Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Know what I mean, Verne?

I’m not sure how closely the story resembles The Mysterious Island, the book it’s based on by Jules Verne, but this picture was a great endeavor for its time. It begins with spectacular matte painting of establishing shots set off the ocean. The movie was so visual, I almost didn’t notice that it’s mostly a silent film. They did manage to work in some dialog, though. It must have been an extra cost because sound was used sparingly.
The story takes a long time to get going. People must have had much more patience in 1929. After some time you will be rewarded with brilliant effects, miniatures and camera tricks. The sets and costumes had me believing in under-water baby sleestaks.
It was nice to see that in 1929 the damsel in distress was capable of taking the initiative in her own rescue. The story is very basic, but The Mysterious Island makes up for it in its amazing visuals. I’m not sure if the creatures the people meet are played by children or little people, but they didn’t have CGI, and there were what looked like thousands.
This is a must see classic. Now I have to go find the book to read Jules Vernes’ descriptions.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fred Krueger is dreamy

With such an unassuming title, you’d never expect this to turn into a franchise that spans the decades; but if you were around in the 80’s you’d have seen that Freddy Krueger would turn into a new generation monster with real staying power. I suppose Freddy Krueger will one day be as popular a reference as Frankenstein’s Monster.
His impact as a scary character are still there despite the bad 80’s keyboard music, and the over-done gravely voice. You decide whether the early glove-building montage is lent from action films or just a threat of what’s to come.
I admit I didn’t love this movie back in the day, but having not seen it for twenty-odd years or so has fermented it into a tasty vino. 1984 was a good year. A Nightmare On Elm Street as seen in the 80’s was 80’s garbage, but now I see it as classic. Funny what time does. Could have something to do with my ears. The ones I had back then were more cynical.
The opening credits include, “Introducing Johnny Depp.” I’m guessing he did something before that or they wouldn’t have been compelled to “introduce” him, but they certainly had great foresight! Johnny Depp would become a favorite for all of us. His dreamy eyes, and manly cheeks make me melt. His hair was a little poofy, and his clothes were boring, but we can blame that on costumes and make-up. We’ll blame cheesy writing for his poorly delivered lines. Boy was the teenage interaction awkward and contrived.
Watch for the scene when Nancy leaps from her window. She’s supposed to be landing in or behind some hedges, but the inflated stunt cushion is plain as day. She lands on it, and you see it pop up from behind the bushes. I had to laugh at that.
Aside from goofy awkward acting here and there, and a few film mistakes, I had a great time watching this movie again. The dream sequences were well thought-out, and cleverly executed. We’ve all seen ‘how they do it’ special effects shows, but the camera tricks in A Nightmare On Elm Street still measure up. See? We don’t need no stinkin’ CGI!

“1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you; 3, 4, better lock your door; 5, 6, grab a crucifix; 7, 8, better stay up late; 9, 10, never sleep again…”
That’s the only time they refer to Krueger as “Freddy.” The parents refer to the child-killer as Fred Krueger, and Fred Krueger is what is written inside his hat.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More incredible bunk

Is this a Levis ad or movie poster?

I’m not the type to get on line early for too many pictures these days, so forgive me for this Hulk review so many days after the opening. I was not very impressed with the Ang Lee endeavor, so I didn’t put too much hope into the new movie starring the big, cute and angry monster.
To put it simply, improvement does not make this a good movie. I mean it was mildly entertaining, but the standard has dropped so far, we all think mediocrity is excellence. There were still some very awkward moments during the transformations from Bruce Banner into the Hulk. They looked better when they showed only hints of the change, but they got cocky, and tried full on bright light changes. Hulk bubbles? I always thought he grew evenly. He bubbled like he had giant maggots under his skin.
I can suspend my beliefs as well as the next movie fan, but how come tank missiles barely stun him, but knocking his head on the ceiling of a cave make him reach painfully for his bruised noggin saying, “Oooh,” (as in “ouchy”)? Liv Tyler was poorly cast here. Sorry. She was no Betty Ross. She should stick with roles where she doesn’t have to speak too much. And, Liv! Lay off the lip injections. It looks like allergies.
I was actually bothered by the lame cameos, and how awkwardly they were placed. The sequel implications bothered me too. The movie was peppered with them. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous considering the previous fiasco?
Abomination was crazy cool looking, but didn’t look like the comic character. He looked more like the alien/Ripley hybrid from Alien: Resurrection, but all grown up and stacked from taking too much HGH.
I can’t even complain that The Incredible Hulk was a testosterone frenzy because there wasn’t really that much action. I always thought I’d love a CGI Hulk because he would be so cute, but there were more scenes where he looked wrong than right. He looked good in the rain, but even Jurassic Park did better in sunlight. I’m going to stick with the old Lou Ferrigno Hulk. My heart was raised in the seventies along with at least one of my eyes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wolfen stinkin’

Movie • WOLFEN • 1981
Based on the novel The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber. So, it wasn’t good enough for him to have a moving picture made from his book, he had to be abducted by aliens to sell more books? I’m not accusing. I’m just pointing out that it’s either an awful coincidence that a sci-fi/horror writer would face alien abduction, a horrifying experience; or Whitley Strieber had to be a genius in marketing. I bet it was an awful coincidence.
Well, on to the movie. Awful. Oops, there’s that word again. I’m okay with horror being done with wolves… sorry, wolfen; but seriously, it may have been better off werewolves (Please note the labels for this post include werewolves only for category purposes. Only wolves are in this picture). Sure, the werewolves in the city thing was done several times, but here was a chance to make them smart. Instead they are the leftover refugees from 300 years past when the North American native was driven back and wiped out… along with the wolfen. In case you haven’t picked it up, when I type one of these… I’m smirking, tilting my noggin, and thinking the words in a mocking tone.
So, the “wolfen” are protecting their hunting ground, which happens to be the South Bronx. They hunt our homeless, and diseased, and those who won’t be missed… because we all know they all live in the South Bronx. Give me a break. Talk about stereotypes. Want more stereotypes? Edward James Olmos, who looked deliciously fit you’d never recognize him played a native American Indian who danced around naked, acting like an animal after a night at the pub drinking with the tribal chiefs. Ridiculous.
There were a few corny moments that I admit I chuckled at. Eating chocolate chips in the morgue seemed distasteful, but it made my tummy grumble. There was a hot dog scene where one character was biting while the other was describing the dismemberment of, well… a member. Classy prop placement, mister director.
My advice. Stay away. You’ll be bored. You’re better off watching Ewok cartoons.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The house carries a morte gauge

Movie • BURNT OFFERINGS • 1976
With a title like Burnt Offerings I expected Creme Brulee, and I was not disappointed. Truth be told, I’ve seen this movie three times now, and I still get a kick. I want to run around like a ranting raven to tell everyone to see it just for the Bette Davis character. Karen Black has certainly played better roles. but this seems to be Bette Davis hitting rock bottom. It really brings out the self-pity in the character… unless she was really that good! Burgess Meredith wasn’t bad either. He was so creepy. I never would have trusted him. Seems like he’s always a creepy character, even when he’s not supposed to be.
Auntie, mummy and daddy, and their little brat boy rent a remote mansion for the summer; but there’s a catch. They have to take care of the old woman on the top floor. She never comes out, and she doesn’t want to be bothered seeing people; so food must be left for her like a bowl of milk for a stray cat. Mom (Marian), played by Karen Black takes on this chore; and it seems she makes an odd connection to the woman and the house.
As most 70’s movies go, dad seems to devolve into a nasty, abusive man who can’t be trusted. That’s the great decoy. I wouldn’t want to spoil that further, so I’ll say no more than to look closely at the photo collection.
Is the house alive? I’m not sure, but it sure looks like a nice place to live. The place is good for spookies, and children are good for the place. Never did find out the burnt part of Burnt Offerings though.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Reading Vincent Price’s Diary

Movie • DIARY OF A MADMAN • 1963
I don’t know much about “The Horla,” but it was apparently the inspiration for Diary of a Madman. The Horla by Guy de Maupassant is an 1887 short story written in the style of a journal. I wonder if the studio had to pay the estate of Maupassant for the rights since the premise is so similar?
In Diary of a Madman, a judge, played by Vincent Price acquires the urge to kill. The Horla is the urge, and is given a physical presence, though he cannot be seen. Vincent Price, as always does a remarkable job, but is it my imagination? Is he always a widower in his roles?
Classic horror and mystery fans alone should watch this picture. Anyone else would feel like they are wasting their time. I hate to put it that way, but it has to be said. Most modern fans would think it was silly, but not campy enough to enjoy for that value. The costumes and sets take themselves seriously enough, but there is the sense of a stage. Set details were superb, but bullocks, if I didn't snap out of it when the did a close-up of a trial testament title written in felt-tip marker, and the body written in ball-point pen. Mind you, this was supposed to be in the 1800’s.
I seem to remember seeing this picture a long time ago, but lucky for me, my memory is poor due to slow decomposition, so I can enjoy the same film over and over. The story is relatively simple, so I won’t go into too many details on the plot. There was less murder than I expected, but then again with modern day Sweeney Todd type gore, I’ve become jaded. I was still pleasantly shocked with death of a central character, and the way it was handled. Even more so with the way in which the “evidence” was disposed. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s Joker, murder is an art; and indeed he was right.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tarsem shows’em

Movie • THE FALL • 2008
Edited Monday, June 9. See Below***
I’m a fan of pictures. Moving pictures move me. It’s my favorite thing aside from a moist, creamy chocolate brownie with mint chocolate chip ice cream on top. That’s why I have to take a step aside and tell you about a movie that doesn’t necessarily fit snuggly with the other movies I like to tell you about. This picture may not be only the best film of 2008. I nominate the Tarsem film The Fall as a top ten picture of all time! It’s today’s Wizard of Oz.
I went to the Sunshine Cinema Landmark Theater in NYC Friday evening to see The Fall directed by Tarsem, the same visual artist who spewed out The Cell with Jennifer Lopez. I now see that the Cell was a Hollywood monstrosity puppet show with studio execs pulling all the strings. The Fall is obviously the comeback. It’s Tarsem’s return with a vengeance.
We begin in Los Angeles in the 1920s or so. A little immigrant girl named Alexandria is in the hospital recovering from a tumble. She befriends a young man named Roy Walker who is bed-bound. The two hit it off far too easily — almost in child-like fashion, and it seems believable until you understand the true reason for their friendship. Roy, played by Lee Pace spends days telling a long-winded, made up tale of adventure to Alexandria, magnificently played by Catinca Untaru. I’m not even sure I can believe she was really acting. She was far too convincing in all her nuances and gestures. The adult actors around her must have done a lot of ad-libbing to play off her adorable role. If not, she must win the oscar for best actress. I don’t care if she’s still just a tot.
Roy’s fairy tale of Indians, pirates, and adventurers is masterfully presented to us through the imagination of Alexandria. She places the people she sees every day in the roles of the avengers who seek to bring down the evil Governor Odious. What Roy is telling is not always what Alexandria sees, and we get to witness her worldly perceptions illustrating what slowly progresses into a self-realization for both of them.
If you have an appreciation for cinema, The Fall will have you spinning. What the film is really about will not be divulged to you until each of the two main characters realize what they’ve really been doing while getting to know each other. We are left with an ending that leaves us guessing if we are being told the truth, and I love it for that very reason. I cried for three reasons at the end, and I never even thought about the third before. I’m so happy that I’ve had another chance to see the world through an innocent child’s eyes. I’m not really sure where my eyes are from.
Perhaps I’ll return to this review in the future and say more, but for now let me just say that there is an element to early film I never had an appreciation for, and now I feel guilty for that neglect. I realize now that film is the metaphor for the points of view we are witness to throughout our lives. My inner child will forever believe that film makes us immortal. That and a good shot of electricity from a Tesla coil ;)

***Here is something that was a splendid surprise. At the end of The Fall I stayed to watch the credits as I always do (this is an important step to being a true fan of pictures). I noticed the credit for titles going to Stephan Bucher. You may notice his link to the right for his Daily Monster. <<< click there if you don’t see it. As a blog friend I had to email him to ask, and indeed it was him. It’s either a small world or true synchronicity (why does spell check still not like that word?). He was the same Stefan Bucher! So many of you have found me through a link on his site I feel it’s the least I can do to ask you to take a look-see at his work.
His design. Fun!
His Daily Monster (highly recommended).
His typography work on The Fall. You can also read Stefan’s synopsis of the story here. He reveals a little more than I wanted to in my review, so be careful. There are slight spoilers.

Thanks again to Stefan and all the hits from his monster friends!

Friday, June 6, 2008


Ooooooooh, guess what!!! I’m running a secret monster club. JITTERBUTTER™ has accepted LilyBat, Betty Bones, and reluctantly, DeMonica. Hopefully the cheeky little monkey behaves.
We’ll be meeting secretly to discuss pride in our monster heritage. Probably, we’ll pig out on Eel Pie and Brain Cookies. It’s the only secret monster club that I know of, so if you want to join just knock me up. You don’t even have to be a resident of Dread Falls.

Aaaaand, I’m in a portrait on deviantArt. It’d be smashing if you would go there and buy a print! If I was only so lollipopular ;)

Clickity click for my portrait.
Also, the other Jitterbutter girl monsters are there. Clickity for them!

We’ve all had sniffles, so I’ve been watching lots of flicks, but haven’t had a chance to write reviews. I haven’t been totally skyvin’ though. My pile of notes should keep me busy, so I’ll write my next review ASAP, and be back to regular posting as well.

Hugs and grrrowls!
Abby Cadaver