9.19.2017

Tales From The Crypt Revisited: Demon Knight & Bordello of Blood

As I continue to dig into The Complete Box Set of the Tales From The Crypt episodes from HBO, and having a complete blast doing so, it suddenly hit me that I hadn't seen either of the 2 feature films since their original theatrical releases. I figured now would be the best opportunity to do so since we're smack in the middle of a TftC kick. And as luck would have it, a good friend of mine just so happened to have them on Blu Ray. So let's dig in.

Demon Knight
1995
Directed by: Ernest Dickerson

The one and only thing I remembered about this was that it was directed by Spike Lee prodigy Ernest Dickerson. And I always thought how odd it was for him to dive into genre films like this when he worked for Lee on a few of his classic dramatic films, and even beginning his directorial career with the hard-hitting urban drama Juice before diving into horror and action for a few years. 2001's Snoop Dogg horror film Bones would be his last feature film and he has stuck to television work ever since then. But hey, we're here for Demon Knight, his 3rd feature film. So let's dig in.

Between the two TftC films, this seems to be most people's favorite, and I can understand why. Dickerson's direction is very much in tune with the HBO series, and Billy Zane delivers one helluva performance as The Collector. And if truth be told, I doubt this would have been as good had someone else taken the role. Zane really gives 110% here and makes every single moment he's in a total blast. I wish I could say the rest of the film delivered the goods as much as Zane did, but it doesn't. It's not bad, and for the most part feels like an extended episode of the series, which speaks volumes of it's uneven and hit or miss structure. 

Going into this, I was pretty open to whatever. As the show has proven that you never know what to expect, I really didn't know what to expect. And since this was their first full-on feature film and quite a big deal, I was also hopeful that it would deliver the goods as much as most of the show's episodes had. And while it was entertaining, I can't say it was really all that great or fun. All of the actors, including Crypt regular and star of Demon Knight William Sadler, do well, even a very young and somewhat out of place Jada Pinkett, before she gained the Smith moniker. The gore is surely present, if at times ineffective. But I have to say that my biggest beef would have to be with Dickerson's totally uneven direction. There are moments of great visual kickassery, but then surrounded by lazy camerawork and uneven structure, you're kind of blindsided. Or at least it did me. And it's a bit frustrating too, because the scenes that standout are incredible. Dickerson obviously knows how to create some truly stunning images having worked with Spike Lee on several of his films, but it's never consistent in here and for the most part, this film looks like any of the "so-so" episodes of the show. But hey, that's just my opinion. 

If you're a fan of the show, you'll enjoy this film. Whether you love it is a matter of preference. I did not. But I did love Billy Zane's performance. I've never seen him so lively and having such a good time and really makes the film as good as it is. And while I feel it definitely could have been better overall, there's no denying Zane's magnetism. The confident cast does their best, with Sadler in the lead, and the effects work is commendable. And really, that might be enough for some people.

Bordello of Blood
1996
Directed by: Gilbert Adler

Having not been all that impressed with Demon Knight, I still went into this one with some excitment and enthusiasm. Just like that film, I remember virtually nothing about this, even though I'd seen it in the theater. You could argue that's a bad sign, but in my case, sometimes I just have a really bad memory. When the credits began to roll and I see names like Corey Feldman, Chris Sarandon and Erika Elaniak, well that just sounded like a recipe for a really good time. Did it deliver?? Let's dig in.

Hell yes it did. In fact, I ended up loving this one so much more than Demon Knight, even though DK seems to be the one that gets more love. For all intents and purposes, Bordello of Blood was just a really silly, cheesy, bloody fun time. Whether that was their intention or not is up to debate, but the end result spoke volumes for me, and I loved every second of it. It's the good time I was hoping for with the first film, but this one offers it in spades and there are a lot of reasons and people to thank. For starters, let's give a big thanks to the films writer/director Gilber Adler, who was one of the series regular producers and has gone on to be a high profile producer in the industry with a lot of large projects under his belt, here making his feature film directorial debut, and he does a killer job. Though I wasn't familiar with Gilbert Adler, other than being a significant member of the team behind the series, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with his direction in here. In fact, much more so than Ernest Dickerson's work on the first film. He uses a very restrained and simple approach, but it works really, really well. He doesn't over stylize anything, yet it's a slick looking film at the same time. I can't explain it. Where Dickerson would offer an insane number of dutch angle's and sweeping camera movements, Adler keeps the camera still, rarely ever venturing into handheld territory, and does a fantastic job framing his scenes. It reminded me of all the best episodes of the show. Though nearly everyone involved has gone on record saying this was a disaster from the start behind the scenes and during production, I would never have guessed that by the final product. And what blows my mind even more was that this was ultimately a box office bomb, destroying any plans for the third film in the trilogy.

I have to admit, I loved seeing Corey Feldman in a big budget feature. I remember he was going through drug rehab and trying to get his life back on track during this period, and if this film is any indication, the guy still has the goods and really gave it his all. In fact, he seemed like the only one really having a good time and enjoying himself. Erika Elaniak was a surprising choice for her character, as she's usually playing the blonde bombshell, but she was actually a good fit for the role. If you hear her talk about the part of her characters background in the "making of", you get a better sense of why she was such a good choice for the part. Though her background story for the character was never included, there are bits and pieces of it in the film if you pay attention. But really, it's Chris Sarandon who stole the show for me. His televangelist character was hands-down the best part of this film and they just couldn't have picked a better person. He was hilariously cheesy and over the top and I wish there was an entire film based just on his guitar-rockin' satan-bashing televangelist character alone. This film just made me love him more. And then there's the lead vampire, Angie Everhart. You know, she wasn't bad. Clearly a newcomer to film, I have to admit that I've seen worse, and though most of her dialogue was hilariously cheesy, she handled it like a pro and also seemed to be one of the few having a good time.

The same cannot be said for star Dennis Miller. I admit, I enjoyed him in the part. His very particular snarky sense of humor is on full display here, and I clearly felt that he ad-libbed nearly all of his dialogue. And it's that sense of humor that really worked well, and actually made it much more funny......for the most part. Of course, there still always seemed something off about him in here and even though he hammed it up and was just a condescending ass in the entire thing, even in the few moments where he really put in some solid acting, he just didn't look like he wanted to be there. And that couldn't be more true as I watched the "Making Of" documentary located on the Scream Factory Blu Ray release, which was fascinating to say the least. The entire doc pretty much consisted of the films actors and production trashing Miller and talking about how he was essentially a shithead to every single person on set and that it was an easy million dollar paycheck and he did not want to be there, so he made life hell for everyone involved. He even helped in the film's box office failure by appearing on Leno and begging people not to go see the film. But really, get the Blu Ray and watch the doc for yourself. It's fascinating. They talk to nearly everyone involved and we get some deep insight into all of the turmoil on set from the people who lived it. Its still funny though. I never would have guessed any of that from watching the film. It was a blast from start to finish and I'm shocked it bombed as big as it did. I still find it far better than Demon Knight in every single aspect. I guess you just never can tell.

Bordello of Blood really offers everything you'd want in a cheesy vampire film. Tons of blood, nudity, cheesy one-liners, great effects work, a stellar cast, and most importantly, it's fun. Fun, fun, fun. 

9.18.2017

Thriller Throwback: F/X & F/X 2

Can you believe I've never actually seen either of these before? I'd always been aware of them, but like so many 80's thrillers, I never took the time to actually watch them. I was more of an action and horror fan back then. Who am I kidding? I still am! But I have grown to really love the thriller genre as well lately, especially those from the 80's and early 90's, which is exactly where these two fall into. When I found VHS copies of these at my local thrift shop, it was just the sign I needed to finally do what has taken me 31 years to get around to. Let's dig in.

F/X: The Art of Illusion
1986
Directed by: Robert Mandel

This film is such an excellent example of a smart, classy and competeint thriller. I really didn't know what to expect going in, but do love Brian Dennehy, whom I've seen in a lot of stuff lately, and just the fact that it's made in and set in the 80's was a big selling point. But then once the film started the full impact of how great this was hit me when I discovered that the premise centered around the fact that the main character of Rollie (Bryan Brown) is a master special effects technician in Hollywood. Boom! This just became 10 times more awesome. And better yet, they utilize that angle to it's fullest extent and I loved every second of it.

Rollie is a world famous special effects master. When a government agency hires him to create an effect/illusion for a mob witness in a scheme to put him in a witness protection program, he's double-crossed by the very agency that hired him and he sets out to clear his name.

Bryan Brown does a fantastic job in the lead. I don't think many people had heard of him outside of Australia at this point, and you have to assume that any big name actor could have played this part because it's not specific to an Australian by any means, but by casting Brown, who was big in Australia, F/X really elevates itself to a higher caliber. Brown adds his own spice to the mix, and sells it well. He plays Rollie like an arrogant, yet likable guy and really, that can be a hard thing to do to try and find the right balance. And he does it effortlessly.

I think that the main thing that makes this so great is the movie f/x angle. Here you get to see him work his magic and it's a blast to see. It's even more fun and amusing when he uses his talents to trick the bad guys and clear his name. It's almost like he's a vigilante, using his movie effects mastery to always one-up the bad guys. I'm telling you, it's a lot of fun and such a creative way to progress the story along.

If you're looking for a great 80's thriller full of thrills and ingenuity in a tired genre, this is the one for you. Solid craftmanship, great performances, and the special effects angle will surely win you over. Plus, you get to see a very young Tom Noonan as a henchman. It's ace.

F/X2
1991
Directed by: Richard Franklin

This one came 5 years after the original, and the story also utilizes that 5 year gap. One of the things that really got me excited about this one was that it was directed by Richard Franklin, who I've loved for his work as director on Psycho II, Cloak & Dagger, Road Games and the original Patrick. So unlike the first one, I really went into this one with some rather high expectations. Did it live up to them? Let's dig in.

Rollie (Bryan Brown) and Leo (Brian Dennehy) have gone their separate ways since the events of the first film. Rollie has found a new love and stepson and has retired from the world of special effects. When his girlfriends ex-husband and father to his stepson, a cop, asks Rollie to help them catch a killer by using his effects skills, he reluctantly agrees, only to have the situation blow up in his face and he's once again running for his life and trying to protect the ones he loves. With the help of his old friend Leo, they set out to exact revenge.

Yes. I mean, hell yes! I've been discussing these two films on both my Instagram and Facebook pages and this sequel really seems to split everyone down the middle. Some love it, or even like it more than the first, and others just feel it's unnecessary. I happen to agree with both, but at the same time, I absolutely loved it. Yes, there's nothing really in here that justifies a return after 5 years, but holy hell was it a blast from start to finish. There's just such a much more fun vibe this time around. We're already familiar with the characters by this point, and the ridiculous situations they find themselves, no matter how preposterous, always put a smile on my face. This guy is like McGuyver!

This is the kind of film that I always look forward to, the sequel that ends up being better than the original. But you know, that's all a matter of taste. I just so happen to feel this went above and beyond where the first film went. While the original laid the groundwork for these characters and some of the situations, director Franklin and company dial it up several notches, sometimes into the absurd, but always in a very late 80's/early 90's kind of way, which makes it somehow tolerable. There's a very specific polish to it all, a slick sheen that goes for broke in the most audacious way. While the first film plays it straight, resulting in an efficient and compelling thriller, this one has more fun with it. For me, it's like Lethal Weapon 1 and 2. The first one is dead serious and plays it straight, while the sequel, which also carries the serious tone for most of the time, also infuses more comedic and fun elements, even in the deadliest situations. That's how I feel about these two films and it's a formula that works.

I said it before and I'll say it again. I loved this sequel. It had everything I hoped it would and then-some. Brown and Dennehy make such an exciting team I wish they had made more of these. Richard Franklin's direction propels this film higher than I could have hoped. Whether it's dealing with the action sequences, thrills, drama or momentary funny bits, he handles it all with class and style, and F/X 2 is a much better film because of it.

9.16.2017

Laserdisc Cover of the Day: The Hidden Widescreen Collector's Edition

In anticipation for the October release of this classic hidden gem FINALLY coming to Blu Ray via Warner Archives, I thought I would dig out one of my favorite Laserdiscs in my collection. The Hidden was ultimately released twice on this format, the first being the basic Pan & Scan version, and then this Special Collectors Widescreen Edition, which was on 2 discs and came in a slick gate-fold style packaging with some really nice Special Features, something of a rarity with Laserdiscs. But just being available in widescreen in a step above VHS (which also had a widescreen release) was pretty badass back then. 

As you can also see from this specific edition, sometimes you just can't beat Laserdisc packaging or presentation. In addition to it's stellar packaging job, you get the best presentation of this film prior to DVD. Even the DVD, which I own, isn't that much of an improvement over this Laserdisc. So the new Blu Ray coming out, despite not having much in the way of extras, should be a vast improvement in terms of quality. And who knows? Maybe if it's a hit and sells well they'll eventually do some sort of Special Edition down the road. 

The Hidden Laserdisc Backside





































I shouldn't have to tell you just how awesome this film is, because by now it should already be a favorite in your collection. If by some chance you've never actually seen it yet, well let me tell you. It rules. It rules so hard. Directed by Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge) and starring Kyle MacLachlan in only his third film, after Dune and Blue Velvet and Michael Nouri (Hologram Man). It's a fun sci-fi/action/thriller made only in a way that the 80's could produce, full of stunts, action, thrills and a performance from MacLachlan that I can only assume David Lynch must have seen prior to casting him in Twin Peaks and based his Agent Cooper performance off of because they're so similar. Or it could just be a coincidence. What do I know? Sholder's slick and solid direction gives the film a much more professional edge than most in this genre, and despite the fact that this didn't get a wide U.S. theatrical release, you'd never know by watching it. It's got all the bells and whistles of any big budget studio film and it's a shame it didn't get the big release and attention it deserved to become a breakout hit, which it very well should have been. The Hidden Blu Ray's tentative release date is set for October 20th. 

The Hidden Laserdisc Inside Gate-fold

9.15.2017

Walter Hill's Streets of Fire Review

When it was announced that Shout! Factory would be releasing this on blu ray recently, it renewed my interest in wanting to finally revisit it. I honestly didn't remember hardly anything about it, other than it's cast and that Walter Hill wrote (along with Larry Gross) and directed it, and I love me some old school Walter Hill. But I also came across the soundtrack on vinyl recently, and I have to admit it was pretty damn good. So I was enthusiastic and excited going in.

I enjoyed Streets of Fire, but I didn't love it. It has a lot of great production value, with Walter Hill really giving the film a fantastic 50's era look and feel, but to be honest, aside from the opening and ending, not a lot happens for large chunks in the middle. And that's really what surprised me the most, for a film that's I assumed would be a musical, really only has 2 moments in the film that would be considered musical numbers, and it's these 2 moments in the film that I loved the most. Weird! As I'm not big on musicals in general, I was pleasantly surprised that the 2 numbers in the film that bookend the film were the parts I enjoyed the most. This is largely due to the fact that the songs are really good and really strong, combined with Diane Lane's outstanding performance as the female rocker (this girl can really move and sell the fact that she's up there giving it her all) and the tight slick editing, these musical numbers are arguably the strongest and best moments in the film.

But interestingly enough, there are only a few minor moments like a fist fight inside a cafe, a sequence where Michael Pare shoots a bunch of motorcycles in an alley as they ride up and down, and the fist fight between Michael Pare and Willam Dafoe at the end, I can't say I was very entertained in the action department. Not that I was expecting this to be an action film, but I kind of feel that it was sorely missing some important elements in that area to really give it a little punch of excitement or maybe even some solid tension or thriller elements. Still, it wasn't a bad film, just not a terribly exciting or entertaining one, and I really felt that it could have been. I mean, there's an amazing variety of talent in here, from the production design, the ensemble cast and Tough Guy Cinema vibe, to it's searing soundtrack incorporating rock n' roll and R & B and Diane Lane's electrifying performance when she's on stage. There's really just so much to like in here, but I didn't feel it fully reached it's potential. I mean, Dafoe is an amazing villain in here, but he's surprisingly absent for large chunks, and it's a shame too, because he's just such an interesting looking character.

I'm glad I revisited it, but I'm also glad I didn't pull the trigger on that new blu ray, though I will admit that the picture quality would have been an amazing improvement over the old DVD. I feel Walter Hill had some amazing idea's and the right vision, but there was just something missing keeping it from being a total badass. Whatever that ingredient can be is debatable, I personally feel it needed some more tension and action and less drama and romance, but that's just my taste. Still an entertaining and slick looking film, so it's definitely worth your time should you choose to revisit this one.



9.14.2017

Alan Silvestri's Predator Score Now On Vinyl!


Being the collector that I am, one of the things I love to collect is film soundtracks and scores, and Alan Silvestri's legendary score for Predator has been high on my list for as long as I can remember. While I never went nuts trying to track it down, when it would cross my mind, I would randomly search for it on various online platforms, but as you may or may not know, it's one of the hardest scores to come by, so when you do find it, it's not cheap. And as far as I can tell, it's only ever been released on CD. And please, before you bite my head off if I'm wrong, this is just going on my personal experience and research. It may have gotten a vinyl release somewhere else in the world at some point, but to my knowledge, it's never gotten a cassette or vinyl release here in the United States. Again, if I'm wrong on that, don't beat me up too bad on that information. And if I am, then holy cow. This has got to be the rarest film score on the planet because I've never even seen an image of it. So I'm pretty sure that it hasn't, which is really surprising. But I'm confident in saying that it's never been released on vinyl.


That all changed last month when I discovered that a company called Real Gone Music somehow was able to get the rights, produced newly commissioned artwork and released this baby for the very first time on vinyl in a Limited Release of only 1300 copies, when that hadn't been done before. Not only that, this crazy news flew so far under the radar that not a lot of people, including myself, even knew about it until it was already out and people were posting their pictures of their newly shipped pre-orders. How did I never hear about this??? Of course, by the time I heard about it, Real Gone Music had already sold out by that point. Not surprising.

But there's still hope! At this time, you can easily find it on a number of online sites like Amazon, eBay and a whole bunch of others. You just need to do a google search and you'll be set. I was able to find mine on eBay for roughly the original asking price of $39.95 (Real Gone Music's price). As of this post, I still see some going for around the $45 range and higher up to over $100. So if I were you, I'd grab this while you still can for a relatively decent price because you can rest assured that this will only go up higher and higher in price soon.

Alan Silvestri's score is one of the most recognizable scores in film history. He was able to create something so unique and macho for a film that blended elements of both action and horror. It helps that it was at a time (the 80's) when some amazing scores were coming out left and right. You can't say that anymore, because it feels like the industry has been all tapped out, but creating a memorable and iconic score for any genre of film was just as important as the film itself back then. Sadly, that's not the case today. In fact, I can't remember the last time a score stood out in a recent film. Maybe Turbo Kid?


Here are the facts regarding this specific vinyl release via Real Gone Music's website:

Alan Silvestri: Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Limited Brown & Green “Camo” Vinyl Edition) Limited to 1300 copies
Alan Silvestri: Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Limited “Infrared” Vinyl Edition)  (Webstore Exclusive) Limited to 200 copies
  • Though Derided as Derivative When It Came Out, Predator Has Only Grown in Reputation as One of the Great Action/Sci-Fi Films, and Marked the Full Flowering of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Genuine Movie Star
  • The Soundtrack by Alan Silvestri (Romancing the Stone; Back to the Future) Has Also Become a Cult Favorite, Sparking No Less Than Three Limited-Edition CD Releases
  • Silvestri’s Score Is Every Bit as Brutal and Hard-Hitting as the Film Itself, Employing a Full Orchestra, Deft Electronic Touches, and Bruising Percussion
  • Among the Highlights Are the Eerie, Descending Strings as the Predator Descends to Earth, the Propulsive Military March That Introduces the Commando Team, and the Simple Trumpet Fanfare in “He’s My Friend” Lamenting the Loss of a Fallen Comrade
  • Sound Is Taken from Intrada’s 2012 Complete and Definitive Edition of the Score
  • Real Gone Music’s Vinyl Release Features Newly Commissioned, Custom Front Cover Art by Rafał Wechterowicz Depicting the Predator in All Its Gory Glory
  • Gatefold Double-LP Set Also Includes Production Stills
  • Green and Brown “Camo” Vinyl Release
  • Limited to 1300 Copies
  • FIRST EVER VINYL RELEASE 
Alan Silvestri’s masterful score to Predator has been one of the most sought-after action film soundtracks of all time, sparking no less than three limited-edition CD releases that all successively sold out in short order. And it’s little wonder; fresh from back-to-back triumphs with Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future, Silvestri employs a full orchestra, occasional, deft electronic touches, and—most of all—bruising percussion to fashion a score every bit as muscular and hard-hitting as the film itself. Among the truly inspired touches are the eerie, descending strings as the Predator descends to earth, the propulsive military march that introduces the commando team, and the simple trumpet fanfare in “He’s My Friend” that laments the loss of a fallen comrade. Yet, because the film came out in the ‘90s during the premature death of vinyl, Predator has NEVER been released on LP…till now. Real Gone is proud to present Alan Silvestri’s score to Predator in a double-LP set featuring newly commissioned, custom front cover art by Rafał Wechterowicz that captures the Predator in all its ugly mother******ness, with additional stills from the production decorating the gatefold package. The sound to our release is taken from Intrada’s 2012 complete and definitive edition of the score, and it comes on green and brown “camo” vinyl limited to 1300 copies. Get it before it disappears into the jungle!
Side One
  1. Fox Fanfare
  2. Main Title
  3. Something Else; Cut ‘Em Down; Payback Time
  4. The Truck
  5. Jungle Trek
Side Two
  1. Girl’s Escape
  2. Blaine’s Death
  3. What Happened?
  4. He’s My Friend
  5. We’re Gonna Die
  6. Building the Trap
  7. The Waiting

9.13.2017

Revisiting Nolan's Batman Begins

I make no qualms about my dislike for Christopher Nolan films. I feel he's a good filmmaker, always on the verge of being a great one, but always doing something to fuck that up. The thing I do like about him is his passion for film, especially the importance of 35mm, and his love for cinema. He's clearly a talented filmmaker. He possesses that gift, there's no doubt about it, but some of his creative decisions just blow my mind sometimes. But I'll get to that in a bit.

As he's not one of my favorite filmmakers, I don't rush out to see any of his films. I get to them eventually, except for the Batman films. They came out in a time when I was hungry for Batman material. And though I wasn't a big fan of Dark Knight Rises, I did enjoy The Dark Knight, but my memory of Batman Begins is fuzzy. I think I'd only ever seen it that one time in theaters, so I was kind of itching to revisit it recently. Not really sure why either, I just kept feeling that of all the Nolan films I've seen, I might actually enjoy this one the most. As luck would have it, TBS was playing this on a Sunday afternoon. Perfect. Lets dig in.

The many years since my initial viewing of this classic have been quite kind to Batman Begins. I loved it. There were so many creative touches courtesy of Nolan that I just loved, and to be honest, quite surprised this is the same Nolan who makes films today. There's something very toned-down and simple about this film, even though it's a bit epic compared to other "normal" films. But I guess in Nolan's "Batman Universe", this is a much smaller film compared to the 2 that followed, and I love it for that. The film progressed very nicely compared to "most" of his films, and guess what??? It wasn't confusing as hell, which was another aspect I loved. I just feel his films are overly complicated when they don't need to be. Can anyone truly understand "everything" that's happening in The Dark Knight? Sure it's a brilliant film as a whole, but it veered off into so many unnecessary directions that like most of his films, comes across a bit pretentious. Not to mention, I would constantly lose interest. Lucky for us, he hadn't headed in that direction yet here.



I think one of the strongest aspects to this production was Nolan's use of miniatures, model work and practical effects. For a film made in the 2000's, it was a beautiful and refreshing thing to see. There's just something much more visceral utilizing model work rather than CGI. Sure Nolan uses CGI often, and more often than not it's unnoticeable, which is quite effective. The last thing you want is to be taken out of the moment by an overuse of CGI. But then there are moments when it is, and it's hard to really leave any kind of lasting impact when you know that effect you just saw was the result of a computer and not something tangible. Kudos to Nolan for going the practical effects route with this one. The whole third act with the train was astonishing and oftentimes breathtaking to me.

As much as I typically dislike Nolan films, and as much as I loved this one, there were 2 problems I did have. First and foremost, it's a problem I have with "all" Christopher Nolan films. And that is that as strong a director as he is, the guy can't shoot a fight sequence if his life depended on it. This is the one area he loses me every time. For some reason, he always turns to handheld "shake the shit out of the camera" territory and always shoots up close, rather than allow us to see what the hell is going on and who's fighting who. I can never tell, and always give up trying to figure it out. I've never seen a fight sequence from him that I liked, because it's an editing and composition mess every single time. Yea I've heard "he shoots this way to put you in the moment, like you're in there" excuse, but I don't feel it does anything other than make you nauseous. But that's just me.

Another area I found that I didn't really feel worked well with the rest of the film was, to my surprise, the entire first act where Bruce is learning his skills from Ducard (Liam Neeson), before heading back to Gotham. I don't know, it just feels so detached from the rest of the film visually. A few expertly framed shots are marred by a constant handheld lazy aesthetic that completely takes away from any impact these scenes could hold. Given the locations, I'm shocked he chose to shoot nearly all of this first act this way instead of really making it look stunning, like it very easily could have and not just any other film. You may disagree with me on this one, but I just really felt it took so much away from the aesthetic tone of the rest of the film. It came off as very ho-hum to me, where it really could have been a stronger way to start the film.



Despite my two gripes, I really and thoroughly enjoyed this one. So much so that it's my favorite of his Batman trilogy. I loved the stripped down feel to it, and some of his work, including the Tumbler sequence, are simply incredible. There are strong moments of greatness, and then there are moments that make you wonder just what the hell he was thinking with certain creative decisions. Regardless, it's one helluva Batman film and though I have never been a fan of this Batman suit design, or of Christian Bale in the role, as a dark crime noir style film, it delivers some solid goods.

9.12.2017

The Disaster Artist Official Trailer Is Up!!


If you love bad movies, and who doesn't really, then you're well aware of the existence of a little film called The Room. It's quite literally a disaster of the best kind. That film's co-star, Greg Sestero, wrote a best-selling book about the making of that cult classic, and what it was like being a friend to the film's writer, director, producer and star Tommy Wiseau. I've read it, and it's a great book, full of hilarious and highly insightful information regarding the insane production and also just who the hell Tommy Wiseau is. I'll tell you, nobody really truly knows. He's a mystery of epic proportions and guards his secrets with a tight reign. Though little bits and pieces of his past have been dug up, I don't think we'll ever really know the "whole" Tommy.

James Franco stars as Tommy Wiseau (brilliant casting) and directs this adaptation of Sestero's book The Disaster Artist with his long-time partner and friend Seth Rogan producing and co-starring. Franco's brother Dave plays Greg Sestero. The film will be released on December 1st and has already been receiving rave reviews from the festival circuit. I for one cannot wait! Check out the trailer below.


9.09.2017

90's Action Attack!: Perfect Target


1997
Directed by: Sheldon Lettich
Category: Action

Perfect Target is a 90's action film courtesy of Lionheart and Double Impact writer/director Sheldon Lettich. I'd never heard of it or even it's star, Daniel Bernhardt until I came across this somewhere recently online. So I snatched up the DVD in one of those old clear snap-cases for dirt cheap. Let's dig in.

I'll be honest, the only selling point for me on this was the fact that it was a Sheldon Lettich film. I didn't know who Daniel Bernhardt was, and though Lettich hadn't really made a solid or entertaining film since the early 90's when he was making Van Damme a breakout star, I held out hope that there was some solid work in here considering The Hard Corpse was a pretty big letdown for me. The cover for this didn't help, but the names featured on the cover under Bernhardt's sure did. And those would be Robert Englund and Brian Thompson. SOLD!

Perfect Target was a good action film. Not great, but much better than The Hard Corpse, another Sheldon Lettich directed film I recently saw. There's nothing about it that really stands out, other than it's impressive supporting cast with legends Englund and Thompson delivering the bad guy goods, but I wasn't really expecting much either, other than a good time. In that department, it delivered. While it wasn't filled with wall-to-wall action, there was enough in the beginning and end to satisfy, with the remainder of the film's charm lying squarely on the shoulders of the 3 leads, Bernhardt, Englund and Thompson.

Daniel Bernhardt was a big surprise for me. For one, somehow I'd never heard of him, but after seeing this, I know I've seen him somewhere. After some digging, I realized where. He was the "upgraded Agent Smith" in one of the Matrix sequels. I have to admit, I really liked him. He reminds me a lot of Van Damme in his early days, only a much better actor. But even then, his slight accent (Swedish I think?) is highly noticeable and with some of the dialogue, he sounds so much like Van Damme it's eerie. But he shows a lot of promise and comes across as a very confident and charismatic action hero lead in more ways than I was expecting. It's a shame he never made it into the big time, because he's a very likable guy. He's been a busy fella though, who continues to work today. Here's to hoping he'll find his big mainstream breakout.

I'm going to assume that this is the last good Sheldon Lettich film. I'm not going to say he's the best director or action director out there, but there was something very special with Lionheart and Double Impact. A very simple, yet very 90's and enjoyable way of shooting that is hard to pin down, yet it's unmistakable Lettich. Double Impact would have to be his crowning achievement in my opinion. That's pure 90's action cheese at it's finest. Looking into his filmography, it would seem that he was never able to match that kind of entertainment or quality again, but he will always be one of the forefathers of the martial arts/action movement of the late 80's/early 90's. He helped jump start it by writing Bloodsport and continuing to work with Van Damme a few more times, igniting his career and then attempting to sustain it during Van Damme's lull with films like Legionnaire and The Hard Corpse, but by that time, both of their careers had already been in a steep decline. 2006's The Hard Corpse would be the last time Lettich would direct, but Van Damme continues to work tirelessly, with some solid and memorable moments sprinkled throughout, with his Van Johnson show on Amazon being such a spirited highlight.

This won't become one of your favorite new action films, but it's a helluva lot better than a lot of these in the same genre. For the cheap price it goes for, it's absolutely worth your time, even if it's just to see some villainous turns from Robert Englund and Brian Thompson. Daniel Bernhardt was a pleasant surprise, and absolutely carries this film with his macho magnetism. If anything, this convinced me to seek out his other films.....finally.

9.07.2017

Quick Shot Review: Annabelle: Creation


2017
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Category: Horror

I should start off by saying that I'm generally not a big fan of new modern mainstream horror. With that being said, I only saw the first film because I was with a group of friends who really wanted to see it, so we all went. Not surprisingly, I was pretty let down. I don't know what I was really expecting, but it sure didn't deliver in a way I had hoped. So going into this one, I remained skeptical. In fact, I had no desire to ever see it to be honest. But a friend of mine who writes articles and interviews for horror magazines mentioned how much she loved it, and that it surprised the hell out of her. That's really all I needed to hear to entice me. So we went  in skeptical, but hoping for the best.

I can't believe I'm saying this because I despised the first one so much, but this was actually a damn fine movie. Dark, brooding, intense and highly entertaining with some great practical effects work and performances, especially from the little girl lead. It has such a strong "vintage horror" vibe and was able to hit all the right notes that I can't help but feel this very well may be one of the best new horror films I've seen in a theater in a very long time, all courtesy of Lights Out director David F. Sandberg. He did a phenomenal job on this. And let me tell you, I'm not a big fan of most modern mainstream horror, but I appreciate what James Wan is doing for the genre. He's literally revitalizing it. This is hands-down a big standout in modern horror. I got a real kick out of listening to all of the constant yells and screams in the theater audience - It's been a while since I'd experienced that. A lot of new directors can certainly learn a thing or two from Sandberg. You won't find any shaky-cam/quick-edit bullshit in here. No sir, it's nothing but class all the way. If you haven't seen it yet, even if you haven't seen the lame first one, check this out soon. You won't regret it.