Let These Carnivorous Mermaids Lure You In – The Lure (2016)

lure1The Lure (Córki dancingu), a 2016 film from first-time Polish director Agnieszka Smoczyńska, played at Sundance and Fantastic Fest late last year, and has been picked up for distribution by Janus Films with a scheduled February 1 opening at the IFC Center.

Here’s a description of the film:

In this bold, genre-defying horror-musical mashup – the playful and confident debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska – a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters are drawn ashore in an alternate ’80s Poland to explore the wonders and temptations of life on land. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly aura make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit fantasy world of Smoczynska’s imagining. In a visceral twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s original Little Mermaid tale, one sister falls for a human, and as the bonds of sisterhood are tested, the lines between love and survival get blurred. A savage coming-of-age fairytale with a catchy new-wave soundtrack, lavishly grimy sets, and outrageous musical numbers, THE LURE explores its themes of sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with energy and originality.

This sounds like just the kind of quirky, off-beat cinematic experience that I love, and the trailer definitely shows the same kind of sensibility even without subtitles:

No word yet on further distribution beyond the opening, but this is definitely a film I’m going to be keeping an eye out for.

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This Is Why We Need To Maintain A Good Relationship With The Russians – Guardians (2017)

rg202The final trailer has dropped for the upcoming Russian film Guardians, which looks very much like it may be their answer to Marvel’s The Avengers, except for one thing: from all reports it has a sense of fun and flair that might put it more in the category of Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool.

While you may not speak Russian, you don’t really need to to get a pretty good sense of what is going on here. However, there are subtitles to help you out if you want them.

As far as who the various characters are, here are some descriptions courtesy of Bleeding Cool:

Sebastien Sisak as Ler (Armenian for mountain). Landman. He is armed with all forms of earth manipulation abilities, and is able to control stone and soil, collect dust from boulders, stop falling rocks, and move mountains. He can cause rocks of any size and amount to levitate and fly as if weightless, as well as orbit him. He can cause the ground to break apart under his enemies feet with great precision in what parts break and what shape the subsequent depression makes. This allows him to form instant craters, canyons, ravines, and sink holes to fight his opponents, though these formations are usually small in scale. Being able to cause quakes and tremors in the ground beneath his opponents, such as making the ground under them erupt and explode. He can summon rock onto his body, covering himself in rock to make an exoskeletal armor to physically enhance himself. Along with his abilities, he is armed with a small chain with a large rock cemented on its end, which he can use as a type of flail. Like the rest of the team, he was given a special costume to increase his effectiveness and abilities.

Anton Pampushniy as Ursus
Wildman. Ursus (Latin for bear) is a type of berserker or werebear, and has the ability to transform himself into a large bear, though he can control how much of his body is transformed and can transform partially if he wills it. This transformation ability can allow him to seamlessly alter his size, bulk and musculature and transform himself into a burly humanoid, as well as use his transformations to physically augment himself. He has multiple phases of transformation due to his ability to partially transform. His phases can make him physically a hybrid between bear and human, such as giving him the head, paws and bulk of a bear and the shape of a man. He can use his inhuman physicality to fight, especially when he is full bear form. With this, no normal person can physically overpower him and he is immune to their strength. Desperate, loyal and determined, he is known for his drive to “break the enemy into small pieces”. Like the rest of the team, he was given a special costume to increase his effectiveness and abilities. Part of this costume’s equipment is a hand-held minigun and its battery pack, both of which are harnessed to his torso for battle, while he carries them both his back when fully transformed. Even while not transformed, he is shown to be strong enough to wield the large weapon and its power source.

Sanzhar Madiev as Khan
Windman. Masterfully skilled with all kinds of blades, as well as with many kinds of martial arts. Along with other blades, he is primarily armed with twin, crescent like blades, each of which resemble a scimitar, scythe or sickle and can be joined at the hilts to form a double bladed weapon. The strong blades, with enough force, can slice through the metal of cars with enough force and without going blunt or being damaged. He is also physically augmented, possessing a degree of superhuman strength that allows him to smash through brick walls with a single punch and send men flying through the air with his attacks, as well as superhuman mobility that gives him acrobatic and gymnastic capabilities and the ability to effortlessly dodge and evade attacks, even gunfire at point blank range. He also possesses inhuman speed, enough that he almost appears to teleport. Using his speed requires him first to focus hard, achieving a meditative state that causes his eyes to turn completely white and allowing him to perceive faster than any human can. While in this state, he sees everything as being in slow motion while he himself moves at normal speed, or somewhat faster. Whenever he moves in this state, a black gaseous trail appears behind him to outline his movements. His strength and speed allows him to generate enough force to slice a car and anyone in it in two with his blades. Like the rest of the team, he was given a special costume to increase his effectiveness and abilities.

rg201Alina Lanina as Xenia
Waterwoman. Flexible and agile, to a superhuman degree, making her a skilled acrobat, gymnast, and even martial artist. She has the ability to move on water as if it were solid ground, as well as to seamlessly floating through it as it if were air. This gives her higher mobility in water compared to the fastest, or most maneuverable sea creature. She cannot feel temperature differences and can survive in an airless vacuum, which allows her to survive underwater without any negative effects. She can also transform her body into a clear, transparent water like liquid, use it defensively or offensively. This ability allows her to become gelatinous and viscous, allowing her to flow like liquid, while being able to physical touch and interact at the same time. In this form, her body becomes silhouetted and nearly featureless, with her hair disappearing and the only features on her being her eyes, ears and nose. In addition, her transparency can be enough for her to turn invisible, while she also wears a special costume designed also become invisible with her.

Valeria Shkirando as Head of “Patriot” Secret organization.

Vyacheslav Razbegaev as Major-general Nikolai Dolgov

Stanislav Shirin as August Kuratov. The main antagonist, he owns a machine named “Modul-1” which allows him to control any technical equipment. He decides to build his own army of clones in order to capture Moscow, in preparation to control the whole world. In addition, he is armed with a mechanized exoframe-like harness that enhances his physical abilities to the point where he could overpower Ler/Landman while the latter is using his rock exoskeleton.

Okay, so with that out of the way, here’s the new trailer:

Guardians opens Feb 23 in Russia. Still no word, though on an American release.

Saturday Double Feature: Suicide Squad (2016) And…

ssp01Hey! It’s Saturday. That means it’s time to pair up another couple of films for a Saturday Double Feature.

I’m cheating a little bit this week, since today’s feature movie has already finished it’s theatrical run, but since it’s just come out on disk in the past few weeks, I’m declaring it recent enough to qualify.

One of last year’s most anticipated movies among genre fans, and also one of the biggest disappointments was Warner Brothers’ Suicide Squad. This was hopefully going to be the movie that, after the bleakness of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman brought some light and fun to the DC comics movie universe. The cast looked good, the trailers gave some hope, and then…

And then the movie finally arrived.

Sigh…

No, it wasn’t as dark as its predecessors. As a matter of fact it had some pretty good moments. Instead it committed an even worse sin.

It was, overall, boring.

Yeah, I’m not sure how you take a premise like this and turn it into the kind of slog that we got (a problem that is not ameliorated in any way by the extended cut). Actually, I take that back, I do know how – you do what they did with this movie – instead of taking the Deadpool route and simply embracing the ridiculousness of the premise and going completely over the top with it, you try to fit it into the “real world” where it just doesn’t belong.

Anyway, here’s the trailer:

So in thinking about this movie and its premise – take a bunch of thieves, murderers, etc. and give them a chance to – perhaps not redeem themselves, but at least do some good and perhaps shorten their sentences, it occurred to me that there was one movie that would fit alongside Squad pretty well as part of a double bill – 1967’s World War II -set feature, The Dirty Dozen which starred Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Robert Webber, and Donald Sutherland as a team of criminally misfit soldiers sent on a mission from which few, if any of them, were expected to return.

Take a look:

Okay, so that’s my pick for a double feature pairing with Suicide Squad. What do you think? Got a better or different idea of something to go along with it? If so, let me know in the comments below or over on the DurnMoose Facebook page.

Throwback Thursday – The Fighting Lady (1944)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

What with all of the back-and-forth lately between the U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, an other nation-states, there’s been a lot of talk about what constitutes sabotage, how powerful some of these entities really are, and what constitutes propaganda and where the line is between that and actual traitorous talk and actions. Thus, it seemed to me that this might be a good time to take a look back at some actual propaganda films from World War II and how the government enlisted the help of Hollywood during that war. So, for this week’s Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d share this post from Professor Damian which first appeared on the Public Domain Treasure Chest on June 17, 2010.

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The Fighting Lady (1944) – World War II Propaganda

fightinglady1Today we shift focus to a different, though no less fascinating, type of feature: the propaganda film. Governments, and especially the military have used various forms of propaganda probably ever since Kulano of the Shell Tribe called the inland tribe they were fighting “squirrelly little tree climbers who are afraid of the water” and said therefore that they would be easy to defeat.

So what exactly is “propaganda”? Well, in his book Film Propaganda and American Politics, author James Combs describes propaganda as material produced by governments or political groups designed to “sway relevant groups of people in order to accommodate their [the government’s] agendas”. In other words, propaganda, and specifically for our discussion propaganda films, are movies, either documentary or fictional, which are designed not only to present a particular point of view, but to persuade the viewer of the rightness of tht point of view or outlook. For a current example, one could point, say, to the films of Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock or Al Gore as propaganda. No, they are not produced by the government, but they definitely have a particular point of view, and though the use of select footage and interviews, are designed to persuade the viewer that that point of view is the only “correct” or “intelligent” one.

nips1A couple of weeks ago, in an article I wrote for Blogcritics.org, I discussed the use of characters from popular fiction to promote the war effort during World War II. Characters as diverse as Bugs Bunny, Tarzan, Superman, and even Sherlock Holmes were all used to promote different aspects of the war against the Axis powers, whether it was conservation/recycling, the need for vigilance on the homefront, the superiority and fighting capability of the Allied forces, or even the dehumanization of the enemy. (The last being an especially popular tactic in cartoons of the day as animation made it easy to over-exaggerate certain physical or stereotypical qualities of the enemy, thereby making them seem less like “us” and even more alien and therefore easier to kill in battle. For an actually fairly restrained example, see the picture at the left.)

Famous characters were not the only ones called upon to contribute their talents to the government’s propaganda efforts during the great war. On both sides of the conflict, all-star directors were also expected to bring their expertise to bear in the creation of films designed either to convince viewers of the rightness of the cause and the superior military might of their respective countries. In Germany, Leni Riefenstahl was busy creating Triumph of the Will, long considered one of the greatest propaganda films of all time, while in America Frank Capra (with the aid of the Disney studios) was making his seven-part propagandistic blockbuster Why We Fight which was first commissioned to show to U.S. soldiers to explain the necessity of going to war against the axis, but was later also used to convince the American people not only of the rightness and validity of the U.S. joining the fray but early intervention was the only way to keep the war from coming to America’s shores. As a matter of fact, the last film in the series is titled “War Comes to America”, and spells out in dire terms the consequences to America of an Axis victory:

German conquest of Europe and Africa would bring all their raw materials, plus their entire industrial development, under one control. Of the 2 billion people in the world, the Nazis would rule roughly one quarter, the 500 million people of Europe and Africa, forced into slavery to labor for Germany. German conquest of Russia would add the vast raw materials and the production facilities of another of the world’s industrial areas, and of the world’s people, another 200 million would be added to the Nazi labor pile.

whywefight1Japanese conquest of the Orient would pour into their factory the almost unlimited resources of that area, and of the peoples of the earth, a thousand million would come under their rule, slaves for their industrial machine.
We in North and South America would be left with the raw materials of three-tenths of the earth’s surface, against the Axis with the resources of seven-tenths. We would have one industrial region against their three industrial regions. We would have one-eighth of the world’s population against their seven-eighths. If we together, along with the other nations of North and South America, could mobilize 30 million fully equipped men, the Axis could mobilize 200 million.

Thus, an Axis victory in Europe and Asia would leave us alone and virtually surrounded facing enemies ten times stronger than ourselves.

The film then ends with images of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, showing that even as the U.S was honorably negotiating with them, the “treacherous Japs” were plotting to attack us on our own soil. Of course, this idea is the same that fueled the propaganda of a more recent administration who more simply put it “We’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Let’s face it, kiddies, good propaganda never dies.

Capra was not the only filmmaker called into the service of his country at the time, of course. Other notable directors who lent their talents were John Ford, John Houston, William Wyler, and the director of today’s feature, noted photographer and Director of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit Edward Steichen who spent months aboard the USS Yorktown documenting the lives and heroic deeds of the brave men who manned this great ship.(The ship, and most of her crewmen, are never actually identified by name, due to wartime security restrictions, thus, she is simply called The Fighting Lady. It was only after the end of the war that the ship in question was officially identified as the Yorktown.)

fightinglady3The film opens slowly, exploring the lives of these men as they go about their day-to-day duties as the ship sails through the Panama Canal and on into the Pacific Ocean. The emphasis here is on the mundanity of the shipboard life, and quite often we are reminded (in a voice-over by narrator Robert Taylor) of the saying that 99% of war is waiting. The waiting does not last forever, however, and it is not long before we get to see the ship and her crew in action at Marcus Island. This, and the subsequent battle scenes (especially those filmed at what was to become known as the “Marianas turkey shoot”) is where the film truly begins to take off, as the Technicolor photography brings the dogfights and ship-to-air fighting a spectacular brilliance. It’s easy to see why the government wanted the most skilled directors and photographers (many of them enlisted men who went uncredited for their part in the filming for years afterward) involved in a project like this. The battle raging all around them, these men, just like their comrades manning the guns or working the take-offs and landings of the airplanes, stood their ground and provided a document of the war like few others, including some truly spectacular footage taken by cameras actually mounted on the cockpits of fighter planes in the air. There is even footage of some spectacular crashes as the planes try to return to the ship once the fighting has ended.

Nor does the film forget to remind the viewer of the cost of war even as it celebrates the victory at the Turkey shoot” and shows the sailors and airmen painting battle flags and war markings on the ship and planes, counting the number of enemies downed, it also shows us the flag-draped bodies of those lost by our side, letting the viewer know the fates of some of the ones met earlier, and even giving us a glimpse of a twenty-one gun salute and burial at sea.

Here’s a section from the middle of the film showing some of the fighting and its aftermath:

And the skinny:
Title: The Fighting Lady
Release Date: 1944
Running Time: 61min
Color

The Fighting Lady and many other World War II propaganda films including Capra’s Why We Fight are available to watch or download for free here.

 

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Saturday Double Feature: Arrival (2016) And…

arr01Yep, I’ve decided it’s time for the return of what used to be a regular feature here on the blog, the Saturday Double Feature.

The idea here is simple: take a movie that’s currently in theaters and pair it with one from the past to crate an interesting double bill. In the previous iteration of this feature I limited myself to movies that were 1980s or before for the back half of the bill, but this time around, considering the fact that it’s 2016 and even movies from the 90s are “ancient history” to so many of my younger readers, I think I’m going to be a little looser with that restriction. After all, even a movie like today’s, which came out in 1996 is twenty years old now. And when you take into account the fact that today’s second feature wasn’t even that well known when it first came out, well…

Okay, so let’s start with the current flick, Arrival. I haven’t had a chance to get to the theater to see the new Amy Adams-starring sci-fi film, but from the trailers and from what I’ve heard from friends who have, it looks like a solid, intelligent s-f movie.

The starting concept is simple: one day, alien ships suddenly appear in the skies over Earth, and Adams’ character Louise Banks, a linguist, is brought in to attempt to translate what appears to be attempted communications from the ships.

Let’s take a look at the trailer, shall we?

 

So what did I choose to pair Arrival with? Well, how about another alien first-contact movie with a very similar name?

That’s right, I’m talking about 1996’s The Arrival starring none other than Charile Sheen. Directed by David Twohy, better known for writing and directing Pitch Black and Vin Diesel’s other Riddick flicks, The Arrival begins with the interception of a signal from outer space by Sheen’s astronomer character Zane Zaminsky. When he attempts to follow up on and find out more about the signal, he finds out that there may be more involved than he at first thought.

To be honest, The Arrival is one of those movies that actually feels like it’s better than it really deserves to be, but in my estimation, it really should be better known and more seen than it is. Even most of my cult movie friends seem to have no idea that this film even exists, which is truly a shame, and I highly recommend it. A quick check at Amazon shows the Blu-ray selling there for just over $7.00, an it’s definitely worth checking out at that price.

Go ahead, give the trailer a look:

By the way, The Arrival did manage to spawn a sequel, 1998’s even-less-seen Arrival II (yeah, for some reason in most promotional material and onscreen the “The” was dropped from the title for the follow-up). Here’s the trailer for that:

Okay, so that’s my pick for a double (or even triple) feature pairing with Arrival. What do you think? Got a better or different idea of something to go along with it? If so, let me know in the comments below or over on the DurnMoose Facebook page.

Neo-Nazis vs Skull-Faced People – John Carpenter Sets The Record Straight On They Live (1988)

tl02I know that a lot of how you “read” a movie and how you interpret both its contents and its intent comes from what you bring to it. A lot of times what one takes away from viewing a film is very dependent upon what you want to see there in the first place. And sometimes there are valid interpretations of a film that go beyond those that the director may have intended.

However, when the director himself tells you hat you are wrong about his intentions and that the movie should not be read the way you are, then I think that should stand as the last word.

That is exactly what has happened with John Carpenter’s 1986 masterpiece They Live.

(And yes, I did use the word “masterpiece” in the above sentence, and I stand by it. No, I’m not saying that They Live is one of the greatest movies ever made, but I will stand by it as one of the most entertaining, and one that accomplishes almost everything it sets out to do. It is a crowd pleaser with both an iconic set piece and a message, and if it failed at anything at all, that would be in its attempt to make Rowdy Roddy Piper into an international action movie superstar the way that Carpenter was able to do with Kurt Russell.)

tl03Anyway, it appears that certain neo-nazi groups have been making the claim that They Live is all about Jewish attempts to take over the world. This piece of anti-Semitic propaganda has been going around for years, but it finally sparked enough attention for John Carpenter himself to take to Twitter to disavow any such intention and to tell these groups that they are flat-out wrong.

On Jan. 4, Carpenter tweeted the following:

So there you have it, in no uncertain terms, from the man himself. So let’s lay that one to rest, okay?

Oh, and for those misguided souls out there who may not have seen the movie, here’s the trailer:

But here’s what the movie is REALLY all about:

Go ahead, John. Tell me I’m wrong.

Throwback Thursday – Horse Feathers (1932)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

As we approach the end of football season – the college bowls have been played an the pro playoffs are pretty well set – I thought this might be a good time to take a look back at a truly historic football game – the one between Huxley College and their rivals at Darwin College. So here, from February 2014, is my reporting on that game:

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Looking For Real Football Excitement Today? Look No Further Than Horse Feathers (1932)

HorseFeaSo yeah, there’s that Big Important Football Game on TV today. And yeah, like most of America, I’ll be tuned in, mostly because it’s a good chance to get together with some friends that I rarely get to spend much time with. Well, that, and, of course, to check out whatever movie trailers make their premiers during the festivities.

And yeah, we’ll be watching the game, too, of course, but let’s all be honest: how often does it really live up to the hype? Sure there’s always the chance that it’ll turn into a nail-biter, and with the promised inclement weather, things could get interesting, but… somehow I doubt that there’s much chance that you’re going to see anything akin to the hijinx that took place in the fourth quarter of the 1932 game between Huxley College and their rivals at Darwin College. Here, let’s take a look at how that game ended:

Yep, that was, of course, the Marx Brothers from their 1932 film Horse Feathers, where Groucho plays Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley College, and Zeppo is his son Frank. Harpo and Chico play characters named Pinky and Bravelli, who are recruited to play for the Huxley team, and of course, the usual chaos ensues, climaxing with the above football game.

I do have to admit, though. that I’d be much more excited about today’s game if I thought there was any chance of the Seahawks pulling out a chariot and steamrolling it over Peyton Manning. Sigh… they just don’t play the game like they used to, do they?

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.