way too obvious…

But we did it anyway! It was Friday the 13th, so we watched Friday the 13th, 1 and 2. So there. I’m not making any apology’s.

Friday the 13th With its low production costs, high profits (it took in about 100 times its budget) and wide distribution, Friday the 13th is the movie that really opened the floodgates of low-budget slasher flicks that washed through the theatres in the early 1980’s. For those who don’t remember… At Camp Crystal Lake, in the late 50’s, a young boy (Jason Voorhees) drown in the lake. The next year, two camp counsellors died at the same camp in an unsolved murder (the scene of which starts off the movie), and the camp eventually closes. Now, 20ish years later, a fellow has decided to re-open the camp… Though many of the locals now consider it cursed and some even call it “Camp Blood”! Luckily, the kids hired to start the camp up again are too smart to worry about silly talk like that!

Friday the 13th

But, alas, someone mysterious seems to be paying close attention to the comings of these meddlesome kids and they start dropping off like flies. There is some axe action, and some arrow work but most of the killings are of the slashed-throat variety. Maybe this is what gave rise to the “slasher” label in the first place.

Friday the 13th

A lot of other standard conventions are on display here, such as the victims going off by themselves so as to not even realise that they are all being killed off, and taking off your clothes being an especially quick way towards death.

While there are death’s-a-plenty, the dated gruesomeness and the significant amount of off-screen deaths lead to it being not particularly scary or gory, at least in this day and age, though I still appreciate the whack-a-mole scene. And I assume that nearly everyone must already know of the final twists… But we did watch it with a teenager who’d never seem it before, so that did pep it up a bit. Personally, I recall the final canoe scene scared me all through the 80’s, even when I knew down to the second when it would happen, I still jumped. Sadly… No longer.

Friday the 13th, Part 2 Friday the 13th, Part 2 was the actual introduction of Jason Voorhees. This time the locale is a nearby camp to Camp Crystal Lake. A much larger group of kids are descended on this camp, and have been warned to stay away from Camp Crystal Lake. Some locals even say that the boy who drowned all those years ago is really still alive and has been living in the woods all of these years. Of course, not to give anything away but…

They’re right! In our introduction to Jason, he comes across like a ticked-off, backwoods red-neck with a sack over his head. And, while he is able to easily eliminate many teenagers, he was yet to turn into the supernaturally unstoppable killing machine of the later films.

Friday the 13th

Aside from the lack of surprises and the lack of subtly around the antagonist (they even show him without the bag on his head), the movie is pretty similar to the first one, with the most memorable parts being the two-for-one murder scene and a rather gruesome example of mommy worship.

u g l y… you ain’t got no alibi.

Sheesh. It’s been one of those weeks of movies that are best left forgotten.

I watched 22 minutes of Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever and don’t recollect any of it.

I watched 24 minutes of The Last Resort (Your Passport To Hell) and it was stanky dull.

Least of all, I made it 18 minutes in The Lost Tribe… enough said.

Red DragonWe watched all of Red Dragon. And, well, it was certainly better than any of the above movies but…

After seeing Silence of the Lambs a multitude of times, Red Dragon just seemed to be nearly the exact same story, but not nearly as well done… Which is sad as they did dig up a pretty great cast of Hollywooders: Anthony Hopkins, Harvey Keitel, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Duke and Edward Norton. Honestly, though I know nothing about the books, I was so put off by the duplication of the plot of the Silence of the Lambs movie and how much cornier the characters were in this film. Also, the villain’s tattoo was just plain dumb. Sometimes, “good” ideas that don’t work well on the screen should probably be avoided. That was one of them.

Sams LakeThen? Sam’s Lake. Yes, I actually watched this whole movie. I think only because the characters were ok. Alright, the movie wasn’t terrible. It was like, you know, regular, okay? The story of a girl who brings a group of her friends back to relax at her old rural family home. The town turns out to be creepy and the townsfolk turn out to be creepy… But they encounter a childhood friend of her and then, as night falls, things get scary. The key twist becomes to obvious too early on, but at least they come up with some other twists to perk it up. So yeah, a newish slasher flick (with some twists) that, while not great, is certainly better than most of this so-called “horror” swill that I watch on Netflix streaming.

DoghouseLastly, I watched Doghouse. Um, yeah. Somehow I made it to the end of that. Probably because of the non-stop gory action. Sort of a low quality and badly written “Shaun of the Dead” built on a British “chicks are evil, dude” philosophy. A bunch of guys who act like jerks to their wives/girlfriends, ditch them all to take a trip to the small town of Moodley. but they get there to find out that all of the men are dead and the girls are all bloody, broken crazy zombie-types who are out for blood. No. It’s not as good as it sounds. But it moves along pretty continually and has lots of bad gore and gratuitous death scenes. Kurty, if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out.

quiet refreshment…

Destination Moon Having one of those quiet evenings where I wanted to watch movies but nothing that was too overwhelming or thought-invoking, I ended up watching, firstly, Destination Moon. One of the great classics, not only for it’s Heinlein origins and rich technicolor appearance but also because of its historical significance as one of the first major American Science Fiction films, blatant cold war message and being George Pal’s first science fiction film. It is also a “serious” science fiction movie without most of the unreality that comes with science fiction, including all of those outlandish events in most of the big Hollywood Sci-fi films that were to follow. Though the science involved not turn out to be an accurate portrayal of things that were to come, it is done in the hard-science fiction fashion of attempting to realistically theorize the technology of the future. Considering it was made nearly 20 years before anyone went to the moon, its tackling of the issues and manner of getting a ship to the moon is pretty respectable. Though, as seems common for a lot of these movies, there is some corny banter thanks to a young Brooklyn kid who is reluctantly along for the ride, but that aside, it is pretty serious stuff.

After a failed attempt to launch a satellite into orbit, a scientist, a military man and an industrialist band together to get a rocket to the moon within a year to prevent the world from becoming a one world government, as they obviously fear that the unnamed Soviets are sabotaging the U.S. space program in an attempt to beat us to the moon as, we all know, whoever has the ability to launch bombs from the moon will be able to control the world. After a meeting with other leaders of industry, focusing on an explanatory movie with Woody Woodpecker (which my daughter made me watch over and over) they charge ahead, against some last minute opposition from the government.

Destination Moon, is a straight-forward, low-thrill film and is unquestionablly classic, both as a Sci-fi adventure and also as a brave look toward what technology may lay ahead.

The Name Of The Rose After that, I watched another old favorite, The Name of the Rose. As I haven’t read the novel, I can’t attest to its literary accuracy, but the movie is great! Sean Connery is a Franciscan monk (and ex-Inquisitor) who, with his assistant (a young Christian Slater in one of his first film roles) arrives at a monastery on the eve of an important meeting between the Franciscans and representatives of the pope. He arrives, though, at the beginning of a series of murders which brings out his most Sherlock Holmsian tendencies. A fascinating glimpse into medieval cloistered life, the early art of bookmaking, and a visit to the complicated world of religious heresy and medieval politics, all in a wonderful and convoluted monastery set with intriguing murders and all around. Connery is great here, and right at my favorite era of his career, right between Highlander and The Untouchables.

As one might imagine, Connery trying to get to the bottom of things makes a number of folks rather nervous, and the arrival of F Murray Abraham as a rival from his Inquisitor days only serves to bring things to a head. The Name of the Rose is an intriguing, serious, and yet fun, movie of people who are filled with medieval fears: of the devil, of the evils of cavorting with women, of heretical writings… And a story of murder and the accusation of sin being used as an excuse to cover a desperate fear of losing power.

but stallone? really…

Get Carter Admittedly, I’m about the first to oppose movie re-makes anyway. Also, I do like Michael Caine and am generally fond of British crime movies… So, naturally, when they remade Get Carter 10 years ago starring Stallone in the Caine role, I was, well, not sceptical but, rather, hostile. . Of course, I never did see the remake and, most certainly, Stallone had earlier redeemed 15 years of crap (considering First Blood, or maybe even Nighthawks to be his last good film) with his great performance in the incredible Cop Land, but I don’t get the feeling that the respectability really returned, especially not putting him in the same league as Michael Caine. But, honestly, I had never seen (nor heard of) the Caine Original until the remake came out. So a week or so ago, I sat down to watch Get Carter for the first time and, well… It is not one that I’ll be keeping around.

The story was workable, some of the cinematography was quite good and Caine was good, but the generally weak acting of everyone else and the bad direction made it one for the mediocre book. Caine is a hoodlum whose brother has died and he shows up to find out who did it and seek his revenge. As one might imagine, Caine leaves a trail of naked ladies and corpses in his wake. I know that sounds good, and it takes place in a nice and grim urban backdrop (though the strange coals carts on the sea were my favorite), but the acting isn’t good, the lines are delivered half-hard-heartedly and the choreography (for the fight scenes) is really lame. It really just couldn’t keep my attention very well.

ok, ok, ok…

Until the Light Takes Us So yes, a month and a half of nothing. I know that my readership (by which I mean Myself) finds that very obnoxious. Well, today is the lucky day. I watched two movies tonight and it’s the weekend, so I’ll splurge!

First off was a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for a while and was recently surprised to find available to stream on Netflix: Until the Light Takes Us. I didn’t really know much about it, except for that I thought it was a low-budget doc about the early days of Norwegian Black Metal and, well, that’s just what it is! As someone who is a fan of the Lords of Chaos book, this film was certainly the best document that I’ve seen on those “church burning and death”-filled early days of NBM. The movie is basically just interviews, the majority of which are with Fenriz, though a good deal of Varg is in it too. There is also some lame and weird stuff with Bard. Plus Frost, Hellhammer and those Immortal guys all have some stuff to say.

Frost does some black-metally corpse-painted performance art crap in Italy that was really embarrassing but even worse, while I know that corpse paint out-of-context does seem somewhat silly, I would rather see Abbath and Demonaz in their corpse-paint work-look than see their sunglasses and leather coat wearing, slick-backed hair euro-trash selves (what I like to think of as “the Ulver effect”), which is what we get here. Fenriz of course, looked his cool trve-metal self the whole time.

I’ve always kind of liked Fenriz and it was entertaining to watch his sort of rambling reminiscences and complaints about what happened with Black Metal, it becoming a product and all. Varg (still in prison when this was filmed) comes across as coherent and intent on explaining everything, but he also comes across as an arrogant sociopath. So, while it was worth it to hear his step by step description of his murder of Euronymous, it also makes you doubt his “self-defense” defense.

Most annoyingly is Bard though. I don’t know much about Bard, being primarily familiar with him from reading Lords of Chaos, but here he is presented in shadow with his voice disguised… Maybe he is a mob informer or something… I don’t know, but I couldn’t help but think it was a bit silly, i mean, what? Is Varg going to come calling with his pocket knife again?

I watched it with the wife, and I was pleased that she put up with the whole thing as she is pretty skeptical about me listening to this stuff… Murderers and homophobes, that they may be. But I did defensively admit to her that I don’t really listen to this stuff much anymore… Well, except for Darkthrone, Burzum and Immortal who, um, are all in this movie. So maybe that “I don’t listen to it much anymore defense” doesn’t really work in this case.

X Files Fight The Future Before that though, I watched X-Files: Fight the Future. Over the last 2-3 months I’ve watched the first 5 seasons of X-Files and this movie, coming out after the conclusion of the 5th Season is, in my mind, where the show should have stopped. In case you don’t know, in the 5th season of the show, exactly what the big conspiracy is all about comes to light and we learn a bunch about how it works, then the X-files are shut down. Fight the Future starts out with them being reassigned and working on a domestic terrorism bomb threat. But of course, something is discovered in the aftermath of the bombing that points to a government cover up and off we go! Well, everything about the conspiracy is really brought to light and explained in this one, and even though the ending is set up to lead to a continuance, I really thought that they could easily have just ended the series nicely with this movie.

tricky, tricky…

Frost Nixon Honestly, before this movie I’d never even heard of the Frost/Nixon interview. Frost/Nixon is based on a play (generally a good sign) that was based on an actual interview between Richard Nixon and David Frost in 1977. It is filmed as a retelling of the interview, featuring dialogue similar to that of the actual interview, it is also in the style of a documentary about the interview and the work leading up to it. In both aspects, I found Frost/Nixon to be very compelling. The idea that a frank interview with this “most disgraced” former president actually took place I found to be fascinating in itself, and with the great script and an all around great cast… Frank Langella as Nixon, Michael Sheen as Frost and a great supporting group (most notably Kevin Bacon as Jack Brennan and Matthew Macfadyen as Frost’s producer), made the film quite enthralling.

Old Tricky Dicky is tremendously well played as Langella makes one sense the power and confidence that Nixon (theoretically) exuded and he actually comes across as a somewhat sympathetic character. Scenes they show of the real Nixon (not nearly as handsome as Langella) and reading a bit about the actual background of the interview make it seem that maybe Nixon wasn’t as sympathetic as he is portrayed here… But it does make for a better story.

I imagine that the literary license they take is perfectly reasonable. The details changed, I imagine, were to make the movie flow better and to help focus on the interview itself, which is the real meat of the story… And they seem to stick to the content of the interview pretty fairly accurately.

Skeleton Key And, for some reason that I don’t recall, I watched a movie called The Skeleton Key. As a Hollywood thriller, I wasn’t expecting much from it, but I actually thought it was pretty good. A young lady named Caroline is hired by a family’s young Lawyer, Luke, to care for an aging stroke victim at the old plantation house that he shares with his hostile and distrustful wife. Of course, it becomes obvious to Caroline that there is more going on in there than the lady of the house wants to let on to… A secret room in the attic, lingering relics of an old couple named Mama Cecile and Papa Justify, some Hoodoo and an old record led Caroline to realize that the old man is trying to tell her something and that maybe his condition is actually due to some nasty spell, rather than a stroke. Her attempts to help him and find out what is going on lead her down a dangerous path, and a path that leads to an interesting and unanticipated (by me, at least) twist. All in all, much more interesting and involving movie than I had expected.

the late show…

The Mysterious IslandI always think that, come the weekend, I will make up for the lack of sleep that I get during the week. While my weekday alarm is set for 5:30 AM, I also have an alarm the other way. Our internet shuts off at Midnight, so I usually use that as a sign that it is time for sleep. Sometimes though, on the weekend, it doesn’t shut off at midnight. The last two night, in fact, I was up until after one a.m without losing Internet… Meaning that I actually had to make an unassisted decision to shut down for the evening. Regardless, I was somewhat productive with that time. Friday I continued with my Harryhausen rock block by watching my third consecutive RH movie. One that, in fact, I hadn’t seen before, Mysterious Island. This was was really great! While there weren’t any compelling beings like we would expect after watching Jason and the Argonauts and (somewhat) Million Miles From Earth, the Harryhausen effect was very well used. There were some creatures, but they didn’t really move my: the giant crab, the giant bird, eh so. But all of the scenes of the hot air balloon were very pleasing. Giant Crabs, you say? Hot Air Balloons? What? Well, see we start off in the Civil War outside a confederate military prison camp. When a group of union soldiers (and a scurrilous captive confederate) make their dramatic escape during a huge rainstorm, they do some by commandeering a small hot air balloon. Unfortunately, they are not aware of the particular law of physics that says that if you take a small hot air balloon and fly off into a rainstorm, you can easily float for thousands of miles in a short time and end up on the other side of the world, where you are bound so crash, not in the middle of nowhere, but right off the shore of a strange (nay, mysterious) island. Well, they’ve learned that lesson, as do a couple of ladies whose boat was lost in a storm in the Atlantic and also ended up crashing by the same island half a world away…

From that point on, it’s trying to get by with the giant beasts and pirates buzzing around… Some close calls and a visit from one of Jules Verne’s great characters help to give the film another exciting spark. The movie is actually much better than I had expected. The intimidating volcanic isle scenery was good, the characters were fun, some good action and scenes of the always nice to see the Nautilus, the nicest submarine that’s ever been floated…. My only dissatisfaction was a lack of interest in the animals… Except for, of course, the giant “squid”, which was pretty great.

The Sword and the Sorcerer Last night I switched it up somewhat on my drive to 1 am. I did without the Harryhausen but went with another fantasy standard of my youth: The Sword and the Sorcerer.

Basically a campy piece of mediocrity, but one that is entertaining and that does revel in its campiness. The story of an evil king’s plotting to defeat all of his opponents, and a group of young rebels seeking revenge against his foul deeds. It doesn’t age well, looking like a cheap, early 80’s fantasy movie that no one took too seriously while making. It does have some things going for it: the casket made of animate faces, Xusia (the lichy-thing which rises from that casket), and the female lead, Kathleen Beller… But that’s about it. Though our hero is fairly entertaining even if (or maybe because) he has a hard time wiping that smarmy smirk off his face.

The movie certainly could have been better if made with, say, the attitude that went into the previous years Dragonslayer. Or if it had at least been saddled with high production values (like the previous years Excalibur)… The lame props (especially the three bladed ejector sword) and the bad acting of most of the actors, make it pretty forgettable. Though Richard Lynch (veteran of just about every b-movie/show from the 70’s and 80’s) as the evil king does make for a fine antagonist.

a small kilometer…

20 Millions Miles To Earth Any movie calling itself 20 Million Miles To Earth is bound to attract attention to its use of numbers. While Venus can be about 20 million miles away, I am pretty sure that any flight from Venus to the Earth is going to take quite a bit more than 20 million miles of flight. Okay, maybe I’m being nick-picky, but ever since my confusion over Solo’s Kessel Run comment 33 years back (since explained), numbers in movies have always concerned me.

But I didn’t get much time to dwell on it, as the Earth-side action starts off quick! When a giant rocketship crashes into the sea near a group of “Sicilian” fishermen, we know that something exciting is about to happen. The fishermen decide to row on home after this turns of events, except for one boat who with the fateful words, “What are we? Children or men of the sea?” row out to the ship. The enormous space ship is close enough to be pretty tempting, after all, even with how terribly fake its crash-landing was. Plus, conveniently, there is a big hole in the ship right at water level.

20 Million Miles To Earth

So in our brave men of the sea go. Inside they find two survivors of the crash who are surprisingly not that alien after all. Well, maybe not surprising as, for such a futuristic ship on the exterior, the interior has the definite feel of a ship from the early 20th century.

The key to this story, though, is what they don’t rescue. A canister from the ship winds up on the shore where the little boy Pepe finds it and hides it away. Pepe is making a rather strange decision here, seemingly brought on by his desire for a cowboy hat from the great country of Texas, but maybe he is just odd as he makes another strange number reference by saying “a small kilometer”, but I digress. Of course little Pepe opens this canister, also implying that he hasn’t seen Return of the Living Dead (making him an odd one many times over) and sells off the gelled glob he find inside to a local traveling zoologist.

20 Million Miles To Earth

What we end up with is a real life creature from Venus! One that is is growing at a phenomenal rate due to Earth’s atmosphere, and, of course, he gets away and then begins the chase!

20 Million Miles To Earth

While this is a Harryhausen classic, the accent here is on Harryhausen, rather than classic. The monster is all right, and the scene where he gives humanity a turn with his art is funny, there just isn’t as much exciting eye candy as in his later features. The high point is that the star of the movie was William Hopper, who I associate so strongly with his Paul Drake role that anytime I see him in anything else it seems noteworthy.

While in a movie like this the lack of scene continuity is a given, I still think that they should have paid a little more attention to the details. For instance, when in discovering that the ship has crash landed, a General points to the Mediterranean and says “20,000 leagues under the sea”. What are we supposed to be thinking he is trying to say? Does he think that the ship landed in the sea, careened through the earth and popped out the other side? Does he have no grasp of what a league is (unlikely for a general, I would hope)? Is he trying to make of show of levity in the face of gravity by implying that they are going to be sailing around the earth under the sea? Does he just like the phrase? Should I just relax?

it’s a brooch pin…

Jason and the ArgonautsOne of the two great fantasy classics of my youthful TV viewing days (along with The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad) Jason and the Argonauts is one of Harryhausen’s great masterpieces. Featuring some of Harryhausen’s classic stop-motion monsters, along with a mob of gods and some great adventuring on the high seas. Jason and the Argonauts is the story of a group of heroes (including Jason and the troublesome and bear skin clad Heracles) who set off in search of the Golden Fleece. This all happens against the background of Zeus’ game playing. As, when many years before, Zeus gives favor to a king by allowing him to conquer a rival, he also tells him that one of those rivals’ three children will one day unseat him. Jason happens to be the son of that defeated king, and one of his crew members happens to be that the deposer’s son, hoping to prevent Jason from completing his quest. Personally, I would assume that if Zeus told me that was the deal, then I would assume that he would be right. But this fellow (stupid mortal) decides that he can defeat Zeus’ set-up.

Jason and the Argonauts

While it may seem like another grand human adventure, it is, like all other endeavors, just a game for the gods, to help them pass the time. In this case, a chess game between that good cop/bad cop team of Hera (the always delightful Honor Blackman, only a year away from becoming infamous as Pussy Galore) and Zeus.

Jason and the Argonauts

Their voyage to find the golden fleece is fraught with dangers, but also with some convenient assistance from Hera who accompanies them in the forms of the masthead of the ship. She sends them to an island for supplies with the warning not to take anything but food and when Heracles and his pal Hylas stumble upon the treasure chamber below the great bronze form of the islands protector, Talos, Heracles just can’t help but steal a giant golden brooch pin to use as a javelin. Of course Talos, following the creed of neither a borrower nor a lender be, cranes his creaky neck their way and sets off in a vengeful pursuit.

Jason and the Argonauts

I watched this part of the movie with my daughter who insisted on watching the scenes of Talos moving around over and over again… With frequent pausing when she got scared. I think we watched them about 5 times. But I don’t blame her as this is the first great Harryhausen monster sequence in the film, and one of the best and longest. Plus, Talos is just a bad dude and, hey, those snivelly little people did steal his brooch pin!

Jason and the Argonauts

This movie is great. The effects are great. Even with it being nearly 50 years old, the great stop-motion effects don’t slow down the appreciation or the “buy-in” of the movie. The splashing effects, on the other hand, kind of killed my buy-in because when the Argo is dropped into the sea by Talos and when they are traveling through the treacherous straight, the water drops from the splashes make it all too obvious that the things falling in the water were really quite small. But they gain an enormous amount of credit in my book for traveling through most of the movie in an actual ship in actual water. That is pretty cool. And, of course, the monsters… Talos, The Hydra and the teeth of the hydra (Harryhausen’s famous skeletons).

because hollywood told us it’s so much fun…

Dead SnowSure, zombies are bad. But like everything, some kinds are worse than others. Of course, there are many different philosophies on this subject as to which varieties of zombie are the most troublesome: mummies, fast zombies, slow zombies, non-zombies (the not dead kind of “zombie”), smart zombies, dumb zombies… But I happen to think that fast zombies are the worst. Though coupled with minds, you have the rare and dreaded speedy thinker zombies. Could your zombies get any worse?

How about speedy and thinky Nazi zombies? Well, when this ill-fated group of 8 friends heads to the proverbial isolated cabin in the wilderness for a holiday, that is exactly what they find… That and a box of gold treasure and a condescending local fellow full of warnings. Of course, why bother heeding the warnings of the locals when good times are at hand?

Dead Snow

With all of this, you have the makings for this greatly fun Norwegian Zombie movie, Dead Snow. Somewhat of a zomedy, but not really a full-on comedy, just a humorous and gorey movie that is well worth watching. While the zombies aren’t all that good, there is certainly a lot of bloody gore. Plus a machine gun, a hand grenade, zombie fistacuffs, sex in an outhouse, and lots of tough dead nazi’s.

Dead Snow

As is common with these, while it starts out feeling like a “scary” horror movie, after a point it just turns into a gore/action film, but one that can be tense enough to keep your attention… The snowy environment is a nice one for the subject matter, though the soundtrack can be a bit horrible and out of place. I thought that this movie was a lot of fun, one of the better examples of what you can find for horror movies in the watch instantly section at Netflix.

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