Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life in Poster Art: Juan Piquer Simón (1935-2011)

It seems like they are dropping like four flies on grey velvet nowadays.  This past week saw Spanish genre filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón pass away due to lung cancer.  We here at VJ have certainly had an odd relationship with the man (yes, we heard of him before Eli Roth gave his seal of approval and started singing the praises of PIECES).

For me personally, Simón (or J.P. Simon, his anglicized name for US markets) films were a two-viewing experience. The ones I saw as a kid (PIECES, SLUGS: THE MOVIE, ENDLESS DESCENT, CTHULHU MANSION) I absolutely hated, but they grew to really enjoy them when I revisited them a decade or so later.  Not that they had improved in quality by any means, but there was just a different light to them when not taken so seriously.  And shame on me for ever taking a film about killer mutant slugs seriously!

This week we will be looking at some of his flicks.  And you can check out our earlier review of CTHULHU MANSION as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The XXX-Factor: Early 80s Adult Ads

The following Adult film ads are from a May 1981 Variety Cannes issue.  It is wild to go back and see a time period where XXX films were allowed as much recognition (well, ad space really) as mainstream fare.  Of course, this was before every household had a VCR and the VHS porn revolution.  Click on the ads to see full size.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cinemasochism: A Year in the Life of a Video Junkie

It may not seem like it, but clearly I am not as anal as some of my friends. What kind of video junkie keeps a list of the movies they watch? That would be like an Italian writing a family cookbook. Inconceivable!

My year was, as usual, a mix of low-rent lunacy and mainstream piffle. I watch the piffle because some times I get jaded. Burned out. I no longer fully appreciate the brilliance of Arizal or Earl Owensby. I need a palette cleanser, a NINJA ASSASSIN (2010) to slap me in the face with turgid mediocrity and a deficit of inspiration, bringing me back to my senses. Actually I lied. I always fully appreciate the brilliance of Arizal and Owensby.

First film seen in 2010:
Sure Rupert Everett isn’t my first casting choice for playing Mycroft’s brother, but hey, it beats the shit out of Robert Downey Jr, right? The only way you could find this movie well-made and faithful to the source material is if you had just watched Asylum’s SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) which featured a flying mechanical dragon piloted by Jack the Ripper. CASE OF THE SILK STOCKING has its moments, but over all, it's a pretty ludicrous potboiler that would have probably been more successful as a pulpy period serial killer film if they had ditched the Sherlock Holmes connection.

Last film seen in 2010:
As far as horror movie remakes go, this is above average, but that’s like saying that Five Guys makes an awesome burger. It’s only true if all you’ve ever had was McDonald’s brown, frozen chemical pucks. (How many metaphors am I up to? I lost count). I’ll give it points for delivering a late '80s-esque, gory-ass, slasher flick that doesn’t decide to take the ever popular Gus Van Zant route and make a paint-by-numbers remake. It’s also well shot, has no comic relief (other than the perversity of the backstory), and features some very respectable sleaze. On the down side? You can’t go 10 minutes without someone using a damn cell phone. Also the acting is pretty blah, the characters are boring and if you are going to have a horror movie in a sorority house, is it too much to ask for maybe a pillow-fight or something?

Films seen in theaters:
I don’t remember, but I don’t think I even broke double digits. Pretty sad, I know.

Newest film seen: THE EXPENDABLES (2010)

Video Junkie Moment of the Year:
- As much as I loved our WEEK OF BLIND VENGEANCE, I have to agree with Will, our completely excessive and uncalled for coverage of INDIANA JONES knock-offs was a blast. It even led to my brother, who has been known to dress up as the fedora-domed whip-cracker for Halloween, receiving some very odd and obscure Indy-themed Christmas gifts this year.

Video Junkie "What were we thinking?" Moment of the Year:
- Deciding to tackle a second blog. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Best film seen theatrically:
Uhhhh… man, that’s like trying to figure out which hurts more; getting hit with a hammer or a bat. Yeah, I guess I’d have to say the hammer. Batter up! I guess I’d have to say BOOK OF ELI. Certainly not the second coming (so to speak), but I’m ranking it over INCEPTION just because ELI was a post apocalyptic ZATOICHI remake. Nothing I saw in the theater this year blew me away.

Worst film seen theatrically:
PIRANHA 3D. No question. No point in wasting space on this here, read the review. Complete and total crap. On a stick.

Biggest surprise in 2010:
SOLOMON KANE. I was not expecting it to be anywhere near as good as it was. The trailers made it look like something that Dwayne Johnson would have starred in cir. 2002 and Michael J. Bassett has a track record of taking a great idea, setting it up nicely and letting it unwind without any surprises. Granted KANE has its fair share of issues, but it’s stunningly shot and hugely entertaining.

Biggest disappointment in 2010:
I would totally say Isaac Florentine’s NINJA which not only featured some horrible action scenes, but spent most of the movie dwelling on tedious dialogue sequences that added nothing to the non-existant plot or the paper-thin clichés called characters. I would say that, but I don’t want to copy Will! Nope, I’m going with THE EXPENDABLES. I was actually buying into the hype surrounding this movie. Ok, maybe not buying into the hype so much as just excited as hell to see Gary Daniels in the same freakin’ movie with Dolph Lungren, Eric Roberts, Jet Li and Mickey Rourke! Then what did they give Gary to do? Nothin’ but lean up against a wall and get punched by Steve Austin. Oh man, the hell with you Sly. Just as bad, Sly blows the dream bout of Lungren vs. Li. The idea of Li playing Lungren’s height against him is great, but the execution was terrible. And after Lungren’s big death scene, they are going to bring him back alive and suddenly a good guy at the end? Ugh. Lots of really bad CGI (wtf was with that castle explosion at the end? I’ve seen better digital effects on the SyFy channel), lots of wasted talent, and way too much Jason “I never turn down a paycheck” Statham. That said, I'll probably get sucked in to watching the sequel when it hits next summer. Dammit.

Ok, so maybe I'll start a list. You can look for it, same time, next year.

Cinemasochism: A Year in the Life of a Video Junkie

It was certainly a "fruitful" year for this Video Junkie.  My total number of viewings was 362 films, way up from last year's total of 286.  In true VJ form, the selections ran the gamut from classics to stuff you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy (ah, maybe you would).  We have no prejudices here at VJ...well, except for musicals.  Damn, you unrealistic singing people.  So 2010 was a success in that I saw not a single musical.  So here is a quick rundown of what I saw and conquered over this past year of 2010, the year we DIDN'T make contact by the way (damn, you cinema for warping my expectations).

First film seen in 2010: BAD GIRL'S DORMITORY (1986)
Last film seen in 2010: TALHOTBLOND (2009)
Films seen in theaters: 11 (my new all-time low after 13 last year)

Oldest film seen: METROPOLIS (1927)
Newest film seen: THE FIGHTER (2010)

Video Junkie Moment of the Year:

-Our sprawling coverage of all things Indiana Jones rip-offs!

Video Junkie "What were we thinking?" Moment of the Year:
-Our sprawling coverage of all things Indiana Jones rip-offs!

Best film seen theatrically: TOY STORY 3 - yeah, call me cliche-man but Pixar scored again with the best theatrical feature I saw this year.  While not as good as last year's UP, this again showed that you can make a "children's" film that doesn't pander just to kids who want to see cute CGI characters.

Worst film seen theatrically: THE EXPENDABLES - ah, what a dilemma Mr. Stallone has put me in.  I've supported the man through thick and thin, yet he pulls this one one me.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this film, but it is a huge example of "whatcouldabeen" in terms of filmmaking.  Let me get this straight: you assemble an amazing cast of action heroes of years gone by to go all "old school" (his own words) but then decide to muck it up by shooting it all in the horrific "new school" (my words) style of shakey-cam?  Just look at the fight between Jet Li vs. Dolph Lundgren as the perfect example.  C'mon, son. 
Biggest surprise in 2010: SPLICE - I'm not sure why I was so surprised by this as I have enjoyed all of Vincenzo Natali's work.  I think what took me off guard is just how psychologically dark the film is.  Forget the "this is SPECIES" marketing campaign, this had nothing in common with that sci-fi-action flick.  If you can get past some cringe inducing dialog (Polly: "When did you start becoming so scared?", Brody: "When did you stop becoming a scientist?"), you will find one twisted ass movie that gets into Cronenbergian levels of craziness.  That this got a wide release onto unwitting audiences is one of 2010's greatest pleasures.  Naturally, it bombed.
Biggest disappointment in 2010: NINJA - Isaac Florentine is a director we've been singing the praises of at VJ for nearly a decade.  The man knows how to shoot action better than anyone in big budget Hollyweird and that is why we love him.  So imagine our excitement when we hear he is re-teaming with his DeNiro, Scott Adkins, for a film about ninjas!  HOLY CRAP!  Well, stop right there pal because Florentine had a major career hiccup with this film by trying to emulate the style of big budget action dreck.  From the crash zooms and morph transitions to the phoney CGI blood, it is all wrong.  Thankfully, he did return in fine form with the broom obsessed UNDISPUTED III, which carried the apt REDEMPTION subtitle.  We hope you've learned your lesson Isaac.   

Theatrical viewings:

Most in one month:
October: 36
Least in one month:
December: 11

Films watched more than once:
-555 (2 times)
-DAWN OF THE DEAD (2 times)

Directors most watched (individual films):
-Tobe Hooper (19) - a huge undertaking where I try to see everything the man has made! Check the reviews.
-Terrence Fisher (6)
-Freddie Francis (4)
-Val Guest (4)
-Alan Gibson (3)
-Arizal (3)

Best films that I saw for the first time in 2010:

Worst films that I saw for the first time in 2010:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life in Poster Art: Jean Rollin (1938-2010)

Be sure to visit
the best blog dedicated to Rollin's unique genius