6 Trailers from Wes Craven


(Credit: Gracja Waniewska)

(Credit: Gracja Waniewska)

Last night, we were all stunned by the news that director We Craven had passed away after a battle with brain cancer.  If you want to see a great tribute to Craven, check out this 4 Shots From 4 Films that Arleigh posted on his birthday.  If you want to read a great reflection of Wes Craven and his career, check out this tribute from Ryan the Trashfilm Guru.

As for me, I’m going to share an anecdote and then, I’m going to pay tribute to Wes with a six trailer salute.

First, the anecdote.  I can still remember the first time that I ever watched Last House On The Left.  It was a film that I had mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, as a horror lover, I could not help but be impressed by the terrifying performances of Fred Lincoln and David Hess.  I could not help but by moved by the way Hess’s haunting song, Now You’re All Alone, was used in the film.  And, as low-budget and exploitive as the film may have been, I could see that Wes Craven was more interested in critiquing sadism than in celebrating it.

At the same time, it was still an unpleasant film for me, as a woman, to watch and the addition of some clumsy humor pretty much confirmed that Craven was still finding his way as a filmmaker.  It was one of those films that I knew, as a horror fan, I had to watch but I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed it.

However, that night, I did end up watching the movie twice.  I watched it a second time so that I could listen to the commentary from Wes Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham.  And — oh my God — both of these guys were so funny and charming!  Craven, especially, seemed to enjoy pointing out scenes that didn’t quite work and the frequently awkward dialogue that he had written.  Craven and Cunningham both came across as being two of the nicest guys in the world and it was indeed an experience to hear them cheerfully talking while these absolutely vile images were flickering by onscreen.

And really, that taught me an important lesson and it’s one that I remember to this day.  Whenever I hear some judgmental know-it-all claiming that only a sick person could direct or write a horror movie, I remember that charming Wes Craven audio commentary.

And now, here are six trailers for six of Wes Craven’s films.

Wes Craven, R.I.P.

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In Praise of Stripes’ Sergeant Hulka


HulkaIn the army comedy Stripes, we never learn Sgt. Hulka’s first name but we do learn to never call him “sir.”  As Hulka himself puts it, “You don’t say sir to me, I’m a sergeant, I work for a living!”

It’s true.  Sgt. Hulka never stops working.  He’s the toughest drill sergeant this side of R. Lee Ermey and he’s going to turn this latest raw batch of recruits into a worthy collection of soldiers.  When he tells you to move, you’ll move fast.  When he tells you to jump, you’re going to ask, “How high!?”  And make no mistake. He don’t care where you come from, he don’t care what color you are, he don’t care how smart you are, he don’t care how dumb you are, ’cause he’s gonna teach every last one of you how to eat, sleep, walk, talk, shoot, shit like a United States soldier. Understand!?

I have lost track of how many times I have watched Stripes.  It’s one of my favorite comedies, a movie that can be quoted in almost every situation.  (“Lighten up, Francis.”)  Not only does it star Bill Murray and Harold Ramis at their anarchistic best but it also features everyone from John Candy to Judge Reinhold to John Larroquette.  Sean Young and P.J. Soles make for two of the sexiest MPs in military history.  But, for me, the best thing about Stripes is Sgt. Hulka and the man who played him.

Ironically, considering that he was famous for being a pot-smoking wild man who hung out with fellow anti-establishment rebels like Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Sam Peckinpah, Warren Oates played his share of no-nonsense military men.  (Oates actually had experience, having served in the Marines before becoming an actor.)  Of all the army roles that Warren Oates played, Sgt. Hulka is the best remembered.

And why not?  His performance in Stripes is a master class of good film acting.  Watch him as he does a stone-faced double take at the latest bit of insubordination from Murray and Ramis.  Watch the way he grins as he barks out his tough drill sergeant dialogue, hinting that Sgt. Hulka understands and has come to accept the lunacy of army life.  Originally, Hulka was supposed to be killed halfway through Stripes but both Warren Oates and his performance proved to be so popular with the film’s cast and crew that Hulka was given a reprieve.

Warren Oates and Bill MurrayIn Stripes, Sgt. Hulka accomplishes something that few other film characters have done.  He gets one over on Bill Murray.  After spending almost all of basic training dealing with John Winger (Bill Murray) and his bad attitude, Hulka confronts Winger in the latrine.  Hulka tells Winger that he’s concerned with “discipline and duty and honor and courage” and that Winger “ain’t got none of it!”  Hulka dares Winger to take a swing at him.  When Winger does it, Hulka floors him with one punch.

This is the only dramatic scene in Stripes.  It was so dramatic that nervous Columbia studio execs asked director Ivan Reitman to cut it.  Wisely, Reitman did not listen to them and the latrine scene is one of the best in the film.  When John eventually emerges as enough of a leader that he is able to invade Czechoslovakia in an armor-plated RV, we all know that it goes back to getting punched in the latrine.

(This was also the first “serious” scene that Bill Murray ever appeared in.  His subsequent work in films like Rushmore, Lost in Translation, and St. Vincent can all be linked back to that tense confrontation he played with Warren Oates.)

At the end of Stripes, Sgt. Hulka retires from the army and opens up a chain a Hulkaburger restaurants.  Here’s hoping that Sgt. Hulka had a happy retirement.  He earned it.

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A Tribute To Wes Craven


Whatever words I have to say about Wes Craven would never be enough. But here’s my pathetic attempt at a tribute, anyway.

Trash Film Guru

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If I had a dime for every time I heard “I didn’t even know Wes Craven was ill” today, I’d be a very wealthy man. And if I could add in the times I said it myself, I’d be doubly rich. Sadly, no one’s paying me for either either hearing or saying it, so all that means is that we’re stuck with the shitty reality that one of the true masters of modern horror is no longer with us. And I’m still broke. The latter,can probably be fixed — the former, tragically, can’t.

Brain cancer is an especially horrific way to go, and I hope that Wes was surrounded by family and friends and went peacefully into the land of eternal sleep and nightmare. I add “nightmare” in there because, let’s face it, he’d probably be bored in an afterlife that was all rainbows, candy, sunshine, and smiles. I’m sure…

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Artist Profile: Victor Olson (1924 — 2007)


Victor Olson was born in Connecticut and studied art at the Art Classic School of New York.  He was a well-known painter, whose work currently hangs in the Smithsonian Institute Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  He was also an illustrator who painted several paperback covers for such publishers as Doubleday, Avon Books, MacFadden Books, Bantan and Monarch.

A sampling of his work can be found below.

Bad 'Un Down and Out Georgia Hotel Pierre's Woman Scandal Stella and Joe The 49 Deadly Virgins The Harem The Heat of Day The Marijuana Mob The Shadowy Sex Treachery is Trieste

Val’s Movie Roundup #20: Hallmark Edition


Not a whole lot to talk about this time, but let’s take a look anyways. Also, I have finally reached a point where the amount of these films going out is greater than coming in. Meaning the Hallmark streak is going to be coming to an end. There will be more, but hopefully not in such large amounts.

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Always and Forever (2009) – First off, this movie is directed by Kevin Connor who brought us the epic disaster that is Strawberry Summer. However, this one is pretty decent actually. We have a boy and a girl who were an item back in high school, moved on with their lives, but come back to town for a high school reunion. They also happen to be there for their jobs too. He is renovating a hotel and she is the interior designer. As seems to be standard in Hallmark movies, she comes prepackaged with a kid from a previous marriage and a current boyfriend. Nevertheless, they obviously still have strong feelings for each other and they drift back together very quickly. In fact, it’s kind of funny to go from a scene where they practically want to start going at it on the spot to her telling her friends there’s nothing between them. The movie worked well for me and it even had Ted (David Lascher) from Hey Dude. However, what didn’t work for me was when they put product placement at the center of the film’s climax!!!

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Really? What were they thinking!!! That pops out and ruins the scene, and thus the ending. It’s like if at the end of The Warriors, the guys walked over to a vending machine and starting drinking Pepsi to refresh themselves after their journey.

Still, this one is okay. Just know that Kay Jewelers is going to make an unwanted guest appearance at the end.

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After All These Years (2013) – After all these years, I still find Wendie Malick funny. Kind of a PG-13 Kim Cattrall. Anyways, I haven’t said it before, but I usually go into these movies blind. As a result, I was surprised to discover this was a murder mystery. However, unlike most of these, we use The Fugitive model here. Malick breaks up with her husband but in short order finds him dead at her house. When fingers start pointing at her, she goes on the run. What follows is rather humorous. It’s kind of what happens when Hallmark stops trying to sanitize, pander to a Christian audience, or add a political agenda, and just makes some family friendly entertainment. There’s really nothing to talk about here except to say it was fun. Well, except that it showed computer screens so here are two shots.

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The first one shows that her hacker friend is also a hardcore Excel user. The second seems to show that the production crew knew how to run a traceroute. It’s funny, but if you lookup some of those IP addresses, then you’ll find out they are in Canada where Lifetime and Hallmark movies are often produced, if not shot.

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A Bone To Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery (2015) – Going way back here to my 7th roundup and the beginning of this long streak of Hallmark editions to the first Aurora Teagarden movie I watched. I didn’t particularly care for that one and wondered if this first one was better. It is. This one begins with Teagarden working as a librarian and going to meetings of the Real Murders Club. An old former librarian friend of hers dies and leaves her estate to Teagarden. They were friends, but that comes as quite a shock since they weren’t that close. Then Teagarden finds a real skull in her house. Start the mystery!

I mentioned it when I reviewed the second Teagarden movie, and I’m still not sure if these aren’t meant to parody murder mysteries. Well, this one has Teagarden start looking into the skull with interest and she only moves faster and faster till she comes careening into the killers. This one works better in that sense because she has a start point that she builds from. In Real Murders, she finds out about the murder, then starts acting like she just took a massive snort of cocaine. It still gets a little ridiculous here, but works.

It’s funny, but when I watched Real Murders, I read a review for this one on IMDb and someone mentioned a green dress that she buys. There is a scene where she buys a supposedly expensive and great looking dress that people keep telling her looks great on her, but the review was right. It looks bad and clings to her stomach and crotch.

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Also, minor complaint, but maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have Candace Cameron Bure elaborately braid her hair. I guess she could be redoing the braid between showers or something, but honestly, it kind of tells us which scenes were shot in succession and which scenes, without the braid, were shot at other times. It also reminds us of the short amount of time in which TV movies are made.

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And yes, there was one computer screen, but pretty well done. I’m not sure why they could explicitly say she was using Google Earth to look at satellite imagery, but not have her at LinkedIn. Maybe because there would have been ads or real content that shouldn’t be in a movie. The only problem I see is that the URL is a wee bit long for a homepage. At least they thought to simply delete the local URL and type in a fake real looking one for the shot.

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The only other thing worth mentioning is the conversation the killers have with her at the end. I love when the one tells the other to kill her using the bat to which they reply that they don’t like the bat, so let’s drown her instead. It’s a rather humorous scene that I enjoyed.

Oh, one more thing. Now that we have both Candace Cameron Bure and Lori Loughlin doing these mystery movies on Hallmark, it’s crossover time! I want Aurora Teagarden vs. Garage Sale Mystery. I would love to see the two of them not work together. Have them both discover the mystery, but stumble over each other trying to solve it independently. If they’re willing to work with each other again on Fuller House, then Hallmark should strike while the iron is hot.

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Daniel’s Daughter (2008) – IMDb said that if I like this, then I might also like Your Love Never Fails. You all remember what I thought of that offensive piece of propaganda. Luckily, the two are worlds apart. You know what the huge difference is that makes them very different movies? In Your Love Never Fails, she was dragged from her successful job in the city to a small town through legal coercion, then kept there through more legal coercion. In Daniel’s Daughter, she willingly returns to her hometown because her father has passed away and wanted her to see him off. That makes an enormous difference.

It still is a little bit much. At least at the start when we are introduced to her and her job at Perfect magazine. I can’t really do it justice in how over the top it is, but it’s about as subtle as this kid in Nukie saying, “America! Help us!”

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But let’s back up a little because it doesn’t begin there. It begins in a rather vague way. It really could have used a little more exposition. We pick up the gist though. Mom died, Dad basically dumped her on strangers, and their lives went on apart from each other. This all happened in a little town on the East Coast called New Kerry that is on an island.

After some initial hesitancy, Cate Madighan (Laura Leighton) decides that if she is going to espouse the values she does in her magazine, then she needs to return to the island to respect her father’s wishes. She takes her assistant in tow. He’s actually the most likable character in my opinion. He is a city guy, but agrees to go along and makes the most of it. For example, they are at a fair and while he would never have sought it out, he has fun going around and finds some nice things to pick up. He even finds a piece of crystal for his collection that he couldn’t find elsewhere.

When she arrives she finds that two of her father’s friends that used to sing together don’t like each other anymore. Apparently, they had some argument and don’t talk now. We don’t find out why till the end of the movie. The rest is her moping while a guy on the island starts to bring her around and the two begin to fall in love. However, I’m not sure why it was necessary to have him be a former world traveler who then settled on the island. But didn’t just settle there, he says someone told him after he moved there that “There’s a whole world out there” to which he responds “That’s why I’m here.” So he saw the rest of the world and fled into seclusion? They put something at the end that seems to imply that his attitude is a little unhealthy, but till then it feels like an anti-city anti-modern life pro-small town thing. It probably wouldn’t if the opening scene at the magazine wasn’t so over the top.

All that said, this movie is pretty good except for one thing. It’s a bit of a spoiler. Up until the very end of the movie, the father is just a guy who abandoned her and was never a part of her life again. However, after her and the guy get the two bickering singers back together to perform at her father’s funeral, suddenly they remember they have a whole cache of letters that were sent to them about how much he loves her. You don’t say? Couldn’t have shown her those letters the instant she showed up in town? Kind of important, would’t you say? And no, I didn’t hear them say that it was her father’s wish they don’t share the letters with her to give them an excuse for holding back so long. Stupid, but it doesn’t ruin the movie. This one’s okay.