A World of Beautiful Insanity Awaits

But then I remembered that this existed. Some COMEDY GENIUS set a bunch of scenes from the original Star Trek to White Rabbit and it’s the best thing you’ll see today.

There’s a new trailer for Alice Through the Looking Glass! 

Yes, it features Pink singing the immortal White Rabbit for some reason. She doesn’t improve on the original and her voice is nicely comparable to Grace Slick’s, but there are some intriguing techno flourishes. I’m digging it, I admit. I do like Pink so perhaps I’m biased.

Looks WAY fun. I loved the first one. And hearing Alan Rickman’s voice brought on an unexpected bout of melancholy.

But then I remembered that this existed. Some COMEDY GENIUS set a bunch of scenes from the original Star Trek to White Rabbit and it’s the best thing you’ll see today.

My favorite is the scenes where they’re just standing around like ‘Is it working yet? do you feel anything?’

Have a great day!

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (aka Pinhead In Space)

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE! 

Today’s post is about the Hellraiser series and unfortunately is NSFW – mostly because it’s damn near impossible to show work-safe images from the movies. Also LOTS OF gore, S&M, torture, physical, mental, and sexual abuse…

….Man… you start listing all the disturbing things in this series and wonder what you’re doing with your time…

ANYWAY! On to the review!

PIIIINHEAD INNN SPAAAACE!
PIIIINHEAD INNN SPAAAACE!

With a different director and no studio interference, Bloodline would have been a very different movie. As the Wiki points out, there was much studio interference with production, and no less than three directors are credited: Kevin Yagher, a well-known and respected effects wizard who, among other things, designed Freddy Krueger and the Cryptkeeper but walked off production because of the studio’s meddling; Joe LaChappelle, who was brought on to try and cobble together what he could out of the remaining production; and the most nefarious name of all, Alan Smithee… who does not actually exist.

Alan Smithee is a Hollywood pseudonym; it’s the name directors put on films they don’t want to be associated with. It’s usually what happens with, as we’ve just discussed, a movie gets fiddled and diddle with until it’s all but impossible to make anything useful out of it.

With no studio meddling, Bloodline might have been something more akin to Event Horizon, a brilliant, classic horror film that toyed with infernal presences in space. I’d sure like to think so; the movie’s storyline is actually pretty out of the box (HA!). The fact that several famous horror directors, including Guillermo Del Toro himself, passed on it, has become internet legend.

Rather than just throw more teenagers at Pinhead to kill, the story explores the mythology behind the LeMarchand Configuration, aka the puzzle box, and the literal bloodline of its maker across three different eras: 16th-century France; 20th-century New York/Paris; and the 21st century IN SPACE.

In space, no one can hear this tired cliche.
In space, no one can hear the rest of this tired cliche.

The movie begins in space, in a huge, secure containment facility. A robot in the room is manipulating the puzzle box, guided by a scientist wearing a VR apparatus. The robot finishes and summons Pinhead, who destroys it without much relish, and the trap is sprung– the doors slam shut. A military force appears and drags the scientist away from the console — he’s a Merchant, and he’s trying to fix a mistake made by his ancestors, he explains, but he’s taken over the space station in order to do it.

The bloodline in question belongs to the LeMarchand/Merchant family– whose part of the saga began in France. One night a French toymaker named Philip LeMarchand completes his most recent work, a personal request designed by a local libertine. Unbeknownst to LeMarchand, the libertine has requested a handheld machine of diabolical design that opens a doorway to hell. LeMarchand has a pregnant wife and needs money, so he heads to the fancy country estate to get paid, with the puzzle box in hand.

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE when who answers the door but none other than Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec, rocking a French Fancy Lad wig!

NO WAY!
NO WAY!

Of course I saw the name ‘Adam Scott’ in the credits but thought ‘Oh, that’s probably some other Adam Scott.’ TIS NOT SO!  He’s Jacques, the libertine’s henchman, and he is every bit as arrogant and insouciant as you can imagine Ben Wyatt being as a snotty French aristocrat. The sun rose and set on this performance, folks. Also, Mr. Scott either has good genes, a great skincare regimen, or a scary portrait in his attic because he’s barely changed at all in the 20 or so years since this film came out.

Anyway, LeMarchand gives up the box, and the libertine and Ben Wyatt murder a prostitute and use her blood to open the doorway, which is common practice in French country houses when company arrives. They summon a demon, Angelique, played by the gorgeous Valentina Vargas, who I know from The Name of the Rose. Undone by terror, LeMarchand hauls ass home to begin work on a second box that can reverse the effects of the first. The libertines immediately begin indulging in filthy sex and murder, with Jacques killing his master and taking over control of the demon, which is also common practice in French country houses.

Purty Girl!
So pretty! 

LeMarchand comes back packing and gets himself smoked, but his child is still alive and continues the bloodline. Here endeth the 16th-century segment of the film.

In the 20th century, the descendant of LeMarchand, John Merchant, is a famous architect and has unwittingly designed a skyscraper around the puzzle box. Photos of the building appear in a French architecture magazine and Angelique wants to go to America in search of it. Jacques, made immortal by her influence, wants to stay in Paris and party, and thus breaks his covenant to not oppose hell, getting himself killed. Angelique manages to summon Pinhead, and the two begin hunting John Merchant and his family, after summoning or creating more cenobites. Chatterer has been replaced by a dog version, and there’s a pair of twins who got screwed (HA!).

It's a good thing the jokes write themselves because I'm worn out
It’s a good thing the jokes write themselves because I’m worn out

One particularly fascinating scene has Pinhead threatening Merchant’s son. I can’t say I was engrossed in the characters enough to worry about the kid, but I did wonder how they got him to act with Doug Bradley. Did they introduce Pinhead fully made up, or did they show the kid the makeup process over time? Did they get to know each other beforehand? Is the kid still acting or sitting quietly in a room somewhere waiting for the med cart to roll through? These and all my other questions could probably be answered by watching the commentary track, if there was one. Or by Googling, if I wasn’t lazy.

Pinhead matching the floor is a nice touch.
Pinhead matching the floor is a nice touch.

Last thoughts: Bloodline was not the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen, but the studio’s efforts to beef up Pinhead’s role in the movie did more harm than good. That said, I really like the idea of nowhere being too far away for Pinhead to reach humanity, since we bring evil and its servants with us wherever we go– after all, we created them. The performances were decent and there were some really good scares and moments of tension. I definitely enjoyed seeing it more than I did when it first came out. And I LOVED the space station folding in on itself  to form a giant Lament Configuration.  It felt like a really fitting end to the series, one that the movie had really earned… even though it wasn’t the ending. It’s never the end of Pinhead, not really! There are more Hellraiser movies, and I might watch them without reviewing.

Well, thanks so much for tuning in for Hell Week, part of Horror Movie Month!

Please keep reading, the next round of posts are ‘Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week,’ where we’ll switch gears from gore and peeling skin off, to eerie mists, whispering voices, mental illness, and creepy children for some atmospheric, subtle, psychological scares!

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a great week!

Additional Thoughts: The Iron Giant

I think one of the most poignant scenes of this movie is the moment we finally get to see humanity from the Giant’s perspective: after Hogarth tells him that the bomb will kill everyone, he looks down at all the little people scattered on the ground before him, and at the shops and buildings no bigger than snackboxes. With a few strides of his legs he would be free of the blast radius, or he could simply fly away. It’s just a little place on a world he isn’t from, and he doesn’t have to be a part of its problems at all.

Here is the original write-up that I did of the Iron Giant a few years ago.

Brought to you in Fan-TAST-A-Vision!

Last night I watched it again and had a few additional thoughts that I wanted to get down.

1. The Post-War Setting

Hogarth’s father has been killed in action, that much we can get from subtle hints through the movie:

  • Hogarth’s Mom is having financial difficulties and works as a waitress, renting out the room in their large house.
  • There’s a photo of a man climbing into a vehicle cockpit on Hogarth’s bedside table
  • One of the pictures that Mansley develops from Hogarth’s camera is of both Hogarth and his mom, begging the question, who took the picture? I’m guessing his Dad, before he went away
  • Annie calls Dean “sweetie” at the movie’s end and has clearly developed a relationship with him, indicating Hogarth’s dad is permanently out of the picture (unless Annie is rocking some seriously progressive relationship dynamics).

But there was something I noticed about twenty minutes in. I had absorbed it but never really thought about the other people in the town – it’s almost all women, kids, and older men. And I realized that it’s because all the younger men were called up for service in the war. And more than likely, didn’t come back. If that’s something intentional on the part of the filmmakers, then BRA-VO. That is a beautifully subtle reality of post-war life.

If this is accurate, then it also adds another layer of subtlety to Dean and Mansley’s characters – Dean might be a conscientious objector; the way the other men in the diner sort of dismiss him could just be because of his beatnik stylings, but it could also  be that he’s thought of as a “draft dodger.” And Mansley was left behind because he’s just plain incompetent.

2. Hogarth’s Reaction to Death 

 

OUCH!

Hogarth is a sensitive, intelligent, and creative boy. He saves the Giant when the latter is endangered at the power station. When the Giant destroys the traintracks, he is horrified at what could happen. When he and the Giant encounter the deer and the hunters, he gently tries to describe what happened to the deer, and is incensed when the Giant tries to pick the body up.

Additionally, he has a serious talk with the Giant about souls and what happens when you die. He quotes his mother’s belief in souls, and I imagined his mother having this discussion with him after his father passed away. It’s a terrible thing, to bury a loved one, and he doesn’t want anyone to experience what he went through, especially not at his expense.

3. Hogarth As Father Figure

Hogarth finds this creature, takes him in, and extends hospitality to him. He helps him find food, and a safe place to stay. He becomes the Giant’s protector, in a lovely role reversal. It’s not every ‘boy’s movie’ where the main character is a protector or nurturer. At very few times during the movie is Hogarth in danger – it’s the Giant who is in the most danger. At the end, Hogarth again saves the Giant by arguing with the General that he is not dangerous, although Mansley borks that plan by grabbing the telecom and commanding the Nautilus to fire its atomic weapon. The boy and Giant are literally following the roles of Jonathan Kent and Superman, and just as in that story, the child (Giant) matures and assumes the role of protector.

I think one of the most poignant scenes of this movie is the moment we finally get to see humanity from the Giant’s perspective: after Hogarth tells him that the bomb will kill everyone, he looks down at all the little people scattered on the ground before him, and at the shops and buildings no bigger than snackboxes. With a few strides of his legs he would be free of the blast radius, or he could simply fly away. It’s just a little place on a world he isn’t from, and he doesn’t have to be a part of its problems at all.

The Giant is destroyed in his role as protector, but as we see at the end of the film, he isn’t really gone. He’ll be back, and OMG I get emotional just WRITING about it. And Hogarth has a father figure again, both in Dean, and in the Giant, who’ll be returning soon.

4. Giant as Russia

Obviously, the film’s big themes are the Atomic Age and beginning of the Cold War. Dean literally tells the General that the Giant “will not attack unless he’s attacked first,” which was the entire situation of the Cold War. There’s even a joke about the Giant not wanting to be Atomo, the atomic robot villain.

Additionally, the fear and hatred whipped up in the townspeople by Mansley is also ephemeral once they realize the Giant poses no threat, and is even as invested in peace as they are. And, just as in nuclear holocaust, when you’re about to die the lines between hero and villain kind of fall away, since there’s no time left for such distinctions.

So those are the thoughts I thunk while watching it again last night. I do love a good, layered film that makes you think, and that you can see differently if you go back to it.

I hope you’re having a great day! If you haven’t checked this movie out, you might. It’s not on Instant at the moment but it’s widely available elsewhere.

Just, you know, maybe bring some tissues!

New Cult Classics: Dredd (2012)

I’m not familiar with Dredd from the comics, so I am not interested in seeing his emotional development and/or formative events in his life that made him who he is. I want to see him use a huge gun and chew scenery and spout badass lines and blow some shit up real good, and by the beard of Zeus this movie DELIVERED.

Shit.

Blew!

UP!!!!

Hey Mister Frowny Face!
“They say that Judge Dredd is a baaaaad mother-SHUTYOMOUTH!”

I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I really didn’t hate the ’95 version of Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante. Probably because I was completely unfamilar with the source material and was having an Armand Assante fascination at the time. Maybe a second viewing would change my mind!

My sources inform me that the 2012 version is MUCH closer to the source material. I have to say I thought it was  a pretty awesome movie with some great performances from some pretty heavily talented actors. It felt like the original Robocop to me, and that’s staying something.  (I haven’t seen the newest Robocop, so I don’t know how Robocoppy it is).

Hats off to Karl Urban for turning in a solid performance without ever even showing his eyes. Apparently he wanted to stay true to the source material and stipulated in his contract that the character would NEVER show his face, as in the comics. There’s a moment in the very beginning when he is suiting up and his face is in shadow, which was a brilliant decision: he’s a faceless man-shape, he could be anyone. As Bane from the most recent Dark Knight movie says, the world didn’t care who he was before he put on the mask. So it is with Dredd; we don’t care who he is when he’s not Judge Dredd – and kudos to the filmmakers for not making another origin story. It was also a smart filmmaking choice from another perspective: Dredd, being the title character, should be the protagonist, but he isn’t really, which I will explain below.

After a beginning  voiceover where the rules of Mega-City 1 are established, we’re introduced to Dredd right off the bat – some bad guys in a stolen car are causing some mayhem, and Dredd on a giant motorcycle rides them down and establishes ‘justice’ in the MC-1 style – blowing their faces out the back of their heads with his Lawgiver handheld armory. Urban did his own driving stunts, so that’s another point in his favor. After dispensing some justice and ordering meatwagons to clean up all that spattered justice, he heads back to headquarters.

NEEEEEEERRRRRRMMMMM!!!!!!

Anderson, whose first name is never given (another shrewd choice) and who Dredd only refers to as “Rookie” is a new recruit that Dredd is taking out for her final assessment. She failed certain parts of the first test, but since she has psychic abilities (she’s a mutant) it’s thought she might succeed in other areas. Her character arc is central to the storyline, but since her name isn’t on the poster in a huge badass font, we’re not sure if she’s going to make it or not. We’ve seen how ugly MC-1 is, and now this adorable fluffy-haired kitten is heading out into the thick of it – and that’s the other shrewd filmmaking choice.  Having the tough hombre break in the new meat is certainly not the most original plot device, (My first thought is Hellboy, and there are totally others) but I’d rather see something familiar that works than something new that doesn’t.

I’m not familiar with Dredd from the comics, so I am not interested in seeing his emotional development and/or formative events in his life that made him who he is. I want to see him use a huge gun and chew scenery and spout badass lines and blow some shit up real good, and by the beard of Zeus this movie DELIVERED.

Shit.

Blew!

UP!!!! 

Lena Headey, best known as Cersei Lannister from HBO’s Game of Thrones, puts in an awesome performance as Madaleine “MaMa” Madrigal, a former whore turned clan leader. MaMa runs the most badass crew in the city in the high-rise of Peachtrees, and her interests include skinning people who piss her off, doing the mind-altering drug Slo-mo, dispensing Slo-Mo, and chewing off her former pimp’s genitals. With a wicked facial scar and some majorly punkish hair, she looks like she woke up from the world’s shittiest and most violent nap. She’s one of my all-time favorite villains.

Not pictured: Any f*cks given

 

Headey had this to say about her character: “I think of [Ma-Ma] like an old great white shark who is just waiting for someone bigger and stronger to show up and kill her … she’s ready for it. In fact, she can’t wait for it to happen … She’s an addict, so she’s dead in that way, but that last knock just hasn’t come.” That’s a hell of a character perspective. I love it.

An actor who was cast but cruelly underused was the awesome Wood Harris, who played the legendary Avon Barksdale on The Wire. Ma-Ma’s second in command, he plays the basic gang psycho, and in a few scenes he doesn’t even have any lines. On the one hand, plum role in a big-budget movie with a lot of facetime, on the other, he doesn’t get a whole lot to do. However, as a great actor with a commanding presence he plays the part of the menacing heavy VERY well.

Domhnall Gleeson (Got his first name right on the first try!)  is almost unrecognizable as a sort of…albinoish guy who had his eyes ripped out by Ma-Ma and replaced with digital implants, and acts as the clan’s tech expert. 

In my first viewing I mistook him for a mutant. I think he’s actually just a ginger with robot eyes. 

Clan Techie is not a criminal, but rather someone who Ma-Ma found to  be of use to her, and so she uses him. Cruelly. He lives in fear of her, as do all the people of Peachtrees, and acts as an unwilling participant in her war on Dredd and Anderson.

I like characters like this. He’s a walking example of the ‘People aren’t against you, they’re for themselves” idea. He has no personal problem with Dredd, and is just trying to stay alive, which Anderson understands.

 

The last thing I have to say about Dredd is the absolutely awesome way they showed the effects of Slo-Mo. A drug that slows your perception down until every second seems interminable, every color and light as vibrant as a disco party at Liberace’s house. It’s gorgeous.

Woooooooooooo!!!!!!

There are some scenes of graphic violence that happen during Slo-Mo sequences, and the carnage is elevated to beauty by the effects. It’s probably one of my favorite drug effects in a movie, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like in 3-D, which is how the film was originally released.

 

If you’re a fan of 80’s-style dystopian violence, Dredd might be your new favorite movie.

Dredd is available on Instant Watch.

Science Fashion Post: The 5th Element

The late nineties saw a small explosion in movies with an overabundance of CG, pretty much because a lot of scripts were being greenlighted purely on their reliance on effects (Wild Wild West, I am definitely looking at you). Although the 5th Element does its share of leaning on effects and spectacle, Luc Besson had the sense to keep them mostly in the background and focus on practical effects and foreground activity. Filling out the cast with recognizable faces from the fashion world du jour helps as well, and their outfits and makeup would have inspired me to new heights with Barbie modifications had I seen the movie as a child.

Has Gary Oldman had hair this weird since? Probably not.
Coming at you, in FANTASTIVISION!

There will never be another summer like the one in which the 5th Element came out.

It was 1997. I had just graduated from high school, and was working at Cross County 8 in West Palm Beach. Cross County has since been torn down, but when it was still standing (briefly, it was the only thing in that mall still standing, as the rest of the mall had been torn down) it was known to be one of the most ghetto theaters in which to see a movie. Most of my friends wouldn’t come see me, even if I promised to get them in for free, mostly because the police were at that theater every weekend and some weeknights, too. My manager was doing (I suspect, no proof of course) mountains of coke as well as a concessionist, and I know the latter to be true because she shwoed me the fancy nighty he bought her. Maybe in another universe platonic friends give each other gifts intended to be worn over their naughty bits, but not in the universe in which Cross County 8 existed.

Used condoms on the floor, rats in the concession, most of the staff stoned, and a homeless Vietnam vet who would pay his 2.75 admission and watch movies all day. The cokefiend manager would give him a drink and a bag of popcorn and let him be, and at the end of every day he would hobble out on his crutches. One leg ended below the knee in a gnarled stump, and his pants sometimes slid down until you could see his junk, but otherwise he was a perfect gentleman.

The rest of the mall was mostly derelict; there was a gift shop of some kind, and an abandoned marionette theater, but otherwise all the storefronts were vacant. The whole thing looked like a level in Silent Hill, and it would not have shocked me to have run across an anthropomorphic vagina wandering around, stalking the hallways on chicken legs that end in giant steel claws.

I've beaten Silent Hill 3. I don't know how, but I did it.
"I'm sorry sir, but I can promise that our evening ticket prices are not within my control. Yes, 5.75 for evening IS outrageous." God, that was a long time ago.

It was such a shitty theater that we didn’t even get big new movies; we got a lot of second runs, some film festival stuff, and a lot of detritus, but otherwise the big expensive action pictures went to the theater down the road, that had a decent sound system. Which is where I took some friends to see The 5th Element on opening weekend.

If you haven’t seen the movie, imagine something along the lines of a bigass fashion show/music video in space, with monsters and laser beams and beautiful people running around doing things. There’s not a lot of coherence to it, storywise, which isn’t much of a drawback. I know almost NO ONE who watches the movie for the climactic scene at the end, when Leeloo must summon the will to care about the human race in order to save the universe; we watch it for the costumes, the effects, the music (especially the music) and for a batshit loony performance from Gary Oldman, and a brilliant comedic turn by Ian Holm.

The Hair
This is where I make the official and obligatory mention of his hair. Yes. Yes, it is ridiculous.

Seriously. You just don’t think of him being that funny, but Iam Holm is wonderful as the priest Vito Cornelius, who recognizes Leeloo as the savior of humankind and fumbles his way into helping her.

Another underappreciated performance is Bruce Willis as the standard action foil; his working-class hero amusement at the ridiculous situations in which he finds himself carry the movie for me now, but at the time I remember thinking he just seemed like a smartass. Now I realize he was just having as much fun as a straight man in an orange rubber vest can while pretending to fly a bulbous space taxicab. The story is so overwritten there’s even a sub-subplot in which his mother calls and complains to him about what an ungrateful child he is. No idea why that was necessary, but it was fun.

I did find myself wondering though, in terms of cinematic spectrum, does Bruce Willis consider The 5th Element to be his Zardoz?

Drink it in ladies. And if you spill it, well, the hair will soak it up! That's what it's there for!
You're welcome. And now, like The Ring, in order to unsee it you must inflict it on others.

I certainly hope not.

Like many other excellent sci-fi films with an abundance of effects and a cast of actors eager to make their last payment on houses and cars, The Fifth Element does not begin with a giant stone head flying through the air spouting gibberish and vomiting assault rifles. Or brutal rapes.

I guess I’m just picky and weird about that.

The non-formulaic but familiar story has enough twists to keep things interesting, and honestly the plot is such a goofy mess in places it doesn’t really matter.

The late nineties saw a small explosion in movies with an overabundance of CG, pretty much because a lot of scripts were being greenlighted purely on their reliance on effects (Wild Wild West, I am definitely looking at you). Although the 5th Element does its share of leaning on effects and spectacle, Luc Besson had the sense to keep them mostly in the background and focus on practical effects and foreground activity. Filling out the cast with recognizable faces from the fashion world du jour helps as well, and their outfits and makeup would have inspired me to new heights with Barbie modifications had I seen the movie as a child.

But the shining moment of the movie, which will always be what I associate with it and the scene that I watch over and over again, is the Diva Plavalaguna’s performance.

Check it, y’all.

Makes me want to get up and DANCE.

When I am by myself and listening to it, I do my best to sing along, but, well, you can imagine how that sounds: a cat and a drum machine in a blender.

A friend in high school who was an opera singer declared it one of the greatest things she’d ever heard, and I wish I wish I WISH there was a whole album of this. I mean I have the 5th element soundtrack, but I need MOAR than just one song. Anyone have any suggestions, please post them below. I’ve got a lot of Die Form, but it’s just not the same–Inva Mulla Tchaka’s voice is so joyful, the notes and tones don’t just resonate, they soar. I love the joyfulness the song brings, especially when contrasted to the morose excerpt from Lucia Di Lammermoor that precedes it.

And it provides a suitable brain-rinse to the mildly disturbing image up above. I mean it’s not horrifying, Connery’s a good-looking dude; but to me that picture is the equivalent of seeing a good friend reduced to selling off all their possessions in order to make rent.

The 5th Element is available on Instant Watch, and there is no better way to spend an evening, I promise.