Archive for the Vampires Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: LIFEFORCE (1985)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 1980s Movies, 2013, Aliens, Ancient Civilizations, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Science Fiction, Space, Special Effects, Tobe Hooper, Vampires with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

LIFEFORCE (1985)

bbblifeposterWelcome 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.

It’s summertime, and my series on the Golan-Globus years of Cannon Films continues with a movie that arrived with an enormously high pedigree.  Based on a brilliant science fiction novel by Colin Wilson, directed by Tobe Hooper, one of the hottest horror directors on the planet, written by Dan O’Bannon,  the man who penned ALIEN (1979), musical score by Henry Mancini (who won four Oscars and wrote scores for BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, 1961, THE PINK PANTHER, 1963 and VICTOR/VICTORIA, 1982), photographed by Alan Hume (EYE OF THE NEEDLE, 1981 and RUNAWAY TRAIN, 1985), and with special effects by John Dykstra (STAR WARS, 1977, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, 1979 and DJANGO UNCHAINED, 2012).  A budget of $25,000,000 was awarded to Hooper, and the largest sound stages in London were rented to accommodate the gigantic and elaborate sets.  What was the story these incredible filmmakers were set to create, using such a distinguished group of creators?

Naked space vampires attack London.

Yep, LIFEFORCE (1985) is a big budget B-movie that pulls out everything except the kitchen sink to entertain you.  Hell, there may actually be a kitchen sink in the middle of this glorious mess. 

When Halley’s Comet makes its side-swipe of Earth, a spaceship is sent to scientifically analyze the rock, but the crew instead discovers an ancient ship hidden in the tail of the comet.  Steve Railsback (HELTER SKELTER, 1976 and THE STUNTMAN, 1980) plays Col. Tom Carlsen, and he makes the decision to lead an exploratory crew into the ship to investigate it, since it will be seventy-six years until the comet returns.  The group invades the ship, which seems very organic and looks a lot like the pictures my doctor gave me of my colostomy!  Near the spaceship’s “rectum,” they find desiccated corpses that resemble giant bats.  Outside, the ship starts to unfurl a huge device that looks a lot like an umbrella, while inside, Col. Tom discovers three nude corpses, two men and one full frontal in your face female (Mathilda May, who bravely remains unclothed through pretty much the whole film, causing fifteen year old boys everywhere to instantly fall in love).  The three space nudists are sealed in glass cases, perfectly preserved, so they are brought back to the ship for further examination.

Open up and say ahhh!

Open up and say ahhh!

Thirty days later, the same ship enters the Earth’s atmosphere.  A fire has destroyed the interior, and it appears as if the entire crew has perished, but the three naked people are still in their coffins.  So, the humans do what they always do in these movies—they bring the aliens back to Earth, to the European Space Research Center in London, to be precise.  Did you know that an early word for ‘comet’ is ‘disaster’ which means ‘evil star?’  That’s what the news is saying about Haley’s Comet as it gets closer and closer to its flyby of Earth.  Fun factoids like that abound in LIFEFORCE!

The casing around the bodies pops open, and Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay of MURDER BY DECREE, 1979 and CROMWELL, 1970) and Col. Colin Crane (Peter Firth of EQUUS, 1977, TESS, 1979 and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, 1990) intend to dissect the bodies.  Before they can, one of the guards is compelled to touch the female, which makes her wake up and clutch him in an embrace of death.  Green lights shoot around them as she sucks the lifeforce out of the man, leaving him a shriveled husk.  It’s a terrific scene, scary and cool, and it allows for her escape.  This is witnessed by Dr. Fallada and another man, Dr. Bukovsky, who is approached by the girl, who tells him to “Use my body.”  And, yes, a naked girl walks right out of the space center, stunning several guards in the process with a lightshow of blasting electricity.

The Army is called in and informed that the escape pod was missing from the retrieved spaceship.  The doctors decide to autopsy the weird husk of the guard, but Bukovsky is ill (uh-oh!) while Dr. Fallada believes that the girl (“The most overwhelmingly feminine creature I have ever encountered.”) is dangerous (duh) and loose in London.  Meanwhile, those two naked guys blow up their crystal coffins and try to walk out of the building, even after being shot several times.  The two male models, er, space vampire minions, are fed a grenade, which leaves nothing but little bits behind.

A husk comes to life!

A husk comes to life!

As the autopsy on the guard is about to begin, the husk sits up, moaning like a zombie, and it motions the surgeon towards it.  Compelled, the man steps into its arms, and those wild blue lights start again as the surgeon’s life is sucked from his body and the husk grows back its skin to become the guard, all healed and confused now.  It’s another terrific scene, with the guard looking incredibly happy and satisfied once he has returned, then he goes into shock as he sees what he has done.  So, the abilities can be passed on, within two hours!

A naked girl is discovered in Hyde Park, little more than a husk, but it’s not the vampire.  So now she has clothes and looks like anyone else.  The guard who was revived goes crazy two hours later in his cell, and then, in agony, he withers into a husk and dies.  Dr. Fallada says, “As I suspected, once the victims are transformed, they need regular infusions, otherwise…”  And the huskish guard dies while the pathologist he attacked explodes into dust.

The desiccated girl they discovered in Hyde Park is hooked up to electrodes and strapped down in a lab.  In a horrific scene, the scientists watch as she awakens and struggles with the bonds before exploding.  At the same time, the spaceship’s escape pod re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere in Texas, and Col. Tom Carlsen is rescued and immediately flown to London.  Tom relates what happened on the ship.

When the three specimens were transported aboard the ship, everyone starts feeling drained with the exception of Col. Tom Carlsen.  On the trip back to Earth, the astronauts begin acting strangely, destroying the radio and controls, and then they start dying one by one, their very lives sucked out of them.  Finally, Carlsen was the only one left, and he knew somehow that the girl was causing the deaths, so he torched the ship and launched himself in the escape pod.  But, he also felt attached to the girl, almost as if he was leaving a lover. 

Col. Crane is informed that a needle-like shape has emerged from the tail of Haley’s Comet and is headed toward Earth!  Meanwhile, Col. Carlsen is having weird, erotic dreams in which the female vampire exchanges her lifeforce for his, giving and taking, making him into a creature like herself. 

Dr. Fallada hypnotizes Carlsen, and he discovers the girl is in contact with Carlsen’s mind and vice versa, so Carlsen can see where she is.  She now inhabits a different body, and she is searching for a man to draw energy from, but only enough to feed, not to kill.  When she picks out a victim, Carlsen spots the license plate number so they can track her. 

Meanwhile, that alien needle thing in space is getting closer.  And it looks like a big space-asparagus.

Dr, Fallada starts discovering several parallels between the space vampires and the vampires of European folklore.  Plus, the girl the vampire inhabits is a nurse at a hospital for the criminally insane, where Dr. Armstrong (Patrick Stewart of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and X-MEN, 2000) is the head doctor.  Together, they visit the possessed nurse, and Carlsen discovers the vampire girl has stepped into another body.  Carlsen roughs her up to find out where the creature has gone, and he discovers she is now inside Patrick Stewart!  They dose him up with sodium pentothal before hypnotizing him to track the original vampire girl’s location.  Of course, during the sessions, Carlsen is again struck with that same overwhelming sexual urge he gets whenever he is around the girl’s presence, as if she is the feminine in his mind, and this leads to a male/male kiss complete with crazy blue lights and poltergeist activity.  Carlsen and the Army learn the infection is spreading through London.  The two males didn’t die; they jumped into the two guards who shot them.  Luckily, Dr. Fallada knows the true way to kill a vampire – by shoving a steel sword through the center of life, two inches below the heart, and he manages to kill one of them.  The other male escapes into the city.

Time to suck out some lifeforce.

Time to suck out some lifeforce.

While transporting Dr. Arnold back to London, he loses all the blood in his body, and it escapes to form a figure of the girl, a great scene, gruesome and uber-cool.  This is when Carlsen reveals the truth about what occurred on his spaceship, a tale of lust, murder, and spiritual awakenings. 

Soon, London is on fire.  Zombies and husk-monsters are running through the streets.  The plague is spreading.  The weird spaceship is swiftly approaching.  NATO is called in and quarantines the city.   The prime minister tries to life-suck his secretary!  And the Earth’s future lies within the libido and sexual prowess of Col. Carlsen.  Will true love be able to stop the spread of alien-vampirism? 

LIFEFORCE isn’t perfect.  Steve Railsback overacts shamelessly, chewing the scenery and spitting it out with a veracity usually relegated to low rent small-town Shakespeare Theater.  Also, if you couldn’t tell by the synopsis, this is one complicated and convoluted plot.  You really must pay attention to keep track of all the players on the board. This is, after all, a story about naked space vampires.  It’s not King Lear

However, the screenplay, especially in the extended director’s cut, is quite intelligent for a genre picture, even though it never quite gets as good as the novel on which it was based.  It has an abundance of references to the Quartermass films of the 1960s, especially the brilliant FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (1967).  Dr. Fallada is our Quartermass stand-in, and Frank Finley does a more than capable job. 

Mathilda May and Steve Railsback do some dirty dancing.

Mathilda May and Steve Railsback do some dirty dancing.

The special effects range from very good to dazzling, especially in the insane ending when London erupts into chaos as the vampires collect lifeforces from humans.  Henry Mancini’s music is full of great majestic marches, reminiscent of John Williams’ scores, elevating the movie to a higher level.  Also, Tobe Hooper does a good job of reigning in all the various plot elements so that it all (almost) makes sense.  Hooper has taken a lot of flack in recent years for becoming a hack, with such dreadful movies as CROCODILE (2000) and MORTUARY (2005) to his (dis)credit.  LIFEFORCE, however, shows that the man could direct a big picture and that POLTERGEIST (1982) was no fluke.  He frames this movie as a wink at the audience, providing ample scenes of monsters, destruction, sex, and just sheer audacity, while never taking himself (or the film) too seriously.  These are, after all, say it with me, naked space vampires.  All in all, it’s a campy, fabulous good time.

Scream Factory has released LIFEFORCE in a great Blu-Ray/DVD set filled with interesting extras.  The complete version has also been color-corrected by Tobe Hooper, making this the best this movie has ever looked.  And the sound is especially amazing on this disc.  Crank it up for those final twenty minutes of insanity.

I give LIFEFORCE three naked space vampires out of four. 

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

 

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KISS OF THE DAMNED (2013)

Posted in 2013, Art Movies, Gore!, Highly Stylized Films, Independent Cinema, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Vampire Movies, Vampires, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on May 28, 2013 by knifefighter

KISS OF THE DAMNED (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

kiss-of-the-damned-trailer-1

For fans of vampire movies, these have been trying times. The TWILIGHT movies have pretty much defanged undead bloodsuckers for the time being, and aside from a few indie flicks, there hasn’t been a lot of hope that vampires will regain their former glory.

The new independent film KISS THE DAMNED tries to correct this, but unfortunately it’s just not strong enough to do the heavy lifting required to save the genre. That said, it’s a pleasant enough film regardless.

Josephine de La Baume stars as Djuna (pronounced Juna—“The D is silent,” as Jamie Foxx would say), a modern-day lady of mystery who sleeps during the day and comes out at night. She seems a little too eager to avoid contact with other people, but this intrigues screenwriter Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) when they first see each other in a video store. She immediately feels uncomfortable when he returns her gaze, and flees the store, but he follows her outside. After some heated make-out sessions get cut short (Djuna is determined not to let things go too far), Paolo refuses to just walk away and demands to know why she won’t let their relationship go any further. At this point, she relents, and draws him into her world. Unfortunately, this involves him getting a couple of fangs in his throat, and being “turned” into something not quite human.

But Paolo is cool with losing his humanity, and seems to be the perfect mate for Djuna, who has been lonely for decades and hasn’t had someone to share her “life” with for way too long. Their love affair seems to be going in a good direction, until Djuna’s sister Mimi (a very sexy Roxane Mesquida) shows up.

Where Djuna is mature and afraid to get too close to anyone, Mimi is more reckless and violent. Djuna has sworn off hunting humans to get the blood she needs and has turned to animals, something she tries to instill in Paolo as well, but Mimi just doesn’t consider it dinner unless it’s running on two legs.

Mimi has come to stay with her sister for a week, while her “new place” in Phoenix (some kind of vampire version of rehab) is being readied for  her. The house the three of them “live” in is owned by another vampire, the successful actress Xenia (Anna Mouglalis, another standout here) who seems determined to give the wild child Mimi a second chance. Djuna, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with her sister and finds the new arrangement completely unsatisfactory, especially since she’s trying to start a new relationship with newbie vampire Paolo and all.

Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) initiates Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) into the world of the undead in KISS OF THE DAMNED.

Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) initiates Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) into the world of the undead, after some strenuous sex, in KISS OF THE DAMNED.

Of course, Mimi shows that Xenia’s trust in her was misguided, and Djuna was right all along, but not before she turns all of their lives upside down. One scene, where Mimi even tricks the totally-in-control Xenia into breaking one of her rules, is especially riveting.

KISS OF THE DAMNED is clearly a homage to the kind of European vampire film that was prevalent in the 70s and 80s, by filmmakers like the French master Jean Rollin (who gave us such classics as 1971’s REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE and FASCINATION, 1979), Spanish director Jess Franco (who gave us the classic VAMPYROS LESBOS, 1971) and Harry Kumel (Belgian director of the unforgettable DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, 1971). Most, if not all, of these kinds of movies focused on female vampires with European accents. From the stylized cinematography by Tobias Datum to the original score by Steven Hufsteter, KISS OF THE DAMNED clearly wears its influences on its sleeve and is intent on “bringing sexy back” to the vampire genre.

Director Xan Cassavetes (full name Alexandra Cassavetes, daughter of indie legend John Cassavetes) does a good job here, capturing the mood and the inherent claustrophobia of the nighttime blood-drinking set. Xan previously directed the documentary Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, about one of the first pay cable stations to focus exclusively on art films in California and its many devoted followers, and acted in such films as ALPHA DOG (2006) and, when she was younger, some of her father’s films like A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) and MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ (1971).

The cast emphasizes the European flavor of the proceedings. French actress Josephine de La Baume was previously in movies like ONE DAY (2011) and JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (also 2011). Roxane Mesquida, also from France, was previously in such diverse films as the Catherine Breillat films FAT GIRL (2001) and SEX IS A COMEDY (2002), as well as Greg Araki’s KABOOM (2010) and Quentin Dupieux’s RUBBER (also 2010).

American actor Milo Ventimiglia will probably be most familiar here to American audiences, mainly for playing Peter Petrelli in the TV series HEROES (2006 -2010). He’s also been in some interesting independent flicks since, like the horror film PATHOLOGY (2008), which I liked a lot. With a dark beard and smoldering eyes, Ventimiglia is a strong presence here, and holds his own quite well with the attractive women he plays opposite. There’s also a small turn by actor Michael Rappaport (COP LAND, 1997, and DEEP BLUE SEA, 1999) as Paolo’s clueless agent, Ben, who shows up unannounced at one point, wanting to see how Paolo’s latest screenplay is coming.

I’m a fan of the kinds of movies Xan Cassavetes is clearly trying to recapture here, and I think she does a pretty good job evoking the same sense of time and place, but I never had the feeling that KISS OF THE DAMNED was adding anything new to the genre. It all seemed like things we’ve seen before, and while it’s a stylish throwback to the days when vampire films were both sexy and chilling, it doesn’t have enough of an original voice to stand out.

Still, I’d rather see something as visually appetizing as KISS OF THE DAMNED than a hundred TWILIGHTs, so I don’t want to be too negative. I just wish it had been more ambitious and tried to do something different with this kind of storyline. As KISS OF THE DAMNED ended, I found myself wanting more of these characters, and at the same time realizing that they really didn’t have all that much to say.

I give KISS OF THE DAMNED, three knives. Not perfect, but it will still wash the foul taste of TWILIGHT out of your mouth.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

Kiss-of-the-Damned-Retro

LL Soares gives KISS OF THE DAMNED ~three knives.

Meals for Monsters Dines with THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964)

Posted in 1960s Horror, 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Based on a Classic Novel, Classic Films, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Vampires, Vincent Price with tags , , , , on May 22, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

0862_2d9a_500This year, on May 27th, Vincent Price would have been 102 years old.  This year also marks a decade since his passing. Price had a rare talent for adding a touch of class to even the most lowly, trashy films.  Because of this, and his superior acting chops, he was in constant demand for decades, and graced us with over a hundred film roles.  It’s a great icebreaker among other horror film fans to play the “What’s Your Favorite Vincent Price Film?” game.  However, whatever answer they give is wrong…unless they name THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964).

LAST MAN ON EARTH was the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic vampire novel, I am Legend, and is definitely the most loyal to the source material, even more so than the recent version that bares its name.  For those unfamiliar with the story, a plague has ravaged the planet.  It quickly kills the infected, who then return to life as something else.  They stumble mindlessly yet relentlessly, as zombies, but cannot stand the light or garlic, and can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart.  The disease was brutal and heavily contagious.  In fact, almost everyone on the planet has fallen to the sickness.  Everyone, it seems, but Price’s Robert Morgan.  A scientist who once studied the plague, after watching both his wife and young daughter die, has become a shell of a man, hunting down and killing the other beings by day, and at night, hoping that somewhere out in the world is another person, that he really isn’t the last man left on Earth.

I’m trying to come up with something negative to say about THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, but I can’t.  That said, I can understand why some people aren’t so enamored.  The flick is very claustrophobic; a large chunk of it consists of Price alone onscreen, or with a zombie.  Among the parts where he is interacting with others is an extended flashback sequence, where we get to watch with Price as his daughter and wife succumb.  These are not your typical horror movie “why our hero needs revenge” scenes.  No, they’re heartbreakingly real.  Opposite his usual role as the wacked mad scientist with sinister, but exuberant, glee, in LAST MAN, Price reminded audiences that he was a true artist, capable of subtlety and nuance.  And, although some horror fans might be scared away from this film, I would recommend this for a dinner and a movie in, and toast the life of one of the great ones, if not the greatest.

Throughout LAST MAN, Morgan drinks coffee.  Quite a bit of coffee.  He offers coffee to his wife and friends, his recent acquaintances.  But now and then he needed a sip of the hard stuff to get him through the emotional turmoil until the next day started.  Combining those, I offer up a mug of:

LAST COFFEE ON EARTH

drink

Ingredients:

1 mug of good coffee
1 shot Irish whiskey
1/4 tsp lemon extract
Splash of cream

Directions:

Mix that up and enjoy one or two before dinner.

With dinner, I suggest a nice glass of wine.  Not just because it would taste good with the main dish, but because Price himself was a connoisseur and even recorded an LP extolling its virtues.  I had to acknowledge that when coming up with a dinner.  Yet, I couldn’t ignore the vast amounts of garlic used in the movie (wreaths of bulbs were always on Morgan’s door).  The raspberries?  They just taste good.  So, for a dinner with LAST MAN, please enjoy:

RASPBERRY GARLIC  COQ AU VIN

dinner

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (halved through the center)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot
10 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bottle white wine
2 heaping tbsp raspberry preserves
2 tbsp butter
Minced chives (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a pan.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  Sauté until browned and cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

In remaining oil, sauté the shallot and garlic until just barely browned, about a minute or so.  Pour in the bottle of wine, and let reduce by about 3/4.  Add the preserves and stir in as it melts down.  Adjust the salt and pepper after this step.  Stir in the butter.  Once butter is melted, return chicken to pan and heat through.  Serve over rice and sprinkle with chives.

I had a similar dilemma when figuring out a dessert.  Price, not only was he a wine lover, but a gourmet as well, having authored numerous cookbooks.  One of his after-dinner specialties was the “Ice Box Cake” and its many variations (Ice Box Cake being a fancy term for an ice cream cake).  Yet I couldn’t ignore making it relevant to the film, and the one scene that stuck in my mind was the flashback to Morgan’s daughter’s birthday party.  Her last birthday party, and perhaps even the last birthday party celebrated by humans.  In that scene, Morgan is discussing this new plague, but is interrupted by his daughter wanting him to come eat some cake.  What kind of ice box cake would be fitting for a little girl’s birthday party?  Ice cream cupcakes!

ICE BOX CUPCAKES

dessert

Ingredients:

1 dozen cupcakes, freshly baked, either by box mix or scratch
1 or 2 pints ice cream, softened (amount depends on what kind of ice cream used
Frosting
(NOTE: flavors of all the above are your choice, just make sure they are flavors that blend well together)

Directions:

Prepare cupcakes as directed by the instructions.  After they’ve cooled, take a spoon and scoop about an inch worth of cake from the center.  Fill with softened ice cream and refreeze.  Once the ice cream is hardened again, frost and decorate.

(NOTE–the density of the ice cream used will determine how many pints are needed.  Lighter ice creams like Dryers get compacted as they are melted and refrozen.  On the other hand, things like gelatos start out pretty dense don’t change much in the process.  Both have tasty, tasty endings, so both will work equally as well.)

I have to amend my earlier comment about THE LAST MAN ON EARTH being the only acceptable answer to “What was Vincent Price’s best film role.” WHALES OF AUGUST (1987) would also be okay, as long as we’re including non-starring roles and non-horror movies.  He was simply brilliant in that as well.  So pop one or the other in the DVD player, raise a glass (or mug) and wish a posthumous happy birthday to one of the best things to ever happen to horror films.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Price!

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

last man on earth 

Quick Cuts Plays “WHAT’S MORE LIKELY?”

Posted in 2013, Based on Comic Book, Comic Book Movies, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Sam Raimi, Twilight, Vampires, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: WHAT’S MORE LIKELY?
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, and Jenny Orosel

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.  Tonight we’ll be playing a little game.

IRON MAN 3 opened in theaters last Friday, May 3rd.  The Marvel superhero movies have enjoyed a nice run going back to X-MEN (2000) and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, SPIDER-MAN (2002).  Here we are in 2013 and they’re still going strong.

So, tonight we’re going to play a little game called “What’s More Likely?”

Our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters includes, in addition to L.L. Soares and myself, Nick Cato, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, and Jenny Orosel.  Thank you all for coming.

So, tonight’s game, “What’s More Likely?” works like this.  Looking ahead to the next ten years and answer the following questions. 

First question:  What’s more likely? That there will be more Marvel movies in the next ten years, or more zombie movies?

 Spider-Man-2-Movie

NICK CATO:  I think there will always be both, but superhero films seem to be more lucrative.

ARRUDA:  So, more Marvel movies then?

CATO:  Yes.

JENNY OROSEL:  Seeing as they’re now owned by Disney, we’re going to see more Marvel movies than ever.  I fully expect they’ll do two direct-to-video sequels or prequels for every one they have in the theater.

ARRUDA:  I hope not.  There’s nothing like a direct-to-video release to kill off a movie series.  Ugh!

dawn_of_the_dead(2004) L.L. SOARES:  Oh, what do you know!

Turning to the zombie genre for a moment, hopefully, oversaturation will result in a dwindling of zombie movies.

Marvel, however, has a nice variety of characters they can draw from (including many who have never been in a movie before), and should go strong for many years.

ARRUDA:  I agree.

PAUL MCMAHON:  With the success of THE AVENGERS (2012), there will definitely be more Marvel movies. I won’t be sure about zombie movies until we see how much money WORLD WAR Z (2013) makes. With all the buzz about production problems, it could either bring about a reanimation of the zombie sub-genre or put a bullet through its head.

SOARES:  I’m sick of zombies.  I wouldn’t mind putting a bullet through the head of the genre.

DANIEL KEOHANE: I’m going with Marvel movies, without a doubt.

Zombie movies are popular right now, but the superhero movies have a much wider reach and end up making more money, overall. And there are so many characters and teams to choose from, whereas zombies pretty much lumber along the same way each time.

ARRUDA:  I’m going with Marvel movies as well.

Okay, on to our second question: 

What’s more likely? That we’ll still be seeing Marvel movies in ten years, or that we’ll still be seeing movies based on books by Stephenie Meyer?

the-avengers-1235-wallmages

Dan, why don’t you start us off this time?

KEOHANE:  Marvel movies.

(The panel cheers.)

KEOHANE:  Thank you, thank you.

SOARES:  We’re not cheering you.  We’re cheering your pick.

KEOHANE:  Don’t ruin my moment.

Where was I?  Marvel movies.  Because as good a writer for her age group as Stephenie Meyer is, she can only crank out so much content.  Marvel not only has a slew of new comics coming out every month, they have half a century of classic stories already in the can ready to become movie-ized. Even the Avengers movie was loosely based on one of the first Avengers comics (I think). Not to mention DC’s Superman movies. They’ll keep making the same origin story over and over ad infinitum.

Twilight_poster_4

SOARES:  What are you bringing up DC comics for?  This question is about Marvel movies!  Pay attention, Dan!

ARRUDA:  But he makes a good point.  Not only does Marvel have more stories to choose from, but they can remake their own origin stories. Heck, they just did it with their latest SPIDER-MAN movie.

Let’s move on.  I don’t want to give Meyer any ideas.  The last thing I want is a TWILIGHT remake!

SOARES:  I predict that Stephenie Meyer will find a way to continue the Twilight series.

ARRUDA:  No!

SOARES:  You just don’t put a cash cow like that out to pasture.

However, the future for Meyer-related projects is iffy – especially if something new grabs the public’s interest. Meanwhile, I think Marvel movies will be going strong in 10 years.

CATO:  Ten years from now?  Hopefully Meyer will be retired by then.

ARRUDA:  I’m with you.  I hope she’s retired.  I’ll be happy if I never have to see another movie based on a Stephenie Meyer book ever again.

KEOHANE:  I think Meyer is a very talented writer, and you’re not giving her enough credit.

ARRUDA:  Maybe so, but the TWILIGHT movies were awful, and they killed any interest I might have had in seeing THE HOST (2013).

SOARES:  I think you secretly like the TWILIGHT movies.  You talk about them so much.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, right!

MCMAHON:  Marvel movies, no question. They have new ideas and maybe some new-to-the-screen heroes as well.

And sorry, Michael, but it’s entirely possible, though, that in ten years they’ll be remaking the TWILIGHT movies. We can hope not.

ARRUDA:  That’s a horrible thought, though I agree with you.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it’s bound to happen.  If film history has taught us anything, it’s that remakes are always with us.

What about you, Jenny?  In ten years, Marvel movies or Stephenie Meyer movies?

OROSEL:  Ooh, that’s a tough one, since I fully expect Disney to eventually buy Stephenie Meyer, and turn Bella into a Disney Princess. 

ARRUDA:  This panel is getting more painful by the minute.

OROSEL:  I call it a tie.

ARRUDA:  Okay, it’s time for the third and final question of the night.

What’s more likely? Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark/Iron Man again, or Christian Bale plays Batman again?

Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3, and still going strong.

Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3, and still going strong.

MCMAHON:  Downey is already going to play Tony Stark in THE AVENGERS 2. There will probably be an IRON MAN 4. I can’t see him ditching that cash cow while the iron is hot. Ahem.

(Someone in the audience groans.)

MCMAHON:  I don’t think Christopher Nolan intends to do another Batman movie, and I can’t see Christian Bale playing that character under another director

ARRUDA:  Good point.  And I agree with you.

I say Robert Downey Jr. plays Iron Man again.  Between THE AVENGERS movies and the IRON MAN series, you’d think that he’d at least be back one more time as Iron Man if not more.

From what I’ve read, Bale is done as Batman.  You never know about these things, but I don’t expect him to play Batman again.

 

Christian Bale is Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Christian Bale is Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

OROSEL:  It’s going to be hard for Bale to keep it going as Batman as he ages, while even if Downey looks ragged and worn, it fits the Stark character.  Unless he ends up in rehab again.  Then all bets are off.

KEOHANE:  Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man without a doubt. This is just a guess–.

SOARES:  Really, Dan, it’s a guess?  You mean you don’t know? 

KEOHANE:  Sorry.  I left my crystal ball at home.

So, this is just a guess, but Downey seems to be enjoying himself immensely up there on the screen, whereas Christian Bale puts so much angst into his characters, his doctors will probably have him committed if he even thinks about doing another one of those.

CATO:  It may be too early to tell, but hopefully Downey will continue to play Stark…he’s perfect in the role, whereas we have yet to find a Batman everyone seems to agree on.

SOARES:  That’s for sure.  It’s all about the mask anyway.  Anyone can play Batman.

Both Downey and Bale probably want to focus on more artistic movies. That said, I think Batman is replaceable, as we’ve seen several people play him over the years, while Downey remains the definitive Tony Stark. I think it’s more likely Downey will be convinced to play Stark again.

ARRUDA:  Okay, there you have it.  It seems the general consensus is that Marvel movies will be around for a while.

That’s all the time we have for tonight.  Thanks for joining us everybody, and we’ll see you next time on QUICK CUTS.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon and Jenny Orosel

Meals for Monsters: VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2013, Adult Fairy Tales, Coming of Age Movies, Foreign Films, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Vampires with tags , , , , on April 10, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970)
Review and recipes by Jenny Orosel

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS silverferox design (1) copy

You know that magic moment when you’ve discovered a hidden gem of a movie?  That moment when you see something totally different and you cannot wait to introduce your friends, your family, and random strangers on the Internet to something totally unique and unknown?  And then the feeling following when you realize, you’re not the first to discover it, not the second or third, but the nine hundred, fifty seven thousandth.  That happened with me and VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970).  It turns out this is a classic unbeknownst to me, a film that influenced many that came after it (including being the inspiration for 1983’s IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES), is currently playing on Criterion’s Hulu channel, and is taught in many college courses from Women’s Studies to Eastern European History.  I feel like my eyes have been opened, much like Valerie’s (albeit, to a much less profound degree).

For those who haven’t experienced it yet, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS is a fairy tale from Czechoslovakia.  Not one of your Disney fables, but as they were in the Grimm days.  Thirteen-year-old Valerie is awakened from an afternoon nap when a thief steals her beloved earrings, the lone gift left by her long lost mother.  No worries, as they are returned the next day.  Only, now she begins menstruating, and when she puts the earrings back on, she can see the world as it really is.  Her suitor is now an eagle, the travelling missionary is a weasel, and her small village is overrun with vampires, from the local priest to her friend’s new husband, to her own grandmother.  The priest wants to corrupt her innocence, her grandmother wants to steal her youth, the eagle is hiding a dangerous secret, and nothing but evil seems to come from the missionary.  Can Valerie survive with her body and soul intact, or will she become yet another ‘monster’ herself?

Yes, a lot of the imagery in VALERIE is heavy-handed.  Weasels, vampires, demons…these were hardly unique in the seventies, and are even less so now.  But that hardly matters in VALERIE’s world.  The imagery is so stunning that it more than makes up for the lack of originality in the symbols.  ‘Lyrical’ is the best word I can come up with to describe the pacing.  Valerie moves through the week with such a gentle ease, despite the madness surrounding her.  And it’s hard to believe that Jaroslava Schallerova, the actress who portrayed Valerie, was only 13 herself when she made this flick.  She carries the movie, being in nearly every shot, without faltering, with a performance more nuanced than what most performers three times her age are capable of.  The only downside has nothing to do with the movie itself, but rather the DVD.  The subtitles are seriously lacking in the region 1 release from Facets Video.  It’s not quite at the “All your base are belong to us” level, but there are moments when it gets closer than it should.  From what I understand, the region 2 disc from Redemption, is much better, and I can only assume that Criterion’s streaming version is tightened and some of the grammatical issues have been fixed.

Coming up with a drink for this one was a little tricky.  In the past year, the Czech Republic put major restrictions on hard alcohol.  However, beer is more popular than ever over there.  So what would be a good beer drink to honor Valerie’s transition from childhood innocence to adulthood?  I present to you the:

BEER FLOAT

drink

Ingredients:
Fruit flavored ale
Chocolate ice cream

Directions: Feel free to adapt this to taste.  I used an apricot ale.  Strawberry ice cream was attempted, but the flavor was too light to stand up to the chocolate.

Kolaches, like VALERIE, are little bits of Eastern European deliciousness that I’ve only recently discovered. They can be made with sweet fillings or, as I used them here, with savory meat for a meal.  But they do need a vegetable side.  Boiled cabbage is a popular Czech side, but that’s not something I wanted to put people (or myself) through.  So I did the next best thing:

KOLACHES WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS

dinner

Ingredients for the Kolaches:
1 roll refrigerated French bread dough
½ Polska Kielbasa, diced
8 mushrooms, diced
½ onion, diced

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375.  Sauté the sausage, mushrooms and onion until the veggies are cooked through.  Divide the bread dough into 8 equal parts.  Flatten each piece into a disc and put onto a greased cookie sheet.  Divide the filling evenly onto the center of the discs and press down with the palm of your hand.

Ingredients (for the Brussels sprouts):
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered (depending on the size)
Other ½ of the onion, diced.
6 slices of bacon, cut into strips.

Directions: Toss the ingredients together and put on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake both of these, at the same time, for 25 minutes.

One of the most popular Czech desserts is a pastry called a Trdelnik.  It’s an elaborate bit of sugary goodness that takes multiple risings, and has to be baked over an open fire on a spit.  As delicious as they are, it’s too much work and too much of an expense, involving equipment that you’ll maybe use once or twice again.  Instead, I took the traditional flavors of the Trdelnik and put them into a bread pudding:

MOCK TRDELNIK

dessert

Ingredients:
1 small loaf cinnamon bread, cubed
4 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup sugar
1 can tart cherries (NOT pie filling, but the kind that are packed in water), drained.

Directions: Beat the eggs, milk and sugar.  Fold in the bread and cherries.  Pour into buttered baking dish (this can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to bake).  Bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done.  Can be served hot, room temperature, or cold, but best served with whipped cream.

I’ve seen my share of Female Puberty Horrors in my day. From CARRIE to GINGER SNAPS to countless others in between, the transformation from girl to woman has been done so many times as lycanthropic transformation, the emergence of witchly powers, as a sign that the demons within her has emerged with her menstrual blood.  It’s a welcome change in VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS that, it’s not the girl who is evil, but the world around her.  The added bonus is that it’s a fantastic movie that, although muddled at times, is both fascinating and gorgeous to watch.  If you’re in the same boat I was and have never seen it, do so now, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the dinner as well.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

poster

Quick Cuts Presents: THE GREAT TWILIGHT SEND-OFF!

Posted in 2012, Quick Cuts, Twilight, Vampires, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , , on November 16, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  THE GREAT TWILIGHT SEND-OFF!
Featuring Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Jenny Orosel, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, this Friday, November 16, the final installment of the TWILIGHT series opens in theaters, TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART II.  Don’t everybody cry at once!

So, here’s this week’s QUICK CUTS question:  if you could devise an appropriate send-off for the TWILIGHT series, what would it be? 

Our panel responds:

JENNY OROSEL: The whole vampire sparkly family takes a vacation to New York just in time to meet up with the giant tentacled alien from the end of the WATCHMEN comic book. That would be sweet.

MICHAEL ARRUDAVery sweet!

MARK ONSPAUGH:  Anyone directly responsible for the movies and all the die-hard, crying on their vlog, Sparkle-Vamp-worshipping fans would be locked in a warehouse-turned-theater and strapped to “old school” wooden seats. The Twilight series would play round the clock – IV’s of stage blood and popcorn “butter” for sustenance and astronaut diapers all around… The rest of the world would celebrate as every book and DVD is recycled into clean fertilizer to feed a starving world.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Ouch!  But oh-so-appropriate!

PAUL MCMAHON:  I’m going to quietly watch the TWILIGHT SAGA sail away. I will celebrate by visiting a large cathedral and lighting a prayer request candle. While it burns, I’m going to kneel and bow my head and say a novena that the Hollywood Gods Who Develop Book Series Into Movie Series seize the opportunity to create an awesome string of kick-ass films based on Jonathan Maberry’s JOE LEDGER books. Anyone want to join me?

The Joe Ledger series

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We’ll meet you at the door.

As for me, really, in all seriousness, there is no better send-off than the knowledge that I will never have to sit through one of these movies again.  This in itself is a celebration. When I walk out of the theater after the end credits roll, I might even cry, I’ll be so happy!

L.L. SOARES:  Don’t go celebrating just yet. I heard a rumor that Stephenie Meyer, creator of the Twilight series, was in discussions to figure out a way to keep the franchise going…More sequels? A spin-off? I have no idea – but you know the studios aren’t going to put this cash cow to pasture any sooner than they have to.

(Pops open a bottle of champagne) So we may not have to say good-bye after all! I know Michael will be so relieved…

MICHAEL ARRUDA (ignores him):  Did you say something, LL? I’m having trouble hearing you!

 In the meantime, go forth all you moviegoers and do your duty by seeing something else!

 Thanks for joining us.  Have a good night, everybody!

—END—

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS – NOVEMBER 2012

Posted in 2012, Coming Attractions, Hit Men, Martial Arts, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
NOVEMBER 2012
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  A lavishly decorated bedroom.  Several beautiful Asian women lay on a huge bed.  L.L. SOARES karate chops his way through the bedroom door.)

ASIAN WOMAN:  Can we interest you in some pleasure?

L.L. SOARES:  You’re business.  (Lifts axe above his head.)  This is pleasure.  (Swings axe, and women run away, screaming in terror.)

(MICHAEL ARRUDA enters the room.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Scaring the women away again, I see.

LS:   At least I’m trying to scare them.  What’s your excuse?

MA:  Huh?

LS:  When was the last time you went on a date?

MA:  Shh!  I’m too busy watching all these movies.  Speaking of which, it’s time for our November Coming Attractions column.  There are some interesting movies this month.

We kick things off this weekend with a review of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.  I have to say, I’m really looking forward to this one, as the trailer is pretty cool.  It looks like it’s going to be a hoot.

Directed by RZA of hip hop fame, with a screenplay by Eli Roth and RZA, this actioner takes place in feudal China and features assassins, warriors, and soldiers all fighting over a treasure of gold.  It stars Russell Crowe, RZA, and Lucy Liu.

Based on its stylish and high-octane trailer, this one looks like fun.

LS:  What’s not to love? I’m a big fan of RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan, I’m a big fan of Eli Roth, and this one is produced by Quentin Tarantino. It looks a little one of those super-stylized martial arts flicks, like Tarantino’s KILL BILL movies, and it should be a great time.

I hope it lives up to our expectations.

MA:  On November 9, the action continues with our review of the new James Bond flick, SKYFALL.  I’m actually reviewing this one with Nick Cato.  (turns to LS)  Do you have something against James Bond or something?

LS:  Not really. I’ve just never been a big fan of the series. I know some people are nuts for James Bond movies, but I’ve found a lot of them to be kind of…well…boring. Truth is, I think Daniel Craig is great in the role, and I liked him a lot in CASINO ROYALE (2006), but I figured that the new one should be reviewed by hardcore fans, and I know you dig the series. And I know Nick is a huge fan, too. So I decided to sit this one out and let two Bondies review the new movie.

MA:  Bondies?

LS: Or whatever it is you Bond fans call yourselves. Bondians? Besides, it gives me a weekend off.

MA: I remember not knowing what to expect with the first Daniel Craig Bond movie, CASINO ROYALE, because I’d heard they had made lots of changes, but I ended up loving that film and enjoying the next one QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) even more.

I enjoyed Craig’s interpretation of Bond: a much grittier, darker hero, than the previous Bonds, and he’s as rough and tough as Sean Connery’s original interpretation of 007.  The two Craig Bond movies really didn’t play like previous Bond films.  The filmmakers deviated from the traditional Bond formula, and the films were better for it.

The only thing I’m concerned about is I enjoyed the previous two films so much, I wonder if this film will be as good?  Of course, there have been so many James Bond movies, and they have a proven track record, so I’m reasonably confident this movie is going to be good.

In addition to Daniel Craig as James Bond, the cast also includes notable actors Javier Bardem, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in 2007, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Judi Dench, who returns for the seventh time as M.

LS:  On 11/16, we’ll be reviewing TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART II.

(MA groans).

LS:  Don’t worry, it’s almost over. BREAKING DAWN PART II is the final film in the TWILIGHT series. At least I hope it is. You should be proud of yourself. We’ve sat through every single movie in the TWILIGHT franchise. That’s quite an accomplishment! We can’t just walk away and not watch the final one.

MA: Why not?

LS: Because the fans expect us to see it and review it. And, most likely, rip it to shreds.

MA:  I have nothing to say about this one, other than I can’t believe I’m still alive after having to sit through the previous movies in this series.  God-awful, and then some!

The weekend of 11/23, Thanksgiving weekend, has a couple of movies that might be of interest. First, LIFE OF PI opens on 11/21.  I don’t know much about this one, other than it’s directed by Ang Lee and looks to be some sort of fantasy. Then there’s the remake of RED DAWN also opening that weekend.

LS:  I think it’s a long-shot if we review either one. Most likely we’ll take that weekend off. Even we deserve a holiday. Besides, if no one else on the staff reviews them, we’ll no doubt have something else cooked up for our readers.

And we finish the month with a review of KILLING THEM SOFTLY, which opens on November 30.  This one has Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini as hit men who are called in to handle some yahoos who robbed a mob-run poker game. It actually looks pretty cool.

MA:  I agree that this one looks good. It looks like a hard-edged crime thriller, and it’s got a solid cast. Along with Pitt and Gandolfini, there’s Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and Sam Shepard.

It should be a strong way to finish the month.

Okay, that wraps things up for November.  We’ll see you on Monday with our review of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.

LS:  Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you again soon.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares