Monday, March 31, 2014

Sundance Film Festival 2014 Summary

Well, it didn't look like I was going to be able to go this year but at least I had last year. Sundance 2013 was an amazing experience.  If I only had one chance to go, that would satisfy me.  27 films was quite a feat. This year I was late to the dance but I still caught 12 fantastic films, some of which I'll see again and a small handful I'm dying to show my friends.

Day 1 - Let the movies begin & party with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon!

Day 2 - Why a romance between a 28 year old and a 14 year old isn't as bad as it sounds and hanging out with future celebrities at the cast & crew party!

Day 3 - Killer cheerleader sex/murder scandal and the return of Nazi zombies!

Day 4 - The day I get a cold...oh, plus dope-addicted jazz pianists and serial killers make the best pals.

Day 5 - Kevin Smith is soooooooooooo awesome!!!

Day 6 - Awards, the day I got a second opinion & sci-fi dust!

Day 7 - Three films that made sweet, sweet love to me ending with the biggest climax I've had in a long time!

Overall and final thoughts: For my second time here, it's been fantastic. The people were friendly, the 1,800+ volunteers were amazing, the weather was fantastic (sunny skies and barely a breeze the entire time I was there) and the movies were even better than last year. There wasn't a stinker in any of the 12 films I saw (less than half of what I caught last year) and the last film of the last day (for me) was the best. I really hope some of these make it out to the public in the coming months. They need to be seen and several of them are screaming me to come back. It's been one hell of a great film ride this year. Bring on 2015!

Female Vampire (1973)

Original title: La Comtesse Noire

Director: Jesus Franco

Writers: Jesus Franco, Gerard Brisseau

Composer: Daniel White

Starring: Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Alice Arno, Monica Swinn, Jesus Franco, Luis Barboo, Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, Raymond Hardy, Anna Watican, Gilda Arancio, Roger Germanes, Ricardo Vazquez

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Maailman Kuulu Shokki!

Plot: Countess Irina Karlstein is the last in a line of vampires. Compelled to suck the life force from her victims during sex, her activities attract the attentions of Dr Roberts, who comes to realise that the spate of bizarre deaths currently plaguing Madeira have a supernatural source. Meanwhile a poet, Baron Von Rathony has become infatuated with Irina. She wants to reciprocate his love, but knows that to do so will surely mean the man's death.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

When I write a film score, this is how I want my name to appear on the screen...

That's actress Lina Romay as Countess Irina Karlstein.  She gets naked...A LOT!  This is a beautifully shot film with lots of pretty images.  This picture has several names depending on the cut.  I watched the 100 minute version which is really slow but in a meditative kind of way.

This could be the first interview with a vampire. Really, that's a reporter on the right asking the Countess about her vampire ancestry.

The Countess may be a mute but she knows the language of love!

That's Doctor Roberts played by the writer/director, Jess Franco.

Ahh, lesbian vampire mating rituals...

That scene above is actually pretty erotic.  You should see the Countess' face when she surfaces from her snack.  Scrummy.

There's no torture but it sure looks like there's going to be.

The Countess falls for Han Solo.  He's a poet...and a scoundrel. 

So I was in the mood for an early 70s, European erotic vampire movie and this one fit the bill. Like a lot of films in that sub genre, it's slow and it's slower than most but then it's designed to be that way.  It's a horror movie but there are no scares or even attempts at any.  It plays out like a meditative dream.  Daniel White wrote a lovely theme that sounds an awful lot like that Frank Sinatra classic, "I Get Along Without You Very Well", but it's the only theme in the movie.  The orchestral version gets the most play but then you get other variations done in different, more pop/elevator influenced, styles.  That's a problem because those don't work well and really date the picture plus it's total overkill hearing the same theme ad nauseum.  Other than the grossly repetitive score, it's an hour and forty minutes of relaxed vampire goings-on with wall to wall nudity, extended soft core sex scenes and very little talking.  I rather liked it but I don't recommend starting this after midnight with a glass of wine.  It'll put you to sleep.  I knew it was going to happen which is why I picked this type of flick.  It fit the bill.

Death Race (2008)

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Composer: Paul Haslinger

Starring: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez, Max Ryan, Jason Clarke, Fred Koehler, Jacob Vargas, Justin Mader, Robert LaSardo, Robin Shou, Benz Antoine, David Carradine

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Get ready for a killer ride.

Plot: Ex-con Jensen Ames is forced by the warden of a notorious prison to compete in our post-industrial world's most popular sport: a car race in which inmates must brutalize and kill one another on the road to victory.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

Here's another picture I face palmed when I heard they were remaking.  The original DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) is so fucking fun that it's hard to believe giving it a bigger budget and bigger stars would improve it.  Now, having watched it finally, I'm rather impressed.  I thought that it would be dumb as hell taking a cross country road race and confining it to a prison was retarded.  It's not that bad.  Sure, you've got to check your brains at the door but if you watch it for what it is, it's fun.  Statham is Statham and I'm perfectly fine with that.  I dig the guy.  Ian McShane is a badass.  Having him and Joan Allen in this picture is a big plus.  It gets silly and stupid when Anderson makes the girls' entrance look like a music video but then again, when so much of the movie has the feel of a well-produced video game, it makes more sense. You also get some stupid things like ejector seats.  Why would there be ejector seats in these cars in the first place?  Oh yeah, to help Ames (Statham) win the race.  Oops.  Spoilers.

The race is in 3 stages which means 3 races.  You just know the final race ends with Ames breaking out of the prison, and it does.  The races are fun but only to a point.  There are 3 of them (not including the one that opens the film with an AWESOME voice cameo by the original film's Frankenstein, David Carradine) so after a while they start to look alike and there's not much variation in the moves or the way they're filmed.  That everything is greyish doesn't help, either.  The ending feels kind of a cheep way out but it's fine for what it is.  I wouldn't be all that keen to see the sequel but it's got Sean Bean, Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo in it so now it's a given. Shit.  Now I see that Rhames and Trejo are in the third picture.  Now there's another one I'll have to watch.  It probably sucks 30 pounds of balls but it's Rhames and Trejo, man!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The New York Ripper (1982)

Original title: Lo Squartatore di New York

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writers: Lucio Fulci, Gianfranco Clerici, Gene Luotto, Vincenzo Mannino, Dardano sacchetti

Composer: Francesco De Masi

Starring: Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli, Paolo Malco, Cinzia de Ponti, Cosimo Cinieri, Daniela Doria, Babette New, Zora Kerova

More info: IMDb

Tagline: New York City: It's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to die there!

Plot: A burned-out New York police detective teams up with a college psychoanalyst to track down a vicious serial killer randomly stalking and killing various young women around the city.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I really didn't have high hopes for this.  These Italian horror/thriller/giallos can be real hit and miss but with Fulci in charge there a better than average chance it'll have something neat to take away from it.  It's a pretty good story and it's about a serial killer to boot.  This guy kills indiscriminately and he's a sadistic fuck, that's for sure.  There's a creepy ass scene where a woman is toe fucked by some weird ass dude and it's creepy mostly because we get way too many shots of his gnarly ass toes. There is some good suspense, too.  One nice moment was when the girl handcuffed to the killer's bed gets free.  You might have a feeling you know where it's going but it might not play out that way.  Ooh, and then there's the piece de resistance...razor blade play!

OUCH!  Mother fucker.  Can you scream it? He goes further and brings the razor blade down the middle of her eyeball.  The effects work on this is excellent.  If you want some cringe-worthy shit in your horror movie just involve something sharp going into the eyeball and it's a sure bet you'll have most of the audience screaming and squirming.  You get to know the identity of the killer early on so there's no need to keep you guessing and then pull a fast one like you normally get in these types of pictures from Italy.  There's enough sprinkled throughout the film to keep you interested.  At no point was I bored and it was a fun ride all the way through. 

Sin on the Beach (1963)

Original title: L'eternite Pour Nous

Director: Jose Benazeraf

Writers: G.J. Arnaud, Jose Benazeraf, Grisha Dabat, Yves Denaux

Composer: Louiguy

Starring: Monique Just, Sylvia Sorrente, Michel Lemoine, Gisele Gallois, Jose Benazeraf, Sophie Grimaldi, Serge Jacques

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Uncut & Uncensored!

Plot: A moody pianist-composer and his voluptuous strip-tease dancing babe are avoiding reality at a French seaside resort. The resort's young female manager has a dying husband on her hands, and becomes attracted to the composer. When the husband dies, accusations and recriminations fly, combined with various betrayals and jealousies.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

OK, so I'm not really all that bent out of shape that this turned out to be a mildly salacious (maybe not as much 50 years ago as just a few years later) melodrama from France that I've read was filmed two years earlier but released in the U.S. in '63.  There is some eye candy but it doesn't go as far as the title or subject matter suggests.


Who lies on the beach covering their boobs up like that?  I call shenanigans. 

It is a slow moving picture loaded with love triangle dialogue.  The characters are doomed from the start and wallow in their desperation and it's largely because of that, most everything is monotonous and repetitive. The picture quality looks like a VHS rip but at least it's widescreen.  My copy runs 65 minutes while IMDb shows it at 75.  Am I missing anything?  I'm not sure.  I would have preferred to see that version and in the original language (mine has an English dub)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Texas Chainsaw (2013)

Director: John Luessenhop

Writers: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, Kirsten Elms, Stephen Susco

Composer: John Frizzell

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, james McDonald, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Richard Riehle, Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen, David Born, Sue Rock

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Evil wears many faces.

Plot: A young woman travels to Texas to collect an inheritance; little does she know that an encounter with a chainsaw-wielding killer is part of the reward.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Though released last year, it was filmed in 2011...just 5 years after the last incarnation of the story.  Who was asking for this?  When I heard about it last year I was kind of surprised that it was out there.  That it was in 3D would have been the only reason I would have wanted to see it in the first place.  The original is one of my top favorite horror movies.  That builds in a little interest but not much.  Just watching the trailer was enough to be able to size it up.  It turns out it's not horrible but then it's not all that good, either.

The performances are OK.  I thought Thom Barry (as Sheriff Hooper) was the best of the bunch.  The gore is good and I really dug the house and location.  I'd swear it's the same house interior used in DJANGO UNCHAINED ().  Nearly all of the scares are loud, instant noise jump scares.  I hate that shit.  It's a sure sign that the film makers aren't capable of making a genuinely scary movie so they have to resort to hitting you upside the head out of nowhere with a fast visual and loud audio.  It's incompetence is what it is and it proliferates most horror movies made in the past twenty years.  Anyone can sneak up behind you, grab your shoulders and yell to get you to jump.  That's easy.

The biggest offender is the piss poor writing.  The dialogue isn't bad (except for the obligatory stupid badass quip the slutty chick, Nikki (Raymonde) I think, says when she fires the shotgun at Leatherface (Yeager) (plus it barely when she pulls the trigger).  Aside from that out of nowhere bullshit, the story has way too many plot holes and convenient-to-the-story devices.  It's just plain laze.  Like when Heather is caught and chained up by the deputy.  She's chained and suspended from the ceiling at the slaughterhouse and he unbuttons her shirt.  Yeah, we get to see some inside boob but the ONLY reason he did that (and you know it the moment you see her like that) is because it makes it easy for Leatherface to see the birthmark on her chest so he will know she's the baby that was taken twenty something odd years ago and he won't kill her.  It's just shameful how lazy it is.  There are other things, too, that are just as weak.  The tag at the end of the credits, while a fun moment, couldn't happen in real life not to mention Heather's transformation AND her and Leatherface getting away with it.  And don't you think there would have been an investigation into the slaughter at the beginning of the film by State or Federal law enforcement?  I hardly think that the buck would have stopped with the local sheriff. OK, so now that my bitching is over, I did find a few things to dig but they're overshadowed by a weak story.  Go into it with minimal expectations and you'll be reasonably entertained.  Anything more and you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Women in Cellblock 9 (1978)

Original title: Frauen fur Zellenblock 9

AKA: Tropical Inferno

Director: Jesus Franco

Writer: Jesus Franco

Composer: Walter Baumgartner

Starring: Karine Gambier, Howard Vernon, Susan Hemingway, Aida Gouveia, Esther Studer

Plot: A group of female freedom-fighters led by Karine (Gambier) is caught by the war-den of a women’s prison, located some-where in the South American jungle. None of them will reveal the secrets of their organization or the names of their collaborators in the cities, so they are handed over to Dr. Costa (Vernon) who, after four years inactivity in Europe, is delighted to be able to practice his torture techniques once more.  Karine fails to resist the inhuman treatments and reveals all. The only hope of saving the organization is for the girls to warn the city cell before it’s too late. They trick the prison guard into having sex with them, knock him out and break out of prison. The warden and Dr. Costa must prevent them from revealing the practices inside the prison. The hunt is on and it’s shoot to kill.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

Women In Prison (WIP) films are usually pretty boring but they generally offer LOTS of eye candy and, if you're lucky, some blood and guts.  They're usually done on the cheap and are loaded with filler (hence the boring). The same can be said about an awful lot of Jess Franco's pictures, too. But then the dude directed 201 pictures and worked until he died at the age of 82 (one year ago next week).  That's fucking impressive.  If I started now I'd have to crank out a little more than 5 pictures a year for the rest of my life.  I'm getting side tracked when it should be this that tests my ability to stay focused...

Starring Ricky Gervais' sister as The Warden!

Oh, NO!  Not the Gere Run!!!

Don't mind us gals.  We're just hanging around...


Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom never had anything like this.

Look out, girls, GATORS!!!

HURRY!  HURRY!!!!!  We need you to last until the end of the picture...and not find clothes.

WHEW! That was close!


How about that product placement?

It's a surprisingly good picture and not just because of the gratuitous amount of nudity.  These gals spend 96% of the picture completely nude.  I honestly commend them for having to run around the jungle and in the river like that.  Honorary Oscars, anyone?  The picture's only 78 minutes long but it feels shorter.  Really.  Usually these kinds of films drag on forever no matter how short they are but this one manages to move the action (there's very little story to tell) at a nice, brisk pace. Within the first 15 minutes the girls are captured, sent to the prison and prepared for torture.  We meet all of the characters we need to know by then.  The next 15 gives us more detail about how sadistic and perverted the warden and the doctor are...

which sets us up for the torture.  That's another 15 minutes.  10 minutes after that the girls have seduced the guard and have escaped.  All that's left is 20 minutes of surviving and being chased through the jungle.  It's a very economic picture.  I'm impressed with that aspect alone.  Then you consider the fun torture scenes, evil bad gal and guy and a wonderfully abundant amount of gorgeous nudity.  That's entertainment.  And what's more, it's a good looking, nicely shot film.  Not bad for total exploitation.  This genre needs more quality pictures like this and it gives me hope for watching more of them even though I know I'm in for a world of shit...but with boobs and paper thin plots.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sock It to Me Baby (1968)

Director: Lou Campa

Writer: Ronald Edwards

Composer: N/A

Starring: Ileen Wreffer, Larry Hunter, Rosina Martin, Dina St. Helena, Gillian Martine, Illya Souvern, Ron Wreffer, Bobby Niles, Richard Bennett, Patrice Dinehart, Richard Kennedy, Linda Herb, Theresa Faiello, Dotty Kaly, Jeanne Serta, Alice Bozy, Carolyn Barbato, Tony La Rocca, Dom Conte

More info IMDb

Plot: A bored couple separately seduces young girls, when the husband becomes obsessed with and begins to pamper a young neighbor with disastrous results.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Noop.

Now here's something I can sink my teeth into. Gratuitous 1960s Go-Go babes!

That's not me in the first pic although it would be (at first, until I surveyed the landscape and swooped in for the kills).  I dig shit like this.  B&W boobs are awesome (and so are the 60s washed out color ones).  Ron Baker (Hunter) is a bored husband of a wealthy and (unbeknownst to him) a closet lesbian.  She's not satisfying him sexually and so he drinks...and he gambles...and he's lookin' fer love in all kinds of places.  The thing is, his wife is bangin' some of the broads he is.  But that's OK for us viewers.  We get to benefit from it.

Ron's been drinking and he's got designs on an underage pretty.  Meet Tina (Wreffer).

She's a horrible actress.  But she does like to read Spider-Man comic books.

But then Ron likes to drink and fuck...and in that order.

Tina's got a nice ass...and cans to boot.

What saves this picture is the abundance amount of nudity, it's in black & white and it's only 85 minutes long which doesn't feel to bad.  Usually pictures like this are loaded with filler and they're boring as hell.  The music was hit and miss, with the latter being a somber jazz rendition of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen".  Talk about a buzz kill.  For what it is, it's reasonably entertaining although you'll have a hard time sitting through Ileen Wreffer's rough, childish acting.  She plays it way too young, retarded or high on the reefer (or all three).  Otherwise, it's not that bad.