Happy Halloween!!!!! My favorite holiday is finally here and I've achieved my goal of watching at least one horror film a day for 31 days (as of right now I'm at 38, but I've still got plenty of day ahead of me --I'm currently watching Wes Craven's Shocker & the AFI Silver has a trilogy of Vincent Price tonight). So yeah, most of my week was taken up with movies...
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Phantom of the Paradise: Brian DePalma wraps his properly powdered fingers around The Phantom of the Opera and bombards his audience with a mucho mondo rock opera starring the utterly sad/beautifully crazy William Finley as the singer/songwriter Winslow Lech who makes a deal with the devil, music producer Paul Williams. Sure do love the gonzo nature of the film but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the music that backs up the plot and by how much I sympathized with The Phantom. And Gerrit Graham's Beef is hilariously cool. I definitely feel like a more complete cinedork after consuming this cult classic.
The Burning: A typical, so-so slasher plot punched up by the beautifully gory Tom Savini prosthetic gags and an ecclectic batch of rising New York actors like Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter, and Brian Backer. There's nothing here that you can't get elsewhere, but I'll take this over several of the Friday the 13th entries. Plus, add this to the top of the Best Axe To The Face List.
Arachnophobia: A plague of deadly spiders threaten small town America and only city doctor Jeff Daniels can stop the menace with his radical use of autopsies and prescription pills! When I was 11 years old this film scared the living heck outta me. Now...I enjoy the Julian Sands scientist and Brian McNamara's wet behind the ears lackey. The rest is only so-so and John Goodman's comical exterminator is kinda annoying.
Jurassic Park: For me, Jurassic Park was the last of Steven Spielberg's High Art High Entertainment era--the era of Jaws and Indiana Jones. From this point on even his "light" flicks like Catch Me If You Can or War of the Worlds are steeped in an "Oh So Serious" vibe that leaves a poor taste in my mouth. Jurassic Park works due to the strong performances from Neil, Dern, and Goldblum that really sell the mad blend of CGI/Animatronic beasties. And of course, the near seamless blending of Stan Winston's animatronics and Dennis Muren's breakthrough CGI.
Captain America The First Avenger: The final lackluster moments of the film bothered me a lot less the second time around. I'm in awe at how well Chris Evans captures the honest, idealistic heroism of Steve Rogers and with the exception of Batman Begins, this might be my favorite super hero origin story on film. That's quite a feat considering that I was absolutely sick & tired of Origin flicks going into this film. Hugo Weaving is rightly hammy as The Red Skull and even though I would have liked a more satisfying climax for his character, he's still half the joy of Joe Johnston's movie. But more Nazis & Howling Commandos please. Hope the sequel incorporates some of that missing WWII time.
Attack The Block: I've seen this four times now. Two in the theater and two spins of the blu ray. This film has been hyped like no other this year, but believe the hyperbole--there is no other film out there in 2011 (so far) as fun as Attack The Block. John Boyega as Moses, the south London Monster Squad leader is a revelation and should be making everyone's breakout performance list this year. And the wolf gorilla beasties are top notch, my favorite New Monsters.
Lust for a Vampire: Another Hammer Horror version of the lesbian vampire fantasies of Sheridan LeFanu's novel Camilla, Lust for a Vampire delivers on all the points that it should: Nudity, Blood, British Hair Style. The film defintely drags a bit and could have been much improved with the addition of Christopher Lee instead of the wannabe count in the background of the story. Fun, but if you want a better crack at this same material check out Hammer's Twins of Evil.
THEM!: Spawned from the first atomic bomb detonation, a giant race of ants tears its way across the continent. Ready to shoot off their antenna and pry loose their mandibles are James Whitmore's flamethrower, James Arness' mad Thompson Gunner, and sexy lady doctor Joan Weldon. For 50s era nuclear horror, it doesn't get much better than THEM! Love the skeleton violence and the constant inflamed puppets.
The Lost World: An abysmal followup to Steven Spielberg's immensely entertaining original Dino Blockbuster, The Lost World aggrivates the viewer at nearly every turn with ridiculous plot conveyances thrusting tired Jeff Goldblum back to the island (or the island next door) to save his T-Rex loving girlfriend (Julianne Moore in a rare bit of crapacting). And, yeah, Vince Vaughn is there to ham it up for Earth First but he's nowhere near as atrocious as Goldblum's screamy gymnastic daughter...sigh, The Lost World is right up there with Batman & Robin as films you wish you could will outta existence.
The Phantom of the Opera: "Feast Your Eyes! Glut Your Soul On My Accursed Ugliness!!!" A visually stunning silent horror, Lon Chaney is fantastically dastardly as the psychotic Phantom hellbent on transforming Mary Philbin's shrieks of terror into those of passion. Meanwhile, Norman Kerry's "normal" suitor also struggles for her affections but must simply battle her awful flights of fancy...Recently having the opportunity to experience the film with an accompanying orchestra at the AFI Silver, it's amazing how effective the film still is, especially The Phantom's initial reveal. Grotesquely gorgeous.
Scream and Scream Again: Vincent Price! Christopher Lee! Peter Cushing! Uh.........All three have very little screen time in this film so if that's why you're tuning in (what other reason could there be?) than don't even bother. I do like the jogging opening credits with its ridiculous freeze frame and jazzy 60s score and I found the jogger's diminishing story to be kinda fun, but for the most part Scream and Scream Again is an utter bore until the Pricetastic climax.
Tomb of Ligeia: Definitely not my favorite of the Corman/Price/Poe films, Tomb of Ligeia entertains with its typically manic lead Price performance and there are some trippy hipno-dreams that showcase what works best in the 60s Corman era. The film drags at the halfway mark, and could have used a little more pulp in the middle. That Black Cat sure doesn't like Price though, meow.
Something Wicked This Way Comes: Two boys (and a whole town) succumb to the dark curiosities of Jonathan Pryce's demonic carnivale; thankfully old papa Jason Robards is there to battle wits & wills with evil. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a fascinating Disney adaptation of the Ray Bradbury classic jolting he audience with magnetic turns from Royal Dano, Diane Ladd, and Pam Grier. But this flick is all about Robards and Pryce in that mirror maze; Robards has perhaps never been more badass than when he's staring into his mirror of regret--a definite must see for fans of Cable Hogue.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK!
Bad as Me: I too snatched up Tom Waits' latest album. Favorite tracks right now are "Hell Breaks Luce" and "Bad As Me." The man with gravel for lungs still has it as evident in the youtube vid below.
AUDIO BOOK OF THE WEEK!
The Night Eternal by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan: Early in the week I finished up the second book in The Strain trilogy and immediately jumped into the third and final book. I'm at the halfway point and The Night Eternal has delivered on the apocalyptic promise of the first book. It took a little time getting there but we've reached near Road Warrior doom & gloom. I know this is gonna get the comic book treatment in the next few months, but I'd love to see this horribly depressing trilogy up on the big screen even if Del Toro himself doesn't direct it.