Love and Monsters (dir. by Michael Matthews)


love-and-monsters-movie-posterDylan O’Brien is one of those actors that I’ll run to watch anything they’re in. I did so for 2017’s American Assassin, and have been making my way through MTV’s Teen Wolf. The guy oozes charisma, so when I found out his latest film, Love and Monsters, was available both in theatres and on Demand, I scooped it up without blinking.  It’s kind of ironic that both he and his Teen Wolf co star, Tyler Posey, both have films this month (Posey is in Alone, also on demand) where their characters are caught up in apocalyptic nightmares.

Love and Monsters is a lighthearted monster film about stepping out of one’s shell, making some mistakes and growing along the way. O’Brien carries the film with humor and action, along with help from the supporting cast.  It’s still a monster story, but it’s one just about anyone but the youngest of viewers can watch (and even then, it should be okay).

Sometimes, you just have to come out of your shell, which really isn’t easy to do when the world is suddenly populated with giant creatures. Joel (Dylan O’Brien, American Assassin) loves Aimee (Jessica Henwick , Underwater), but they happen to be separated in underground colonies about 90 miles from each other. Everyone manages to survive in their own way, and going up to the surface is particularly dangerous when everything wants to eat you.  Joel does the small work around the underground bunker he’s in – making Minestrone, cleaning up the place – because he can’t handle the monsters outside.. When Joel decides to make the trek to reach Aimee, he has to learn how to survive in a world where everything wants to eat you. Befriended by a dog, Joel meets some friends along the way. Love and Monsters is a near perfect fit for the post Quarantine world. It speaks of isolation, communication over distances, while still hitting some themes on taking some risks (calculated, when possible), and learning to trust one’s instincts.

Love-and-Monsters-Boy and his Dog

Joel (Dylan O’Brien) and Boy (Hero the Dog) navigate the unknown in Love and Monsters. 

The cast for Love and Monsters is so nice. In addition to O’Brien and Henwick, we have a pair of Marvel Alumni in Michael Rooker (Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy), and Ariana Greenblatt (Little Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War) as Clyde and Minnow, respectively. They help to add to the comedy that O’Brien’s already offering.

I think what surprised me the most about Love and Monsters was the look of the monsters themselves. I was expecting something more along the lines of your typical Syfy channel movie fare. The CGI and monster effects in Love and Monsters are pretty good. I would have liked to have seen more monsters, but I really enjoyed it what was offered. Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp also get some kudos for the soundtrack, having worked with Wes Craven and Guillermo Del Toro in the past. The theme for Love and Monsters has a pinch of Hellboy to it, and fits well to Joel and Boy’s (Hero the Dog) adventures.

If there are any problems with the film, I guess it would be that it moves a little faster than anticipated. That’s hardly a complaint. At about an hour and 50 minutes, it moves somewhat fast. Additionally, if anyone’s expecting a full fledged horror film, they might be a bit disappointed. It’s a comedy first, with monsters. As long as you’re not expecting serious horror, it’s great, but the film does have it’s moments of little jumpscares. There’s also the notion that if you’ve already watched How to Train Your Dragon or Zombieland, Love and Monsters might not feel entirely new. It does, however, manage to take what’s going in the world right now with social distancing and reference it without directly saying it has anything to do with it. I feel audiences might relate to Joel’s isolation from that aspect, and his journey based on any trial we’ve ever gone through in learning a new skill or stepping outside of our comfort zones.

Love and Monsters is a cute surprise of a film that might have you chuckling more than jumping around in your seat, but that’s okay. At least it’s entertaining. I really wouldn’t mind a sequel to this.

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (dir. by Ernest Dickerson)


Demon Knight PosterI remember going to the movies for Demon Knight. I loved Tales from the Crypt on HBO, and the idea of a movie was cool at the time. My sister and my best friend joined me for the showing. It was treat to watch. I left the cinema thinking of different tales that could come up using some of the elements in this story.

For those unfamiliar with Tales From the Crypt, the show aired on HBO during the late 1980s, and part of the 1990s. Based off of the old horror tales from EC Comics, each episode was a horror story. Unlike Tales From the Darkside, Monsters and Darkroom, Tales from the Crypt had the bonus of being on cable. This meant they were able to get away with more gore and nudity than their prime time counterparts. Perhaps that’s the only real disadvantage with the film. At least with Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, the story could push into darker elements with their restrictions lifted.

As with every episode of the show, Demon Knight is sandwiched between a scene with the Crypt Keeper (John Kassir) greeting the audience with some corny jokes and introducing the story. Frank Brayker (William Sadler – The Mist, Bill & Ted Face the Music) is on the run from The Collector (Billy Zane – Titanic). With his options dwindling and the strange seven-star pattern tattoo on his hand slowly forming a circle, Brayker makes his last stand at a motel with a group of individuals. In his possession is a key shaped vial that has the power to create wards. These wards hold back the army of demons that wish to reclaim the key and bring darkness across the land. Can Brayker make it through the night, while protecting the key and everyone around him? That’s pretty much the plot.

Demon Knight CryptKeeper

The Crypt Keeper is ready for his close up in Demon Knight. 

Having previously worked as a Cinematographer for Spike Lee, Ernest Dickerson made the jump to directing with 1992’s Juice. Demon Knight was his follow up and for the most part, it’s good. The creature design is interesting, reminiscent of Top Cow’s comic book, The Darkness. The demons are thin and indeed strange to behold, but they mostly take a back seat to Billy Zane’s Collector, who tries to seduce everyone into turning against the rest of the group.  Zane brings a lot of humor to the movie with his villain, as does Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways) playing that one guy you’d really like to slug in the mouth. CCH Pounder (Avatar), Jada Pinkett (Collateral), Brenda Bakke (L.A. Confidential), the legendary Dick Miller (Gremlins and just about everything Joe Dante did), and Charles Fleisher (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and Gary Farmer (Forever Knight) round it all out. It’s Sadler’s film to carry, however, and he does a great job here playing the hero.

From a sound/musical standpoint, Demon Knight boasts a interesting soundtrack, which I picked up around the time I first saw the film. Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” seemed like the only song featured in the film, but Ministry’s “Tonight We Murder”, Henry Rollins “Fall Guy” and Pantera’s “Cemetary Gates” are the standouts. The pacing of the film is pretty even, despite being a one shot. There’s not enough of a slowdown to feel bored. Demon Knight is just one regular Tales from the Crypt tale in a longer format. I would have preferred shorter pieces in this larger timespan, but that’s more a nitpick than anything.

Overall, Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight is a fun film to visit around Halloween. Just make sure your doors and windows are locked (and sealed, if possible), when watching.

 

The Sleeper Awakens with the new Dune Trailer


Just about everyone’s waiting for Denis Villeneuve’s remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Having grown up on the David Lynch version (and making my way through the novel), it has some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, what we’ve seen of it so far seems interesting. Villeneuve should have an easy time with the source material, though the movie has had its share of reshoots and dealing with the pandemic. We’ll see how it goes.

We finally have a trailer and some Wormsign!!. I’m liking the look of it. Chalamet’s Paul Atreides has some attitude to him, and I’m curious to see what Stellan Skarsgard does with the Baron Harkonnen.

Enjoy.

<- Artwork of the Day: A Bloody Business Artist Profile: Stewart Rouse ->

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)


WhoFramedRogerRabbitPosterI can’t quite remember how I found out about 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Growing up, most of my movie news came from four major sources – Entertainment Tonight, Siskel & Ebert, the occasional movie poster you’d see at a bus stop or cinema. If you were really lucky, the production company would sometimes create a “Behind the Scenes”/”Making of” showcase a little after the movie premiered. If possible, I would read the billing block of a poster to see if I could recognize anyone familiar, Just seeing Amblin Entertainment meant you’d have Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall involved. Nothing new there. I knew Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri from Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Movies have had mixes of animation and live action – Bedrooms & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, etc., but the big buzz here was the film planned to somehow involve both the Disney and Warner Bros. animation studios. It was an alien concept for me, because they couldn’t be more different from each other. Historically, animation on the WB side of things were edgy and almost dared to be even raunchy if they could get away with it. Disney, on the other hand, was pristine and extremely  kid friendly. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck, all on the same screen? It was the 1980’s equivalent of asking Marvel (which ironically, is owned by Disney now) and DC (which the WB has owned for decades) to write a single Justice League / Avengers crossover story.

At the time, Steven Spielberg was already well known for blockbusters like the Indiana Jones films and E.T., but did he really have enough clout to bring two major companies together like that? It blew my 13 year old mind and I became completely obsessed.

Around the time Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out, I picked up anything I could find about it. I had Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack, a poster, a stuffed Roger doll, and the video game when it came out. I even read Gary Wolf’s novel. I begged my parents to let me see it, and it was one of the rare times where my Mom took my sis and I to the movies instead of my dad (the major movie buff, who took us to see Robocop twice the year before). I think she went in part to shut me up, and to give herself a break from my nearly 2 year old brother. It remains one of the two best movie related memories I have of her.

In the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, humans and cartoons share the same space in Los Angeles. Cartoons live in Toontown, owned by Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). It’s the story of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins – Hook, Mermaids), a Los Angeles Private Eye with a bit of a grudge against toons. For a quick buck, Valiant is hired by R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern – Firefox, Little Shop of Horrors) to snoop on Acme. Valiant’s work puts him in the path of Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer, Back to the Future Part II), after Eddie takes some racy pictures of Acme playing patty cake with Roger’s wife, Jessica (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone). Roger angrily swears they’re still a happy couple and that Acme somehow coerced her before running off into the night. The next morning, Eddie is informed that the Marvin Acme’s been killed overnight. To make things worse, Acme’s Will is missing, leaving the fate of Toontown up in the air. All of the evidence points to Roger, but Roger asks for Eddie’s assistance in clearing his name. Can Eddie save Roger before Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future) and his pack of weasels get their hands on him?

The production for the film required jumping over a number of hurdles. Zemeckis, himself a cartoon fan, wanted to bring some of the Warner Bros. characters along with Disney characters. Even better, he also wanted to add some of Tex Avery’s classic style to the film. Similar to what he did with Ready Player One, Spielberg negotiated with some of the studios, and while he couldn’t get everyone, he did manage to get Disney, WB and a few others to commit. With this in place, they had to somehow merge animation with live-action in a way that made it look like the cartoons were interacting with their environment.

This would require one really huge magic trick, made up from an assortment of parts.

Since it was around 1986-1987, there really was no CG, yet.. James Cameron made 6 stuntmen in Alien suits look like 600 through the use of Oscar Winning Editing, and the technology that gave us the paradigm shifting dinosaurs of Jurassic Park wouldn’t occur for another 3 or 4 years. For Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the approach was a mix of robotics, puppetry, sleight of hand gadgetry, and a lot of imagination.

The art was handled by Richard Williams and his team, who would go on to win a Special Achievement Oscar for his contribution to the film. They had to draw every cell/frame by hand, on paper and then have them inked. These would then go to Industrial Light & Magic, who would add shadow, highlights and special effects To make things harder, the artists had to work around Zemeckis’ filming style and figure out how to fit the characters into each scene.

Take Jessica Rabbit’s performance of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”, sung by Amy Irving (Carrie, The Fury). At first glance, it seems a really easy shot. Girl steps on the stage, performs and leaves, right? However, there are so many things happening here on an effects level that I still don’t fully understand how they did it after all these years. ILM handled the lighting, from the sparkles in the dress, the use of the handkerchief and the great moment where Jessica blocks the spotlight in her walk from Acme to Valiant. I had to later explain to my mom that the “Wow” I whispered in the theatre during that scene had little or nothing to do with puberty. It was because I hadn’t seen anything like that before with a cartoon, and I’d hate the Academy forever if the movie didn’t win an Oscar for that.

Having cartoons on screen is one thing, but making it feel like they were interacting with people is another. Hoskins was the anchor that tied most of it all together. Having to work with nearly nothing – not even a green screen – and perform the physical actions required of the role was quite a feat compared to what some actors do with the motion capture rooms and digital walls we use today. Near lifesize models of Roger were created to help Hoskins handle some of the physical “grab and move” sequences, and actor Charles Fleischer actually spent time dressed as Roger on set (but off camera, of course) to feed his side of the conversation to Hoskins when filming a scene.

Puppeteers were brought on for moments were toon characters needed to hold objects, such as guns or knives. There is a moment of the movie where you can see one of the holes for the guns that the weasels, but it’s a pretty minute hiccup with all of the great work that was done. For the car sequences with Benny the Cab (also Fleischer), they used a special mini-car with a driver in the back. The car and driver were painted over (still, frame for frame) by the animators.

And ff course, it wouldn’t be a Zemeckis film without Alan Silvestri at the helm, musically speaking. Silvestri’s score for was a mix of detective noir and cartoony antics, which made for a perfect fit for the film. Overall, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those films I cherished growing up, and it’s almost impossible for me to avoid recommending it.

 

 

Zombies run amok in the Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula teaser!


Whoa!! It looks like we have a sequel to 2016’s smash hit, Train to Busan! Train to Busan Presents Peninsula takes place four years after the events of the original film. The zombies have taken over the land, and what’s left is more of a post-apocalyptic setting, with armored vehicles and cage matches. Director Yeon Sang-Ho returns for this update.

A Release Date hasn’t been set, though we’re told the film is coming soon. Until then, enjoy.

Escape From New York (dir. by John Carpenter)


 

escape-from-new-york-movie-poster-1981-1020189511Before you start, note that Escape From New York was recently showcased in Jeff’s 4 Shots from 4 Films post to celebrate Kurt Russell’s birthday. For another take on the film, check out Jeff’s review. Please check that out, and then double back here, if you want. 

When I was little, my Aunt would sometimes take my older brother and I with her into Manhattan. In a little movie theatre near 82nd Street, she’d get us a set of tickets for a film, help us get seated with snacks and then either stay for the movie or leave to perform housekeeping duties for someone nearby if she had work and we weren’t allowed to hang out on site. John Carpenter’s Escape From New York wasn’t a film she stayed for (she loved Raiders of the Lost Ark), but it was okay. I was introduced to Snake Plissken, who ended up being cooler than Han Solo to my six year old eyes. Instead of being the hero, here was a criminal being asked to a mission. It showed me that even the bad guys could be heroes, now and then (or better yet, not every hero is cookie cutter clean). The film became an instant favorite for me. As I also do with Jaws and The Fog, I try not to let a year go by without watching Escape From New York at least once. It was my first Carpenter film.

The cultural impact of Escape From New York is pretty grand, in my opinion. It had a major influence on Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear video games and also spawned a few comics with Plissken, complete with Jack Burton crossovers with Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.

Carpenter brought in most of the same crew he worked with in his previous movies. The film was the third collaboration between Carpenter and Debra Hill, who previously worked with him in 1978’s Halloween and 1980’s The Fog. Though Hill didn’t write this one, she was still the producer, along with Larry Franco. There’s also a bit of speculation on whether Hill performed the opening vocals describing New York or Jamie Lee Curtis handled that. Cinematographer Dean Cundey (who worked on most of Carpenter’s early films) returned to help give the movie it’s gritty look, which is helpful considering how much of it takes place either at night or in darkened rooms. Another interesting part of the production is James Cameron, who was the Director of Photography when it came to the effects and matte work. One of the best effects shots in the film has Plissken gliding over Manhattan, which was designed by Effects member John C. Wash. The shot on his plane’s dashboard of the city was made from miniature mock up with reflective tape that made it appear as if it were digital, which was pretty cool given that they weren’t on an Industrial Light and Magic budget. There’s a fantastic article on We Are The Mutants and on the Escape From New York/LA Fan Page that focus on Wash’s technical contributions to the film.

For Carpenter’s career, Escape From New York marked the start of a great working relationship with Alan Howarth. Howarth, who also worked on the sound in the film, assisted Carpenter with the soundtrack. I’ve always felt this brought a new level to Carpenter’s music overall. You can easily hear the difference when Howarth was involved. Where Carpenter excelled at general synth sound, Howarth’s touch added some bass and depth. Together, they’d work on Christine, Big Trouble in Little China, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Prince of Darkness and They Live together. On his own, Howarth was also responsible for both Halloween 2, 4 and 5.

For the writing, Carpenter worked with Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers for him in the original Halloween. Escape From New York’s story is simple. In 1988, the crime rate for the United States rises 400 percent. As a result, someone had the notion to turn Manhattan into a prison for an entire country, setting up walls around the borough and mines in the waterways. When Airforce One crashes in the borough nearly a decade later, the recently arrested war hero / fugitive Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is given a mission. Go in, rescue the President and/or the tape he’s carrying in 22 hours, and Plissken receives a pardon for all his crimes. To ensure that he follows through, he’s injected with nano-explosives that will kill him when the deadline hits. What seems like a simple mission becomes a little complicated when Snake discovers the President was captured by The Duke of New York, played by Issac Hayes (I’m Gonna Git You Sucka). Given that I’ve commuted to Manhattan more times than I can count, the film holds a special place in my heart.  The concept of the entire borough being a prison was mind blowing as a kid. The concept still holds up for me as an adult.

For a film about New York, there were only two days of filming actually spent on location there, according to Carpenter’s commentary. Most of that was used for the opening shot at the Statue of Liberty. The bulk of the film was made in Los Angeles, Atlanta and St. Louis. At the time, there was a major fire in St. Louis. The damage made for a great backdrop for both the crash site and the city at night. The film does take some liberties with locations, though. For example, as far as I know, we don’t have a 69th Street Bridge in Manhattan, but as a kid, it didn’t matter much. From an action standpoint, it might not feel as intense as other films. Even when compared to other films in 1981 – like Raiders of the Lost Ark (released a month earlier) – Escape From New York doesn’t have a whole lot, though I still enjoy what it does provide.

escape_from_new_york

Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) has 22 hours to save the President in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

Casting seemed to come easy for the film. Hill, Castle and Carpenter reached out to some friends.  Kurt Russell and Carpenter worked together on Elvis, that was easy enough. Russell’s work with Carpenter would continue on in The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from L.A.  From Halloween, Donald Pleasance was brought on to play the President, along with Charles Cyphers and Nancy Stephens as one pissed off flight attendant. From The Fog, we have Tom Atkins as Nick and Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, who happened to be married to Carpenter at the time. According to Carpenter on the film’s commentary track, the sequence for Maggie’s exit needed to be reshot and extended. The scene with her body on the ground was filmed in Carpenter’s garage and added to the film.

Ernest Borgnine’s (The Poseidon Adventure) Cabbie was a favorite character of mine. Like most cabbies, he knew the city well. He even prepared for some of its challenges with molotov cocktails. Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, Christine) played Brain, the smartest individual in the room and the supplier for gas for the Duke. If you look close, you’ll also catch Assault on Precinct 13’s Frank Doubleday as Romero, which his crazy looking teeth. To round it all out, Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly) plays Hauk, who puts Snake on his mission. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Carpenter film without a George ‘Buck’ Flower cameo. Buck was kind of Carpenter’s lucky charm in the way Dick Miller was for Joe Dante’s films. Good Ol’ Buck plays an inmate who sings Hail to the Chief.

Overall, Escape From New York is a classic Carpenter film that’s worth the watch. Whether you do so while wearing an eyepatch or not, that’s on you. We all have our preferences.

 

Birds of Prey (dir. by Cathy Yan)


Once upon a time, there was this comic book company called DC. DC was fortunate enough to be owned by Warner Bros. back in 1968. I’ve always thought of this as a good thing, despite not being the best of fans. It meant that any tv show or movie would have the full backing of Warner Bros., and DC would never need to shop around for production and/or distribution  rights for their work. So, when Superman finally happened in 1978, it was a watershed moment in the history of Comic Book films. It would take more than a decade for the WB to finally make a film about a second DC Hero with Tim Burton’s Batman.

But over the last 30 years, we’ve had:

  • 7 Superman Films (5 Original, plus the Singer reboot, the Snyder Reboot and a sequel with Batman v. Superman)
  • 4 Batman Films (4 Original, plus the Nolan Reboot and Snyder sneak-in on Batman v. Superman
  • Green Lantern 
  • Wonder Woman
  • Aquaman
  • Suicide Squad
  • Shazam!

That’s not counting films like Steel, but generally, outside of 2011’s Green Lantern, the support for DC’s character base outside of what they needed for Justice League really wasn’t strong, in my opinion. So getting a movie that stands outside of the usual top tier is worth trying, even if it stutter steps the way Suicide Squad did.

So, Birds of Prey, fully known as Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it and give me a bit of hope for what comes next from DC/WB. The film focuses on Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie, reprising her role from Suicide Squad), who suffers a bad break up from The Joker. To cope, she gets herself a new place and a new pet hyena (a good throwback to the Paul Dini / Bruce Timm Batman: The Animated Series version of the character). When she runs into mobster Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor, Doctor Sleep), he gives her a mission to recover a precious diamond from Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Bosco), a young pickpocket. Also thrown into the hunt for the diamond is Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, True Blood), who works for Sionis. Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, Do the Right Thing) is looking to take down Sionis and The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Death Proof), who has her own reasons.

The performances are nice, and it seems like everyone enjoyed themselves. No one really phones in their roles – both McGregor and Robbie excel with their parts, and there’s nothing really wrong with anyone’s work here. I haven’t much to say on that.

The story for Birds of Prey, written by Bumblebee‘s Christina Hodson, is a bit unsteady at first. It makes sense, given Harley’s madness, and makes for some fun exposition in the same way Suicide Squad did. Of particular note are the fight scenes, which feels a lot like what you’d find in John Wick. Birds of Prey has its own particular style.  My only real problem with the film was the change over in Cassandra Cain’s character from the comic, who is pretty dangerous. Bosco’s Cain isn’t really written that way, but her pickpocket abilities does make up for it, somewhat. It’s not a terrible thing, but if you’re expecting the Batgirl you’ve read about, it’s not happening. Additionally, Moviegoers expecting to see either Jared Leto or Ben Affleck will probably be a little disappointed. Birds of Prey works with the inclusion of the two DC majors, but I enjoyed that.

Overall, Birds of Prey is a fun popcorn flick that may not be as strong as Shazam!, but offers quite a bit in the way of humor and action. I’m happy that DC’s taking these chances, and hope they continue to do so going forward.

At least it’s not another Batman film.

Rabid (1977) – (dir. by David Cronenberg)


Great films are loved by all, read Gary’s take on Rabid before starting this one.

What a strange film. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, save that I enjoyed what I saw.Rabid-1977-movie-Chambers-cronenberg-3

I accidentally stumbled on to Rabid. I woke up with the tv on late at night to some guy trying to console a nearly nude and upset patient in her bed.

“Wait a minute….” I say, rubbing my eyes and trying to wake up fully. “Okay, this isn’t Lifeforce. What is this?” My hands start looking for the remote, but by the time I’m able to grab it, the guy howls in pain. Blood starts running down his side while in the patients arms.

“What the what? Hell am I watching?” My hands search for the remote.

I bring up the info on the film and sigh with a smile…”Oh. Cronenberg. I should have known.”

I jumped to the In Demand station and watched it from start to finish. I was always under the impression that Scanners was David Cronenberg’s first film, so Rabid was a nice surprise. I also learned that Ivan Reitman was a producer both for this and some of Cronenberg’s earlier works, much like Mel Brooks was for The Fly. My mind is blown. What is with comedy makers turned Horror Producers?

When Rose (Marilyn Chambers) suffers major injuries in a motorcycle accident, a local medical center takes her in and performs some strange new surgery on her. She’s kept for some time, while her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore) is sent home. It’s during her stay that the madness starts. As she recovers, Rose finds she has a craving for blood, Leave it to Cronenberg to find the strangest way to do it. Rabid is the kind of film that teaches horror fans. Watching it, I was able to see how it was the source for films like James Gunn’s Slither, Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, George Romero’s The Crazies and Hal Barwood’s Warning Sign. Anyone watching Rabid would get an idea of where Slither could have gotten the stinger from, which is interesting to see.

Those bitten by Rose begin to suffer from an advanced case of rabies, and this spreads like wildfire. It happens to be one of the best elements of the film. The terror in Rabid comes from both Rose as a carrier, who is compelled to find someone to drink from/infect and her victims, who are left foaming and violent.  Bart spends the bulk of the film trying to track down Rose and piece together what’s occurring while facing some guilt. Not a terrible thing, given the entire situation and the fact that it was his motorcycle they crashed.  As the story progresses, the danger escalates for everyone involved. By the second half of the film, the city is almost under Martial Law as they try to contain the virus. As a result, the pacing for Rabid is even for a film from the 70s. It doesn’t feel like it drags on at all.

From an acting standpoint, everyone’s parts were okay. Chambers’ Rose is a mixture of innocence, quiet sexuality and a little ruthlessness. I particularly liked Joe Silver (Shivers, another early Cronenberg film) as the investor who watches the hospital kind of unravel. Frank Moore (who reminds me a lot of Christopher Walken) has this tortured soul quality to him that I enjoyed.

The effects and makeup work were great. There’s quite a bit of blood and foamy mouths, of course it’s what anyone would expect from Cronenberg. The blood doesn’t look entirely real, but considering that this was about 40 years ago, it seems to hold up okay.

Overall, Rabid is a great late night movie worth catching if you can. At the time of this writing, the film is available on Amazon Prime.

 

 

Ford v Ferrari (dir. by James Mangold)


fordvferrari posterIt’s rare for me to say that I enjoyed a film so much that I didn’t want it to end, but James Mangold’s Ford v. Ferrari hits all the right notes. A fantastic cast, impressive visuals on the races, scenes that flow without any time wasted and sound that begs to be heard on a surround system. It’s no surprise that the film earned Four Oscar Nominations – Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Picture, all of which are well deserved. If the lineup this year wasn’t so stacked, I’d say that Ford v Ferrari would score quite a bit. It can go any way, but It may end up like The Shawshank Redemption – A great film that could be eclipsed by giants.

Based on a true story, Ford v. Ferrari focuses on the Ford Motor Company in the mid 60’s, down on its luck and looking for a way to stay ahead of the game. Henry Ford II, played by a scene stealing Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), asks his workers to come up with an idea. A young Lee Iacoccoa  (Jon Bernthal, The Punisher) feels the best way to do so is to attempt to win the famed 24 hour race at Le Mans in France. The LeMans is dominated by Ferrari, who hand manufactures their machines to be legends in the racing circuit. If Ford could win, it would put them in a better light to consumers, but winning requires more than just a fast car.

Ford enlists the help of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon, The Martian), along with his brash and skillful driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale, 3:10 to Yuma), Ken has a few issues getting along with others, but his knowledge of cars is brilliant. Shelby continuously goes to bat for Miles, who isn’t exactly poster boy material in the eyes of Ford.  Together, they work on building a competitive vehicle. The poster may suggest the story is about the cars, but at its heart, I felt that Ford v. Ferrari was more about the friendship between Shelby and Miles than anything else. Their mutual love of cars and racing is what ties it all together.

When it comes to the technical points of racing, Ford v Ferrari’s script doesn’t ask you to know much about cars going in. Just about everything you need to about the LeMans and the abilities of the cars is explained through the characters over time. Car gurus may find areas where liberties are taken, but casual watchers should find themselves entertained.

Kudos goes out to the casting for Ford v. Ferrari. Josh Lucas (Poseidon) plays the heavy in the film as a Ford businessman who would love to see Miles out of the spotlight. Caitriona Balfe (Starz’ Outlander) has some good moments with Bale as Miles’ wife, Mollie, though she happens to be the only woman in the film with many lines. Given that the story takes place in the 1960s and its guys building cars, it made sense. Playing Miles son, Peter, Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, A Quiet Place) is that character that helps the audience understand the nuances of racing. I kind of wish Bernthal had more to do here, but he’s cool when he’s on screen and carries his weight easily.

The film belongs to Damon and Bale, though. Damon’s Shelby is full of attitude. He knows what he wants to get done, what needs to happen and just does it. Damon carries this with ease, and it’s easy to forget that the actor is there at times (for me, anyway). Bale does the same, but is on a different level, with his Ken Miles being both focused and a little wild, perhaps even cynical. There’s a great mix of comedy and drama between the two actors.

The sound quality of Ford v. Ferrari is amazing. If you had the chance to see it in the cinema, consider yourself lucky. The rev of the engines are crisp, the shifting the of gears sublime. I’d be somewhat shocked if the film doesn’t walk away with the Sound Mixing / Sound Editing Oscars. From a visual standpoint, the races themselves offer some nice tracking shots, though there may be one or two scenes that particularly stand out.

Mangold and Phedon Papamichael (his Director of Photography for Walk the Line) perform some interesting tricks with the camera. With the races themselves, the cuts are smooth. You have dynamic tracking shots of cars  in some cases while others are lit enough to be comfortable. One of my favorite scenes involves a play on shadows that makes it appear like you’re watching a race, complete with the sound of the cars in the background. It’s subtle touches like that make me wonder why it wasn’t nominated for Best Cinematography. I should also note that for a 2:30 minute film, it flies by. I found very few (if any) moments where I felt a scene wasn’t particularly needed to push the narrative along. You can thank Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow) for that screenplay.

I can’t say I have any real problems with Ford v Ferrari. Overall, it’s an entertaining film right from the start that gets you into the story and behind the wheel.

Fast 9 – The Fast Saga revs things up with a trailer.


When it comes to the Fast and Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift is my favorite, followed closely by Fast Five. I thought the franchise should have ended at 7 with the death of Paul Walker, but the show went on with The Fate of the Furious. They managed to close off all of the loops between the earlier movies, After a bit of a spat between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, Johnson branched off with his character Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw on their own film, Hobbs & Shaw. 

Not to be left behind, we now have the ninth entry in the franchise. F9 reunites director Justin Lin with Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Michelle Rodriguez, and Nathalie Emmanuel. John Cena (Bumblebee) plays the villain this time around, as a thief with personal ties to Dominic Toretto.  With this trailer, we see a few very familiar faces, including Tokyo Drift’s Lucas Black and Sung Kang. How Kang’s character Han is still alive, I don’t know, but we’ll find out this May when the film releases.

Enjoy.