Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

SF film fans delight, courtesy of INDIEWIRE.COM let us wallow together in “The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 21st Century, From ‘Children of Men’ to ‘Her’,” by Chris O’Falt, Graham Winfrey, Kate Erbland, and Zack Sharf, and brought to us via TOR.COM and Stubby the Rocket.  With themes that range from love to fear to humanity itself, the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century all share distinctly original visions. . . , begins the rundown, the rest of which can be seen by pressing here.  And the neat thing is, in scrolling down through it, I’ve probably seen at least half myself already (who knew I had such good taste?), and even own films numbers 1 through 4!

Then in other quick news, last night I turned in an interview to C.P. Dunphey of Gehenna & Hinnom Books, with questions designed almost exclusively with TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH in mind.  Yes, launch time for the novel is drawing nigh — but there’s still time to get a one-third off pre-publication discount by pressing here (or, for B&N fans, better yet here).*  But back to the chase, to quote Mr. Dunphey:  These answers are amazing!  For audiences, they will be superb, and for me as a8451b32b-e3c4-41cb-8f3e-7c6834708f13 reader myself, it answered a lot of questions I had as well.  I will post the interview tomorrow night and will send you the link before I post it to any social media.  Very excited for this to be published.  And yes, I know, would that others would be so enthusiastic!

So look Friday night or, one needing one’s sleep, possibly Saturday morning for a fairly long interview mostly confined to TOMBS.  And after June 1st, when the book is out, I understand there may be a review of it too.
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*I understand there should also be an electronic edition of TOMBS, but not quite yet.

Let us take a quick trip down memory lane to April 25 and my coverage of the Polish mermaid film THE LURE, a Goth-rock variant of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”  Then, back to today, what should I run across courtesy of DIRGEMAG.COM but “Dark Mermaids Take Everything Men Fear and Use It Against Them” by Brenda S G Walter, including her take on “The Little Mermaid” as well as THE LURE and two other films.  In this case the “lure” (sorry) is primarily via the Andersen tale — no dwelling on mermaids’ alter lives in the siren trade, for instance, but then the payoff is still the same.  These are hungry fish-ladies.  And, music or not, the piece is interesting (and a little Freudian) and can be read by pressing here.

Then, for the writing life, Saturday after my writers group eviscerated my TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH essays (cf. May 18 just below, et al., and no, they didn’t really — I did post all three essays to the group in lieu of a story this month, for which comments, while mixed as to which one might be a given critiquer’s favorite, were generally encouraging), I continued to local restaurant-bar The Crazy Horse for a celebration and signing for Bloomington Writers Guild member and poet Nancy Chen Long’s just published book, LIGHT INTO BODIES.  To lazily quote from the invitation:  This event is a thanks-giving.  As a way of honoring, Nancy has invited Cynthia Bretheim and Beth Lodge-Rigal, two women that she credits for getting her back into poetry back in 2006, to read.  Members of Five Women Poets, a local writing group that Nancy belongs to, will also read.  In addition, two friends whose artistic-ness inspire her — Matt Allen on jazz guitar and Stephen Simms on bass — have been invited to share their music.  It also was fun, and with good snacks too, and a special feeling of kinship for me on the eve, as it were, of my own book’s release which, if not an absolute first as such, is my first novel.
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More on Nancy’s book, officially published on May 10, can be found by pressing here; more on my TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH by pressing its picture in the center column.

IndieWire describes THE LURE as “the best goth musical about man-eating mermaids ever made.”  Not sure there is much more to say.  Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s fiendishly dark and sly modern fairytale is set in Communist-era Poland and highlights the havoc wreaked by two vampire mermaid sisters intertwined in love triangle.  In Polish with English subtitles.  Contains mature content, including violence and nudity.  (Indiana University Cinema blurb)

So what’s not to love?  Perhaps “Golden” and “Silver” aren’t precisely classical vampires, preferring to subsist on human hearts, but they do get at them by biting through people’s throats.  At least Golden does, the one truer to her roots and, as one critic notes, the seemingly smarter of the two sisters.  But LurImage220Silver’s mistake is in taking it figuratively as well, falling in love with a dance club bass guitarist, and even enduring an operation to transplant a human lower body in place of her fish tail.  In spite of the fact that Golden warns her, should the fickle musician marry another, she has to “eat him” before the next sunrise lest she turn into sea foam.
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It doesn’t end well.
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One reason:  the film is actually a version of Hans Christian’s Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” which means part of the deal is she loses her singing voice too, and she and Golden are actually sirens of the lure-sailors-to-their-destruction kind.  And as Golden explains, she doesn’t sing solo.  In fact they’ve become a striptease act of sorts at a 1980s Warsaw night club (“Want to hang out here for awhile before swimming to America?” as Golden asks Silver early on), at one point billed as Corki Dancingu, the Polish title of the film, which I understand translates to “Daughters of the Dance Club.”  Another, perhaps, that it’s really a coming of age film about two young women, but without her sister, can Golden ever get to America by herself?
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On the down side, parts of THE LURE are a little confusing and, from a bit of a conversation I overheard outside the theater, the subtitled translations may miss some beats — but then, songs are a big part of the film too (remember:  Silver and Golden are sirens).  According to the docent before the screening, the 1980s are also important, including a sort of dance hall kitsch, as reminiscent of the director’s own childhood.  Also the music, channeling such films as ALL THAT JAZZ and CABARET, or at least a little, as well as Bjork — and the music is good!  And, the docent added, the mer-sisters do NOT wear seashell bras, but that’s not the only reason for not bringing children to this one as some of the violence does turn toward the graphic (something about “strong stomachs,” I think he said).
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So . . . maybe not the best movie ever made, but a weirdly good one.  I recommend it.

Yes, a lovely spring afternoon, the eve of Easter, and one’s thoughts turn naturally to gentle bunnies.  Candy, jelly beans, chocolate eggs.  But not all that gentle according to watershipdown_violencePhil Brown on CGMAGONLINE.COM!  Yes, from Jan Svankmajer’s ALICE to DONNY DARKO bunnies have their own dark side as well, and let us not forget WATERSHIP DOWN or NIGHT OF THE LEPUS!  Or in short, for one’s Easter viewing enjoyment, please to peruse Mr. Brown’s selections for  “Top 10 Most Frightening Bunnies in Film History” by pressing here.  Which one will you find in your basket this Sunday?

(And a happy Easter to all as well!)

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

“Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.” – Shel Silverstein

(The above quotations courtesy of blogger Lindsey Goddard who adds, I offer you my Top Twelve Weirdest and Creepiest Horror Movie Dances.  They are all listed here for different reasons . . .  but all of them possess a certain WTF factor.   Like seriously . . . WTF?)

So “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” in fact, from INSIDIOUS (“even ghost boys like to dance) is #2 on “The Dirty Dozen:   Top 12 Weirdest and Creepiest Horror Movie Dances,” by Lindsey Goddard on DIRTYLITTLEHORROR.COM, which appeared on my computer screen today and which I absolutely cannot resist sharing.  The weirdest (or possibly just most insane) is the zombie line dance (with music and lyrics) from DEAD AND BREAKFAST, #4 on the dance card.  That’s counting from the top down, so what will be #12, the last on the list, the weirdest, creepiest horror dance ever?  Hint:  think Linnea Quigley, and it’s not HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS.  Not enough?  How about not California but Louisville, Kentucky, or . . . well, all right, it’s the cemetery striptease performed by punk girl Trash (“Let’s get some light over here.  Trash is taking off her clothes again!”) from 1985’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, the movie which also brought us the idea of zombies craving brains.  To see, wallow, enjoy all twelve for oneself press here.

Quoting the Indiana University Cinema blurb for February 24:  Set in a dystopian Texas of the future, THE BAD BATCH is a “post-apocalyptic cannibal love story,” as writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour describes it, “ROAD WARRIOR meets PRETTY IN PINK with a dope soundtrack.”  This genre-breaking thrill ride won the Special Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice Film Festival and features a dream-ensemble cast of Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey, and Diego Luna.  The film opens later in 2017.  Director Ana Lily Amirpour is scheduled to be present.  Asked herself afterward about PRETTY IN PINK, Ms. Amirpour allowed that was something she’d said in one interview and she’d never do it again, but she smiled when she said that.  As for ROAD WARRIOR, there is a Mad Maxish ambience to THE BAD BATCH with scavenger societies, makeshift cities (one making use of an aircraft graveyard), and never-mind-where-the-gasoline-comes-from automobiles, though in this case more the speed of Vespas and golf carts.

Then another question:  What was the significance of the bunny?  Let us go back in time for a moment to Amirpour’s earlier movie A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT* and Masuka the cat (cf. January 19, 11 2015).  Masuka acts there as a sort of marking figure, passed in ownership between people who become important; in this a bunny (unnamed in the credits unless I missed it) becomes the pet of a little

“Do you want to hang out or something?”

girl who in turn becomes the bond between principle characters Arlen and Miami Man.  But beyond that, well, animals in some way may represent innocence and purity, Amirpour allowed, but (harking to another question too) this might not be a film to put too much stock in one-on-one symbolism.

What it is, though, she said is a “personal story of a girl who feels cut down, ripped apart by life,” as well as, as she was writing it originally, her “love letter to America.”  She hastened to add, this was before current times with a President Trump.  Yet a pervading image is that of a Texas desert divided by a wall, behind which are thrust the “bad batch,” the non-productive, the terminally ill, illegal immigrants (Miami Man was, originally, “a Cubano”), the homeless. . . .   They then are further divided into two “cities,” The Bridge (so named from homeless who, in US cities, often take shelter under expressway bridges and the like), a machismo culture and also . . . cannibalistic, and Find Comfort, a more benign hippie-like civilization whose diet tends more toward pasta.**  Needless to say, they hate each other.

So what is a girl to do — who’s already lost an arm and a leg (literally) to the dinner table?  Or a doting father who’s lost his daughter, but wouldn’t turn his nose up at a human filet.

Might there be a third way?

But also beware, there’s a quality of dream, of fairytale about the thing too, of don’t always take too literally what you see.  Be content instead to see beautiful images, though often enough combined with the grotesque — this is not a film for the faint of stomach!  Enjoy the soundtrack, and worry not too much about details like where gas or electricity come from in the desert (or pasta, for that matter, or how many humanburgers it takes to sustain a weight-lifter physique).  Or if the ending is, as we say in the romance biz, “happily ever after” or even, realistically, “happily for now.”  Sneak previews aside (Friday’s screening was presumably the first outside the film festival circuit), THE BAD BATCH is set for a June 23 release by NEON according to IMDb and, when the time comes, just sit back and enjoy it!

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*The night before, in fact, we got to see seven short films by Amirpour including the original A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, on which the feature-length version was based (although, in the short, without any cats).

**And, surely this is just my personal eccentricity, I couldn’t help seeing a parallel to this, and especially the ending, in the 1974 Sean Connery film ZARDOZ (see October 15, 2016).  Or maybe I am nuts.

Growing up in the USA anyway, though I imagine in much of the world nowadays as well, some of our first introductions to fantasy on a large scale, for better or worse, may be Walt Disney Movies.  Yes, I still remember SNOW WHITE (and parody her too from time to time), not to mention the artistry of a FANTASIA.  The list could go on — and in fact it does in an a next-to-obsessive (yet fascinating) way in today’s TOR.COM via Mari Ness in snow-white-prince02“Wrapping Up the Disney Read-Watch.”  And, yes, fantasy writers and readers, as much as we may look down now on some of the poorer examples, I for one can recall the awe that the best of the Disney films inspired in me as a child.  And may yet still now.

So, today marks the first snowfall of 2017 in Bloomington Indiana, and here at least a gentle one making a crisp day lovely — as well as quiet the week before the spring term begins in a university city.  A day for reflection and memories, perhaps, for peaceful thoughts and recalling joy.  But for plans as well for a horror-filled year (writing-wise, that is, for those of us of darker inclinations), perhaps in some cases taking inspiration from the memories presented therein.

For more, press here.

. . . the idea of faith is more general in the sense that it covers any devotion to a higher being or spiritual power.  It could be anything, from a religion-based god to alien overlords to the Force.  The point is that you believe in something outside yourself that, in some way, shapes, influences, or even controls the nature of our world.  Yet somehow, regardless of the faith, the path to getting there is always the same:  you have to hear the call, and then yoarrival_movie_posteru have to take conscious steps to overcome that adversity within and without to reach its source, taking you from a non-believer to a believer.

Well, no, I haven’t seen ARRIVAL yet, I tend to wait sometimes for what I think may be important films to be out long enough on DVD to bring the price down to buy for myself, but that’s my problem.  The above, from “Communication and Faith in ARRIVAL”  by Michael Moreci, on TOR.COM a day or two back, piqued my interest however (cf. below, for instance, November 3, August 26 ; September 17 2015):  the question of faith, belief, in science fiction as well as, perhaps to be more expected, in fantasy and horror.  The need for an author — or reader — to know a people’s traditions in order to build their world.

Or that’s how I see it.  Moreci also brings up Joseph Campbell (the hero’s journey), and the movies STAR WARS:  A NEW HOPE and CONTACT; while in my own writings I might note the upcoming TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH as well as, at least in part, THE TEARS OF ISIS.  And in any event I may look into ARRIVAL myself sooner than I had expected.  Moreci’s critique, on the other hand, may be read right now here.

John Boorman’s ZARDOZ is a psychedelic, science-fiction allegory 0f 1970s America on a path to possible destruction.  Zed (Sean Connery) is an ‘Enforcer,’ part of a warrior/exterminating clan controlled by the God-like Zardoz, who appears as a giant floating head in the sky.  Zed discovers the secret of Zardoz and infiltrates a secret, utopian land of eternal life (and apathy), whose residents are fascinated by their newest specimen from the outland.  Zed’s presence, however, may upset their society’s balance in profound ways.

So says the the Indiana University Cinema program book of Friday night’s midnight showing, to which Wikipedia adds:  The film received mixed-to-negative reviews.  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a “genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators. . .  The movie is an exercise in self-indulgence (if often an interesting one) by Boormanoriginal_movie_poster_for_the_film_zardoz, who more or less had carte blanche to do a personal project after his immensely successful Deliverance.”  Jay Cocks of Time called the film “visually bounteous”, with “bright intervals of self-deprecatory humor that lighten the occasional pomposity of the material.”  Nora Sayre, in a 7 February 1974 review for The New York Times, called Zardoz a melodrama that is a “good deal less effective than its special visual effects”. . . a film “more confusing than exciting even with a frenetic, shoot-em-up climax.”  Decades later, Channel 4 called it “Boorman’s finest film” and a “wonderfully eccentric and visually exciting sci-fi quest” that “deserves reappraisal”.

Other reviewers have said things ranging from pointing out, as is explained in the film, that the name of the God himself comes from THE WIZARD OF OZ (wiZARD of OZ — get it?), the carnival fake discovered by Dorothy behind the screen, to the fact that Sean Connery spends most of the film wearing an orange diaper.  And all this is true:  the film is fascinating, yet draggy in places; overly violent in other places yet circling around a sort of philosophical center; visually lovely in places yet, as it ends, at least somewhat disappointing.

So see it.  It’s worth at least one look.  And as to what it’s about, well, while some point to an H.G. Wells-ish Eloi/Morlock element,* perhaps half way through I began channeling a different book, by Robert Graves, that I’d read many decades ago called SEVEN DAYS IN NEW CRETE.(a.k.a. WATCH THE NORTH WIND RISE depending on whether one has the US or British edition).  Graves, noted for novelizations based on Ancient Greece and Rome (e.g. HERCULES, MY SHIPMATE [“retelling” the ARGONAUTICA, the voyage to win the Golden Fleece]; I, CLAUDIUS), wrote this one as his take on a re-created matriocentric utopia as might have existed in Minoan culture before men took over and messed everything up (one may note that, while a point isn’t made of it, the ZARDOZ utopia also appears very woman-based).  But Graves’s point is that every so often the “North Wind” must rise, there represented by a contemporary English poet brought purposefully to New Crete and unwittingly bringing about its destruction, because perfection is ultimately, of necessity, a static condition, leaving a choice of knocking it down and starting over or seeing it atrophy.

Or at least that’s the way I remember it.
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*One might also see in Zed an echo of the “savage” John in Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD.

Saturday this week offered a farewell of sorts, afternoon and evening retrospectives as a final tip of the hat to ten years of the Dark Carnival Film Festival, a.k.a. in its final sessions, Diabolique International Film Festival at the Indiana University Cinema (cf. September 28 2015; September 21, 20, 19 2014).  These were films from past years, fifteen shorts for the matinee session that proved to be favorites from previous screenings, some that I’d seen before, some that I hadn’t, starting with one in a dentist’s office and ending with killer shopping carts, and by small boys reading an Ancient Tome from their devil-worshiping deceased grandfather’s chest.  The best of these tended to be black humor, of which there were quite a few, while another trend was for movies that set up horror situations, then left the outcomes to viewers’ imaginations.

Then evening brought, taint02well, to quote the catalog:  Long one of the Dark Carnival Film Festival’s favorite features, THE TAINT is a throwback to classic Troma films — with all the goopy horror and absurd humor that implies.  Tainted water begins turning men into misogynistic head-smashing psychopaths, and our two young heroes must brave the bizarre world that results in order to find a cure.  Contains mature content, including violence, language, and sexuality.  To which the docent offered before the screening, “A great one to go out on . . . a very extreme film,” and, “offensive is a dime a dozen [but] is wonderfully measured.  [Director Drew Bolduc] knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Or as Kevin Dudley on Amazon put it:  one particular quote from the Fangoria.com review stated “THE TAINT is exactly what happens when smart filmmakers intentionally make a stupid taint1movie.”  The basic plot involves an experimental penis enlargement drug that turns men into oversexed misogynistic maniacs is unleashed into the public water supply and all manners of depravity cut loose.  To which I might add, while not one to invite the whole family to, as Troma films go it was not a bad one.

Then back at home, Saturday’s street mail brought its own prize, Flame Tree Publishing’s deluxe edition of MURDER MAYHEM SHORT STORIES (see September 6, July 11, et al.).  My story in this is “Mr. Happy Head,” originally published in WICKED MYSTIC, Spring 1996, and sandwiched between Dick Donovan (J. E. Preston Muddock, 1843-1934, who took his pen name from his fictional Glasgow detective, who in turn, some theorize, supplied the slang term “dick” [to pardon the expression] for an American private detective) and, in a non-Sherlock Holmes adventure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Also expected from Flame Tree Publishing is CRIME & MYSTERY SHORT STORIES, for which keep watching here.




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