Friday, October 30, 2009

Something To Watch For Halloween

So, tomorrow is Halloween. People like to be scared on Halloween and horror movies are the perfect way to do that. But, rather than recommend some shitty "horror" movie currently playing in theatres, I thought I'd give a couple that are out on video that are actually scary, instead of some PG-13 shit that wouldn't even scare a toddler. Some of these I've discussed before, others I haven't. All are great.

Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Just rereleased on DVD, this is one of The Girl's favorite movies. And what's not to like about a movie where a guy gets his face sanded off by a spinning motorcycle tire? Check it out quick, so you can see it before it's inevitably remade.

Session 9 (2001)
Who knew that asbestos removal could be so scary? It is, particularly when your project is the condemned Danvers State Mental Hospital. And anytime you throw David Caruso into the mix will make for a scary ride. They just don't make spooky movies like this anymore.

Exorcist 3 (1990)
One of the few sequels in history to be scarier than the original. An odd premise, in that two minor characters from the original are the main characters here (similar to the sequel of another entry on this list). Flawed by some obvious post-production tampering, it still has some really creepy shit (like the old lady on the ceiling) and snappy dialogue (adapted by Blatty himself from his novel) that makes it worth a watch.

Ringu (1998)
The movie that singlehandedly ruined the Asian Horror Movie (as every horror movie released in Southeast Asia after this was a knockoff of it) is still one of the scariest things of the last decade. Without resorting to any sort of visual or audio trickery, it delivers the scares on atmosphere alone: something no director in America has figured out how to do.

Theater of Blood (1973)
More of a comedy than a horror movie, this has a plot that is almost too high-concept, with Vincent Price killing off theatre critics who have trashed his performances in reenactments of Shakespearean tragedies. Without a doubt, the greatest movie ever made about a murderous Shakespearean actor.

The Evil Dead (1981)
The movie that launched Sam Raimi's career is still some trippy shit. Many prefer Evil Dead 2, the sequel-cum-remake, but the cheap, fast, and out-of-control filmmaking of the original makes it my fave. And, without it, we'd have no Bruce Campbell, which would be a damn shame.

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
While we're talking about Sam Raimi, his first decent horror movie in nearly 20 years is full of complete grossness.

Braindead (1992)
And speaking of directors who've sold out, the last movie by Peter Jackson (and yes, I was a Jackson fan from Day One, and then he went Hollywood) before he went to the Dark Side is one of the grossest movies ever. Plus, it's a Zombie Movie (and a funny one, at that), which may make it one of the best movies ever.

Halloween (1978)
Duh. And for even more fun, check out Halloween 3, the completely nonsensical second sequel which doesn't even have the good sense to feature Michael Myers.

The Crimson Rivers (2001)
This little-seen French entry proves that you needn't be in Hollywood to make a slick-looking movie. Even though it's so complexly plotted that you need a Doctorate in Confusing Plots to figure it out (I've seen it several times, and am STILL a little fuzzy on what happens), it's still a fun little thrill ride.

The Stepfather (1987)
No, not the shitty remake currently playing in theatres, but the original with Terry O'Quinn, released on DVD just in time for Halloween. Ready makes one wonder about the merits of the statement "Daddy knows best."

The Changeling (1979)
Probably the last Haunted House Movie worth watching, it's also one of the best. Another movie that doesn't resort to smoke and mirrors for its scares, unlike every other Haunted House Movie these days.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
C'mon now. You think I'm not going to sneak this one in? The magnum opus of the man who invented the Zombie Movie is one of the best Horror Movies ever. Some prefer Night; some prefer Day. For me, there is no Zombie Movie above Dawn.

Black Christmas (1974)
Bob Clark's original Canadian import beat Halloween to the theatres by four years, yet no one seems to acknowledge it as the first Slasher Movie. And what's not to love about a horror movie that takes place at Christmas?

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Not really a Horror movie, but not really any kind of movie. It borrows elements from several genres (including Kung-Fu Movies!!), and crams them all into one wild, scary movie. Possibly the craziest Monster Movie ever made.

Lost Treasures & Guilty Pleasures Update: Lady Frankenstein, Now With Video!

I'm usually not one to bottle my own farts so I can reenjoy them later on, but, in keeping with today's horror movie theme, I thought I'd repost this, as someone has been nice enough to upload the entire movie on YouTube. So, now you can read through my review and then watch the movie.

Instant gratification.

My love for horror movies was cultivated by watching the crappy American horror films of the '80s. As I got older, I refined my tastes by watching the slightly-less crappy Italian horror movies of the '60s and '70s. These films, despite their low budgets and bad acting (yes, even in another language it's bad), made up for it with their outstanding production values, cinematography, and all the blood 'n boobs you could handle. A lot of these films are better than horror movies made today. And Lady Frankenstein is no exception.

Lady Frankenstein recaps the Frankenstein story, only this time tacking on an additional story about Frankenstein's daughter attempting to make the perfect man. It's a movie that's developed a bit of a cult following over the years, mostly due to its "grindhouse" and drive-in showings. Some allege it to be the inspiration for the more well-known Andy Warhol's Frankenstein. Rob Zombie even cops a sample from its trailer for the intro of "Living Dead Girl." There is a fanbase out there, regardless of how diverse and obscure it may be.

And why would you not be a fan? It's got all the elements of a great Italian horror movie: washed-up American stars; insanely hot Italian women; nonsensical plotting; cinematography that could win an Oscar; and blood, blood, blood.

The washed-up American star in question is Joseph Cotten, playing Dr. Frankenstein. After a career of roles in praise-worthy films like Citizen Kane, The Third Man, and Shadow of a Doubt, he would basically star in nothing but dreck like this from this point on. (Another notable and praise-worthy star, George Sanders, took the honorable way out and killed himself right around this time when he found himself being cast in similar roles.) Oh, and former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay makes an appearance as well. (I'm sure his daughter Mariska is sooo proud.)

The insanely gorgeous Rosalba Neri plays the titular Lady Frankenstein, who spends a good portion of the movie naked. I'd say they don't even make women that look like this anymore, but she bears more than a passing resemblance to a Gisele Bündchen with black hair and smaller boobs, so that's not entirely true.

The plot of the movie is basically a device to show gross surgery and mutilation scenes, and provide as many opportunities for Rosalba to get her tits out as possible. The acting is about what you'd expect in a movie about Frankenstein's daughter. The terrible dubbing is English to English, a classic Italian trick to hide the fact that most of the actors probably spoke with thick foreign accents.

But, what it lacks in acting and plotting it makes up for with beautiful cinematography, dark and moody atmosphere, and lavish Gothic sets that look better than some of the stuff that passes for sets today (even though they were probably leftovers from some other, bigger-budged production).

Unfortunately, with movies like this, you have to take the good with the bad. Fortunately, most of the bad of Lady Frankenstein is of the "so bad, it's good" variety, which always makes choking movies like this down so much easier.

Check it out.

BTW, the trailer at the top of this post is pure Vintage Trailer 101. It's better than anything Eli Roth could possibly come up with to put in his fake trailer movie.

And now, enjoy the movie.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turns Out, Adam Lambert Didn't Need To Come Out Of The Closet...

...Because, if he hadn't already publicly outed himself, the cover of his new album would have done the job.

Ho. Ly. Shit.

I guess the old practice of sexing up album covers for teenage girls to fantasize over is totally gone now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Nearly Dark Picture Of The Near Dark Reunion

Attended Flashback Weekend on Saturday. Some observations:

-There didn't seem to be as many costumed weirdos at this year's show as there have been in past years. However, the number of people who appear to live in their parents' basement remained constant.

-As the show was at a different location this year, I had to refer to Google Maps to figure out where I was going. I only wish there had been a disclaimer on the map which read, "Directions are approximate at best."

-Kevin J. O'Connor (whom I've long considered to be one of the most annoying actors ever, but was tolerable in There Will Be Blood) made an unannounced appearance. I believe he's a local, so him showing up was just a jog across town. And I was like, "Look, there's that annoying guy from The Mummy, just walking around." It was like the time I saw Kevin Nealon at the mall in downtown Milwaukee. What the fuck's Kevin Nealon doing at the mall?

-Anchor Bay, the show's corporate sponsor, once the premiere distributor of horror movies before being purchased by Starz, once again made a spectacular showing by bringing a mere six films from their catalog, all fair to middling new releases. And, once again, Synapse Films, one of their direct market competitors, brought their entire catalog. They even brought movies that are out-of-print. I guess there's something to be said about remaining an independent company.

-The Girl wanted me to get Tony Todd to autograph a picture with "I hear you're lookin' for the Candyman, bitch." I didn't think he'd find that as funny as I did.

-Best Costume: Jason's mother, Pamela Voohees. Unfortunately, it was being worn by a dude.

-Svengoolie, a Chicagoland horror movie host who's syndicated in about four cities, had a bigger turnout than any of the more well-known Hollywood celebrities. Never underestimate the fanbase of a local.

-Even though she seemed like a perfectly lovely woman, I can't see why you would want to meet Mercedes McNabb. What am I gonna say to her: "I thought your tits looked nice in Playboy"? Pass.

-The Near Dark reunion was actually pretty entertaining. It's unfortunate that it was only a half hour long, as I could have listened to those stories for hours.

-Nick DiGilio admitted to me that he was blowing off his WGN radio show to attend Flashback Weekend. He made up for it on Sunday by doing two shows. I wish every workplace was like that.

All in all, a good time. The thing I like about shows like this is that I get to see celebrities I like without all the agents, managers, publicists, and a whole gaggle of sycophantic hangabouts surrounding them. They're there just kinda hanging out. And you get to see that, despite their celebrity pedigrees, they're just normal people who act like everyone else. I saw Tim Thomerson walking down the hall talking to one of the vendors about all the stuff he was selling. I shared a smoke with Lance Henriksen while he talked about the Kennedy assassination. Little things like that make it well worth the price of admission and are things that I'll never forget, despite their relative triviality.

I'll most definitely being attending again next year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It Hurts My Feelings When You Say I'm Not A Rapper

Even though I've had a copy of this for quite a while, the new Flight of the Conchords album I Told You I Was Freaky just came out the other day.

It's basically just songs taken from the second season of their show. The songs' subject matter is somewhat out of context if you've never seen the shows, but the songs themselves are strong enough to be good without context.

For fans of the show (and the band, for that matter), this is a must-have. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monty Python Returns...Sort Of

If you're a fan of Monty Python, you should probably make some time to watch Almost the Truth, the six-part documentary about Monty Python currently airing on the Independent Film Channel. It's got the participation of all the living Python members, and contains a lot of information that I as a fan wasn't aware of (like the fact that they were all Cambridge and Oxford educated).

It's airing all this week, so check your local listings for times; I know I did.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nice Effort, But...

In case you missed it, I just wanted to bring to your attention this ridiculous baseball play, in which the Rockies' Dexter Fowler jumps over the Phillies' Chase Utley. You can check it out over at It's such a ridiculous and unexpected baserunning ploy that shortstop Jimmy Rollins olés Utley's throw into center field.

It was all for naught, however. Even though Fowler would go on to score the tying run, the Phillies would score three runs with two outs in the ninth. So, that fabulous play just becomes a meaningless highlight.

Best to not even try if that's what extraordinary effort get ya.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Hurry, Hurry! Step Right Up! Get Yer Nobel Peace Prize!!"

In a move that comes as a surprise to every single person on the planet Earth, President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The official statement from the Nobel Foundation claims that Obama won "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." It should be noted that Obama has only been President for nine months and has done absolutely nothing yet in terms of foreign relations.

So, is this what the Peace Prize has devolved into? They just give the Prize away to just anyone for doing nothing?

Look back to 2002, when Jimmy Carter won. Although he was a crappy President, since leaving office, he has done a good deal to further world peace and development, both here and abroad. He's a deserving winner. But then, two years ago, you got Al Gore winning one for giving a PowerPoint presentation on global warming.

And now, you got Obama winning one for nothing more than making some ambitious campaign promises. Other than dump more troops into Afghanistan (which is the antithesis of peace), he's done nothing to improve world peace, other than claiming he would do so.

Look at Ronald Reagan, who was instrumental in the fall of the Soviet Union and communism in Europe: not a winner. Bill Clinton, who helped make peace in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and the Balkans, and continues to work in Africa: not a winner. Even Mohandas Gandhi, a twelve-time nominee who was a literal martyr for peace: not a winner. Obama's sole peaceful initiative was to invite the participants of a domestic dispute to the White House for a beer, and this apparently wins him to Nobel Peace Prize.

Wow; I think someone may want to check Sweden's water supply, because they're obviously on something.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

With A Star That Looks Like This, I Can't Understand Why More People Don't Watch Dollhouse

I am a weekly viewer of Dollhouse, which is one of the lowest-rated network shows. It's only airing 13 episodes this season, but, if its ratings continue like this, it might not come back next year or even make it through this season.

I can't understand why more people don't watch this show. It's a well-written, well-produced show with a truly original plot from the brilliant mind of Joss Whedon, with a great cast of well-developed characters, headed by the stunningly pretty Eliza Dushku.

Meanwhile, the #1 show on TV, NCIS, which is just another goddamned fuckin' CBS crime show that is exactly the same as a half dozen other shows on CBS, is so unoriginal that if it were canceled, no one would notice, as there's also NCIS: Los Angeles, which is exactly the same as NCIS, except it's got Chris O'Donnell instead of Mark Harmon, and the hot girl on that show is Linda Hunt. (Not Helen Hunt, not Bonnie Hunt; Linda Hunt, who looks like a Muppet.)

Yet more people would rather watch that CSI ripoff than an entertaining show that actually has some intelligent thoughts in its head.

The end of using our brains is quickly approaching.

The Future Of Burger King

Burger King announced plans today to overhaul its 12,000 locations with a new, updated look. It hopes the overhaul will put the #2 fast-food chain in closer competition with McDonald's, which is slowly revamping all of its restaurants.

I actually like the new look. It looks a lot like a restaurant version of Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Building. I've been to a couple of new Burger Kings recently, and their interiors are pretty much the same as that of McDonald's. Differentiating their look from their competitor's won't be a bad thing.

Now, if they would just overhaul their menu, maybe I'd eat there more often.

Monday, October 05, 2009

What I'm Listening To

Billy Joel - Glass Houses/The Nylon Curtain
About 20 years ago, I had this same mix on cassette, taped from the vinyl LPs, one album on each side. (I still own Glass Houses on vinyl.) I've listened to that tape 100,000 times. Now I listen to that same mix in crystal-clear digital clarity. Wonderful thing, the invention of the CD burner.

AFI - Crash Love
AFI abandons their typical whiny goth rock and goes New Wave, with pretty good results. Davey Havoc's balls have apparently dropped, because his voice is nowhere near as high-pitched as it has been in the past. If it wasn't already October, I'd say that "Too Shy to Scream" would be the Feel Bad Hit of the Summer.

Alice in Chains - Black Give Way to Blue
It's hard to believe that Alice in Chains hasn't put out a studio album in 14 years. If there was ever any doubt that Alice in Chains was Jerry Cantrell's band, those doubts will be put to rest once you hear this, as it's pretty much a continuation of Cantrell's solo albums; new lead singer William DuVall makes occasional cameo vocal appearances. Unfortunately, the band has continued on from Cantrell's slow, mellow Degradation Trip period, instead of Alice in Chains' gloomy metal heyday. Whatever the result, it's just nice to see Cantrell making music again; "Check My Brain" may be one of the best tracks he's ever written.

Silversun Pickups - Swoon
As long as we're on the topic of retro music, here's a band that, rather than turning to '70s or '80s music, is bringing back the '90s in a big way. They sound like a cross between My Bloody Valentine and early Smashing Pumpkins. If you're a fan of "shoegaze," this may be the record for you.

Three Days Grace - Life Starts Now
There comes a point in a band's career when they either evolve and improve (see AFI above) or keep putting out the same record and get stale (see Weezer, The Strokes, etc.). The latter case is not always bad thing, as is the case with AC/DC, which has been putting out the same album for 35 years. But that one album is really fucking good. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with Three Days Grace on their third album. I like Three Days Grace and their first two albums, but it's all starting to sound the same, and they're no AC/DC. Pass.

Foo Fighters - "Wheels"
I remember when Dave Grohl put out the first Foo Fighters album. What a great album: Dave Grohl gets out from under the shadow of Kurt Cobain and lets his inner metalhead shine. In the 14 years since that album came out, the Foos have devolved into a band that sounds like every other overproduced Top 40 band. With the release of this new single from their greatest hits album, it's apparent that Dave is now taking his inspiration from 3 Doors Down instead of Motörhead. I'm sure Cobain is rolling in his grave.

If I hear anything else of note, I'll let you know.

Friday, October 02, 2009

If I Told You I Met Martin Landau, Would That Be Something You'd Be Interested In?

The Milwaukee Film Festival has been going on for the past week or so. The Girl and I attended for the first time this Friday. Not coincidentally, Martin Landau was appearing that same night for a showing of Crimes and Misdemeanors, and a showing of his new film Lovely, Still the following night. I'd seen Crimes and Misdemeanors before; not a big fan, but I figured, "Hey, Martin Landau's going to be there, so I suppose I can sit through it again."

Now, I kinda figured that we'd watch the film and then Martin would appear at the end and do a Q&A, which he eventually did. What I didn't figure is that Martin would just hang out amongst the people before the show. Three-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner just sitting there in the lounge, meeting and greeting well-wishers and on-lookers.

It's not every day one gets to meet an Oscar winner. Actually, truth be told, I really wasn't, like, super-hyped to meet him. It's not like I was meeting Michael Caine or, even better, Christopher Lee: people whom I know a lot about and could speak to for hours. It's Martin Landau. It's like meeting George Kennedy: sure, he's an Oscar winner, but it's George Kennedy, a b-list character actor with a pretty bland career. Yet, here's this gaggle of sycophantic starfuckers, all gathered around to tell Martin how great he is and how much they love his work.

But I can't even attempt to be that phony. I'm not really a fan. The only thing I'd ask would be something of interest to me, like, "How was it working on Mission: Impossible? Do you still keep in touch with Peter Graves?" Or maybe a practical question, like, "Hey, Martin, do you know when this ferkakte movie is going to start?" No celebrity wants to answer those "Stuttering John questions," so I really had nothing to say to the guy.

But how often am I going to meet Martin Landau? So, as The Girl and I headed into the theatre, I leaned over where Martin was sitting, stuck out my hand, which he shook, and said, "It's nice to meet you, Martin. Thanks for coming out. Enjoy your stay in Milwaukee."

And that's it. That's how I met Martin Landau. As non-plussed as I was about the encounter, I will say it was pretty cool that Martin just hung around in the lounge talking to people. A lot of celebs wouldn't have done that, so that's to be admired.

However, there are some people who shouldn't hang around and do that. Like Nik Fackler, the director of Martin's movie Lovely, Still, which was making its U.S. premiere the following night. Here's this punk kid, wearing the standard-issue indie-filmmaker douchebag wardrobe of plaid vest and Hot Topic fedora (like a not-as-cool version of Synyster Gates), who's directed, well, the one movie, acting like he's the most important guy in the room. Meanwhile, sitting directly to his left is an Oscar winner who's worked with Ron Howard, Tim Burton, Woody Allen, Joe L. Mankiewicz, even Alfred fucking Hitchcock, acting like he's just happy to be out and about.

There's something to be said about people who are able to able to handle celebrity graciously. I can't help notice that most of the ones who can are old-timers. One time, I was at an Champ Car race, and there was Paul Newman, who was a team owner at the time, just standing there on the track apron. Paul Newman, just right there where anyone could walk up to him. I can't see a lot of our current-day celebrities doing that. They've totally lost touch with reality, forgetting that they too were once normal people.

Kinda makes me wish I was about 20 years older. Maybe I could have met some of these guys before they started dying off.

At least I can say I met Martin Landau before he dies off.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Other Guy That Wrote Pulp Fiction Is Going To Prison

Roger Avary, who won an Oscar for being the guy who nobody remembers as the other screenwriter on Pulp Fiction, was sentenced to a year in jail for driving drunk and killing a guy 22 months ago.

Without even knowing a lot about the case, I know instantly that this happened in Los Angeles. Ya know how? Because a guy drove drunk and killed someone, and only got a year in jail. And Los Angeles is the only place in the world where murder (or any crime, for that matter) is really not a big deal.

Oh, sure, I understand the laxness on the DUI thing; my home state of Wisconsin has some of the worst DUI offenders in the nation. Hell, just this month, one of our state assemblymen got busted for his fourth DUI and he's still out there driving around.

But murder? You kill someone here, and you'll be spending a good number of years in Waupan or any one of our other fine correctional institutions. In L.A., you get the right jury, and you'll get a free pass on a double homicide.

So, here's to the L.A. County justice system. With any luck, with good behavior, Roger can get paroled out in six months.

If I thought I'd only serve six months, I'd kill someone every day. True story.