Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Exhumed Films Forgotten Film Fest Review

Exhumed Films, the fearsome foursome from the murky banks of New Jersey, are celebrating their 18th birthday this year. Over those 18 years, they've put together some of the most fun movie double feature/festival/marathons on the East Coast. You can tell that these guys really enjoy what they do, because it shows in the work they put in.

It seems, though, that they've shown almost everything there is to be shown, mainstream-wise. This leaves the EF crew with 2 choices:
A. Start repeating a lot of the shows they've already done. Or:
B. Time to get freaky and unknown.
Going by the shows they've put on this year, they are going with option B.

That's awesome, but no matter which option they'd choose, you're absolutely not going to please everyone(I still remember the ridiculous complaints that they showed too many sequels at one of the Horror-thons). You're either going to get people complaining that EF has shown these movies already, or you risk the chance of people no-showing because these are films they've never heard of.

Cut to this past Sunday, and what may be their most daring show yet: The Forgotten Film Fest. EF put together 5 films that have never been put on VHS/DVD/BluRay in the US, and 4 of which haven't been viewed by human eyes on 35mm in 40 years. That notion alone made this Fest sound very interestinmg, as I am one of those film fans who loves the unknown.

My only issue with this event was the order in which the films were shown. If anything, Skatetown USA should've ended the show. You don't open a boxing card with Mike Tyson, and then end with Foxy Boxing.

Before the first movie, a montage of trailers and music-related ads were shown, to put everyone in the mood. My personal highlight of the day happened immediately, when a 35mm ad for Live Aid, complete with Mick Jagger & David Bowie singing Dancin' In The Streets in it's entirety. I nearly choked on my own laughter; great stuff.

1. Skatetown USA

Here's what I was able to piece together, narrative-wise, from the scattershot comedy from 1979:
A white-afro'd Disco warlock runs are skating rink with his magic powers. This warlock is getting old and is looking to pass his power to another, so Skatetown USA holds a skate contest to see who will take his magical afro and rule with a bedazzled-gloved fist.
Enter a buffet of typical comedy stereotypes(missing only was the ME SO SOLLY Asian guy) to skate-it-out:
-A white guy who may or may not have been a mexican conquistador.
-Some ugly blond kid and his cute Marcia Brady sister(managed by the probably 12 years old Scott Baio).
-Another random skater I honestly can't remember.
-And, the main event, the world premiere of Patrick "Don't Put Baby In A Corner" Swayze!

Swayze's great in this, as his character is just a son of a bitch. Even better is the fact that his gang, featuring Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter as the heavy, looks like they fell out of the movie The Warriors and landed in the side dimension where Skatetown resonates, which I assume is somewhere near the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

The movie's soundtrack is fantastic, as it sounds like an endless mash-up of some of the hottest tunes the late '70s had to offer. Sadly it would seem that the soundtrack is the very reason why we haven't been treated to any real home video release of Skatetown, which is a real shame.

Hopefully, whomever owns the rights to both this film and the music will need some extra folding cash someday and will allow an unedited version of Skatetown USA to skate across America on Blu-ray.

2. Son of Dracula

From what I can barely remember, Vampire Harley Race arrives in modern day NYC to take over as King of the Underworld, which gets halted as he falls in love and decides he wants to be human. Scandal!
Produced by Ringo Starr(who just HAD to star as Merlin for whatever coked-up reason). Throw in some decent musical numbers to round the film out, and we have a movie that wants to be something, but to me, ended up being nothing. I had high hopes for this, but it bored me to sleep. The whole movie is on YouTube, so I am willing to give it another chance.

3. Blood

This one I completely bailed on, and I soon regretted that decision. Apparently despite it's slow opening, Blood got quite good and had a great ending. This one is also on YouTube, so I'll be giving that one another watch come October.

4. Murder on the Emerald Sea

This cheaply made comedy wasn't bad. A cop goes undercover as a beauty queen to enter a contest on a cruise ship to find out who's been killing all the other beauty queens. Includes a really goofy score that will haunt your dreams.

If they make a 23 jump Street, they should lift this plot, as it's ripe for a remake.(yes fine. i just want to see jonah hill in drag.)

5. The Satanist

The isn't a movie. I'm not sure exactly what to call it, but it isn't a movie by any means. This seems like a stag film you'd show your boozin' buddies at a mid '70s bachalor party.

Released in 1968, The Satanist was considered pornographic by the standards of the time. These days, minus the implied oral, The Satanist would barely get an R rating. This is why I found The Satanist to be the most fascinating film shown at the Fest. Not because of the content, or the 'story', but thinking that at one time, this reel of film was considered something that could ruin the moral fiber of a young mind.

My only issue with this event was the order in which the films were shown. If anything, Skatetown USA should've ended the show. You don't open a boxing card with Mike Tyson, and then end with Foxy Boxing.

If loads of boobies and making out(I mean A LOT of heavy petting here) are your thing, then The Satanist is right up your alley.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go put on Human Centipede 2, while watching some Bum Fights on my iPad.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Strain sort-of Review

Television shows(TV shows for short) have slowly but surely been out-doing their theatrical counter-parts, entertainment wise, for a good part of the past decade. You could probably point the finger squarely at LOST back in 2004. That show came out of nowhere and became a huge phenomenon in no time.

So every network went looking for the next huge sci-fi/fantasy genre hit. Cue AMC and The Walking Dead in 2009. Nobody expected a Zombie drama based on an Indie Comic to do well. I'm sure if they expected it to make as huge an impact as it did, AMC would've ordered more than 6 episodes for the first season.

Walking Dead ended up being an even bigger hit than LOST ever was.
I knew that from this, other cable networks were going to comb the landscape of the independent comic book scene to find the next possible hit. No surprise, the FX Network struck first, announcing a TV show based on the "police procedural in a super hero world" comic book Powers.

That was in 2010, and Powers has been stuck in developmental hell, with only a pilot filmed at this point. I don't even think FX plans on airing Powers anymore, now that I've heard that the Playstation Network is developing the show for their new line of original programming.

FX, which has a fine history of edgy dramas, was now without their own Walking Dead.

This past Sunday, FX debuted their latest drama, The Strain, based off a series of horror novels, and a Dark Horse Comics series.

This show was completely off my radar. The only reason I knew I'd give this show a chance was because FX has a fantastic track record with tv dramas in the past. My two favorite non-Breaking Bad shows from the past 5 years are Justified, and the sadly canceled-too-soon boxing drama Lights Out from 2011.

When I learned that The Strain was about Vampires, I probably rolled my eyes. I then heard that it's a vampire-virus that infects NYC, which sounded a bit better, but I still wasn't looking forward to it. Even the knowledge that the great Guillermo del Toro was one of the creators did nothing to peak my interest past "meh, I'll check it out". I wouldn't have even remembered that it was premiering this past Sunday if not for my buddy Phil reminding me via telegram.

On a whole, I absolutely loved this first episode. It did a really good job of having a lot happen, without giving too much away. The episode had a great creep factor too it, as the idea of an airplane landing without any communication whatsoever is fantastically scary. I couldn't help but see a correlation between this and the beginning of the movie Nightmare City, with the silent airplane lands and sends out countless scabby-headed zombies(it's a great film, if you've never seen it).

The show has a good cast, with the best-known actor being fat Hobbit Sean Astin as a member of the CDC team that is checking out the spooky airplane. I will say, despite the solid cast, the acting is a bit on the cheesy side, and it might bother some. I forgive that because this is based on a comic book, and the violence is fantastic.

Speaking of that, this show will satiate any gore-hound. I won't go too deep into details, but I do need to point out that The Strain features a brutally beautiful(brutiful?) head-smashing that blew me away. It was unnecessary, awesome and sets a violent tone for the rest of the series.

My only problem with The Strain is a hokey sub-plot about Dr. Ephraim Goodbody and his year-long separation with his wife. We first meet him as he's late for his marriage therapy session, where wifey and the therapist do a damn good job making this poor guy look like an asshole because he very busy with his job at the CDC. The CDC! It's not like he's a butcher or a mall security guard! And the guy's obviously not a dick, and obviously loves his wife and son, and at one point wifey's new boyfriend says that no man should put his job before his wife while they watch a news report about the airplane and how it could possibly be a health risk, which is where Dr. Goodbody is! I mean how stupid is that?
Perhaps as the show goes on, we'll get some back-story featuring Goodbody killing kittens or something that's deserving of this treatment, but so far it's moronic.

The show is filmed beautifully, too. Every shot looks great. I don't know if that has anything to do with Del Toro's hand on the series, but I hope the episodes he doesn't direct still look as good.

The show also features:
-Crazy old Van Helsing-type with make-shift sword in his cane!
-Zombie vampires!
-The hispanic guy from Veronica Mars!
-Neil Diamond!
-The WWF's Kurrgan!

I am excited to see what's in store for the rest of season 1, because as far as I'm concerned, The Strain is well on it's way to outdoing not only Walking Dead's first season, but it's entire series altogether.

The Strain is a head-smashingly good time!