Posts Tagged ‘Film Review’

For those who might have wondered about the tag “Masuka the Cat” in January 11th’s review, below, of the film A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, it seems the feline actor as well as director and writer Ana Lily Amirpour has gained a following.  For one example, check out this review by Howard Feinstein in FILMMAKER MAGAZINE  on November 21 2014, “No One Knows About Persian Cats” (scroll down to the end for the really good 640px-Edgar_Allan_Poe_Birthplace_Bostonstuff), or this on SHOCKYA.COM by Tami Smith, who didn’t seem to care for the movie itself that much, but does like the cat.

Also it should be noted that today, January 19, is the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).  His life was short but, hard as it may have seemed at the time, one we’re the richer for today.  Poe and his wife Virginia (d. 1847) also had a cat incidentally — no, not a black cat but believed to have been a tortoise shell — named “Catterina.”

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What a weekend!  Along with wrestling with income tax (finished the federal forms Saturday p.m., state tax to go) I went to a “matinee” movie Saturday night, then today was actual matinee time for a Bloomington Writers Guild poetry reading.  Matinee what?

Well, Saturday’s movie was part of an “Art and Legacy of Roger Corman” program the Indiana University Cinema has been running this spring, this time celebrating the sf/horror exploitation films of the 60s with a special nod toward Corman rival William Castle in the form of schlock film priducer “Lawrence Woolsey.”  The film itself is MATINEE, directed in real life by Joe Dante, and starring John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty as Ruth Corday, Woolsey’s long-suffering girlfriend, lead actress, and stand-in nurse (to have movie patrons sign wavers in case they die of fright during the performance).  And then there’s 15-year-old monster fan Gene Loomis and his little brother, his new Ban-the-Bomb girlfriend, his friend Simon and his new girlfriend (and her little brother) with her juvenile delinquent ex-boyfriend (who also writes poetry) just back from reform school, all coming together in 1962 Key West Florida, site of the premiere of Woolsey’s latest movie, MANT! — Half Man, Half Ant, in Atomo-Vision with new RumbleRama.  And, oh yes, by coincidence also occurring at this time is the Cuban Missile Crisis (with Gene’s father in the Navy and out with the fleet facing off with the Soviet Union).

Ah, nostalgia!

So it starts off fast with a nuclear bomb blast — which turns out to be part of the trailer for MANT! — which itself ends with another atomic bomb blast to clear out the theatre, in which in “real life” the balcony is about to collapse.  With the juvie delinquent meanwhile in an ant suit.  Getting confused yet?   Then add what may be the movie’s motif, as spoken by Woolsey to Gene toward the end:  “You think grown-ups have it all figured out?  That’s just a hustle, kid.  Grown-ups are making it up as they go along just like you.  You remember that, and you’ll do fine.”

You really just have to see it for yourself.  I recommend it!

So today has been calmer, and also sunnier, good enough weather this afternoon to stroll downtown for this month’s Writers Guild “Last Sunday” poetry reading (see February 23, et al.), starring Abegunde and previous Writers Guild chair and co-founder Patsy Rahn.  And not only that (to quote this month’s announcement):  “We are starting a new tradition at this event:  we will have a table for LITERARY SWAP.  Bring your literary magazines, journals, books that you’d like to pass on, and please take home any of your items not taken by others.”  For myself, I only brought a couple of poems for the open mike session, both this time from VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), “Leaves” (about a vampire competition runner) and “Night Child” (one who grew up as a vampire and “learned quickly”).

burne-jones-le-vampire_edit

The Vampire, Philip Burne-Jones, 1897

And here it is, as advertised Monday (cf. February 3), the review of DRACULA:  ENTRE L’AMOUR ET LA MORT.  And in French to boot (the movie, that is, not the review), perfect for upcoming Valentine’s Day romance.  Add some hot chocolate or maybe an ice-cold sherry, a fine amontillado, depending on weather; an intimate room, dimly lit and inviting; a comfortable couch.  The DVD begins. . . .

And there aren’t even subtitles to distract you — well that’s on the down side, actually, but the review itself is on M. R. GOTT’S CUTIS ANSERINA, a.k.a., WHERE THE DEAD FEAR TO TREAD, and it gives enough of a description of what’s going on to allow you to just let the music take over.  Then added to that, your knowledge of DRACULA, the book, will allow you to steer your significant other (or other-to-be) through the various intricacies of plot.

And there’s even more.  While not in the order of presentation, English translations to most of the songs can be found by pressing here.  The link also appears, spelled out, at the bottom of the review, but when I checked it on WHERE THE DEAD SEEMED TO TREAD it didn’t seem to be live.  Or is that simply a limitation on the cave computer here?  Either way it should work by clicking the link just above on this page and, in a few moments, I’ll add a comment at that end directing folks to come here if they need to.

So. for the review itself, go to today’s WHERE THE DEAD FEAR TO TREAD by pressing here.

And again, if the link to the translations on “allthelyrics” didn’t work there, you can find them at this end by clicking here.

As we race past Candlemas (a.k.a. Groundhog Day) on our way to Valentine’s Day, what better than to share a movie recommendation.  And so this Thursday, February 6, a week and a day before Valentine’s Day itself, I have a guest film review scheduled to be on M. R. Gott’s WHERE THE DEAD FEAR TO TREAD.  That’s a week and a day for preparation, to obtain the DVD, to choose the lady or gentlemanfriend who most would appreciate seeing it with you, to have the ingredients for hot dark chocolate at the ready, perhaps with a splash of amaretto . . . you get the idea.  And which is the movie?

Hint #1:  Well, it’s not the first time readers here may have seen it reviewed, but it was a long, long time ago — and yet it’s one people still search for here from time to time according to WordPress statistics.  So maybe it’s time to refresh it anyway, in this case through a link to a new host blog and, hence, a new readership to boot.

Hint #2:  It’s French.

And for the rest . . . check back in three days.

“BLOOD REIGN LITERARY MAGAZINE is a new digital magazine that caters to lovers of the horror genre,” was the lead in examiner.com’s November 4th announcement.  “Its premier issue comes out on FridBloodReignCoveray the 13th. December 13th is the last Friday the 13th for this year. The launch on such a bizarre day is to pay homage to the movie franchise and will set a precursor for the parent company, Thrillerz 13 Entertainment as it releases special items on the 13th. The annual anthology will debut in 2014 will also release on a Friday 13th, this one in June 2014, the only ‘Freaky Friday’ for 2014.

“The debut edition is shaping up to be an amazing smash! Even though its primary focus is to BloodCov2offer a voice to new or relatively unknown authors occasionally better known, active members of the Horror Writers Association have given it notice. James S. Dorr offers us a view of the macabre with a reprint of his short, ‘The First Hundred Years,’ and L. Andrew Cooper’s anthology submission, ‘Silence.’

“Submissions for the December issue closed officially on November 1st allowing writers to have most of October to offer their morbid best. . . .”

And now here it is, available and on time from Editor Kristina Stancil.  For my submission (cf. November 1), “The First Hundred Years” is a zombie story but of the traditional, pre-Romero sort, about Haitian folk-beliefs and magic — and why you don’t want to mess with someone who knows how to use it.  But other types of horror abound as well, including vampires, ghosts, and the paranormal according to the blurb on Smashwords, which adds, however, this word of warning.  “Adult-content rating:  This book contains content considered unsuitable for young readers 17 and under, and which may be offensive to some readers of all ages.”

If that’s not a deterrent, ordering and other information can be found by pressing here.  Or for more general information, for BLOOD REIGN’S own site, including submission information, press here.

But also, last night (after midnight so it was  the 13th too) I watched a film that only about five minutes in I realized I’d seen on TV before.  Many years before — but that I still remembered enough to be glad I’d now found at a library sale and could watch again.  THE GRAVE is a surprisingly well acted Southern Gothic, scary as needed and peppered with dark humor.  And in that first five minutes, just the music accompanying the credits also reminded me of the Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY (see October 11), reinforced in the opening scene in a prison cell, dark, with two people seen in silhouette, one speaking in a hoarse, raspy voice as a narrator-guide, complete with homey aphorisms here and again as the TheGravefilm played out, reminiscent of (and even sounding like) GHOST BROTHERS’ “Zydeco Cowboy.”

The premise, as others have said, may not be new — the somewhat chance joining of disparate people in a treasure hunt, in this case for a fortune left by the region’s richest man, that no one could find a trace of when he died.  So, getting a clue from one of their fellows, two prisoners escape from the state farm with one of the guards’ help and start the search, bringing in an ex-girlfriend, and a parolee now employed as a mortician, and friends of his, one a good ol’ boy as dumb as a post, and. . . .  Well, the common bond between them is greed, to which add no sense of honor among thieves, and you just know it’s not going to end well.  There’s even one small scene that reminded me of the first SAW movie, which, however,  THE GRAVE preceded by some eight years.

And yes, the treasure is found in a grave, or rather beneath one — and not the grave of the rich man himself — in a cemetery out in the swamp, remote and eerie, and excellently suited for double crosses.

THE GRAVE is available on VHS (though not on DVD that I could find) and, apparently sort of a minor cult classic, may cost a few dollars.  It’s worth the price.

The Horror Writer Association’s Halloween Haunts October extravaganza (cf. September 30) has rolled around to me this Sunday for a pre-Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving Day review of the Québécois opera  DRACULA:  ENTRE L’AMOUR ET LA MORT, complete with a link for seeking out a libretto — or at least individual translations of the songs — in English.  But English or French, the music is great, the staging and acting terrific, and the DVD well worth getting for a different kind of Dracula movie if you have the chance.  Also reviewed here on May 31 2012, it has now hit the big time at the HWA’s blog site and can be viewed by pressing here.

Then, speaking of Halloween, Saturday’s mail brought two copies of WELCOME TO YOUR NIGHTMARE:  AN ANTHOLOGY OF SCARY STORIES, welcome-to-your-nightmare-3edited by Yvonne Mason.  This somewhat rough and ready collection of stories and poems, published by Dressing Your Book, is described as “an anthology of things that go bump in the night. Written by an exciting diversity of talented writers, some not previously published and some published abroad [with stories and poems]as unique as the authors who penned them and no two are alike…some are extremely dark and foreboding, others are quaint while yet others are scary and perhaps even shocking, guaranteed to entertain and delight any reader.” My fox in this hen coop is “Lobster Boy and the Hand of Satan,” originally published in CYBER PULP’S HALLOWEEN ANTHOLOGY 2.0 (Cyber-Pulp, 2003), a tawdry tale of sideshow artistes on a trick-or-treat break for Halloween night.  The book itself can be found on Lulu by pressing here or in Kindle format by pressing here.

At last it can be revealed!  Nine days in the knowing, but sworn to silence until this night, October 5, when it was revealed at FenCon X in Dallas/Fort Worth, which I was not at.  But then, I knew already.

Let us flash back to July 23 2013, September 22 2012, September 15 2011 . . . and the National Space Society of North Texas.  In 2011 and 2012 they held haiku contests on the themes of MOON:  THE EIGHTH CONTINENT and MARS:  THE NEXT FRONTIER, respectively, with chapbook anthologies to be published of the winners and other worthy entries.  And so it is I’ve been published in both (well actually not quite as the MARS book hasn’t been published yet, but soon, soon . . .).  And this year it has started to get big, taking on the Fort Worth Haiku Society as a co-sponsor and expanding the poetry to three divisions on the subject of  SPACE EXPLORATION:  DEVELOPMENT AND SETTLEMENT.

But wait.  Three divisions?  Yes, with a deadline of July 31 2013, one could enter in (to quote from the announcement) “Division one: Haiku/Senryu (17 syllables or less, no punctuation required, no capitalization required, titled haiku are accepted); Division two: intermediate length forms (Tanka, mondo, sedoka, limerick, cinquain, clerihew, sijo, 4 to 6 lines); [and/or] Division three: long forms (haiku sequences, renga, rengay, tan-renga, haibun, choka).”  But wait again.  Limericks?  And here I divulge a little-known secret:  that what I consider my first professional poetry sale was a limerick, “Axe Murder,” that won first prize in a contest by MIDWEST POETRY REVIEW and was published in their July 1984 issue.

True fact, yes.

And so, undaunted and at close to the last minute (getting into that pattern again?), I entered work in all three slots:  a senryu in Division 1, a limerick (ah, now) in Division 2, and a four-poem haiku sequence in Division 3.

The word came back on September 26  from Contest Coordinator Patricia Ferguson.  “Dear James, Congratulations!  Your limerick, ‘Future Plans,’ received the Grand Prize in the National Space Society of North Texas/Fort Worth Haiku Society poetry contest.  You also received Honorable Mention in Division 3 for your haiku sequence, ‘Quartet.’”  And, since I could not be at FenCon to receive it myself, “your prize of $50 and certificates will be mailed to you.”

Did I mention, the prize I won in 1984 from MIDWEST POETRY REVIEW was also $50?

And so it all comes around.  To read “Future Plans” we must wait until the SPACE EXPLORATION:  DEVELOPMENT AND SETTLEMENT anthology is published, most likely next year.  However, as an almost-germane lagniappe,  I can reprint 1984’s “Axe Murder” (the rules being to use the first line “Upstairs lived a [select choice from four synonyms for woman — I picked the jazz musicians’ term ‘frail’] named Millicent” or else a similar first line with the male name “Elliot”).

AXE MURDER

Upstairs lived a frail named Millicent
Who on gigs would pick up only 10%
So her road man, the cheater,
She fried with her gee-tar,
And then copped a plea — 9/10 innocent.

The National Space Society of North Texas, I might add, is an organization to promote interest in people in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in space exploration and science including education in the space sciences, encouragement of commercial space enterprise, further probing of the “next frontier,” understanding the benefits from space exploration, and the creation of a spacefaring civilization.  More information on the NSSofNT can be found here.

And then, instead of making sure the above got posted before midnight October 5 instead of the wee hours of the 6th,  Saturday evening I went to the movies.  One of the perks of living in a university community is that film studies departments sometimes have rare or otherwise interesting showings the public can go to at cut rate prices.  This one was a premiere of Dario ArgentoDracula3DArgento’s DRACULA 3D, which the presenter himself admitted was no SUSPERIA and that we were allowed to laugh at when moved to, but which — despite some dismissive comments on Amazon as well — I found to be a pretty good movie even by 2D DRACULA standards.  And in 3D, sitting three rows back from a  full-size movie screen, many parts were spectacular.

On the down side some of the SFX were a bit silly, the most memorable probably being Dracula’s appearance in one scene as a giant praying mantis (but with the delightfully absurd realization that there’s no reason at all for him to take that particular form), and — perhaps a weakness in all 3D films — a bit too many scenes with pointy things being stabbed toward the screen.  But the story, while taking liberties with Bram Stoker’s novel (a proud tradition pioneered by such films as NOSFERATU and the Universal Pictures Bela Lugosi version of DRACULA), followed the gist of the story well enough, and possibly, dare I say, better than most (especially including the various Hammer films, fun as they may be on their own terms).  There is also gore, though relatively little by earlier Argento standards, plus some nudity (a bit of male, but mostly female) including a topless period-bathtub scene with Asia, Argento’s daughter, in the role of Lucy.

Be that as it may — some laughs, some gasps, some special effects that try too hard but others that work well, and, by the main, some very nicely done filming — I recommend it.

Lots of small bits, with one not all that small.  Editor Timm Tayshun of Chupa Cabra House emailed today to say they’re accepting  my story “Invisible People,” originally published in the Winter 1992-93 DARK INFINITY, as a reprint for their anthology WE WALK INVISIBLE.  “Invisible People” is a symbolic (if one will) near-future dystopia based on the idea that as one becomes alienated by a society, he or she becomes no-longer-noticed by those still in that society’s mainstream.  The point is made, for instance (and to sneak in a plug 😉 ) in the story “Bottles” in THE TEARS OF ISIS where the maid Maria can walk unmolested as long as she’s wearing her maid’s uniform, but on her days off if she wears her own clothes she’s whistled at by the college boys at neighboring Harvard.  And as for the world in “Invisible People,” suppose one literally becomes invisible when those in the mainstream have been conditioned to only believe — and, hence, only to “see” — what society has told them is reality.

Also Horrified Press has announced the official release date for NIGHTMARE STALKERS & DREAM WALKERS (cf. September 20, June 28) as October 23, “just in time for the holiday season. . . .”  “The highly awaited horror anthology NIGHTMARE STALKERS & DREAM WALKERS edited by Suzie Lockhart & Bruce Lockhart 2nd dares you to confront the dark behind your eyelids, as no-one is safe to dream in this collection of  frightening tales from some of the biggest names in horror. NIGHTMARE STALKERS & DREAM WALKERS will be available in both digital and print formats.”  Speculation aside as to whether I qualify as one of “the biggest names,” etc., my story in this is one called “Flesh,” about a man who, because of a dream, has decided to get fat.

So, okay, you’ve just got to read it to see why.

And, speaking of the highly absurd, today’s third announcement is that my review of the Japanese film VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, originally presented here last October 28 (“Recommended for Halloween Fun”), has been selected by M.R. Gott to appear as a guest blog on October 1, opening 2013’s WHERE THE DEAD FEAR TO TREAD, a.k.a. M.R. GOTT’S CUTIS ANSERINA, annual Halloween Celebration.  Thus far eleven more guest spots have been chosen stretching from mine on the first to October 29 and, while the real fun may not start for eight more days, for a sample of what WHERE THE DEAD FEAR TO TREAD is all about, one need but click here.

No vampires or even zombies this time, but with Valentines Day still less than a week past, two films about romantic (sort of) dancing caught my attention.  Both are worth seeing, especially the first, the almost absurdist by the end of it VALENTINA’S TANGO — at least in my opinion.

Eddie, who wants to become a priest, says, “My father is dying, I’ve just learned my mother is a nymphomaniac, and I’ve given her an orgasm.”  (I’m quoting from memory, but words to that effect.)  Eddie’s brother Victor, whose aspirations are to make good in local organized crime, wants to marry a girl named Tina who puts up with him because it’s an excuse to hang around Eddie who she really loves.  Valentina, Eddie and Victor’s mom (not to be confused with Tina the girlfriend — pop’s name, incidentally, is Eduardo), is indeed what Eddie has just said, and moreover “gets off” fairly easily, notably when she’s dancing the tango.  She and pop, originally from South America, own a Los Angeles dance club ValentinasTangowhere they also perform exhibition dancing.  They’re very good.

This is a family that has denial problems.  And add one more element, Victor’s old girlfriend who doesn’t dump well, and what we have is VALENTINA’S TANGO, a film that’s both tragic and wildly comic, albeit running a bit toward confusion toward the end as we start to view events through the eyes of increasingly unreliable narrators.  One, in fact, ends up in a mental hospital — but others end up dead — and perhaps the nuttiest of them all continues on as a sardonic ghost (well, in a sense anyway).  Then add to that some great dance sequences (in my admittedly untutored opinion — others have complained that the dancing isn’t true Argentine style, but then the principals aren’t necessarily Argentinean either, identified only as from “South America”) along with good music.  I liked it myself as a movie that’s both realistic in a gritty, demimondainian sort of way, and surrealistic.

And don’t even ask about Hugo, the plastic bathtub duck.

The night after I watched this, I made a point to rewatch ASSASSINATION TANGO, a different sort of film but one also combining a true love of dance with a background of gritty lethality.  Here a hired hit man enjoys dancing as a family style leisure activity and, on a politically charged mission to Argentina takes advantage of unplanned for delays to brush up on the real spirit of the tango.  Weird, and not as much fun as VALENTINA’S TANGO (or as tragic either, rather it’s presented with a colder, get the job done sort of feeling), but partner enough that the two are now on the shelf together.

Then for a final two words re. VALENTINA’S TANGO there’s Valentina herself, played by Guillermina Quiroga who also served as the film’s choreographer:  muy exquisita.

“It starts off calmly enough . . . with an explanation that another Japanese teen custom is for a girl to give the boy she fancies a piece of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, which he will then eat to show reciprocation.  But when quiet transfer student Monami (who, harking back to the pre-title sequence, we seem to have met before), the only one with chocolate left after a zealous teacher has confiscated all the other girls’ candy, offers hers to clueless male heartthrob Mizushima, Mizushima finds that the candy is filled with blood and yet strangely delicious.”

As readers may have noted yesterday, use of a key word or phrase brings one usually several headlines and opening sentences (one reason I include the posting’s date along with the key phrase), one of which must be chosen and clicked on even though the entry beneath it may have to do with many things in addition to vampires, such as H. P. Lovecraft’s birthday and a listing of contents for TECHNO-GOTH CTHULHU.  Of course, while you’re there, you’re invited to peruse these topics as well, and perhaps to explore the postings for other dates sometimes referred to.  Today’s post, however — actually two posts, the later of which may deviate a little — is pretty exclusively concerned with its vampire subject, introduced to us in the paragraph above, the Japanese film and winner of the Audience Award  at the 2009 NY Asian Film Festival, VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL.  As Amazon’s Product Description puts it, “the terrifying story of two classic monsters re-imagined as super-hot — and extremely lethal — Japanese school girls.”  And, not to mention (note those three dots in that first paragraph above), drenched in gore.

Amazingly funny, yes; gory, yes; as my review posted October 28 2012 hopefully points out, yet strangely a good film as well, due in part to the skill of actress Yukie Kawamura who plays the vampire girl Monami.  Yet as a second posting points out, comparing Monami with the vampiress Mignonette in a story I had in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION, the part is written with some depth of characterization even if against a cartoonish background, and it is the character that sells the story, at least as I see it.  So for Day Two you get two for one, the movie review and, dated October 29 2012, the essay on character, both by typing in the single key word “Monami.”

Then one other note, the October 29 essay is followed by a change of topic to poetry I’d recently sold, one of the poems about a vampire too, and with a reference to my vampiric poetry collection from 2011, VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), pictured also at the top of the center column.  More information on VAMPS can be found by clicking its picture (at which point you may have to scroll up or down a bit if you don’t see the title right away — what it takes you to is an alphabetized list), or, if you prefer, some of which may also be revealed here in future entries.




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