Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Come for the Oscar, Stay for the Dissolution

By Steve Evans

Some win Golden Globes and Oscars. Others get stuck on Sunset Boulevard (1950) and end up floating face down in swimming pools. Boulevard of Broken Dreams, as Tony Bennett likes to sing.
Though I mainly invest my time on this blog trying to keep film classics alive, now and again there comes occasion to resurrect some obscure band I used to love that will kick your ass if given half the chance. So it is with bassist/lead singer Johnette Napolitano and her group. This is one of the all-time great rock videos. Phil Spector did not produce.

Hit it.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2018 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Little Donald's Bitter Lament

By Steve Evans

He may think he's as ruthless and capable as Michael Corleone. He certainly has the foul temper of Sonny. But wee Donald Trump shows himself increasingly as nothing more than a frail and insecure Fredo. Take him fishing. Please.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

We're Down for a Remake of Death Wish

By Steve Evans

The original Death Wish (1974) with big Charlie Bronson is an exploitation classic -- and like Dirty Harry three years earlier -- a product of its high-crime time. Bronson plays a pacifist architect whose family is attacked in a home invasion. His wife is murdered. His daughter is left catatonic. Charlie follows the only sensible course of action: he acquires a gun and goes out every night killing muggers, would-be rapists and other miscreants who spark his wrath.
Audiences ate it up.
The movie spawned four sequels. Inevitable, then, that we would eventually get a re-do of this seminal film. The original made Bronson a star at 53 after 20 years of film work. Death Wish remains the role with which he is most closely associated. And the picture holds up nearly 45 years since its release. The film benefits especially from an older actor in the lead, as the notion of a deadly vigilante demands portrayal by an older man possessed of self-control, discipline and the resolve to not get caught. Remakes usually annoy the hell out of me, as does director Eli Roth, who may well be a certifiable lunatic but is at least consistent and dedicated in his thematic concerns. Chief among these is revenge (Tarantino works the same turf).  The trailer below is very slick and accomplishes a difficult trick: counteracting potential cries of racism and fascism (as were levied against the original) by remaking the hero as a kindly doctor who cares for people of all creeds and races. The trailer makes clear he's out for revenge and, eventually (inevitably?), he embraces the thrill of killing bad guys without mercy and in increasingly gruesome ways. But mostly it's about revenge.
Having invested some time pursuing this subject, I've discovered that the idea of revenge is far more satisfying than the actual getting of revenge, which carves out some of your soul and leaves you diminished. Because movies enable us to live vicariously, looks like I'll just have to pony up coin for a ticket to the remake of Death Wish. It looks tight. Great cast, too. Besides Bruce Willis, who is aging nicely in his role as senior statesman of action-film badassery, we have Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris (DEA agent Hank on Breaking Bad) and Mike Epps. I'm sure Willis is serviceable in the role, even if he's no Bronson. Big Charlie always looked so ferocious he probably didn't need a gun to take out the street trash. Charlie could insert the damn bullets manually if he wanted to. He could level a scowl and give villains a stink-eye and they would drop like shoo-flies on a hot summer day. He sweated testosterone sufficient to kill a dozen strong men. I tell you, Bronson was tuff. Still, Willis is always fun to watch, going back almost 30 years to his breakout role in Die Hard.

But there's another, subtle, reason this remake will fascinate. Experience and my cynical nature tell me this picture will play audiences like a grand piano -- pushing buttons, eliciting reactions, jerking with emotions. Hitchcock was a master at this; Roth considerably less so. But I'll take what I can get. As an amateur anthropologist, watching an audience watch Death Wish is almost as entertaining as checking out the film itself. There's nothing quite like the sight of a crowd responding to pure cinema. Originally set for a fall 2017 release, the film was pushed back without explanation to March 2, though I suspect the October mass shooting in Las Vegas may have precipitated the studio's decision. While neither bears any relation to the other, delicate sensibilities can set off an online firestorm -- and studios are all about keeping up appearances while protecting their investment. Word is, the remake is coming out with a hard-R rating typical of Roth and befitting the film's tone. This is not a date movie, but you guessed as much, didn't ya?

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2018 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Caribbean Adventure -- Del Tenney's Masterpiece

By Steve Evans

I confess to a dangerous and evidently incurable addiction to bad movies. Over several decades I’ve tried to process the reason for their appeal and can say only that great art seems all the richer after my exposure to lousy art. Plus, it’s damned difficult to make a film – any film – especially in the absence of money and talent. This is why I admire the efforts of such inept auteurs as Ed Wood Jr. and Tommy Wiseau. They loved making cinema as much as Welles, Kurosawa, Kubrick and Hitchcock; they simply weren’t any good at it. Plus, I refuse to be hamstrung by the sniveling jackals of bourgeois sensibility. I say the only sin a film can commit is to be boring, which is to say, I'll watch almost anything. I've been accused more than once of being the most egalitarian film critic alive.

Now, the ne plus ultra of Tried & Failed, to my mind, remains the great Del Tenney. This Connecticut-based actor-director-producer-screenwriter cranked out a handful of trashy exploitation films in the early 1960s. The Horror of Party Beach is perhaps the best known, relatively speaking, and features radioactive monsters with bratwursts for teeth. Look it up if you don’t believe me. It’s a wild hybrid of Beach Blanket Bingo silliness and man-in-a-suit monster ridiculousness, with a great garage-rock soundtrack by the Del-Aires, who I’m also betting you’ve never heard of – and with good reason.

Yes, but Tenney’s masterpiece must be I Eat Your Skin, a ludicrous zombie flick made in 1964 and not released until 1970 because until then nobody wanted to distribute the picture. No skin is actually eaten, probably because the film was retitled from its original name, Caribbean Adventure, by schlock dirve-in distributor Jerry Gross. He bought the movie to make a double bill with his other feature, I Drink Your Blood.

One can only suppose Tenney was happy the film finally screened under any title. So what do we get? The zombie makeup looks like they glued-on fried eggs for eyes. The hero is a sexist jerk, more or less in step with the times. Tenney’s awful flick draws upon many influences, especially the contemporaneous James Bond films. The climax is straight out of the first Bond adventure, Dr. No. A bit of research reveals the Miami scenes that bookend the movie were shot at the Fountainbleau Hotel – the same property where early scenes for Goldfinger were filmed. I like the jazzy brass score.

In spite of the horrible acting, the bargain-basement special effects and silly makeup, the dreadful dialog and preposterous plot, I Eat Your Skin is compulsively watchable, especially if beer is involved. A full 80 minutes of WTF? And it don’t cost nuthin’. Behold my gateway drug into the netherworld of Le Bad Cinema. Watch it tonight with someone you love. Thanks for reading.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2017 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.