Monday, October 31, 2011

The Raven! Happy Halloween!

I think there is no better way to celebrate Halloween than by reading Edgar Allen Poe's classic poem, The Raven...well, how 'bout Icons Vincent Price, William Shatner, and Christopher Walken reading The Raven.  Yep, that's the perfect ticket to get all us boils and ghouls into the holiday spirit.


Dork Art: What If...Hellboy Met Yoda?

Okay, this might be the strangest bit of Dork Art mashup I've ever encountered.  Never have I thought about crossing the Mignolaverse with that of Star Wars, but I am oh-so-glad that artist Jason Welborn did.  The idea of Yoda setting up Jar Jar to get knifed/beaten by Abe Sapien just tickles my fancy.  Oh, Internet, how I love you.


Dork Art: Red Scorpion

Oh yeah!  Not very Halloweeny but I just saw this beautiful bastard over at Reelizer and had to share.  Red Scorpion was one of my childhood action staples, a wannabe Rambo III if you will.  Dolph in top form, M Emmet Walsh, and crazy Brion James.  Art from The Dude Designs.  Guess I got my new laptop wallpaper.


Celebrating 30 Years of The Evil Dead

Can you believe The Evil Dead is 30 years old!?!?!  Holy Cow does that make me feel old.  My early adolescence was taken up with my Bruce Campbell obsession and The Evil Dead was one of my first forays into horror cinema.  In celebration of this historic year and Halloween, JoBlo cooked up this nifty little tribute video.  Well done, chaps.


Brad's Week in Dork! (10/23-10/29)

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...


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.


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.


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.  


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Matt’s Week in Dork! (10/23/11-10/29/11)

    I had a good Week in Dork.  Oh, maybe not as glamorously dorky as comic-cons or celebrity photo-ops.  But, the kind of stuff that makes me love being a dork in the first place.  The inspirational, good feeling kind of thing you get from watching an especially interesting movie or reading something extra cool. 

The Shuttered Room:  What the snooze.  This awful, boring, cheesy horror flick is supposedly based on a Lovecraft story.  Nothing Lovecraft here.  Awful dubbing.  Bad acting.  Just lame.

It!:  Roddy McDowall is a cracked nut who lucks into controlling a golem.  But, controlling a golem is a dangerous proposition.  The movie is OK, but fairly goofy.  Worth a watch if you’re in the mood for one of those 60s/70s British horror films.

Carnival of Souls:  Haunting and strange, this movie is exceptionally creepy and really just genuinely interesting.  The low budget is used to powerful effect.  And star Candace Hilligoss holds the viewer’s attention as she wanders through the world, trying to find her place.  A must for horror fans.

The Lost Future:  I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this low budget, made for TV feeling science fiction yarn.  It reminded me some classic novels, like Andre Norton’s Daybreak 2250 AD.  A group of young people are just trying to survive in a world of mutants and plagues, where prehistoric monsters recreated by long dead scientists roam the forests.  Can they recover the cure to the mutations?  Can a brotherhood of heroes guide humanity back to civilization?  It feels like the pilot for a show I’d have loved to watch.  But, it works all right as a stand alone.

The Watcher in the Woods:  Man, Disney made some darned strange movies once upon a time.  It seems, in the dim and mythical past, there were studio execs with some creative and daring bones in their bodies.  Otherwise, films like this probably wouldn’t have been made.  It’s a well made, beautiful children’s horror film.  Not amazing, but certainly nice to look at.  Not as terrifying as Something Wicked This Way Comes, but still creepier than most kid-aimed works of today.  Sadly, neither of the alternate endings were used.  Both are very cool, and take the film to a whole new and really interesting level.  At least they’re on the DVD.

Them!:  One of the all time greats, Them! is the best of the atomic horror sub-genre.  A great cast, from the leads down to the bit players, it also features some crackerjack dialog, a driving story, and cool set pieces.  The nest clearing sequence is great (and everyone keeps their mask on, even when saying lines!) and the battle beneath L.A. is awesome.  So much fire.

The Phantom of the Opera:  One of the first silent films I ever saw, this stylish, creepy flick still holds up.  Having just been lucky enough to see it with a live band playing the music was a real treat.  Lon Chaney is beautifully hideous as the Phantom, and the story crazy and rushed, but kind of awesome.  Christine is a total evil monster, playing both her lover and the Phantom for fools.  I know she’s supposed to be the damsel in distress, but she basically sets every fire and then throws gas on the flames.  The film is full of great moments and moody set pieces.  A must for fans of silent films and for horror aficionados.

Dark Waters:  Stylish, but ultimately lacking, this Eastern European horror film features a lot of mean nuns, creepy townsfolk, and, well, water.  It looks nice, and I think a lot of good elements went into the film, which I can only imagine was done on the cheap.  Perhaps it needed to be shorter.  Perhaps it needed more story.  I’m not sure.  But the random murderous nun attacks became almost laughable, and nobody seemed especially interested in doing anything, be it evil or good.  OK, but not great.

Doctor Who: Snakedance:  The follow-up to Kinda, this episode sees the Doctor and companions revisiting the world of the Mara.  Again laced with Buddhist symbolism, this story also has a lot to say about past glory and the selling-out of wonder.  Scenes with the clairvoyant and with the carnival barker are especially poignant, as they admit to the sad truth of their hucksterism.  A good story, and typically weird Davison era.

    I also watched a few more episodes of Fringe, which remains fun.  I feel a little bad that I’m not moving through it a touch faster, but I haven’t really been spending as much time in front of the TV/computer lately.  I guess that’s not a bad thing.

    Got Tom Waits new album this week, Bad As Me, and I’ve been digging that crazy.

    And, finally, finally, I finished Bettany Hughes’ Helen of Troy.  The book is good.  It’s packed with fascinating information and extremely readable.  It simply took a long danged time to read it.  I actually started it not too long after it came out, took a many year break and then started making a more directed effort to finish it this past summer.  But, like a lot of non-fiction, I found it easy to put down and pick up, so it was put down many times.  None the less, I recommend it.  It’s very good.

    Also, I’ve been reading more Clark Ashton Smith, which has been amazing.  And I finally started reading an Andre Norton book I’ve been meaning to read since I was a small boy, The Time Traders.  So far, so good.  Between all the classic science fiction and horror films I’ve watched recently, and reading the Clark Ashton Smith, I’m really in that mode.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of that era when we were all so much more hopeful about the future, and willing to do what it takes to make it happen.  I long to see that spirit arise in humanity again.

    And finally, I wrote another brief list for cineAWESOME!  Check out my Halloween Playlist.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dork Art: Grofield Reprints

Since the University of Chicago Press has been having so much success with Richard Stark's Parker series they've decided to publish Stark's Alan Grofield novels as well.  Grofield made his first appearence in the Parker book, The Score and went on to guest star in a few others.  I've never read these solo books, but my understanding is they lack the bitter edge of the brilliant Parker series.  I'm still working my way through the Parkers, I'm on The Black Ice Score but haven't picked it up in quite a while.  Don't want to speed through them--gotta make them last.

Anyway, Chicago Press hired designer David Drummond to continue his good work with the Grofield covers.  I dig em.  What ya think?


A Fistful of Monsters! (Matt’s Picks)

    All right, with Halloween just a matter of hours away, we here at In the Mouth of Dorkness are looking at our favorite movie monsters.  Now, I love a good movie monster.  I used to read books about ‘em as a lad.  Early fond memories include seeing Reptilicus on the Creature Double Feature at my friend’s house.  What are my five favorites?  I don’t know for sure.  But, here are five I really love. 

5.  The Machine-Man (Metropolis):  A mad inventor tries to recreate a mechanical version of his dead love, but is pushed into casting it into the image of Maria, the idealistic rabble-rouser and object of affection for the fortunate son of the city’s top man.  It gets so complicated.  But, not for faux-Maria.  She is bent on her evil goals, driven to corrupt and sow discord.

4.  Triffids (Day of the Triffids):  Danged plants from outer space.  They seem fine when they first land and start growing.  Just a new weed to arouse momentary curiosity.  That is, until a strange light show in the sky blinds most of the population and triggers something in the plants.  It isn’t long before they grow enormous and begin to take a more active role in getting proper fertilizer.

3.  The Cenobites (Hellraiser):  Are they demons?  I don’t think so.  Simply beings beyond human understanding.  Tired of exploring time and space, they’ve turned to other explorations.  And generally, unless you call them, they leave you alone.

2.  The Xenomorph (Alien):  Though I know my co-Dork Brad picked this creature, too, I can’t leave it off my list.  Weird as this may be, I find the thing simply beautiful.  I find it at least as fascinating as Ash or Bishop do.  There’s something special about it.  A reality and a natural beauty that is rarely captured.  It’s a walking, killing piece of art.

1.  The Creature (The Creature from the Black Lagoon):  An iconic monster that has held a special place in my heart since I can remember, I don’t know when I first saw The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but it had to have been pretty early (5 or under).  He looks amazing and is just darned cool.  No wonder I responded to H.P. Lovecraft and his Deep Ones when I read them so many years later.


Dork Art: Pumpkinhead

This pretty bit of Dork Art captures my sixth favorite Movie Monster, Pumpkinhead!  The artist is Brett Parson and I found the art via the always entertaining Planet Pulp.  Pumpkinhead, directed by Stan Winston and starring everyone's favorite android Lance Henriksen, is not a perfect movie but it definitely has its moments and that monster is definitely a perfect big bad beastie.


A Fistful of Monsters! (Brad's Picks)

Okay, Halloween is practically upon us.  I've been watching at least one horror film a day for the last 29 days.  I've seen a lot of monsters.  But how can you possibly pick just's a tough task we've given ourselves here at ITMOD.  And after several days of careful debate, this is what I've come up with...again, the choices seem sorta obvious--I would have loved to have pulled from left field with The Green Slime or The Sun Demon, but I gotta go with my heart and my heart says...

5.  The Gremlin (Twilight Zone: The Movie):  I love, love, love the original "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" episode of The Twilight Zone--how could I not being the mad Shatner fan that I am--but I gotta admit that the creature design on George Miller's theatrical short definitely surpasses the fluffy mushface tv version.  I believe every ounce of John Lithgow's sweaty fear cuz that slippery beast on the wing of the plane is absolutely freaking terrifying.

4.  The Xenomorph (Alien):  The first movie monster to really scare the hell outta me as a kid, there is just something primevally scary about HR Giger's Alien design.  Sure, the chestburster stuff is terrifying and gross but it's that moment where Tom Skerritt meats the bugger in the vent that will crawling all over the couch.  The Alien terrorized Ripley for three more films but it's that first slasher film that I just can't shake.

3.  The Werewolf (An American Werewolf in London):  The Wolf Man is my favorite of the original Universal Monster movies, and I love John Landis' love letter to Lon Chaney much so that I think it easily surpasses the original  film.  There's a lot of humor to be had in An American Werewolf In London, but it's the  tragedy of David that ultimately seals the deal for me...Jenny Agutter crying in the alleyway, it's just brutally sad.  And Rick Baker's Werewolf design, yeah the transformation is utterly amazing but I love the big beastie too.  Just a big damn wolf munching on Piccadilly Porno patrons.

2.  The Thing (The Thing):  Whether you're asking me about my favorite horror movies or my favorite movies in general, I'm going to keep bringing up John Carpenter's The Thing over and over and over again.  1.  Rob Bottin's effects in this film have yet to be matched and they are out-of-this-world gross.  2.  The paranoia and tension produced by the existence of such a creature is endlessly fascinating.  3.  The Thing is not just one monster its an infinite collection of monsters.  Just freaking terrifying.  And of course, it's isolation setting only adds to the creep factor as well as the sense of desperation.

1.  King Kong (King Kong):  King Kong is the King of Monsters, anyone who says differently just doesn't know what they're talking about--The 8th Wonder of the World!  Personally, I grew up on the hindsight is 20/20, absolutely terrible Jeff Bridges version but in college I eventually discovered the '33 Kong and realized the true beauty of the beast.  He's a brute you can root for, whether he's cracking T-Rex skulls or absorbing machine gun fire atop the Empire State Building.  I Heart You, King Kong.  Maybe, next time you'll reign supreme over man.