Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Another country heard from


Just an FYI for you all:

Beginning with my most recent ramblings (the Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight posting), for those who prefer to listen to my ramblings while you're in your car, working around the house, or out selling crack rock to feed your baby daughter, there will now be a podcast version as well.

You can stream or download here on the blog or you can go to the Exiled from Contentment page over at Podbean. The podcast is also available on iTunes.

This was an idea I had been playing with for a while now, and I actually went as far as recording the Crypt episode in mid-October. Then I listened to it, found it to be hot garbage, and changed my mind about this whole podcast deal.

Then a few days ago, I received an email informing me that my free month at Podbean was over and my credit card would be charged -- which probably had something to do with all the wine I drank that night giving me the courage to open an account with a podcast hosting service and going through with this stupid idea in the first place.

At that point, it's easier to just go through with this rather than try to fight that credit card charge.

Anyway, that's why my Demon Knight episode came out in November, and I'm talking about Halloween as if it hadn't already come and gone. Or how I mention something about how "I'm sure someone will ruin October 31st for the rest of us" as if I wasn't aware that one of God's creations decided to rent a Home Depot truck and take it for a hell ride through Manhattan that day.

So it looks like I'm in this game now, at least until next October, when my year is up and I either re-up with the fine folks at Podbean or I finally throw in the podcasting towel for good.

I figure to do at least two of these a month to justify the whole caper. I'll try to up my postings, but maybe I'll also take the opportunity to revisit some old postings and do podcast versions of those as well.

You want my opinion? Stick with the written version if you can. Better to hear it in the mind-voice of your choice rather than my lame-ass vocals. But I'd rather you get some of this EFC action one way or the other, rather than not at all. I mean, hell, this Crypt episode is about 20 minutes long and I'm sure there will be episodes shorter than that, and the longer ones, shit, I'm guessing 30-40 minutes tops. (I hope.) This ain't no three hour party, I'm all alone here. I'M IN THE DARK HERE!

You can listen to my bullshit while you download a better podcast, and that's a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

In conclusion, this was a terrible idea.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Everybody is a secret scumbag


Podcast version for those with no time to read:




Nearly every holiday has an element that fits awkwardly with my soul, causing my enjoyment level to drop down to the ninetieth, or god forbid, eightieth percentile.

For example, every Thanksgiving I'm hit at least once with what I can best describe as clouds of uninvited mantras blocking out the sunshine in my mind for minutes at a time. Mantras like: Somewhere There Are People Starving -- Somewhere There Is Someone Going To Work That Day For A Bullshit Pre-Black Friday Sale -- Somewhere There Are People Who Can't Spend Thanksgiving With Their Families.

Christmas? Forget about it; I think of all those people working their asses off to make enough money to get their kids some presents only to come up short. Or the poor fathers dressing up as Santa to surprise their children only to break their necks coming down the chimney. I think of them, and I think of Uncle Alfresco dead under the Christmas tree, shot through the back of the head. Plus, no bicycle.

But I don't get that way with Halloween. I'm not even sure Halloween is a holiday, but for the sake of my rant, let's say it is. I love Halloween and everything about it. On my way home tonight from work, I passed three houses that went All-In on the decorations: orange lights, black streamers, cobwebs, spiders, skulls, bats, rats, African-American cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, spooky ghosts, and that's the magic of the season right there.

There is no ninetieth or god forbid, eightieth percentile. I get to enjoy Halloween in its one-hundred percent pure uncut form. I'm sure if we give it time, someone will find a way to ruin October 31st for everybody, but until then, there is little to none to get bummed out about. For one thing, this holiday is friendly to all income levels, it can be as much fun for those with a lot as it is for those with very little. Let's say you can't afford to give out candy, then you can just turn off the lights and close your window blinds -- and if you're lucky, you'll have plenty of free toilet paper waiting for you in the morning to stock up on.

On the costume end, you can pull out all the stops and wear whatever you want or you can go trick-or-treating with no costume at all. Now if the reason you're not wearing a costume while standing on my front porch is because you can't afford one, I understand. But if poverty is not your reason and you're just some entitled pre-teen asshole in street clothes with nothing but a pillow case looking to score one of my fun-sized Snickers bars, bitch, you're getting a fun-sized stink-eye instead. You could've at least cut a couple eye-holes in that pillow case, put it on your head with the pointy-end up and go as a motherfucking Trump supporter, but no, you chose to put no effort into your lack of effort.

I'll say it again for the cheap seats: I love everything Halloween -- even the Rob Zombie remakes. Speaking of which, I also like to watch as many horror movies during October as my schedule will allow. One of which is a request from a reader by the name of Kris Wallace; he's requested my ramblings on the 1995 film Demon Knight aka Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight aka Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight aka The Cruelest Story About The Saddest Man.

You're asking me who the saddest man is and if you give me a couple seconds, I'll tell you: It's Wally the small town postal worker, played by Roger Rabbit himself, Charles Fleischer. Wally's recently been fired because of some bullshit about not being able to steal other people's mail, which I don't get. It's not like anybody is using the post office for anything but voter registration anyway and what little mail is going around is probably junk and ads and what not. If he wants to stock up on coupons to Pizza Hut and Subway, then it ain't nobody's business but his own -- and those whom he's stealing mail from. So Wally's fired and now he's at the local hotel doing the Feel Sorry For Me shuffle to local hooker Cordelia (played by Brenda Bakke) and she's listening to it all because it doesn't cost anything to listen. A sucker move on Cordelia's part, if you ask me.

I bet you Wally has been doing this shit to Cordelia night after night after night -- at the hotel or the local watering hole or wherever else she happens to be. Every night he's talking about the shitty day he's had while Cordelia sits there doing touch-ups on her make-up, brushing her hair, looking in her mirror. I'm pretty sure she knows Wally is sweet on her and if she wanted to she could probably charge him a few bucks for the privilege of flapping his lips at her. Not hooker prices, just a few dollars. Five bucks for every 20 minutes, something reasonable like that. And Wally -- sad fuck that he is -- would absolutely pony up the dough.

But no, Cordelia actually considers throwing him a fuck for free, never considering that beneath Wally's schmucky exterior is the demon of male entitlement. If Cordelia were to do the right thing and tell him "You know what, Wally? I'm fully booked tonight. I have a cocksucking coming up at eight o'clock and a pegging at eight-fifteen and I just don't have time right now to listen to how bad you're getting fucked in the ass. So how about I take a rain check on your bitching for later", if she were to say that, rather than let him hijack her time yet again, Wally's pent-up nerd rage would come bubbling up to the surface and he'd grab Cordelia's arms way too hard and respond: "You know what, Cordelia? I've always been nice to you. I don't know why you go out with asshole jerk types like post-"Wings"/pre-Sideways Thomas Haden Church who treat you like shit while I treat you like a queen!"

He'd never consider that maybe Cordelia goes out with post-"Wings"/pre-Sideways Thomas Haden Church because post-"Wings"/pre-Sideways Thomas Haden Church pays her for her time. Instead, Wally would force himself onto her and feel justified because of his self-perception as a wronged nice guy.

"I had so many other things I could've done with my life. I could've taken that job programming movies at the repertory theater, I could've been writing fuckin' movie reviews for a website, I could've been a movie producer and get all that actress snatch! But no, I zigged instead of zagged and now I'm a fuckin' postal worker, and all I have to get me by is the few minutes I get to be near you. I carried your guacamole-stained bedsheets up to your room with no complaint! I worshipped the ground your well-worn hooker shoes walked on! I carried an M-16 and you, YOU carry that -- that -- that -- purse! Who are you? Where do you come from? Are you listening to me? What do you wanna do with your life, you fucking cock-teasing bitch!"

Sorry about that. I couldn't help but sprinkle a little topicality on that rant back there, because the news this past month has really been ramping up with almost daily updates on yet another new member in the public chapter of the Sexual Offender Club - Entertainment Division.

Look, I'm no paragon of virtue. I know I'm a creep and yet I've never had the balls to even remotely entertain the iota of a germ of an idea of sending a woman a text about how she can "have my vienna sausage anytime" like that scumbag Harry Knowles did.

And what the fuck -- OK, look -- back in high school, I spent my Friday nights watching "Friday Night" on NBC. While my contemporaries were out on dates pouring Stacy Joslin and Laura Sandoval paper cups of Cisco wine, I was at home raising my glass of Dr. Pepper to my television date Rita Sever. From back then to right now, my confidence levels remain in the negatives. But I'm pretty sure I'm better looking than Harry Knowles. At least I smell better, I'm sure. And yet he's rubbing up against ladies and giggling with no sense of shame. Me, I accidentally brush up against a woman in a crowded room and I immediately drop to my knees and cover my face and go "OY LAY-DEE PLEEEASE DON'T HIT ME IN DA FAAAACE!"

I recently wrote a comment on a female friend's Instagram and about a minute later I thought "Fuck, I might have just sent a creepy comment" and suddenly I could hear the faint sounds of "U.N.I.T.Y." by Queen Latifah from a distance. I began to panic and I sent a personal message to my friend, apologizing for what I wrote, all the while the song was getting louder and louder, and I knew in a few seconds my front door would be kicked down and in would walk Lexi Alexander like some Chris Hansen of Internet movie feminism. I started to sweat and my fingers fumbled all over my phone until I finally, frantically, repeatedly hit Send -- and then the music stopped, and I exhaled in relief.

So I don't feel I'm some kind of saint, I have the asshole gene too. But is it really that fucking hard -- OK, wrong choice of word there -- is it really that fucking difficult to not unapologetically over and over again be a piece-of-shit to the ladies? Or does the difficulty level in being decent get higher and higher the more power one gets, and maybe it's my lowly position in life coupled with a fear of people that keeps me in check.

Maybe that's why I think Wally would lose his shit to Cordelia, because as nice as he is to her, he probably still thinks in the back of his mind that even an unemployed postal worker is higher on the food chain than Cordelia the prostitute, and therefore, she is in no position to be what he would perceive to be ungrateful.

Not that any of that matters. Because they don't even get close to any of the bullshit I've been spewing, because everybody in the hotel is dragged into some bullshit involving William Sadler and Billy Zane, because this movie is called Demon Knight and not The Cruelest Story About The Saddest Man, like I was bullshitting you guys earlier. OK, so Sadler's a mysterious leather jacket-wearing dude named Brayker and Zane is some good-looking motherfucker in a duster and a cowboy hat known as The Collector, and these two assholes are facing off at the hotel over a key-shaped relic that contains the blood of James Caviezel among others and this key the, uh, key to controlling all of eternity for either better or worse.

Yup, we're talking some Good versus Evil, Heaven and Hell shit, and you know it's serious business because their tale begins with that rockin' song by Robert Patrick's brother I used to hear on the radio all the time in the mid-90s and before you can say "Oh man, Billy Zane can totally rock the bald look", this chrome-domed motherfucker is outside the hotel pouring neon green blood from his hand all over the ground and out come these impressively nasty-looking demon creatures and they all want In.

In addition to our hero Sadler and our couple Wally and Cordelia, there's Irene the hotel owner (played by CCH Pounder), my man Mr. Dick Miller as the town drunk, Wings Sideways as an asshole named Roach, Philbert from Powwow Highway as the deputy, and last but not least, Jeryline, the ex-con on work release played by Jada Pinkett (before the Smith, before the Xenu, and before their goofy son who will probably end up becoming President of the United States, given the way things are going in this goddamned country).

Oh and there's a little boy with little girl hair.

Let's talk about hair. According to the audio commentary by director Ernest Dickerson, Ms. Pinkett showed up with short blonde hair much to the surprise of the producers, who had been expecting her in her usual medium-length brown hair. The filmmakers had another hair surprise when Billy Zane showed up to their offices completely bald and carrying a small case containing an assortment of wigs. Zane, it turned out, had been losing his hair for quite some time and was giving Dickerson and company the choice as to which hairpiece they wanted him to wear. In the end, Dickerson felt Pinkett's new blonde look and Zane's naturally hairless pate were the way to go for Demon Knight.

So what we have here is one of those "people trapped inside while outside hostile forces are trying to get in" movies, or a "siege" movie, if you want to be that way. (On the commentary, Dickerson brings up Night of the Living Dead, Prince of Darkness, and Assault on Precinct 13 as major influences on this film.) I'm a sucker for siege movies, maybe because as a shut-in, my life is a siege movie with all you motherfuckers on the outside trying to get at me with your fun activities like talking to people and having barbecues and checking out live music and going out on dates and all that bullshit.

Anyway, in between the sequences involving the skinny freaky demon crackheads getting inside the hotel to fuck everyone's shit up on a permanent level, you have scenes where Zane is going about it another way by trying to sweet talk these innocents into giving him that key (and their souls, I reckon) in exchange for a better life -- or in the case of that asshole Roach, just the mere opportunity to live his asshole existence because Roach is a fucking asshole.

I mean, shit, you have Brayker telling you that these things -- these creatures! -- that shoot green lightning out of their eye sockets after you shoot their eyes out are demons from Hell who want that key to bring Darkness back to all of Creation, and you're still going to be like "Nah, that's bullshit. I'm gonna go give that key to that evil Collector and I'm sure he'll let me move on while the whole universe turns to shit"?

Fuck, man. You tell me that the green lightning coming out of those slimy crackheads is their tortured souls and I'll believe you. I really will. I see that shit and I'm ready to believe ANYTHING. You can tell me the lightning is the evil engrams being purged from the now-clear thetans of these beings and I'll fuckin' believe it and I'll buy every fuckin' copy of "Dianetics" and give it to my relatives and all two of my friends while apologizing to Tom Cruise. I'll apologize to all of them. I'll be like "John Travolta, you and Kelly Preston are the gold standard of heterosexual marriages." I'll blow that creepy fuck David Miscavige, I'll do all that shit, if I see some shit like that, some fuckin' crackheads with green lightning.

They went old-school practical with the effects for this movie, but it's not like they had a choice. They shot this in 1994, after all, and they certainly didn't have the budget for CGI -- and thank the maker that they didn't, because I like the old-school shit. There's lots of old-fashioned prosthetics and real fake blood and latex and all of that shit for nice helpings of gore here and there. The opticals are just that -- opticals; we're talking matte paintings on glass, models being blown up, and footage being shot in reverse only to be played back forwards to complete the effect. There's another audio commentary on the Blu-ray by the special effects team and it's fun to listen to them talk about the nuts & bolts, pointing out the difficulties of setting up these old school effects and stunts on what was pretty much a 24/7 schedule. But judging by the satisfied tones these gentlemen have while watching it all over again, the end results were well worth the trouble. Also, they mention that William Sadler was the kind of good dude given to buying the whole crew pizza on occasion, just because. Fuckin' A, Mr. Sadler.

I felt the performances in this film made Demon Knight better than it really is. First, let me talk about our boy Billy Zane. The Phantom here is having himself a good time playing the villain; his Collector character is clearly from Hell but Zane mostly plays it goofball-style with lots of funny lines that I found out later were improvised, my favorite being:



While he's doing his "in on the joke" thing, everybody else is playing this on a more serious tone with only the occasional moment of levity when it's called for. Sadler does very well in the role of Brayker; he has this mix of uneasy & weary that he pulls off. The more you get to know his character, the more his performance makes sense; he has the weight of the world -- of all worlds, on his shoulders. He's running the mother of all relay races and knows it's a matter of time before he loses his step and has to hand the baton to someone else. If I have any complaints, it's that I feel his role was sorely lacking in doing some naked tai-chi like in Die Hard 2.

Pinkett slowly gets better and better throughout the film, which I feel says more about the way her character was written rather than her performance. You couldn't really do more with her character without ruining the "who is gonna survive?" feel to the movie, so for most of it she's mostly relegated to reacting to all the blood and slime being thrown about.

And then there's the great Dick Miller being awesome as always just by being Dick Miller -- which is not to say that he's not acting, it's just that by simply being Dick Miller he exudes enough awesomeness. His face tells a million stories and there's a moment late in the film where he has this look that tells you one more: a story about a man who can't overcome his weakness even if it means making the most terrible decision of his -- and everybody's else's -- life. So don't ever let anybody tell you Dick Miller isn't that good of an actor, not unless you're gonna give them a backhand to the face in response.

The film looks good, as I suppose is expected when you have a talented cinematographer like Dickerson behind the wheel. He had just finished his second film Surviving the Game, when he got the gig for Demon Knight, and I'm guessing he got this job because anybody who's worked with Gary Busey is clearly a master of horror.

Dickerson and director of photography Rick Bota manage to use colored lighting, canted angles, and stylish shafts of light to convey an elevated EC Comics look throughout the picture; Bota was a regular cinematographer on the "Tales from the Crypt" series, and he definitely succeeded in carrying that look over to the big screen.

And I guess this is where I mention the film's connection to the television series; I'll be honest, the Crypt Keeper sequences that bookend Demon Knight were my least favorite parts of the movie. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, I mean, you do get to see tits and John Larroquette in the opening -- and as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to John Larroquette, I'd throw myself on the mercy of his night court anytime -- am I right John Larroquette's wife?

The plan was to make three of these "Tales from the Crypt" movies; at the very end of the end credits, the Crypt Keeper pops up to do one of those "James Bond Will Return" deals to the audience by telling us the title of the next film, Dead Easy, which as we all know, never came out in this particular timeline. I've heard two stories about that film: the one that gets told the most is that after many rewrites to nobody's satisfaction, the film never went past pre-production.

The other, more interesting story I heard in a couple places is that they actually shot the film but it was never finished because producer Joel Silver freaked out over how racially insensitive it was coming off, so it got shelved. I highly doubt the second story to be true, but holy shit, how cool would it be to know that there's an unreleased "Tales from the Crypt" joint languishing in some secret vault.

Instead, they made Bordello of Blood starring Dennis Miller, babe, and after that bombed, a third film called Ritual starring Craig Sheffer went straight to video in the U.S ten years later -- and that's your "Tales from the Crypt" trilogy right there, what can I tell you, I'm not King Hollywood, I don't make the rules.

Demon Knight is at heart a low-budget drive-in programmer, but because drive-ins don't really exist anymore, this almost became a straight-to-video feature for Full Moon Pictures when Charles Band and company had their hands on the screenplay. If it had gone that way, I bet you the demons in the film would've been 12 inches tall and Tim Thomerson would've played Brayker. Instead it was given big studio attention and bright Hollywood sheen and the end result is not the most original movie, nor does it really feel or encapsulate the Crypt comics and television series. But for what it is, it does it well and it makes for a dependable viewing choice during Halloween season.

Well, I have nothing else to say about this movie, so I'll close it out with this: I read somewhere that you are never more than a few feet away from a spider.

Upon reading that, two thoughts came to mind, the first being:

AIIIIIEEEEE!!!!!

My second thought was, Wow, I guess that means every time I see someone in a movie brush away cobwebs, like they do in Demon Knight, there must be a spider watching this from a few feet away, and the spider's thinking "GODDAMMIT!"

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

25 Hour Fitness




As my friends and I sat down in our seats, Phil Blankenship came up to the front of the theater to tell the packed house the good news and bad news: "The good news is you're about to watch 12 hours of Arnold. The bad news is I picked all the movies."

We were at the New Beverly Cinema for the All Arnold Night in celebration of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 70th birthday. Those of us lucky enough to score tickets within a minute of their online availability before they sold out were going to watch a 35mm marathon of films featuring the former Mr. Olympia. The concession stand even had a special hot dog available for the adventurous called the Arnold Dog, which was bigger and meatier than your average dog. Plus, free sauerkraut.

The lights went down and the first trailer reel began; every trailer reel between the films were all for Arnold films. I'm too tired to remember them, but if it was a movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, they showed a trailer for it.

Following the grindhouse "Our Feature Presentation" bumper and a scratchy 20th Century Fox logo was a shot of a star field -- and that's all it took for some of us to began audibly geeking out in recognition of what was being projected onto the big screen: Predator, directed by John McTiernan. Once everybody else saw the title, the crowd went nuts because...why do I have to tell you what you should already know? If you don't know, get the video. Or DVD. Or Blu. Or digital download or whatever else you need to get with the goddamn knowledge of how great this movie was, is, and always will be.

This is where I would tell you things you already know about this film, about how it is more than one film; it's an 80s-tastic macho movie filled with macho men -- a team of Badass Muthafuckin Military who chew tobacco, tell pussy jokes, shave on dry skin, toss the word "faggots" around like so many hand grenades, and more importantly, kill the fuck out of all the brown people they are officially cleared to kill in the cine-jungles of Val Verde.

But it is also another film, a tense and horrific slasher body-counter featuring an outer space Jason who is here on Earth to practice his God-given right to hunt in this beautiful galaxy and ain't no libtard cuck gonna take away my rights as a Universal Citizen to hunt and use my here shoulder laser rig or my double-speared hands because if you take away our rights to kill lesser dangerous species and pull out their spinal cords and skulls out of their corpses and then polish off that there skull to mount on top of my space fireplace -- I mean, that ain't no universe I wanna live in, no sirree bob dobalina. #MakeMilkyWayGreatAgain.

One of my favorite sequences -- in this film consisting of nothing but favorite sequences -- is the raid on the evil people camp. That's where they terminate them with extreme prejudice (unless you're a girl, which in that case you just get a rifle butt to the face) and it's all slow-mo bullet hits and bodies falling from short heights and dudes on fire. On the audio commentary, McTiernan said he wasn't fond of this part of the film because it was all 2nd unit stuff and it was done in a typical "stuntman" style. Well, remind me not to invite McT to my next backyard screening of Stone Cold because the director of that film directed this action sequence, and sure there is a lack of stylistic finesse that McTiernan would've provided, but it still works as a straight-up shot of well-made Ownage.

The print was good; colors were perfect, it just had a little wear and tear with occasional scratches here and there (and for some reason, Elpidia Carrillo's credit in the end with her smiling at the camera was chopped off) but nothing to complain about whatsoever for this rare screening of Predator in 35mm. Phil told the audience after that Fox, for whatever reason, doesn't allow this print to go out for screenings, but it sounds like the New Bev people begged and pleaded to the point that Fox was like "OK fine".



Among the next batch of trailers were Twins and Junior; so when the 75th Anniversary logo for Universal Pictures came up, I bounced in my seat like some asshole kid who knows a secret he ain't telling, because I knew it meant we were watching Kindergarten Cop. For years, I associated this film with various quotes that would float about the middle school ether during lunch period and in between classes. Then in recent years, it seemed to be the main source for many an internet sound board.

Arnold is Detective John Kimble, a cop who Plays By His Own Rules with a hard-on for Richard Tyson -- which I can understand, I mean, have you seen Two Moon Junction? Rawr. But anyway, Kimble has been after Tyson's sweet ass for years and it looks like he's finally got his hands on both cheeks but it's gonna mean going to Astoria, Oregon and getting ex-Mrs. Tyson to testify against him. Comedic circumstances dictate that he will be going undercover as a substitute teacher for the K-grade children -- a Kindergarten Cop, if you will -- and then the laughs are scripted to ensue.

It's weird, man, how I thought this movie was OK back in 1991 when I saw it on video and was young enough to be all HWAH HWAH HWAH with the Arnold vs. Kids goofball-isms, and yet I remember being underwhelmed. My problem with it, I recall, was that the kid stuff was few and far between compared to the cop stuff between Arnold, his hypoglycemic partner, Richard Tyson in an ill-fitting suit and fake-looking real hair, and Carroll Baker as a mom who should just go out and live the single senior life while letting her murderous asshole son deal with his own goddamn problems.

This time I liked the film more because I found most of the non-kindergarten stuff interesting and/or funny. I really enjoyed Pamela Reed's performance as Arnold's partner this time, while the stuff involving pretty Penelope Ann Miller is where I started to feel the late night whisper into my ear things like "rest your eyes and save up your energy for the other movies". There's a part, the "who is your daddy and what does he do" scene that might be my favorite because there's a few nuggets in there where the kids sound like they're just being themselves, like the one who says that his father is a psychiatrist. It felt real and I was getting into that until they went to the next kid, a girl who is speaking Spanish which of course means Komedy! because it's so funny that this alien is speaking some weird language from some weirdo country, isn't it funny Ivan Reitman, you Czechoslovakian fuck?

Arnold does a really good job here; he's very funny with the kids, but I also liked the way he played those scenes where he mentions that he has a 13-year-old son somewhere out there, and it's interesting to see him do that middle-distance staring thing whenever he talks about him. I have to give the movie points for never giving us an ending to that little ditty; I'd like to think it was a choice to do it that way but it's probably more likely one of those "oh my god, our first cut is six hours long and we need to chop stuff out of this movie" decisions. They probably cast some kid as his son for a heart-to-heart scene and then they cut it out and sorry kid, there goes your big break, enjoy your drug abuse.

Anyway, the whole divorced dad detail made me look at that scene where he beats up some kid's dad for being a kid-beater differently, because maybe Kimble is also working out some I've Abandoned My Boy! issues on the dad, like "you son-of-a-bitch, I don't even get to see my kid and here you are beating on your kid?!"

The kid's mom, by the way, took this opportunity to change her life. She left her husband and dumped the kid at her mom's and drove south to Los Angeles. She crashed at her little brother's place and hit the ground running, eventually finding work as a receptionist at General Apparel West. Soon, things were going very well for our Carolyn, surpassing her brother who was still working at some hot dog joint as she went from pushover to go-getter; she was making money, living the trendy L.A. lifestyle, moving from her brother's couch to a new apartment off Crescent Heights, banging Bruce the head inventory clerk, and leasing a BMW with a CD player installed. Life was good and she was on the fast track to a promotion as the administrative assistant for GAW's head honcho, Rose -- until that bitch Sue Ellen came on the scene.

Carolyn hated this blonde bimbo with a passion, this strumpet who came in to apply for a job at GAW at her desk because she was too stupid to read the big "Personnel" sign on the first floor -- yet SHE got the administrative assistant job! Carolyn knew something was up and she would begin doing some detective work to find out what was really going on with Sue Ellen. But deep down she also knew that this change of luck was probably some kind of karmic retribution for the sin of leaving her son back in Astoria. She managed to keep it to herself, though, even when Bruce noticed the tears rolling down her face after a particularly passionate night of lovemaking. He knew he wasn't that good, so he would ask her what was wrong and every fiber of her being wanted to scream "I'VE ABANDONED MY CHILD" but instead she would take a deep breath and say nothing.

I remember a few years back when the Criterion Collection website announced this film as their latest release as an April Fool's Day prank. First off, fuck pranks and fuck pranksters even harder. Second, I wonder if that stung for director Ivan Reitman upon hearing that, because it's basically being laughed at like "As if we would ever consider making a special edition of that film and adding it to our illustrious lineup of excellence plus a couple of Michael Bay movies."

What would sting more, and for who: Ivan Reitman hearing about this prank, or the day Wes Anderson finds out his latest film will not end up on the Criterion Collection?

I would wager on Anderson. Reitman probably has a good sense of humor and realistic attitude about his films (plus he already has a Criterion laserdisc edition of Ghostbusters out there), while I can see Anderson -- standing dead center in the frame -- dropping his monocle, followed by him walking out of his Parisian apartment in ultra-wide-anamorphic-lensed side-profile slow-motion while The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" plays in the background, his mind reeling and memories flashing of the good times in New York, Rome, France, but never will he remember that he grew up in Houston -- no ma'am, he made sure that the visit to Lacuna Inc. would take care of that.



By this time it was around midnight and so it was July 30th and officially Mr. Schwarzenegger's 70th year on this planet. The New Bev crew came out with a birthday cake and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to the here-with-us-in-spirit Arnold, who according to Phil, was told about this event and responded with something to effect of "That's nice, have fun." I overheard some people say that they wished he would've stopped by.

First of all, it's his 70th birthday, I'm sure he has other places to be with friends and family to celebrate that landmark. And remember, Arnold told Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to "have fun" at the beginning of The Rundown and where is Mr. Johnson now? Sitting on top of the fucking world. He just finished a movie with a short-shorts-clad Karen Gillan, and I bet you he hugged her every chance he had in a friendly type-of-way while thinking to himself "I would snap this girl in half, I'd bang her so good". So I'm not complaining. "Have fun" is being anointed king of your personal universe, as far as I'm concerned.

We then went outside to help ourselves to birthday cake; the flavors were Vanilla and Chocolate but let's be real, with birthday cake it might as well be the choice between White Diabetes or Dark Diabetes.

As we ate our sugar bombs and slowly became Wilford Brimley, my friends and I discussed the possible films that would be shown later. One mentioned the trailer for Raw Deal we saw earlier, wondering if that would be on the schedule. I responded that in my experience at these marathons, if you see a trailer for the film, you won't see that film in the marathon.

Which is why as soon as I saw the DEG logo come up, I knew I was about to look like a bigger asshole than usual, because that meant the third film of the night was Raw Deal.

Arnie plays Sheriff Raw Deal, an ex-FBI agent who now upholds the law at the kind of small town that probably has a roadhouse in need of a cooler. This is his reward for beating the daylights out of some evil man who pulled off the triple M: Molest, Murder, Mutilation. Poor Arnold has to recite the triple M in this movie and I bet you director John Irvin and the crew were laughing their asses off watching the dailies of this scene while producer Dino De Laurentiis was sitting in the back with his broken English wondering "why-a do they-a laugh-a heem?"

Thankfully, his old FBI boss's son just got whacked during a pretty awesome opening sequence that ends in an awesomely cold-blooded moment of Victor Argo forcing his mark at gunpoint to look at a mirror so the mark can see his own head get blown off. A dead FBI son means an opportunity for Deal to get back into the FBI by going undercover among the Chicago crime families as Joseph Pussy Brenner. It's also an opportunity for Deal to take a break from his wife, who has taken to getting sloppy drunk while making sloppy chocolate cakes because the small town life is killing the big city girl. If he comes out of this job alive, it'll be a win-win for the both of them.

A destroyed mob gambling den later, Deal is in with one of the families, run by Private Benjamin's Dad and Sosa from Scarface, with Robert Davi to do the dirty work. Most of the film is Arnold playing fast and loose with his new bosses, the Chicago authorities, and a lady (played by Kathryn Harrold from Modern Romance) who is just trying to pay off some kind of debt. This must've been an odd one for general audiences at the time, an Arnold movie where he isn't doing much compared to his previous roles. Up until this film, Schwarzenegger was making his name playing larger-than-life characters that pretty much only Arnold could've played; a Cimmerian warrior or a cyborg from the future, among others -- roles that one would've had to invent Arnold Schwarzenegger to play had he not already existed.

Here he's playing a role that doesn't feel like it was written with him in mind; the story is credited to Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati, who had written for Dino De Laurentiis and Sergio Leone in the past. I wouldn't be surprised if the original script was kicking around as far back as the 70s for someone like Charles Bronson to star in the Arnold role and his wife Jill Ireland in the Kathryn Harrold role (Maybe Riz Ortolani would compose the score. Michael Winner or Terence Young to direct.)

But they didn't go that way. They got Arnold to play this role (shit, even Stallone would've been more appropriate) and it's like giving the poor guy a suit three sizes too small for him to wear but with big-ass pockets, if that even makes sense. I mean, shit, you know something's amiss when Kathryn Harrold's character has more one-liners than Arnold's character. The one-liners, by the way, were written by the credited screenwriters, Gary DeVore and Norman Wexler. The former died under mysterious circumstances in the 90s, and the latter turned out to be the infamous "Mr. X" that Bob Zmuda told stories about to his buddy Andy Kaufman, who used some of Mr. X as an inspiration for his Tony Clifton character.

Anyway, they try to make up for Arnold's lack of action in the last twenty minutes by having him do a pre-Commando arming up routine where he puts on his best leather jacket and packs up his favorite shotguns and automatic rifles before he goes off to massacre -- holy shit, I mean it, it really is a massacre and it involves him going to two separate locations to murder everybody there. He's cleaning house and it doesn't matter if you're armed with a gun or a phone (which you were going to use to call the police) -- he's going to spray you with bullets. Even being an elderly man running away won't help -- Arnold will just pump shotgun shells into your old man back while generic badass music from the DeLaurentiis library plays in the background.

I can see Charles Bronson shooting an old man in the back and having it look awesome, I mean, hell, Bronson blew up an old man with a grenade launcher in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. But when Arnold does it here, it just looks so fucking wrong that all you can do is laugh.

(On the other end of the spectrum, you have peak physical condition Jean Claude Van Damme beating up a dying Raul Julia in Street Fighter, which is just sad.)

The audience definitely did laugh (and cheer) at that old man death, as well as the touching ending that involves a teary-eyed nurse that had everybody in stitches while I laughed along because I wasn't ready to admit to anybody that the first time I had seen this film, I actually got legit teary-eyed at that ending because I'm a mess of a human being who in reality sees most of everything in the most overly sincere manner possible. But I'm not ready to admit it now.

Overall, this is not a must-see Arnold movie, but the last twenty minutes should definitely be watched on YouTube or wherever you can find it. It's not a bad film; it's well paced, the dialogue is pretty snappy, and I really liked the way it was shot (lots of nicely composed widescreen location-flaunting cinematography by Alex Thomson). I just think Arnold was kinda miscast here.

By the way, the print for this film was gorgeous. I recall the print for another DEG production that was shown at the New Bev years ago, Trick or Treat, looked just as good. What I'm getting at is this: If there are pristine prints of DEG flicks around, there has to be a good-looking print of Traxx somewhere out there, right?



Phil told us that we were now going to get into the weirder stuff, leaving me to rack my brain for "weird" movies that Arnold starred in. I couldn't come up with any, because I had never seen the sword & sorcery joint Red Sonja, the fourth film of the night. Mr. Schwarzenegger does not star in this even though his name comes up first and is printed in bigger font than star Brigitte Nielsen's name, so the powers that be must've literally wanted him to be the biggest name in the film.

Ms. Nielsen plays the title role, a gal living life in the Hyborean Age until Sandahl Bergman and her minions come in for some rape and murder. She's left lost and family-less until some special Girl Power specter tells her to get her shit together and so she does, learning how to slice and dice others via swordplay by some Mako-esque peacock of a master. She and him have a funny conversation that I interpreted as being about how she should give dudes a chance and boy, Red Sonja, if I were 30 years younger I'd give you such a bangin', you wouldn't believe it.

It all comes down to Sonja and company in search of a stolen ball filled with Predator blood that has the power to destroy shit -- a ball only women can touch, by the way. If a dude touches it, he's vaporized because fuck that shit, bro, why would you wanna touch a ball, that's fuckin' gay, bro. This ball's for chicks only.

I don't even think vengeance is on the menu until Arnold shows up as Not Conan to tell her something like "Red Sonja? I'm looking for Red Sonja. You're Red Sonja? Yeah, your sister? The one who's played by the chick from City of the Living Dead? You know, the one who does paintings of rhinos and ends up getting her brains squished out of her head? Yeah, her. Well, she's dying, I guess, whatever."

I'm guessing this was a contractual obligation for the Oak; his line readings are hilariously stiff and, well, "I guess, man" in their deliveries. The only time he seems to come to something resembling Life is when he's talking about getting with Sonja in the biblical sense; it turns out she will only give herself to the man who can defeat her, which I guess gets him hard because it's like "Oh wow, so I get to beat you and THEN bang you? Two for one, baby!"

Ernie Reyes Jr. shows up as a real brat of a prince, and it's to the movie's credit that as rude and punkass as he is, he never quite crossed the line into PLEASE DIE ALREADY, at least for me he didn't. Maybe it's because Red Sonja straight up tells Reyes' servant that he should give him a spanking, followed by her telling Reyes that his servant is a real man compared to the petulant fuck that he is. I'll take that as a reasonable compromise for justice, her making him feel like shit with words.

What a goofy movie. It's the kind of movie where they'll spend big money early on with impressive sets and costume design but then they'll start running out of money along the way and cheapen out on special effects sequences like, say, the destruction of a city, where they'll just have characters talk about it instead of showing you, or when the heroes fight this giant water serpent and you're left wondering why it looks all robotic and maybe it's a robot and then the characters say out loud "it's a machine" and you're now wondering if it was because the filmmakers couldn't afford to make a realistic looking serpent, so the filmmakers just said "Screw it, it's a robot serpent, then. Make sure to have the characters say out loud that it's a robot serpent".

It's the kind of movie where the villainess will stride into her evil lair and casually pets her Golden Retriever-sized pet spider -- a spider that looks so fake just standing there and kinda bouncing like it drank too much Red Bull. Silly spider, I know Red Bull gives you wings but you're a spider, you can just web your way around, you don't need wings. You never see that spider again, by the way. I guess it just walked away during the climax of the film, the same way one of Sandahl's ladies does rather hilariously while she and Sonja face off. This chick does that whole "Don't mind me, just passing through" in the background and goes off to who knows where.

It's the kind of movie Richard Fleischer would direct at the end of his career.

Nielsen does what is required of her in the role; she looks good and wields her sword well, and that's about it. If I had any real problems with this movie its that Red Sonja doesn't really get to do her own thing. She says she doesn't need a man, but there sure is a lot of Arnold coming in to save the day. Is the movie saying she (and all women) are wrong? It's like the movie doesn't have faith in her carrying it, because after all, she's just the titular character. Maybe I'm just spoiled by current movies like Wonder Woman, and this was as good as it would get for lady heroes in the 80s, at least in American cinema (produced by Italians).

But hey, it moves fast, Giuseppe Rotunno's photography looked nice and Ennio Morricone's music sounded nice. Morricone got a nice round of applause from the audience when his credit came up. Would I watch it again? No. But at least I can say I watched it once.

My friend had said earlier that night that she was hoping Red Sonja would be one of the films shown at the marathon because as bad and cheesy as it was, she had fond memories of it as a kid. When it turned out to be one of the films being shown that night, I believe I saw her raise the roof in my peripheral vision. After the movie, she told me that she didn't remember it being this bad and cheesy.



Phil told us the last two films would be shown back-to-back with no intermission, so I made sure to get a hot dog and settled in for the last leg of this Arnold cine-tour. The fifth film was The Terminator, a movie that is similar to Predator in that I'm going to have a difficult time writing about it because what can I add that hasn't already been said much better by so many? Then again, that's pretty much the same deal with all the other movies I've talked about here, so why am I worrying now?

Watching this film today, with the opening text telling us about the "ashes of the nuclear fire" brought back a Cold War chill in my system that I'm sure was gone for a couple decades. I mean, back in '84 people lived with a low-grade anxiety that Nuclear War could break out at any time, so it must've been interesting to watch movies like this and the countless other post-apocalyptic joints that were made back then. There was always that thought in the back of your mind that, shit, there's always that possibility, right?

Then the Cold War ended and people kinda forgot about dem nukes, didn't they? Even me, Debbie Downer that I am with my belief that nukes are the ultimate Chekhov's Gun and that it's not so much a question of If as much as When, even I forgot about them. Those were beautiful days, man. And now they're back, baby! Thanks to that scary motherfucker Putin and that fat motherfucker Kim Jong Un and that bloated walking shit stain some call President, it's all about clocking those N-Bombs -- and I ain't talking about the N-Bomb that supporters of POTUS probably throw around when they know there are no Black people in the room.

I wonder how James Cameron feels about the New Cold War (from the makers of "The New Odd Couple")? Between this film and the nuclear holocaust scene in the sequel, I'm sure it's something he's thought about more than once. I remember hearing a rumor long ago about how supposedly Cameron spent New Year's Eve '99 holed up in his private bunker with booze and an AK-47 in case the Y2K bug was legit and the world fell apart come midnight. Then nothing happened and he was probably like, shit, I guess I better get working on another movie now. Maybe that's why he's now dragging his heels on another Avatar movie. He's probably freaking out like Sarah Connor in T2 ranting about how people not wearing 2-million sunblock are going to have a really bad day.

So it's 1984 and thanks to time travel technology, Kyle Reese arrives naked as the day he was born and so he needs some clothes, right? He ends up jacking a pair of pants from a homeless dude and for years I was like Ewww because let's be real, man, those homeless pants haven't been washed in who knows how long. So many scents and textures and stains -- boy oh boy, the stories those pants could tell. Any port in a storm, though -- right Reese?

But it wasn't until this recent viewing, slow fuck that I am, that I thought it really doesn't matter to Reese because he just came from a post-apocalyptic world where the word "bath" probably doesn't even exist. OK, maybe they have do take baths between Hunter Killer attacks and eating slop in dark rubble-strewn hallways and just generally being miserable, but you just know those baths are few and far between. At most, maybe every other week. And it's probably by lottery. And the survivors live with dogs because dogs can tell who's human and who's a Terminator, so you know they got unwashed dog stink on top of human stink. Christ, the lucky ones did die in the blast.

And Sarah Connor -- freak that she is -- falls in love with this sweaty fuck! Me, I'm back to two showers a day now that we're not in a drought anymore, but I ask a lady for the time and she looks at me like I'm Willem Dafoe in Auto Focus asking her for the time. Me, I'm sitting here at the New Bev looking over at the male & female smoocher couple in the row in front of me and the dude's hair clearly hasn't been washed or combed in god knows how long WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING WRONG?

Lady and gentleman, allow me to talk about the smoochers. I always get these people sitting in front of me, and if it's not them, it's the sasquatch-sized motherfuckers wearing a hat. But for now, let me talk about these here smoochers at the New Bev that night. So earlier that night, a couple sat in the row in front of me and it's all good. Then the dude puts his arm around his lady and keeps it there. All night. And every five minutes or so, he would lean in and whisper or smooch or whisper then smooch. And I was able to see and hear every last one of them. Smooch. Smooch. Smoochity smooch smooch smooch.

I began a tally. Predator: 16 smooches. Kindergarten Cop: 8 smooches. Thankfully an opening a few seats down was available by the third film and so I moved over there. But every once in a while, I'd glance over to see if this dude still had his arm around her, giving her the smoochy smooch smooch smoocharoo, and sure enough he was.

I get it. As a perma-single, I'm probably jealous and a hater, right? Except I'm really not. I'm just not a fan of PDAs and I get it if that makes me an asshole, I'll accept that. But allow me to let you glimpse my diseased soul by telling you that I always found something of the "Hey everybody, you worthless sad fucks, look at how much in LUUUUUUV we are with each other, don't you wish you could be us" with the public smooching. And I'm a pretty lenient guy about this shit. It's one thing if they're smooching in a park or some nice area with a nice view or somewhere with the hint of romance or something like that. But right in fuckin' front of me at a movie theater or at a fuckin' restaurant or the fucking bank! The bank! THE FUCKING BANK, PEOPLE. WHILE WAITING IN LINE! AT THE BANK! SMOOCHERS!

But I'm the asshole here. That's cool. It's me, that's what it is. Maybe the sounds of kissing are like the smell of food: Wonderful if I'm partaking, disgusting if I'm not.

Speaking of food, back to Sarah Connor. Before all the shit goes down, she was planning to go out on a date but then her date cancels on her with some lame bullshit, so off she goes to see a movie by herself followed by dinner alone. Sounds like my kind of girl, right there. Anyway, she's at this pizza place, about to tuck into a whole pizza (again, my kind of girl) and she's about to bite into a slice but then she overhears the latest report of another Sarah Connor being murdered. She freaks out and never gets around to eating that pizza, which is a bummer.

I don't think she gets to eat anything for the rest of the film -- not even a bullet, much to the T-800's dismay, I'm sure. Later in the motel with Reese, I didn't see any food come out of that grocery bag of supplies he brings over, just ammonia and moth balls. The closest thing to food in that bag is corn syrup, but good luck with getting sustenance from that, chief. I hope she was able to at least scarf down a couple doughnuts at the police station.

Anyway, when the panic-stricken Sarah finally gets in touch with Lt. Traxler, she tells him she's at the Tech-Noir club and he tells her he knows where it is, which got laughs from the audience. See, that's what happens between watching a movie at home by yourself and in a movie theater with a sleep-deprived crowd: what I once interpreted as Traxler basically saying "yes, I know where that club is because I've had to go down there or near there before for law enforcement purposes" was now being taken as "Oh yeah, I know that place, honey. Ol' Traxler here likes to go down there on Saturday nights and teach those lame White kids a thang or two about real dancing."

"Hey man, you got a serious attitude problem" says the bearded dude in overalls, right after Arnold quite rudely pulls him away from the pay phone he was using. That's all he can say, and he knows it, and it amuses me to no end, as does the Bad Outfit moment late in the film when the Terminator walks down a motel hallway with his rifle in full view, passing by a guy who observes this with a "God damn!"

So, there you go. The Terminator. Lean, mean, and relentless action filmmaking from a hungry motherfucker with something to prove. Some of the effects are dated in a bad way, while others are dated in a charming pre-CGI way, but it's still all very impressive for the budget they were working with. It was awesome in '84 and it holds up now. Most of all, I was very happy to get to see this movie on the big screen in a spiffy 35mm print.



Before the trailer, there was an anti-crack ad featuring Rae Dawn Chong and a final reel of Arnold trailers. Then, the Fox logo followed by a shot of a garbage truck driving up a suburban hill and we all knew what that meant: Commando, the sixth and final film of the night. This is the one where ex-military badass Arnold is out to save his kidnapped daughter while killing lots of motherfuckers in the process. Also, there's a bad guy named Bennett who has a hard-on both literal and figurative for Arnold.

I already did a full way-too-long rambling on it years ago, and I'll post an excerpt from it below. But if you'd like to check out the whole deal, you can click here if you want to destroy the rest of your free time:

People go on about Why Do People Love Commando When It's Just A Shit Movie and to that I respond with Silence You Commie Motherfucker. The movie is 92 fast-paced minutes of ownage, and if you didn't feel that way for the first two acts, you'll sure as shit feel that way about the last act, because that's all it is, ownage. Supposedly the original script for this had a more serious tone and I think it took place in Israel, which to me sounds like it would've played like The Delta Force -- not nearly as fun as you'd think it would be. Thankfully, Joel Silver stepped in and had Steven E. De Souza do his thing, which is take everything out but the bare bones, and put in a bunch of one-liners. Works for me.

This movie should please anybody who isn't an asshole who likes watching waves of bad guys getting killed. It becomes a video game in the way Matrix goes through each of his weapons -- assault rifle, grenades, machine gun, that bullshit Desert Eagle, shotgun -- firing bullets that cause the receiver(s) to perform acrobatics upon being struck. At this point Matrix is an invincible Angel of Death, nothing can touch him as he places periods at the end of the sentences that represent the soldiers' lives. I swear, at one point Matrix turns around, sees a bad guy coming toward him, ALLOWS the bad guy to get off a few shots, and THEN he fires back. He knows he's that fucking good. He knows how this movie will end, he's read the script.


I'll add this, though. Before, I thought Bennett wanted to bang Matrix and that's why he was so hard up for him. Now I'm of the belief that he and Matrix actually did have one sweaty night together long ago. I can see it now: They had already spent weeks doing recon, just the two of them, and here they were, the night before the Big Day, sharing a couple flasks of whiskey for warmth and preparing themselves mentally for a suicide mission. Next thing you know, they lock eyes, one hand ends up on another's thigh, another hand ends up on the other's shoulder, and soon it's Brokeback time.

Now, the mission goes through and it's a complete success and they survive. Everything's great, except Bennett caught feelings for Matrix and doesn't understand -- despite Matrix constantly telling him -- that what happened that night was just a one night stand and nothing more. And that was pretty much the beginning of the end for Bennett's time on Arnold's team.

Anyway, it was a great way to end the marathon, with a full-on display of Arnold being Arnold in the purest way possible: muscles, one-liners, and lots of killing. The movie ended and those of us left in the audience were given special Arnold pins as a gift on our way out.




My friends and I went to eat next door at Lulu's next door (I recommend the smoked salmon benedict); we talked about the movies and I brought up something my friend said earlier about how she associated Arnold Schwarzenegger films with her father, who was a big fan. They watched a lot of those films together. I brought up how they reminded me of my cousin and my father, who were the ones I'd watch those movies with back in the good ol' days: a simpler time of eating pizza and watching movies starring an awesome motherfucker named Arnold Schwarzenegger on a square tube standard definition television.

So I can't speak for everybody else but it seems like maybe that's what some of us -- if not most, if not all -- got out of the Arnold All-Night movie marathon. Not just 12 hours of entertainment Governator style, but a trip down childhood memory lane when we'd watch our movie heroes on-screen and we didn't have goddamn smoochers sitting in front of me with their goddamn smooching NO I STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN OVER IT LEAVE ME ALONE


Monday, April 10, 2017

Oh, and Assassin's Creed ain't shit, either

My schedule has been/continues to be a real motherfucker and when Terrence Malick's new entry in the annals of cinema and the anals of your movie-watching ass Song to Song came out, it wasn't as easy to find time to watch it.

The days of a Malick joint hitting the local neighborhood cineplex are either on hold or long gone because after The New World in '05, I had to make the drive to an Arclight or a Laemmle to see what he was up to, and even then, these last three films (counting this one) have only had two-week runs. It's like the distributors are admitting out loud "this shit ain't gonna make money, let's just put it out there long enough for award consideration and for the sad people such as the Exiled from Contentment guy who are still on Malick's balls to be able to see it".

Oh hey, real quick: He made a fuckin' IMAX movie a few months ago, Voyage of Time, and for the record, I loved it but I feel I need to see all three versions of it before I even begin spouting my bullshit about it on the blog. I ended up catching the 45-minute IMAX version that had no narration and was presented in a weird super-ultra-widescreen aspect ratio that Malick preferred because homeboy's wacky like that. It took me longer to drive to a theater playing it than it was to watch it. My commitment is that deep.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, by the time I had time to see this one, the closest theater still playing it was about 40 miles away from me -- at least with this one I wouldn't have that same driving/watching time imbalance as with Voyage -- and they only had one showtime at 12:30pm. It was playing at a theater smack-dab in the middle of a college, so I had to deal with walking among young people full of hope and energy, which just made me want to punch all of them in the face.

I sat on the far left of the back row and on the far right was an old couple and to the best of my ever-decreasing hearing I could make out the dude saying something like "I like this theater, they have closhbuthawthawbulaw" and the lady curtly responded with "The seats are uncomfortable" and so her point was made: YOU AIN'T NEVER GONNA GET TO SAY ANYTHING WITHOUT ME SLAPPING IT DOWN. TILL DEATH DO US PART, BITCH.

To be real with you, I was both hyped and apprehensive about this particular film. I mean, I love Terrence Malick, and if you don't believe me, ladies and gentlemen of the jury I present to you:

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Exhibit E
Exhibit F

This time there was something about this film -- the subject matter! -- that was kind of making me pause and move forward and pause and move forward, kinda like hitting the Slow Motion option on your NES Advantage or other super controller for your 8-bit system. That was some bullshit, wasn't it? It wasn't real slow motion, it just kept pausing the game or bringing up the menu. Did anybody ever really get any use out of that shit? I'm asking for a friend. (Just kidding, I have no friends.)

As with most films, I know little to none about them going in aside from the very basic premise, who directed it, and maybe the actors in it. In the case of Song to Song, I knew it was Malick doing his thing in Austin, Texas about musicians, and I don't know man. I like music and all but I'm not sure I'm a big fan of musicians. Shit, I'm not the biggest fan of artists in general even though I love art -- figure that shit out. But musicians? Ugh. I've worked with some in the past and we're just different species, but to be fair, I feel that way about most people I work with regardless of what they do. I don't like them. But that's OK because you know who I dislike most of all? Me.

I swear, if I were a Highlander, I'd kill myself so many fucking times because I'm that fond of myself. At the very least it would be an awesome way to relieve myself of the awkwardness of being, that's for sure.

So.

I went in with trepidation, and it turned out that I had nothing to fear because in this film, Malick does not really focus on the wankery involved in creating tunes, it really is just a background to what he is really interested in -- what he's always been interested in -- how we deal with our existence.

And a couple of paragraphs ago you found out how I deal with mine.

But how does pretty boy Ryan Gosling handle his? I don't know, you'd have to ask him. But as for the character he plays, BV, he seems to handle it in Gosling-esque ways by being kind of a goofball while trying to get his music career going. I like his musician character more in this film than the musician he plays in La La Land, because in this movie BV isn't trying to explain jazz to a lady while standing five feet away from a jazz band mid-performance who are probably wishing he would either shut the fuck up and let them play uninterrupted or just fucking die. He hooks up with a big time music producer, Cook, played by Michael Fassbender, who handles his existence in very Fassbender-esque ways by banging everything with a pulse.

My understanding is that despite (or maybe in spite of) writing a script, Malick pretty much tosses it away and just gives a few basic instructions -- if that -- to his actors and then has three-time-consecutive-Oscar-winning Mexican cinematographic wonder Emmanuel Mi Hermano The Muthafuckin' Chivo Lubezki Raza Cabron! run around filming them for as long as there is digital memory space available in the camera. And even then I'm sure there's some memory cards being constantly swapped for fresh ones.

What we see is what they came up with (Correction: what we see is the edited two-hour-plus result of miles and miles of footage; the original cut ran eight hours!) and mostly I feel what they come up with is as close to exposing the real them in the guise of being the character. It's some good shit, man -- both this process and the whiskey I'm currently drinking.

Anyway, things start off well -- Gosling and Fassbender are getting along, with the latter showing off his nice crib to the former and then saying some jerky shit like "I don't like it". Motherfucker. I'm looking at this awesome house and dreaming right there in the cinema about getting a place like that, but this guy is like EHHH I'VE LIVED IN BETTER and already I want to punch him in the throat on some Denzel/Liam shit.

During one sequence, Cook takes BV on his private jet to Mexico where they do the White Tourist thing by getting drunk and singing and rolling around on the ground, taking their shirts off while the locals continue playing la guitarra because they're so used to this kind of behavior from the Whites, they just want El Presidente to build that pared because the U.S. doesn't send us their best, they send us a bunch of cheap gueros who just want to get drunk and see a donkey show -- which was invented by some lonely guera who couldn't get a black dude and she just had to find a footlong one way or the other.

I guess it wouldn't be a surprise to tell you that somewhere along the way BV learns to regret letting Cook own the copyright on his work, because people are stupid enough to assume that the guy who promises to get you a house like his, or a closet full of suits just like the ones he wears, a guy who will jet you to Mexico and back for fun, is 100-percent trustworthy in business manners. And that's before Love gets in the way in the form of another aspiring musician named Faye played by Rooney Mara.

Ms. Mara is in town and she gets by with various odd jobs, including dogwalking and housesitting. At one point I thought she worked a gig as one of those sushi girls, but I guess these gamine types all look the same to me. She eventually gets a job with that asshole Fassbender, and from there hooks up with Gosling and then we get the usual Malik-ian scenes of walking around and frolicking and touching and looking at each other; it's like Malick took away most if not all things in a room or location that they could use to occupy their time with and instead instructed them to play with each other, like grown-up kids.

And maybe that's the idea; that when people are truly able to exist in a state of love with each other, only then can we actually become the pure and innocent creatures that God created us to be, before some apple-slinging asshole snake told us otherwise. The bitch of it is that these blissful moments are just that: Moments. And the snakes forever exist and don't have to be literal, they just have to be the things Life throws at us.

Like one example of a snake could be Fassbender's giant cock slithering its way into this A and B conversation of Love between our two, like "Hey, I want me some of that Rooney Mara action" and that's when things get complicated -- or should I say, more complicated because there's also Malick pulling his whole playing-with-the-concept-of-a-timeline tricks again, leaving me in the audience to go "Oh wait, so he's back with her -- oh no, this was before that happened -- oh wait why is this person still alive -- oh wait it's metaphorical --" before remembering that with a T-Mal joint it's just best to treat it like MST3K and really just relax.

By the way, speaking of "still alive", this motherfucker Malick kills off a character here and it fucking crushed me for what felt like twenty minutes, the sadistic fuck. I didn't even know this person's name -- by the way, I didn't know any of the character's names until I looked it up on IMDB because nobody ever calls each other by them, probably Malick's way of saying Fuck It They're Playing Themselves -- but I spent enough time with this person and watched this person change for the worse. I wanted the best for this character. I fucking cared for this character! It still pisses me off!

Anyway, yeah we follow these three along with a couple others -- Cate Blanchett! Holly Hunter! -- and then there's Natalie Portman as a waitress who has the pleasure of serving this unshaven fuck Fassbender and she falls for his bullshit despite having told him that she's busy and could get in trouble with her boss. She's all giggling and smiley but I bet you if I tried to pull that Fassbender shit with her, I'd end up being written about on fucking Jezebel or something. So many feminists would have a hard-on for me until someone else becomes Asshole Penis Of The Week and I'm left forgotten and crying about the attention I'm not getting anymore.

No sir, the best I could do with a waitress is get a smiley face on the check, maybe even a heart. Which I would then interpret as a sign that she loves me and there I go, beating off at home later that day imagining the life I could've had with her, if I had the balls to actually talk to her. But no, I pussied out and while I'm wiping the jizz off my blanket -- the fourth time this week! -- she's getting taken to Plow Town by Michael Fucking Fassbender.

As far as the music stuff in the movie, none of it really stood out for me. Despite there being many scenes taking place in and around concerts, music didn't feel that important a contribution to the film. It could've easily taken place at a food festival, really. It could've been about chefs. Ugh, no I take that back, because you know fuckin' Guy Fieri would show up and then I'd have to kill the world for allowing such a thing.

There are appearances by some real life musicians like Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten (who for once isn't pulling that sad "I'm still an angry young lad" shit, siddown ya old bloated fuck). Oh and Anthony Kiedis pretends to beat up punk-ass Fassbender, which I guess I can pretend to applaud. And at one point we are treated to the sight of Val Kilmer on stage, losing his shit as he chainsaws a speaker, chops off his long hair with a knife, then throws what he claims to be uranium from his mom at the audience, before being escorted off the premises.

There are also non-appearances by Benicio Del Toro, Christian Bale, Arcade Fire, and Angela Bettis, who all had roles but were cut out of the movie. As I've said before in a previous Malick rambling, the list of people who were cut out of a Terrence Malick movie is just as impressive -- if not more impressive -- than the ones who made it.

(Oh shit, I mentioned Cate Blanchett earlier which means I have to make my mandatory "Cate Blanchett held open a door for me once" statement. Well, she did. Yeah, yeah, I know -- for her, it was Tuesday.)

I'm fucking around here with my ramblings on this movie, but the truth of the matter -- the brass tacks, as it were -- is that Song to Song was just as much an intensely introspective experience for me as every other Malick film since The Thin Red Line, and as such, it left me exhausted and in borderline tears sometimes. Some of it had to do with the relationship stuff, certain actions and lines felt too goddamn real and true in the worst way -- which just goes to show how naked these actors were in playing these parts, exposing probably a little more than they expected in these marathon filming sessions. And in addition to the death of a character knocking me off balance, there was also a scene between a character and an ailing father and you probably already know how I feel about THAT.

There's also a scene with a lady with what appeared to be acne scars on her face, and she just finished banging that fuckin' asshole Fassbender and sweet Natalie Portman in a three-way, and I think she was paid for it. Which I guess makes her an escort. Anyway, she starts talking about how she lost the man in her life to that piece-of-shit Death and how it left her psychically adrift, and how she's still kind of adrift but she feels that God has a plan for her -- as he does for all of us, I hope, if He exists, I hope -- and this must be part of the plan and OH MAN the shakiness in her voice felt too goddamn real for me. I felt I was watching a "real" person sharing something incredibly personal with all four of us in the audience and it made me tear up and I wanted to give her a hug before asking her what kind of action I could get for fifty bucks.

I know what kind of action I can get from a twelve dollar movie ticket, though; hot Bérenice Marlohe from Skyfall shows up as a hot French lady who hooks up with Rooney Mara and here is another reason Terrence Malick is one of my favorite filmmakers EVAAAAR -- he gives us One Perfect Shot where the two ladies are passionately kissing each other on the left side of the frame right in front of us, while on the right side of the frame in the background is Marlohe's slightly out-of-focus dog who is basically frozen with his face all like OH YEAH and the only thing missing was for this dog to have on a pair of sunglasses so he can tilt them downwards while peeking his eyes above the frame, followed by the soundtrack cueing up "Oh Yeah" by Yello.

Listen, I've already gone on in other Malick ramblings about his style with the wide-angled ever-roving camera and the heavy use of inner monologue and the elliptical editing style and how the whole thing feels less like a story and more of a peek into someone's fragmented memories -- or shit, even their final thoughts before leaving this world -- or holy shit, God hitting the "shuffle" command on his iTunes playlist labeled "Human Beings". I've said it then and I'm saying it now. It's that same style and thankfully Malick has succeeded in whatever the fuck it is he was trying to do. All I know is that it feels like I get it.

Anybody could've taken the premise of following the love lives of three people in the Austin, Texas music scene and made more or less the same movie. Malick uses it as a jumping off point into something deeper. Or wankery. Your mileage may vary -- just make sure your mileage is as far the fuck away from me as possible.

At this point -- seven films in before this one -- if you're familiar with Malick and he just isn't your jam, then you should know by now to stay as far away from this film as if it had all of the Ebola waiting to creep into your open-wounds. To complain about Malick's filmmaking now would be like suddenly going "You know what, I regret voting for him".

On the other hand, if you were a fan of his work and have seen Song to Song and this was the one that made you get off the Terrence Malick train, it's understandable. You have my respect for making it this far. Now all I need you to do is ignore the tears rolling down my cheeks as I tell you to turn around and face the other way and close your eyes while I put the .22 to the back of your head. It will be quick, I promise.

But to the rest of you, you lucky few who are still on board with my man and haven't had a complaint yet? I say Welcome, brothers and sisters. And fuck Michael Fassbender.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Oh I almost forgot -- Giorgio Moroder did the themes for the film but I wish he did the whole score because was he getting into some mad synth-ing, baby!


Walter Hill is my dude, and if you've read this blog for a long time, you already know this. But in case you didn't, well, Walter Hill is my dude.

And so, you bet I was going to make it to the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica for the Los Angeles premiere of his latest film, The Assignment, not to be confused with the 1997 film The Assignment, which only shares the similarities of having a nutty premise and being good times. Mr. Hill would be in attendance for a Q&A following the film. (I found out later that Michael Mann was also there but left before the Q&A. The presence of both manly man filmmakers in such close proximity would explain why my voice is now deeper, there's more hair on my chest and my testicles appeared to have gotten bigger.)

As for the film: Masculine/feminine actress Michelle Rodriguez is perfectly cast as femme-y macho hitman Frank Kitchen, who one day wakes up to find herself plus tits and minus penis because one of his marks was the brother of a brilliant-but-mad doctor played by Sigourney Weaver. At this point in my life, I think I'd be fine giving up the dong if it meant I would wake up looking like Michelle Rodriguez. It's not like I've been using said D to its full potential. Besides, I already have the tits, so it's like I'm halfway there.

It's very much a Walter Hill joint in that it's a fast and simple tale, a painting told in broad strokes of primary colors. It doesn't try to pass itself off as anything more than purely B-movie. There are occasional uses of comic book framing similar to what Hill did to his director's cut of The Warriors, which didn't bother me at all, because this is a brand new movie with an established style rather than a classic that we all loved just the way it was. It also shares a similarity with his other works by featuring a hero who speaks in few words going up against a villain who speaks in many words (who much like Bruce Dern's character in The Driver, just wants to let others know how smart she is.)

Rodriguez acquits herself well in the role. Her portrayal of Frank Kitchen isn't so much a stoic badass as more of a person who prefers to keep his distance in all endeavors due to...what? I don't know. Hill has never been one to give a shit about someone's backstory, preferring to let the actions of the character speak for themselves. And it works here.

When Kitchen picks up a girl for some late-night banging, his post-coital dismissal of her is less of a "love 'em and leave 'em" type of vibe and more like someone who's been hurt before and prefers not to let that happen ever again. There's a hint of vulnerability to everything Rodriguez does in the film, but just a hint. I mean, Kitchen still is quick with the steel and not one to cross.

And yet, that's what Sigourney Weaver's character does. And man, as much as I liked Rodriguez in this film, it's Weaver's performance that I was most impressed with. She's nuts, this lady (her character, I mean -- I wouldn't know about Ms. Weaver's mental stability) but it's not a raving loon kind of crazy, or even a creepy Hannibal Lector kind of crazy.

For the most part, she speaks in a rational manner that would lull you into thinking she's fine, then you would ask her about the many homeless people she experimented on and she would respond in a calm and rational manner what basically amounts to "Well of course, why wouldn't I use homeless people to perform my horrific experiments on?" and her tone might change a bit to annoyance because you're so stupid and your small brain would never be able to comprehend the greatness she hopes to achieve. She's not chewing up the scenery, but you just fucking know Weaver is having a ball playing this character.

In comparison to other Walter Hill movies, The Assignment isn't a slam-bang actioner like Extreme Prejudice or a stylish neo-noir like The Driver; this felt to me more like a 90-minute version of one of Hill's "Tales from the Crypt" episodes, albeit one with a shootout every once in a while. If you're not familiar with his directorial contributions to that series, they weren't really horror hikes but instead a swim in the waters of Lurid and Pulpy As Fuck. So imagine my delightful surprise when Hill said during the post-film Q&A that his approach to this film was to make a "king-sized Tales from the Crypt episode". Me and Walter Hill are in sync, brother!

Speaking of that Q&A, it started off fine with the interviewer having a reasonable discussion with Hill, then the dreaded words "let's open it up to the audience for questions" were spoken and therefore caused my usual Pavlovian response of clenching shut both my eyelids and asshole.

An elderly gentleman started by asking why Hill didn't allow Weaver's garrulous character to complete a quote from Aristotle's Poetics, to which Hill responded "You're complaining that she didn't talk enough in the movie?" and then the elderly man asked Walter Hill -- who had earlier discussed reading EC Comics as child -- if he was familiar with the old EC Comics and then he asked Walter Hill -- who had produced the "Tales from the Crypt" HBO series and said ten minutes ago that he had basically made a feature-length Crypt episode with The Assignment -- if he was familiar with a series of comic books called "Tales from the Crypt" and I was too busy digging through the carpet and concrete below me with my fingernails to remember if Hill even answered him.

Hill also told a story about how he went to Michelle Rodriguez shortly before filming began and said something like "In case you haven't noticed, you're Latina. So maybe we should change the name of Frank Kitchen to something Latino" and her response was something like "No, why would I do that? Of course his name isn't really Frank Kitchen, he's always in disguise and uses a false name. It would make it easier for cops to find me if they knew I was Latino" and Hill laughed as he told us that he felt humiliated -- here was the writer/director being schooled on his own creation by the actor. But basically his point was that he doesn't like to do too much discussion about the characters with the actors, feeling that if the actor does his or her job right they would know the character better than anybody else.

Later, Hill discussed the controversy about the film being seen as transphobic. He first cleared the air by saying that things have definitely changed since he was young, and that we are living in an increasingly gender-fluid society, which he feels is a good thing. Hill went on to say that this wasn't meant to be a transphobic film; for one, Frank Kitchen isn't trans -- he identifies as male throughout the entire film, regardless of the forced genital reassignment surgery given to him. This is also why they didn't cast a trans actor, even though that was considered earlier in production -- well, that and the simple issue of the financier who would only invest money in the film if a name actor starred in the project.

I have to agree with Hill; the film doesn't treat being turned into a woman as the A Fate Worse Than Death. Hell, even Mad Scientist Weaver says in the film that she didn't mean it to be some kind of absolute punishment, but more of a second chance for Kitchen to start over by removing him from the "macho prison" she believed he was living in. In response, Rodriguez's vengeance mantra is simply a matter of: I Didn't Ask For This, You Forced It On Me, Now You're Going To Pay.

The worst of it is when Kitchen wakes up and finds himself sans johnson; he screams and smashes some stuff, which I completely understand. I mean, unless you're me, you'd probably freak out too if you woke up with the complete opposite of the usual genital situation you've been accustomed to all your life. And that's about it for the freak-out stuff; there's no monologues that follow about being cursed to live as a female from now on. At most, there's a scene where Kitchen visits a surgeon and asks about the possibility of getting the procedure reversed, and a moment where he bitches about having to sit down to pee.

So I don't feel the film is transphobic, but then again, I'm not transgender, so what do I know? I don't like my non-Latino brothers and sisters to assume they know how I feel, so I sure as shit ain't gonna do it to my alt-gender peeps out in that cold, hard world.

What I do know for sure is that this was a good-not-great entry in the Walter Hill canon for me -- one that is mostly surface but what an entertaining surface! -- and that I'm gonna run for the hills the next time a moderator asks for questions from the audience.

In conclusion, The Assignment (2016) would make a good double feature with The Assignment (1997).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Smokes and Red Bull and Cherry Coke and Cronuts

It was a Friday night, not my preferred night for a movie all-nighter because, you know, work and all that that entails: a long night preceded by a long day, making it harder to get through both. But hey, that's when they scheduled it and if I really had a problem with it I wouldn't have bought the ticket -- which is why I didn't buy a ticket. But then I was given one by a friendly party who had to cancel at the next-to-last minute. Hooray for girlfriends who cancel on friends!

Ticket to what, you ask? The Dario Argento All Nighter at the New Beverly Cinema: six of the Italian horror maestro's films, the titles remaining secret to the audience until they are projected onto the screen.

It was a packed house, and because we got there later than my preferred arrival time, I ended up sitting between two individuals -- in front and behind me -- who were Down With The Sickness based on their all-night non-stop wet phlegm-hacking coughs (one would later use his empty cup to dispense of his inner slime wads). It made for an even more tense night than expected because I didn't have Emergen-C or a face mask with me. I was unarmed and afraid, having already gone through The Sickness a couple weeks earlier. And now I was stuck between these two jokers. Would I be Down again?

I don't know what the refund policy is with the New Bev and/or Brown Paper Tickets (who sold the online-only tickets to this event), but assuming it's Too Late Jack, I would still think that when it comes to being sick on Show Day, perhaps it's better to go Needs Of The Many over Needs Of The Few -- in this case, the few who felt it was more important to share The HIV with the rest of the audience, rather than just stay home. Throughout the night, my mind would suddenly make unwelcome detours into the scene from Outbreak where one of the infected coughs up Death Germs in a movie theater.

There were foreign posters on the wall and lobby cards in the, uh, lobby for Argento's films throughout the night and the selection would circulate; where a poster for The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was placed early in the evening, there would be lobby cards for Tenebrae later. These were supplied by a gentleman I only heard referred to as "Rich" during the introduction. There was also a laserdisc jacket for the Dario Argento's World of Horror documentary placed near the door to the ticket booth, but I don't know who that belonged to.

Speaking of which, around 7:30pm, Phil Blankenship came up front with a lady whose name I don't know, but she was wearing a cap and had been working the concession stand earlier. Because I was sitting between Dolby Stereo Cough-Cough, the best I could make out was that the films and trailers were selected by both Phil and New Bev owner Quentin Tarantino, and the lady then said something about Phil being "humble" in what I assume was him downplaying his contribution to the evening.

Phil then told us that anything we liked were his choices, to which we laughed and perhaps some of us (one of us) wondered how much of that was a joke and how much of that was how he really felt about Mr. T's choices; later he mentioned the $4 coffee cups being sold that were good for all-night refills, adding that "you're going to want to stay caffeinated for some of these". He then asked us not to be inconsiderate with the chatting and phone-using; he felt that those actions were "lame" and not something the "cool" audience would/should do.

The lady then told us that the prints were mostly 35mm but at least one was a 16mm print, then quoted/paraphrased Quentin by saying that some of these prints had been "enjoyed immensely a lot of times by a lot of audiences" which I believe was her way of saying that these weren't exactly going to be sparkling DCPs -- which is fine by me, that's part of the fun of watching old prints.



The night's entertainment began with trailers for two Westerns co-written by Argento; The Five Man Army (starring Peter Graves) and Once Upon a Time in the West (not starring Peter Graves). Then the first movie of the evening: 1970's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (or as it was called in this print, The Phantom of Terror).

Uncle Pete from The Pope of Greenwich Village plays an American in Rome who witnesses a woman inside an art gallery getting a little of the ol' in-out knife-style, and tries to save her by getting stuck between two glass doors because that's gonna help, I'm sure. He finds an old man staring at the two of them impassively, which is either Argento's way of heightening the horror by adding helplessness via neutral observation, or it's just the first of many examples throughout the night that Mr. Argento isn't really that interested in acting as much as he is interested in camera and editing.

But c'mon, honey, I say to myself -- nobody watches a Dario Argento flick for the great acting. They go to get creeped out and see black-gloved mystery peeps stalking and killing women, as in the case of this film. And also to see everyone else give non-reactions to otherwise crazy stuff. I mean, maybe in the Argento-verse, your reaction to having a hatchet miss you by thismuch in the middle of morning fog would be to just shrug it off and casually mention it to your hot girlfriend later on before going in on some Netflix And Chill Minus The Netflix, but not in my 'verse; for one, I don't even have a girlfriend, let alone a hot one -- and yet I've had people try to chop my head off many times.

So yeah, there's a serial killer taking pictures of potential victims, followed by fulfilling their potential with a little stabby slash slash. Uncle Pete, like most early Argento film protagonists, becomes obsessed with solving this case despite there being qualified individuals known as Detectives who do this sort of thing for a living. Along the way, Uncle Pete runs into fruity antique dealers and stuttering pimps, the latter of which made me wonder if R. Kelly had seen this film before; his last run of "Trapped in the Closet" featured a stuttering pimp named Lucius played by Mr. Kelly in an attempt to become like the Eddie Murphy of R&B singers who like to pee on underage girls.

This seems to be considered one of Argento's best, which is interesting because this is also one of his tamest; it's not a particularly gory film, at least not this print, but I don't remember this movie ever having much in the blood department to begin with. And while the movie has plenty of well-composed shots (by Vittorio Storaro), save for one trick, Dario hadn't started dosing his cameras yet. But it is very Argento in that it's a good movie.



Before the second film, we saw an old Pepsi Challenge ad, followed by trailers for Last Stop on the Night Train (aka Night Train Murders and like 20 other titles) and Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (aka Blazing Magnum and like 30 other titles), then it was 1971's The Cat O' Nine Tails, starring Karl Malden and James Franciscus.

The reddish print looked like it might've been the 16mm one mentioned earlier, and when Ennio Morricone's score played, it sounded like the Maestro was trying something new by having his music performed by the Royal Underwater Orchestra. But then the movie stopped playing and everything went dark, and suddenly we were all sitting in a black void filled with the sounds of OHHHH! and AHHHH! and WHAAAA?

Then a voice entered the void, telling us that they were going to fix the problem with the sound. A minute later, the film came back on and everything now sounded non-gargley. The film appeared to have a narrower aspect ratio than 2.35:1, like on some Hateful Eight shit, or maybe it was just my eyes. Hell, at least I can see, unlike Malden's character who lost his sight years ago. Now he has to do the sunglasses and cane combo, his only companion a little girl because I guess it's cheaper than a seeing eye dog.

I guess Argento wasn't having the American-in-Italy thing with this one; instead, our Yank protagonists are named Carlo Giordani and Franco Arno, giving us something not unlike an Arnold Schwarzenegger character, who despite his heavy Austrian accent was playing guys named John Kimble and Ben Richards. Anyway, Franco overhears some dude talking in his car about blackmail, and a couple days later his seeing eye girl reads to him from the newspaper that the same dude did a header onto a oncoming train -- which is pretty awesome, I have to admit; there's a slow-mo close-up as the front of the train straight-on BOOOOOOSHs this poor man's head, followed by a wide shot of his dummy body going all spinny spin down the platform while his Italian loafers go flying off his feet. In real life, that would horrify me, but in a movie that shit is comedy, bro.

Franco goes to the reporter covering this, Carlo, and soon they are both doing the detective thing and it involves shady shadiness at some medical institute. In between them looking at photos and breaking into crypts, you get a couple strangulations and a slashing. Again, like the previous film, this one doesn't really get too bloody, but there's quite a bit of drool during one killing, if that's what you're looking for to cover the bodily fluid angle.

Another thing I noticed appears to be Dario's fascination with alternative lifestyles, namely trans and gays or both. In Crystal Plumage, there's a scene where a police lineup is made up of "perverts" but among them is a transvestite named Ursula Andress. The lead detective then yells out something like "I told you, Ursula belongs with the transvestites, not the perverts" which I'd like to think was kind of a progressive judgment call from Argento, kinda like he's saying "Just because this dude identifies as a woman doesn't mean she's a pervert" but who knows, he could be all Italian macho about them, like "Eyyyy it's-a just-a another category of-a sick-a people!"

And in this film, one of the characters turns out to be gay, and considering this was made in 1971, his representation could've been a lot worse. Even the gay bar he hangs out in isn't some kind of Cruising-style fist-tacular, it's just a bunch of dudes hanging out listening to sad trumpet music with slightly happier piano accompaniment. The worst you get is some dude with a few too many buttons left unbuttoned on his shirt, exposing his hairy chest. Nothing against that, I mean, I'd wear my shirts like that too were it not for the obvious farmer's tan I'd expose, making me look like a White dude who got a head transplant from some Mexican that nobody will ever miss BECAUSE HERE IN TRUMP COUNTRY WE GRAB FRESH BEANERS BY THE PUSSY, FAGGOT

This one is less of a thriller and more of a straight-up mystery and it's well made and all, but I gotta be honest with you, lady and gentleman, this was my first time watching Cat O' Nine Tails and it got a little tiring for me. It's nearly two hours long and for extended stretches -- like 90 percent of the film -- I forgot I was watching a Dario Argento film. You could've replaced his director credit with Massimo Dallamano or maybe even Alberto De Martino and you could've convinced me it was one of their movies. It's my understanding that this is Argento's least favorite film of his, and I'm not going to argue that with him -- but I haven't seen Dracula 3D either, so maybe I would?

It has its moments (especially in the last half hour or so -- also there's an insert of a pocket watch that looks damn near like the insert of the pocket watch in Pulp Fiction, just wanted to point that out), but occasionally I was tempted to rest my eyes and let my ears pick up the slack (I did naaaaht, though). Was it the movie's fault? Or maybe it was the effects of a long day getting to me at that point? I don't know but what I do know is that the third film of the night felt like getting a bump of some of Bolivian's finest following the warm glass of milk that was this film.



And what was, in fact, the third film, the one that played after the trailers for Twisted Nerve and Blow-Up? Why, it was the 1975 joint Deep Red (better Italian title: Profondo Rosso), which upon the title being revealed had the audience applauding up a storm, the loudest yet. Maybe they were just happy that we didn't get another early work like Four Flies on Grey Velvet or worse, his non-horror non-giallo joint, The Five Days of Milan -- because let's be real, I can totally see Quentin doing something like that, regardless of what time it was or how tired we were.

The film stars David Hemmings as a pianist who witnesses his psychic neighbor getting terminated with extreme psychic-hating prejudice by a hatchet-loving killer, so obviously he becomes obsessed with figuring out Who and Why because that's how Argento protagonists do in these joints. He's joined by a reporter played by Daria Nicolodi, and the only thing more awesome than her character is the interactions between her character and Hemmings'sesesss.

There's a scene that had quite a few women in the audience cheering, as well as men who would love the touch of a female (like me), where Nicolodi responds to Hemmings' skepticism over women's strength with an arm wrestling challenge. I loved that scene, and I remember there being a few more like that in the full uncut version that runs over two hours, but what we watched that night was the "export version" which is about 20 minutes shorter.

As much as I like those extra scenes between them in the longer version and as much as I'd love to imagine that in an alternate universe there exists a series of films with their characters solving mysteries, I actually prefer this shorter version and I'm glad that's the one we watched that night. It moves like a freight train carrying boxcars of plot, whereas the longer cut has more of a hangout vibe to it -- and we certainly had enough hanging out with the previous two films.

So I guess around this time began the real life couple-ship of Nicolodi and Argento, because from here on, she would show up in his films or co-write them, but whatever the case I'm thinking that it can't be a coincidence that once Daria came on the scene, Dario upped his freak-out game in his movies. It shows, man, it shows, not just in the storytelling getting more and more out there but his filmmaking was also going up some notches. Deep Red is when he really started going "You know what? I'm not dollying and crane-ing this camera enough, I mean, they have wheels and levers and shit for these things, I might as well start using them!" It could also be a budget thing, but I also think something about this lady brought something out of this man.

He also dropped Ennio Morricone for Goblin or The Goblins or whatever the fuck name they go by, and the music scores in this film and his following ones became less traditional and more Fucking Awesome. The coughing gentleman in front of me and his uninfected friend started rocking out to some of the tunes at this point, bobbing their heads to the point that I almost expected home-cough to raise his hands and go "YASSS DIS MY JAAAM!"

By the way, I'm not dissing Morricone here. Don't get it twisted, friend, he's my favorite composer and he did good work in the previous films. But Goblin and Argento go together like transgenders and fucked-up characters in Dario Argento flicks.

Yeah, he continues the trans tradition here, with a minor character popping up wearing makeup and a girly bathrobe and an Adams Apple, and had the Internet existed back then they would probably be breaking Dario's balls about this stuff the way we break Tarantino's balls about his thing for bare feet -- or we'd give Argento shit for his thing for drooling victims because I think there are two cases of that in this movie. Maybe it was his way of making stuff more violent without boring us on the red stuff. Maybe this was Argento's drool period or something.

The kill game gets upped here as well, because the blood really starts to flow and now the killer is doling out death with a hatchet, hot water, and corners of tables and shelves. There are also other creative kills involving otherwise innocent everyday things that are only an unfortunate schmuck away from getting caught up in it and dying the hard way. There's also a freaky doll that pops up at one point, and I felt bad for the few people sitting near the front who got temporary vision impairment when a guy decided to pick that moment to return to his seat, meaning they were treated to a far more frightening sight -- his big ass in their faces.

This was the halfway point, and those who stuck around (nearly everybody) after this third film got a sweet treat courtesy of some sweet treats from a bakery or donut shop or something, I can't remember the place. Doughnuts, ham & cheese croissants, and cronuts were brought to the stage and anybody who wanted one got one. In the end, there were still croissants available for anyone who wanted them. I usually stay away from them during all-nighters to keep from sugar-crashing, but I was in What The Hell mode and grabbed a cronut.



Trailers for the Argento-edited European print of Dawn of the Dead (known to these universal health care-having motherfuckers as Zombie: Dawn of the Dead) and the U.S. edit of The Beyond (titled 7 Doors of Death) came up next. The trailer for the latter gives away nearly every character's fate and included praise blurbs from Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel that were made humorous by the announcer replacing some of the on-screen quotes with different words and mispronouncing the names. After that we had the fourth film, Suspiria -- which drew even louder applause than the previous film.

At this point, Argento was well into dipping his quills into the crazy ink, and I bet you it was co-writer Nicolodi who was hooking him up with said ink. There's a lot of Just Because in this movie, starting with the narration that begins over the opening credits pretty much telling you everything about the main character's trip to Germany except what they served on the flight, and then it just trails off, fading away and never returning for the rest of them film just because. I mean most of this film is going to leave you begging for that narrator to return to help you understand Why anything happens, but Dario Argento has no time for your needs -- unless your need is to get fully owned by Pure Goddamn Cinema.

So you have the lovely Jessica Harper -- all wide-eyed innocence -- headed for a ballet school, and the poor girl already has to deal with assholes as early as the arrival gate at the airport. Taxi cabs are just whizzing past her in the hard rain, and when she finally gets a driver he pulls that shit Euros do to filthy Muricans by pretending they have a comprehension problem with your simplest request. But my girl Harper, she's smart -- she has the name of the school written down on a piece of paper which she plasters onto the glass divider all like HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES? and now he has no choice but to take her there.

See, this is why Uber is fucking your shit up, cabbies.

I have to give credit to Harper's character for immediately feeling uneasy upon unpacking once she's at the school. Everybody is acting strange or doing that really asshole move of what I call "passive-aggressive friendly antagonism", but I think she kinda shrugs it off at first because she figures "Hey, this is Germany" and that's how the Deutschlanders get down. At least she doesn't try to tell a joke, like I did there once -- ONCE -- because there leads the path to heartbreak and embarrassment. Humor? No. Beer? Hell yes.

But things are even weirder than she should accept, because she hasn't even spent one full day there and she's already getting the vapors during practice and passing out. That was either because some lady flashed her a glowing triangle blade thingy five minutes earlier (that scene looks beautiful, by the way) and that put her whole system on tilt, or because she's wearing borrowed ballet shoes and they're probably two sizes too small for her. Cuts off the blood circulation, I think. Or maybe she's like me and finds the idea of wearing someone else's worn dancing shoes kinda gross. Fuck that shit, you give me that as my only choice and I'm hittin' the floor sans footwear like my man John McClane.

Immediately, the town doctor is telling her she has to eat bland and down red wine every meal because red wine is good for the blood. Red wine is good for everything, bro. I feel I'm letting myself down by not having a glass or two everyday.

I'm not going to go too much into plot because there isn't that much plot, to be real with you. Also, what there is is best discovered on your own. Then again, the soundtrack is literally telling you with voices going WITCH WITCH WITCH, so there's your road map, honey. I'll just bring up a couple things that stood out that aren't intense violent kill scenes (honestly, I think Argento literally and figuratively shot his wad with the murders during the first 15 minutes).

Some poor servant at the school has some big white chompers on him; turns out they're fakes he got after gingivitis had their way with his former gum partners. He's so proud of them and I would be too, if I were Gary Busey. You know what? That wasn't nice, and I shouldn't judge. Considering that my own sugar-to-brushing ratio is wrongly one-sided, and the upcoming dental work I'm having done, I'm sure I will eventually eat those words with teeth bigger than either of those guys.

Also, Udo Kier shows up looking young (which he was) and sounding American (which he's not) and that was cool to see.

What was kind of not cool was that the print of Suspiria we watched was the edited R-rated cut. It didn't really hurt the film though, it's missing a couple shots here and there and that kind of threw me off to not see what I had seen before. And sometimes the sound/music would suddenly skip as a result of the trims, which kinda added to the off-feeling of this nightmarish film. So that's kind of the unintentional bonus of such edits -- or I just know how to make some bomb-ass lemonade out of these lemons.

And besides -- the print was beautiful! I'm sure you already know the story of how this was one of the last films printed (not shot) using the three-strip Technicolor process, really making the colors pop on this movie -- which combined with the already color-saturated lighting and production design makes for the tastiest kind of candy overkill. But if you didn't know, I just told you. It also sounded as intense as it looked, with the volume turned all the way up to wake up even the sleepiest in the audience -- or at least drown out the sounds of the snoring (which if there was, I didn't hear at all. At least not where I was, sitting in the eye of the germ storm.)



Following the break, they showed us trailers for Dressed to Kill and Inferno (the Argento film, not the Forrest Gump & Jyn Erso buddy film). I had only seen Inferno once, and I had forgotten there was a scene involving someone getting attacked by cats and it made the audience laugh. It reminded me of a similar scene in an SCTV sketch that involved John Candy getting cat-tacked, and I wonder if the SCTV guys saw this movie or if it was just a coincidence (given the film and SCTV were around at the same time).

The fifth film immediately had the audience do the boisterous applause cheer thing because the first thing we saw was the title printed on a book: Tenebrae (or Tenebre, depending on which of the Berenstein/Berenstain alternate universes you live in). This was the second time I watched Tenebrae on the big screen; the first time was right here at the New Beverly Cinema during the third All Night Horror Show, back in 2010. I'm going to take the easy way out and kill myself post an excerpt from that blog post (which you can read in its entirety here, if you want):

In a rare departure for Argento, this film features scenes of people dying harsh deaths at the hands of a killer wearing black leather gloves; someone is killing people in Italy and sending letters to mystery writer Peter Neal (who's there promoting his new book), informing him that he will be the last to go, because they're all filthy slimy perverts and he's the corruptor or some shit like that. But never mind that, let's talk about the best character in the entire movie -- let's talk about that awesome fuckin' Doberman.

There's a scene where this cute jailbait chick (I can say that because I'm sure the actress was above legal age -- I hope, otherwise Chris Hansen's gonna walk in and ask me to take a seat over there) is walking home and she gets a little too close to a fence. RAWR RAWR RAWR goes the guard dog Doberman, and rather than keep walking, Cute Jailbait Girl picks up a stick and starts banging it against the fence. What the fuck, Lolita? That dog is just telling you to stay away, fool ('cause love rules, at the do-oo-og shack) and you gotta get all indignant on homedog? He's just doing the job he was hired to do; he's a blue collar dog trying to put Alpo on his litter's table. Oh, you sure showed him.

Well, this dog, he's not having it, he jumps the fence and runs after her -- what's up now, bitch? At one point, she climbs over a tall fence and you figure that's the end of the line for the Doberman. Nah man, this dog, he walks up to the fence, looks it over, does the calculations in his dog brain, backs up a couple yards, runs and fuckin' parkours that goddamn fence. This dog rules. Even when she hides inside the killer's Underground Room of Murder Planning, that dog still manages to find a way to get to a window(!) to show her that he hasn't given up. The Doberman can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, remorse, or fear and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are bitten numerous times. That's what he does, that's all he does!

The actor who plays Peter Neal had this slightly George Takei-esque way of pronunciation that I'm going to probably mimic for the next few days in everyday life. What else, oh yeah, pretty much all the women in this film are attractive in a They Probably Don't Shave kinda way, even this flashback sequence chick who's pretty hot for having a dick and balls in real life. The title more or less translates as Darkness, so naturally Argento had his cinematographer blast everything with bright light, thinking he was trying out some daring shit but ultimately giving the proceedings a look reminiscent of low-budget Mexican genre films.

The camerawork is still aces, though, especially that There's-No-Reason-To-Do-It-This-Way-Except-That-It's-So-Fucking-Cool shot where the camera starts at one end of a house, goes over the roof, then ends up on the other side; Johnny La Rue would've killed for that kind of crane shot. This is one of my favorite Argento flicks, the print looked great (it came from Australia) and I'm pretty sure nothing was missing since this wasn't the U.S. "Unsane" edit of the movie.

I'm going to add a couple new things here. I'm still going on with my Argento-fascinated-by-alternative-lifestyles deal, so here we go; at one point in the film, an interviewer brings up how Neal's latest book displays a point-of-view on how "deviant behavior" affects our lives, pointing out that one of the "deviants" is gay, which Neal immediately responds with something to the effect of "the character is gay, but he's portrayed as being perfectly happy" and that it doesn't make him a deviant.

It's like Argento is saying that sometimes how we perceive art doesn't mean that's how the artist intended it to be perceived. We bring our own beliefs and baggage to it, and yet we'll condemn the artist for something he or she never thought. So, one can see an Argento film and the women being killed in them as being the product of a misogynistic mind, or one sees the appearance of a gay character in his films as being some kind of judgment call on that particular lifestyle. Doesn't necessarily mean that, though.

Kinda like how I'm seeing all these trans and gay people pop up in his films and I'm thinking more like, maybe he's just intrigued by it. Or maybe he's disgusted by it. Or maybe he's turned on by it. Who knows but the man himself (and maybe his loved ones)? I don't know what I'm talking about anymore, I've been writing this all night, I have to get ready for work in an hour, and I'm so goddamn tired. I just want to post this today before the 20th, otherwise if I finish then, that means by the time I get to the bar it's going to be packed with decent human beings getting fucked up and burying their faith in their fellow man or woman, sitting on my favorite seat and drinking up all the Maker's Mark. Then where am I supposed to sit? What am I supposed to drink? Which girl am I going to drunkenly wink at before the inevitable drink-in-face? FUCK THAT SHIT ESE. I'll finish today.



After one final break, the lights came down and we saw trailers for Demons (co-written and produced by Argento) and Two Evil Eyes (directed by Argento and George A. Romero), then I decided to make a run for the restroom because the Red Bull I drank during Tenebrae was fuckin' done with me, but as I left, I recognized the Swiss countryside and 1.66:1 aspect ratio as belonging to Phenomena -- except the title card said Creepers, meaning this was the shorter U.S. cut. When I returned, the lights were back on and the screen was blank, so I'm guessing there was a technical issue. A few seconds later, the light went down and the movie came up and everything was A-OK again.

Like Tenebrae, I had seen this at the New Beverly before at the very first All Night Horror Show back in 2008. Unfortunately for lazy me, I didn't have a blog yet back then, so I didn't ramble about this movie or that evening. I'll just have to ramble about the flick here.

Some girl is killed in the first five minutes, and she's played by Dario Argento's daughter Fiore, because Dario is on some Stuart Gordon shit by killing off loved ones in his films, I guess. Then Jennifer Connelly steps in, she's the star, and wow, man, wow. I'm not gonna get all pervy because she was underage at the time, so I'll just imagine that if a girl who looked like her went to my junior high school, I would definitely ask her out in my imagination while saying nothing to her in reality because being rejected sucks.

Jennifer Connelly plays Jennifer Corvino, a movie star's daughter who is a new student at a Swiss boarding school, and the knives and claws are out for our girl because these other girls are some low self-esteem-having motherfuckers who are threatened by this beautiful newcomer. When it comes out that she's a sleepwalker and a bug-lover (not in *that* way, you ass, she thinks of bugs the way I think of dogs and cats -- they are more deserving of love than most humans), I was surprised Dario didn't have the girls drool over this new tender spot in her soul to flick at.

By the way, that second thing of hers, the bug thing, it appears that the bugs love her back; they won't sting or bite her and even a firefly will help her walk through a dark forest.

My most Corvino-esque moment in my youth was when I was in the first grade and during recess, some of my fellow students were gathered around the sandbox, where they had trapped a few ladybugs and were stabbing them with sticks. (Of course, they were all boys.) They were laughing and MWAHAHAHA-ing the way most of Argento's villains laugh and MWAHA, and it really brought me down. But even back then I knew not to protest because they would then do to me what these fucking asshole Swiss boarding school students do to precious Jennifer (she's so precious); incessantly mock her in the manner that only the heartless young (a redundancy, I know) can.

Thankfully, Precious Jennifer finds a friend in a wheelchair'd Donald Pleasence, and luckily he's an entomologist, so they can both geek out about insects. There's definitely a kind of grandfatherly vibe coming from him, and I liked watching their scenes together. I've only seen the longer Phenomena cut once back in '99, so I can't remember if there were more scenes between them, but the Creepers cut did leave me wanting more of that. Hell, I would've been fine with a movie that was just about their friendship.

But this is Dario Argento we're talking here, baby! And if the way these films were programmed that night tells us anything, it's that home-paisan has been getting nuttier and nuttier over the years with his stories. No way is he going to start dialing it down to something like a movie about two friends who bond over insects, no fucking way! No way Jose.

Instead, there's someone or something out there, man, out there in the forest, and whatever it is, it sure loves getting head from schoolgirls -- which is to say, he murders them and leaves behind their severed heads. Wait. Actually, my attempt at telling one of the hackiest R-rated jokes ever in the history of hacky R-rated jokes makes no sense at all. He takes the bodies, he ain't getting head. He doesn't want it.

Shit, maybe the Germans were right not to laugh.

I've heard that this is Argento's favorite of his films; I'd have to watch the longer cut again to confirm, but what I remember from that one and what I do remember from the Creepers cut definitely makes it one of my favorites. My only quibble would be this: I like heavy metal and I like Dario Argento movies, but I was never a big fan of the both of them combined, which he does here and in Opera.

It's a slow burner but by the end, Phenomena/Creepers goes completely off its rocker and if you're not digging it, then you're not digging vida, my friend. When this played at the first All Night Horror Show, it was the first film of the night and the audience loved it. They were particularly big on Inga The Chimpanzee With A Prolapsed Anus, for reasons I won't give away, but yeah, her scenes were real crowd-pleasers. It played just as well with this audience too, who were a little more muted and slow to respond in comparison, probably because it was already around six in the morning and everybody was tired, but by the last ten minutes, everybody was up and jacked up by the cine-meth supplied by the film's climax.




By 7:30 am, we had reached the end of the Dario Argento All Nighter.



Those of us who made it to the end (quite a few, actually) were rewarded with this coffee mug:




My girlfriend-less buddy and I then went to Little Dom's in Los Feliz to try out their breakfast pizza, because I saw it on a rerun of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on the Cooking Channel. You know the Cooking Channel, right? If there's an actor you haven't seen in a while, he or she is probably hosting a show on that channel. Because suddenly everybody is a fucking chef now.