Movies »The Apple

directed by Menahem Golan (1980)

Trying to cash in on the success of Grease and Rocky Horror, the makers of The Apple weren’t terribly ambitious with production values. Their future is one of hologram stickers and aluminum foil but their expectations of how the world would change by 1994 (!) were ambitious indeed. Surprisingly, we are not all being controlled by the devil with holograms and pop music… or are we??

A totally eye popping crazy thing, The Apple is worth at least one viewing in your life. The Adam and Eve parable that could only be described as both dumb and fascinting has become a bit of a cult classic, though to be perfectly honest, it wears a little thin after about an hour.

But just know that between the seemingly unending weepy songs there is a simulated sex dance that looks like it takes place in a Sleepy’s in heaven and a floating car in the sky that abruptly ends everything (though not in quite as cool a way as it does in Repo Man).

The fact that this is a German made film is clear in a million little ways, but the leading lady is unmistakably Canadian, with the kind of slutty, round faced loveliness that I never fail to be charmed by.

Trashy fun, this gem can be seen on Netflix streaming and even if the plot lacks a bit, some of the songs are undeniably catchy. Plus there’s ton’s of latex jumpsuits, see through rain coats, studded everything, and diamond encrusted grills.

It has the dubious distinction of being one of the few movie musicals not made into a live musical. Seems about time to change that, no?

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Posted on June 7, 2011

Movies »King of Comedy

directed by Martin Scorsese (1983)

The King of Comedy is a masterpiece about desperation and fame. Scorsese may be better known for crime dramas and prefer sweeping epics but when he focuses  on smaller stories and comedy, he has made some of my favorite movies, including this one (along with After Hours and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore). Robert DeNiro, who at this point is usually portraying a caricature of himself either as tough guy or reluctant comedian is brilliant here in a role that could have easily tipping into ridiculousness but retains some real pathetic pathos and the strange creepiness of a real delusional weirdo.

His character, Rupert Pupkin is no Travis Bickle, but he’s no less messed up. He dreams of comedy stardom, specifically stardom reached on the arm of Jerry Langford, a late night talk show host played with incredible jaded subtely by the usually goofy Jerry Lewis. He finds a friend, a rival, and eventually a partner in crime in a wealthy loon Masha played by the amazing Sandra Bernhard. After this off kilter, insane and lusty performance, I forever love her and wonder why her particular brand of on screen craziness isn”t used more often in movies.

It’s a movie I love to revisit and invites repeat viewings. It’s always exciting to be able to recommend it to people who’ve never seen it, and there are many since this box office bomb is often over looked and forgotten in the careers of DeNiro and Scorsese – who says this is his favorite of all their collaborations.

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Posted on October 17, 2010

Movies »The Mad Max Trilogy

directed by George Miller (1979, 1981, 1985)

The Mad Max trilogy is a grim, inventive B-movie blend of sci fi and action the likes of which I wish was made more often. Instead of drawing from established science fiction, it made its own mark on the genre and is frequently imitated to this day.

The first film, Mad Max, is the bleakest and the most menacing. Set in a nearer future where the world has certainly changed but some semblances of society are still intact (like family, a police force, and community – albeit broken versions), Gibson plays a law enforcer driven to “Mad”ness Max when a crazy band of outlaws, headed by psycho Toe Cutter, mow down his dearest (if you thought Bambi’s mom being killed was dreadful…) It’s the most convoluted of the three films, and the roughest around the edges, but it sets up the believable dystopia (with a distinctly Australian grit) that endures throughout the trilogy.

Road Warrior, also known as Mad Max 2, finds Max mid road battle with a band of incredibly awesome punk bad guys before stumbling across a ragtag, more peaceful group of gas hoarders in need of just the kind of reluctant heroism a once likable and handsome Gibson was capable of before he became such an evil prick in real life. The story is spare and harsh and once again there’s eye popping, over-the-top costumes and art design which might border on silly if designer Norma Moriceau weren’t so ballsy about it all.  In fact, the entire series benefits from the no apologies, true B-movie bad-assness that can spawn straight-faced characters like Lord Humungus, Gayboy Berzerkers, The Toecutter, and Pig Killer. The second installment might just be my favorite of the bunch with its straight forward, almost all action punch.

The trilogy gained some considerable gloss (which rears its ugly head with that head scratching saxophone that was so prevalent at the time – see Ladyhawke) with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but it’s a film very dear to my heart; as a kid my sister and I would quote “Master Blaster runs Bartertown!” endlessly. While it definitely ventures into Ewokish territory with the nearly cartoonish second half that features a band of lost kids and goofier violence (it seems strange that the menacing Ironbar played by a sneering Angry Anderson should  leave this world in such a Wile E Coyote fashion), still it’s visually stunning and unique with unforgettable set pieces. Bartertown itself, a literal cesspool of vice run on pig shit where feuds are settled in the Thunderdome (two men enter, one man leaves!) has got to be one of cinema’s most memorable post apocalyptic towns and to be honest, I was on Aunty Entity’s side when Max plus brats tore it apart. Like it or not, Aunty (played with the kind of sexually bold bravado that only Tina could lend the role) brought order to an insane world… but perhaps I’m thinking too deeply about it.

There were once rumors of a fourth starring Heath Ledger, which obviously is no longer the case and with Mel’s latest rants of hate and general horribleness, I hope the rumors of his cameos are not true. More intriguing are the latest chit chat circulating about the dashing Tom Hardy (the guy that out did Leo in Inception) taking over the role in a plot that includes “Five Wives” that need protecting. Let’s hope creator George Miller, whose been behind all of the films continues his vision of pure, exploitation cool.

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Posted on October 9, 2010

Albums »Reflections

by Iceberg Slim (1976)

I am slightly conflicted about recommending the pimp poetry spoken word gem Reflections by Iceberg Slim. It has become a favorite of Jim and mine since we came across it and became intrigued during our last Amoeba trip but it’s definitely not pc. It contains offensive material to nearly everyone (women and homosexuals getting the worst of it) but both the work and the man behind it is more complex than that. Slim, born Robert Beck, was an actual pimp for most of his young life and after a long prison sentence, decided to write about his life experiences. The result was the cult classic (though largely ignored) book, Pimp: The Story of My Life. Long before the gangsta rap that spoke of the violence and brutality of the streets, Slim was using his life as inspiration for eye opening and disturbing truths.

Reflections is his sing songy spoken word version of that rough life but accompanied by the Red Holloway Quartet, it’s also addictive, jazzy and strangely calming (kind of like a beatnik Dr. Seuss from a pimps point of view) and is unlike anything else you’re likely to have in your library. If you can get past the content and take it as one man’s experiences concerning a certain dark lifestyle, which by the way is always eloquent and often poignant and heartbreaking, this could be one of the greatest albums you’ll discover this year if only for the undeniable smoothness of his incredible voice.

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Posted on September 5, 2010

Movies »Hard Ticket to Hawaii

directed by Andy Sidaris (1987)

We just went to see Piranha 3D and can say it’s a fun barrel of trash that at least goes literally balls out with its sleaze and B-movie tropes. It lead to a discussion about how hard it is to make good bad things. Which, aside from a full monologue about my favorite Seagal films, eventually, inevitably lead to a lesson in Andy Sidaris. His soft core oeuvre is incredible, and Hard Ticket to Hawaii is his finest – truly the Citizen Kane of soft core action films. All the signature Sidaris touches are here – Playboy actresses, long shots of airplanes taking off and landing, the excessive use of toy helicopters and cars to deliver either explosions or drugs, elaborate death scenes, and a bad guy named Seth.

Donna Speir, who grits her teeth for dramatic line readings and babysitter gone slightly naughty Hope Marie Carlton are special agents and copter pilots who stumble upon a drug ring mastered by Seth. Total babes Ronn Moss and Harold Diamond are their Agency mates and, in Donna’s case, tit rubbing lover (no worries about being too embarrassed a la Travis Bickle to watch this – the most you’ll get is semi nude heavy petting – though the stills after the jump/below might not be safe for work).

From the opening song “Hard ticket to Hawaaaaaii, it’s not paradise all the time” you know you’re in for a treat, a treat that includes a dangerous cancer infested snake (which in theory would just make it sick and likely to die but here makes it a man eating killer machine that can bust through toilets with a radio active glow), a weapon made from a frisbee and razor blades, and one of the greatest “action” scenes of all time that includes a blow up doll, hot dogging skateboarding, and explosions (you’ll find a moment by moment break down of this scene below).

Sidaris, who my family contacted as fans and was a lovely man with a co-creator wife that sent us all signed photographs, sadly passed away a few years ago, but his legacy is vast. My guess is he’s unknown to you, so you have plenty in his archives to discover – after this immaculate classic, try Picasso Trigger and Return to Savage Beach.

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Posted on August 29, 2010

Movies »Mulholland Drive

directed by David Lynch (2001)

With such a unique point of view and mind, a David Lynch project is always worthy of excitement, even if the results are extremely uneven and sometimes downright unbearable (see Inland Empire). It’s a pleasure then to revisit Mulholland Drive, even if it loses some of it’s stunning effect upon second viewing – there are just so many odd surprises first time round, it’s hard to recapture. By all means this should have been a confusing mess, and with dropped plot points, characters and strange twists, it nearly is – but somehow it all manages to work beautifully if not confoundedly.

It’s not surprising that the project was cobbled together from a pilot for a much larger television series. The fact that ABC, in a climate of prudence, rejected the pilot is a shame. While elements like the monster behind the diner, the hunk lover Billy Ray Cyrus, the cryptic cowboy, the appearance of both Lost’s Jacob and Robert Forster, the blue box, and the magic performance are all effective in the film, I’d love for all the ideas to have had a chance to flourish over time and we all would benefit from a new Twin Peaks style series to become obsessed with.

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Posted on August 22, 2010

Movies »Teen Witch

Directed by Dorian Walker (1989)

The wikipedia entry for Teen Witch reveals the shocking truth that the teenager musical was a box office bomb grossing less than $4000 in its opening weekend with a budget of two and a half million! Of course, with repeated airings on cable and midnight shows (at one of which friend John got to actually dance with Robin Lively!) it’s become the cult classic that we know and love.

I recently revisited the innocuous favorite which is more than perfect for Sunday afternoon viewing and found it just as silly, strange, and dumbly enjoyable as I remembered.

From the opening shots of Louise Miller gyrating to Taylor Dane style pop with the local hottie, Brad to the final scenes of Louise Miller gyrating to Taylor Dane style pop with the local hottie, Brad, the movie is an 80’s Disney Channel esque delight. Not surprisingly, Disney actress Ashley Tisdale is in talks to star in a remake.

Of course, I’d be shocked if they kept the hilarious musical numbers as is (including  “I Like Boys” and the often referenced – recently in 30 Rock – “Top That Rap“) and while Teen Witch is definitely not racy stuff, that beginning gyrating scene does feature star Robin Lively looking like a prostitute in red lace and what would be more shocking these days, she totally gives it up in an abandoned house to Brad without scruples.

Trust me, after just having watched Starstruck (yes, this is the kind of guilty pleasure viewing I do when no one is looking) where the two young actors barely even kiss, implied going all the way will never make it in the remake.

But I digress on the supposed remake and there’s so much to say about the original. Many things can be said in the stills below/after the jump but worth noting is the bizarre brother creature, Richie, played by the same intriguing young strange actor you may recognize from the very un-Teen Witch movie River’s Edge, the wonderful Zelda Rubenstein as a fellow witch, the surprisingly so-uncool-they’re-cool again fashions, and of course those cringe inducing, but oh so awesome musical numbers.

It has not been available on DVD always, but can be rented at Netflix though sometimes with a long wait, so people are still flocking to this cheesy nostalgia piece. If you never knew the glories of it growing up, don’t expect a traditionally “good” movie, with suspense or drama, just go with flow and you’ll find there’s very little in the pre-teen comedy genre that tops it.

Oh, and if you too want to be a Teen Witch, it’s now possible with this nifty kit.

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Posted on June 20, 2010

Web Sites »Wrong Side of the Art

Horror, sci-fi, exploitation, cult, trash, B-movie posters

The fabulous site, Wrong Side of the Art comes up constantly in my google image searches offering gems from their substantial archives of B and cult movie posters. I’ve included a few greats below/after the jump, but any fan owes it to themselves to just sucked into a few hours of browsing the incredible art featured in this site organized into categories like lucha libre, German sex comedy, hicksploitation, and cannibal.

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Posted on June 20, 2010

Web Sites »Cult Trailers

“trailers for the kinds of movies that respectable movie audiences stay away from in droves”

Cult Trailers is what it promises, an awesome array of cult movie trailers as well as amazing cover art (a selection of which are below/after the jump) and some information about the movies. The site is sure to introduce me to many lost gems (including this week’s hunk Franco Nero) and has already sparked my memories about movies I used to eye in the video store as a kid such as I Dismember Mama, Student Bodies, Happy Birthday to Me, and House of Whipcord. Lots of time can be sucked away here, so beware!

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Posted on April 25, 2010

Movies »Hausu

directed by Noribuki Obayashi (1977)

You might recognize Hausu from a viral video I blogged about months back. Surely, you might assume, the entire movie can’t be as insane as that clip of the killer lampshade and those images of severed limbs and demonic cats… but if that’s what you assumed, I’m happy to report that you are so, so wrong.

To describe this film as crazy, schizophrenic, bonkers, and wild is a gross understatement; it’s an excess of experiments that will blow the mind of the viewer and open the doors of perception to any artist (especially those working in film and video) to just how far the boundaries and tropes of the medium can be pushed… It’s basically the craziest thing I’ll probably ever see and my grand kids will probably hear tell of its cinematic insanity.

What happens is this: a group of school girls go to visit one of their auntie’s for vacation. Before you know it, a decapitated head jumps around and bites a girl’s butt, an old lady has an eyeball in her mouth and dances with a skeleton, another girl is eaten and dismembered by a piano, and a man turns into a pile of bananas after enjoying some ramen with a bear. What, really, can you expect from a film that lives by the logic “Old cats can open doors, but only ghost cats can close them again.” The ghost cat in this case is Snowflake, the coolest Persian ever put on screen, who is frequently flung into the arms of actors by off-screen feline throwers. The movie certainly has a sense of humor.

Director Nobuhiko Obayashi is an experimental icon whose career only just began with this masterpiece of mayhem. His other titles include If She Looks Back, It’s Love, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Beijing Watermelon, I Want to Hear the Wind’s Song, and only just a few years back, Before That Day. While much of his work is even harder to come by than Hausu, here is a site that features some of his early experimental work. And despite what you or anyone might think based on the description, Hausu does not quite qualify as purely experimental. It was, in fact, a huge hit in Japan upon its release.

If you’re ever able to access a copy of this movie and you want to know what it might be like to be an insane person, do not let the opportunity pass you by; we have our good friends Matthew and Nora to thank so very much for the DVD-R we now proudly own. The IFC theater on 6th Avenue played it just the other night (sorry for not giving enough warning), in the meantime, gaze upon the stills I’ve gathered below/after the jump.

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Posted on January 31, 2010

Movies »Blue Velvet

directed by David Lynch (1986)

Blue Velvet is an example of the work of an artist with a singular vision at its best. Next only to the first season of Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet is David Lynch’s tightest, most dynamic, haunting and effective work. Still, it manages to be surprisingly unseen even by people who claim to be fans of Lynch’s work. As a girl I was obsessed with the movie long before I even saw it, I’d speculate about the plot based on the poster until my parents relented and let me watch it years later in my early teens.

In this highly symbolic tale of the dark side of small town America, a remarkable cast (Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, and Jack Nance) acts out a disturbing melodrama turned on its ear (both figuratively and literally). Even with the deliberate pacing – and as those of you who have seen it can attest, everything about this film is deliberate: from the color of the hallways, the angle on the stairwells (only Lynch can create scary stairwells, see Laura Palmer’s house) to the hum and tone of the rooms – the action moves rapidly. It’s a wild ride, not unlike the joy ride a certain insane character demands.

It’s a Lynchian film through and through and unlike anything else you’ve seen, though it’s not for everyone. I can’t quite believe I’ve failed to recommend it before now, but better late than never. And if you’ve seen it before, it only gets better with each subsequent viewing.

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Posted on January 24, 2010