Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category

 

 

 

WHY

 

Over the past two weeks I’ve been covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival for Daily Grindhouse. This festival is so well-curated that one doesn’t even need to be local to find use for it; their schedule is like a ready-made Netflix queue. One of the films that ran this week was the deceptively-named WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?, which has a great title for a horror movie but which quickly turns out to be something very different. I was lucky enough to see it last year and this is what I wrote about it for my year-end top-ten:

 

 

WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is maybe, probably, most likely the most jubilant movie about movies ever made. Almost every prominent director seems to end up making a movie directly or indirectly about making movies — from Paul Thomas Anderson (BOOGIE NIGHTS) to John Carpenter (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS), from Clint Eastwood (BRONCO BILLY) to Spike Lee (SHE HATE ME), from George Romero (KNIGHTRIDERS) to Martin Scorsese (THE AVIATOR) — and now here comes the one by Japan’s Sion Sono.

 

 

The story centers around a long-running feud between two factions of violent gangsters. Aside from war in the streets, the head of one mob is dedicated to making his daughter (the very young, hugely appealing Fumi Nikaido) a movie star. Towards that end, he recruits a group of would-be filmmakers calling themselves “the Fuck Bombers” to make it happen. One of them falls in love with the leading lady, which is problem enough, but the gang war is escalating, although ultimately, it provides the perfect setting for a very realistically bloody movie. WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? runs over two hours but every single minute is full of boistrous energy. It’s as wildly funny as any teen sex comedy and as gruesomely violent as any horror movie — usually at the same exact time. The point, it seems, is that film-going and filmmaking becomes an obsession and a delirium, like love itself. Makes perfect sense to me.

 

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– Jon Abrams.

 

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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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Ride with me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb

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

Hardware (1990)

Richard Stanley is a drastically-underrated director and Sergio Leone enthusiast from South Africa whose work is ripe for rediscovery.  I’d seen his 1992 film DUST DEVIL before, but not his debut feature, HARDWARE, which I happened to finally get around to during the same weekend I saw the new DREDD movie.

Hardware (1990)

From where I’m sitting, there aren’t many movies as true to the post-punk 2000 AD aesthetic as these two movies, DREDD and HARDWARE, although my friends in the UK will definitely have more trustworthy opinions on the matter.  HARDWARE is based on a short strip from 2000 AD, the same series from whence Judge Dredd arrived.  It actually is derived from a Judge Dredd storyline!

Hardware (1990)

Hardware (1990)

This is the basic pitch:  A trenchcoat-rocking soldier named Moses (Dylan McDermott) purchases the wreckage of a robot found in a post-apocalyptic desert, and brings it back to his sculptor/artist girlfriend Jill (Stacy Travis). While Mo is out, the robot activates and attempts to murder Jill in her apartment.  It may visually call to mind the Terminator of 1984, but this guy’s got some even nastier moves than that cyber-Arnold had.

Hardware (1990)

The deceptively-cheap movie — it’s stylish and relentless and looks like plenty more than a million bucks — is almost entirely about this battle, although it makes time for awesomely bizarre and/or disturbing performances by John Lynch (BLACK DEATH), Mark Northover (WILLOW!), and most unshakably, William Hootkins (STAR WARS, BATMAN, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) as maybe the grossest movie pervert ever.  Iggy Pop and Lemmy also briefly contribute their talents, but with all that craziness surrounding, it all comes down to Jill and her fight to stay alive under attack by that freaky, ferocious robot.  It plays out, under Stanley’s direction, as an intensely tangible experience, despite springing out of a totally bonkers sci-fi set-up.

HARDWARE is available for purchase from Severin Films.

Hardware (1990)

This piece originally appeared on Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

@jonnyabomb

superbeasto_dvd.preview

Now here’s a strange duck:  A hard-R horror-comedy adult cartoon feature from musician/director Rob Zombie, featuring the usual voice suspects and a couple surprise voices. The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto is a filthy, funny, deranged mess of a kitchen sink of a movie that will please a certain kind of person, ideally in a certain state of mind (if you get me), and will turn off the straight-laced. For my part, I’m just glad that something like this exists – it’s comfortable knowing that there’s a place in the world for adult animation, even if it’s not exactly my flavor.

The story, as much as I can collect it all in one column, goes a little something like this: El Superbeasto (voiced by comedian and co-writer Tom Papa) is an insanely horny luchador – somewhere between Santo and Dirk Diggler – who is the big cheese in the titular Haunted World, a geek-dream dimension where zombies and werewolves and strippers coexist in constant hysteria. As soon as El Superbeasto falls for the town’s alpha-stripper, Velvet Von Black (voiced by Rosario Dawson!), she is abducted by the misleadingly named Doctor Satan (voiced by Paul Giamatti!) and his long-suffering gorilla henchman. El Superbeasto is aided in his rescue attempt by his younger sister, Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her hopelessly infatuated robot sidekick (Brian Posehn.) At the end of the day, this is all about high school: Doctor Satan was the school nerd, in love with the head cheerleader (Suzi X) and constantly tormented by the school bully (El Superbeasto.) Doctor Satan will have his revenge, and hump it too!

El Superbeasto is fairly described as Heavy Metal meets Ren & Stimpy (the design, pace, and much of the voicework is heavily indebted to John Kricfalusi’s surreal/absurd classic series.) It’s also probably fairly described as Rob Zombie’s most fun movie, even his best. I’m on record as saying that I root for Rob Zombie’s cinematic endeavors – he loves a lot of the same things I love (rock n’ roll, old horror movies, pretty girls, badass character actors, monsters, and mayhem) and he brings a competitive energy and enthusiasm to the horror genre – but his movies have thus far turned out unnecessarily unpleasant, even sadistic, in finished form. (Haven’t seen his Halloween 2, but that goes back to the old cliché about not wanting to put my hand back on the hot stove that burned me once before.)

El Superbeasto, thankfully, plays out differently. It has its excesses – who am I kidding? It’s ALL excess!  But there’s a sense of gleeful anarchy and a swinging swagger that permeates the whole thing and makes it never less than watchable. For me, there were two elements to elevate it:

1)      The voice work by the unconventionally wonderful movie stars Paul Giamatti and Rosario Dawson is unconventionally wonderful. If I didn’t see from the credits that they’d be featured, I might never have guessed. Is there such a thing as Method voice acting? Giamatti and Rosario are completely and unrecognizably committed to their wackadoo characters, and the results are weird and funny, truly superior voice acting.

2)      The movie features several original songs by Hard N’ Phirm, the comedy team of Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman. The songs are by far the funniest part of the movie – they’re exactly the right tone and vibe and they smartly comment on the action and the more blatantly exploitative parts of the story. It makes certain scenes that might have been creepy to watch hilariously creepy. I’ve seen these guys do their thing before live and they’re great – it was a fun surprise to enjoy their contributions here.

So whatever it says about me, I watched the whole damn thing. I probably wouldn’t watch it again but I’m happy to have watched it once. It’s crazy in its own very specific way and I can respect that. However: If you’re the kind of person who is offended by cartoon boobs or cartoon sex, be forewarned. Stay away. It’s understandable, but you won’t want to see what happens here. As for the rest of you maniacs? Eat, drink, and be merry.

@jonnyabomb

Originally written on October 10th, 2009.

I haven’t posted much in a while.  I alluded to the reasons here, in the post which so far represents the unintentional culmination of my October horror column (which I still hope to resurrect in some form before years’ end.  This damn optimism will never die!)

The point is, sometimes life gets in the way.  And sometimes life refuses to get out of the way.  And occasionally, life mercilessly pummels your face in.

So I haven’t been posting here much this month, but when I’m not around these parts I can be found over at Daily Grindhouse  — here are my recent pieces on VIGILANTE, GET CARTER, HIT MAN, GREMLINS 2, END OF WATCH, DREDD, LAWLESS, and DRIVE ANGRY — so please check them out.

And I’ve certainly been thinking plenty.  I’ve got enough thoughts stored up for several volumes worth of reviews and essays.  There’s a lot of writing to come from me.

But one thing I’ve been thinking about is a particular movie I watched last year.  I added VIVA RIVA! to my 2011 top ten list without any idea that a year later, it might have any parallel to my own life.  Quick synopsis:  A gasoline shortage in the Congo leads to violence and distress.  Quick synopsis of the past month:  A gasoline shortage in the Tri-State Area leads to violence and distress.  I’m not saying we had it worse here than they have it in a third-world country.  I’m only saying that it feels a lot less foreign to me.  Hurricane Sandy gave us a small taste of what is commonplace in many places in the rest of the world.  Having seen neighbors getting into screaming matches and fistfights over a tank of gas, I’ve had my perspective shifted just a little bit.  It wasn’t scary to me, though it was to some (understandably).  It was just weird.  Strip away a few modern-day conveniences and you start to learn some harsh truths — and surprising virtues — about people.

 
Anyway here’s the trailer, and then what I wrote in 2011:

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VIVA RIVA! (Congo, released in U.S. in 2011)

What It’s About:

In a community where gasoline is a precious commodity, a devil-may-care rogue thief (Patsha Bey Mukuna) rips off a gas shipment from some very bad men, then runs into trouble when he falls for a local gangster’s girlfriend (Manie Malone.)

Why I Love It:

Because it’s electric.

Before I get to what makes this film so thrilling on a cultural level, let me start out by promising that it’s a solid crime film no matter what part of the world it’s from.  The plot relies on familiar noir tropes – the femme fatale, the murderous nemesis, the doomed hero – but where the story lacks in originality, the film more than makes up for it in atmosphere and intensity.

This is a low-budget movie shot entirely practically in a real community using primarily local talent, which gives the movie an added urgency and veracity.  This isn’t some ROAD WARRIOR future where gangs battle over gasoline — this is really happening in the world right now.  Imagine that; imagine the gasoline we Americans so take for granted being the currency that believably powers criminal enterprise in crowded, poverty-stricken villages.

But even amidst all that urgency and desperate verisimilitude, there’s also a harsh beauty to this movie.  The nightlife in Kinshasa feels vivid and seeped in detail and danger, and the sexuality in this movie has a fierceness and forthrightness rarely seen in European cinema, let alone puritanical American movies.  If there were rankings based on 2011′s most assertive (and acrobatic) cunnilingus scenes, this movie would have that position licked.

But it’s not just honest sex that makes this film so intriguing.  VIVA RIVA! serves as nothing less than the ignition of a nation’s film industry.  On the DVD, director Djo Tunda Wa Munga talks about how he specifically designed the film’s plot to be familiar and genre-based because there aren’t a whole lot of Congolese films out there, and he wanted this one to be as accessible as possible in order to gather the international appetite for more films from the Congo.  With VIVA RIVA!, we’re seeing an entire film industry start from the ground up, and that’s an exciting thing to watch.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  Yes!

And find me, instantly, on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

The American (2010)

 

First there was Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in The Mexican. Then there was George Clooney in The American.  Since we’re working our way north, I’m sure we can expect Clive Owen and Salma Hayek in The Canadian.  But for the time being, please enjoy my review of The American, with Sergio Leone and Kelly Brook. [!?!]

 

 

About an hour into The American, George Clooney walks into an empty café where the proprietor is watching the great masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West.  (It’s the scene that introduces Henry Fonda’s bad guy.)  If director Anton Corbijn wanted guys like me to use this reference as a cue to compare his work here to that of the almighty Sergio Leone, then I’m happy to oblige.

The American doesn’t quite have the mythic potency of Leone’s work, but it does happily have a couple of key stylistic similarities.  For one thing, The American has an interest rare for modern movies in all of the sundry aspects of cinema: sound design, visual style, controlled camera movement and framing, music and score, performance, location, atmosphere, story, character, casting, and so on.  For another, this movie is nothing if not deliberate.  It takes the time to be worth your time.  It’s patient.  It’s a movie where we spend an entire scene watching a man put together a gun, for Leone’s sake!

In The American, George Clooney plays a professional loner whose life’s work is confined to the shadows, among dangerous and anonymous people of similar attitudes and focus.  When we first see Clooney’s character, he’s in a cottage in Sweden, in the midst of a contemplative moment with a pretty lady.  It’s a moment of convincing intimacy, even vulnerability, and it makes what happens next to kick off the movie both entirely predictable and ridiculously surprising.

That’s pretty much the way it is with this movie; it’s not telling you a story you’ve never heard before, but what’s intriguing about it is the method of its telling.  The main cast of The American is unusually sparse, and besides Clooney it doesn’t include anyone who you’ve probably even seen before.  Still, the movie very quickly makes you subtly anxious over the potential fates of those few people who spend more than a fleeting moment in Clooney’s presence.  There’s an elderly priest, a beautiful business contact, and an even more beautiful lady of the night – and at any moment any one of them could fall victim to the sudden outbreaks of violence that punctuate the sanctity of Clooney’s existence.  Dialogue is equally sparse; it exists only as a function of character here.  People talk only when it’s necessary or interesting, only when it tells you something about these people.

This is the impressive point of comparison of Corbijn’s movie to Leone’s work.  Leone knew how to stretch out seemingly-interminable moments of tension with deceptive calm and escalating intensity.  In today’s era of hyperactive editing and over-reliance on handheld camerawork, Corbijn goes the other way.  A supremely influential rock & roll photographer and music video director who is now on his second feature, Corbijn fills The American with elegant camera compositions, and against all modern trends, actually allows the audience time to look at them.  There’s a confidence there, and a willingness to challenge the audience.  Ironically, The American is extremely European.

That’s not me telling you it’s boring – remember, Leone was European too, and he’s my favorite director of all time.  Like Leone, Corbijn fills The American with fascinating-looking faces, not least among them Clooney’s.  The most affable and old-school charming of today’s major movie stars, Clooney has never before been this impenetrable and unknowable on screen.  It’s his Eastwood performance.  You don’t usually know what his character is thinking, but you damn sure keep looking for clues to figure it out.  Also, apropos to Corbijn’s previous work, The American is visually beautiful.  The lakes and rivers and countrysides in this movie are thoroughly captivating, and there’s a woman in this movie who’s the most eye-keeping thing I’ve seen in a movie since – OK, well, since Kelly Brook in Piranha 3D, but that’s another story.

The American would be worthwhile strictly on a visual basis, is the point I’m making.  Happily, there’s more to it than just good looks.  The American is mature, sophisticated, and elegant, a movie that expects your attention.  It’s a true movie for adults – if you are one, even if only occasionally (like me), then you will probably find this to be a trip worth taking.  It’s a smart piece of work, and hopefully an encouraging herald of the fall movie season to come.

@jonnyabomb