Friday, March 26, 2010

Jump (Hong Kong. 2009)


A fluffy film from popstar turned director Stephen Fung (Who did the fun kung-fu actionner HOUSE OF FURY) that is really slick, but never successfully deliver on its premise: A girl from the country moves to the big city and she starts to participate in break-dancing. Easy to deliver, right?

Well, maybe if it actually had any break-dancing in it, or conflict, or sense of fun.

Instead, it's a film with only one act. One long build up with a wimpy finish. The only 'drama' comes from a lame final half hour romance that has zero charm. The star only break dances for THIRTY SECONDS AT THE END! Maybe if the film had been, funny, engaging or clever, it wouldn't bother me so much. But it isn't.

SKIP!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nickelodeon (USA. 1976)


Film Geek Peter Bogdonavich's ode to the birth of the motion picture is a bloated mess of a film, unsure of what it wants to be - a slapstick farce, a romantic drama, or a historical document of the golden age. No matter what it decides to focus on at one given moment, it does it poorly. Ryan O' Neal (In Harold Lloyd style glasses) is really miscast as a lawyer that finds himself making movies. His performance is the same forced shrill note smashed repeatedly for an entire two hour. Burt Reynolds tries his best in his role of the stunt-man (Which would become old hat) but with nothing funny to work with, we just have to stare at his dashing smile. The film is supposed to follow the birth of movies, but it's a mess hat jumps forward through time without rhyme or reason without any idea of what it wants to say or where to end it all. The film just stops one point with all the loose ends floating lazily through the wind

Do the makers get an I or intentions?

The Great Mouse Detective (USA. 1986)

Considered a part of Disney's 'Bum Rush' period in animation, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE really doesn't deserve to be doomed to the pile of forgotten failure. It's a classic piece of mesmerizing cell drawn animation with the filmmakers beautifully creating a London populated by mice. The cast is filled with really solid voice work - Vincent Price absolutely steals the show as the sneering villain. The tone of the film has a mature edge missing from a lot of stuff we see today, danger feels more real, things can be scary, characters bleed and even die. No one is all roses here. Even The Great Mouse Detective himself is a bit of a jerk sometimes, with the only grating part character wise being the cutesy kid in distress. Some rough patches exist, like a painfully out of place musical number that slow the film to a crawl, and I would have wished for more detecting to go on, but it's overall charming piece that will undoubtedly leave an impression to every child at heart.

Targets (USA. 1967)



The film geek director isn't a new phenomenon. It's existed since the beginning of time, and there's no better figure to stands as an example than director Peter Bogdanovich. His first film TARGETS is a fantastic example of weaving gold out of extremely limited means. Bogdanovich, a fanatic cinema fan, was given by Roger Corman the job to craft a picture with twenty minutes of an incomplete Gothic horror film that starred Boris Karloff and the opportunity to shoot two days of new footage with Karloff. Instead of trying to re-create it within the footage itself, Peter crafted a nearly anti-genre film about a fading film star trying to get out of the biz that runs concurrently with the story of a crazed serial killer with a trunk full of guns. Both plot lines run parallel to each other, only coming to a head in the bullet riddled climax. Not a pure tale of horror, but one of uncomfortable unease, Karloff gives an amazing performance as the tired film and Tim O'Kelly is scary boy-next-door as the sniper who just wants to kill. Stripped down to its barest elements, TARGETS works incredibly well, and is filled with a creative mind showing off his skills without seeming self conscious. Okay, maybe it is a bit much when Peter (Playing the director) shushes Boris to watch a Howard Hawks film with the words "He sure knows how to craft a story."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Gate (CANADA. 1987)


THE GATE scared me years ago when I had seen it on television as a child. My mind was filled with visions of non-stop mayhem, crazy stop motion meanies and a surprisingly large body count.

Would a re-watch yield crushing disappointment?

The story just one of those "A boy (Stephen Dorff!), his best friend and his sister find a hole to Hell in their backyard" plot. To my surprise, it took a long time to get to the mayhem. Lots of build up, little scares and unease before the stop motion shenanigans (of amazing quality for its type) make an appearance. Still, when the shit really does it the fan, there's enough surreal visual inventiveness to make it a watch worthwhile. And it's all played straight. No one winks at the camera here: The demons actually want to kill these kids. THE GATE is part of an extinct breed of film that featured child protagonists in actual danger. It dosen't pull any punches when it comes to shock, from faces melting off to stabbing a child in the eye socket with a barbie dolls. Sadly, some really dark turns in the last act are disappointingly spoiled by a "DON'T WORRY. EVERYTHING IS FINE" ending. Director Tibor Tak√°cs keeps things chugging along by moving the camera around, but never outright showing off. There's a reason the man works mostly in television now.

If things were sped up in the beginning, this could have been a classic. As it stands, it's a very solid child in peril horror film.

FILMGASM - ISSUE #1


THE WHOPPING SEVENTY PAGE FIRST ISSUE!

The most mind blowing film zine to ever have a career breakdown of DOLPH LUNDGREN!


FEAST YOUR EYES UPON THE MAGNIFICENCE CONTAINED WITHIN:

- "Why do we watch bad movies?" (A dialogue between the misinformed)

- The Legend of Masked Lunchadore Mayhem!

- The History of YOUTUBE POOPS

- The Crap Fest of Italian Shit-Meister Bruno Mattei

- Enough reviews to choke a large doberman: ROBOVAMPIRE! WEREWOLF IN A WOMAN'S PRISON! SLA$HERS!

- And a heart stopping amount of nutrition!

With contributions by Peter Kuplowsky, Douglas Tilley, Justin Decloux, Adam Thorn, and Trisa Deveries

***

Originally planned to be published in the ashcan format (Folded page, stapled up the middle), printing issues put the entire thing in the phantom zone TILL NOW! The decision to posting it online came from the fact that I'd much rather have people enjoy the hard work of the writers for FREE on the inter web, than have it collect dust on my hard drive.

The zine was put together by me, but it was formatted, laid out, and grammatically beaten by the great Douglas Tilley. It's thanks to all his hours of hard work that FILMGASM isn't an eye roasting read. The reason for the large font was because it the original print size was going to be tiny.

If you liked it, please let us know by either e-mail me at jdecloux@gmail.com or posting a comment. Feedback is what makes it all worth while!

Cheers,
Justin Decloux

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro (2010): BOOK




A massive disappointment. THE STRAIN has been sold as an apocalyptic vampire epic, but it's really just a series of recycled ideas from Del Toro's previous work (The Old Man from Cronos, The Long Tongued Vampires from Blade II) that is written in a painfully heavy handed manner by Chuck Hogan. None of the characters are developed further than a single trait (The doctor that loves his son, the rat catcher, the doctor's assistant...), the situations all have have a 'been there, done that' feel to them (Some of them literal recreations from BLADE II), and the pacing is painfully slow: The novel is can be summarized as a series of paper thin people being surprised by vampires. The poetry Del Toro shows on the screen does not translate to the page at all. And this is coming from someone that loves all of his films (Well, maybe not Mimic)

Fistful of Fingers (UK. 1994)


Best known for his work on the pop cultured fueled TV show SPACED and his films SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and HOT FUZZ, Edgar Wright directed his first feature film FISTFUL OF FINGERS at the wee age of 20. The filmed version was a remake of a project Wright had previously shot on S-VHS: A spaghetti western spoof starring his friend Graham Grow (Who cameos as the Living Statue in HOT FUZZ) and co-stars pretty much everyone in Wright's hometown of Wells, Sommerset.


Wright adopts the 'anything goes' tne of the Zucker/Abraham comedies (Airplane, Top Secret), but fails when it comes to delivering the joke. For something that barely hits the 70 minute mark, it it's noticeably lags. Jokes appear at casual a casual pace, and when they do, they usually miss.. It doesn't help that all the actors have the charisma of toothless drunken cowboy. At best, it's the kind of amusing 'Hey, that is...well...funny...I guess' picture. The energy Wright is famous for: Whip pans, bracing sound effects and energetic camera direction, is missing completely from FINGERS. It's probably the result of having to play it safe because he was shooting on film. If you watch his hour long film that was shot a few years before - DEAD RIGHT (Included on the HOT FUZZ special edition) it includes a lot of the quirks that became his stock of trade – yet they're nowhere to be seen FISTFUL. You can tell Wright was struggling with the feature film format: Scenes drag on forever, shots are recycled, and there's an entire ten minute bit played out in complete darkness.


Wright has said in interviews that the original S-VHS version worked much better: “Re-creating the scenes on film sucked the life out of them.”


Still, no matter what I think of FISTFUL, it got Wright his first job in television, which led him to the work he's doing today. Sometimes you don't need a classic right off the bat, all you need is something that shows you can do it.


Keep an eye peeled during a flashback (It only lasts 10 frames) for Dan Palmer, Writer/Star of the underrated zero budget comedy horror film FREAK OUT. He's one of the bullies.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Predator 2 (USA. 1990)


A Conversation Between Two High Ranking Studio Executives Detailing the Conceptualization of Predator 2

INT. EXECUTIVE HOTEL ROOM.
Both Executives are wearing matching suits and ties. A mysterious pile of white powder sits on their table. It's a few feet high. The First Executive eyes are bloodshot red, his eyes are unnaturally wide and a crazed smile is frozen on his face. The Second Executive sits calmly. Two hours ago, he strangled his wife with a bike chain.

"The first Predator was hit! Lets make a sequel that's TWICE AS GOOD. The first one was set in the jungle. What's a step up from that?"

"Space."

"No. No. No. That's for Part Four. Lets set in in the city OF THE FUTURE OF THE YEAR 1997!"

"People love the things with laser sights on them."

"But everything else will be the same."

"We can't get Arnold back."

"No problem. We'll get the next best thing: A tired,, overweight, endlessly mumbling Danny Glover."

"He should be really sweaty. The fans love seeing their heroes sweaty. "

"It's the future, so obviously, the city will be in a HEAT WAVE!"

Snorrrrrrrt.

"*sniff* We need a director. Someone with cred." Remove Formatting from selection
"How about the guy that did NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET FIVE: THE DREAM CHILD!"

"BRILLIANT BEEZEWHACKS!! He'll bring the super energetic 80's over the top style. Lots of whip pans, completely unnecessary tracking shots and crazy music video angles! If we're lucky he'll craft a climax that never FREAKING ENDS!"

Snort! Sputter! Blood falls from the Second Executives nose and splatters across the table.

"
Dammit. I'm going to have to get another injection."

"What about the rest of the cast?"

"Well, we have to have that pock faced actor Robert Davi, it's illegal to make a film without him in the 80's. Oh, and Gary Busey, Bill Paxton and Adam Baldwin."

"People complained not enough people died in the first one."

"No problems. We'll have everyone killing a bunch of evil Jamaicans. Lots of decapitations, skin peeling and body blow ups. Shit. I'm cumming already."

The First Executive pulls off his pants and makes a not to get them cleaned.

"What about the Predator?"

"What about him? He's in it. You know how people liked it when they saw his face? Lets have him go mask-less for the entire climax! I think that we need to remove the mystique of the character and make him a flat out creature without any real mystery or menace."

"Is there going to be any substance?"

"Abuse?"

"No, like characters you can care about or emotional involvement..."

SNOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT!

"FUCK THAT BITCH!"

They fuck that bitch. She takes their money and leaves.

"Substance is hard. We'll fill the film with tons of excess: Violence, nudity (full frontal!), and lots of colored gels to confuse the audience that it's not really a 'good' movie per say, but it is enjoyable on all the part of a healthy bad movie diet."

"That...kind of works...I guess?"

"I KNOW! IT'S BRILLIANT! I'M GOING TO BE RUNNING THE STUDIO FOREVER"

They both laugh and roll around in their piles of 1000$ dollar bills. Naked.

Waterworld (USA. 1995)

Calm down. It's not that bad.

Yes, I know it cost 175 million dollars. Yes, that's an absurd amount of money to spend on a Mad Max Rip-Off (On the water!) starring a out of place Kevin Costner. Still, try to put all the projects bad history behind your viewing experience and you'll find an enjoyably goofy pulp adventure film. It's unsure if it should be a serious (Ugh. Romantic Drama) or a stupid goofy action film (Dennis Hopper as the bad guy has definitely chosen the latter). It's Way, Way, Way too long at 2 Hours and 17 minutes (And there's roughly a million different cuts floating...Hey! A pun...around) and there's plot holes galore, but it's still, at the end of it all, a fun high concept spectacle film. Now if only they could cut out the damn annoying cute kid relief...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

20th Century Boys: Part 1


The first in a three part adaptation of the highly acclaimed twenty two volume series, TWENTIETH CENTURY BOYS is a winning mix of a little STAND BY ME, an epic disaster film, and an off the wall sci-fi picture.

Kenji (Toshiaki Karasawa) and his friends wrote a story in their teens about the end of the world. Now in their mid-thirties their made up fantasies are all coming true.

I'm not familiar with the source material, but Director/Writer Yukihiko Tsutsumi steadily juglges all the characters, and there's a lot of them, and their pasts and presents to deliver a slow burn film that rewards the patient. The production values are TV grade at best, but don't let that detract you from the overall experience. Still, it's a bit of schizophrenic experience. One moment we're in some light slapstick, the next heavy drama, and end it all on a shocking bloodbath. Still, it works, and I was won over.

And it's a guarantee, that the unexpected climax will have every viewer scrambling for Part 2.

Prayer for the Rollerboys (USA. 1990)


Corey Haim is dead, so I think it's about time I watched his post-apocalyptic punk gang rollerblading film.

In the future, he streets are ruled by the 'Roller Boys', a fascist group of teenage white supremacists, that uh, rollerblade around. Haim stars as the hero of the tale, a guy who goes undercover for the cops to protect his ten year old younger brother (Who's addicted to the to a a downer called Mist!) from evil drug dealing gang bangers. Patricia Arquette co-stars as another undercover cop that isn't given anything to do other than look attractive.

More late 80's stuff fluff. Everything looks like an episode of Miami Vice, Haim is as wooden as ever (Mr. FaceFrozenInOneExpression) and the villains are all sneering evil that stands around waiting to be gunned down. There's enough unintended hilarity (The wise old black man makes his token appearance.) and uncharacteristic violence (Ahhhh. The Eighies) to make it almost painless. Still, it's the kind of film that you'll always remember the title, but won't ever remember what actually happened in it.

Not enough praying.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Splendor (USA. 1999)




Queer film pioneer Gregg Araki applies his directorial/writing skills to a relatively straight romantic comedy...Kind of... The plot does revolve around a girl having to deal with being the centre of a polygamous relationship, but the film doesn't have a transgressive bone in its body. The shock tactics Araki hung entire narratives on (Doom Generation, Nowhere, The Living End) have taken their leave. Everything played for oh-so-goofy laughs! It's so wacky to have two boyfriends! All that's left in his toolbox is lots of unmotivated colored lighting, some painfully forced 'hip' style, and one completely unlikable main character. We're supposed to sympathize with her plight ("Oh! How can I decide!?") but selfish decisions at every turn actually had me rooting for her two boyfriends to get on with their life and let her suffer with her idiotic decisions.

Sadly, it was not to be.

If you're a die-hard Araki completist, SPLENDOR does stand as an interesting experiment, (especially when compared to his next film, the much more mature and accomplished MYSTERIOUS SKIN). It feels like he's getting all of his stylistic ticks out of his systems so he can move on to something else.

Bad At Math #2

"I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO WATCH!": An Independent Video Store Manifesto

The thrill of DISCOVERY is being bled out of cinema.

In our daily life we're constantly bombarded with a million different options from a million different places. How do you chose? Go with the popular pick? Millions of people can't be wrong.

Right?

Film is becoming background noise. It is the static to fill patches of silence in conversation. People don't experience film anymore. It exists in the mindless vacuum of “Something to do because there's nothing else to watch.”

When was the last time you truly LOVED a film?

Popularity equates universal appeal. Universal appeal means the loss of the little things. The moments that make a picture stand out, become memorable, really make you think, or give you nightmares, or make you laugh so hard that you can't breathe anyone.

When was the last time you saw a film that made you want to go run out in the streets and let everyone know THEY HAD TO SEE THIS?

Where have those films gone?

They're in your local Independent Video Store. They are waiting for you to discover them. They are dying for you to watch them. They want to be discussed, they want to be shared they want to become a part of your collective consciousness.

They want to be loved.

An GOOD Independent Video store is a thriving community. It is artistic cinematic passion that pops to life. It's staffed by knowledgeable people are always excited about film. They will love to recommend things you would have never had a chance to see. They will love to talk about cinema in way that are impossible to replicate anywhere else. They will be your fuel, your drive, your compass.

Unless the Independent Video Store dies out.

The collection of wonders will disappear. The people that know their stuff will fade into the darkness. The passion will disappear. Discovery will be replaced by popular vote.

Don't let this happen.

Did you know it's BLOCKBUSTER policy to not allow clerks to give out their opinion on things?

Go down to your local Independent Video Store. Pick something different. Talk to the clerk. You will find something to ignite the love for cinema. It's out there. You just need to grab it.

Keep watching. Don't let it become routine. Let it be move you.


If you know someone that thinks cinema is dead, pass this along, the Independent is dying and it needs your help.

Sincerely,

Justin Decloux
Clerk at Eyesore Cinema (801 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario)
All the pretty colors of the rainbow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BAD AT MATH #1

I'm a terrible cartoonist, yet I love to doodle.

Suffer the consequences.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bad Blood (Hong Kong. 2010)



Laughably serious crime film filled with great martial arts scenes. It's 90's Hong Kong Cinema all over again!

Dennis Law is making it his bread and butter to finance/produce/directed/write pictures that fail miserably at being 'movies' but work great if you keep your fast forward finger ready. Skip all the dull and meaningless dialogue scenes (That seem to never end) about family betrayal and stop on the antastically choreographed action scenes performed by some really talented people (Especially newcomer Siu-Fai Cheung, last seen in the underwhelming Coweb). Many would balk at my recommendation, but really, those people are not familiar with the art of classic Hong Kong Cinema - lots of filler with the hope of some good stuff. The last act is particularly bad. They kill of a main character and we're forced to hang with an unlikable bitch for an agonizing twenty minutes until the eventual bone cracking climax.

Structured scripts? PFT! Who needs them!

How come the old fat guy with white hair, Lam Suet and Simon Yam seem to appear in every crime film ever? Do they have some kind of black magic curse over the industry?


House of Leaves (ENGLISH. 2000) - BOOK


At first glance HOUSE OF LEAVES looks staggeringly difficult. It's at once an academic discourse on a documentary that doesn't exist, the diary of a hyper sexual young man that feels the world crumbling around him, and an asthethic experiment with the nature of the written word. Text dosen't exist on the page. It bounces around crazily at the whim of the drama or for the sole purpose of servicing a goofy in-joke.

THE HOUSE OF LEAVES is mostl made up of academic dissertation (With tons of fake footnoes) on a documentary called THE NAVIDSON TAPES, which is the document of a family that discovers another dimension (Bereft of life) in their new house. At the same time, a young man named Johnny Truant, writes a diary as he reads over the book and finds it's affecting his day to day life.

Once you get past the difficult stylistic presentation, you'll find House of Leaves an incredibly rewarding novel that is, at it's base, a mainstream supernatural thriller that just happens to be dressed up in fancy clothes. I actually found my interest shifting from the adventures of Johnny Truant, who uses a completely informal style, to the academic text, which is the adventures within the house. The Johnny Truant sections get lost in pretentious flowery prose that gets grating real fast and lead absolutely nowhere. The story of the house on the other hand, is much more self contained, and tells a complete story thrilling story. Your enjoyement factor will vary on what you expect to get out of a book.

I highly recommend it, even if in the end, it sometimes feels like someone showing off.

The book ends with a few hundred pages of Appendixes that don't further the narrative, but expand on it, which is fine and dandy, but feels superfluous (As do much of the stylistic tics)

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (USA. 1992)


A big budget flop form Director John Carpenter and star Chevy Chase, Memoirs is nowhere as bad as I've heard, but it does miss that spark to make it a really good film. A lot of elements work: The precise direction of Carpenter is at work, the Visual Effects by ILM are mesmerizing, and Chevy Chase gives a subdued, if likable performance. The film just doesn't know what it wants to be. It sets up all the pieces in place, but loses momentum halfway through the second act and never fully recovers. Way too much time is dedicated to the fizzling romance between Chase and Darryl Hannah, aglowering kinda-evil Sam Neil gets nothing to work with, and a quickie climax (That's very reminiscent of the Construction Site ending of Darkman) lands with a literal and figurative thud. From a pure spectacle level, there's enough here to warrant giving the flick a watch, but the schizophrenic nature that never gels (Is it a straight comedy? A paranoid thriller? An action film) keeps it from blowing the audience away.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Ghost Writer (2009)


It's been a week since I last wrote a review. Why? Because I just didn't feel it. Nothing has gripped me and forced me to put my words down on the cyber page. A friend bothered me today, and the guilt took hold, so I'm back. Please excuse any poor quality reviews (as opposed to the vaguely average you're used to getting on here) as I fall back into the groovy groove.

****

Where Martin Scorsese fumbled the ball with his throwback to the early years of Hollywood genre cinema (SHUTTER ISLAND), Roman Polanski hits all the right notes. THE GHOST WRITER is probably the least straight up thrilling thriller you'll see all year, but that's never a bad thing. It's all about creeping unease and the possibility of a threat as opposed to the attack. Ewan McGregor is absolutely riveting as the writer (who remains unnamed) that gets c the autobiography for an ex-prime minister and ends unraveling something a whole lot bigger.

Yet, it's never presented as big.

It's a simple straight up thriller. No long soliloquies on the implications impersonating someone behind the scenes - The actual meaning of the title GHOST WRITER is pretty obvious by the end. The film rolls on at a very controlled pace as little bits and pieces fall into place. The final reveal would have probably been relegated to the end the first act in a big budget Hollywood product, but here it ends up perfectly satisfying. The cast performs their roles with ablomb (Including a r Pierce Brosnan as the pretty boy ex-prime minister) and there's a very welcome vein of humor that runs throughout. In the middle of particular suspensful scene a joke would be dropped and the audience around me bursts into loud laughter as the tension was eased.

It's classic thriller cinema at it's best. Your care about the characters, the mystery isn't completely convoluted and you're in it for the long run