So once again we have survived.

Roots: The Gift

There have been many types of Christmas TV specials over the years: the beloved cartoons like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the stop motion ones like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the musical variety shows like the ones Johnny Cash did, the very special episodes of sitcoms. December 1988 brought us Christmas episodes of China Beach, L.A. Law, Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, Day By Day, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Just the Ten of Us, 227, Amen, Dear John, Full House, Murphy Brown, Night Court, Perfect Strangers, Punky Brewster, The Tracey Ullman Show (including the Simpsons short), Who’s the Boss, Wiseguy, Beauty and the Beast, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse (still a perennial classic), plus the specials The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite, Christmas in Tattertown (directed by Ralph Bakshi), Bob Hope’s Jolly Christmas Show (special guests Orel Hershiser, Don Johnson, Florence Griffith Joyner and Dolly Parton) and the famous TV movie reunion A Very Brady Christmas.

But do you think it’s weird that there was also a special Christmas movie based on Alex Haley’s acclaimed 1977 slavery mini-series ROOTS? I thought it was kinda weird so I decided to watch it and see what the deal was. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mindwarp

tn_mindwarpFangoria Magazine is important to me. I’ve been reading it since some time in the ’80s. It covered not only all the great horror movies that have come out during all those years, but also the less great ones. I like that you could read detailed coverage of, like, DOLLY DEAREST or some shit when it came out. I have boxes of old issues and sometimes I’ll remember to go back and see their interviews about, say, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE, or something and find more details than I could find browsing the internet. It’s great.

Back when people read magazines and loved horror movies enough to read about how they were made, Fangoria had enough money to try crossing over and making some movies of their own, including MINDWARP. To be honest I  don’t remember ever hearing of it until I came across it recently on a nice Twilight Time blu-ray. I remember Fangoria Films as a distributor of low budget movies (don’t think I ever watched any of them) but I didn’t realize that before that they had tried to finance one movie per year, starting with this in 1990 (not released until ’92 though), followed by CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (vampire movie from HELLRAISER II director Tony Randel) and SEVERED TIES (horror comedy with Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer and Garrett Morris in the cast). (read the rest of this shit…)

Manchester by the Sea

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is the heavily critic-worshipped third film by writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, MARGARET*). It’s a story about loss and family and people trying to salvage their fucked up lives. It’s not as devastating as some people make it sound, but also not as ultimately-uplifting or inspirational as maybe you would hope. It’ll probly make you tear up a few times and laugh a few times in its 2+ hours. It captures the ways family, friends and beer can bring you both solace and pain.

*[Please note that it is not one movie called YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, MARGARET. It is one movie called YOU CAN COUNT ON ME and then another totally separate one called MARGARET. And if I had written it as MARGARET, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME I would’ve had the same problem.]

*[Also please note that Lonergan wrote THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE and an episode of the cartoon Doug, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to mention those at all because right now we are focusing on his directorial work.] (read the rest of this shit…)

Society

tn_societyBrian Yuzna’s SOCIETY is about a nefarious, perverted secret among the rich, and how it’s discovered by a high school jock dude. I think Yuzna (who was making his directivational debut after producing RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and DOLLS) is going for kind of a BLUE VELVET type thing here – the weirdness that tips him off to a creepy conspiracy beneath the thin veneer of All-American wholesomeness.

Specifically, this takes place among the students and parents of Beverly Hills Academy. Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, son of HALLOWEEN II‘s Michael Myers Dick Warlock) almost seems like some kind of lab-created ’80s hero: mild mullet, polo shirt under letterman’s jacket, Emilio Estevez swagger with a slight Michael J. Fox vulnerability. He plays basketball, dates a cheerleader, acts like a tough guy and nerd-shames his snooty opponent in the debate for class president, but he sees himself as an outcast in his community of rich country club white people. We know from the opening scene that he’s seeing a psychiatrist (Ben Slack, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 4) and has nightmares about his mom (Connie Danese, HUNTER’S BLOOD) and dad (Charles Lucia, the killer in HOSPITAL MASSACRE – playing the father of the son of Michael Myers!), who clearly favor his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings). He thinks he’s adopted. He’s told he’s paranoid. (read the rest of this shit…)

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS trailer

some discussion points after the jump

(read the rest of this shit…)

A Christmas Horror Story

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is a misleading title because 1) it’s not a horror version of A CHRISTMAS STORY and 2) it’s more than one Christmas horror story. It’s an anthology of several but it jumps around between them like CLOUD ATLAS or something.

This one is made by the Canadians. As a country they know their shit, in my opinion, having given us at least two of the Christmas genre classics, BLACK CHRISTMAS and THE SILENT PARTNER. This will not be added to that list, but it’s worth a watch.

The story begins on Christmas Eve at a spooky North Pole, where a ragged looking Santa Claus (George Buza, THE CHRISTMAS SWITCH, THE CASE FOR CHRISTMAS, A CHRISTMAS WEDDING, SNAKE EATER II: THE DRUG BUSTER) is preparing for his flight. Something seems wrong, and when he turns around there’s a bloody slash across his face. Then it skips to 12 hours earlier. (read the rest of this shit…)

Toy Soldiers (1991)

TOY SOLDIERS is a kid’s movie clashing with an action movie. It’s rated-R and surprisingly legit, opening with chaos in Colombia, where Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff, WISHMASTER), the son of a captured narco-terrorist, has a court room held hostage. Within the first four minutes of the movie they throw a woman out of a high window and a judge out of a helicopter (an impressive skydiving stunt). Later they will take over a boarding school full of the children of American politicians and super-riches, and being that Columbine has not happened they will have no compunction about shooting the place up.

But when we meet our young protagonists jogging into The Regis School and spray painting it to say “The Rejects School”, Robert Folk (POLICE ACADEMY)’s score goes from sounding like a Chuck Norris movie to an episode of Amazing Stories or The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Oh, youth. They have self-owned themselves as rejects because they’re supposed to be the fuckup rich kids who got kicked out of every other prep school. Now they will endure the gauntlet of action-movie-scenario to prove their true worth. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

tn_pitandthependulum“Confessions are only admitted under torture, otherwise you might confess just to avoid torture and it wouldn’t be a true confession.”

Stuart Gordon’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM opens with Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen, STONE COLD) and his Spanish Inquisition goons pulling a dead body out of a coffin, convicting him of heresy and giving him 20 lashes, which busts him apart until he’s a pile of bones. The man’s family watch, outraged, while a bunch of other rich people smile to themselves and lick their lips. Torquemada crushes the dead man’s skull into powder and uses it to fill an hourglass. That’s all before the credits start.

So, this movie is not fuckin around. And you guys know how I feel about a movie that’s not fuckin around. (Usually positive.)

Even still, it kinda snuck up on me. It’s a Full Moon production, and they’re doing a period piece (Spain, 1492) in the one castle they have access to, lots of fake looking wigs, some actors delivering their lines in a modern tone, some not. And then there’s a shitty looking font on the credits and they still couldn’t bother to change the title (it calls it THE INQUISITOR). And as it gets into the plot about a woman falsely accused by the Spanish Inquisition it seems like it’s gonna be mostly sitting through gruesome torture scenes: public whipping, burning at the stake, some citizens enjoying it, others being forced to watch, people tied to racks, screaming, getting slashed and/or sexually humiliated. But that’s just the fuel to a story that really comes together, a nice amalgam of Edgar Allan Poe ideas, adventure and most of all an extreme caricature of the type of hypocrites who stand in judgment of others to hide their own faults. Gordon worked in theater for years before RE-ANIMATOR made him a Master of Horror, and I imagine this is alot like one of his plays. (read the rest of this shit…)

Loving

tn_lovingLOVING is a pretty simple true story about something that should be pretty simple: two people are in love and having a baby and decide to get married and build a life together. Should be up to them to decide if that’s a good idea, you would think, but the trouble is that Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton, WARRIOR) is white and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga, THE SAMARITAN, WARCRAFT) is black, and in Virginia in 1958 it was illegal for them to get married.

Like same sex couples before we got marriage equality a few years back, they had to go somewhere else to get married (Washington DC), but back at home the cops kick in their door one night and arrest them. Richard gets bailed out but they won’t let him bail out Mildred. Wait to see the judge on Monday, they say, as if that’s a reasonable thing to ask a man whose pregnant wife is currently locked up in a cold cell for ludicrous reasons. They threaten to arrest him if he keeps trying to get her released.

The judge would make the Lovings do a year for this – for being married! – but they plea bargain. Instead they have to leave the state (their home, their property, their family, their jobs) and not come back together for 25 years. So, against their will, they go to raise their kid (soon kids, plural) in the city.

(Virginia: 13 electoral votes. DC: 3 votes starting in 1961.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Krampus

tn_krampusKrampus – the child-punishing anti-Santa Claus of Alpine folklore – is one of those things that a certain type of American nerd is a little too proud to know about. The same ones that make Cthulu jokes. But despite them it’s a good idea for a Christmas monster movie, and I think this one is good enough to reclaim the old half goat, half demon’s honor.

KRAMPUS came last year from director Michael Dougherty, the X2, SUPERMAN RETURNS and URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY writer who turned director with TRICK ‘R TREAT, the DTV anthology that seems to be growing into a minor Halloween tradition. I remember that being pretty good, but I think I liked this better.
(read the rest of this shit…)