Archive for the ‘Boobs’ Category

Raw Force (1982)

 

On the Norwegian Wikipedia page for the 1982 exploitation epic RAW FORCE — probably the only time I’ll ever start a sentence that way — we are informed that the movie was banned in Norway in 1984. That’s the most attention any kind of majority, political or otherwise, has paid this movie. RAW FORCE is made for almost no one, because it is apparently made for almost everyone. Nearly every convention or trope of genre movies from the first seventy or so years of the existence of film is expended in this one rickety heap of madness.

 

THIS IS THE RAW FORCE.

 

As I tried to describe on our latest podcast focusing on RAW FORCEdescribing this movie is like fighting a giant squid. Just when you’ve bested one wavy storytelling strand, another one snaps up and grabs you by the throat.

 

Here’s the trailer, which is maybe the most dishonest trailer I’ve ever seen:

 

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That trailer literally sells a different movie. The clips are the same, but some of the character names and all of their backstories are totally different. The editors somehow cobbled together a cohesive story from several scenes that have no connection. This is the SHOGUN ASSASSIN of movie trailers. RAW FORCE is plenty of kinds of fun, but one adjective that does not apply is “cohesive.” This is the summary I gave on the podcast:

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NOT THAT EDWARD MURPHY

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First, a quote from Anton Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Okay. So early on in RAW FORCE, when a plane lands on a remote island and a character mentions that the waters surrounding the island are infested with vicious piranha, you can bet you will see those fish by the end of the movie. And if that character is a white-suited human trafficker who looks and talks exactly like Adolf Hitler, you may fairly assume he’ll be the one to meet them.

 

EVERYBODY HATES HITLER

 

Otherwise, RAW FORCE, also known as KUNG FU CANNIBALS, completely ignores the principle of Chekhov’s gun. This movie operates under its own rules, and also it doesn’t have any rules. If you somehow managed to drink up all the movies and television shows of the 1970s and then you barfed them back up, the mess on the bathroom floor might look like this.

 

RIGHT IN THE TUMMY-BALLS

 

Saloon fights, graveyard fights, bazooka fights, hippies in warpaint, gratuitously naked ladies, karate-chopping hobbit bartenders, giggling monks who dine on human women, ninja zombies, a BOOGIE NIGHTS style group of protagonists calling themselves the Burbank Karate Club, an ornery sea captain, a kung fu chef, an extended riff on ‘Gilligan’s Island’, and the aforementioned worst person in human history: All this and more in RAW FORCE.

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This was a fun episode even though I was delirious and feverish and congested and loopy. As always my co-hosts Joe and Freeman were terrific, engaging, and informative. You can subscribe and download the show on iTunes (please comment with feedback!) or you can

CLICK HERE!

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Here are our previous episodes, in case you’d like to catch up. We’re recording a new episode this week! Stay tuned.

STREET WARS (1992)

STREET WARS (1992)

Vigilante Force

VIGILANTE FORCE (1976)

GHOSTHOUSE (1988)

GHOSTHOUSE (1988)

THRILLER: THEY CALL HER ONE EYE (1973)

THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE (1973)

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@jonnyabomb

 

BYE I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU

 

 

RAW FORCE

 

LADIES

 

 

My Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2013.

Posted: December 28, 2013 in Boobs, Music

I wrote my ass off in 2013, which means I listened to a lot of music.  I also covered a lot of city miles, walking with the earbuds in, which means the same thing.  Now I’m not really in my element when it comes to writing about music:  To me it’s like describing emotions.  It’s not like movies with me, where I can talk about how much I love them while still speaking analytically, like a student, and also riffing off them like a bad comic.  Music is a singular experience for me; it’s straight to the heart, where movies hit my heart and my brain equally.

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I’m making this list of my favorite albums of 2013 — in no real order — in case anyone who feels simpatico with my taste in movies might find a recommendation here they haven’t checked out yet.  I made it albums over songs to keep it manageable.  If I made a list of favorite songs, it’d be pages long.  Hit me up in the comments; I’ll make you a mixtape.  But if I had to name my single favorite song of 2013, it would probably remain this one.

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Some of the albums I bought this year include Atoms For Peace, Beyoncé, Burial, Daft Punk, Fitz & The Tantrums, Flume, Iggy & The Stooges, Joseph Arthur, Kavinsky, The National, Neko Case, Nine Inch Nails, RJD2, Run The Jewels, and Talib Kweli.  I also got that Jimi Hendrix album of unreleased songs.  I don’t think that can count, although I’m not sure there are any rules here. Anyway, here we go.

Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe is the closest thing we have right now to Prince, and I say that even though we still have the actual Prince.  There’s not another artist I can think of making such buoyant, eccentric, genre-hopping music.  As a live performer, she’s pure positive energy in human form.  I like how her artistic through-line is the movie METROPOLIS.  Mine is MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED.  Which is maybe why it’s good thing I don’t make albums and she does.   The song above is called “Primetime.”

Mark Lanegan: Imitations

Mark Lanegan: Imitations

Mark Lanegan fronted an alternative band in the 1990s and has in recent years become a go-to featured player for a variety of artists who are looking for his distinctive gravelly growl.  Lanegan writes and sings like a man who has stared into the dark heart of midnight.  It’s sometimes chilling and often profound to hear the cold rasp of his instrument.  I like his originals, but this is an album of covers, pf songs made famous by folks like Vern Gosdin, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and Nick Cave (more on him in a second.)  As usual, Lanegan’s approach to music very specifically captures both the fragility and the strength in heartache.   The song above is “I’m Not The Loving Kind.” It’s a John Cale cover.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push The Sky Away

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push The Sky Away

Even by the standards set by the inimitable Nick Cave, this album is spooky, ominous, and frigid.  His records often sound like dispatches from the edges of the world.  This one sounds like a looming apocalypse.  As ever, there are many moments of funereal swagger and jet-black humor, but by the time he gets around to mentioning Miley Cyrus floating in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake, without mentioning the specifics of her vital signs, it’s hard to escape the sense that Cave is reminding us how we’re all ultimately doomed as a species.  The song is “Higgs Boson Blues.”

Jean Grae: Gotham Down

Jean Grae: Gotham Down

Jean Grae is one of the most innovative, confident and nimble lyricists in hip-hop, an absolute thrill on every single verse she turns out.  In earliest 2013, she released Dust Ruffle, a collection of previously unreleased tracks, and didn’t slow down from there.  Gotham Down is an ambitious three-album cycle, released independently and telling a continuous story about a futuristic assassin.   You can get the whole thing here.   The song above is “Kill Screen.”

Ghost B.C.: Infestissumam

Ghost B.C.: Infestissumam

In 2013, the new Pope was named Time’s Person Of The Year.  In a possibly unrelated story, the lead singer of Swedish metal band Ghost B.C. calls himself Papa Emeritus.  While the rest of the band are hooded figures known as Nameless Ghouls, Papa Emeritus wears papal robes and a cardinal’s hat over his face, which is painted black and white like a skull.  The theatrics wouldn’t mean much if the music wasn’t awesome.  Surprisingly, this isn’t the heaviest metal you’ve ever heard.  To me, they sound more like Blue Öyster Cult than anything else.  That’s a lot funnier than if they were to sound like Slayer.  The costumes add to the showmanship but the tunes are solid apart from the visuals.  The song is “Secular Haze.”

Ghostface Killah Twelve Reasons To Die

Ghostface Killah: Twelve Reasons To Die

Another year, another Ghostface album on my list of favorites.  Probably the most consistent artist in all of hip-hop, Ghostface is a killer storyteller and this album as a whole is more of a story than most.  It tells the story of Ghostface’s character, a mob enforcer for the DeLuca family in 1960s Italy.  He falls in love with the capo’s daughter and gets gunned down, only to take his revenge.  What?  Is there a problem?  The melodies may sound like vintage soul samples, but they were produced by Adrian Younge, a composer who did the score to BLACK DYNAMITE, among other amazing things.   The story continues in an accompanying comic book series; hopefully another collaboration is upcoming soon.  The song is “Enemies All Around Me.”

Kanye West Yeezus

Kanye West: Yeezus

I love Kanye.  If Kanye himself can’t stop me from loving Kanye, then surely none of y’all can.  People dog Kanye for his public persona, his arrogance, but I don’t know… Is he wrong?  As long as his music is this creative, I don’t care how he talks in interviews.  I listen to the albums.  I’ve been listening to his stuff since he was a producer only; I bought his first album the day it came out, as I’ve done ever since.  A lot of people I know have trouble with Kanye because they had a vision of what they wanted him to be; a conscious rapper, in the mode of Black Star, or Common, or some of the other artists he worked with as a producer.  I admit I may have expected that too at first, but Kanye had a singular path in mind.  He’s certainly a provocateur, which rubs more superficial minds the wrong way, but I kinda think we need to be provoked, in an era of TV singing competitions and bubble-headed pop singers.  I don’t agree with everything Kanye is about, but I don’t have to.  His ambition is to art, and art rarely brings consensus.  You get to decide for yourself how you feel about it.   Currently, Kanye’s art seems to be addressing the topic of fame.  Is it a coincidence that Kanye hooked up with the Kardashians and made his angriest album yet?  I kinda don’t think so.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.  You may not agree.  But you probably won’t be bored.

The song, as you most likely know already, is “Bound 2.”

Blue Sky Black Death Glaciers

Blue Sky Black Death: Glaciers

This is an intriguing case, a two-man team of producers who create music for hip-hop artists which is equally listenable as instrumental music.  They’ve worked with the aforementioned Jean Grae, as well as less famous rappers like Nacho Picasso and Deniro Farrar, and more famous rappers like Cam’Ron.  The Blue Sky Black Death sound is epic and colorful, and will no doubt score one hell of a movie scene one day, but it equally fits the heightened drama of hip-hop.  Glaciers is an instrumental album, one which makes Blue Sky Black Death the first hip-hop producers to evoke Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, or Vangelis.  This is the first hip-hop-based music I can name which sounds equally good working out or zoning out.  The song is “IV.”

Xander Harris The New Dark Age of Love

Xander Harris: The New Dark Age Of Love

My favorite discovery of the year, Xander Harris is as prolific as Blue Sky Black Death, which means there was a lot of music to dig up and enjoy all year.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans may recognize that name.  It indicates the intention.  This is an artist more influenced by Lovecraft and Carpenter than Dylan or Lennon, an electro-spin on spooky orchestration.  Check out Black Moon, the three-song EP Xander Harris put out at Halloween time.  And The New Dark Age Of Love is a spectral masterpiece.  If you’re like me and you like to listen to Goblin soundtracks from July to December, Xander Harris is the motherlode.  I’ve been inspired to come up with three or four movie ideas while listening to this music, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from an artist.  The song is “When Prophecy Fails.”

Demon Queen The Exorcise Tape

Demon Queen: The Exorcise Tape

Not really sure how to explain this one.  It’s a weirdo.  I don’t even remember how this album came to me.  I only know that I like its style.  Two beings, presumably humans, made it, and their names are Tobacco, from the band Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Zackey Force Funk.  I got that from Google, dude.  I don’t know what to do with the information, except to direct adventurous listeners to this album.  As the name implies, it sounds like angry aerobics for ghosts and goblins, or a porno score to a 1980s skin flick starring skeletons and zombies.  It’s louche-sounding electro-lounge music, really difficult to pigeonhole (which now sounds like a perverted term by proximity).  I like movies to show me things I’ve never seen before, and I like music to give me sounds I’ve never heard before.  This surely fits that bill.   The song is “Love Hour Zero.”  In the video, a disembodied boob goes on an adventure.

So that’s it.  Here’s to a musical 2014!

@jonnyabomb

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976)

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976).

You may have noticed that I’ve talked about MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED a lot.  I wrote about it only once, for my friend’s spotlight on Underrated Comedies.  As I wrote then, this isn’t only an underrated comedy in my eyes.  In my opinion, this may just be the most underrated American film of all time.  Am I exaggerating?  Read on, amigos.

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED was written by Tom Mankiewicz, who worked on SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, DRAGNET, and three James Bond movies.  It was directed by Peter Yates, best known for classic tough-guy movies such as BULLITT and THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.  One of the producers on MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED is Joseph Barbera — that’s right — one half of the insanely prolific Hanna-Barbera cartoon team.

All of the above credits may begin to hint at the unique atmosphere of MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED — I could call it “cartoonish realism” if I thought the term might ever take off.  The story concerns an independent ambulance company competing against rival services in addition to the proper channels. They’re barely-legal L.A. outlaws, riding into life or death situations. Most of them do it for the kicks.

The veteran driver is nicknamed “Mother” and that’s the only name he’s known by. He’s a man of simple pleasures: He likes getting massages from pretty ladies, keeping a fully-stocked cooler in the rig, and “buzzing” gaggles of nuns with his siren as they’re crossing the street.

That’s Bill Cosby.

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The new guy is Tony Malatesta, a former police detective nicknamed “Speed” due to the bogus drug allegations that recently got him shitcanned from the LAPD.

That’s Harvey Keitel.

And the knockout receptionist with larger ambitions is nicknamed “Jugs” (which she hates, by the way.)

That’s Raquel Welch.

Those are three very different stars, which means that the movie is a collection of very different tones. This movie brims with raucous comedy and sober tragedy, on a scene-to-scene basis.  Somehow it all hangs together cohesively – credit to the sure hand of Peter Yates.  But even with that said, it’s probably still not what you’re expecting.  Cosby’s got a potty-mouth, for one thing!  Your Cosby Show memories will be forever changed once you hear him say “Bambi’s mom had great tits.”  But even as he’s doing that, he’s rocking some real pathos too.  His performance here is way more HICKEY & BOGGS (see that too, please) than GHOST DAD or LEONARD PART SIX.  There’s a real depth to his acting that could be frankly shocking even to longtime fans of his comedy.

Meanwhile, Keitel was best known at the time  for his work with Scorsese – he appeared in TAXI DRIVER the same year – but even though he’s cast as the straight man here, he’s totally down to play. And Raquel Welch, a sexual revolution in human form, is easily their equal and frequently their better. It’s one of her best-ever roles.

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Add to that a supporting cast that includes L.Q. Jones, Bruce Davison, Dick Butkus, Larry Hagman in brilliantly gross & bastardy form, and the sorely-underappreciated character-actor great Allen Garfield (THE STUNT MAN) as the low-rent boss of the gang, and you have one of the most fun movies of the 1970s, and arguably one of the most unheralded.  Name another great movie from that year – ROCKY, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, NETWORK – and then ask me if I’d rather watch MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED.  Apologies to Stallone, Hoffman, Redford, and Duvall, but I think you already know my answer.

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And check out this fun photo-article on the film’s shooting locations.

I can’t stand repetition.  I certainly don’t like to repeat myself.  But I put a lot of work into my thoughts on THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, and I know that some people who follow me on Demon’s Resume might like to have alerts on when I write elsewhere, so I wanted y’all to know about my piece for Daily Grindhouse.  I tried hard to make it worth your time!

Click here to read about >>> THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS <<< !!!

And all challenges may be directed to me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

And now here are pictures of Jamie Chung:

DEAD & BURIED strikes me as a film underrated even by the crowds who usually stand up for films that are underrated. DEAD & BURIED was directed by Gary Sherman (RAW MEAT, VICE SQUADPOLTERGEIST 3) and written by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett (ALIEN, TOTAL RECALL).  These aren’t household names by any stretch, but neither are the guys who built the George Washington Bridge, and tens of thousands of people drive over that every single day, get me?

Jason Zinoman’s 2011 book Shock Value does a heroic job of making the case for O’Bannon’s place in the pantheon of important horror filmmakers of the 1970s and 1980s.  However, if Zinoman’s terrifically readable book has an obvious flaw it’s that it’s far too short for such a rich subject.  When I went back to the book to see what it had to say about DEAD & BURIED, there was literally nothing there.  This is a project O’Bannon and Shusett wrote before ALIEN, and got to make (with Shusett producing) once ALIEN conquered the world.  It features early effects work by the legendary Stan Winston (PREDATOR).  It’s a movie worth considering, for its historical import alone.

O’Bannon and Shusett wrote ALIEN and adapted TOTAL RECALL.  O’Bannon, a classmate of John Carpenter at USC, made DARK STAR with the director who would soon take off with ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and HALLOWEEN. And O’Bannon wrote and directed RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, the movie that introduced talking zombies with a taste for brains to punk music.  Dan O’Bannon is as valuable to the sci-fi and horror genres as just about any more famous hyphenate worshipped by genre film fanatics.  Ronald Shusett has obviously earned his bones as well.

DEAD & BURIED was originally a short story and script by Jeff Millar and Alex Stern, which O’Bannon and Shusett rewrote and then gave to Gary Sherman to direct.  Sherman’s previous film, RAW MEAT aka DEATH LINE (which I will cover at greater length in a future column), is what got him the director job on DEAD & BURIED.  The story needed a director who would go all the way in, and it got one.

DEAD & BURIED opens on an overcast beach in Maine (actually Northern California), where a photographer has stopped to shoot some local scenery. He’s approached by a striking young woman (Lisa Blount), they flirt, and she starts posing for cheesecake snapshots.  She spontaneously opens her blouse, and just when the poor guy thinks his day is made, a mob of locals appears, seizing his camera away and snapping disorienting flash photos as they beat and kick him mercilessly.  They wrap him around a wooden pole with a fishing net, splash gasoline on him, and burn him alive.

It’s a mightily unsettling scene, even to modern eyes (like mine) who have seen three decades of horror hence.  The romantic music, the sudden boobage, and the jarring transition to such savage violence make one powerfully disturbing cocktail.  And the scene isn’t even done with us yet:  The local sheriff, Dan Gillis (James Farentino), and the town mortician (Jack Albertson) arrive on the scene to examine the burnt and deformed body of the photographer.  They kneel in close, looking for the cause of death, and the skeletal figure SCREAMS.  It’s an ingenious and upsetting scare, the likes of which we’ve seen several times since, in films as great as David Fincher’s SE7EN, but DEAD & BURIED has that film beat by a decade and a half!

DEAD & BURIED is full of unnerving moments like that one.  It’s a movie that was actually pared down in many markets due to its gruesome violence.  The scene that was cut, surprisingly, wasn’t the one I just described, but instead a rather infamous act of cruelty that befalls that poor photographer a little later in the film, as he lies helpless in the hospital.

This is only the beginning, by the way.  Sheriff Gillis is called to a new crime scene every morning after that first one on the beach.  The spookiness really kicks in when those murder victims start reappearing in town.  Don’t go picturing zombies — these folks are as unharmed and as generally pleasant as they had been before an angry mob bashed their heads in and set them on fire.  The practiced horror viewer will likely figure out the mystery before the sheriff does, but it’s the journey, not the destination, that makes DEAD & BURIED so indelible.

The story crafted by O’Bannon and Shusett parcels out surprises cleverly, in a way that can be surprising even three decades later.  Director Gary Sherman and his crew make the most out of their locations, making the town of Potter’s Bluff feel like a tangible environment.  The music by Joe Renzetti contributes mightily to the creepy atmosphere.  The ensemble cast, including a young Robert Englund (pre- NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), is never less than fully invested.  But no discussion of DEAD & BURIED would be complete without mention of its two lead performances.

When I found out that James Farentino (who died in January of this year) was a native New Yorker, I wasn’t surprised: He has a direct, grounded presence that we as the audience depend on to keep us steadily moving through a story that becomes increasingly, horrifyingly unhinged.  He’s a low-key Everyman in the early goings, a regular guy whose very sanity is tested by the town’s journey into darkness.

But if we could retroactively award Oscars to unheralded performances of our choosing, I might have to commandeer the time machine to ensure that Jack Albertson would get his due.  If you’re like me, you either know Jack Albertson as Manny Rosen in 1972’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, or more likely as Grandpa Joe in 1971’s WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.  Especially if you’ve seen either of those roles, in which he played the definition of the kindly old Jewish grandfather, Jack Albertson’s portrayal of the morbidly sardonic coroner Dobbs will be a revelation.  He’s there to help in the investigation, but he irritates the sheriff as much as he entertains him (such as the comical moment when Gillis arrives at the morgue and Dobbs loudly mentions where his young assistant stashes his weed.)  This was one of Jack Albertson’s final roles, and according to the director’s commentary on the wonderful Blue Underground DVD, he knew he was dying while filming the movie.  So Jack Albertson, a vaudeville performer from way back, clearly relished the black humor and irony in the role, and played it up to the hilt.  Dobbs isn’t just an eccentric with a nostalgic affection for big-band music — there are many more shades to the character, and Jack Albertson’s nimble performance alone is more than reason enough to take another look at DEAD & BURIED.

In addition, I think we can all agree that Jack Albertson has the greatest IMDb profile picture of all time:

 

DEAD & BURIED is playing tonight in Los Angeles as part of Cinefamily’s Video Nasties series.

Follow me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

This happened on October 15th, 2009.  There’s still no joy in it for me.

Trick ‘R Treat is a movie that has developed a large internet and word-of-mouth following among a certain kind of film fan, the kind that loves to find a little-known movie worthy of attention in order to champion its merits to the world.  Trick ‘R Treat was originally slated for a 2007 release and was never released widely; it finally made it to DVD last week.  Having heard scattered but rapturous praise in advance, and always on the lookout for an original horror film that could use a defender, I made watching it a priority.

The verdict:  Disappointing.

It’s not good.  It’s not.  In fact, a half an hour into the movie I realized that it was actually bad, and it wasn’t going to stop being that way.  And sure enough, it didn’t.  It’s twice as disappointing because I know that there are plenty of smart people that love this movie, and good for them, but they’re not right on this one.  There’s some nice cinematography in Trick ‘R Treat, and some occasionally inspired imagery, but a new and original Halloween classic?  No.  Really, it isn’t.  Not hardly.

Trick ‘R Treat is an anthology horror movie, meant in the spirit of Creepshow (George A. Romero & Stephen King) or Twilight Zone: The Movie (John Landis & Joe Dante & Steven Spielberg & George Miller), and the five individual stories are meant to overlap seamlessly in the spirit of Pulp Fiction.  (Stepping into big shoes can make it real easy to trip up…)  The five stories – or four with an introductory sequence – all take place on the same Halloween night, and all are haunted by a scarecrow-mask-wearing trick-or-treater in orange pajamas, kind of a silent Crypt-Keeper figure.   That character is by far the most memorable thing about the movie, and he features into the final and most straightforward story, the only one that is ultimately worth watching in the least.

Here’s the lead-off problem:  Trick ‘R Treat is operating on the premise that Halloween has a series of traditions, and that bad things can happen if you violate those traditions.  The movie mistakenly assumes that every viewer is acquainted with the traditions featured in each story.  It certainly does not lay out the traditions clearly at the outset, and even after watching all of the stories, I wasn’t clear what principle they were referring to.

Let’s look at each segment in these general terms:

The prologue features a young couple returning from a Halloween parade.  The young woman (Talladega Nights’ Leslie Bibb) snuffs out all the jack-o’-lantern candles in the yard, against her boyfriend’s warning.  In an extended “homage” to the opening sequence of John Carpenter’s Halloween, she is stalked and killed.  The tradition broken here:  Don’t take down the Halloween decorations until the night is over?  Okay, this one I get, although it hardly seems like the punishment fits the crime.  (After all, how else can she make room for the Christmas lights?)

The first full story features a school principal (Spider-Man’s Dylan Baker), a single parent with a young son, who confronts a sloppy brute of a child (Bad Santa’s Brett Kelly) who has been smashing pumpkins and stealing candy.  The principal calmly poisons the kid, then spends the rest of the episode trying to nervously hide the body from the neighbors and his son.  The tradition broken here is:  Always check your candy.  That one I get, because it’s the only time in the movie that a tradition is clearly stated.  The crippling problem with this story is character-based:  Why does this guy kill a kid on his front steps, totally out in the open, and then all of the sudden get shy about it?

In the second story, a group of adolescents plays a scary prank on an autistic girl, but in doing so, they invoke an old supernatural menace.  Tradition broken:  Don’t play pranks lest they happen for real? I’m not sure.  This was a pretty convoluted segment, with plenty of character and plot inconsistencies.  My more empathetic tendencies also lead me to take issue with the concept of the mentally-challenged undead.  If you are the type of person who is excited by the prospect of retarded zombies, go ahead with it I guess.

In the next story, a virginal college student (True Blood’s Anna Paquin) is stalked by a cloaked, fanged man, but she and her mega-hot friends turn the tables on him.  Tradition broken:  Don’t take anyone’s Halloween costume too literally?  I really can’t say.  This segment is an utter mess, and it pains me to say it because it culminates in the appearance of my favorite movie monster.  But the story makes no sense, it is confusingly intercut with the previous stories, it features the abrupt and not-well-explained reintroduction of a character from an earlier story, and it features the worst acting of the entire film.  You can distract me with amazing cleavage, but only temporarily.

In the last story, a wheezing old bastard (awesomeness’s Brian Cox) is besieged by that scarecrow kid who’s been appearing throughout the movie.  Tradition broken: Be kind to trick-or-treaters lest they be unkind to you. I guess.  This isn’t fully clear, but it almost doesn’t matter this time around.  I called this one the best segment earlier because it has the most interesting filmmaking – it has the movie’s best actor playing against a legitimately decent monster design, and it’s just an extended chase sequence that doesn’t waste time on poor dialogue or cute twists.  The pumpkinbaby’s motivations are still mighty unclear, but at least I wrung some entertainment out of the movie’s final moments.

The one thing that fans of Trick ‘R Treat and I can agree on is the mystery behind its delayed and unceremonious release.  Not that I believe that this movie is good enough for anyone but the most optimistic and desperate horror fans, because it’s not; but because I literally see a worse movie than this dumped into theaters every single week.  Trick ‘R Treat doesn’t hang together right, but it’s less ugly and sadistic than the Saw movies, more energetic than (for example) Surrogates, and more ambitious than just about any Sandra Bullock movie.  Trick ‘R Treat fails, but at least it tried.  It’s sad that I consider that praise, but I’d rather give a chance to a movie that wants to be original than a movie that is cynical and lazy.

But yeah, probably skip this one anyway.

Am I wrong?  All I know for sure is that I’m on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

LAWLESS is a couple weeks old now, but it’s still way worth talking about.  It’s not to be confused with FLAWLESS, the Philip-Seymour-Hoffman-in-a-dress movie, nor is it to be confused with the upcoming DREDD movie, which as we all know is guaranteed to have a surplus of law.

Here’s what I said about LAWLESS before I saw it

WETTEST COUNTY was on my list of 50 most eagerly-awaited movies of the year.   But it’s not called that anymore, though.  Now it goes by the handle LAWLESS, a much more generic title which sounds a little cooler after knowing it was generously bestowed upon the movie by none other than Terrence Malick.  Whatever it’s called, it’s a John Hillcoat movie, which after THE PROPOSITION and The ROAD, promises good things.  I’m definitely getting a less-artsy, more-mainstream PUBLIC ENEMIES vibe from the new trailer, but that doesn’t strike me personally as a deterrent.

Check out the trailer, it made LAWLESS travel that much higher on my want-to-see-now meter:

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Now, to read what I had to say about LAWLESS after seeing it (spoiler warning: it’s a lot of very nice things), you’ll have to click over to Daily Grindhouse:

>>>LAWLESS!!!<<<

And make damn sure you check out that soundtrack:

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If you get deep enough into film-fanatic circles, you will find us split into two camps:  The classier kind, who know director Noel Black for his 1968 potboiler PRETTY POISON, with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins, and those of us who only know him for his 1983 teen sex comedy PRIVATE SCHOOL, starring Phoebe Cates (GREMLINS 2), Matthew Modine (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES), and Betsy Russell (AVENGING ANGEL).

Aw,  Betsy Russell.

As the “bad girl” who tries to lure Matthew Modine away from “good girl”  Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell made the kind of indelible impression on legions of pre-pubescent moviegoers and VHS hounds that only a handful of voluptuous redheads have ever made in all of cinema history.  To men of a certain generation, Betsy Russell is our Rita Hayworth and her topless horseback ride in PRIVATE SCHOOL is her GILDA moment.  She may not be a household name, but Betsy Russell solidified a generation’s sexual orientations.

Doubtless she also sparked a number of film editing careers, since many budding filmmakers’ first experience cutting footage was our desperate attempts to edit Matthew Modine and that guy who played “Bubba” (Michael Zorek, a kind of failed Seth Rogen prototype) out of the many scenes where an energetic and enthusiastic Betsy Russell appears in varying degrees of undress.  I’ll tell you how much Betsy Russell meant to my budding libido when I first saw it – I could barely be bothered to notice Phoebe Cates in the same movie.  Phoebe Cates!  The Jessica Alba of the 1980s!  There’s maybe no higher compliment.

Now, the rest of PRIVATE SCHOOL is substandard PORKY’S (which itself is fairly substandard ANIMAL HOUSE).  It’s a teen sex comedy so resolutely horny that the sex-ed teacher is played by Sylvia Kristel from the then-notorious French exploitation film EMMANUELLE.  I don’t always recommend Wikipedia entries, but the PRIVATE SCHOOL Wikipedia page is pretty funny, since it boils down the movie strictly to its plot elements and really underlines how stupid most teen sex comedies of the 1980s were.  PRIVATE SCHOOL has a couple actors who went on to bigger things, and a couple who didn’t (life’s not fair, maybe), and it actually has a fairly decent soundtrack (including Harry Nilsson, The Stray Cats, Vanity 6, and… um… Phoebe Cates), and a couple of the gags are genuinely funny, but no one will make the argument that this is some underrated gem.

PRIVATE SCHOOL is clumsy, episodic, generally poorly-acted, and its prevailing attitude towards sex and pretty young girls is strictly of the leering variety, but since it’s the shuttle delivering an atomic red-headed curvaceous payload, it’s difficult not to feel just a little grateful to the movie.  It did, after all, contribute to making some of us the men we are today.  For better or otherwise.

PRIVATE SCHOOL played tonight at 92Y Tribeca in Manhattan, as part of their very fun “Back To School” film series. 

Watch me regret this one in the morning on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

The film that launched a million Rodney Dangerfield impersonations, BACK TO SCHOOL is something of a rare thing:  An aptly-rated movie.  I talk all the time about underrated movies, and have occasionally even talked about overrated movies (I prefer to err on the side of being overly positive), but it’s not as often that a movie’s public estimation and its actual value are approximately in balance.  In the realm of comedies of a certain vintage which are worshipped by guys and gals of my generation, BACK TO SCHOOL is beloved, but not as much as CADDYSHACK, which in turn is not quite as beloved as, say, ANIMAL HOUSE or GHOSTBUSTERS.  (This is all very unscientific, by the way.)

BACK TO SCHOOL is very effective in its most important and noble aim, which is to give us all what we wanted after CADDYSHACK:  More Rodney Dangerfield.  In BACK TO SCHOOL, Rodney is essentially playing the same character he played in CADDYSHACK, the blue-collar, nouveau-riche millionaire without a care.  This time around, the Rodney Dangerfield character goes by the name Thornton Mellon, but who are we kidding?  It’s Rodney.  The minimal plot involves Rodney Dangerfield going back to college.  That’s it.  That’s what you need to know.  Along the way, he hits on one of his professors (Sally Kellerman) and brings along his bodyguard/chaffeur (Burt Young, a year after Rocky gave him a robot).

The most interesting, and at the same time, problematic, element of BACK TO SCHOOL is the fact that Thornton Melon has a college-age son, Jason.  It’s interesting because the tension between the devil-may-care father and the serious son gives the movie the only real conflict it has — outside of a typically punch-worthy, dickhead-bully performance from the ever-reliable 1980s enemy, Billy Zabka — but it’s problematic because the kid is a total wet-blanket.  It’s not really the fault of the actor, Keith Gordon, who has been more likable in other movies (he was the lead in Carpenter’s CHRISTINE!).

I think it’s a conceptual issue.  Look, IMDb credits eight different people with the story, one of them being Harold Ramis, one of my creative heroes.  I’m not saying I know more than eight people, particularly not Harold Ramis (I don’t), but I do know, as someone who grew up watching this movie over and over, that I don’t quite love it as much as I do some of the other movies I grew up watching over and over.  I think the reason is because, basically, we watch these movies so we can watch our favorite comedians behave badly.  We like watching Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy pissing off the dickheads and flirting with the ladies.  We want to see Rodney Dangerfield throwing wild jacuzzi parties with bikini models in his dorm room.  Imagine if John Belushi was rampaging through ANIMAL HOUSE (an earlier movie co-written by Harold Ramis, for the record) and Boon and Otter kept whining at him the entire time.  That’s Marmalard’s job, see?  Poor Keith Gordon has a thankless job in BACK TO SCHOOL, he’s the guy who essentially keeps telling Rodney to turn the music down and to stop farting.  And none of us kids want to see that, even if, morally speaking, we know we’re probably supposed to.

So it’s not a comedy that hits every single minute.  But the stuff that lands is a ton of fun, and there’s a lot of peripheral weirdness going on all over the place.  For one thing, Rodney Dangerfield and Sally Kellerman have to be one of the most mismatched romantic couplings in cinema history.  It’s hard to even rationally explain. But hey, there’s Robert Downey Jr. as Jason’s roommate!  Is he playing one of the first gay sidekicks in teen-movie history?  Could be!  I mean, he’s not as out there as Evil Ed from FRIGHT NIGHT, but I think he’s doing his typical Downey spicing-up-an-otherwise-boring part.

And now there’s RDJ in a scene with Danny Elfman and his band Oingo Boingo, playing as the house band in the aforementioned dorm party, before Tim Burton drafted Elfman into becoming a film composer!

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There’s doomed 1980s stand-up phenomenon Sam Kinison as one of Rodney’s professors!  (What a weird cameo, still can’t tell if I’m laughing at or laughing with, but one of the best ever.)

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Speaking of weird cameos, there’s Kurt Vonnegut, his actual self!  (I guarantee that’s a Harold Ramis request.)

And then there’s M. Emmet Walsh, Adrienne Barbeau, Robert Picardo, and Ned Beatty!  Actually, I don’t remember any of them being in this movie but this is another thing IMDb told me.

Also, IMDb said that the actor who plays Phillip, Rodney’s stuck-up rival for Sally Kellerman’s affections, is named Paxton Whitehead, which is such a better name for a stuck-up rival for Sally Kellerman’s affections.  IMDb is so fun sometimes.

But back to the main point:  BACK TO SCHOOL isn’t the most consistently flawless of 1980s comedies, but more than any other genre,  comedy can get away with imperfections.  Is it funny?  Can I quote the living hell out of the thing?  Is it a good time to watch with a group?  All the answers to those questions are yesses.  Now when’s the next screening?

BACK TO SCHOOL is playing tonight at 9:30pm at 92Y Tribeca as part of their very promising and appropriately-named Back To School series.  BACK TO SCHOOL will be the second part of a double-feature with THREE O’CLOCK HIGH, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. 

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Find out if I have any class (I don’t) on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

On March 16th of this past year, I attended a screening at the 92Y Tribeca of BODY SLAM (1986), attended by its director, the literally legendary Hal Needham.  BODY SLAM was the last theatrical feature he directed, and probably not his best, although it was still a whole mess of fun, like pretty much everything else he’s ever done.  Now, Hal Needham is arguably best known to the mainstream as the director of THE CANNONBALL RUN, but that really is only a small part of what makes him a Hollywood legend.

Honestly, I sat in awe through most of the Q&A after the movie, since I know more than most people do about Hal Needham’s career, and still I knew only a little.  Hal Needham doesn’t have a household-auteur name like Spielberg or Scorsese, but rest assured that his is an essential career in American movies.  If you look over his list of credits, you will see that he worked on over a hundred films in the stunt department, whether as a coordinator, actor, or stunt performer, or some combination henceforth.  Here is a partial list of movies with his vital contributions (I’m sticking to the ones I personally have seen or else we’ll literally be here all day):

THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, DONOVAN’S REEF, 4 FOR TEXAS, MAJOR DUNDEE, OUR MAN FLINT, BANDOLERO!, 100 RIFLES, LITTLE BIG MAN, RIO LOBO, THE NIGHT STALKER, THE CULPEPPER CATTLE CO., WHITE LIGHTNING, BLAZING SADDLES, CHINATOWN, 3 THE HARD WAY, THE LONGEST YARD, and THE END.

Before getting into directing, Hal Needham was Hollywood’s number-one go-to stunt man. He made over 300 movies and broke over 50 bones.

Here are some other facts about Hal Needham, which I excitedly sent out on Twitter after meeting the man in person:

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Hal Needham worked on THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, and was in the bar fight in DONOVAN’S REEF.  Both alongside John Wayne & Lee Marvin.

(Here’s a pair of Hal Needham bar-fight scenes:)

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Hal Needham jumped from one airplane to another, mid-flight.

Not Hal Needham. But it could be.

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Hal Needham drank with Billy Wilder.

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Hal Needham was best pals with Burt Reynolds and lived for fourteen years in his guest house, “rent-free.”  This was during the time when Burt Reynolds was the biggest box-office draw in the country.  Reportedly, it was exactly the party it sounds like.

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Hal Needham got paid $25,000 to drive a car straight into a concrete wall.  “It was easy,” he told us.

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Hal Needham escaped a Russian invasion and lost his hearing in an explosion in Czechoslavakia.

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When Hal Needham talks about the Rat Pack, he refers to Sinatra, Martin, and Davis as “Frank, Dean, and Sammy.”  BECAUSE HE KNEW THEM PERSONALLY.

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Hal Needham broke the sound barrier in a car.

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Remember the blonde who drives the car with Adrienne Barbeau in THE CANNONBALL RUN?

Hal Needham did that too.

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Hal Needham gave Jackie Chan and everybody else who does it the idea to run the blooper reel over the end credits.  I asked him if he ever saw ANCHORMAN, specifically the end credits, which hilariously just rerun the blooper reel of THE CANNONBALL RUN.  (Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, along with their protegee Danny McBride, are obviously familiar with the Needham catalogue.  EASTBOUND & DOWN is a reference to the theme song of SMOKEY & THE BANDIT.)  Hal Needham told me he hasn’t seen ANCHORMAN, but would check it out.

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Many of the above stories are written about at length in Hal Needham’s autobiography, STUNT MAN!

That’s Hal Needham on the cover, by the way.  You’ll recognize him because he’s on fire.  (He said it didn’t hurt.)

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When writing about Hal Needham’s accomplishments, it starts to feel like making up Chuck Norris Facts.  The difference?  Hal Needham is a badass for real.

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At the screening and Q&A, Hal Needham was a great sport, and a great, great storyteller.   The crowd was cool and asked about almost everything I would have asked.  So most of my questions were about THE VILLAIN.  (Hal Needham started Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career!)  THE VILLAIN is a little-remembered comedy-Western which Needham treated as a live-action Tex Avery cartoon.  Arnold plays the well-intentioned but dopey hero, Handsome Stranger, Ann-Margret is at her all-time most luscious as Charming Jones, and Kirk Douglas plays the Wile E. Coyote styled black-hatted title character, Cactus Jack (which is sometimes the title of the movie in some markets).  Paul Lynde has a very funny cameo as Indian chief Nervous Elk, and Western-movie veteran Strother Martin plays the excellently-named Parody Jones.  Look guys, I’m not gonna argue that this is a great movie in the classical sense, but goddamn did it make me laugh.  And I really shouldn’t have glossed over just how attractive Ann-Margaret is in the movie.  It’s about as good as a lady can, possibly.

BODY SLAM is equally silly — like THE VILLAIN, probably second-tier Needham — but it has plenty of moments.  This was at the peak of pro-wrestling’s popularity in the 1980s, and it’s easy to see why a stuntman like Needham would feel an affinity for pro-wrestlers, who are also under-appreciated athletes.  Like John Carpenter, he also saw the star power of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who was famous in the wrestling as a ‘heel’ but in movies like BODY SLAM, THEY LIVE, and HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN* — *the greatest movie title of all time — made a thoroughly likable, blue-collar, and naturally funny (also very, very Canadian) protagonist.  Most of BODY SLAM is concerned with the antics of Dirk Benedict’s character, as the fast-talking, somewhat shady promoter who takes on Piper’s character as a client.  It’s also concerned with ogling Tanya Roberts, as the love interest prone to wearing very, very, very small bikinis.  I was way into all of that as a kid — Dirk Benedict was on The A-Team, of course, and I knew Tanya Roberts from Charlie’s Angels and SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE.  Throw in Billy Barty, Sydney Lassick, and Captain Lou Albano, and there you go, another [very strange and occasionally awkward] party.  The wrestling scenes are great, though.  I’m also a big fan of the Latin-freestyle theme song, though a saner person might not be.

Can’t find a trailer, but here are some clips from BODY SLAM:

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That’s Hal Needham, man.  He likes to make movies with pretty girls and silly gags, some amiable shit-talking and braggadocio, and a couple big crazy stunts.  If he wasn’t so busy jumping from planes and trains, he could have been a big hit as a staffer at MAD.  He’s not one who’s out to change the world with his art.  He just wants to brighten up your day.  Sometimes that’s a noble cause.  I know I’m someone who believes it to be.

In the end, there was little I could say to the man besides “It’s an honor. Your movies have given me and my friends a lot of happy times.”  I don’t tend to get overly excited about meeting famous people.  I had a fun run-in with Stan Lee once, and meeting Clint Eastwood was a highlight, but yeah I will admit this was a really cool experience.  For a Yankee born and bred, I’m a huge fan of the work of this man who is quite possibly the most successful Southern filmmaker of his era.

I’m finally posting this tribute officially because I read some good news for once:  It was announced today that Hal Needham is getting an honorary Academy Award for his decades of pioneering stunt work.  (Read about it here and here!)  It’s well-deserved, especially considering how the ‘major’ awards show so little appreciation of the value that stunt performers bring to action cinema.  We wouldn’t have most of our favorite movies without them.  They literally risk their necks for our entertainment.  (To be fair, they do usually pull the babes also.  It’s a trade-off!)

Hal Needham is one of the most prolific stuntmen ever to work in American movies, and as a director he created some endlessly enjoyable party movies.  Obviously I’m willing to praise his work all day, but it’s great to see that he’s finally getting his due from his peers, his industry, and other fancy people in tuxedos.

Me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb