Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Maniac

Oh how I loathe remakes, they never get it right. It's just total rehashes of the original films just without the charm, the individuality, TOTAL GARBAGE...oh wait what's this there's a remake which is just as good as the original...wait it's a horror film? Yep that's right you heard correctly, FINALLY there is a decent remake in the horror genre, and it goes by the name of 'Maniac'.  I had been losing my shit over this film since I heard  about this going into production. Unfortunately this didn't hit the cinemas here in Perth, surprise surprise. But last week I was lucky enough to buy a Blu-ray copy and I went home that night, poured a big glass of whiskey and got ready for the violence that I was going to indulge myself in.

It's not every day that a killer has a strange fetish and love for women's scalps, but Frank Zito does. On his journey of recreating beautiful women with bloody scalps he meets the beautiful photographer Anna who has a fascination for mannequins and want's to use them for an art exhibit. As she is preparing for this exhibit, their friendship blossoms and Frank is struggling with his own demons and wondering if this woman could be his ideal match, the woman that stops him fulfilling his sick desires. I don't want to give too much away with the plot, because it's an amazing piece of modern-day horror mixed with exploitation elements which you need to see unfold for yourself. I do love the original version of 'Maniac' but I cannot help but feel this remake is just as enjoyable if not more so than the first one. The pacing with the remake doesn't feel as slow, it feels a lot more intense and with the musical score in the background it only adds to severity of the brutality that we witness on the screen.

Now I just have to say I have never been a huge fan of Elijah Wood and I am probably one of the only people out there that can't stand the 'Lord of the Rings' franchise, however this film proves Wood is capable of so many talents. His role of Frank Zito could have totally fallen flat on his face if he played this in more an aggressive manner in terms of his personality. Instead he played Frank as if that he had  a childlike mentality who truly believed what he was doing was right. And even though what he was doing to these women was just straight up horrifying, I couldn't help but feel really sorry for him. He had severe mummy issues and seeing what she was doing while he was a child, definitely changed his course on life and how he should act towards women. And it's a real shame that this sort of thing isn't just seen in the movies. I really enjoyed the character of Anna played by Nora Arnezeder because while at times she seemed very vulnerable to Frank's insecure charms, she was still badass and she is by no means a weak character, it was good to see a strong 
female lead.

You cannot talk about this film without mentioning the amazing POV shots in the film. The reason why I love that it was filmed this way, is because it makes you feel like you are Frank. It makes you feel like you are doing the killing, and it's a very effective way to get into your own psyche and actually ask yourself if you sympathise with the victim or with him. Also when a film like 'Maniac' is shot in POV it's actually quite chilling because you somewhat feel that you are in control of this situation but at the same time there is nothing you can do about it because it's a film.  It's an extremely personal way of shooting a film and if given the right setting, and story then it's something that can be pulled off with a lot of artistic merit, instead of looking like an amateur porno film. I also loved the musical score, it just had a very 1980's feel to it which at times was reminiscent to the film 'Drive'. At times I was actually wondering if Ryan Gosling was going to appear out of the shadows, but alas nothing.  The death count wasn't extremely high, but I am glad it wasn't because instead of killing a tonne of stupid hookers this really focused on Frank and why he chose the women he did. Between each killing there was time for you to gather yourself and see Frank's madness unfold, and parts of his life is slowly revealed and as the film goes on you are trying to piece together this jigsaw puzzle. 

'Maniac' is an incredible piece of film, a remake which is loyal but has it's own take on it but pays homage to the original. Everything is very clear, concise to the point, and it doesn't try to confuse with too much convoluted and pointless sub plots. This film is honest, and simple and that simplicity really goes a hell of a long way. Sure a lot of people have branded this film 'depraved' and 'sick' and I have heard that people have walked out of the cinema when watching this film, which I think is just funny. Sure the killings are graphic and are blatant, but it isn't a gore-fest. It isn't about how much fake blood could have been used during the production, it's just that Frank like's to scalp women and it's not something we see in every single horror film, so of course people will be shocked. If you haven't seen this based upon the fact that it is a remake, just please throw that thought out of your head because it is one of the best remakes that has been produced in the last 10 years. And I definitely think that this film could be in a few people's top 10 films of 2013...I know it's definitely going to be in mine. If you are a horror buff and have not seen this you should definitely check it out and see all the different elements taken from sub genres such as 'splatter', 'Giallo' and 'Exploitation'. 'Maniac' has so many creative influences but it is so damn unique, so I order you to grab yourself a whiskey, settle in for the night and watch 'Maniac'...just do it now. 

Pieces

Alright it is Halloween this week, and it would be pointless for me not to review a horror film...but what should I pick? Should I pick something left of field that no one would expect or maybe even heard of? Do I pick something to appeal to the generic masses of horror fans or do I pick something which possesses everything I personally love about horror? You know what I'm going to choose...'Halloween'...alright I'm not. I mean I could write a review on that amazing film which scared me straight as a kid and kept me a virgin for a long time in fear that Myers was going to kill me for such sordid acts...but lets face it, I am not predictable, and generic and also everyone is probably writing a review on that film. I have decided to discuss a personal favourite of mine from the Giallo genre from 1982 entitled, 'Pieces'. For my readers who are not entirely sure what Giallo is, here is a little explanation. Giallo is a sub genre of horror which conveys very graphic and violent killings accompanied by a wonderfully orchestrated musical score and a lot of soft focus camera work. The Giallo genre definitely has more of a murder/suspense vibe about it opposed to the typical slasher movies, and the story lines are definitely more unique and better thought out with some great character development. The films are a lot of the time recorded in the Italian language and then dubbed over. This sub genre is definitely one of the most creative but alas forgotten or unheard of to the masses, but now this genre is  scoring new fans as well as rekindling the old flame between former lovers of the genre. 

Okay so how many horror films have been made which focus on people getting murdered on a college campus? Plenty! And let's face it, not many of them are any good, most if not are just a lame excuse to get some drunken chicks tits out and watch the moronic bitch die. Whereas sure this very simple plot but what is different from trash like that and 'Pieces' is that not every girl dies the same way, the circumstances are all very different...each victim loses a certain part of her body, whether it's her arm, torso or even her pretty head. Is this just senseless violence? Or is there some actual motive behind what the killer is doing? Of course there is motive! But I am not going to divulge that information because while it wouldn't be a huge spoiler since it's shown at the beginning of the film  it would just be nice for you first time viewers of this film to have the same reaction as I did. But what I can tell you is that this killer stalks his prey something wicked and while the film does have occasionally campy moments, I couldn't help but tense up every time there was a lead up to seeing these poor victims just get hacked into it. It definitely does have an easy narrative to follow, and I found it easy to pick who the killer is, so there really wasn't any twist, but either way I was satisfied with how it ended.

What I think is awesome about 'Pieces' is the fact that it definitely has 'sleaze' written all over it. And with that added sleaze-factor it does make you feel a little dirty at times, but that isn't a bad thing. That means it had really awesome exploitation elements thrown in. Joe D'Amato helped write the screenplay, and you can just see his stamp written all over this film. D'Amato is known for his writing and directing of films in the horror genre as well as erotic films and some soft core porn. So with credentials like that it's not hard to imagine why this film has the sleaze-factor and it's fucking great! I think about how many people are against films from the Giallo genre as well as the horror genre from the 70's and 80's, it's insane  how many people opposed the perversion, and exploiting the nature of women in these films. Now this may sound very 'serial killer' of me, but I will say it, women look so much more better when murdered on screen than a man. They can portray real horror, they can portray the vulnerability and when you see them fighting for their life, you believe they are fighting for it. But when you see horror films today where a girl is in a white t-shirt, running through sprinklers and tripping over an invisible log and they get hacked up, no one says shit. I think because when you see horror films now, the killing is just so unbelievable and I guess it isn't as 'real'.  This film isn't the most violent horror I have seen, but I think having that suspense element in the film really adds to the brutality of the killings. I do believe that 'Pieces' is an underrated gem, but the many people I know who have seen this film absolutely LOVE it. It is an ambitious film, no question but it know's what it is. I mean it will never be as higher valued as something like 'Suspiria', but 'Pieces' still puts it's own stamp on the Giallo genre, and makes everything work for it. I only saw this film last year, and I was so surprised that this film had passed me by for so long. I will not lie though the acting, isn't the best shall we say, it at times is very over the top or so subtle you are just wishing they would emote just a little. But trust me there are far worst horror films out there with a tonne more worse acting. 

'Pieces' will always be a favourite of mine because it really does stand on it's own two feet, and doesn't try to be like every other Giallo film. While it definitely does have some artistic merit, this film doesn't try to be something that it isn't, it works with the resources that it has, and puts it all to good use. That is why I love Giallo so much, while there is definitely a hierarchy on the genre, each of those films have something to offer. And 'Pieces' definitely has the suspense element wrapped up nicely as well as the Exploitation genre influence and the overall creativity of the killings. If you want a fun film, that is violent, suspenseful, at times sleazy with a hint of shit acting for good measure, then check this film out. If I could rate this out of 5 I would give it a 5. Sure there are things wrong with it, but I believe with some films things go wrong for the right reasons. 

The trailer doesn't really reveal much which I think is effective, and also gives it that suspenseful quality about it. Don't get turned off because the whole plot isn't revealed in the trailer, embrace the mystery and you may be surprised! 





Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Downloaded

In 2000, I was thirteen years old, and even though I was young, I had a very eclectic and grown up taste in music. At every chance I got I was listening to music, and going to the local record store every day after school was my safe haven. I went in every day just in case I missed out on a CD I didn't see the previous day. I remember coming home after school and seeing my older brother sitting on the computer and telling me about a file sharing platform called Napster. He was explaining how you upload and share files with other users who like the same music as you. Upon hearing that my mind couldn't comprehend just how awesome Napster really was. At every chance I got I was using Napster, and even though I was getting music for free, I was still buying the same songs on a CD, because I wanted to be able to listen to it on my stereo as well as taping that same CD onto a cassette so that I could listen to it on my walkman...Wow I feel so old now reminiscing about cassettes. Anyways, I never got over how amazing Napster was, and was crushed when it eventually shut down. I remember reading all over the internet and all through the newspaper of what happened to the company, and just thought how pathetic it was. Musicians and huge music companies coming together to attack Napster for just bringing music lovers closer. For years this has bugged me. I had watched interviews over and over again on Youtube with the Napster creators explaining what their goal was, as well as watching positive and negative reactions to the company from musicians. Then this year I decided to follow Alex Winter on Twitter. I have been a huge fan of him since I first saw 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' when I was 8. While looking on his Twitter profile I saw that he was releasing a documentary about  Napster and the online music revolution which was perfectly entitled 'Downloaded'. I couldn't help but get excited that this was going to be released but at the same time annoyed at the prospect that it wouldn't get played here in Australia, because they do have a tendency to bypass truly amazing films and documentaries. And then a couple of weeks ago I noticed it was available to purchase and watch online, so I practically lost my shit and changed my viewing plans for that evening and decided that I had to watch it. 

'Downloaded' is the story of how Napster changed the way we listen to music thanks to it's founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. Throughout this documentary we are exposed to the story through former members of the company, archive footage, disgruntled and freethinking musicians and corporate giants on both sides of the fence. What is so brilliant about this documentary is that we hear all sides of the story, it is by no means bias, but no matter which way you look at it, the real villains of this music revolution were not Napster, it was the greedy music companies and some self-entitled musicians who really were not about giving back to their loyal fans, but rather lining their pockets with their fans hard earned cash. The music industry is always changing, and there is no way to stop it, especially when technology is concerned. No one thought there would be a bigger battle than the step up from vinyl to CD, but they were wrong. There were so many things we didn't even understand about the Internet, and here we have a group of guys who had barely finished high school changing the way we can access, share and enjoy music. What is so wonderful about this documentary is that Alex Winter manages to convey these guys as passionate pioneers for the music industry who only wanted to make people happy and if they happened to make money on the way, that was just an added bonus. The emotion from Fanning and Parker just radiates out of the screen because these guys had to push themselves to be the best they could be, and while they were just working together for a common good, they were chastised and painted in a bad light by people who only understood any kind of context if dollar signs were involved. Actually hearing different point of views from the guys who all contributed to Napster, gives a real sense of authenticity and that makes you relate to them. If these massive companies had any real knowledge on how people's minds work, they would have realised how awesome Napster was, but instead they didn't want to budge. They were just happy staying complacent, and not even listening to their consumers regardless of the fact that their consumers were evolving. 

I can totally understand why musicians would be less than impressed at the fact that people are illegally sharing or downloading their music. They are missing out on CD sales, yeah that's definitely true. But when people are exposed to an artist for free and hear one or two of their songs, some of these listeners will go out and buy the CD or buy it off iTunes, how do I know? I worked in a huge Hi-Fi chain store for five years. And despite the fact that there are illegal downloads happening all over the world, people would still come in and buy the CD. I cannot tell you how many conversations I had with customers who had illegally downloaded many songs, and then just decided they would prefer the CD. Sales of music has definitely decreased but don't just blame the illegal downloaders. Maybe have a look at the ACTUAL music industry and really listen to what is being released. There are a lot of brilliant new musicians that are out there; some are discovered...and a lot aren't. Instead there is complete rubbish dominating the charts and iTune downloads but these songs are not going to be remembered the way the tunes of Led Zeppelin will be remembered. Napster was brilliant because there were so many independent bands out there who just wanted to be heard, and thanks to Napster they were, and some were even a big success. It is sad though because now it isn't so much about the quality anymore, but the quantity. Push out a tonne of singles, albums, it doesn't matter because die-hard fans will always buy their favourite musicians albums regardless of whether or not it's good. It's as if these cashed up musicians forget about all the crappy bars and clubs they had to perform at just to get people to hear their music. And more often than not, they would have done it for free. At times I do believe musicians forget about how loyal their fans truly are. Think about it, you spend hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket, you buy band shirts, CD's. DVD's, re-issues of old album with two added new tracks, and you do that because you love their music. But love get's lost in the music industry and it's all about money. And when it comes down to it, these companies didn't want to lose cash, so they destroyed something that could have made them just as much, all because they didn't understand it. 

I really loved 'Downloaded', and I would have to say it is easily in my top 10 favourite documentaries of all time. I can't tell you how many times I have watched this in the past few weeks. It's storytelling at it's best. It doesn't just briefly summarise certain aspects, it really goes in depth but not so convoluted that it's a mess. Everything is edited and explained honestly and straight to the point, so you're not having to stop and say 'Oh shit I have no idea what they are talking about'. Alex Winter really knows how to tell a story and make it unfold to captivate your interest and that is a sign of an amazing filmmaker in my eyes. He managed to piece together this saga which had been more or less forgotten about, and gives the audience the saga in it's entirety. 'Downloaded' definitely has a smooth transition between the chapters, so you understood what was going on and you aren't left confused. You can see Alex Winter's passion and knowledge for the issues been discussed, and his direction of this feature are nothing short of brilliant and engaging. 'Downloaded' is fresh, insightful, and totally in a league of it's own. The ideas and elements used in this documentary are very well thought out, so this know's exactly what it is. If you have a thirst for knowledge and love documentaries you need to see this, because I am sure you will take away something awesome away from this. 

If you are curious and want to watch an amazing documentary then go to the following link, there are a tonne of different ways you can access it: 

http://downloadedthemovie.com/

And don't forget to follow Alex Winter  on Twitter : https://twitter.com/alxwinter

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dracula

When you say the name Dracula, there are so many things that can come to your mind. There have been so many reincarnations of this classic literary character, and he has been portrayed and brought to life by so many wonderful actors. But when I think of Dracula I think of one man who played him to perfection and no I am not talking about Leslie Nielsen in the spoof 'Dracula, Dead and Loving it', although that is mighty close to being my favourite. I am talking about the 1931 classic starring Bela Lugosi just simply entitled 'Dracula'. When I think of a true vampire I always think of Bela Lugosi in this film. And to anyone who likes so called vampire films like 'Twilight', you need to burn your DVD's and get into the real stuff. Vampires don't sparkle. And more importantly they don't fall in love with certain humans who can only express one emotion which is being constantly underwhelmed at best. End Rant. Dracula has had many faces, in many languages, but none are as iconic as Lugosi. This has set the standard of classic, gothic horror, and even if you are not a fan of this film, you should at least respect it for what it has done, because without it, many horror films wouldn't have been made.

The story is fairly basic so here it is. Dracula goes to England to do 'business' with some rich aristocrats, and just so happens to suck the blood out of the lovely and curious Lucy. Once he is done with her he turns his attentions to her pal Mina who is suddenly deteriorating, so it's up to Dr Van Helsing to investigate and what do you know, he realises that Dracula indeed is a vampire. 'Dracula' is a classic film there is no doubt in my mind about that, and it is also one of the 'Dracula' films which isn't camp or silly. It's very dark, gothic, suspenseful and it has a lot of charm about it. Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula is so good, I actually always forget about everyone else on screen, so I never actually look at them. Lugosi just had these deep eyes, he could totally undress a woman with them...I am not sitting here naked writing this piece...DAMN YOU LUGOSI! But because he can just steal the show away from everyone else, I just can never remember anyone else's portrayal he was just THAT good.

What I love about this film is how simply it is made, and how it still manages to hold onto a real touch of class and sophistication about it. There are not many black and white horror films which have those elements in my opinion, because a lot of the time they do look cheaply made, and everything just seems to work against them throughout the entire production. Whereas the simply made sets and production design didn't harm 'Dracula'. And also I don't think many of you would have been looking a the scenery and sets, you would have been to concerned with Lugosi's performance. I do believe this film has aged very well, it isn't an old horror film which now looks worn or scummy. It definitely lead the way in terms of bringing the right timing when it came to suspense. Horror films since this 1931 classic have been trying to use it's elements in very subtle or blatant ways. At times that can be a little more so annoying rather than complimentary and other times it gets pulled off nicely. The music that is used in this film is just wonderfully eerie and creepy. It really makes you feel on the edge of your seat. Even now when I watch this, I get chills and goosebumps. The score is very dramatic, but it isn't over used, there are some scenes which don't use any music, and having that silence can be just as scary and effective to the emotions the film wants you to feel. I think if this exact same film was made in colour it wouldn't look half as scary. It's that darkness, the lurking in the shadows among the dim light is what makes this film so iconic. Black and white film makes you feel as if you are lost in another world, a darker world where you feel horror can strike at any moment.

'Dracula' is a film I absolutely adore, and wish I had seen it a lot sooner than I originally had. It has a high bar set and not many horrors have beaten it. It is something that I can still watch now and love how refreshing it still looks after all these years. If a film can continue to influence audiences and film makers you know it has done it's job. I would give this a 5 outta 5, and that is a rating it will always deserve.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Piranha 2: The Spawning

Ah Creature Features, I live for those movies. There are so many awesome films involving animals which just won't leave they have a thirst for blood. They have one purpose...to kill. It's awesome to see how far we have come from films like 'King Kong' and 'The Wolfman'. This sub genre of horror has pushed the boundaries far past any kind of sensible limit with films like 'Dinoshark' and 'Camel Spiders'. It seems that these films are becoming more stranger, and more fans of this genre are coming out of the woodwork. A lot of fans are now stepping out from behind their computer screen and expressing their love for these films while others continue to mock them but watch the films anyway because it's 'ironic'...fucking hipsters. Anyways Creature Features are a genre I have had a soft spot for ever since I first saw 'Jaws', I was always intrigued by these animals which just want to finally let the humans get what they deserve, and these animals act with a nasty wrath which is just so enjoyable to watch on the big screen. A favourite of mine in this genre will always be 'Piranha 2: The Spawning'(or also known as 'Flying Killers'). While I did love Joe Dante's original cinematic masterpiece, I can't help but enjoy this a little more because of two reasons. Reason 1 - It stars Lance FUCKING Henriksen and secondly the piranhas freakin' fly. I know this is a little far fetched right? But come on, what if they really could fly? Just picture it, humans would be extinct, so would every other animal, so then all the flying piranhas will be fighting to the death...there needs to be a movie about that...don't steal my idea. But do I feel this film is good enough for you to watch? Well I shall try my best to convince you that it is!

This story is very simple but at times it does get a little lost in all the stupid sub plots in the film. But I can say the absurd deaths and cheesy lines totally make up for that. So essentially the plot is a scuba instructor, her boyfriend and her ex husband(who by the way is a total copy of Chief Brody from 'Jaws') who all decide to investigate mutant flying piranhas who's lair just happen to be conveniently be in a sunken ship...yep and it just so happens to be near a holiday beach resort...I am not making this up. What I found so hilarious was the awkward three-way investigation, I mean how odd would you feel about investigating something you have no idea about with your ex wife and her new boyfriend? I think this film was getting pulled in two directions but I guess that is what happens when the original director leaves the project and the special effects director takes over...and who was this special effects director? James 'AVATAR' Cameron. Did he do a good job? Well all I can say is that this is my favourite of all the piranha films and by far more enjoyable than 'Avatar'. But hey I have very low standards of what I think is awesome. Now the star performance definitely goes to Lance Henriksen who plays the police chief who is investigating with his ex wife and her current boyfriend. I think he brings some actual realism to the film, which I know is hard to believe since this film is just pure nonsense, but he works with what he's got, I just feel sorry for him because they tried to make him an exact copy of Chief Brody, and hey he did a good job of that! As for the other actors...you don't need to know who they are because let's face it they were bad and you don't need great actors when you have flying piranhas in the story.

I think you need to watch this film purely for the opening. I mean you have two divers, getting frisky in this sunken boat, and shit is getting very sexy(well as sexy as it can get underwater and a limited air supply) and then lurking out of the shadows our piranhas start to ambush our sexy divers, and BAM you have one of the greatest openings in Creature Feature history. The film definitely does have it's moments that may make you jump, and the deaths are just wonderfully bad that they make up for the bad acting, terribly written screenplay and overall point of making this film. You can see one director wanted to make this a fun horror film, which just purely entertained, and then you can see another director wanted to make it dark, serious and something you should take seriously. But I cannot help but laugh at piranhas which fly, I mean I would love to have been in the boardroom when this idea was cooked up. Just seeing guys in suits trying to think of the next summer blockbuster which could beat the 'Jaws' box office record, and they come up with this. Great try guys!

Do you want to watch this? Would these feed your appetite like half naked divers feed piranhas? If so, definitely give this a viewing. Best way to watch it? Get a few of your friends together for a movie night, gets either a lot of liquor, or Cherry Coke, get super drunk or hyperactive and then turn it on. You will laugh, cringe, be slightly confused, laugh some more and shake your head in amazement that you actually sat down and watched all 94 minutes. If you are a genuine lover of just pure crap films like me, then you won't be disappointed. Don't go in thinking you are going to get a visual treat with a beautiful score, and some very 'artsy' deaths, because you won't. If anything this Creature Feature has a hint of the Exploitation genre chucked in for good measure, and it totally works. This definitely is an acquired taste if you watch this sober and have low standards like me. So if I was hyperactive on Cherry Coke i'd give this a 4 out of 5, if I was having a normal kinda day I would give this...oh who am I kidding it would still be 4.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Carnival of Souls

From the mid 1950's to early 60's, horror was at a very interesting time. You had Hitchcock leading the way for his unique storytelling and direction and you had Ed Wood Jr. just trying to find his B grade audience who would appreciate what he was trying to do. But in 1962 Herk Harvey directed a film which stood between sheer greatness and just plain bad; that film was 'Carnival of Souls'. I actually had not seen this film before, I had always steered clear of it because I was afraid of being bored all the way through it all the while imagining a better movie in my head - That's normal right? Either way I was pleasantly surprised but not so surprised I would put it in my top 100 favourite horror films of all time.

The story line is pretty easy to follow and if it was made today I believe it would make one creepy film(if put in the right hands of course). The films revolves around a woman called Mary Henry who was in a car with two of her gal pals and doing what any normal young girls would do; accept a drag race from some young and cute juvenile delinquents - Alright maybe I might be stereotyping the guys just a little...Anyways as they are racing they come to a bridge and of course it's all fun and games until one of the cars plunges into the river, yep those poor girls die...or do they? One of them so happens to escape and from that moment on weird stuff starts to happen to this girl. Within less than a week of the accident she drives to Utah to become a church organist(that isn't what is weird, her miraculous recovery is though). As she tries to start her life again after the accident she starts to see a silent yet creepy man who just won't seem to leave her alone. As the film progresses and her paranoia is going into overdrive she starts to maybe think is this creepy man is trying to lure her somewhere that has a purpose in her life? But is he? Or is he just trying to mess with her because hey isn't that what most creepy people do?

There were several things I did like about the film one of them was the music, it was just creepy, but didn't put me on edge like the 'Halloween' themes does. It was still really well constructed music for it's time. I did love the leading lady played by Candace Hilligoss because I really could believe and see her slipping into some weird world of insanity, and to say the film isn't very long just shows she definitely had the acting chops to pull of such an intense role and make you believe her with such time constraints. As for the 'creepy' man who was actually played by the film's director, I just couldn't get scared by him. But hey this film was made in 1962. I am sure if I saw it back then at the drive-in with my varsity football player boyfriend I would more than likely hide my face with my hands and demand to be taken home...Okay probably not. This film does have a horror vibe about it with maybe a hint of the supernatural and a touch of thriller. I think that is one of the main problems with the film, it doesn't actually know what it is because it just seems a little messy. The tone of the film is creepy but there isn't much more depth than that outer layer. The script and overall film seem to be as well structured as it could be with the resources they had and you can see where the film could have possibly gone if it was given more money and perhaps more support. You can definitely see where Herk Harvey took his influences from and how he tried to recreate them with his own personal stamp but it just fell a bit short for me. 

If you are into classic horror, you should check it out but don't go thinking it is going to be up there with classics like 'The Innocents' and 'Rebecca' because it isn't. Take it for what it is, and you might be able to see how this film has influenced other horror films that came after it. It is by no means so bad that is comes across as comical it is just very average. If I could rate this out of 5 I would give it a 2.5. Check it out here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQVTQEVklFQ&feature=youtu.be 

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Linda Lovelace - The Truth Behind The Camera.

There are many things that can be said about the porn industry. Some say that is conveys sexual freedom for both men and women, some feel it's degrading towards women and is very anti-feminist. I think both sides of the fence make an interesting case, but for me it's a grey area. Everyone has watched porn, and everyone has been turned on by porn one way or another, let's get that pink elephant out of the room right now. But while I have seen porn, it isn't what happens on screen that interests me so much, it's what happens behind the camera that really intrigues me. I have always been interested in understanding what makes someone get into pornography; whether it is being a film maker, a casting director, or being the star of the show. How do they feel about being in this industry? What affects them during the film making process and then after? I have watched a few documentaries and done a little research on this, but when given the opportunity to read a script of an unmade film on Linda Lovelace, I couldn't help but be extremely excited. I have found that the pop culture surrounding Linda Lovelace is misguided, and I was included in that misguided mass hysteria, who had been given the wrong information. But once researching, and reading a script by Eric Danville, my opinion of Lovelace definitely changed for the better. Danville is an author of the only officially authorized biography on Linda Lovelace entitled The Complete Linda Lovelace.

Eric Danville worked closely with Lovelace to write this book, and was then asked to write a film script on the biography. And even though a film script will obviously leave out things that are in the book, this script felt authentic, and it was a very raw read. I love reading screenplays, and I used to do it out of passing the time when I was a lot younger, but really reading a script and getting to express my views on it, was just too good to pass up. This film script is remarkably written. It is very simple and to the point, so much so the imagery is very vivid. This isn't a script that is trying to be 'artsy', it isn't trying to be anything but honest and that's exactly what it is. When you have brutally honest imagery when you read, the writer has definitely done their job in conveying emotions, scenarios and overall a 'voice'.

Throughout Danville's script we see Lovelace start off as a seemingly shy girl when it comes to sex, with a strict upbringing who wants nothing more than to break free from her mother. And she does, and she runs to the arms of Chuck Traynor. It's very clear early on in the story that Traynor knows he can manipulate and mold Lovelace to do exactly what he wants. They have financial issues so he pushes Linda into doing things she isn't comfortable with and all the while belittling her because of the reasons why she doesn't want to. And as the story unfolds it's as if she becomes quite numb to what is going on and what is asked of her. And once the release of 'Deep Throat' is out there for everyone to see, Linda Lovelace becomes the poster girl of a sexual revolution, and she becomes bigger than what she or Traynor ever thought possible.

One of the main focuses of the script is the relationship between Linda Lovelace and her husband Chuck Traynor. I had read up on mixed accounts on what went on in their emotionally and physically abusive marriage.  I had a very vague and narrow minded opinion on Lovelace because I believed whatever people had wrote about her. Now that I have grown up a lot and done some deeper digging I realised how unfair I was being in voicing my misguided opinion on her. While reading Danville's script I couldn't help but have to pause for a couple of minutes and get myself together emotionally; which I had to do several times. As a woman you are reading about things you would never want to happen to you, so it's confronting, and you can't help but feel sad for how alone Lovelace must have felt. The more I read on, the more emotionally invested I felt, and I could even feel myself partially trapped emotionally just like Linda Lovelace was in her marriage to Traynor. You can see through the script how he evolves, and how he gives her just a few little gems of hope that he will change and love her the way he is meant to. There are discussions on whether Lovelace liked to be treated how she was, maybe she got a kick out of it? Sure there are people like that who loved to be dominated in every kind of way, but I think you need to be on a different level emotionally to do that and I don't think Lovelace was. Sure she might have liked a dominant man, but he put her in positions she wasn't comfortable being in, and forced her into a profession she didn't originally seek out, and that backfired on him in a way. Why? When you put effort into someone and they become bigger and more successful than what you anticipated, there is only so much of them you will be able to control until they realise they have more power and control than you do. And she finally had that power and control over herself to finally leave and begin living a life she deserved to.

I won't lie I always mocked Lovelace when she back peddled on the industry that made her a household name. I felt that she was happy getting all the acclaim and notoriety during a period you couldn't help but talk about her and the film 'Deep Throat'. But as soon as that died down, she just all of a sudden decided that whenever you watched 'Deep Throat' you were watching her getting raped. I thought that was a bit extreme especially after I watched the film because to me it just seemed like one big joke. I really wasn't even sure what all the hype was about. But now growing up and becoming a woman and understanding a little more about the porn industry, there is a lot that could have gone on behind the scenes that we will never know. And at that time not knowing what was actually going on in her private life, just made me seem all the more ignorant. But doing valid research it has made my opinion drastically change. People might see Linda Lovelace as a joke and a liar but just because a big group of people are going to say those things it doesn't make it true. I just think a lot of us tend to believe what is spoonfed to us.

Eric Danville has a real talent for writing, and even thought this is just a script, you can see the talent ooze from every line. He understands how to make a script feel 'human', and his words just connect with the reader so well. The script was an easy read in terms of the structure which made it very easy for the visuals to come naturally and it isn't one of those scripts where there's filler to eat up time, every scene written was valuable to the story. If this was ever made into a film I could just see it having this 'Exploitation' vibe about it, because it's gritty, it's honest and at times very seedy, and I just couldn't imagine a glossy biopic, because if it was shot in that way I would say it would lose a lot of it's substance. Linda Lovelace is an engaging read, so if any of you are interested, it's available for $3 be sure to check it out here. And if you are intrigued about finding out about it's writer check out Eric Danville's Tumblr page http://thecompletelindalovelace.com/












Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Blood


Before mass hysteria within the pop culture realm decided it was a great idea to make fun and jokes at Sylvester Stallone's expense, he was a respect actor who saw torture within his eyes and his trembling voice. In Rocky we saw an underdog fighting for his one shot to prove he was strong enough emotionally and physically to go the distance with Apollo Creed. The world saw Stallone as a man with depth, character and integrity. And it's those gifts that he portrayed in the tortured soul of John Rambo in 1982's 'First Blood'. While the 3 sequels of the original 'First Blood' are very violent and very much action films, 'First Blood' will forever be a drama with elements of thriller and action. John Rambo is a young man who has been through so much in such a short amount of time, who has had to do a lot of growing up because of the horrors that he has seen in Vietnam, This is truly a sad story of a man who is just misunderstood, a man who is unfairly treated by narrow minded simpletons.

Here is the run down. John Rambo who is trying to track down his friend from the Vietnam War only to discover he died of Cancer. Clearly devastated he walks into the local town and gets picked up by  Sheriff Teasle who warns him that people like him don't belong in his quiet, boring town, so he drives him out of town and leaves him there, yet Rambo just immediately walks back in the direction he just came. Infuriated, Teasle then arrests him. Once at the police station it is pretty damn evident, that these depraved cops have nothing better to do than humiliate, and degrade Rambo which is giving him flashbacks of what he went through in Vietnam. And then finally Rambo snaps, kicking the absolute shit out of cop in sight and escaping the station and stealing some random guy's motorbike with pure style. Rambo then lures Sheriff Teasle and his cop squad into the forest and then the real hunt begins.



Sylvester Stallone is just perfection as John Rambo. No one could breath life into this character. He is so raw, gritty, broken, and all he wants is some peace in his life. He endured hell on earth while serving in Vietnam, and it's those hellish experiences which have stayed burried deep within his psyche and boiled over into his whole being. The charatcer of John Rambo doesn't talk much for majority of the film, he doesn't need to. Those sad eyes tell a tale of pure sadness and horror, what he has seen, he can never unseen, those horrors don't just live in his nightmares when he sleeps, they are there with him every day, never leaving his mind; all it takes is a trigger. I have sad in previous Stallone films, that he is a man with such a huge amount of depth, and his eyes just convey such a deep and personal story no matter what his roles may be. You can see that Stallone definitely can understand the character of John Rambo, and what he is really about. Stallone is definitely one of the most underrated actors out there. He has the ability to make the viewer experience a roller-coaster of emotions, he wants you to live and breathe the character with him, and that explains why I am always a blubbering like a baby whenever I watch 'First Blood'. It physically hurts my chest when I see him reliving all the awful experiences over and over again, 'First Blood' is just way more than any movie.

Brian Dennehy portrays the arrogant, narrow minded Sheriff Teasle, who would rather hunt, and kill a Vietnam War Hero than admitting he was wrong in the first place for even approaching him in the beginning and assuming John Rambo was up to no good. You can't help but love Brian Dennehy because you just love to hate Teasle. He is such a scumbag who abuses his power, and no one has ever kicked him off his self appointed pedestal until now, and all Rambo had to do was not listen to a word he said. Dennehy was really on the money with this portryal and he just makes you despise his character regardless of any emotional journey he may go through during the film. If all you want to do is slice his throat open with Rambo's knife whenever you see Teasle on screen, I think he did his job.

Jerry Goldsmith did a magnificent job of producing the musical score for 'First Blood'. The opening music just sets the tone for the film, it conveys the sorrow and bad memories that lie within John Rambo and how how they continue to affect his life on a daily basis. The musical score spoke volumes, and really added raw emotion to the film. Jerry Goldsmith composed a perfect musical score which also proves he was also in tune with the character of John Rambo, he brought out his hell, his experiences, his flashbacks out through the music, and I believe that was a lot of the glue that held the film together.

My favourite scene would have to be the ending, it is just pure honesty and tragedy, a fallen hero struglling to come to terms with what his life is after his hellish ordeal. It is the first time throughout the film, where we learn how he really feels, what he thinks, what stays in his mind, the things people have put him through during and after the Vietnam war have shaped him, and therefore having trouble adjusting to normal life. He feels he is still stuck in the war, people will not let him forget what they thought that war was about, and instead of been treated a hero who endured so much pain for his country, he was cast aside, spit on, and banished by society. John Rambo lost his friends to a war which didn't need to happen, and he feels he is going to be paying for it for the rest of his life. When he breaks down crying and falls to the floor, it is incredibly hard to watch, because you feel the pain, you feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest, it just hurts. It is heartbreaking to see a man so broken up inside, he doesn't know who he is, what his purpose is, so when he does break down you can see that is years of bottled up supression of frustration, sorrow, anger. John Rambo is just a man, and all he wanted when he walked into that town was something to eat, and they took away a basic right of any human being away from him, just because of the assumption made about what kind of person he was. So here is a link for the video for the final scene, if it doesn't pull at your heart strings, well then I am disgusted god dammit! Pssst make sure you highlight it so you can see it! 



'First Blood' is a tragic story of a man trying to get a grip on reality with close minded people standing in his way. Sylvester Stallone is an absolute treat to watch in this, and his portrayal of John Rambo is timeless, and it is this role which will go down as one of cinema's most iconic roles of all times. If you haven't seen 'First Blood', you have been living under a rock, so you need to finish reading this review, grab several Cherry Coke's and you need to buy the film and watch it ASAP. I have found 'First Blood' to be one of those kind of films that I need to watch to have a good cry, now I know majority of women would do that with trash like 'The Notebook', but since I have more male chromosomes than most women, I think it's perfectly acceptable. Now forget what the haters of action films say about Stallone and his portrayal of Rambo, because all they see are the muscles and the explosions. But since the readers of my articles are intelligent life forms you should watch 'First Blood' for the brutality, the depth, the horror and the dark beauty surrounding John Rambo.

Anonymous People

I have seen several drug related documentaries now, and a lot of them have shown you what addicts will do to get money for their next hit. They will explore why they got into the drugs, and you can see the psychological and physical effects of drugs and alcohol. But what anonymous people does is show you what happens when you want to be sober. People tend to think that being a drug addict or an alcoholic means you have to be living in poverty, and that you are living with the homeless and 'scum' of the earth. But that just isn't true. An addict can be a neighbour, they can be a work collegue in an expensive business suit, they can be a partner, a family member. No matter how beautiful you may appear to be on the outside you could be completely ugly and empty on the inside and you need drugs to feel that hole inside you. I am not a drug taker, and I am not a heavy drinker, but I know what it is like to live with someone who has an addiction and it isn't pleasant. It's an exceptionally hard thing to deal with. Drug and alcohol addictions are something that can hurt and destroy a family so easily, but they are so wrapped up in themselves to even care or notice. 'Anonymous People' is about giving ex-addicts their voice, letting people know their story and finally understanding within themselves that it is nothing to be ashamed of.

There is a lot of stigma attached to drug and alcohol abuse, and if you haven't actually gone through it yourself or been close to someone who has, I don't think you can understand it. And even when you are getting rehabilitation ex-addicts are not getting the support they deserve. Sure there are some people who don't want help who want to keep taking drugs and alcohol, but we shouldn't have the mentality that they are beyond help. But you have got to want to help yourself. And even if you do help yourself, who will support you? 'Anonymous People' explores how society deals with drug and alcohol abusers, and how the government and the health system is sweeping it all under the carper and not dealing with the fact that there are more and more users and addicts in the US than ever. It isn't a problem that isn't going to go away, it's here to stay. And now there are more different ways to get a fix, I mean people are using Bath Salts to get some kind of buzz.

'Anonymous People' is a thought provoking documentary, which will make you look at this issue and it may change how you feel towards addicts since you are now realising that they have a voice too. It also might give you a closer insight into how society treats addicts who are trying to get help, and how there is a lack of support. Being an addict isn't like suffering from Cancer. With Cancer you have treatment, operations, to make sure the Cancerous cells leave your body, and you have to keep up with constantly going back to the doctors and hospitals for regular check ups to make sure it doesn't come back. You are given that support, they recommend councelling for you and your family, you are invited to fundraiser and charity events, you are encouraged to share your story, but it's a different side for rehabilitating drug and alcohol abusers. You go through your programs and at the end you are pretty much told good luck and sent on your way, knowing full well you are forever going to have this devil of temptation on your back. Even having groups like Alcoholics Anonymous is insulting. Why should alcoholics and drug users stay quiet? Why don't we want to hear their stories? They have gone through hell too, so maybe we could learn something; and from 'Anonymous People' you certainly do.

What I love about this is the fact that it is very different to what we usually see on screen when it comes to documentaries on addicts. It has a lot of depth to the topics, and it explores them in a lot of different avenues that I didn't even think they would discuss. The fact that this documentary has set out on a different journey and exposed addicts as just normal people trying to get over their demons and get on with their lives is just insightful. It's awesome that they give addicts the benefit of the doubt, they let their voice be heard, and no longer should they have to feel ashamed of their past. At the end of the day we are all human, and we are entitled to make mistakes, as long as we move forward for the better and learn from the mistakes, then that is what is important. The interviews with some of these addicts, just prove how much strength we as people can have, it is quite remarkable.


I would definitely recommend this documentary for everyone. It is a real eye opener, and it made me feel a lot more empathetic, and some of their points were very valid. It is an emotional ride, which will open your eyes and hopefully your mind to something you haven't fully understood in the past. Addicts are people just like you and me, and it's about time they were given proper support, we need to stop the relapsing, and stop the narrow minded views. Just because you haven't experienced it, and it hasn't affected your perfect world, doesn't mean it can't hurt someone else and change their life.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Decline of High Caliber Actors and Accepting Mediocrity as Greatness.

Every year more and more classic actors are dying, some before they have reached their peak, some who have worked in the business for many decades and are seen as a high caliber actors. It's these actors with such class, versatility, heart and depth which are getting old, and even though they are still very active, it's going to be a sad day when we wake up and realise that true quality has died. When I realised that Robert DeNiro had just turned 70 it made me think back to his roles in 'Cape Fear', 'Goodfellas', 'Taxi Driver'.  It was these roles which were so iconic, not just for him but for the film industry. Will the film industry continue to have such a high class of actor to follow DeNiro? I highly doubt it. I am not automatically writing off actors with a semi decent talent, but you either have the heart, strong mind, and soul to really bite into the role you are given, which you will live and breathe, or you don't. I think nowadays we accept mediocrity in acting and praise it as AMAZING. At the end of the day prestigious awards don't mean anything, because we constantly see actors winning awards because it's either politically incorrect if they do not win the award, or there is buzz around the film which is generated by media in terms of internet forums, magazines, online publications, and the actions of these particular actors. As film viewers we are all bias about who our favourite actors are because it's our personal taste. For example I am more likely to see a film with Stallone in it rather than a film containing Megan Fox. Are we slowly losing the high level of talent to the inevitable fate of death or is the upcoming talent just taking a while to find their feet? Or are we as film viewers so nostalgic that we cannot let go of the classics?

Cinema has come along way since the silent film era, so many films have been shaped by times, events that our society has lived through. Films have flourished because they have been made at the right time for all the right reasons, while some were left behind. There are many actors which I only discovered several years ago which made me sad, because when I finally got around to seeing their films and loving them, I just wished I could have viewed them earlier. Film is so broad, it's got many twists and turns, many alleyways and avenues, but everything goes full circle and everything is somehow linked. Actors from different eras have come and gone, some were more famous than others, and some were very underrated. Being underrated to this day still happens. Sometimes it's the choices the actors make for themselves in terms of what films they want to attach their name to, sometimes the direction they are given isn't the best, or sometimes they just get overlooked completely because Hollywood has a flavour of the month because of the actors private life. It's actually quite a shame that actors get recognition because of what is going on in their private life. For example there could be a health issue, surrounding them and because their story has intrigued readers, film lovers, and film companies,  feel if they cast these actors, viewers will be able to relate to them more, and what do you get from that? More seats sold at your local theater and more session times which equals more cash to line the studio's pockets.

As a culture we are so invested into their private lives than their films that it is starting to seem more important for them to be a Celebrity rather than an actor.  We allow mediocrity because we are used to it, we are used to zero challenges in film.  I am not saying that certain genres are dumb because the plot is simple, to the point, knows exactly what it is, because let's face it, Action films are the most honest genre. You may think I am being bias, and yeah maybe I am a little, but with an action film you know what you are getting, and if you happen to get a few surprises along the way, that is just a bonus. Critics, film viewers and film companies do not mind being slanderous to the action genre because of the self aware cheesy acting, however you will not have companies slandering a film like 'My Sister's Keeper' despite it's terrible cast and acting, because it is a film about Cancer. I watch a lot of films, and it just saddens me to see where the film industry is going. While there are some actors now which you can see the direction they are heading, and it gets you excited for them, you can't help but wonder if  one day they too will become mediocre because it will be more of an advantage to them Are we as an audience too embarrassed to say we like an actor or a style of film because it's adventurous, different, honest or just purely there for your entertainment? Viewers and critics claim they want to see a film with credibility, a strong story line and narrative, but get so mixed up in rich visuals, a best selling soundtrack, and flavour of the month actors that they couldn't tell you what a strong narrative is.

It isn't just the actors fault though that we are accepting mediocrity. When you see a film that is glossy, bright, colourful, spectacular and just overall extravagant, you become so enthralled with what your seeing, because it's the first time your eyes have been treated to such an amazing visual feast. And at times that is a great thing to experience, but there are times that is done purely for the fact they needed to attach a big name to the project and they want you to be distracted from the overrated acting. It's not exactly rocket science, but it seems as though visuals are a huge life saver for a big scale production. And now with Blu Ray DVD's it seems it's more evident that people are willing to shell out the thirty bucks for a film with glossy visuals and zero substance. And if that is what you like, that's fine, but don't kid yourself into thinking that it's a brilliant film because of the acting. There are some masterpieces which do have it all when it comes to the script, direction, story, visuals etc, and it's those films which people will always remember. But there are a lot of films which are just filler, a quick buck and are disguised as future classics.

To be a great, powerful actor, you need the intensity within yourself to capture the audiences attention to the point they cannot look away. Intensity can be subtle but effective, or it can be so over the top it feels like you are getting hit with a sledgehammer. Either way it works for all the right reasons. Some of the most intense actors are method actors and actors who are known not just for the silver screen but also for the stage. You have to possess an extraordinary talent to be consistently amazing on stage. You have to practice to the point that you are living the characters life, so when you are on stage, the audience isn't even there, the script you have  memorised is embedded into your brain, heart, flesh, just your whole being. What will happen when the Ian Mckellen's of the film industry die? John Giulgud and Laurence Olivier are now playing Hamlet and Richard III in their own theater heaven, but even though they are no longer with us, their legacy will remain. Their achievements will never be erased.

When we look at actors today that are making a big name for themselves, do they have what it takes to have their  achievements so concrete and set in stone? Are we going to have another Brando? McQueen? Olivier? Pacino? Will we have actors portraying such iconic roles, that the film industry and pop culture will be vastly effected by it? Sure I do believe that there are talented actors that are making a name for themselves and I do believe they can reach that same height that DeNiro has, however the amount of actors that will reach that height, will be a lot less. It is so easy to be an actor these days compared to the hard work you had to put in all those years ago. It seems as if you can be on a reality TV show and then just get a semi good agent and get a film role. The lack of talent is actually astounding, but what is even more surprising is that they get good roles given to them. But hey if you have an active Twitter account, a blossoming love life which intrigues magazines and their readers, then you have a better chance of getting constant work, than someone who is a struggling actor working two jobs and actually studying to be an actor.

I think back to a lot of books that I have read and documentaries that I have seen on the film industry and I know there is one thing for certain, there is no privacy anymore. It's the private life which defines their profession and their acting roles. For example if there is an actor who has come out as homosexual they are now known as John Smith 'gay actor'. But why should them being gay affect their job? If I was gay it's like saying Jade Lindley 'gay casual sales clerk', yet that isn't the correct job title, so why is it so important to attach any kind of label about the actor to their job? The same thing could be said about Lindsay Lohan and how the words 'troubled actor' or 'troubled former child star' go hand in hand in every article. Why are we letting the private lives define their job? Oliver Reed is a perfect example of a scapegoat in the film industry. He was by several accounts loud, brutally honest, uncaring, and just overall a bit of a prick who enjoyed his alcohol a little too much. But that is how people remember him now, they do not recall him in such films as 'Oliver!' or 'Burnt Offerings'. Yet nowadays you can have nude photos circulating, a sex tape that sees the light of day, you can also make racist and Anti-Semitic comments, and you can still get a big pay check, a reality show, and constant work in the industry. It just becomes more and more clear to me, that a lot of these actors are more than fine with just pissing on the path that was created for them. I am not saying all classic actors are saints, because they were not. But we are coming to the end of the classic actors who could be alcoholics, drug users mentally and psychologically unstable and they were still coherent enough to show the world how to convey emotion and be completely believable.

Am I being too nostalgic? Possibly. Am I being too bias? Probably. But do I have a write to be concerned that the acting ability is going down the toilet? As a film lover, I do believe I have that right. I am only twenty five years old, and I cannot convey the amount of jealousy I have for the people who got to experience these classic actors when they were young, up and coming and just surprising the world with their talent. Because now when you see up and coming actors, you see Disney Channel actors getting big roles, which their tiny feet just can't fill. You see constant superhero films which cannot convey the right amount of emotion because they take themselves too seriously and are cold. You see the same mold of how women should look in films and portraying such a pathetic and stupid ideal of women, and not actually bothering to look past their fake boob jobs and see how real women look and act. The film industry has always been fake, I mean it makes sense right, it's about hiring people to pretend to be someone else. But let's face it, everything is so cluttered now, that the film industry just doesn't make any sense. Do I sound bitter? Yeah I would say I do. Is my movie taste impeccable? By no means, I have always admitted I loved terrible films however, I can straight up accept that I like certain films that can just switch off my brain for a little while, and there are hundreds of films that I have watched many times which are like that. But I can also see them for what they are. I don't watch mindless action movies, creature features, and just bargain bin fun and say they are films with strong acting, narrative and direction, but I can get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I don't watch complete turds of film and label them as cinematic masterpieces. I don't kid myself. And neither should other people. There isn't anything wrong with seeing an ambitious blockbusters, or comedies which switch off your brain, because I do it too. I love to switch off my brain and not have to think about what is going on in my life. And that is the joy of film making. I can accept average actors because they can be quite enjoyable, but I just refuse to put them up on a pedestal of greatness because they win an empty award or have a very public private life. I think because we are exposed to so much through the internet, people just start to believe whatever they are told and think it's the word of the Film God...whoever it is. It goes down to mass hysteria, if a lot of people talk about it, it MUST be true.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kickboxer - My Flashback

Do you ever go to one of those sale outlet stores that sell really cheap things, like appliances, clothes, candy? I do, I always go in those kind of stores because I know somewhere deep into the store, lurking in the back aisle are the DVD stands. The DVD's people think aren't worthy enough to sell for over $5. The ones who look like the covers have been ripped off the VHS, the films people forget, or the films that the supplier decided to buy rights to because they thought that some loser out there would buy it, and they would make a quick buck. I am that loser. I have found many hidden gems in bargain bins over the years such as 'King of the Kickboxers', 'Shaolin Drunken Monk' and 'Hunt to Kill'. But there is one film I thought I never thought I would see in the bargain bin for $4.99, it was a film I hold so close to my heart, a film which in my opinion is the greatest American Martial Arts film of all time...'Kickboxer'. My reaction wasn't total sadness because when I saw the DVD cover it was an exact rip off of the VHS, which got me thinking is this the original cut version with no dubbing and all scenes intact, I bought it with hopes that it was the Holy Grail I had been searching for. I took it home, settled in bed with a Cherry Coke and turned it on...But I was to be disappointed, AGAIN. And then the reality of the adventure of buying it for $4.99 sunk in. It got me thinking about why was such a great film just tossed aside? Why was this in the bargain bin? Why wasn't this recognised for the violent masterpiece that it is?  Is this a film that the supplier could only get rights to? Or was it a film they knew some loser like me would buy? I felt a little crushed. My love for 'Kickboxer' started a long time ago...get ready...I can feel a flashback coming on...but first the run down.

Here we have two brothers Eric and Kurt Sloane. Eric is a word kickboxing champion and decides that he is finally ready to take on foreign fighters because well he is as he says 'kicking ass wherever he goes'...so he and Kurt go to Thailand to fight their greatest fighter, 'Tiger' Tong Po. Kurt notices straight away from walking into the arena that the fighting style is so different to Eric's, for a start it looks a lot brutal, which plants the seed of worry inside Kurt's head. Once inside the locker rooms, Kurt encounters Tong Po and sees him kicking down a cement pillar as a warm up exercise...that is normal right? Kurt tries to warn Eric but of course his 80's 'Soul Glo' hair-do has seeped through his skull and into his brain and made him think he is actually better than what he is. Eric goes out there and from the moment he is in the ring, Tong Po just slaughters him. These 'doctors' take Eric on a stretcher and leave him outside with Kurt and lock the door so they can't get back in. But lucky for Kurt he encounters Taylor, the Vietnam veteran who is a weapons expert. They take Eric to the hospital and then the waiting begins....and then BANG it's official Eric is paralysed. Kurt's mind is foggy with emotions that he decides he wants to take on Tong Po, and Taylor tells him he isn't good enough to fight him. Kurt then vanishes and walks around Thailand in a form of a montage. Once back in the city he encounters Taylor yet again who says he knows a man called Xian who may teach him the Muay Thai ways. And what do you know, that wisecracking old Xian does teach him the ancient ways and with a lot of discipline with training exercises, montages and incorporating dance with fighting, Kurt proves he is worthy to go inside the ring with Tong Po.  Oh...the flashback is starting...

The year is 1993, I was 5 years old and I took a trip down to my local video store with my older brother. As you can imagine I never got first choice of the movies, I had to watch whatever my brother wanted. Sometimes having my brother choose what we watched didn't work out because I would either be so bored I would end up playing outside, but this particular day would change the course of my life. My brother rented a film called 'Kickboxer', I remember thinking to myself 'What is with the random colourful glass on this man hand wraps', but judging aside I rolled with it. After buying a dollars worth of cola bottles which bought you a lot back in those days, we went on our way home to indulge in what would eventually be one of my favourite films of all time.  Needless to say the film was a roller-coaster for me because one minute I was fired up, then sad, then scared because of Tong Po but then I would fire up again, I learnt new words watching this film one of which was the word rape...yes I was confused as hell as what that word meant for a year or so. But that aside, I walked away from this film just in complete amazement. I remember trying to tell my friends at school about the film, and since boy/girl germs were around back then I wasn't allowed to talk to the boys, so I had to explain the story line to a bunch of girls; they were not impressed. In my life I have moved to a lot of different places, which meant a lot of different memberships at different video stores, and a common occurrence that happened as majority of these video stores was that the clerks and I were always on a first name basis and secondly they all commented on how much I rented 'Kickboxer'. 'Kickboxer was my safety blanket, it made me feel invincible. I went to an all girls school, and let's face it a girl like me didn't stand a chance there, so every week of twelfth grade I rented 'Kickboxer' every week(no exaggeration) and would watch that in a double bill of 'Enter the Dragon'.

'Kickboxer' is a magnificent American Martial Arts films, and I do believe it's an acquired taste. I have found you either love this more than 'Bloodsport' or you don't. And well I do. I think the story behind this is far more grittier than 'Bloodsport' and well it's a story based around revenge, and I am sure the readers of my stuff know by now, that I have a lot of love  for revenge stories. I think 'Kickboxer' really shows off Van Damme's acting chops and should be commended for it. I mean sure there are montages in this film, but you can't take away the fact that he is really giving it the old college try in terms of his acting. And some of you may laugh at me for saying this but he really is one of my favourite actors as well as martial artists. I do believe he is very well rounded and can actually possess a lot of emotion with his acting. He is a man out for revenge, and he looks like a pretty pissed off guy who would love nothing more than to rip Tong Po's heart out. It was believable. I know some of you may be thinking I am reading too much into this film, and you can think that, but I know this film isn't going out to win Oscars, so I can see the effort that went into all aspects of the film, and I think everyone played their parts perfect . Sure this film is a little over the top, but what American Martial Arts film aren't? I mean majority of what happens in these films do not happen in real life, but if any of you do know of any underground fighting tournaments of any kind that are happening I would love to know about them.

I really did enjoy Van Damme's portrayal of Kurt Sloane because he has a huge heart. If he didn't he wouldn't have been able to go on this conquest of revenge and justice for his brother. You see him make a genuine change in character throughout the film, because he starts off as more of a shy kind of guy who is semi okay at martial arts, but he listens, he lives and breathes everything Xian is teaching him about Muay Thai. It isn't just about the physicality and the skill it's about the heart and mind that you possess to take you all the way. And Kurt does reach that high level that Xian wanted him to reach. I also found that Kurt is a lot less naive as he is learning about himself with this new training, it is crazy how some things like that can change you and give you a new perspective on things. Now you can't leave out Michel Qissi's performance of Tong Po. For such a long time I thought that Tong Po was a real person, but when I discovered IMDB in my early teens I realised Tong Po was fictional...I won't lie, I was slightly disappointed. But either way you cannot help but love Tong Po as a character. I mean look at him he is freakin' scary. I think what added to his menacing quality that he had was the fact that he didn't speak much, he didn't need to, he let his martial arts skill do the talking. Even now when I watch 'Kickboxer' I just feel worried of what Tong Po could do if you bumped into him in an alley way, late at night in the dark...it's a scary thought isn't it. Tong Po is a great martial arts villain, who totally stands out and any American Martial Arts film fanatic could never forget Qissi's portrayal. I would even say it's that good, it rivals Bolo's portrayal of Chong Li in 'Bloodsport'. And lastly you cannot talk about 'Kickboxer' without mentioning Dennis Chan's portrayal of Uncle Xian. I loved the duality of his character because one minute he is a wisecracking old man with life lessons lying underneath his jokes, and then he would switch and be completely serious and a no nonsense kind of guy. You can see just  by looking at Xian he has seen and experienced some shit, so while he does take a serious approach at times, he does learn to laugh at the world in his own unique way.



The fight choreography in 'Kickboxer' is amazing, and I definitely think it is one of Van Damme's finest work. However if you do not remember the original cut of the film then you would have missed out a lot of the parts of the final fight between Kurt and Tong Po. I love the fact that this was so violent, and it was violent in a B grade movie kinda way. The fight scenes weren't glossy. Sure there are parts where there is a slow motion part or two when you see the impact of Van Damme's graceful helicopter kick, but otherwise I would say the fighting isn't sleek in the well polished way. It is beautifully choreographed but in a rough, and very violent way. The music is brilliant because Stan Bush graces his talents in the opening credits with his hit 'Streets of Siam'. That song alone sets the tone for the entire film. The musical score by Hertzog was nothing short of superb. Because while at times it can be very soft and it is something you can meditate to, it can also fire you up because the music totally hits your core. It's truly inspiring music.


'Kickboxer' is a film which tattooed in my brain, I can't tell you how many times I have seen it, but I know it line for line and scene for scene. If you wanted me to perform this in a Shakespearian style play I could do it. So when this FINALLY got released on DVD in Australia back in either 2008 or 2009, I was happy, one of the happiest days of my life when it came in that red box at work. I held it in my arms and made it clear that this DVD was going to have a safe home on my 'Most Watched Movies Shelf'...I took it home and realised something straight away, Eric was dubbed...badly. I then also noticed that scenes were cut out, and certain frames from scenes were cut out, but then they took away several things which disgusted me more than anything. The final fight is approaching and there was a scene where Tong Po dipped his hands in the box of broken glass which were then stuck to his hand wraps, and then licked the glass just to show how badass he was...yeah well that got taken out. And then I realised something else...the fight was cut up so much it wasn't like the original any more. It felt out of sync, it didn't flow as well as the original cut, my heart sank. I felt like I had been cheated out of being able to experience a film it was originally intended to being viewed. To this day the closest thing I have found to the original is the Supreme Edition that a guy has made and put on Youtube.  'Kickboxer' is a highly influential film in my life, it shaped a portion of my taste in film, it supported me when I was getting bullied, it entertained me for so many hours and 20 years on that film still manages to blow my mind. The original cut might be out of my reach right now, and while it is harder to capture than Carmen Sandiego, I know I will find it, and I will be able to enjoy it the same way I did all those years ago on VHS.

If it wasn't for Jean-Claude Van Damme, I wouldn't have been into these films, and I wouldn't have the passion for film that I have today, so thank you so much for being in 'Kickboxer' and showing me how awesome and timeless films can be. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Beast

Horror films these days lack a lot of heart, and are just out to make a quick buck. There are a few horror films which do stand out from the back but do you know why films like 'The Conjuring' and the Hammer Horror remake of 'The Woman in Black' do stand out? It is because they are retold in the classic horror manner. No matter what sub genre of horror you are interested in, whether they are ghost stories, Giallo or Splatter, when they have classic elements they just above the rest. When watching the short film 'The Beast', I could't get the original Universal Monsters out of my mind. It just had a classic feel, sure the story is something that has been used before but this was rehashed in a fresh way. You can always make films with a very familiar story with classic elements and a new direction. But unfortunately most people would rather make a horror film with zero heart, narrative and story because it makes them a quick buck.

Here is the run down. A troubled father( Bill Oberst Jr) takes his son Jacob( Alexander Le Bas) into the words along with Jacobs uncle Douglas( Peter Le Bas) . Not much is revealed at first but it is definite that Jacob has a problem which can only be resolved by taking him into the forrest and tying him to a tree. Before the full moon hits, Jacob asks his dad to untie him so he can pee in the bushes, unsure at first he decides it would be unfair to not let him go. Once Douglas finds out about this he isn't happy, and then Jacob is nowhere to be found...well not in human form anyway. This film was shot amazingly well, the camera angles which were chosen to reflect moods and tones were spot on, and really added a great texture to the visuals. I am also going to compare this short film to what Spielberg did for 'Jaws'. In 'Jaws' you don't see the shark, for the first half of the film, everything is left up to your imagination, and let's face it, your imagination can run as wild as you like, and can create some scary images. In 'The Beast' you don't see the werewolf in full view in the daylight, you see a dark figure, you see close ups of his eyes, you hear him and you see the consequences of Jacobs actions. That to me is just as thrilling and scary as seeing everything in full view because it's all about the mystery, you can let your mind orchestrate the story.


Peter Dukes strikes gold again with 'The Beast', and it makes me so excited to see the finish product of it when it becomes a full length feature film. This is definitely a film which can go far, and I think it will strike the right chord with classic horror fans. Horror is a genre which die hard fans take personally, its a big part of their identity and shapes them as people, most of my friends are horror fanatics, and I can tell you that they would love to see where a film like this goes. I definitely enjoyed the musical score to 'The Beast' because again it had a classic feel to it, and it had a mysterious and menacing quality about it. And sure that might sound dramatic, but these kind of films are not meant to be subtle. All the ingredients just melted together and added different layers which overall shaped the film to its final product. I am so happy that film makers like Peter Dukes exist, because he has so many tricks up his sleeve, his ideas are fantastic, original and authentic, nothing seems fake or forced. I am definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product, and seeing what else Peter can bring to the table to excite the audiences senses.

Here is the video for 'The Beast'. Enjoy!