Tarantino Turns Eight And Gets Hateful And Apparently Big, Too – Here’s The Brand New Poster For The Hateful Eight (2015)

So apparently Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a happening thing after all. Those who have been keeping up with the off-screen drama surrounding this film will know that when the initial script for it was leaked online, QT initially said he just wasn’t going to make the film after all. No I haven’t read the leaked script, and I won’t because a) I know how much Tarantino’s films change from the script stage to what we eventually see, and b) I don’t want the experience of seeing a new film to be soiled like that.

There are also two other things to note so far about this flick. First, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Kurt Russell is going to be involved in the project in some way (I consider that another positive move) and second, if you look at the poster, it says the film will be shot in “Super CinemaScope” which is another way of saying 70mm. It would also indicate the possibility that the movie will be shot on film, instead of digitally, which, while I’d love to see that happen, makes me wonder how many of us will have any chance at all to actually see it in that format.

Nonetheless, you can already just go ahead and – assuming it actually comes together, mark this down on my list of most anticipated films of next year.


Top 250 Tuesday #196 – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #196 on the list,  Tobe Hoopers The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

tcm1Sometimes it’s unfortunate that one’s surroundings can so much affect the first impression of a film.

Initially, it seemed like the perfect setup for a first viewing of Tobe Hooper’s classic 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – midnight at our local independent theater, a brand new 4K restoration with a new 5.1 surround mix, and even one of the films “stars”, John Dugan who plays “Grandfather” there to sign autographs, tell a few tales and answer a few questions before showtime.

Yeah, on paper it sounds great. Unfortunately, the experience itself turned out to be a bit less than that. Now don’t get me wrong. Usually these midnight shows at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre are a lot of fun. The crowd’s usually really into the show, they always come up with an interesting drink special, the staff works hard to make sure that everyone has a great time, and thanks to the work of their ace projectionist, whether the film is, like this one, the highest new digital restoration one can get or a BTH generations-old 16mm print blown up for the big screen, you know you’re seeing it in the best way possible.

But on this particular night… yeah, let’s just say it could have been just a bit better.

tcm2I dunno, maybe it was me. Admittedly, I was coming off having just gotten off work at 10 o’clock that night after a couple of other late nights that week (including a 10 hour shift that had ended at midnight the night before), so I was kinda tired before I even got there. Then, with the autograph signing and the Q&A, it was actually around 12:45 before the actual film started rolling. (BTW, I should state here for the record that I’m certainly not knocking Mr. Dugan who was quite entertaining during his portion of the show.)

tcm4And then there were the drunk Vandy kids. Yeah, I know, now I’m really risking straying onto old fart territory, but since I wasn’t the only one who commented on it afterwards, I don’t think it was just me. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand having a rowdy good time at the theater and especially for a midnighter like this, but the problem wasn’t with people “over-enjoying” the show itself, but instead thinking that they either were part of the show too, or just thinking that they were more interesting than what was going on on the screen.

Then finally there was the movie itself. Or at least the print that we saw. Remember up at the top that I mentioned it was a 4K digital restoration with a 5.1 surround remix? Well, I have absolutely no doubt that the film has never looked better. Truly, I can’t imagine that anyone beyond those who saw the movie on the first few days after its release on 1974 so that they were watching a truly pristine print have ever seen the movie look this good. For that matter, thanks to the amount of clean-up that I’m sure went into the creation of this transfer it may not ever have looked this good before.

tcm5No, the problem wasn’t with the look of the movie, but with the sound of it. You see, the movie itself is very loud, with lots of screaming and shrieking, and then with the mix turned way the hell up, well, THE MOVIE WAS VERY, VERY, REALLY VERY F#$%@ING LOUD!!! Honestly, it was so loud that by the end of it, I was ready to kill the “final girl” just so she’d quit shrieking in my ear and Leatherface would turn that damned loud chainsaw off. Really, that in and of itself was almost enough to ruin the experience for me.

So yeah, there was all of that. Quite a bit for any movie to overcome.

And yet…

Despite everything that the experience had going against it, I still have to say that there’s definitely something unarguably compelling about this movie.

tcm7As a matter of fact, it’s actually easy to see, even under the circumstances under which I was watching it, why it’s considered not only one of the all-time best horror movies, but one of the best movies of all time.

Oh, it’s far from perfect. The first 30 minutes or so are ponderously slow. I suspect that sophomore director Tobe Hooper (who had previously helmed a low-budget movie called Eggshells five years before) was going for a slow burn build-up to the real carnage, or perhaps he was just trying to fill out the film in the best exploitation film tradition by filling out the first third with a lot of conversation between the characters, which is fine if you do that in order to make them more compelling or relateable so that once they start dying we actually care about them enough to be upset about it, but honestly, with these characters it almost seems like the more we get to know them, the more eager we, as an audience, actually are to see them get bumped off.

Really, protagonist or antagonist, I’m not sure there’s actually a likeable character in the entire movie.

Ntcm6o, actually, I take that back. Ed Guinn, who portrays the overweight African-American cattle truck driver who stops near the end of the movie to help Sally – him I liked.

And then there’s the dialogue and the acting. Part of the reason these characters aren’t very likeable, and part of the reason, as noted above, that even without the new remix of the sound turned up so much that this seems a very loud movie is that for the most part, when the characters aren’t shrieking in terror they’re either yelling at each other or calling out each others’ names. Trust me when I say that if you come out of the movie knowing nothing else about most of these characters, you’ll never have any trouble remembering their names, because every ten seconds or so, especially during the second act when they start disappearing someone is shouting someone else’s name.

But even when they’re not screaming at or for each other, all they’re really doing is still proving themselves to either be completely cardboard and just there to be looked at then bumped off, or proving themselves to be the kind of person you really don’t want to spend any time with in the first place.

And yet…

Actually, I suppose what it really comes down to is this: despite everything that I’ve written above, once the film gets down to business, once Leatherface makes his first appearance, well, the film may not completely turn around, but there can be no denying that Tobe Hooper brings the goods to the screen.

tcm9And that’s what makes all the difference.

I mentioned above that it’s kind of an exploitation film tradition that the first third or so of a film is easily used up in conversation or simply talk in order to pad out the running time and to keep the film from simply being too short. Unfortunately, far too often, once we get beyond that, and into the third act where the movie has to finally shut up and show us something, where it has to pay off all of that build up and lead in time, well, it just doesn’t have anything to actually deliver. But that’s truly not the case here.

When Hooper finally gets down to the business of scaring his audience, of amping up the horror, and of trying not only to shock but to actually terrify the viewer and to keep us wondering just what might actually happen next and how far he’s going to go, that’s when you really see the mastery of his story-telling and one of the reasons why this movie is considered so brutal and so overwhelming.

At least, I think that’s true.

tcm8Which is where all of the adverse conditions that I started this essay talking about, come to the fore. Especially the incredibly LOUD SOUND OF THIS NEW MIX AND HOW LOUDLY IT WAS TURNED UP! Because throughout everything that is going on onscreen, EVERYONE IS SHOUTING AND SHRIEKING SO LOUDLY that when there is dialogue it’s almost impossible to make out either because it’s being delivered as a scream or a howl, or because someone is shrieking over it.

And that’s why I said at the very first that it’s unfortunate that sometimes the viewing experience affects one’s impression of a movie so much. Because I think under other circumstances I would have enjoyed this movie a lot more than I actually did. As a matter of fact, because of that impression, I’m willing to say that eventually I’ll probably give it another chance to prove itself, and myself another chance to actually take in more of what it seems Hooper is trying to do.

But when I do, I think I’ll try it at home. By Myself. And with the sound turned down.

Here’s a trailer:



So Just What Genre Movies Are Coming Out In The Next Few Years? Here’s What We Know Pre Comic-con

This table was compiled by the good folks over at The Beat and shows what we know about the upcoming Marvel, DC, Disney, Pixar, etc. movies beginning with Avengers 2 and moving forward as we head into Comic-con. Of course, there are likely to be a number of changes made and hopefully blanks filled in (especially with those spaces marked “untitled”) over the next few days, but this is where things stand at the moment.

5/1/2015 The Avengers: Age of Ultron Marvel
6/19/2015 The Fantastic Four Fox
6/19/2015 Inside Out Pixar
7/17/2015 Ant-Man Marvel
11/25/2015 The Good Dinosaur Pixar
3/4/2016 Untitled Disney Animation Disney
May 2016 Batman v Superman DCE
5/6/2016 Captain America 3 Marvel
5/27/2016 X-Men: Apocalypse Fox
6/17/2016 Finding Dory Pixar
July 2016 Shazam DCE
7/8/2016 Doctor Strange Marvel
11/11/2016 Sinister Six Sony
11/23/2016 Untitled Disney Animation Disney
Xmas 2016 Sandman DCE
3/3/2017 Untitled Wolverine Fox
May 2017 Justice League DCE
5/5/2017 Untitled Marvel
6/16/2017 Untitled Pixar Animation Pixar
July 2017 Wonder Woman DCE
7/7/2017 Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 Disney
7/14/2017 The Fantastic Four 2 Fox
7/28/2017 Untitled Marvel
11/3/2017 Untitled Marvel
11/22/2017 Untitled Pixar Animation Pixar
Xmas 2017 Flash and Green Lantern team-up DCE
3/9/2018 Untitled Disney Animation Disney
May 2018 Man Of Steel 2 DCE
5/4/2018 Untitled Marvel
6/15/2018 Untitled Pixar Animation Pixar
7/6/2018 Untitled Marvel
7/13/2018 Untitled Fox / Marvel
11/2/2018 Untitled Marvel
11/21/2018 Untitled Disney Animation Disney
5/3/2019 Untitled Marvel

Takashi Miike Is Killing Kids Again! – Here’s The First Trailer For As the Gods Will (2014)

atgwDirector Takashi Miike describes his new film As The Gods Will this way:  “They live, some heads roll, they run, blood sprays, they cry, they laugh and then they die – in other words, a fun movie.”

I suppose that depends on your definition of “fun”, but Miike has proven himself enough that I’m willing to go along for the ride. According to wildgounds.com, the plot of the movie follows “an ordinary bored high school student whose life is about to change completely when one morning in class, his teacher’s head explodes. Then, he and his classmates are forced to play children’s games with deadly stakes. Without knowing why or who is behind that, the only thing to do is to keep winning.”

The film is based on the manga series Kami-sama no Iu Toorin and stars Sota Fukushi.

As The Gods Will opens in Japan in November. No word yet on an American release date.

Maybe You Want To Give Your Love Something Other Than Flowers Next Valentine’s Day? – Here’s The First Fifty Shades Of Grey Trailer

No, I haven’t read the book Fifty Shades of Grey, nor do I plan to. However, I know a lot of people will be wanting to see this when it comes out next year.

Like I said, I haven’t read the book, and of course, at this point I have no idea just how far this will go as far as what we actually will or won’t see on the screen, but just from the trailer I’m reminded of another film that raised the heat in theaters way back in 1986.

Hmmm… I suppose if I’m still doing the Saturday Double Feature when this come out, I’ll have my pairing already set.

Benedict’s Turing Is As Much An Enigma As The Code – Here’s The First Trailer For The Imitation Game (2014)

atI’ve always been a fan of stories about codes and code breakers, especially during wartime, and the lengths that both sides will go to to figure out what messages the other is sending. Whether it’s films based on a particular machine, or simply those who were able to crack what were supposed to be “unbreakable” codes, there’s something about these stories that I simply find fascinating.

One of the most famous coding machines was the so-called Enigma coder which was used by the Nazis during World War II and which was finally cracked (well, that’s simplifying things a lot, but let’s go with it for now) by Alan Turing and a group of cryptologists working at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code breaking center.

It’s that story which is at the heart of Morten Tyldum’s upcoming movie The Imitation Game. And of course once you add in the fact that the movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing alongside Keira Knightly, well, you know this is going to rank highly on my list of fall movies to look forward to.

Here’s the first trailer for the film:

Of course, there are other aspects of Turing’s life, such as the fact that after the war Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 – basically of practicing homosexuality at a time when that was illegal in the UK – and chose to undergo what was known as “chemical castration” rather than imprisonment, which the film may or may not focus on or spend any real time on. I suppose we’ll have to wait until more info is available to know for sure.

Still, I have feeling this one’s gonna be a winner.


Saturday Double Feature: Sex Tape (2014) and…

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

So what’s new in theaters this week? Well, looks like the big opener is going to be a cautionary tale designed to make anyone who isn’t already completely terrified of that new phenomenon known as “the cloud”. That’s right, I’m talking about Sex Tape.

So where do we go to look for a film to double feature with that one? Well, fortunately, Steven Soderburg‘s 1989 directorial debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape fits in right at the edge of our 1980’s cut-off, so why not go with that? (Geez, does anybody even know what a videotape is (or was) anymore?)

So what do you think? What would you choose for a double feature with Sex Tape? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Top 250 Tuesday #242 – Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #180 on the list,  Monte Helllmans Two-Lane Blacktop. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

tlb1 Two-Lane Blacktop is one of those films that seems as though it really could only have been made in the time period that it was.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been road movies both before and after the late 1960s and early ’70s that the film embodies so well and is the period I’m talking about. Certainly there have been. Just for one example, back in March for a Saturday Double Feature pairing with Need for Speed, I focused the spotlight on a rather obscure little gem from 1953 called Genvieve which featured a car race through the streets of London. And even that was far from the earliest Basically, as soon as movie makers were able to, they began pointing their cameras at cars and following them down the road, and they continue to do so today and probably always will.

But there’s something about the road movies that were produced during this time period that seems to make them oddly unique. Of course, in reality that’s true of a number of movies produced during that time period, not just road movies. There was definitely something about that time period, when what became known as the counter-culture  was clashing almost daily with a much more entrenched way of thinking and doing things that caused film studios – even major ones – struggling to figure out how to react, and the surge of films about people taking to the road to explore just what was going on in the U.S., just what American culture at the time was and was becoming, was really just a part of that. This was the time of films like Easy Rider, Vanishing Point, and, of course, today’s movie, Two-Lane Blacktop.

tlb2Then when you also take into consideration that Blacktop was directed by Monte Hellman, the man behind, among other films, Medium Cool which not only took place during, but actually incorporated actual footage shot during the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, and that two of its four leads are played by James Taylor and Brian Wilson, both musicians who had never acted in movies before and never would again, and that the actors were never actually given a full script to work from, but simply given their lines for each day’s shooting, well, you’re certainly headed down the road to something unique.

And unique is certainly what you get.

tlb5Under Hellman’s direction, what could have been a fairly standard plot – two drivers racing across country to be the first to reach Washington D.C. – becomes much more, and at the same time, much less, than that. More, because really Hellman seems to have no interest in simply moving his characters from point A to point B with various stops and encounters along the way but instead is much more interested in exploring how the trip affects these characters. As a matter of fact, he is famously known for insisting that the entire film crew and the actors make the trip along with the characters because he knew that having the actual experience would not only change the characters of the script, but the actors themselves, which seems to have actually happened, and we see those changes throughout the film.

tlb3At the same time, it becomes less, because there comes a point where Hellman seems to abandon even that framework of a plot as if it no longer matters, and (okay I’ll throw up a quick spoiler warning here) in the end we never actually see either driver reach the intended destination, and the film itself simply seems to dissolve into nothingness on the screen.

So in the end, where does that leave us? Basically with a film that is not only unique to, but somewhat exemplary of its time period, and yet one which, taken in that context, certainly delivers a worthwhile viewing experience.

In other words, a trip down this particular Two-Lane Blacktop is definitely, at least in my mind, one worth taking.



Which Critters Will Actually Wind Up Overtaking Mankind? And Which Already Have?

1881One of the more interesting aspects of the current Planet of the Apes series (though it’s more troublesome in a way with the first movie than the latest, where the conflicts are as much intra-species as they are inter-) is that in many ways the audience is asked to side with and put our sympathies with the “underdog” apes. However, in doing that, what we’re actually doing is cheering on the fall of humanity to these these creatures. And it’s a conflict of which – thanks not only to the original sequence of films, but to the very titles of the movies – we already know the outcome.

This (the fall of mankind to another species) is certainly not a new idea, and is at the heart of many films dating very far back. Heck, it’s in some ways at the heart of nearly every zombie movie, for instance, all the way back to 1964’s Vincent Price thriller The Last Man on Earth (yes, I know, the creatures there are treated as vampires instead of zombies, but really, in structure, it’s no different than many of today’s zombie flicks and certainly closer to them than to most vampire movies, so yeah, that’s the stand that I’m taking).

Anyway, like I said, this is certainly not a new idea, and Evan Hoovler over at blastr has posted this compilation of “The 10 most unexpected creatures to take over the world in sci-fi films“. It’s an interesting list, and if nothing else should give you a few fun and cheesy movies to while away a bit of time with. I say go check it out.

Too Smart For Television? – Police Squad! (1982)

ps1Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.”

Supposedly that’s the reason given by then ABC Entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos in 1982 for the cancellation of the TV show Police Squad! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the show’s official name) after the network aired only six episodes of the show.

Created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, the team behind the movie Airplane!, and starring Leslie Nielsen who had found a new rather surprising second life as a comedy star in that movie, the television show was a loving tribute to and parody of the great cop shows of the past.

ps2I recently took the time to rewatch all six episodes with my soon-to-be-14-year-old daughter, (well, it was a re-watch for me, and of course a first time viewing for her), and though Thomopoulos’s statement may seem a little ridiculous at first, there is quite a bit of truth behind what he says. Like its predecessor movie (and let me take just a moment right here to say that if you haven’t ever seen Airplane! you really should), it is not a show that rewards multi-tasking. So many of the jokes are sight gags or visual puns, that if you’re not giving the show your full attention, then you’re going to simply miss a lot of them.

Of course, some might say that that might be even more of a problem now, when so many people “watch” television while texting or spending time on the internet or doing so many other things, that to get people to pay attention enough to what is happening literally every second the show is on may seem impossible. However, there is also a flip side to that. Because of today’s technology, when it’s so much easier to pause or go back to catch some of the small “what did he say?” or “did I really see that?” moments, viewers who are willing to invest the time and attention into these episodes will find themselves amply rewarded in ways that viewers who originally watched these episodes on television may simply not have been able to.

ps3At the same time, I will say this: while there is a part of me that will always be sad that we didn’t get more episodes of the series, there is also a part that fears that had it gone on much longer it may very well have overstayed its welcome. Though I do think that the sixth and final episode is one of its strongest, at the same time, I can easily see some of the recurring gags becoming a bit stale had it gone for more than say thirteen or so. There is such a thing as going to the same well too often, and this may be one of those cases where it’s better that a show die a bit before its time and live as something that will be missed and considered cancelled too soon than to have gone on and on to the point that its reputation became “well, the first season was good, but…”

One other caveat I feel I should include about this show. It is definitely a product of its time, and there are a number of jokes that simply won’t make sense to younger viewers because they make reference to cultural phenomenon or include guest stars in cameos that those born after a certain period of time simply won’t be familiar with. But then, that’s another of the advantages to having things like Google and Wikipedia available. So that when Dr. Joyce Brothers shows up, there’s at least a chance for today’s viewers to figure out why it’s funny.

ps4Oh, and as for the daughter’s reaction to it? Well, lets just say that there were many times during the course of viewing these episodes where her constant refrain was “I hate this show!”. Which, as we all know is teenager-speak for “I don’t want to admit how much I’m loving this, even though it’s keeping me from Instagramming and all of the other stuff that I could be doing on my phone because I’m having to pay attention to it.”

Hmmm… perhaps Tony Thomopoulos was right after all.

(Want to judge the series for yourself? thanks to YouTube user yeahDrEuthanasia here’s a playlist containing all six episodes that should allow you to run them back to back. Though I do recommend taking them in smaller doses – perhaps two or three at a time – simply to avoid burnout.)

(One last note – yes, I am aware that I left out any mention of the subsequent Naked Gun movies, but the truth is, I was never as big a fan of them as I was the television series. Again, I suspect it may simply be a case where the argument could be made that this is a case where “less is more”, because it always seemed to me that they were having to work very hard to stretch the format for a lull-length feature film.)