Return to Salem’s Lot (1987, Larry Cohen)

As Nathan Rabin might say, this film is quite poor.

But look who co-stars:

It opens, as all respectable horror films do, with a tribal ritual sacrifice. Maverick tough guy journalist Michael Moriarty (star of Q: The Winged Serpent) is called back to the States and saddled with his neglected son Jeremy. They head to the country where Mike has inherited a family home in a town full of vampires led by Judge Andrew Duggan (Merrill’s Marauders). Jeremy falls in with the vampires, is sweet on a very young Tara Reid (Bunny Lebowski). The movie’s specific vampire mythology seems unclear, especially where it concerns Jeremy and Tara, even though the Judge tries to explain it to us. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention cuz I was wondering where the blue rubber-mask demon had gone, when Sam Fuller would appear, and what was going on with Moriarty. Mostly he and the movie seem resigned to their crappiness, the straightforward genre plot, but occasionally there’s a spark of life, some Cohen attitude in the dialogue, some fire out of Mike.

Finally, Fuller arrives as a nazi hunter turned game vampire killer. The two guys pretty quickly and easily start slaughtering the townsfolk, killing bunches as they sleep before getting cornered. Fuller fakes suicide – I wouldn’t have advised laying bloody and prone in a room full of vampires, but it seems to work out for him. The kid awakens from his pre-vamp haze and stakes the judge with an American flag.

Bunny:

Shooting the judge in the head does not work:

Catching Fire (2013, Francis Lawrence)

Lawrence (who made Water For Elephants and the music video for Gone Till November) turns in a much better Hunger Games movie than the last guy did. This movie will, of course, be best remembered for bringing together both mid-2000’s Truman Capotes: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones. New additions to the movie’s revolutionary team include Jeffrey Wright (also in Only Lovers Left Alive this year) and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman).

Machete Kills (2013, Robert Rodriguez)

Psychotically entertaining, probably endlessly rewatchable, continuing adventures of Danny Trejo. Machete’s old friend Jessica Alba is killed early on by a Mexican-wrestler-masked Mel Gibson, so he takes a revenge job from President Charlie Sheen, tracked by a killer called El Cameleon (who is disguised as Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas before being dispatched by rednecks). Machete’s handler Amber Heard turns bad. He captures schizo Demian Bichir, who kills his own daughter Vanessa Hudgens, earning wrath of her mother, brothel mistress Sofia Vergara. Finally eyepatched Michelle Rodrigues shows up with bomb expert Tom Savini (a reformed villain from the last movie). Also, William Sadler is an immigrant-hating sheriff, and Marko Zaror plays ass-kicking clones. All this, plus teasers for Machete Kills Again… In Space.

The Last Ten Minutes vol. 11

The Last Ten Minutes vol. 11: SHOCKtober Sequels and Remakes edition

The first – and possibly last, since the advertisements are pissing me off, Hulu Plus edition of The Last Ten Minutes.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, Charles Sellier)

I’ve watched Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation, the bonkers slimy Brian Yuzna movie, more than once, and you see Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! mentioned on auteurist film sites for being directed by Monte Hellman, but what of the first two? Who cares about them?

Cops are shooting priests dressed as Santa! Are priests supposed to dress as Santa? A lone Mustache Cop has a long, dull, keyboard-scored stalk around the grounds of an orphanage until he’s killed by an axe-swinging santa yelling “punish!” The surprisingly fresh-faced young Santa is finally shot down by a new cop whilst threatening the head nun, then the movie immediately sets up dead Santa’s younger brother as a possible sequel-villain. Head nun went on to play Jean-Claude Van Damme’s mom in Universal Soldier.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987, Lee Harry)

More cops and orphanages, and another young insane fella in a Santa suit (as the last movie plainly predicted, it’s the other Santa’s little brother) is stalking the same elder nun (now featuring bad facial-burn makeup) before getting shot down by cops – the only difference between the two movies being that this time the head nun gets beheaded. Perhaps the killer’s tendency to raise his eyebrows with each word delivery, bringing to mind an axe-wielding Groucho Marx, is why he didn’t get any more starring roles. Of the six credited writers, one is also a sound mixer who worked on Million Dollar Hotel. That’s the most distinguished IMDB-linked career move I can come up with.

Check out the nun’s apartment number:

Maniac Cop 2 (1990, William Lustig)

Maniac Cop breaks into prison, presumably for revenge of some sort, and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink’s boss the following year) gets on a loudspeaker to talk him down. There is a fight scene with a bunch of different guys who are all on fire, which I think automatically makes this better than the first movie, culminating with Clarence Williams (Prince’s dad in Purple Rain) getting thrown through a thick prison wall like it was made of cardboard. Robert Davi (a Goonies baddie) gives the movie’s eulogy before the token sequel-setup-scare. I never saw Bruce Campbell. Lustig, writer Larry Cohen and MC Robert Z’Dar stuck around for the whole trilogy. Hulu needs to pay up for part three.

Scanners 2: The New Order (1991, Christian Duguay)

A guy gets scanners’d down a hallway, then a sneering long-dark-haired scanner scans a dude who is blonde and wearing a jean jacket, so is presumably our hero. Psychic battles are great for cheap movies since you just need actors to lurch their heads at each other and tremble a bit. Buncha bald scanners in a Minority Report chamber form a scanner-circle around the dark-haired guy and he ends up all melty, then the boss of the whole operation has his head scanned into Elephant Man shapes right in front of the media. Duguay later made Screamers, which I rather liked, and lead scanner David Hewlett starred in Cube.

Scanners 3: The Takeover (1991, Christian Duguay)

Oooh, now you can scan through television signals, and a pink-lipstick woman is trying to conquer civilization. Our hero Alex scans his way into the TV studio, killing one dude via revolving door, but stylish supervillain Helena has an anti-scanner flashlight. The two of them gamely twitch heads at each other until the villainess electrocutes herself, apocalyptically transmitting her consciousness into the TV camera Lawnmower-Man-style.

April Fool’s Day (2008, Altieri & Flores)

Scout T-C (star of Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies) has a gun, is mad, shoots a dude and extracts confession from Desiree, then a buncha talky backstory reveals that it was all a hoax and the dude is alive, but then Des gets her head blown off by a “prop” gun. So far nobody who’s died in this movie has stayed dead, so what’s next? Oh, nothing.

Hulu sent me to something called Crackle for this one, renewing my sequel-watching possibilities, and now without commercials! Why do I pay for the service that has ads, while this one appears to be free?

Hostel Part 3 (2011, Scott Spiegel)

A cleaver cuts a guy’s head clean in half in one blow, but takes six chops and some sawing to get through an arm – inconsistent? An unconscious man is killed via severe-tire-damage spikes. Tire guy cooly escapes the compound while cleaver guy gets blown up behind him, but cleaver guy lives to take bloody revenge. The writer also did The Butterfly Effect 2 and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, while Spiegel cowrote Evil Dead 2 and directed From Dusk Till Dawn 2.

Clive Barker’s The Plague (2006, Hal Masonberg)

Not a sequel or remake but I’m a sucker for Clive Barker’s the anything, and saw this on the list. Slow-walking sad-eyed children approach an attractive young couple, so he tells her to sit down thinking happy thoughts while he vanishes with the zombie kids. Final shot reveals the head spooky zombie kid has a paperback of The Grapes of Wrath?? Are we sure this was a horror movie? The director also worked on Demonic Toys.

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005, Ellory Elkayem)

Hmm, the zombies are talking and there’s a cenobite with a circular-saw arm. Swat team with a tank and unarmed hospital-patient zombie squad arrive at the same time – guess who wins? Media coverup follows.

Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005, Ellory Elkayem)

From a gun-toting viking to strobe-lit clown-wigged zombies, I like the halloween-costume zombie warfare montages. Then everyone is killed by army helicopters. The director of both of these also made horror/comedy Eight Legged Freaks and the writers did Gingerdead Man 2.

The World of Apu (1959, Satyajit Ray)

The further, depressing adventures of doomed Apu (now played by newcomer Soumitra Chatterjee) in an uncaring, godless world. Apu now lives alone, trying to write a book while dodging the landlord. When he finally attempts to find a proper job, he claims to be less educated and take a manual labor position, but then decides that won’t be any fun. Still with no ideas or direction, he accepts an invitation to the country and accidentally gets married.

Well it’s a weird situation – he’s going to his friend Pulu’s cousin’s wedding, but the groom appears to be insane. The girl’s dad is convinced that there’s an “auspicious hour” during which she must marry to avoid curse, so they ask Apu. “Is this a play or a novel? What do you take me for?” But he does it, returning to his city apartment with his bride Aparna (Sharmila Tagore, star of Devi the following year).

Aparna makes the best of the situation, seems to be a caring and hard working wife. Things are going well for Apu, so we know this can’t last. She goes home to her parents’ after getting pregnant, dies in childbirth, then he wanders away to finish his novel, leaving his son with the in-laws.

Pulu tracks him down five years later. Apu has abandoned the novel and is working odd jobs from town to town. He’s more of a fuckup than I thought he’d end up. He comes to see his son, convinces the boy to leave the disapproving grandpa and come a-roaming, in an apparently happy ending.

Film Quarterly called it “the most important single film made since the introduction of sound” and I’m not even kidding, while Rosenbaum calls it “the final and weakest part” of the trilogy. At least we can say it’s authentic Indian cinema, the same year Fritz Lang released his “Indian Epic”

Outrage Beyond (2012, Takeshi Kitano)

I thought everyone in Outrage had been killed except for one cop and new boss Kato, but here’s Takeshi still alive and I had to try to keep track of the various crime families again. This did turn out better than the original, but I’m still hoping Election and Drug War destroy ‘em both.

People: Tomokazu Miura of M/Other is in charge of some clan, and young hotshot Ryo Kase of I Just Didn’t Do It and Like Someone In Love is his #2 man.

Takeshi and Kimura:

Takeshi teams up with scarfaced ex-rival Kimura with his two dumb-as-hell employees to wage war on these guys. Baddies are brought low by other baddies. Another clan is somehow involved. The Japanese Dr. Guggenheim (Akira Nakao, a regular in 1990’s Godzilla movies) is the first to die. Then lots more die. There is a brief appearance by a woman.

The Japanese Dr. Guggenheim:

We get two partner cops to identify with. Sourface Shigeta (Yutaka Matsushige of Last Life in the Universe) is the outsider who needs everything explained to him, and his sneaky balding corrupt partner (Fumiyo Kohinata of Dark Water) wants to start some shit and get the action going. Beat Takeshi shoots the balding guy at the end, after everyone else is already dead.

L-R: balding cop, sourface cop

A good variety of music, and the score has hints of Dead Man. Scenes end with fade-outs as if to provide space for TV ads. My main concern was listening to the language and noting that half of all sentences end with a sound like arrOH, or errOR. Fumi thinks it’s some kinda gangster embellishment.

Prometheus (2012, Ridley Scott)

A frustrating movie, because even while watching the two-hour theatrical version opening week, we knew that Ridley Scott has been talking up his extended director’s cut for blu-ray. But Ridley learned nothing from the Lord of the Rings model, cutting out really important stuff instead of fun but unnecessary scenes of hobbits singing, leaving the two-hour version full of plot holes, confusing explanations and out-of-character behavior. At least that’s what I generously assume to be the case, that the movie made perfect sense before the cuts, because otherwise how would a mega-expensive-looking star-studded major film arrive in theaters full of massive story problems that nobody noticed?

I admit the story problems and look forward to watching Ridley’s second (and third, and fourth) edit on my little laptop screen. But I still loved the theatrical version, unlike every single person I’ve heard mention it, because it’s simply the most amazing looking and sounding movie I’ve seen in theaters for a year or more. The picture (2D) is clear, with seamless effects, and I must’ve lucked out and got the only screen in Atlanta with properly calibrated surround sound. I’ve thought I was past the point of being impressed by massive explosions and outer-space action scenes, but I guess everyone else (looking at you, Michael Bay) has just been doing ‘em wrong.

Two archaeologists (Noomi Rapace of the Swedish Dragon Tattoo trilogy and Logan Marshall-Green of Devil) discover star maps in prehistoric cave paintings, so a mega-rich old man (played by Guy Pearce in distracting old-age makeup) sends a space exhibition led by a sleek, evil Charlize Theron to check it out. Logan is given black-oil sickness by android Michael Fassbender, impregnates Noomi with an alien. Also on board are pilot Idris Elba, punk miner Sean Harris (Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People) and other guys who will be killed in interesting ways.

There’s some religious mumbo, with secret (but easily predicted) stowaway Pearce wanting to confront our creators, the giant, pale muscular men, and ask why they created us. But I could’ve sworn the scientists said at least twice that they’re an “exact genetic match” with us – so they didn’t create us, they are us. Right? And if I got this straight, the planet to which the map led the Earth explorers isn’t the home planet of any race, but an outpost where they were creating biological alien weapons. And when the one living pale guy awakens from cryo-sleep, he sets to destroying Earth, as if that was his plan all along. Anyway, lot of questions, but ultimately I enjoyed the spectacle and think the movie is interesting enough to find the unanswered questions tantalizing, looking forward to sequels or deleted scenes, not blowing off the movie as badly written.

dissenting opinion from R. Brody in the New Yorker:

Scott is the perfect former TV commercial director: he doesn’t invent images but decorates them and lights them to set a consistent mood, which he then maintains, without surprises. He tells you what to feel, or not even—he tells you to admire his ability to get you to feel one thing, whether it’s worth feeling or, in this case, not. As in a TV commercial, the amount of money spent on production design is a part of the movie’s import; the sets and the effects might as well have their price tags dangling from them . . . he took the same laborious pompier style as fell flat in Robin Hood and attempted to justify it with a ponderous subject. The movie lacks any joyful sense of discovery, such as emerges (intermittently) through the vainglorious bombast of Alien.

But then instead Brody praises the “exuberance” and lack of self-important seriousness of Benjamin Buttons. If he had more fun at The Ben Buttons than at Prometheus, we can learn nothing from each other.

Buy from Amazon:
Prometheus blu-ray

The Avengers (2012, Joss Whedon)

Almost as good as the other Joss Whedon movie I watched this month. The action scenes are fun, but the movie gets too loud and ‘splosioney at times. Better is the comic bickering between Thor, Iron Man, Sam Jackson, Captain America, Black Widow and Loki. But best of all is watching Hulk smash. For all the perceived failure of the last two Hulk movies, he seems like an excellent character and it is undeniably fun to watch him smash.

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye isn’t listed amongst the banterers above because he spends most of the movie as a villain under Loki’s spell, as does a mostly-offscreen Stellan Skarsgard (whose friend Natalie Portman gets quickly explained out of the movie). The extraterrestrial villain who puts Loki up to his mischief doesn’t matter, nor does the additional post-credits sequel-setup extraterrestrial villain. Essential Killing director Jerzy Skolimowski appears as the evil Russian whose ass Black Widow kicks at the beginning. And everyone is sad that Nick Fury’s bland MIB assistant Coulson gets (potentially) killed, but there’s a pretty girl MIB to take his place.

Buy from Amazon:
The Avengers (Blu/DVD)

Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City (2010, Takashi Miike)

In the original Zebraman, made in 2005, family man Sho Aikawa is obsessed with an old TV series that’s set in 2010, the year the film takes place. This one jumps ahead to 2025. The only recurring character is Asano, the young student who shared Sho’s love for the Zebraman series, who now provides care for refugees from Tokyo. Sho wakes up, can’t remember the last 15 years (his family is never mentioned), so Asano fills him in.

Oh, where to begin? The Governor of Tokyo (Guadalcanal Taka of Beat Takeshi’s Boiling Point and Zatoichi) has renamed it Zebra City and instituted the “Zebra Time” policy, by which for ten minutes a day, nothing is illegal (cue amusing montage of violence), and the Zebra Police walk the streets in poor neighborhoods killing everyone they see.

Where has Zebraman been all this time? He was in a centrifuge run by the governor’s mad midget doctor. After years of spinning, they succeed in separating black from white. So he is mostly white, and his dark side became the governor’s “daughter,” the Zebra Queen (Riisa Naka), who is also incidentally a pop star.

And what of the alien infestation from the first film? Well, the only remaining alien presence is inside a ten-year-old girl – actually she’s twenty-five, but the force required to imprison the alien has kept her from growing. Eventually she’s sent to the centrifuge and the alien is released to terrorize Tokyo again – part of the Zebra Queen’s plan to displace Zebraman as the legendary hero by saving the city.

Where does Asano fit in? Asano (Masahiro Inoue, star of a series called Kamen Rider) and his buddy Ichiba (Naoki Tanaka) help out victims of Zebra Time, are accumulating an army of the injured to overthrow the governor. Ichiba is a Zebraman obsessive (not Asano, strangely) and once played the title character in a revival of the show. Also there’s a dark fellow with bad-boy bangs named Nimi (Tsuyoshi Abe of Initial D) who’s in love with the Zebra Queen.

Action! The Z Queen kills her rival in the pop charts and her “father” during successive Zebra Times, but can’t defeat the giant alien. She also sort of kills Nimi, and he finishes himself off. Zebraman isn’t sure what to do about the giant alien, but Ichiba remembers the final episode of the rebooted series, instructs Z to eat the alien – which he does before floating balloon-like into space.

Weird movie, then. More nutso fun than the first one, with all subtlety out the window. We get a couple Zebra Queen music videos, clips from fake TV episodes, and a “Stop AIDS” advertisement.

There was a forty-minute direct-to-video spin-off called Vengeful Zebra Miniskirt Police – why oh why wasn’t it included on the blu-ray?

Buy from Amazon:
Zebraman 2 Blu-ray/DVD