Thursday, January 24, 2013

Popatopolis: the Jim Wynorski story (Netflix)

I was waiting for a pizza yesterday and had a brilliant idea for a B-movie: The Pizza Guy. "Prepare to die... in 30 minutes or less!" So there I am, in a B-movie mood, looking for something to watch on Netflix while I ate my pizza. Lo and behold I discovered a documentary about B-movies that I somehow hadn't seen yet. (My favorite of the B-movie docs on Netflix is Machete Maidens Unleashed, which is better than the movie I'm discussing here; it's about a period in time that exploitation movies exploited The Philippines.)

Popatopolis is about director Jim Wynorsky's quest to make The Witches of Breastwick in three days. He's the guy who gave us Chopping Mall (starring Barbra Crampton, my all-time favorite scream queen) and the sequel to Wes Craven's Swamp Thing. It's a pretty pleasant documentary with a few laughs and a lot of breasts. Unfortunately it would have been better had it been about his older movies rather than his recent foray into softcore pornography.

If you're not a seasoned B-movie nut, I'd suggest starting with Corman's World. The rest of you though should probably check out Popatopolis. Wynorsky turns out to be an angry but oddly likable guy. Too bad the B-movie is dead these days.

Bonus video: Barbara Crampton and other scream queens at a horror convention in Atlanta. Amelia Kinkade of Night of the Demons fame appears here, too; you may also remember her going full retard as The Pet Psychic (I shit you not).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Scientific American points out that many liberals can be anti-science, too

Scientific American has the article.

From the article: liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti–fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti–wind power because of avian fatalities. The underlying current is “everything natural is good” and “everything unnatural is bad.”
One comment points out what I thought was a worthy distinction: maybe the right are more likely to be anti-science while the left tend towards anti-technology.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum.

Pop quiz, hot shot: you stumble upon a pair of sunglasses that, like a forgotten episode of The Outer Limits, allows you to see the subliminal messages and disguised aliens of an Earth invasion. What do you do? If you answered beat the shit out of your best friend and shoot up a bank, you would be absolutely right. 

Sometimes you just have to ask yourself: What would JC do?

I once said on this blog John Carpenter is the only movie director whose work I can enjoy on a completely mindless level. This did not mean that the majority of his works require you to leave your brain at home (unless you're talking about The Ward, maybe). I was simply trying to justify the fact that any other director in the world couldn't have sneaked Ghosts of Mars or Escape from L.A. past me on style alone. Carpenter did. I fucking love those movies. I don't care if what I say about those films seems at odds with what I say about other films. If other bloggers my age can swoon over Ninja Turtles and Transformers just because it was integral to their childhoods, then damn it, I can do the same with JC movies. Because let's face it—even when I was a kid I didn't get up early enough to watch action figure cartoons.
John Carpenter's movies are the only form of art so ingrained into my nostalgia that I can't hold it to the standards by which I judge absolutely everything else. A JC movie to me is as comfortable and recognizable as riding a bike or the crunch of snow underfoot. I still own the VHS of They Live that I've owned for as long as I can remember. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Speed 3: Better than most Michael Bay flicks

Long story short: Speed 3 is an amateur short film video about a bomb on a roller coaster. It's cut together faster than any MTV video ever made. Read the long story made long, from Roger Ebert himself:

No favorable review I've ever written has inspired more disbelief than my three stars for "Speed 2." Even its star, Sandra Bullock, started mentioning in interviews her disgust with herself for agreeing to star in it. It's frequently cited as an example of what a lousy critic I am. All the same, I'm grateful to movies that show me what I haven't seen before, and "Speed 2" had a cruise ship plowing right up the main street of a Caribbean village. (Note well: Siskel also gave it thumbs up.) 
In the spring of 1999, at the University of Colorado's Conference on World Affairs, I argued that movies like this weren't as easy to make as it might appear. In a moment of madness I announced in self defense a contest for a new "Speed 3." The rules were: It should be on VHS, no longer than five minutes long, and must involve something that cannot stop moving.

Read the rest of the story here on Ebert's blog. For the record, he's right about the finale in which the ship crashes at the end of the movie. That scene was so awesome it knocked my socks off. The rest of the movie, however... chainsaws on a cruise ship. Not one. Plural. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Half-Life 2: Episode 4 (yes, four)

In case you've A) been living under a rock or B) just don't play video games, Half-Life 3 is the most anticipated video game in history. Period. Half-Life 1 was a great game. Half-Life 2 said, "Fuck being great, that ain't good enough," and melted most of our eyeballs right out of our skulls. Developer Gabe Newell is the Akira Kurosawa of video games, the Dostoevsky of video game technology. The reason I never give a scaled review of any games I write about on this blog is because Half-Life 2 is a ten and any other game ever made doesn't ever get higher than a nine—it's that good.

screenshots/test footage from Half-Life 2: Episode 4?

Soon after Half-Life 2 Gabe Newell promised us that instead of a fully fledged sequel we'd be getting episodic content. There was Half-Life 2: Episode One (I personally thought the main game was, technically, the first episode, but what do I know? I am not the genius-god known by many fans as "Gaben.") and shortly after that there was Episode Two, which ended on one hell of a cliffhanger and was no less remarkable than the gameplay before it.

Then? Nothing. And that was five years ago.

Today it's generally believed that Episode Three has been scrapped and we're going to get that full fledged sequel after all. But in case that's not the case, well, I'll refer to a possible (though unlikely) Episode 3 as Half-Life 3 for the sake of simplicity. So every other month or so I get an itch that can only be scratched by Googling the recent news for "Half-Life 3" and I leap into the usual rabbit hole of rumors and all-around made-up bullshit (the latter of which can be quite funny, actually), but today I was pleasantly surprised to find what at first seemed like a joke, but isn't...

It's concept art from Half-Life 2: Episode Four. FOUR! (See video above.) If you're wondering what happened to Episode Three bear with me. Valve always planned to make Episode Three—that part is undisputed unless you also believe the Earth is flat and aliens populated the planet. And to presumably make their episodic content come out even quicker they enlisted outside help to work on the game while they developed Episode 3 in-house.

If you want to know more then a good place to start is Half-Life Wikia. Personally, I think I need to stop searching for Half-Life 3 rumors and get a full life... or just go to bed and repeat the search in the morning. It's getting close, I tell you. I can feel it....

Monday, January 14, 2013

I just couldn't put Old Man's War down

John Perry is a likable old man from Ohio who joins the army of the future for a shot at a second life. In typical Heinlein fashion, military recruits derive benefits unavailable to everyday citizens. See, if you join the army on your seventy-fifth birthday you receive the luxury of a brand new body, which is more physically fit than your original body ever was. From there you're shuffled off to boot camp on a remote planet where you're likely to learn that disgusting, evil-looking aliens are humanity's allies while the pleasant-looking, dear-like aliens are most likely among your worst nightmares.

old people review Old Man's War

That's nearly half of the book, but I haven't given too much away. The fun isn't so much what happens, but how it happens. Remember Kick the Can? It was the episode of The Twilight Zone (remade as a segment in the movie version) in which a group of elderly people learn how to be young again. That's what Old Man's War reminds me of a lot of the time. It's as if a large group of seventy-five year olds relive their first day of school on an intergalactic scale. For a long, opening section of the book it's a whimsical fantasy. At the beginning of the second section, however, it turns dark, but manages to retain its charm.

Although I frequent his blog more than most I haven't gotten around to reading any of John Scalzi's fiction until now. I bought Old Man's War a long time ago after reading Scalzi's candid introduction to The Forever War (one of my all-time favorites), but it was one of those books that got lost by the bed in my ever growing "To Read" pile. I should know by now that the book I plan to read is never the book I read at the time. Every time I finish one novel, instead of going to the next in line, I go through my unread pile and read first sentences at random. A Dune sequel wasn't doing it for me. Neither was The Wheel of Time or Consider Phlebas. So with a sigh I picked up Old Man's War and read:

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army.

Now you should see why I was hooked. Openings are the most important and perhaps hardest part to get right. Scalzi does it in a little over a dozen words.

Heinlein's stamp is all over Old Man's War in a pleasant way... and I'm not the biggest Heinlein fan. Scalzi is a Heinlein fan and isn't ashamed to draw inspiration from the SF maestro. Old Man's War is a casual read, though not at all shallow, and you can't read it in the same house anyone's sleeping in—it's far too funny for that. An early scene in which John visits an army doctor had me howling.

I think it's worth noting that Scalzi originally self-published Old Man's War on his blog, where it became so popular Tor eventually picked it up. It just goes to show that the science fiction portion of the publishing industry is relatively fearless of trying new things, not to mention particularly proud of finding new talent. In a matter of a few short years Scalzi went from being a self-published science fiction writer to the head of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Oh, and Paramount optioned Old Man's War into a movie. Sure, options are a dime a dozen—I'm still waiting for a Repairman Jack film—but I imagine Old Man's War: The Movie has a good shot of being made if Ender's Game performs well at the box office (it will).

I assumed John Scalzi was one of those guys who lucked out. I realize I was wrong. The guy's got the talent to back it up. I don't remember the last time I became so enamored with a writer after reading only one of his novels. Check out the user reviews. I'm far from being the only one with such high praise, even if two of the three people in the video above disliked it.

I don't plan on reading any of the sequels next, but that's only because I never read the books I plan on reading.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The trailer for Wrong is insane(ly awesome)

I loved Quentin Dupieux's Rubber for one reason in particular: it was the best movie about a killer tire that could possibly be made. Okay, that's not the praise it deserves, but I still loved it. A lot of people don't like that movie, though, but they're exactly the kind of people who probably should have avoided a film about a killer tire to begin with.

The director's feature follow-up is called Wrong, which (in some sort of way or another) is an extension of his short film Wrong Cops: Chapter 1, which starred Marilyn Manson. It was the kind of role you would expect from Nick Swordson as opposed to the guy who gave us The Dope Show. If you watch Wrong Cops, keep an eye out for a cameo by Jon Lajoie in his famous outfit.

I'm glad to see Wrong will be on VOD February 1st. I'm ready to have my brain melted into ice cream, what about you?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dinner for five horror maestros... and Roger Corman (1990)

I very rarely come across anything like this on YouTube. I love watching people like this speak. 

It's like Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five, only there are six diners instead of five. The diners are Peter Atkins, Clive Barker, Ramsey Cambell, John Carpenter, Lisa Tuttle, and the always interesting Roger Corman. Corman also appeared in the best episode of Dinner for Five:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ghostbusters shooting locations, 20+ years later

This is cool. James Rolfe (the Angry Video Game Nerd) and his friend Brett Vanderbrook went scouting for the locations in Ghostbusters films. Interestingly enough, the two fans discover the films are pretty true to real life geography, other than some choice scenes that were shot on the opposite coast. 

Check out the original post here: Follow That Marshmallow: A Ghostbusters Tour.

UPDATE: I scheduled this post a couple of days ago and the morning it went live, James Rolfe's YouTube channels were terminated, most likely due to an erroneous DMCA takedown. Read the Reddit thread here. At the moment it's all speculation, but apparently the nerd's friend, Motherfucker Mike, is aware of the issue.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Best Genre Movies of 2012

Amazing Spider-Man
Most people I know didn't like it. I loved it. It just worked for me on a level the other films missed. Perhaps my expectations were really low; I really didn't think I wanted to see another Spider-Man movie because I was one of the suckers who paid to see part three.

The Avengers
This is a big movie. In fact, it may very well be the biggest movie I've ever seen in terms of scope. At the very least, it's the biggest movie I've ever seen that works. I was pleasantly surprised.

Cabin In The Woods
If you're anything like me you groaned when you saw the trailer. Hey kids! It's yet another "teenagers in a cabin" film! Thankfully the word of mouth got around to me: it's funny, it's entertaining, and it's the best horror film of the year. Actually, make that years, plural.

I was extremely impressed with this movie even though it came at a time when I was pretty sick of seeing movies about people with superpowers.

The Dark Knight Rises
My least favorite of the comic book movies on my list, and yet a worthy ending for the Nolan trilogy. Catwoman is pretty boring, but Bane is menacing enough. And dat ending!

Django Unchained
This is one of my two favorite films of the year.

This film isn't modern and I mean that in a good way. It's so refreshing to see a straight forward, R-rated action film like this. Hopefully it finds a cult following on video.

The Grey (Links to trailer; I didn't review it)
I don't know enough about wolves to say for sure, but there was a lot about this movie I doubted. Doesn't matter. Just pretend it's all accurate and you'll find yourself rooting for the characters no matter how silly it infrequently gets.

John Dies At The End
It's just a fun movie. Watch the trailer and you should know right off the bat whether or not that's for you.

This is it, my favorite film of the year. The special effects are a little silly at times, but that's not what this movie is about anyway. There's an unexpected flashfoward/flashsideways about thirty minutes into the picture that made me fall in love with it. Anything but your standard action movie.

Men In Black 3
Perhaps this one is more of an honorable mention. It is, however, my favorite in a series that wasn't my cup of tea to begin with. I just wish Tommy Lee Jones had cared a little bit more about being in it. That and the ending was a little rushed, not to mention unnecessary.

So what were your favorite movies of the year? Leave a comment below.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sudden Blood: Tim Heidecker recounts his own stabbing

Heidecker tells the audience, "I don't know if you've ever cut yourself..." [Pauses for laughter.] "It's a bigger version of cutting yourself."

The video was apparently ripped from the Risk! Podcast, which was recorded at the NerdMelt Showroom in LA. 

This image comes from Imgur after a simple Google search.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Minecraft documentary is now available for purchase AND for free

For video game developer Markus "Notch" Persson, Minecraft was a helluva success story. Now you can see that story in the form of a documentary by 2 Player Productions. Click that link to buy the DRM-free movie. Or get the free edition on The Pirate Bay, which was uploaded by the producers themselves.

I plan to watch the free version this weekend.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Our Hausu, in the middle of our street

What is it with me talking about horror movies lately? I don't know. I guess I've had my head stuck in science fiction so long (reading it, writing it), I want to talk about anything but at the moment.

Yesterday someone asked, "What's the most absurd horror film you've ever seen?" I was surprised how quickly the answer came to me. Usually you have to think about "the most" of anything. This was not the case. The answer was obviously Hausu, which I'll get to in a moment.

I remember reading an article in Fangoria about Japanese horror and how it sometimes mashes genres together, seemingly at random. That article alone is probably one of the reasons I became a fan of Japanese horror and offbeat movies in general; when the Troma movies on USA's Up All Night! were severely edited and most of us didn't have access to the Internet yet, you really had to educate yourself with niche magazines if you wanted any chance of finding the most bizarre stuff your local video store had to offer. For me, that was Critic's Choice Video (oh, how I miss thee). Much later, I discovered the supermarket video store had some amazingly weird stuff that was so obscure, it never even developed the cult following it deserved.

Take, for instance, Satan's Cheerleaders, the cover of which read: "RATED PG." This was obviously a typo.

dat negative film effect...

At one time in the days of AOL, I belonged to a group in which the members traded bootlegs in VHS and the then new DVD. My first DVD player was not only DRM-free, it could play any region in the world. Unfortunately, that marked the beginning of the end of my glory days. After you spend a childhood and much of your teenage years actively seeking out stuff like that, you get a little burned out. At least I did. I got bored wading through a dozen or so boring horror films just to find a Cannibal Holocaust or a Blood Feast... which weren't even good enough to live up to the hype. The fact of the matter was I had grown out of horror... no, not grown up. There was a period of time in which I grew out of science fiction, too; now look at this blog—it's chock full of it.

The point: I was no stranger to the absurd. I spent many years of my life chasing it. So when I was informed Hausu was so balls-to-the-wall crazy I had to see it before I died, I was dubious. I should have known better. The guy who gave me the bootleg was so hardcore about horror his bedroom wall was plastered in autographed movie merchandise. One day, many months later, I finally got around to plugging the DVD into my entertainment center. Within minutes I had turned it off. Not because it was bad, but because I knew right away: I had to watch this movie with someone else.

Hausu is one of the best times I've ever had watching a movie. To this day I still don't know what it's about and it surprises the hell out of me I haven't written about it here before now. To avoid confusing this Japanese masterpiece with the many other movies called House, I refer to it as Hausu. Yes, I just called Hausu a masterpiece. No, that's not fluff. Whereas Cannibal Holocaust, Blood Feast, and the original Last House on the Left can only appeal to horror aficionados, Hausu should appeal to anyone with a pulse and a sense of humor.

Typically I'd mention something about the plot by now. What's the point? There's a house. It's haunted. There's a cat. It's crazy. Heads will fly—literally. 'Nuff said. It's just not a movie you can analyze. It's less of a traditional movie experience and more of something that just happens to you. Let it have its way.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut

I haven't seen Nightbreed in ten years, but I remember quite clearly that sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn't. If there's anything my multiple viewings had in common it was this: the movie is confusing. Really confusing. Said one of my friends, "I love that movie, but it really doesn't make any sense!"

Button mask killer

There's a reason the theatrical cut of the film doesn't make sense: the studio panicked when it performed lousily for test audiences. So they ordered several weeks of re-shoots and attempted to turn a movie about monsters into a seemingly more marketable movie about a slasher. Do you remember when slasher films were considered sure things at the box office? Those were simpler times.

Presumably, director Clive Barker was kicked out of the editing room. Instead of releasing the film around Halloween of '89, the studio released it in February of 1990. Because nothing says Valentine's Day like monster/slasher mayhem. Needless to say, the movie bombed at the box office and was panned by critics.

I remember hearing rumors about missing Nightbreed footage some time ago. I didn't think too much of it because these things usually just get your hopes up. According to an excellent article in the latest issue of Rue Morgue, however, the footage hasn't just been found, there's a new cut of the film.

That's the good news. The bad news is all this long lost footage was found on VHS dubs of the masters. The current state of The Cabal Cut (Cabal being the name of Barker's novel) is a patchwork of VHS scenes and DVD footage. Despite the alternating quality, the screenings are doing pretty well.

And the studio is taking notice of the interest. These kind of movies typically perform much better years after they come out if they perform well at all. According to Clive Barker and the other guys involved with The Cabal Cut, Morgan Creek Productions gave them permission to screen the film as a way to gauge interest. Apparently the studio is considering releasing the actual footage (last I heard, no one knows for sure if the originals still exist). So one day there could be an official DVD/BluRay version of The Cabal Cut.

Straight from the horses' mouths:

You can find out more at Occupy Midian. I also think the pertinent issue of Rue Morgue is worth the cover price. I'm pretty excited to see this movie. I just hope it really comes to fruition. How much would you pay to see The Cabal Cut?