Archive for March, 2013

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for APRIL 2013

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Aliens, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, Demons, Horror, Possessed By Demons with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
APRIL 2013
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  A cabin in the woods.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are inside, looking at books.  LS is reading the Book of the Dead, while MA is reading the E-book version of the same.)

LS:  I had no idea the Book of the Dead is available as an E-book now.

MA:  It just came out.  It’s a sign of the times.  It even has this interactive menu.

LS:  Let me see that.  (MA hands the E-Reader to LS.)

MA:  I wouldn’t go clicking any icons if I were you.  It is the Book of the Dead, after all.  At least wait until after we finish this column.

LS:  You’re no fun.  And I’ll press buttons if I want to!  See, I just clicked on the “Kick my Ash” icon and nothing happened.

MA:  Will you stop!  We have a column to do!

LS:  Wimp!  But you’re right.  We do have a column to do.

Welcome to the COMING ATTRACTIONS column for April 2013, where we preview which movies we’ll be reviewing in the coming month.

Up first on April 5, it’s the remake/reimagining of THE EVIL DEAD (2013).  Most people reading this column are probably familiar with Sam Raimi’s 1981 original version. It’s the movie that put him on the map, as well as star Bruce Campbell. Based on the trailer for the new EVIL DEAD, it looks fairly faithful to the original story, but I’ll be surprised if it’s half as good. I’m a big fan of the original and I’m not expecting the remake to blow me away. But, as usual, I would love to be surprised and find out this is a really good version. So we’ll see.

evildead_Banner

MA:  Honestly, I haven’t seen the original EVIL DEAD (1981) in years, but I remember it fondly, as well as its sequels. That being said, I was never a big fan of the trilogy.  I liked them, but I didn’t love them.

I am looking forward to this remake or reimagining, or whatever the heck it is.  We just haven’t had a lot of horror movies out at the theaters of late, it seems, so it should be fun to finally have a major horror release on the big screen.

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Also opening on April 5 is a new thriller 6 SOULS (2013).  I know very little about this one, other than that it stars Julianne Moore, who I like a lot.  If it opens near me, I’ll be seeing it and reviewing it.

LS:  Yeah, I don’t know much about this one. But if it does come out near us, you’ll be reviewing it solo.

MA:  On April 12, we’ll be reviewing SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013).  I had enough of this series after just the first movie.  The fact that we’re up to 5 is ludicrous.  All I can say about this one is ugh!

LS: I agree. I also saw the very similar HAUNTED HOUSE (2013), starring Marlon Wayans earlier this year (Wayans was one of the originators of the first few SCARY MOVIEs) and I enjoyed it. But SCARY MOVIE 5 seems to be covering a lot of the same territory, so the jokes may already be stale. I’m not expecting much from this one.

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MA: However, there are a couple of talented writers involved here, Pat Proft and David Zucker. .

Proft has a ton of writing credits.  He worked on the screenplays for the NAKED GUN movies, as well as a bunch of other parodies, including the previous two SCARY MOVIE movies.

David Zucker, of course, is one of the men behind AIRPLANE! (1980), which he co-wrote and co-directed.  He also co-wrote the NAKED GUN movies and directed SCARY MOVIE 3 (2003) and SCARY MOVIE 4 (2004).  So, maybe there’s hope.

Then again, the film stars Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

LS:  On April 19 we’ll be reviewing OBLIVION (2013) starring Tom Cruise.  This is going to be a big science fiction blockbuster starring Cruise as a guy doing cleanup on a destroyed Earth after an alien invasion. It looks like it could have potential, and Cruise is usually okay in these kinds of things.

Oblivion (2013)

MA:  I enjoyed Cruise’s previous movie JACK REACHER (2012) a lot, so I’m kinda looking forward to this one.  The trailers don’t make it look like anything great, but it’s science fiction, so I’m intrigued and hopeful.

It’s directed by Jospeh Kosinski, the guy who directed TRON: LEGACY (2010), which wasn’t too bad.  Kosinski also co-wrote the screenplay, along with a couple of other writers, including Michael Arndt, who wrote the screenplays for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) and TOY STORY 3 (2010).  Arndt is also on tap to write the screenplays for the upcoming HUNGER GAMES sequel and the next STAR WARS movie.

And in addition to Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, OBLIVION also features everyone’s favorite crazy mother, Melissa Leo.  Leo of course nailed that crazy mama persona in her Oscar winning performance in THE FIGHTER (2010).

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LS:  While I think OBLIVION might be fun, I am much more excited about another movie coming out that weekend, Rob Zombie’s new film THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013).  If this one comes out near me, I’ll be reviewing it solo. It concerns some DJs in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts who get a mysterious vinyl record in the mail by a new band that may be steeped in witchcraft. I’ve been waiting for Rob Z to come out with a new original film ever since he made the last two HALLOWEEN films. He’s so much better working from his own original ideas, so I’m very hopeful that this one might put him back on track as an ambitious horror filmmaker again.

MA:  And we finish the month with a review of PAIN AND GAIN (2013),  a movie billed as a— and I’ll try to say this with a straight face— crime drama comedy about weightlifters caught up in a kidnapping scheme gone wrong, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, directed by Michael Bay.

That about says it all.

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LS:  PAIN AND GAIN might be fun. Both Wahlberg and Johnson have been in good movies, and bad ones, so this one could go either way. But the trailer looks pretty good. It’s the Michael Bay thing that worries me.

MA: Exactly!  And I thought the trailer was all over the place.  I couldn’t tell if it was serious or a comedy, and it turns out it’s both, which is fine, but for some reason I thought it looked goofy.

And that wraps things up for April.  Can I have the E-reader back now?  (LS hands it back to MA).  Hey, what did you do to the screen?

(A giant vine shoots out from the E-Reader screen and wraps itself around MA and pulls him to the ground, where they wrestle violently.)

LS:  Wow, the 3D function really works!  And you don’t even need glasses!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

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Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Watches WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Detectives, Evil Doctors!, Just Plain Fun, Mexican Horror, Mummies, Secret Codes, William Carl Articles, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)

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Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

K. Gordon Murray imported a second Luchadoras (Lady Wrestler) movie directed by Rene Cordona one year after the initial series entry, DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963).  Once again, kiddie matinee audiences were treated to the adventures of a tag team of female wrestlers—Mexican Gloria Venus and the American Golden Rub—against an assortment of hissable villains and monsters.  They are once again played, respectively, by Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell, each looking as gorgeous as in the first movie.  Their boyfriends, the pair of bumbling Mexican detectives, are also back as the WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (aka ROCK ‘N ROLL WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY) flutters across our disbelieving eyeballs.  My goodness, but this one is even weirder and crazier than the first.  And that’s sayin‘ something!  On to the story!

Oh!  According to the credits, the cast includes the Milagros India Ballet!

We start off with a bang, as a bloody man is tossed onto a city street from a speeding car.  The headlines shout (in Spanish) “Black Dragon Gang Kills Archeologist!”  A second body is tossed from a car, this time in the desert.  “Black Dragon Strikes Again!  Dr. Van Dyne Disappears!”  Yet another scientist is tortured by a Fu Manchu/Yellow Menace-type.  Another scientist is chased from his home by a carful of thugs.  He drives to the coliseum where a wrestling match is taking place between two tag-teams, Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi (whose hair has turned brunette since last time!) and two rather butch, um, ladies.  If the wrestling footage looks familiar, it’s because it was lifted from the first movie.  The wrestling gals are cheered on by their detective boyfriends in the audience.  We aren’t even five minutes into the feature, folks.

The girls go to their dressing room and discover a man lurking in the shadows, Dr. Mike Sorba, who wants to talk to Mike the Detective, Gloria Venus’s fiancé.  He informs the detective that the Black Dragon is making threats against him and the detective’s uncle.  The older scientists have discovered something, and the Black Dragon is killing and torturing all the scientists who have a certain codex.  Now, only Dr. Sorba and the uncle remain.  Well, until Sorba is suddenly killed in the locker room by a poison dart.

The mysterious Black Dragon.

The mysterious Black Dragon.

The thugs head back to Fu Man…I mean…the Black Dragon and his evil sisters.  He tells his henchmen to go after the last scientist remaining, Detective Mike’s Uncle, Dr. Tracey (from THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO?).

The group, two detectives and two lady wrestlers, drive to the uncle’s house, where Dr. Tracey tells his nephew about the codex.  The Black Dragon has half and Uncle Tracey decides to give the two wrestlers and his nephew each a third of the half he has.  A pretty blond girl has become Dr. Tracey’s ward, Charlotte.  Within minutes, Charlotte is kidnapped by hoodlums while Dr. Tracey sneaks off to get his half of the codex.

Dr. Tracey digs the codex from between bricks in an abandoned house and splits it into thirds as planned.  He disburses them in the girls’ lockers and a post office box.  Meanwhile, The Black Dragon uses a flashy machine and injections to brainwash Charlotte to hate the ones she once loved, and she’ll do exactly as he orders.  His sisters are impressed (although one speaks with a Natasha Badinov Russian accent; who knows why?).  Under the Black Dragon’s influence, Charlotte returns to the scientist’s house.  First, the foursome split up, following clues to find the thirds of the codex.

So far, no one has explained the what or why of the codex.  Everyone just wants it badly.  And the Black Dragon has bugged the house, so he has sent his thugs to intercept the heroes before they find the hiding places.  Golden Rubi and her boyfriend are captured. Luckily, Gloria Venus and her detective follow and everybody brawls.  The thugs get away with that part of the codex.  The Black Dragon decides to set his judo-expert sisters against the two wrestling broads.

All sorts of shenanigans occur until our heroes have one part of the codex and the Black Dragon has all the rest.  Black Dragon bets all his parts against the one in a tag-team match between his sisters and our gal wrasslers, and it’ll be held in public in the coliseum.  Seems a lot easier than just calling the police and arresting the gang.  Yeah, right…

They must have waited a few days and advertised, because the place is packed for the judo vs. wrestling match.  I swear, during the crowd noises, I heard someone shout, “Andelay!  Andelay!”  And we get the pleasure of watching four women in tight clothing beat the crap out of each other for a good eight minutes.  Hey, there are certainly worse ways to spend eight minutes.

Of course, Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi win the match.  The Black Dragon gives away the codex (well, he’s a bad guy with honor, don’t ya’ know), and just as he was going to be arrested, his sisters judo chop their way through the cops and break him loose.  The Dragon hatches a plan to follow the good guys to wherever the codex leads them and get…whatever the hell is the goal.  Coherency isn’t given a second glance in this flick.

Our heroines snap into action.

Our heroines snap into action.

The codex leads the group (and The Black Dragon and his henchmen) to Tezomoc’s Burial Ground, a witch doctor who can change his shape, just like the moldy mummy in DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966).  As the professor reads the translated codex, we get to watch a flashback to Aztec times that shows a maiden who was to be sacrificed to the gods and the witch doctor who saved her by carrying her away.  The lovers were found and returned to the temple where the man, Tezomoc, was buried alive and required to maintain a vigil over his lover’s burial ground and the gold breastplate placed over her chest.  And, yeah, the tomb is cursed if the breastplate leaves the grounds.

The tomb is easy to find (did no one ever spot the ninety foot pyramid above it?), and the group fumbles around in the dark for what seems like three and a half hours.  Finally, they find the temple.  As they are about to read the breastplate, a tomb opens and Tezomoc pops out like a dusty Kate Moss.  It’s extremely skinny, bony, and hideous.  Bullets can’t stop it, and it moans, stretching its mouth open so wide it looks like its cheeks could split.  It also turns into a bat, which is really hard to wrestle.  “Look, Loretta, he’s a vampire now!”  Who’s Loretta?

Will our heroes translate the breastplate and send the mummy back to the land of the dead?  Or will the Black Dragon and his minions find it first and get the treasure?  Is there ever any doubt?

K. Gordon Murray’s dubbing techniques for his Mexican imports lend a tone of the surreal to the proceedings.  Being one of the first to dub movies into English from another language, he hired a sound technician from Disney, Manny Fernandez and a bilingual writer, Ruby Guberman, to change the words coming out of the characters mouths.  Instead of trying to make a literal translation, the team attempted to match the lip movements as closely as possible, which resulted in pretty good synchronization, but truly bizarre phrasings.  An example from tonight’s film: “Now, just as the Dragon heard this, and what motives he has have yet to be explained, he hunted down all the others and he tortured them without pity to get them to reveal who had been designated to guard the records.”  Whew!  What a mouthful.

WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY isn’t as much fun as its predecessor, DOCTOR OF DOOM.  We don’t even get to the Aztec Mummy until the seventy minute mark, and then, despite the title, the mummy is on the side of good.  The pacing is all over the place, too.  Sometimes, this movie flies by at a lightning pace, and at other times the characters get so bored they stop all forward plot motion and play cards.  I am not kidding.  And where in the world was the Milagros India Ballet?

Beware Tezomoc, the AZTEC MUMMY!

Beware Tezomoc, the AZTEC MUMMY!

Still, we get lots of wrestling, beautiful women, fun gadgets, the Yellow Menace, judo-chopping twin sisters with different accents, crummy dubbing, and a creepy mummy.  It’s still worth a gander, even if it doesn’t rise to the heights of silliness of the first movie.

I give WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY two and a half breastplates out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Me and Lil’ Stevie: CREEPSHOW II (1987)

Posted in 2013, 80s Horror, Anthology Films, Ghosts!, Me and Lil' Stevie, Monsters, Peter Dudar Reviews, Sea Creatures, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2013 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie
Periodically Enjoy
CREEPSHOW II
(1987)
By Peter Dudar

creepshow II

(Exterior-day:  Establishing shot of quiet Maine town by morning.  There is a little boy sitting on his bicycle just outside the local newsstand, waiting for a very special delivery.  An old army-style canvas-covered delivery truck adorned with comic book graphics pulls up, and the little boy sits up tall on his bike.  The truck parks, and then there is a figure rummaging around the back of the truck, sorting through bundles of magazines.  The figure tosses a bundle out onto the curb, and the boy goes to reach for it.  Suddenly, the boy stops and looks up at the figure in the back of the truck.  The camera pans upward and we see that the figure is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  I wouldn’t do that, son…I really wouldn’t.

Peter:  Why not?  Little Billy, here, just wants the very first copy.

Billy:  Yeah!  It’s all mine!  I got here first!

Peter:  Go ahead, Billy.  Open it up.  You’ve earned it.

(Billy opens up the package.  Instead of being filled with comic books, the package is filled with autographed pictures of Justin Beiber.)

Billy:  Nooooooo!  (abandons his bicycle and runs away screaming).

Lil’ Stevie:  Hyuk Hyuk Hyuk…they fall for it every time!

Peter:  Welcome, Constant Viewer, to another fun-filled episode.  Today, we’ll be discussing Michael Gornick’s 1987 film directorial debut, CREEPSHOW II.  Gornick, like a lot of other directors that have cut their teeth on Stephen King projects, has a long history of working in the cinema, serving as a cinematographer, production manager, camera and sound engineer, actor, and producer.  He is equally steeped in made-for-television projects as well.  So, when George Romero (director of the original CREEPSHOW, 1982) passed on the project, Gornick stepped in (he was cinematographer on CREEPSHOW, and was familiar with the spirit of the project).

Lil’ Stevie:  And the fans of CREEPSHOW rejoiced!  Boo-ya!

Peter:  Not exactly.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  As you already know, Constant Viewer, we examined the original CREEPSHOW back in episode 7, and we happen to consider it a favorite of ours, so we want to treat this entry as fairly and unbiased as possible.

Lil’ Stevie:  Which means we sat our butts down and re-watched it, for old time’s sake.

Peter:  The film begins pretty much as we’ve established with the delivery truck, turning Little Billy’s wraparound segment into an animated storyline featuring him and “The Creep” (Tom Savini, special effects maestro and character actor, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, 1996).

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re already getting it wrong.  The Creep is played by Joe Silver (RABID, 1977).

Peter (sighing): Silver provided the voice.  Now, quit interrupting.  It bears mentioning that the original film was constructed with comic book panels and artwork interspersed with the live action sequences.  It made the movie feel like a comic-book-come-to-life, which was an enormous part of the campy charm that made the original so cool (not to mention comic art veteran Bernie Wrightson’s stunning contributions).  All of that is traded off for “The Creep’s” animated spookshow-host narration.  I found this to be an annoyance more than an upgrade.  At the time of this film’s theatrical release, HBO was already knocking ‘em dead with their “Crypt Keeper” in TALES FROM THE CRYPT.  This feels like a bad rip-off.

Lil’ Stevie:  Can we talk about my stories?   My stories are what bring the movie to life!

(Peter reaches down and snatches up an autographed photo of Justin Beiber)

Peter:  Here, this is for you.  Aren’t you his “Number-one fan?”

(Lil’ Stevie turns aside and throws up).

Peter:  Holy cow!  How are you doing that?  You’re a puppet.  You can’t throw up!

Lil’ Stevie: (Dragging his sleeve across his mouth) Oh yeah?  Well, you can’t write for beans!

Peter:  (Shaking his head).  You disgust me.  Anyway, the REAL Stephen King provided three stories for the film; OLD CHIEF WOOD’NHEAD, THE RAFT, and THE HITCHHIKER (with THE RAFT being the only one of the three segments to appear as a published story.  It was released in Gallery magazine in 1982, and then in the collection SKELETON CREW in 1985).  The first story, OLD CHIEF WOODN’HEAD, concerns Ray and Martha Spruce (George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour).  The Spruces (a loving nod, perhaps, to Tabitha King’s family) are an elderly couple who own and operate the only general store in Dead River, Arizona.  The town, it seems, has washed up and blown away, and its few remaining citizens (most of them being Native American) are in debt to the Spruces.  Ray Spruce doesn’t seem all that concerned, though.  He’s done very well over the years, and feels obligated to give back to the people that supported him.

Lil’ Stevie:  The beginning of the story sees Ray outside his store, painting new war stripes on Chief Wood’nhead; the cigar store-style Indian statue that stands on the store’s front porch.

Peter:  While he’s working, his neighbor, Benjamin Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo, MAGIC IN THE WATER, 1995) pays him a visit.  Whitemoon brings a pouch of Native American jewelry that he has collected from his people as a kind of promissory note to pay off the debts his people have incurred.  “I’ll guard it with my life,” Ray promises.  He tries to convince Whitemoon that prosperity is in the air and that the town is going to come back, but he and Whitemoon already know this isn’t to be.  The pouch is the only payment he is going to see for his kindness, and by taking it, he allows Whitemoon’s people to remain borrowers rather than beggars.

Lil’ Stevie:  You NEVER promise to guard something with your life.  You just don’t do it.

Peter:  That’s right.  Because Whitemoon’s nephew Sam (Holt McCallany, GANGSTER SQUAD, 2013) and his buddies want that wampum.  They hold up the store, taking what little cash the Spruces have, but Sam has his eye set on the pouch of jewelry.  The heist quickly turns into a killing spree, with Martha gunned down while her husband watches helpless, trying to talk Sam out of what he’s about to do.  When Ray refuses to let go of the treasure he promised to guard with his life, he, too is murdered and the pouch is pried from his cold, dead hands.  And then Sam and his buddies are racing off to leave Dead River for new digs in Hollywood.

Lil’ Stevie:  Not if Old Chief Wood’nhead can help it…

Peter:  Precisely.  In E.C. Comics-style vengeance, the Chief (Dan Kamin, MARS ATTACKS, 1996) comes to life and goes on the warpath against the hooligans who killed the folks that took such good care of him.  The siege doesn’t end until all three are dead, with Sam’s scalp (which he treasured) clutched in his hand as he finds rest at his original post outside the store.  The Chief is the real star of this story, and the makeup effects for the statue come-to-life by Gregory Nicotero and company deserve mad props.  This film is one of the last of its breed; the kind with guys in rubber suits and prosthetic appliances providing the scares rather than CGI.  It pays off as you watch the Chief’s subtle facial movements and statuesque body motions.

Lil’ Stevie: …and the blood shots, squirting all over the walls as the Chief swings his tomahawk.

Peter:  On kind of a funny off-note, I’d always believed that Rodney Grant played Sam Whitemoon.  Grant is the Native American actor that portrayed Wind In His Hair in 1990’s DANCES WITH WOLVES.  It turns out that Holt McCallany isn’t even Native American.  Crazy, huh?

Lil’ Stevie:  Hilarious.  You’re an imbecile.

Peter:  (pulls out a tomahawk and crunches it into Lil’ Stevie’s head.)  Heh.  That’s funny, too.  The second story, THE RAFT, is about four college kids who race off to a lake after the summer season has ended to go for a swim in the lake’s secluded waters.  A joint is passed around as Deke and Randy drag their best gals, Laverne and Rachel, to the lake in Deke’s bitchin’ Camaro.  They arrive at the lake with the radio blasting terrible 80s music, and the boys race right into the lake and begin paddling toward The Raft.  The girls follow reluctantly, and as they are swimming, the boys notice a weird, oily membrane floating on the water (the membrane eats a duck alive, to their horror).  Once they are all up on the raft, the kids are held hostage by the membrane, which now seems to move and have a mind of its own.  Rachel buys it first, gently prodding the membrane to see what it is, only to have the membrane snatch her off the raft and eat her up.  Deke dies next, as the membrane slides effortlessly between the raft’s slits and begins chewing away his flesh.

Lil’ Stevie:  Randy and Laverne manage to survive all night, but thanks to Randy’s randy hormones, Laverne falls prey to the membrane.  As the gelatinous blob eats her alive, Randy decides to make a break for it and swim to the shore…but will he make it out alive?

Peter:  This was my favorite segment of the film, and Gornick’s cinematography skills really shine in how this was shot.  It’s beautifully done, the way the camera floats past the kids on the raft at eye-level.  It’s great stuff.  Again, all that’s missing is the neat comic book panels from the original film.

Lil’ Stevie:  The acting was a tad weak in this one.  None of these kids had star quality, and none of them had any meteoric rise to fame because of this movie.

Peter:  Sad but true.  The last segment, THE HITCHHIKER, stars Lois Chiles (MOONRAKER, 1979) as Annie Lansing, the wife of a successful attorney.  Lois has been throwing her husband’s hard-earned money at her favorite gigolo for sex, but in spite of her infidelity, she’s terrified of being home one minute late from the affair as it will anger her husband severely.  So, after an evening of wanton sex with her lover, she notices she’s late and will never be home on time.  She floors the pedal of her BMW in her bid to get home, and in the process, she accidentally runs over some hapless hitchhiker (Tom Wright, BARBER SHOP, 2002) holding a sign reading DOVER.

Lil’ Stevie:  Stephen King cameo!  King plays a truck driver, who happens to be the first on the scene after Annie Lansing disappears in her BMW.

Peter:  The shaken adulterer speeds away, trying to convince herself that she can always turn herself in if she can’t live with the guilt, but the guilt has already begun to manifest itself.  It seems the Hitchhiker isn’t really dead, and will haunt her ride home.  The corpse seems to turn up over and over again, until Annie is literally running his body into trees, and then driving back and forth over the poor guy’s remains until he is the nastiest road kill you’ve ever seen.

Lil’ Stevie:  We really ramped up the gore on this one.  Like the first segment, this tale is all about revenge.

Peter:  It’s really all about guilt.  We don’t honestly know if the Hitchhiker is really haunting her, or if she’s injured her head in the accident and is hallucinating the whole thing.  But Annie eventually makes it back home and parks her totaled car in the garage, where the Hitchhiker visits her one last time…

Lil’ Stevie:  And her husband finds her dead body in a haze of carbon monoxide.  Maybe she couldn’t live with the guilt after all.

creepshow 2

Peter:  A couple of things about this movie…Putting aside the lack of comic book panel framing, this film’s stories verge more on the serious side rather than the campy side that the original movie had.  The first film’s characters were more like caricatures, more stereotypical than typical.  This film opted to play it straight, leaving the comedy to the goofy animated “Creep” segments, and that detracts from the overall impact of the movie.  It’s no wonder that so many King and Romero fans were disappointed with this film (and that’s taking into consideration that Romero wrote the screenplay based on King’s stories).  The stories are very stripped down and one-dimensional, making them predictable in their outcomes.  But they work.  They are entertaining stories built on morality plays.  What would you do if you accidentally ran someone over and killed them?  What would you do if you and your friends were stuck on a raft with something trying to eat you?

Lil’ Stevie:  I’d make sure you got eaten first!

Peter:  Thanks.  I can always count on you.  I guess my final word on this one is that it falls under the category of “What could have been…”  This could have been great if it stuck to the formula that made the first movie so great.  It could have been great if they left out “The Creep” and stuck with the nifty comic book with its pages flapping in the breeze.  It could have been great with a bit more campy humor.  And it could have been great with one or two more stories.  The three tales (and the wraparound story with Billy getting chased by the bullies) just don’t offer a satisfying meal for us to feast on.  Two vengeance tales and a badly-acted hostage story fall short of a complete anthology film.

Lil’ Stevie:  Unless you’re Mario Bava.  BLACK SABBATH (1963) rocks!

Peter:  In the meantime, we’ll keep hoping King and Romero get it together and put out a legitimate CREEPSHOW III, unlike the one that was released in 2006 that had nothing to do with either of them.  Agreed?

Lil’ Stevie:  Agreed.  Well, boils and ghouls, we’ll be slaying ya…er, seeing ya next month! Bwahahahaha!

(Peter leans down and picks up Billy’s bicycle and climbs on, setting Lil’ Stevie on the handlebars.)

Peter:  Thanks a lot, Billy…thanks for the ride!  (Pedals away).

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Bikini Girls, Compelling Cinema, Controverisal Films, Crime Films, Exploitation Films, Femme Fatales, Gangsters!, Hot Chick Movies, Independent Cinema, James Franco, Just Plain Fun, LL Soares Reviews, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , on March 26, 2013 by knifefighter

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

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If you think this is going to be just another Spring Break teen sex comedy, then you are in for a surprise. SPRING BREAKERS is another kind of animal altogether, and it’s the kind of pop/art hybrid that will be playing at your local arthouse theater, as well as the nearby multiplex. The arthouse crowd will have some idea what they’re in for, as soon as they see the director’s name, Harmony Korine. The multiplex audience will have no clue, and might just get their heads blown.

So who is Harmoney Korine, you ask? Well, when he was 19, he wrote the screenplay for the movie KIDS (1995), still probably the most notorious project he’s been associated with. But he went on to become a director in his own right, with weirdo masterpieces under his belt like 1997’s GUMMO and 1999’s JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, two movies that will seriously screw with your head. The last movie of his I saw in a theater was 2007’s MISTER LONELY, which is about a Michael Jackson impersonator who goes to live on an island populated by nothing but celebrity impersonators, and there’s Werner Herzog as a skydiving priest. I think there were five people in the audience when I saw it. In contrast, the theater was pretty packed when I saw SPRING BREAKERS.

SPRING BREAKERS is an underground film with above-ground stars, and what an interesting collection of celebs we have.

The movie begins with four girls wanting to go to Spring Break and escape from their boring lives as hard-working college students, but they don’t have enough money for the trip. Fed up with being deprived of fun, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens, who your kids might know from Disney fare like 2006’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and the TV series THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY), Brit (Ashley Benson, currently playing Hanna on the ABC FAMILY series PRETTY LITTLE LIARS)  and Cotty (Rachel Korine, who also happens to be Mrs. Harmony Korine, and who was in the previously mentioned MISTER LONELY, among other films), decide they are going to Florida for the time of their lives, no matter what. So they don some ski masks and rob the local chicken shack, armed with a realistic looking water pistol and a heavy duty hammer. They get enough money for the trip, and bring their virginal friend Faith (Selena Gomez, another Disney star, from the series THE WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE) along for the ride. Faith is sweet and religious and doesn’t seem like the other girls at all, but she goes along for the ride, even after she finds out how they got the money.

Once in sunny Florida, the girls go wild, and then some, everyone but Faith, who has some naïve idea of this being a chance to bond with her girlfriends, when the others are just thinking about drugs and sex and booze.

The stars of SPRING BREAKERS (from left to rigth) Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens (standing). Behind them, James Franco.

The stars of SPRING BREAKERS (from left to rigth) Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens (standing). Behind them, James Franco.

When a particularly out-of-control party they are at gets busted by the cops, the girls end up in jail. Without money for bail, they are rescued by a rapper, drug dealer, and gun hoarder named Alien (James Franco, who we saw just a couple of weeks ago as OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL). With his corn rows, tattoos and mouth grille, Franco is a force of nature here, and steals every scene he is in.

Alien (“My real name is Al, but I’m out of this world”) is so much the polar opposite of OZ that it’s amazing this is the same guy, and yet Franco works his magic without having to try. Just what does he want in return for springing these cute college girls from the hoosegow? Well, Faith gets so scared thinking about that one that she takes the next bus home (no big loss, since she was the least interesting girl anyway), and the other three find that chicken shack robbery to be just the start of their life of crime, as they take part in a violent crime spree, this time with Alien leading the way.

SPRING BREAKERS is chock full of bikinis, bongs and guns. There’s also lots of Spring Break nudity (although  Rachel Korine is the only one of the main girls to really let it all hang out), and violence. So if you go into the theater expecting to just see some typical drunken behavior, you’re going to be in for a surprise.

Korine’s direction (he also wrote the screenplay) is all quirky and cool, shooting some scenes in slow-motion with musical accompaniment by Skrillex (along with Cliff Martinez, they did the soundtrack). Mainstream audiences might be scratching their heads by the time the end credits roll, but I was completely hypnotized by this one. As a long time Korine fan, I would have seen this one anyway, but the added pleasure of a rip-roaring, bigger than life James Franco, and good performances by the girls, just multiplies the pleasures.

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The girls turn in good performances. I really liked Rachel Korine a lot  as Cotty, the most uninhibited one of the group, and Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens turn in super-intense performances as the two most violent ones, a dynamic duo who even scare Franco in one scene. (Hudgens may have gained fame on the Disney Channel, but she was also in the controversial movie THIRTEEN in 2003 and was in the slightly edgy but ultimately disappointing SUCKER PUNCH in 2011. So she’s not completely new to this “edgy” thing.  As for Benson, she’s my favorite of the female leads here, hands down).

By the time Alien starts taking the girls on missions to rob other college kids at gunpoint (and a wedding!), and Alien’s arch-enemy Archie (Gucci Mane) feels he needs to put Alien in his place and starts some violence that needs payback, we have reached the point of no return, and the drunken parties have become a faint memory, replaced by the barrel of an AK-47.

One especially fun (and demented) scene features the three bad girls in pink ski masks singing along with Alien (who is playing piano beside his swimming pool) as they do a group rendition of Britney Spears’ song “Everytime.”

If the Disney girls climbed aboard this project to change their images, they succeeded,  and Harmony Korine succeeded in churning out his first potential hit with mainstream audiences since he wrote KIDS back in the 90s. And like KIDSSPRING BREAKERS will probably seem like a horror flick to some parents (especially of daughters), a nightmare about what could happen during those Spring Break vacations.

SPRING BREAKERS is big and loud and out of control. And I found myself really digging it. In fact, this might just be my favorite movie of 2013 so far.

I give it three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives SPRING BREAKERS ~three and a half knives.

Cinema Knife Fight/New Filmmakers Edition: CELL COUNT (2012)

Posted in 2013, Body Horror, Cinema Knife Fights, Conspiracy Theories, Disease!, Indie Horror, Mad Doctors!, Mutants!, New Filmmmakers, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.NEW FILMMAKERS EDITION
CELL COUNT (2012) Directed by TODD E. FREEMAN
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

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(THE SCENE: A lab, almost prison-like, with plain gray walls, and security doors and cameras all around.  Several “patients” sit around a table.  The security door buzzes open and MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES enter wearing lab coats.)

L.L. SOARES:  Welcome everyone to a special edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  Today we bring you the latest installment in our “Up-and-Coming Filmmaker” series, where we review movies by new directors who are trying to make a name for themselves.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  So today we are reviewing CELL COUNT (2012) by writer/director Todd E. Freeman.

But let me say first, that our good friend, best-selling author Rick Hautala passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, and both out of respect for Rick and his family, and out of genuine grief, I’m not much in the mood for joking today.  I almost prefer a straight review.

LS: I agree that it was sad news, but knowing Rick, I don’t think he’d want us to tone down the column on his account.

MA:  True.  For me, it’s more that I’m not in a joking mood this weekend, but I don’t see why we couldn’t throw in a few jokes here and there, I guess.

Anyway, let’s get things started.  CELL COUNT  is—.

PATIENT #1:  Excuse me?  What are we doing here exactly?

LS:  You’re our audience.

PATIENT #1:  We didn’t sign up for this.  We’re supposed to be—.

(LS suddenly Tasers the guy, who falls to the floor, writhing in pain.)

LS:  You’re also the comic relief.  Anyone else have any questions?

(Other patients shake their heads.)

LS:  Good. Let’s continue.

MA:  So much for toning things down.

As I was saying, CELL COUNT is a science fiction horror movie about a group of people subjected to one very weird and unsettling medical experiment.

The film opens with Russell Carpenter (Robert McKeehen) comforting his dying wife Sadie (Haley Talbot) in a hospital.  It’s clear that these two are very much in love. Russell is informed by Dr. Victor Brandt (Christopher Toyne) that his wife is going to die in no uncertain terms, unless…and then he makes Russell an offer.  He tells Russell that he’s involved with a special study that is seeking test subjects like his wife in order to treat this deadly disease.  He tells Russell that he can guarantee his wife will be cured. But Russell will have to be part of the experiment as well if he wants to come with her.

I guess Russell never heard “if it sounds too good to be true, it really isn’t” because he agrees…

LS: Of course he agrees! He doesn’t want to lose his wife.

MA: … and he and Sadie find themselves inside a weird prison-like facility with other “patients.”  All of them have small incisions in their chests, where Dr. Brandt supposedly implanted the powerful viral cure into their bodies.  In addition to these patients, there are also two “special” patients housed in a secure part of the building—two convicted criminals who are highly dangerous.

Cell-Count-2012-Todd-Freeman-movie-3When the group begins to suffer from weird side effects, they begin to suspect that something is wrong, and they discover that Dr. Brandt’s vision of a cure isn’t quite what they expected.  They’ve been implanted with a strange worm-like creature that burrows out of their mouths at will, and does some other things as well, like one wrapping itself around its victim’s face, forming a mask that resembles an alien in a bad science fiction movie.

LS: I actually thought the “mask face” thing looked pretty cool.

MA: I liked the idea of the “mask face” but I didn’t think it looked good.  It looked like Dumb Donald from FAT ALBERT.

So, it’s up to Russell and Sadie to lead their fellow patients out of Dr. Brandt’s high security lab, while trying to defeat the monstrous “cure” that they now have inside their bodies, a cure put there so it can literally eat the disease. The trouble is it devours other things as well.

(Patient #1 keels over onto the floor, and a large worm-like creature oozes out of his mouth.  LS Tasers the worm creature and then stabs it with a giant fork.  He carries it across the lab and deposits it into a huge pot.)

LS:  Gotta let this simmer.

PATIENT:  I’m cured!  I’m cured!  Thank you for curing me!

LS:  Keep your shirt on.  You’re not cured yet.

PATIENT: I’m not?

LS:  Not until after you’ve had my soup.

MA:  If you survive his soup, (Points to large pot on stove.) you’re cured.

PATIENT:  Couldn’t I just take a pill instead?

LS:  And skip my all-natural worm soup du jour?  No way, buddy.  Soup for everyone!

(There is a collective groan.)

MA: I hear it tastes like chicken.

Anyway, CELL COUNT succeeded in drawing me in initially.  I liked the opening scene where Russell comforts his wife, and then listens as Dr. Brandt entices him with his offer to cure her.  Anyone who’s had to deal with very sick loved ones can attest to the temptation of doing whatever it takes to cure that person, no matter how unconventional the method may seem.  So I bought this set-up.

LS: Yeah, I got hooked early on, too. While I don’t think they ever actually say it’s cancer during the course of the movie (they just say “the disease”), it seems pretty obvious that’s what is going on here. And it would make sense that people would do just about anything to avoid the inevitable.

MA: I liked the acting performances, even if they weren’t as polished as you might find in a mainstream movie.  I enjoyed Robert McKeehen in the lead role as Russell Carpenter.  He made for a believable hero, and I bought that he’d go the extreme route to save his wife.  Admittedly, there were a few scenes where his performance was uneven—the scene where he first sees the worm thingie climb out of someone’s throat, for instance, his over the top reaction made me laugh out loud.  I don’t think that was the reaction he was looking for.

LS: Yeah, I agree there are a few missteps, but overall, McKeehan is really good here. He looked like an elongated, big-eyed Christoph Waltz to me at times.

MA: I also enjoyed Haley Talbot as his wife Sadie.

LS: Sadie was my favorite character. Once she gets “better” and has a major role in what’s going on, I found her strong and very likable. Despite “the disease,” I think she’s the strongest one in the movie. Kudos to Haley Talbot.

MA: I agree.  Christopher Toyne made for an effectively mysterious Dr. Victor Brandt, although at times, especially towards the end of the movie, he tends to overact.

LS: I actually thought was a little over-the-top from the first time we meet him. He’s effective here, but he does tend to ham it up. Which isn’t completely bad. He’s entertaining at least. He’s just not as believable as some of the other characters, and you distrust his motives right away.

MA: The supporting cast is actually very good.  Adrienne Vogel and John Breen stand out as fellow patients Mary Porter and Billy Mayor, and Ted Rooney’s performance as Abraham Walker, one of the “violent inmates,” who it turns out isn’t such a bad guy after all, is especially memorable.

LS: I liked Rooney a lot. Don’t forget Judd Eustice as  Timothy“Tiny Tim” Jacobs, He’s the other dangerous criminal who “agreed” to be part of the experiment, and he’s pretty creepy. He’s the closest thing the movie has to a human villain, except for maybe Dr. Brandt.

MA: Even one of the Baldwin brothers shows up, Daniel Baldwin, in what amounts to nothing more than a cameo, so I guess someone needed a paycheck!

LS: Yeah, what was up with that? I know he was hired to give the movie a little bit of star power, but his role actually made me laugh. He comes onscreen like he’s some heroic figure, but he’s actually kind of a dud.

MA: Again, the set-up to the story works.  I believed that these people would subject themselves to this kind of test treatment if they believed they would be cured.  The middle part of the movie, where you really weren’t certain as to what was going on, and who to trust or who to believe, reminded me a little bit of some those early episodes from the TV show LOST, where you weren’t sure what Benjamin Linus and his family of “Others” were up to.

LS: This movie looks great. But I had trouble understanding some of the motivations here. And the way the “facility” was set up—I know this abandoned prison must have seemed like an amazing location to set a film, and it is—but there were more than a few things that didn’t make sense to me.

For example, in one part, Billy takes Russell through the facility. You have to press your hand against a pad so that it can identify you and give you access to certain areas. They go to this locker room where Billy’s dog, The Kid, is. We hear Dr. Brandt tell them that they shouldn’t really be interacting with the animals that are part of the experiment, but then he pretty much says it doesn’t matter. Later, in another scene, Mary Porter brings the dog back to where the people are, and Dr. Brandt comes to visit. He doesn’t have any problem with them having the dog there. Then why make an issue of it initially?

MA:  Yeah, that didn’t make any sense to me either.

LS:  Also, characters are able to get into the section of the facility where the dangerous criminals are located. When they get to that area, a recorded voice tells them that this is a dangerous area, and they should turn back. Why not just have the door there coded so that it denies access? That didn’t make any sense to me.

MA:  Right.  I kept thinking there was a reason Dr. Brandt wanted his test subjects to interact with the dangerous criminals, but we’re never given that reason.  And then later the recorded voice does announce that it’s time to intermingle, and the dangerous prisoners are released, but for what reason is never explained.

LS:  There’s another scene where they “coax” one of the worm monsters out of someone, and instead of trying to pull it out when it makes an appearance, they simply take this as a sign that the person in question is beyond help. Why not just try to get it to come out again and grab it?

MA: And, when it gets to pay-off time, the film falters.  First off, visually, the special effects weren’t all that special.  I’ve seen worse, but the effects here weren’t good enough for me to buy into them.  And several key moments, which could have made for some very dark grisly scenes, were glossed over, as the camera would cut away at the last minute.  I expected that this was going to turn into a gruesome—or at the very least, intense—horror movie, but it never reaches that level.

LS: Well, this is a low-budget movie (although, once again, it looks great). So it makes sense that in certain scenes, the camera cuts away. They probably couldn’t afford to show everything they wanted to.

I didn’t think the effects were bad. For the most part, they worked for me. I really liked how Tiny Tim’s insides come out of his mouth and then cover his head for that “bag head” effect. That was pretty cool. The worm thingies weren’t perfect, but they looked good, too.

MA: At times, it seems to be striving for that WALKING DEAD feel—a story about a group of survivors against a deadly threat—and while the characters in this movie are somewhat interesting—enough so that in a better movie I’d follow their plight—the situations they find themselves in here never become so riveting that I was really into it.

For the most part, I liked the story, as written by writer/director Todd E. Freeman, but I certainly could have used more information.  I never really had a firm grasp on what the cure was or even what the disease was.  I understood the reactions of the victims, but I didn’t understand the motives of the guy causing all the trouble, Dr. Brandt, other than a generalized notion that he was seeking a “cure.”  While the patients seemed real, Dr. Brandt played like a mad scientist in a bad science fiction movie.

LS: I wasn’t always clear why people did the things they did. Motivations seemed cloudy to me. It was almost like they did things to further the story, but they weren’t necessarily things that made sense.

I just thought that the script, also by director Todd Freeman, was the weakest aspect of the movie.

And yeah, Dr. Brandt does seem like your typical mad doctor. It would have been nice if he had more depth to him. Early on, he says that he was the first patient to be experimented on, when they first created the cure. That was a step into humanizing him more, but the script really doesn’t flesh him out much more than that.

MA: Behind the camera, director Freeman does an adequate job, but his effort needed to be stronger.  There are some cool scenes here, but at the end of the day, it’s simply not enough.  The film needed more of an edge.  Perhaps it was budget restrictions that caused those unfortunate cutaways and mediocre special effects.  If this was the case, then more creative direction should have been in order.  I just wasn’t feeling it at the end.

LS: I wasn’t completely sold on the ending, either. I wasn’t clear on why some of the characters did what they did.

MA: But I’ve seen much worse, and for the 90 minutes I spent watching CELL COUNT, I was entertained.

I give it two knives.

LS: I thought there were a lot of strong aspects about this movie. I liked Freeeman’s direction for the most part, the actors were mostly good, the effects decent (considering the budget constraints), and I just thought the movie looked slick and professional (the cinematography is by “The Brothers Freeman,” i.e., Todd and Jason Freeman). But the script was uneven. I give it two knives as well.

But I do see a lot of potential here, and I’d be interested in seeing what Freeman does next.

MA: Well, we’re done here. I guess it’s time we headed out.

(DR. BRANDT suddenly bursts into the room)

DR. BRANDT: No, you cannot leave. It is too dangerous. The “cure” has infected you.

LS: What are you talking about? We didn’t have any surgery to have the cure implanted in us.

DR. BRANDT: But you did eat the meatloaf in the cafeteria!

MA: Oh no. I thought that tasted funny.

DR. BRANDT: Yes, you must stay here in Quarantine now, until I am ready to extract the cure.

LS: Screw that (Tasers Dr. Brandt, who writhes on the floor)

MA: Nice job.

LS (to other patients): Let’s blow this joint. I hear Daniel Baldwin has a bus ready for our escape. If he can start it up!

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives CELL COUNT ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives CELL COUNT ~two knives.

Remembering RICK HAUTALA

Posted in 2013, Appreciations, Horror Authors, In Memorium, Special News with tags , , , on March 25, 2013 by knifefighter

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The horror community lost one of its bright lights this week, when Rick Hautala passed away on March 21st from a heart attack. He was 64.

It was the capper of an already bad week for horror fans, with the deaths early in the week of David B. Silva, the author and editor who gave us the legendary magazine THE HORROR SHOW (which ran from 1982 to 1991), and who created the industry newsletter, Hellnotes (his novels included THE DISAPPEARED and CHILD OF DARKNESS), and British author James Herbert, who gave us such classics as THE RATS and THE FOG.

Many of us here at Cinema Knife Fight knew Rick personally, and wanted to do something special in his memory, thus this article.

Rick was the author of more than 30 books, starting with MOON DEATH back in 1981, and including such titles as THE MOUNTAIN KING, LITTLE BROTHERS, BEDBUGS and COLD RIVER, as well as several novels using the pseudonym  A.J. Matthews.

Here at Cinema Knife Fight, we mostly talk about movies, and Rick was active in that medium as well. He wrote the screenplays to several short films he did with director Mark Steensland. These include Lovecraft’s Pillow (based on an idea by Stephen King), Peekers (based on the short story by Kealan Patrick Burke), Dead @ 17 (based on the graphic novel by Josh Howard), The Ugly File (based on a short story by Ed Gorman) and Grafitto. All of them are worth seeing, and can be found here.

Many of us first met Rick at writers’ conventions, specifically the New England convention, NeCon, which he had been attending for decades. We got used to seeing his smiling face every year, and looked forward to it. Rick had a great sense of humor and was laughing a lot of the time. He also had a knack for putting people at ease, especially newbies who hadn’t attended very many conventions before. I remember Rick being a highlight of my first NeCon (in 2000), and subsequent ones to follow. I wish I had known him better, he seemed like was a lot of fun to hang out with. He was a seasoned veteran, yet he was always accessible and easy to talk to. He was a fun and talented guy, and he will be missed a lot by those of us who had gotten used to having him around.

My best memories of Rick include sitting with him in a gazebo at NeCon, smoking cigars and laughing. The time Nick Cato and I made a parody of his short film “Peekers,” that made him laugh. And the last time I saw him, last November at AnthoCon in New Hampshire, when Pete Dudar and I had the pleasure of sitting with him and his wife Holly at dinnertime, and sharing some conversation and laughter.

Our thoughts go to out Rick’s wife, Holly Newstein Hautala, and his family, in this sad time.

Some of my other Cinema Knife Fighters wanted to add their own remembrances. Here a few of them.

~L.L. Soares, March 24, 2013

****

From MICHAEL ARRUDA:

Rick and I were never close friends, but he was a good friend, which says an awful lot about the type of man Rick was.  I met him at NeCon, back in 2001, and immediately, here was this best-selling author talking to me, this horror fiction newbie, like we’d known each other for years.  Sure, part of that is NeCon, and for everyone who’s gone to NeCon knows what I mean, how friendly and accessible everyone is, but most of it was Rick.

Through the years, seeing him at NeCon was for me like getting a chance to hang out with a favorite uncle. I loved listening to his stories, and a highlight for me was always the opportunity to sit in on whatever panel Rick was on.  Inevitably, in a weekend where I’d come away with valuable information (not to mention the occasional “valuable prize” or two) about the genre and the craft, it was always Rick, it seemed, who’d say that one thing that I’d remember most.  Whatever topic he spoke on, he always seemed to nail it, and I’d be sitting there thinking, “That’s it. That’s what it’s all about.”

I’m going to miss him.

—Michael Arruda.  You can read my entire post remembering Rick at my blog .

****

From DAN KEOHANE:

One of the first people I met at my very first NeCon back in 2000 was this shag-haired bearded man named Rick Hautala. A fantastic writer—and I’m sure there are plenty of other posts and honorariums discussing his work elsewhere—he was also a fantastic man. Laid back, to the point a few years back when I swear he stayed in one spot the entire weekend casually drinking scotch and smoking cigars. For him, and the rest of us, NeCon was vacation. A time to hang out with like-minded souls and talk about nothing but writing. I would search him out every summer and try to spend some time and talking with him about everything. It was funny, everyone else did the same thing, whether he was alone or sitting with his uber-cool wife, writer Holly Newstein, people would search for him and do what I did. Just spend time with him. He was kind to everyone he met, never judged, never put himself over or under anyone else. Welcoming, and funny. Rick loved to laugh, and loved it when the people he was with laughed along. Aside from a few, very enjoyable events outside of the con when I hung out with Rick and others, NeCon was the place he’d be. And if with such limited contact I’m sitting here mourning him and writing this less than a day after his sudden death at the too young age of 64, I can only imagine with a very heavy heart how hard his absence will be to those who were privileged to be called his closest friends. I’m going to miss you Rick. Be well.

****

From BARRY LEE DEJASU:

Ten years ago, I went to my very first Northeastern Writers Conference (Necon).  No small amount of my welcome came from a grinning, bearded guy, who as it turns out was also the face to put with the name of many a book I’d seen before then: Rick Hautala.  His ease and helpfulness were so empowering, as well as endearing; no amount of laughter or booze from any other camper could match that, not in a whole decade of my attendance there.  And only last November, I got to see him again, at AnthoCon!  Two shots of Rick in one year?  Consider me a happy camper!  To have to say goodbye to him is…well, it’s simply not going to happen; I’m only going to say hello every time as we pass by each other with a grin and a laugh (and the occasional raised bottle or glass), forever.  Hey buddy, having fun?  Me too.  Me too.

****

From PAUL MCMAHON:

I only met Rick a couple of times, and I always walked away looking forward to the next time. It’s hard to believe someone I’d only chatted with briefly could leave such a big hole in my life.

****

From PETER DUDAR:

The first time I met Rick Hautala was back in 2000. The moment Rick saw me he came right up and shook my hand.  He was all wispy hair and smiles, and donned in his “Hauty” garb of tee shirt, shorts, and Birkenstock sandals.  He literally looked like a road manager for the Grateful Dead.  By the following year at NeCon, Rick was hugging me hello (which caught me very off guard).

Rick’s a fellow Mainer, so it was always cool to shoot the breeze about Maine stuff, about writing, about the business (and all those shady characters in the publishing industry to beware of), about beer and cigars, and whatever else was going on.  Rick played softball with us at NeCon.  He played miniature golf.  He sat on panels and freely shared his wisdom and experience.  He participated in roasts, and made us laugh our asses off.  And, recently, he’d been elevated to the status of NeCon Legend and was awarded the HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

And he was always cool about autographing his books for me.  Always an intimate little note, with his scribbly name and that telltale trademark skull he’d inscribe.  My library has more than a few.  I’d wager yours does, too. Rick Hautala was a great writer.  He was an even better human being.  And he is every bit the legend he will be remembered as.  God bless ya, Hauty!  You will be missed.

(this is an excerpt from Pete’s blog. Read more here)

****

(Note from LL: Anyone who knew Rick and would like to leave comments below this article, please feel free.

Anyone wanting more information about Rick and his work should check out his  website. )

Farewell, Rick. It was a joy to know you.

Farewell, Rick. It was a joy to know you.

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, Magic with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by knifefighter

INCREDIBLY ENJOYABLE!  POOF!
Movie Review by Kelly Laymon

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The war between old school magic and the extreme magic of today is explored with humor in THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE, which opened on Friday, March 15th.

As kids, the future Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) bonded, became friends, and enjoyed the magic kits and videos of Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).  Now, as adults, they’ve hit the big time as Vegas headliners at Bally’s, but have grown tired of each other.

When an extreme street magician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) enters the scene with his series called “Brain Rapist”, the audience for Burt and Anton dwindles…and dwindles…until they are canned after a series of misadventures while attempting to keep up with the times.

Everyone goes their separate ways for a bit.  Anton does some humanitarian work in a third world country.  Burt, desperate for a job, starts doing magic shows at a retirement home.  Who does he find there?  His hero, Rance Holloway!  Everything falls into place and Burt and Anton begin to rediscover their “magic” for a final battle with Steve Gray.

Steve Gray’s routine is clearly based on David Blaine/Criss Angel types.  Burt and Anton’s act is unbearably corny.  Their hair and costumes are very Siegfried and Roy.  It’s the kind of magic show that definitely would NOT go over in this day and age.  It’s hard to believe it would take a Blaine/Angel type to knock them down after Penn & Teller redefined magic shows over thirty years ago.  To boot, at their Bally’s show, Burt and Anton enter the stage to The Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” and some truly cringe-worthy choreography.

With a cast this solid, it’s hard to go too wrong.  And it doesn’t go wrong!  I’m having a hard time recalling the most recent time Steve Carell sucked in a project.  (Other than his final two seasons on NBC’s THE OFFICE, of course.)  Steve Buscemi is great fun to see in a comedic role larger than his standard cameos in Adam Sandler flicks.

I’ve always been a fan of Alan Arkin, but the way he’s made up as his character had me convinced he was Rip Torn.  During the end credits, I kept wondering where Rip Torn’s name was and who the hell Alan Arkin played.  Duh.

Olivia Wilde, who I never understood the appeal of and never found memorable, has a nice role as Stagehand Jane, who ends up being thrown into Burt and Anton’s pre-cancellation show as the sexy assistant, although she turns out to be a magic nerd and fine magician herself.

There are some nice little bit parts.  Gillian Jacobs (COMMUNITY, NBC) has a small part as one of Burt’s kooky sexual conquests.  James Gandolfini isn’t all that entertaining as a Donald Trump-esque casino owner, though.  Brad Garrett, who actually owns a comedy club in Vegas, and Jay Mohr have small roles, and David Copperfield has a cameo.

It’s worth noting that BURT WONDERSTONE was co-written by John Francis Daley, who also co-wrote the very funny HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011) and is part of the old-“FREAKS-&-GEEKS-made-good” gang.

All in all, I found the film to be very funny and enjoyable.  Aside from the great cast and writing, I’m also a sucker for Vegas culture and magic.  I’m not making a 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005) joke about magic camp when I say that I have a scar under my chin from an accident at magic camp as a kid.  (One of two scars now…)  I was a bit surprised that David Copperfield was the only Vegas magician with a cameo.  Where was The Amazing Jonathan?  To discuss the sight gags or further plot points would ruin the fun, so I won’t.  There’s nothing deep.  There’s nothing super-raunchy.  But if you just want to enjoy about 90 minutes and have some serious chuckles…

I’d give this Five Knives, but…<waves hands> one disappeared.  Poof!  So, Four it is!

© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Laymon

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