-genre Frankenfilm, 200 POUNDS BEAUTY is a cinematic ugly duckling that never blossoms into a beautiful swan. – Mike White

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 1

Bon Cinema! That's about the extent of my French, it seems. I'm realizing just how good my Spanish has gotten as I think "I could say that in Spanish, but not French" when wanting to communicate to the fine citizens of Montreal. Luckily, I have yet to encounter one person that doesn't or won't speak English.

Running eighteen days in lovely Montreal (of which CdC regular contributer Rich Osmond and I will be attending four), Fantasia 2007 takes over three auditoriums of Concordia College for a butt-numbing, leg-twitching, hootenanny. With audiences comprised of an eclectic mix of film geeks, punks, lolitas, fan boys, and families, the program is comprised as an equally diverse blend of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, thriller, and genres unknown.

PERFECT CREATURE (Glenn Standring, 2006, New Zealand)

Set in an alternate reality wherein vampire-like men are considered saints rather than demons, PERFECT CREATURE is redolent with themes of genetic research, church corruption, and political intrigue. The world of PERFECT CREATURE recalls the early 20th Century with steam-powered automobiles and an outbreak of influenza. Both the flue and “The Brotherhood” (the monastic name for the black clad vampires) are results of genetic tampering: With their extended lives and heightened senses, the Brothers are on the beneficial side while viruses and disease are on the other.

Not only do the Brothers look after the human race like guardian angels, they also have dedicated themselves to engineering better vaccines. Brother Edgar (Leo Gregory) made significant strides to that end before disappearing from the Brotherhood, much to the dismay of his “brother by the same mother,” Silus (Dougray Scott). Edgar has apparently gone mad. He’s gone from saving human lives to destroying them, becoming the first vampire to take a human life.

From there, PERFECT CREATURE feels like a hybrid of BLADE 2 and IN THE NAME OF THE ROSE with its “new type of vampire” meets “church secrets” storyline. Aided in his hunt for Edgar by the lovely, albeit troubled, Lily (an emaciated Saffron Burroughs), Silus races against the clock to find out what made Edgar into a monster.

The film’s rich design is well-paired with writer/director Glenn Standring’s complex script. The characters are fully-formed and well-motivated with the sole exception of Lily’s police partner, Jones (Scott Willis). Not given much to work with via the script, a more charismatic actor would have helped this small, though crucial, role come to life. Otherwise, the performances are solid, especially Gregory who seems to be channeling Christopher Lambert, Klaus Kinski, and James LeGros.

A satisfying cinematic excursion, PERFECT CREATURE provides thrills and contemplative themes in equal measure. – Mike White

Order from

The Smut Peddler - Trailer - NSFW

Do you like oysters? This girl gourmet loved them. They gave him secret, hidden powers.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Five Guys in a Limo

Cheesy little movie but fun to see the men behind the voices.

Exploitation 2007

Despite GRINDHOUSE being a unfailing flop, it seems that the U.S. cinema is about to be hit with a few major players in what are, essentially, modern day exploitation films. Check out these films and descriptions:

  • THE BRAVE ONE - A woman (Jodie Foster) struggles to recover from a brutal attack by setting out on a mission for revenge.
  • DEATH SENTENCE - After his family members suffer at the hands of gang members, a father (Kevin Bacon) sets on a mission to kill each thug involved with the crime.
  • TRADE - A young Mexican girl is abducted and forced into becoming a sex slave, leading her brother to team up with a police officer (Kevin Kline) who has learned that his own daughter has also been kidnapped.

These films sound like the major studio-backed exploitation films of the '70s like HARDCORE ("Oh my god, that's my daughter!"), HOLLYWOOD VICE SQUAD, et cetera. The only thing missing from these films are some really cheesy marketing including trailers narrated by Nick Tate or Hal Douglas.