Akex Nall is the best children’s cartoonist working today. And by that I don’t mean he’s the best there is at making comics for children — but it should be noted that his work is, in fact, usually appropriate for all ages — I mean that he’s the best there is at making comics about children.
It’s not that he necessarily draws kids better than anyone else — although his art style is eminently agreeable and firmly rooted in knowledge and understanding of classical technique — no, it’s more that he so clearly understands and empathizes with children on the one hand, while having a kind of quiet reverence for the wide-eyed wonder with which they approach life and the world on the other. He respects kids, values them, and in many ways, I think it’s fair to say, he even envies their outlook. They mystify him, amaze him, at…
An odd but mildly likable film, that’s the best description of Body Bags.
Originally, Body Bags wasn’t even meant to be a film. Instead, in 1993, Showtime wanted to do a horror anthology show, one that would mix comedy and chills in the style of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt. Three episodes were filmed. Two were directed by John Carpenter. The other was directed by Tobe Hooper. Robert Carradine, Stacy Keach, and Mark Hamill all agreed to appear on the show. That’s an impressive collection of talent but, for whatever reason, Showtime decided not to pursue Body Bags as a series. So the three episodes were strung together in an anthology film. Linking the stories was a warp-around segment where Carpenter played a coroner and Tobe Hooper and Tom Arnold played morgue attendants!
Now, it must be said that John Carpenter probably made the right decision when he decided to become a director instead of an actor. That said, what Carpenter lacked in acting technique, he made up for with unbridled enthusiasm. Carpenter appears to be having a blast playing an old style horror host. Who can blame him? In fact, I would say one the most appealing things about John Carpenter as a personality is that he always seems to be truly enjoying himself, regardless of all the crap that he’s had to put up with in Hollywood.
As for the segments …. well, they’re uneven. That’s not really a shock. Part of the problem is that, because they weren’t originally envisioned as all airing together, a lot of ideas and story points are repeated from segment to segment. The first segment is about a serial killer. The second segment is about a transplant. The third segment is about both a transplant and a serial killer. It gets a bit repetitive.
Carpenter directed the first two segments, The Gas Station and Hair. The Gas Station is a bit too simple for its own good. Robert Carradine is a serial killer who harasses a woman at a gas station. That’s pretty much it. Carradine gives a good performance ad Halloween fans will get a laugh out of a reference to Haddonfield but there’s not much else going on. Hair is a bit better. Stacy Keach plays a businessman who gets a hair transplant, just to discover that the hair is extraterrestrial in origin. Hair is clever and playful, like an above average episode of The Twilight Zone. Keach plays his role with the right mix of comedic outrage and genuine horror.
The third segment is called Eyes and it was directed by Tobe Hooper. Mark Hamill plays a baseball player who is losing his eyesight as the result of a car accident. He gets an eye transplant. At first, everything seems fine but soon, he’s having visions of himself murdering people! It turns out that the eye once belonged to a serial killer. You can guess where this is going but Mark Hamill really throws himself into the role and Tobe Hooper’s direction is appropriately intense.
Body Bags is a pretty minor entry in the filmographies of two great directors but, at the same time, it’s enjoyable in its own silly way. There’s a likable goofiness to John Carpenter’s wrap-around segment and it lets us know that we shouldn’t take any of this too seriously. Watch it for your own amusement.
Patrick Muldoon and Bruce Wills in the same movie!?
Finally, the ancient prophecy has come true.
Deadlock will be released on December 3rd. It looks like Bruce might actually make more than a five minute appearance in this film. I guess someone here at the Shattered Lens will find out when we force them to watch this movie.
In The Unforgivable, Sandra Bullock plays a woman who has just gotten out of prison and who is searching for her long lost sister….
Sandra Bullock as an ex-con? Well, okay. She’s a good actress so I guess she could probably pull that off. Still, I’d have an easier time thinking of Sandra Bullock as being one of those 60 Days In prisoners, who are just pretending to be criminals as opposed to being someone who has been through the court system and sentenced to spend time behind bars.
The Unforgivable is due to be available on Netflix in December. For a film starring a big star and featuring several prestigious co-stars, I haven’t heard much about The Unforgivable. It’s almost as if it’s been very much not hyped. Make of that what you will.
Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claim that the Oscars honor the best of the year, we all know that there are always worthy films and performances that end up getting overlooked. Sometimes, it’s because the competition too fierce. Sometimes, it’s because the film itself was too controversial. Often, it’s just a case of a film’s quality not being fully recognized until years after its initial released. This series of reviews takes a look at the films and performances that should have been nominated but were,for whatever reason, overlooked. These are the Unnominated.
First released in 1983, Star 80 is an examination of fame, obsession, misogyny, and finally madness. All four of those qualities are exemplified in the character of Paul Snider (Eric Roberts), a man with a charming smile, a ludicrous wardrobe, and the personality of a pimp. When we first see Paul Snider, he’s naked and he’s covered in blood and he’s ranting about how the world is trying to destroy him. Even if he wasn’t holding a rifle, he would be terrifying. Suddenly, we flash back to a few years earlier. Snider is being dangled out a window by two men. Snider pathetically begs to be pulled back into the room. The men laugh at him before pulling him up. Snider, looking fairly ridiculous in a cheap suit that he probably thinks makes him look like a celebrity, fights off tears as he says he deserves to be treated with dignity.
Star 80 is based on a true story. Mariel Hemingway plays Dorothy Stratten, the actress and Playboy playmate who was murdered by Paul Snider. Snider, who often claimed credit for having “made” Dorothy, was married to her at the time, though Dorothy had filed for divorce and was dating director Peter Bogdanovich. Unwilling to let her go and return to being a small-time hustler, Snider shot Dorothy and then himself. Director Bob Fosse, who was best known for directing musicals like Cabaretand All That Jazz, was attracted to the story because he understood that type of world that produces sleazes like Paul Snider. According to Eric Robets, Fosse even said that he probably would have ended up like Paul Snider if not for his talent.
Snider, the film quickly establishes, really doesn’t have any talent beyond the ability to manipulate people who are too naïve to see through his bullshit. Snider wants to be a star. He wants to be rich. He wants people to kiss his ass. When he meets Dorothy, he sees her as his ticket. Dorothy’s mother (a poignant performance from Carroll Baker) sees straight through him from the start. Tragically, Dorothy doesn’t realize the truth abut who he is until they’re already in Hollywood. As Dorothy tries to break away from him, Paul desperately tries to find some sort of success, all the while complaining that the world is conspiring to keep him from being a man.
Eric Roberts dominates the film and it’s one of the scariest performances that I’ve ever seen. Roberts is convincing when he’s ranting and raving against the world that he feels is against him but what’s even more disturbing is that he’s convincing when he’s turning on the charm. Paul Snider may not be smart. Paul Snider may not be talented. But he know how to gaslight. He knows how to destroy someone’s fragile confidence, largely because his own confidence has been shattered so many times that he’s become an expert in exploiting insecurity. Snider is a tacky dresser and nowhere near as smooth as he thinks but, intentionally or not, he uses that to his advantage. He tries so hard to impress that it’s easy to see how someone could feel sorry for him and want to help him. However, because Fosse lets us know from the start what Snider is really going on inside of Sinder’s head, we never make the mistake of trusting him. We know who Paul Snider is because we’ve all known a Paul Snider.
Eric Roberts’s performance is so intense that it’s unfortunate but not surprising that it was overlooked at the 1983 Oscars. He was playing a truly repellent character and he did it so convincingly that I imagine many viewers had a hard time realizing that Eric Roberts was not Paul Snider but was instead an actor playing a terrible character. Some probably said, “Why should we honor such a loathsome character?” and again, the answer is because there are many Paul Sniders out there. Roberts captured much more than just one man’s breakdown. He captured a sickness at the heart of a fame-driven culture.
Of course, Paul Snider was not the only symptom of that sickness to be depicted in Star 80. Every man that Dorothy either uses her in some way or just views her as being a commodity. Hugh Hefner (Cliff Robertson) presents himself as being a fatherly mentor but Robertson plays him as being just as manipulative and ultimately narcissistic as Paul Snider. Director Aram Nicholas (Roger Rees, playing a character based on Peter Bogdanovich) seems to love Dorothy but their relationship still feels out-of-balance. Aram, afterall, is the director while Dorothy is the actress. The private detective (Josh Mosel) that Paul hires to spy on Dorothy seems to have no lingering guilty over the role he played. Even Snider’s roommate (David Clennon) is more interested in talking about his dog and his car then about the murder/suicide of two people with whom he lived.
It’s a dark film and not one to be watched when depressed. At the same time, it’s a portrait of obsessiveness, misogyny, and an overwhelming need to be “someone” that still feels relevant today. Along with Sweet Charity, it was the only Bob Fosse film not to be nominated for Best Picture. (This was back when there were only five best picture nominees. Three of the nominated films — Terms of Endearment, Tender Mercies, and The Right Stuff — hold up well. Two of the nominees — The Dresser and The Big Chill — are a bit more iffy.) Eric Roberts was not nominated for the best performance of his career. Again, it’s a shame but not a surprise. This was a dark and disturbing film, a true Hollywood horror story. One imagines that most members of the Academy wanted to escape it far more than they wanted to honor and be reminded of it.
Here’s a movie that will make you thankful for the death of landline phones.
People across Toronto are answering phones and blowing up. Someone has created a device that can send a blast of electricity through the phone line. The blast is so powerful that it causes hemorrhaging before it blows its victim off of their feet and then melts their phone. The first victim is a woman who makes the mistake of answering a pay phone. (It was 1982. Pay phones were very popular with the youngsters.) Her college professor (Richard Chamberlain!) decides to investigate her death. Helping him, for at least a few scenes, is his mentor (John Houseman!!).
Chamberlain and Houseman were serious actors so who knows why they’re in this largely tepid thriller. But present they are and one of them eventually makes the mistake of answering his phone and seeing a legitimate actor have to pretend to die in such a stupid way almost makes the movie worth the trouble of watching.
Despite all of the killer phone stuff, Murder by Phone is pretty slow and the murderer turns out to be pretty boring. I only watched it because it was directed by Michael Anderson, who also directed The Martian Chronicles, which I’m planning on reviewing tomorrow. He also directed a legitimate Best Picture winner (Around the World in 80 Days) and Logan’s Run so he had it in him to do a better job with the promising material in Murder By Phone than he did. Instead of going all out with the science fiction elements, Anderson directed the movie like it was an episode of a cop show. It’s disappointing because the story really had potential to be something better. When it comes to movies about killer phone calls, the top prize still goes to Telefon.
The movie is also known as Bells, which sounds even worse than Murder By Phone.
You are a thief, living in Rome during the time of Nero. You survived the Great Fire, just to see Nero work your architect father to death in his mad pursuit to turn the world’s greatest city into a monument to his own ego. Before your father died, he entrusted you with the plans to the Golden Palace. Now, it is Nero’s birthday and you are planning the heist of the century! You’re going to need to pick an accomplice (you get three choices). You’re going to need to make the right choices. You’re going to have to solve a few puzzles. And you’re going to have to make your father proud.
I really dug The Golden Heist, which rejuvenates its familiar heist plot through the use of the Roman setting. Not only does the game teach a little history (and the authors obviously know their stuff when it comes to the Roman Empire) but it also required a little thought. Which accomplice you pick does matter. How you treat that accomplice and all the other decision that you make matter. This is a game where your choices really do effect how things work out. The Golden Heist is clever, well-written, and, because every choice you make matters, it has a lot of replay value.
Since I paid tribute to John Carpenter earlier today, it only seems appropriate that today’s horror scene that I love should come from one of his best films. The final scene of 1982’s The Thing is chilling, both literally and figuratively. Watch below but remember, it’s also a spoiler if you haven’t seen Carpenter’s film yet.