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May 23, 2015

Movie Review: "The Killer 4 Pack" (2014; MVD Visual/SGL Entertainment)

...as an ardent and embraced lover of genre films...especially those produced independently, and on nothing less than a shoestring-budget (...I've found that they tend to try harder, aspiring to be something great, despite their limitations), this viewer...every year, about the May time frame...harbors a desire...a dream...a fantasy, to attend the Festival de Cannes, in France, and exclusively, albeit waywardly partake of the genre film offerings, often featured there. Just wander about the film festival, taking in and 'binge-watching' (...man, don't you just love these social 'terms of the moment') the newest of the new, and some often nostalgically celebrated, as far as the realm of horror and dark fantasy, both big-budgeted and micro-budgeted alike...

...alas, this viewer's own financial limitations have, at least for the time being, curbed any possibility of one day attending the internationally renowned film festival (...understandable, as word has it, the cost of attending the yearly fest, is one of those 'ouch' level of expenses...Yikes!!); still, such obstacles hardly gives cause to cease and desist the dream itself. And as amiable consolation and substitute for what cannot be, but might be, one day...well, there's always the much more compact and convenient venue of home video. Browsing the store shelves...or perhaps more succinctly, the item entries listed over at Amazon or Ebay...one cannot help but express a measure of exhaustion, in filtering though the countless multi-movie collections, out there. Public domain trash, side-by-side with mainstream pairings and couplings. Bargain basement bounty...titles, merging over titles, blurring into more and more titles. It would be so easy to miss the occasional jewel, or jewels amongst all of this generic colored glass...tarnished jewels, to be sure, but jewels, nonetheless...

...such is the case with this particular quartet of independently produced genre feature films. So, come on...let's go, shall we?? Hey, the streets are amassed with elbow-to-elbow people, and the festival is open for business, right...ripe with genre movie greatness. And look...uh, see that dark and grimy back alley, just passed the flickering theater marquee bulbs?? Yeah, the one where...say, do you hear the faint screams and agonizing wails of pain, coming from there?? Naw...it's nothing. Now, don't be scared...nothing to fear, right?? Come, take my hand...let's go exploring over that way, shall we??...

...a young and attractive social worker, temp job coordinator and private detective...once a Chicago police detective, and now working in a major metropolitan area, north of the Mexican border...is curiously taken aback by a rash of mysterious and gruesome deaths, which are targeting the nameless population of derelicts, in and about the city area. The sadistic murders are being perpetrated by a cadre of young suburban psychopaths, both male and female, who get their psycho-sexual kicks in capturing, torturing, viciously slaughtering, and in the process, videotaping their hapless and random victims, whom they carefully select and stalk, in order to ensure their anonymity. The detective is compelled to take things personal, and as such, take matters into her own hands...having gotten little-to-no help from the local law enforcement...when the next victim is a young, naive, Spanish speaking girl...whom the detective knows intimately, and who is desperately seeking employment, so that she can rejoin and help support her family, down in Mexico...

...in the midst of her ensuing investigation, the detective is further perplexed and horrified, when someone...or perhaps some thing...is beating her to the punch in her search, as one-by-one, each member of the plaguing psychopathic group, is systematically, as well as sadistically dispatched, quite bloodily. The question is...who or what is doing the killing of the killers?? Is it someone within the killers' group, who appears to be having a change of heart, regarding their heinous and bloodthirsty activities?? Is it the local police captain, who happens to be the father of one of the psychopaths...and is, himself, a neo-Nazi, white supremacist?? Is it a member of the dead girl's family, who has since found out about the shocking and unspeakable death of their daughter...and has covertly sneaked across the border, in search of retribution and revenge?? Or is there something much more sinister and monstrously unearthly at work...relentlessly seeking it's own comeuppance...but from beyond the grave???...
..."The Day of the Dead"...not to be confused with that similarly monikered, gawd-awful attempt to remake George Romero's cult classic, which came out the very same year as this (...and really should be referred to, in the verse of it's original Spanish film title, "El dia de los muertos", to further separate this way better film, from that laudable and ridiculous Romero imitator)...further exudes independent director Ricardo Islas' auspicious beginnings as a filmmaker, well worth keep an eye out for; this viewer had previously partaken of one of his earlier works, from a couple years earlier, which cleverly and ambitiously focused on a particularly under-appreciated, albeit favorite infamously historical character, the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, in 2005's "Night Fangs". Although possessing some strong horror elements, ""El dia de los muertos" is hardly a straight out horror film, and instead, incorporates a great sense of flavorful intrigue and mystery. Reportedly based upon true events (...good gawd!! Really??), the ensuing mystery takes on an intriguingly investigative, almost seemingly CGI-ish motif, played out simply, though still amiably compelling; the dialogue, though not particularly executed very well, at times...seemingly, the film's only real flaw...is nonetheless realistic enough. And there are several deceptive 'red herring' moments of misdirection, which aspire to not make things too predictable, with the satisfyingly gripping conclusion, twisted enough to satisfy most viewing sleuths...

...in a puritan, late 18th century community, a young woman, Abigail, embraces a demonic influence, and is 'graced' with an accursed offspring, which she names 'Jezebeth'; repulsed by the abomination, Abigail attempts to save her soul by releasing the demonic child to the local clergy. All of this, Abigail meticulously documents in her diary, with the future and whereabouts of her daughter, becoming shrouded in mystery...
...switching to 'today'...a boarding house...and four young women, residing there. Two of the women, Lenora and the other...coincidentally named Jezebeth, are consistently and understandably at odds with each other, with Lenora being a devoted Christian, and Jezebeth drawn toward a much darker and sinister side. Somehow (...as in, it's never really explained), Jezebeth happens upon Abigail's long-lost diary, and after having conducted a series of demon-summoning occult rituals, she finds herself the willing host of the original Jezebeth...now a full-fledged demon...who manifests itself through it's modern human namesake, as a vampire. The demonic Jezebeth entity, now walking around in a willing human vessel, proceeds to reign her/it's influence over the remaining occupants of the household...seducing, torturing and attempting to 'turn' them over to a much darker and sinister realm of reality. With alternating reactions of surrender and resistance by the remaining occupants of the house...the latter of which are met with subsequent pain, torture, and much worse...the invariable question remains: Can Jezebeth be stopped??.....
...some say that the artistry of mathematics, when rendered perfectly, is an exquisitely beautiful thing...and others say that creatively, sometimes the whole is far and above more than the sum of all the whole's parts. With regards to "Jezebeth", it is the latter equation, which more aptly applies. There's no doubt that the storyline offer in this particular film is pretty simple and ordinary...there's a curse inflicted 'so many years before', and years later, the curse is 're-awoken', to plague unsuspecting victims, and etc, and so forth, and a ya-da-da, ya-da-da, ya-da-da..." However, the makers of "Jezebeth" have herein managed to up the ante, as far as pumping some unconventional life into these basic and simple proceedings. First off, the whole film seems creatively wrought from a very surreal, dream-like world, or perhaps more accurate, a nightmarish one; it's almost like this entire character play was photographed and filmed by one who would close one's eyes to darkness, for moments at a time, and then open them again...without disturbing or excerpting the whole of the story, itself. Kind of like waking from a dream, and in trying to remember the dream, it's broken up into bits and pieces, which start to erode and fade away, the more one tries to remember the dream...but one still gets the basis crust of the dream itself...

...and secondly...which, in a way, is not at all surprising, considering "Jezebeth's" co-production venue was partially comprised of a music production company...is the film's harrowingly kick-ass soundtrack...a nice melding of progressive hard rock, coupled with some delectably grating death metal rock.With the assist of a great music coordinator, director Damien Dante orchestrates the film's proceedings, using occasional musical moments, cleverly inspired by and hinted towards the likes of movie macabre composer Claudio Simonetti, and yet, goes full brunt on the decibel level, at just the right moments, with hard-rocking riffs from underground bands like Slam Bang, Gregori 3 and Supermercado (...so much so, in fact, that this viewer couldn't keep himself from pulling out the C/C, and ordering the soundtrack...which is available...right away). In the end, what might have made "Jezebeth", a mere well-worn and lackluster horror excursion, was made uniquely and creatively fresh, with some unconventional tweaking of the visuals, as well as the framing audio...Bravo!!!.....

...(interestingly enough, this viewer, close to the time of posting this review, became privy of a reported 'Jezebeth' phenomenon promotion, which not only included the original soundtrack, but also novels, comic books, as well as a western-themed sequel, which was submitted at film festivals, this past Halloween. Yeah, I'd buy into a franchise, as far as this...)

...while on route to the desert, to take pictures for their collegiate photography class, a young couple, an angst & opinionated sexy friend, and a bespectacled tag-along nerd boy are made privy to the local legend of a mysterious psycho killer, named Quiltface. Ignoring the suggested dangers, and pooh-pooh-ing what they call a ridiculous story, the hapless quartet are further warned away from the area...least they meet their doom. It seems that ol' 'Quiltface' had 'come back from the war', having received some nasty & grotesque facial scarring; as the result, he had become insane, and rooted himself in the desert, waiting for unsuspecting intruders, whom he would stalk, kill, take their facial skin, and sew the various pieces together, to form a gruesome, Picasso-like mask, to hide his ugliness. Of course, none of this 'malarkey' phases the foursome, and they proceed to their intended locale, to take their pictures...as well as indulge in a little touchy-feely. Once in the midst of the blazing desert heat, they...Wait!! What's that in the distance, atop that hill in the road?? A dark silhouette hulk of man, carrying...What's that, he has in his hand?? Is that a machete??  Whoa...look!! He's charging...he's running towards us...machete, raised for the kill strike...a raging growl, emanating from beneath the gruesome-looking patchwork mask on his face...he's...he's...NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!.....

...and how many times have we run into this scenario, before?? Without missing a beat, this viewer would be inclined to quip the classic Browning line of poetry, "...let me count the ways...", if not for the fact that quoting such a line would be as cliche as the very premise of this film, itself. You see, essentially, what we have here, is the classic 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' story, but pared down to it's bare bones basics...pared down so much, in fact, that there's hardly a story to be found here...just a single-beat set up, and the other foot falling, being that of the killer. But then, the lack of an engaging storyline is hardly the only problem with "Carnage: The Legend of Quiltface", or simply "Carnage Road", as the opening titles indicate; heck, even the most mundane of slasher flicks, at least have some interesting and clever kills in the film, if anything, to appease even the most salivating, drool-emitting gorehound...and this one has none. Oh, there are killings in the film, to be sure, but they happen off-screen, and we, the viewing audience are not even afforded the benefit of the gruesome aftermath...save for a couple of lingering, cheezy looking 'machete in the head' shots. Heck, even the killer's gruesomely hodge-podge patchwork mask proves nothing particularly special; we're not even given a real good look at it. Truly, the only thing that this beat-by-beat predictable horror flick has going for it, is the performances of the various victims, who all play their parts with an enthusiastic, albeit as-expected vigor. But other than that, there's really nothing else to hope for, in this yawner...Come on, director Massimillano Cerchi!! Considering the 'so bad, it's good' coolness of your previous low-budget outings, "Holy Terror" and the amusing 'Hellrasiser' knock-off, "Hellinger", surely we can do better than this.....

...ah yes, another year of college...another rousing game of Rush Week...and yet another opportunity to raze and torture the unsuspecting, brandie-newbie plebe freshmen, as subsequent initiation into their desired fraternities. And that's what one such rowdy fraternity has in store, as the senior members rattle their combined brains...while tapping a kegger, and at the same time, talk shit about tapping some of the local neighboring sorority sluts...in an effort to come up with just the right challenge for the new fraternity inductees. Hey, wait a minute, guys...hick, hick!! What about...hick, hick...that so-called abandoned and haunted warehouse, just on the...hick, hick...outskirts of town?? Hell, yeah!! We can set them up to stay the night at that @#$%ing place, go in ourselves, and freak the @#$% out of them!! Boo-Yahh!!! But wait...uh, didn't a couple of kids go there one night, about a year ago, and mysterious disappear, without a trace?? Nahhhh...that's complete bullshit; nothing'll happen to anyone, except for some good, old-fashioned scares. Come on...it'll be fun.....
...pssst!! Hey, viewing audience!! Yeah, you...come over here, and let me let you in on a little secret. Uh, unbeknownst to those dumbass drunken college jocks, whom you've just met, and who are planning to freak the shit out of some hapless fraternity inductees...a cadre of sick, twisted and demented psychopathic killers have chosen to hole up at that very same warehouse. And well, they just ain't gonna take too kindly to their hidey-hole being invaded by some drunken college punks...no siree, bob!!...

...basically, what we have here with "Hellweek", folks, is essentially 'American Pie Meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', which would be all fine and dandy, if not for the fact that getting from point 'A', to point 'B' is an excursion into dullness, which might just cause some viewers to push the 'stop' button on their remote, before the gratuitous meaty bloodshed of the film...most of which is poorly executed via CGI...kicks in. The first 40 some-odd minutes alone (...with the exception of an opening, 'breaking news special report' broadcast, exuding upon a hapless local girl, who mysteriously disappeared, a year earlier) is slow and tedious juvenile build up to the invariable bloody confrontation at the warehouse...the plan for the hazing...the pre-hazing party...the jocks, swilling and swishing brewskis, while posturing about who at the neighboring sorority, they are going to 'nail'...the sorority girls, chirping the occasional 'like, this' and 'oh my gawd', every other sentence, talking about the 'douchebags' at the neighboring fraternity, and doing mundane stuff, like visiting a tarot card medium, just for kicks, and suggesting that there's a supernatural presence at that abandoned warehouse, and that no one would think twice about going there...yeah, that kind of stuff...
...and given a good amount of patience, the latter third of "Hellweek" does warrant one's attention, as the prerequisite psychopaths, who have staked a claim on the aforementioned warehouse, seem to be the more interesting characters in the film...acting all whack-a-doo...decked out in hick-looking overalls, suspenders, varied masks, clown make-up and pigtails...maniacal-gleefully reflecting a sort of mish-mash between the killers in "2000 Maniacs", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and...well, "Spider Baby" comes to mind, as well. And is is worth the wait, to get up to that point?? If one is willing to forgive the cheap, cartoonish CGI gore effects, shuffled amongst some amateurish practical effects, as well as an overall 'tainting' of the film stock, with faux ticks, scratches, lint hairs and the light projector flicker, in an effort to make the film look grindhouse-ish (...hence, this special edition cut of "Hellweek" is called 'The Grindhouse Edition')...eh, yeah, it might be worth it. Hey, if anything, one could always just listen to the audio, for the first half of the movie, while cleaning the urine stains and scum off one's bathroom floor and toilet; at least you'd be getting something done, right??...

...in the end, this 'Killer 4-Pack' is pretty much a mixed bag...kicking off with a couple of tarnished jewels, followed by a dud, and finally, the horror movie equivalent of a Tootsie Pop. Not bad, for a total running time, described on the DVD cover, as 5 hours and 98 minutes; however, this viewer begs to differ, at this point, as he more accurately clocks this overall relatively satisfying binge-watching horror fest, at 6 hours and 38 minutes...a difference of...Oh wait...well, how about that?? (...tsk, tsk) Oh, you guys (...tsk, tsk); very funny, 'ha-ha'...yeah, yeah...you got me good with that one.....

May 20, 2015

Movie Review: "Salvador" (1986; Hemdale/MGM/UA/Twilight Time)

...ya' know?? It's often quite interesting and intriguing, the evolution of a filmmaker. The inaugural hits...the initial misses...and that marked milestone of a film, which carries said filmmaker to greater heights, even to the point where, for good or for bad, whatever comes after, is still quite anticipated and well-received by viewing critics and audiences alike. For most, one's introduction to a specific filmmaker is typically something wrought well-after that aforementioned milestone, and after having been privy of latter, higher-profile work, curiosity prescribes...even sometimes demands one to back-pedal to that now-renowned and revered filmmaker's earlier work...

...cutting to the chase, let's just throw the name out there, 'kay?? Ready, go...Director Oliver Stone. Bam!! Right away, what comes to most folks' minds are the high-profile films of keen political rhetorics, observations and engagements, whether such things are observed and/or depicted in the exploitative media ("Natural Born Killers"), in a war-torn battleground ("Platoon", amongst others), in the high-rise financial arena (...can you say, "Wall Street"), on the grassy football gridiron (...a la, "Any Given Sunday"), or heck, even in the obvious of politically-driven locales...namely Washington, D.C., itself (..."JFK", "Nixon", "W.", etc.), Of course, there are those moments of filmmaking escapism...for lack of a better word...'breaks' in the political rhetorie, so to speak, as director Stone etches out the smaller, eclectic, more character driven stories (...of course, we're talking "Talk Radio", "U-Turn", "Savages"...the smaller and humbler films, which...in all honesty...this viewer favors more, over the bigger films)...

......but then, let's face it: it was a smaller, low-profile, quite under-appreciated, though undeniably quite powerful film, which put Oliver Stone on the fast-track to greater things...a powerhouse of a film, which ushered in his penchant for rendering unflinching and ironic political statements and reflections, as well as exploitative historical dramatics. And considering the dismal beginnings of Stone's filmmaking career (...uh, anyone actually remember, or perhaps might want to forget "Seizure", or...good gawd..."The Hand"?? Or his early, walk-on parts in Troma movies?? Oh, the horror...), it was "Salvador", which proved a career-enhancing, saving grave for the soon-to-be-world-wide-heralded, albeit wholly controversial filmmaker...
...when opportunity presents itself...hey, it's time for a road trip, just to get away from it all. At least, that's what struggling, desperate, though once-quite reputable & reliable seasoned international photo-journalist Richard Boyle (James Woods)...divorced, broke, on the wagon and desperate enough to stoop to the sleaziest of levels, in order to rise to the occasion...tells his best friend, 'Doctor' Rock (James Belushi), soon after 'Doc' bails him out from a tough spot. Little does 'Doc' realize, he's being coerced by his buddy into providing back-up services on a rather hazardous journalist venture, which has come to the attention of Boyle, and which will take these two hapless investigators into dangerous rigors of a vicious and unstable Salvadorian dictatorship, which is holding reign over the war-ravaged area...
...once there, they foolishly and recklessly find themselves well over their heads...caught in the middle of a maddening crossfire...attempting to engage their exploitative journalistic influence, in spotlighting the revolutionist activity of both the local military regime, as well as the opposing rebellious guerrilla forces. Amidst the rampant violence, and the unspeakable horrors mercilessly wrought upon rebellious and innocent alike, by the ever-relentless and sadistic Salvadorian death-squads...there's Richard, who embraces an emotional and psychological 'shield' in documenting the horrific atrocities, separated by a mere camera lens...and there's 'Doc', who finds his sanity eroding and ebbing away, caught in a quagmire from which there seems no escape...caught in the inescapable whirlwind of danger, pain and mental anguish...torn between his rapport with Richard, and an oh-so desperate desire to just get the fuck out of there. Will either of them see their way past this hellish situation...where with every step forward, they seem to sink further and further into the madness, all around them?? And if they do make their way back...what will be left of them??.....
...loosely based upon the journalistic exploits of the real-life photo-journalist Richard Boyle...having been willingly 'caught' in the thick of things...in the midst of the Salvadorian revolution, in and round the late '70's/early '80's, albeit given a good measure of embellishment, for the sake of high dramatics, "Salvador" is captivating and engrossing, in quite a satisfyingly multifaceted manner. There is, of course, the specific time and associated events, which are depicted, herein, with the Salvadorian militia going head-on against the well-armed, rebel guerrilla forces. Amidst the fiery conflict between the two aggravated factions, was the blatant sadism and unspeakable violence, incurred by the Salvadorian death squads, who would inflict the most heinous acts of murder and execution against those...innocent or not...whom they believe were against the stern and abusive governmental platform (...due to the horrendous acts of these death squads, much of the media and publicity of these activities had been notoriously...and perhaps, for the best...repressed, though eyewitness footage and propaganda can be found, through exploitative, underground venues and shock-umentaries).....
...and yet, at the same time, there's no denying the intriguing and compelling human interest & dramatics, which ensues, as the result of placing two extraordinarily ill-fitted, burned-out, flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, bumbling characters, like Richard and 'Doc', into this overly frenzied and unstable conflict...especially, in considering that both of them jump into the fray, burdened with their own personal problems and inner conflicts. Now granted...hearing, watching, and as such, having been made privy of the real Richard Boyle's recklessly daring exploits in this war-ravaged region, would have made for some rather attention-grabbing intrigue; however, as with the case of "Salvador", having made the more embellished and fictionalized version of the Boyle persona, a desperate, sleazebag exploitationalist (...a deliciously extreme performance by actor James Woods), who complicates matters with his own inner flaws and personal 'baggage', raises the bar of intrigue, considerably. One cannot help but express a measure of revolt for the character, and yet, fascination and sympathy for the adverse situation, which Boyle haplessly put himself in. And as if to add 'fuel to the fire', so to speak, there's an unmistakable sense of arrogance and hypocrisy in Boyle's behavior...especially in moments where he seeks redemption and forgiveness for his sleazy demeanor, during a moment of confession, or in the throes of a sudden wayward romance...and yet, soon after, continues such erratic and contradictory behavior...
...not surprising, if there's a single character, whom most of the viewing audience would possibly identify with, it's more than likely Boyle's partner in these proceedings...namely, the affable and easily coerced 'Doc' Rock (...a seriously underrated, dead-serious James Belushi, affording some fine work here). Seduced and talked into a situation that...eh, seems amiable, by the dynamics of a manipulative friend...and then have that situation turn so sour...an understatement, to say the least, as far as this film's premise is concerned...that much like quicksand, the more he tries to squirm out of the hapless situation, the further he sinks. And of course, there's the underlining fear and concern that this so-called friend whom did the convincing, when things are at their most desperate and frenetic, might just act out of self-interest...even self-preservation...abandon ship, so to speak, and leave him hanging. Really, who couldn't possibly identify with that, in varying degree (...uh, one hand up, over here...and for me, it was an investment situation...hardly the hellish situation, as seen in this film). And considering the desperate and...well, let's face it, potentially painful, tortuous and deadly circumstances herein, it's not a wonder that ol 'Doc' here, quite literally finds himself on the cusp of losing his mind...
...in the end, desperation invariably turns to tragedy; however, in the interim, the proceedings depicted herein prove remarkably balanced, and hold up quite well, as far as the overall dramatic realism of the events, as well as character response and reaction to said events...a testament to the written collaboration of the true-life Richard Boyle, and director Oliver Stone (...of course, leave us not forget that Stone, before achieving a respectable status as a director, was still one hell of a writer...oh come on, surely "Scarface" and "Midnight Express"...amongst a few...ring a bell)...
...wisely, from a viewer's perspective, Twilight Time has offered yet again, a strikingly beautiful and engaging print, but hasn't gone overboard on the cleaning and remastering; an accent of looked-over, juxstapositioned specks, here and there, serve the film quite well, as far as affording the proceedings a flavorful measure of grit...understandable, and well-considered, in light of the frenetic instability of the conflict depicted within the film's flickering frames. Included on the limited-edition blu-ray...an enlightening and notable documentary piece, relating the difficult, turbulent and extraordinary efforts put forth, in the making of "Salvador"...'efforts' that prove as arduous, albeit intriguing, as the film, itself...
...'tis an often-told, age-old concept...the idea of 'finding one's groove'...but that's exactly what happened, when writer/director Oliver Stone took on an ambitious, intriguing, emotionally wrought, thought-provoking, as well as thrilling (...clearly, as much behind-the-scenes, as was in front of the camera) project, as was "Salvador". And when all was said and done...though initially not well-received, nor appreciated (...that, the fault of the distributors and advertisers...hardly that of the production, itself)..."Salvador" proved to herald in, an important and poignant voice, as far as Stone's efforts...efforts, which would have a distinct and marked impact, with regards to politically-themed cinema, later to come...especially from Stone's production camp...

...and as far as "The Hand"?? Well, Mr. Stone...we gladly forgive you for that one...a misstep, which has since become a cult classic; now, mind you...uh, let's not get us started on "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps", 'kay??.....

May 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Fortune (1975, Twilight Time)

Directed by Mike Nichols

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

It's the Roaring twenties, and lovable con men Oscar (Jack Nicholson) and Nick (Warren Beatty), intend to separate sanitary napkin heiress Fredericka “Freddie” Quintessa Bigard (Stockard Channing in her big screen debut) from her many millions. Freddie loves Nick, but Nick is already married – and so she weds wild-haired Oscar instead. Mindful of the Mann Act – transporting females across state lines for immoral purposes was taken very, very seriously back then – the trio head for Los Angeles, California. Settling into a crumbling apartment block, much like the one in The Day of the Locust (1975), things quickly go south. Freddie rarely puts out, Oscar is not keen on finding and keeping employment, and Nick is a bit of a washout as a used car salesman. The three get on each other's nerves big time, until Nick and Oscar decide that outright homicide is the way to speed things along. Their rotten luck follows them in this regard as well …

A bit of trivia on The Fortune is the fact that the role of Freddie was originally offered to Bette Midler. Things were going just swimmingly until Midler asked Mike Nichols what pictures he had done previously. Nichols, one of the hottest tickets in Tinseltown at the time, was justifiably miffed. Hadn't she heard of his previous successes, such as The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? As Julie Kirgo points out in the liner notes to this Twilight Time release, limited to 3,000 copies, The Fortune had a very respectable pedigree. Stars Nicholson and Beatty, coming off major motion pictures such as Shampoo and Chinatown, cinematography by John A. Alonzo, a script by Adrien Joyce and a stunning debut performance from Channing. It all went for naught. The film failed to click with audiences and critics, and The Fortune failed to make one at the box office. Vaguely remembered today, it’s stuck in a big pile of films about the 1920s and 19302 made by Hollywood in the Seventies – Locust, The Great Gatsby and Chinatown among them.

May 17, 2015

Movie Review: The Dogs of War (1980: United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time)

...ah, mercenaries...ya' gotta love 'em, right?? Heroes unto themselves, in the sense that...much like bounty hunters...they act and behave of their own accord, and get the job done via unconventional and unorthodox means, when those who subscribe to the lawfully established and so-called acceptable 'rules of the game', have failed. Driven by their own self-serving agenda...the culmination, be that of heartful heroics, thrill-seeking recklessness and/or monetary gain...and yet, wholly honor-bound and dedicated to the cause, in which they were hired to taken on. Confident, albeit arrogant in their ability to persevere, and yet...considering the unpredictability of the vocation...quite well aware that the next mission laid before them, might well be their last. As such, lovingly embracing a death wish, so to speak...but hey, at least there's a paycheck in it, should one survive, to fight yet another day...

...good grief!! 'Heroes', nothing...this viewer pretty much just defined the classic 'anti-hero', right??...

May 9, 2015

Movie Review: Exile Nation: The Plastic People (2014)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Charles Shaw

The subject of illegal immigrants and deportation in the United States remains a raw, very complex issue. The topic has bubbled up like lava in such states as California, Texas – and especially Arizona, where law enforcement has taken a nearly “no tolerance” policy towards illegal Mexican immigrants. As the searing documentary Exile Nation: The Plastic People points out one in five Mexicans will at one time work, visit or live in the U.S.

Which brings us to the documentary at hand: The United States recently began a tough, no-nonsense policy of deporting illegal immigrants found breaking the law here, dumping them across the border in Tijuana. Many of these deportees, who do not speak Spanish, wind up homeless and take up residence in Tijuana’s dreaded “La Zona Norte,” a place of knee-high rubbish, no jobs, less opportunities and nonstop substance abuse. A humanitarian crisis that is rarely acknowledged, La Zona Norte stands as a stark reminder of the failure of U.S. deportation policies.

May 8, 2015

Movie Review: Gaming in Color (2015)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Philip Jones

Gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and questioning people – henceforth referred to as GLBTQ who play video games form a distinct minority. Gamers or “geeks” – a highly derogatory term in this reviewer’s term – “geek” was originally a term used to describe degraded sideshow performers specializing in biting the heads of chickens, such as in the novel and film Nightmare Alley (1947) – suffer from negative stereotyping, as do members of the GLBTQ community.

At first glance, the two stereotypes would be at odd with each other. Male homosexuals are supposed to dress well, take care of their looks, and form very sophisticated networking skills. Gamers, on the other hand, are seen as being antisocial misfit, neglectful of their appearance that lay into the Nintendo for several hours a day in their parent’s basements. A big part of the gamer community is GLBTQ, but this group feels marginalized. The readily available games to them have very few GLBTQ characters, and the gaming community at large, mostly straight males, are largely homophobic. “Gay” to these adolescent males not only describes someone’s sexual identity, but anything bad, ineffective or worthless.

May 6, 2015

Movie Review: Diving Normal (2013)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Kristjan Thor

Based on a play, Diving Normal is a most unusual love story. Set in New York City, graphic novelist Fulton (Philipp Karner) falls for the beautiful blonde Dana (Susie Abromeit). For while, their romance blossoms, but Fulton’s neighbor Gordon (Scotty Crowe) begins to make awkward overtures to Dana. Verging on the autistic, Gordon begins to invite Dana on a series of strictly platonic dates, which consists of her watching him make high dives at the local gym. Things proceed awkwardly until Dana finds out the exact relationship between Gordon and Fulton. Dana falls back into her former patterns of substance abuse, until the men offer their own style of intervention.

Diving Normal is a very difficult film to analyze. It’s questionable that Dana would be seen with Gordon, as his character’s elevator doesn’t appear to go all the way to the top floor. Very quiet and reticent, Gordon’s character is on a tentative relationship with reality in general, let alone a gorgeous blonde. While dealing with a host of important issues, Diving Normal wisely – if unsatisfactorily offers no solutions. The audience is left in a bit of a lurch.

May 2, 2015

Movie Review: King of Herrings (2013)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Eddie Jemison and Sean Richardson

Friends are like a crab bucket. A bucket is full of happy crabs, but once one of them tries to climb above the stale camaraderie, all the other crab will stretch out their claws to pull the more ambitious ones down to their level. This truism is very noticeable in the new indie comedy, King of Herrings. Lensed in deep black-and-whites, King of Herrings has garnered favorable comparisons to Woody Allen. This reviewer sees hints of director Martin Scorsese and playwright Paddy Chayefsky as well …

King of Herrings focuses on a group of working-class Joes who bond together in dive bars and coffee shops in a less-than glamorous part of New Orleans. Ditch (Eddie Jemison) is the group’s leader, a manic prick with a terminal case of small man complex. He bullies and berates his friends mercilessly, and they love him for it. The gang is a motley group of losers: Leon (Wayne Pere), known as “the Robot” speaks through an electronic voice box. Gat (David Jensen) is pushing 60 years of age but dresses like a twenty-something hipster. Into this circular dead-end world of semi-employment and cars with $100 bluebook value are two very desirable women: Evie (Andrea Frankle), rushing into marriage to make her forthcoming child legitimate, and the angelic Mary (Laura Lamson), a hopelessly romantic, naïve seamstress. When one of the gang, the Professor (Joe Chrest) begins his sexual advances on Mary, by ostensibly trying to sell her “magazine subscriptions,” the sparks begin to fly …

May 1, 2015

Movie Review: Pretty Peaches (1978)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Alex DeRenzy

Die-hard daddy’s girl, light and bubbly Peaches (Desiree Cousteau) is none-too-pleased with her father’s (John Leslie) coming nuptials. Fleeing the tacky ceremony held at a rundown wedding chapel-cum-casino, Peaches lets off some steam by wildly driving her jeep off road in the surrounding Nevada wilderness. Bumping her head and falling unconscious, she awakes – after being raped, more or less by stag flick standby Joey Silvera. Peaches, her attackers, her papa and his new bride (Flower) wind back and forth through the film’s running time until a climactic – literally, swinger’s party. Peaches regains her memory and the story ends happily, kind of, sort of.

“Why do women fake orgasms?” infamous skin flick director Alex DeRenzy asks in a taped interview shortly before his death in 2001, included in this Vinegar Syndrome release as an extra. “Because they think that we care!” he declares. This reviewer isn’t giving too much away by saying this isn’t the only “hot” bit of chat the still spry 66-year-old DeRenzy reveals. He also goes into great detail about another one of his most infamous features, Femmes DeSade (1976). You’ll think you’ve been granted an audience with Satan himself when DeRenzy explains that whats and wherefores of that sick little title!

April 30, 2015

Milk my Snake: The Anaconda Franchise


The news are all over the internet that the Lake Placid and the Anaconda franchises (that have produced four films each) will mash-up for a crossover flick, and I just realized that although I’m a big fan of the former four movies, I had not seen the later four. Well, I could not go see the upcoming movie without knowing the absolutely important stories that preceded it so here I am reviewing these snake oddities.


Anaconda (1997)

The first 35mm film reel I ever got my hands on was the trailer for Anaconda (1997) which was given to me by one of the best tutors I had back when I was a student at the film school. I still don’t know what to do with it since I don’t have a film projector, but I hold on to the item because of the sentimental value that it has for me.

I remember that it was a big deal when Anaconda (1997) opened in the movie theaters here in Greece, and it was even a big event when it was broadcasted for the first time on television. Well, it cost $45 million to make, and people in the late ‘90s seemed to not know how unoriginal it was [Jaws (1975) was made more than two decades old and popcorn audiences have proven to not know their film history] and as a result it grossed more than $136 million world-wide.

April 21, 2015

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Road Hard (2015)

Kevin Moyers and Sam Poe discuss Adam Carolla's new movie about a comedian returning to the road.

Click here to listen or right click and choose "Save Link As..." to download.

You can always email us at cinemaheadcheese@yahoo.com or tweet us @CinHeadCheese.

Support Cinema Head Cheese and Abnormal Entertainment by clicking the links on our Sponsors page!


April 20, 2015

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - The Babadook (2014)

Peggy Christie delivers a twenty minute review of the recent horror film, The Babadook. Complete with shuffling noises and a quick rager about computers.

Click here to listen or right click and choose "Save Link As..." to download.

You can always email us at cinemaheadcheese@yahoo.com or tweet us @CinHeadCheese.

Support Cinema Head Cheese and Abnormal Entertainment by clicking the links on our Sponsors page!


April 17, 2015

Movie Review: Atari: Game Over (2014)

When I was a kid, video games made their mark in a huge way. I always loved going to arcades and dumping quarter after quarter into anything from Pac-Man to Gauntlet to Tron to Spy Hunter. Arcade games were found in bowling alleys, convenience stores, laundromats and, of course, stand alone arcades. To have the opportunity to bring these things home was a godsend to a kid like me. The first company to build a system for these games was Atari, and there was a 2600 in thousands of lucky homes. For some reason, Atari died off and was usurped by Nintendo, Sega and other systems. Most of the blame, until now, has been thrown onto one infamous game based on a favorite movie alien.

A legend has floated around for years that after the dismal failure of Atari's E.T. game, they buried millions of copies in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Director Zak Penn decided to investigate this claim, along with the entire story of the rise and fall of Atari. The company started simply enough with Pong. If you don't remember Pong, it was a very simple paddle game that resembled tennis. More games were created with the same simple 8-bit technology, and new designers joined the fold. Howard Scott Warshaw was one of them. He was the creator of the popular Yar's Revenge, which hosted the very first Easter egg in gaming history.

April 12, 2015

Movie Review: Blown (2005)

While I’m working on a series of articles reviewing a certain doll centric movie franchise for another site (*coughcough* REVIEW WHORE *coughcough*), I needed a bit of a palate cleanser before I venture into the final phase. Not sure if this movie is a cleanser so much as a vehicle for alien mouth spores that become sentient, take over my consciousness, and make me kill everyone wearing the color blue.

Blown is a movie brought to us by Abnormal Entertainment. The unholy trinity of David Hayes, Kevin Moyers, and Jeff Dolniak concocted the most ridiculous film I’ve seen in a while. And I just slogged my way through Bride of Chucky.

Bobby (Dolniak) is getting married and celebrates with a loud party. His neighbor, a voodoo witch named Esmerelda (really guys?), has had enough with his merry making. She asks a severed head for advice in creating a curse to put upon Bobby and his buddies. Long story short - her soul ends up in a inflatable fuck doll in whose plastic form she exacts her revenge.

April 10, 2015

The Dirty Harry Films: Do you feel lucky punk?


I was recently reading Robert Greysmith’s books on the Zodiac killings [Zodiac & Zodiac Unmasked] and got so fascinated by the story that I watched Zodiac (2007), even though I don’t like David Fincher’s movies (and this was not an exception). Anyway, the meat of the story was that this person was killing just for the hell of it!

A few years ago I had seen The Zodiac Killer (1971). I still have the Something Weird DVD, but I didn’t revisit it, as I don’t remember it being particularly special. But I read that Dirty Harry (1971) was based on the real life murderer and chief investigator, and since it is one of those films that you have to see (because everybody has), I decided to not only give it a go, but review the entire franchise that was build on the success of the first movie. After all I love Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s westerns, so how wrong could I go?

The Dirty Harry films are action cinema masterpieces and should be praised as such. They may seem a bit problematic today as the cop worshiping scenario looks occasionally cheesy or at least dated, but they work perfectly as escapism adventures.

The Dirty Harry films proved very successful at the box office (well, not the last flick in the franchise, but the first four). Every Dirty Harry flick was made by a different director. Those five were Don Siegel [Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)], Ted Post [Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)], James Fargo [Caravans (1978)], Buddy Van Horn [Pink Cadillac (1989)], and star Clint Eastwood.

March 31, 2015

Just when you thought you wouldn’t read any more Jaws reviews…



I like independent film politics, you know, the stuff Lloyd Kaufman is preaching. And Roger Corman has said in some interviews that it was Jaws (1975) that killed the independent genre productions because the majors found out what they were doing and turned into something bigger and better. This reason alone was enough for me to stay away from this evil film by Steven Spielberg. The fact that I don’t like his movies in general didn’t help either. I didn’t even find depth in Schindler's List (1993). And I regret spending my cash to see the boring Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001) and the ridiculous War of the Worlds (2005) in a movie theatre.

But now the time has come. I finally decided to watch every film in the entire franchise. As the above paragraph reveals I am not an expert (quite the contrary I would say) so this article should be read as a reviewer’s journey and nothing more than that.

Wikipedia tells me that the first film was based on Peter Benchley’s same-titled novel, which in turn was based on some shark attacks from 1916. The success of the novel and then the first film (considered by many to be the first high-concept blockbuster flick), spawned sequels, video games, theme parks and merchandize of every kind; which generated hundreds of millions of dollars. Go ahead and read the reviews of the four films.
 

March 26, 2015

Movie Review: SexWorld (1978)

Directed by Anthony Spinelli

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

It would follow that Michael Crichton’s sci-fi epic Westworld (1973), a theme park for adults with anything-goes pleasure androids would eventually get the triple-X treatment. It took director Anthony Spinelli and his organized crime cohorts three years to mount SexWorld, but the twain between mainstream and porno would never meet. Whereas Westworld jettisoned James Brolin and Richard Benjamin on a futuristic hovercraft, the lower middle class folk ferried to SexWorld have to settle for a smoky ol’ bus, with a “SexWorld” banned hastily stapled to the side. As smut scholar Robin Bougie would note in his essential volume “Graphic Thrills: American XXX Movie Posters, 1970 to 1985,” there was no substituting Hollywood with Inglewood this time around.

March 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Killer Shrews (1957)

Directed by Ray Kellogg

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Macho Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) and his black manservant “Rook” (Judge Henry Dupree) ship out to a secluded island to ferry some people to the manland. You don't get any extra points in guessing who is killed first. Once at said island, they are greeted by Dr. Marlowe Craigis (Baruch Lumet) his Swedish daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude), his helpmate Jerry Farrell (Ken Curtis) and dotty Dr. Radford Baines (Gordon McLendon). Due to weather conditions, the captain informs his chartered party that due to weather conditions, and that he will be unable to ship them back to the mainland straightaway. They express shock and disappointment – is there something they're keeping away from him?

March 18, 2015

Fright Nights Horrorant Film Festival 2015 – Part 2 The Features



Do you remember last year when I did a big-ass reportage (in four parts no less) on the 1st Fright Nights Horrorant Film Festival? Yes, Greece’s sole annual and international Horror Film Festival. Well, what do you know, since then I became a columnist for their website. And what do you know; I am now a member of the Jury that will give the Short Films Awards!

Now that the 2nd edition of the festival has wrapped, I present you the reviews of the features that I watched. I tried to watch as much celluloid as I could, but not everything because first there were two screens (running different films simultaneously) and then I am (still) a human being. I think. Enjoy!

Thursday 12th of March 2015

This day kicked off with last year’s award-grabbing The Battery (2012), and Les Diaboliques (1955) which was part of the French Horror Special. On Screen 1 The Babadook (2014) was the official opening film, while on Screen 2 people watched Phantasmagoria (2014). The night ended with Domo (2014) on Screen 2, but I was having a blast on Screen 1 the film reviewed bellow.

Another (2014)

This is the first feature film by writer/director Jason Bognacki (he made shorts previously) and it is about Jordyn [TV actress Paulie Redding] who is the devil’s daughter, which works as having an alter ego which is sexier and has more abilities.

The first half is very much a film that if it was directed by Dario Argento it would now be praised as a masterpiece. The second hand is more about the supernatural but in such a dreamy fashion that Jess Franco would be proud. The finale is very Roger Corman, and that can only be a good thing.

March 13, 2015

Article: The Men (and Women) of Steel - A Retrospective

With the May 2015 opening of It’s a Bird, It’ a Plane, It’s… Superman, the 1966 musical, at the Community Theatre of Howell in Howell, Michigan (of which I am proudly serving as director), I thought it appropriate to tie together the cinematic, silver screen and stage appearances of the Man of Steel in one retrospective. Out of all of our comic book heroes, Supes has gotten the absolute most screen time (far more than Batman, Spider-Man, Hulk, etc.). Still, with the thousands of comic book adventures, feature films, television shows and stage productions there are only a handful of people that have donned the tights and represented truth, justice and the American way in the media.

I know I say this all the time, but it is an incredible honor to be able to work in Superman’s world. Being part of that small handful of artists that populate Metropolis, Smallville and Krypton is something I will cherish for the rest of my days. How will we stack up against the following roll call of the world’s biggest Boy Scout? Join us at The Blog of Steel and watch the journey unfold. Until then… this looks like a job for, well, for me.