Saturday, May 25, 2013
I have a house full of snakes, methinks this film got some snake facts wrong!
Written By: Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, & Jack Epps Jr.
Directed By: Luis Llosa
Anaconda answers the age old question of what you get when a guy from Paraguay, via Louisiana, and by way of Yonkers adopts a Cajun accent in the Amazon. I'm not sure who was asking such a question, but Jon Voight sure as hell is going to answer said question. His character is the end all and be all of American actors adopting horrendous foreign accents. He may think he's adopting a South American accent, but he really is just a New Yorker doing a horrendous Cajun accent. It shouldn't be surprising that Mr. Voight is easily the reason to watch Anaconda. His character is insanely terrible, yet eminently watchable. If one were a better writer than I they might say that his madness is intoxicating. When he's reciting a prayer while gasping for breath as he kills someone, well dammit, that's not the type of cinema that comes along every day.
The rest of Anaconda is pretty darn terrible. The animatronics actually aren't all that bad, but when mixed with the CG the result is quite displeasing to the eye. Any time the CG is in use the action takes on a fake veneer that is impossible to look past. It's good for a chuckle, but that's not a positive in regards to the film. When your film is being sold on the idea of a giant killer snake it would do the movie well to make sure the giant killer snake looks believable.
The acting is, well, it's of the sort one should expect from a movie like Anaconda. I will admit to getting a perverse pleasure from seeing a few of the actors meet their demise. It's not like Kari Wuhrer is present for her acting chops, believe you me. Watching Ice Cube try to play a hard ass is always good for a laugh, kind of like watching Jennifer Lopez attempt to act in a movie not being directed by Steven Soderbergh.
All in all, Anaconda is terrible. That's the easiest and best way to describe the film. It is funny at times, and ridiculously over the top in a way that did bring a smile to my face. However, as an actual film there's nothing about Anaconda to recommend. The action is badly done, the film is too predictable to be a good creature feature, and the science is stupid in the worst of ways. My wife likes Anaconda a lot, and had I grown up with it I'm sure there's a possibility I would love it for its awfulness as well. However, having just discovered Anaconda I can safely say that the film never enters so bad it's great territory. Mr. Voight is fun to watch, and I did laugh a few times, but on the whole Anaconda is a waste of time.
Posted by Bill Thompson at 9:00 AM
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
One lazy, hot Sunday morning Carrie Parmiter (Joanna Miles) is dropped off by biologist husband James (Bradford Dillman) at the local church just outside of their little, half-horse town. While listening to the Reverend Kern (James Greene) give his usual impassioned homily, the ground begins to tremble. An earthquake tears up the small chapel and sends the parishioners scurrying outside. Henry and Kenny Tacker (Frederic Downs and Jim Poyner, respectively) take off back to their ranch to check on their family and any property damage. But as they approach, their pickup is suddenly engulfed in flames, killing the two right in front of son Tom (Jesse Vint), daughter Norma (Jamie Smith-Jackson), and her beau Gerry (Richard Gilliland). While inspecting the large fissure which the tremors opened up on the Tackers’ land, Gerry discovers some very large, sluggish cockroaches. Picking one up, he’s burned by heat from two abdominal antennae on the insect. Taking the animal to James, the older man becomes fascinated with the creatures, while the surrounding area threatens to burn to the ground from the little critters.
Jeannot Szwarc’s Bug (aka Invasion Infernal and based off the Thomas Page novel The Hephaestus Plague, a title I personally love) is the last film which legendary mogul William Castle had a hand in producing before his death in 1977. To call the results a mixed bag would be, I think, an accurate description. The very first thing you notice about the film is its eerie sense of calm. The look of the surroundings always appears as if a massive storm is about to break out at any second, but the area is in the midst of a massive heat wave with no relief in sight. The filmmakers allow the story to build on its own, and there’s never any overt feeling that the audience is being set up for some massive, loud, explosive finale. This is a film intended to get under your skin and give you chills. It half-succeeds. The idea of the bugs is intriguing, and as each new aspect of them is discovered, we’re compelled to want to learn more. Unfortunately, the same serene development of the story also makes the film’s pace drag.
The characters are odd, too. They don’t really behave like people in their situation likely would, and most of them seem to have an almost laissez faire attitude to these potentially world-threatening animals. Plus, the way they interact with each other, in spite of what we are shown about their relationships, comes off as aloof much of the time. The friendships feel scripted, and I’m not fully certain that the actors were instructed to bring anything to the table other than a decent knack for memorization. So, despite the good things in the film (and the more thought-provoking revelations are fascinating to some degree), the film itself stays in first gear up until about the last five or ten minutes. But personally I like the payoff, so I can be counted as a fan of the movie.
The film evokes a sense of isolation, and it’s an aspect which is consistent throughout. Szwarc composes much of the film in long shots, and oftentimes the actors are filmed very small within the frame. They are tiny, insignificant, almost like how the audience might look at a bug right before stepping on it. They are motes of dust in an incomprehensibly nigh-infinite universe. But more than that, this approach emphasizes how alone these characters are, even those in relationships. When Szwarc does move the camera (and he does it quite fluidly, I must say), it is usually to heighten the space around which a character is surrounded. It’s sort of the cinematic equivalent of an ant farm (but I guess that argument could probably be made for every film in existence, couldn’t it?). The relationships are as frosty as the dispassionate compositions, as well. James keeps up a pleasant demeanor with friends and co-workers, but he shares very little screentime with his wife, and what scenes he does have with her generally consist of him dropping her off somewhere and then speeding away to go back to work. Carrie is essentially a neglected wife, and this element culminates in the scene where she’s thinking about what to make for dinner (while meandering about in what I would swear was a slightly modified house set from The Brady Bunch). Not only does Carrie talk to herself (we all do it sometimes, admit it), but she answers herself, to boot. Miles’s performance in this sequence is just slightly unhinged. It’s as if the reclusiveness this woman has been subjected to both in her marriage and in her contact (or lack thereof) with her community has finally made her snap a band, to use a medical term. Her eyes squint and widen as she goes through the options available to her, and we in the audience wouldn’t be shocked if the next scene had James signing the papers to have her committed. Of course, this theme of isolation continues right to the very end of the film, though it also takes on a decidedly more macabre timbre.
**POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD** Bug is also, from my point of view, a kind of meditative apocalyptic (if we wish to look at the film in a theological sense, and I do, so we are) film. Carrie believes in God. James doesn’t. The earthquake hits just as Kern hits his stride in a fire-and-brimstone sermon. The omnipresent heat of the film conjures thoughts of roasting in hell. The pit the cockroaches emanate from of is indicative of a gateway to Hell, replete with literally smoking denizens (the hole even glows red at one point). The town is turned into a virtual conflagration as the bugs go about their business. Yet, when everything starts to calm down a bit, it is James who is pushed past the breaking point, and it is through James’s defiance of the laws of Nature (and, by extension, God) that he will be pushed further still. Conversely, it can be argued that James is not at fault for his actions. In effect, he is acting in accordance with Nature’s (and, by extension, God’s) “wishes.” He is the catalyst for the bugs’ evolution. He is pushing the insects beyond their limits, and it is this scientific quest which will aid them in reaching their ultimate form, a quasi legion of angels/devils who eventually achieve the goal it is faintly hinted was their absolute purpose from the very start.
Make Or Break: I love the very first shot of this film. As the credits fade in and out, Szwarc gives us a long shot of the lone church sitting at, what appears to be, the end of a dirt road far outside of the town proper (another indication of the community’s general dismissal of religion and what that brings down upon them). The wind whistles over the music-less soundtrack, and the camera slowly cranes up to take in the full expanse of the big empty which makes up the majority of this area. It evinces a godforsaken texture that lasts the whole film, and it’s also some damn good-quality filmmaking.
MVT: With that in mind, it’s this bleak, almost hopeless, purgatorial ambience first depicted in the film’s opening that attracts me to the film. It’s the same sort of tone you get from end-of-the-world films, when you know there is no hope for salvation, there isn’t going to be some last minute miracle save, but you feel somehow obliged to witness the characters’ end, because in some bizarre way, it’s the honorable thing to do.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Welcome back Gentle-Minions!!!
This week we bring you more Kickstarter goodness with selections from Brian (BTSJunki) Kelley with The Corruption of Chris Miller (1973) directed by Juan Antonio Bardem and a selection from Tom Chance with Ghosts...of the Civil Dead (1988) directed by John Hillcoat!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_236.mp3
Emails to email@example.com
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 12:49 AM
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Arrow Films release of Mario Bava's I tre volti della paura also features the American International Pictures cut of the film,but for the purposes of this review,it's the original cut i'm discussing.
I've only seen a handful of Bava's movies,but this is the one that i've always wanted to see - the image of Boris Karloff holding a severed head is one that's stuck with me for many years ever since i saw that ghastly photo in a book.....
I tre volti della paura begins with the story,The Telephone, which has been viewed by some as the weakest section of the film,and granted,it is a little predictable in terms of storytelling - but that's probably because there have been many films since which have covered the same ground. I can't fault Bava's direction though which manages to evoke an escalating sense of fear and paranoia as a call girl who is plagued by threatening phone calls. The resolution may be hurried,but it's still a nervewracking tale.
The next story,The Wurdalak,is perhaps the best known tale in the film. Set in 19th century Russia,it tells of a family awaiting the return of their father (Boris Karloff|) who had gone in pursuit of the dreaded Wurdalak - a living corpse which feeds on the blood of those it loves the most. When their father returns,they worst fears may have come true - that he may have become a Wurdalak,but can they bring themselves to destroy him before he feeds on them.....?
The Wurdalak is perhaps my favourite section of the film. It's incredibly atmospheric and creepy,bolstered by a chilling performance courtesy of Boris Karloff - the scene in which he rides off with his grandchild is one of the most cruel images i've seen in a film for a very long time....a family ultimately undone by their love for one another.
The final tale,The Drop Of Water, is Bava at his stylish best. Set in Victorian England,this story resolves around a nurse who unwisely steals a ring from the corpse of an elderly medium......and soon after finds herself tormented by a fly and the constant,neverending sound of the drop of water....
If it wasn't for The Wurdalak,The Drop Of Water would have been my favourite story. Bava's use of sound,light and shadow is impeccable.....what proves to be hell for the nurse was a sheer delight for this viewer as she pays a heavy price for stealing from the dead,and i'd be lying if i said i didn't jump a few times as Bava's cautionary tale unravelled to its more than satisfying conclusion.
So there you have it - three stories of madness,horror and death,each one different in their own way but all linked by the unmistakable style of Mario Bava. I can't recommend Arrow Films release highly enough and i urge all fans of cinema to seek this title out. 9/10
Posted by Michael at 3:39 AM
Friday, May 17, 2013
Welcome back to the GGtMC!!!
We have a couple Kickstarter picks for you guys and gals and our listeners brought it as usual!!! This week we cover Alexandra's Project (2003) directed by Rolf de Heer and selected by Maurice over at the Love That Album Podcast and we also cover The Brood (1979) directed by David Cronenberg and selected for coverage by Ryan K.!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_235.mp3
Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 1:55 AM
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Just recently, the ruins of a temple were discovered at the El Paraíso site in Peru, and they are estimated to be about five thousand years old. This is no real great shakes, since (to my knowledge) Peru is rife with ancient ruins (no offense to any Peruvians who may be reading). What this story does do, however, is brings up the idea that archaeology is still important in this modern world. In an era when we have (or think we have) all this knowledge at the touch of a button (and we won’t get into a discussion about the unreliability of information on the internet this time around), there are still people kneeling under the hot sun, slowly scraping bits of dirt from long-forgotten relics of dead civilizations in the pursuit of some insight into how we became what we are.
Real archaeologists toil away at tasks which are almost the equivalent of trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, yet in films, this tedious, nigh-thankless profession is romanticized to an insane degree. When cinematic relic-diggers aren’t raiding lost arks or going on wild crusades, they are excavating ancient monsters that revive, and only their quick wits and iron wherewithal can return these beasties to their graves. Naturally, we can argue that just about every profession can be (and probably has been) glamorized on film to some degree, and I’m sure that, while real archaeologists love the attention films like Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom bring to their avocation, they’re also sick to death of having to answer questions from goofs in regards to the existence and “actual” properties of quasi-mystical objects. Then again, I’m not an archaeologist, so maybe they’re not.
Phillip (Mark Gil) and Isabel (Dang Cecilio) are archaeologists who have just uncovered a remarkably pristine temple in the side of a mountain. As the men peregrinate around, Isabel is drawn to a secret room, inside which is a large sarcophagus. As she paces closer to the tomb, a pair of large rubber snakes appear from inside, scaring the bejeezus out of the poor lady. When the men investigate, however, the tomb is empty. Meanwhile, a bunch of dead bodies are found outside the site with lethal amounts of venom in them. Soon thereafter, the eponymous Zuma (Max Laurel, who looks vaguely like Milton Reid of Dr. Phibes Rises Again fame) stalks the streets of the Philippines, hungering for the hearts of virgin women.
It would seem that I have inadvertently been on a bit of a comic book adaptation jag as of late, because Jun Raquiza’s Zuma (aka Jim Fernandez’s Zuma) is yet another one. One thing which I have seen far more of from countries other than the United States is a predilection for comic book stories centering on characters that could just as easily be called villains as anti-heroes. This is no exception. Zuma is the son of the Mayan god Kukulkan, the feathered serpent, and his whole schtick is violating and killing female virgins. Early on in the film, he rapes Galela (Raquel Montesa) while her boyfriend Joseph (Mark Joseph) is bitten to death by cobras. Galela then becomes the thrall of Zuma (sort of like a distaff Renfield), trapping women for him to kill. Zuma resembles a Filipino version of the Incredible Hulk with a double-headed snake growing out of the back of his neck. But unlike the Hulk, who would typically do some good intentionally or not, Zuma’s purpose is to rack up virgin corpses to “fulfill the rituals of his faith,” though to what end the audience is never privy. We would expect some attempt to humanize Zuma (even Diabolik had Eva Kant), but he’s little more than animated brute force, although I would be hesitant to call him an elemental force. Even after Zuma’s daughter Galema (Snooky Serna, who, God help me, actually looks a little bit like Snooki Polizzi) turns up, Zuma would kill her as soon as have her live with him. Like Rawhead Rex and other reborn Elder Gods, Zuma’s needs are not human, ergo his actions are never other than inhumane.
Sex plays a large part in the film, yet its treatment is quasi-puritanical. The characters that have sex in the film are never shown naked having sex. Nevertheless, the women who become Zuma’s prey often have their tops ripped off for a cheap tit thrill. It’s incongruous, but interesting to note that nudity is only depicted in regards to violent acts against women. The image of a snake is phallocentric to begin with, and the fact that Zuma has two rather large snake heads hanging off his shoulders is telling. What’s more, his snakes are usually alert and pointing straight out, an indication of tumescence and the faint notion that Zuma’s actions are guided by his loins (and being the scion of a “War Serpent” only adds to the idea of violence making up for sexual inadequacies). Galema also has snakes like her father (cleverly woven into her pigtails), but she has trouble controlling them. Her life has been dictated by the influence of these phallic appendages, and they have kept her docile up until her nineteenth birthday. She is also a virgin, but it’s through the love of Morgan the young soldier (Rey Abellana) that she will become their master. So, even in its strongest female character, the film is controlled by male influences and all that that entails.
But for as much insanity as Raquiza and company put onscreen, Zuma is a bit of a slog from a pacing standpoint. At over two hours and ten minutes long, there is a ton of fat that could have (and should have) been trimmed. Whole sequences pass by where characters literally do absolutely nothing and then suddenly act. My best guess is that this is the result of its comic book origins, because the plot feels much less like one story than it does a stringing together of multiple episodes with one set of credits on either end. As soon as any part of a story (I won’t say “the” story, due to the variegated nature at play here) gets interesting, the film’s gears are swiftly shifted (you can almost hear the filmmakers grindin’ ‘em ‘til they’re findin’ ‘em), and the audience is back at square one. All well and good, but with each shift, there is a new set-up and build up, and it makes the going difficult. Add to all of this, a deus ex machina that makes practically everything that came before irrelevant, and you have one hot mess of a film. All of that said, I still found myself liking this movie, largely because it is so much larger than life and so incomprehensible. It’s like examining a car crash photo and not quite being able to make out what exactly you’re looking at. But you just can’t stop yourself from staring, can you?
MVT: As Forrest Gump might say, “Zuma is as Zuma does.” Let’s face it; if Zuma wasn’t as visually bizarre as he is, it would be tough justifying watching all two-plus hours of this film. A giant green man, in a shiny red loincloth, with giant snakes on his shoulders? Color me intrigued.
Make Or Break: The Make is the scene where Zuma has his way with Galela. It’s outlandish on its face, but it also manages to be sleazy and creepy, and it depicts the sort of menace Zuma could have been throughout the film but never fully is.