Saturday, June 26, 2010

Streets of Fire (1984, Walter Hill)



Streets of Fire is one of those movies that was on every video store shelf in the 80s.  Seeing that cover became second nature and I'll admit I never really thought twice about the video tape hidden under that classic slice of nostalgic artwork.  Honestly, I don't even remember why I decided to check the film out a couple years ago.  It may have been the Walter Hill association or one of the many fine actors in the film.  Regardless, it was long overdue.

Streets of Fire stars Michael Paré as Tom Cody, an ex army soldier who comes back to his hometown at the request of his sister Reva (Deborah Van Valkenburgh).  Local Pop Star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is kidnapped at a hometown gig, by gang leader Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and Tom, who used to be Ellen's boyfriend, is the only one who can get her back.  Along with Ellen's manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) and drifter McCoy (Amy Madigan), Cody has to infiltrate Shaddock's hideout and get Ellen back, while avoiding the local cops and Shaddock's goons.

Before re-watching Streets of Fire, I was ready to give it a 9/10 rating.  Apparently I had forgotten one minor flaw in the film...its dialogue.  Hill created a visually stunning "rock n' roll fable" with colorful characters, timeless scenery, rockin' music and a great cast.  Though not all bad, the dialogue however detracts from the otherwise spectacular film, as does the annoying character of McCoy (originally written as a male).  That being said, I would still consider this film a classic for its time and something I will definitely re-visit.  Just watching the concert scenes with the always lovely Diane Lane singing (actually it's not even her voice but whatever), which are an interesting mix of styles (most prevalent being 80s New Wave and 50s Rock), makes me want to watch the film over and over again.

RATING:  7/10

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Death Race 2000 out today on Blu-Ray and DVD from Shout! Factory

Don't miss this truly excellent film, out today on DVD and (for the first time) Blu-Ray!

DEATH RACE 2000 SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY & DVD
EXTENSIVE SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:
  • New Anamorphic Widescreen Transfer (1.85:1) in high definition from the inter-positive film element
  • David on Death Race: A brief look back from star David Carradine recorded in 2008
  • Audio commentary with Roger Corman and Mary Woronov
  • New audio commentary with assistant director Lewis Teague and editor Tina Hirsch
  • Playing the Game: Looking Back at “Death Race 2000”
  • Ready to Wear: In-depth interview costume designer Jane Ruhm on her inventive work for this film and other Roger Corman classics
  • Designing Dystopia!: A detailed look at the film’s futuristic landscapes and now-classic race cars with co-art director B.B. Neel, car designer James Powers and car constructor Dean Jeffries.
  • Start Your Engine!: How the world of Death Race 2000 came to life, interview with original story creator Ib Melchior
  • Killer Score: An all-new interview with composer Paul Chihara on the creation of the film’s eclectic score, which was also his first feature film composition.
  • Leonard Maltin interviews Roger Corman about Death Race 2000
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Original theatrical trailer with commentary by filmmaker John Landis, courtesy of trailersfromhell.com
  • Collectible 12-page booklet
  • New World trailers 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eaten Alive (1977, Tobe Hooper)



What do you do after creating one of the greatest, most horrific and influential horror films of all time?  You make another horror film using the same screenwriter and lead actress, of course.  That's what Tobe Hooper did after terrifying the world with his undisputed 1974 classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It was a combination of Hooper being director, the crazy story (co-written by TCM screenwriter Kim Henkel) and a cast of horror/exploitation legends that made this a must-see film.  I first watched Eaten Alive a couple of years ago and was actually very disappointed.  Since then, I decided to give the movie, which by all rights should be a horror classic, a second chance.  The time is now.

Eaten Alive follows a young prostitute named Clara (Roberta Collins), who is kicked out of the brothel that she works for when she refuses to let young regular Buck (Robert Englund) do her in a bad place.  She seeks refuge at the local Starlight Hotel, which is run by Judd (Neville Brand), a drug addicted, puritanical maniac.  Once he realizes Clara is from the local whorehouse, he kills her in a psychotic rage and feeds her to his pet crocodile.  A couple (William Finley and Marilyn Burns) and their daughter stop by the Starlight for some R and R, but end up staying longer than anticipated when their dog is gobbled up by the croc, sending their daughter into hysterics.  They soon become targets of Judd's reign of terror, as do Clara's father (Mel Ferrer) and sister who stop by to find the missing girl.

On paper, Eaten Alive sounds like it can't fail.  Rarely will you find a better ensemble cast:  Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund, Marilyn (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Burns, Roberta (Death Race 2000) Collins, Mel (Nightmare City) Ferrer, Janus (Hills Have Eyes) Blythe, Neville (Ninth Configuration and many others) Brand, Carolyn (House of Wax) Jones, William (Phantom of the Paradise) Finley, Kyle (Halloween) Richards, Betty (Toolbox Murders) Cole....I'm sure there are more.  The film had a very psychedelic feel with lots of strange colors, but was also very dark and smoky.  It almost felt like a fever dream filmed on recycled film stock.  So what was wrong with the film?  The main flaw for me was pacing.  It started out great but the middle become redundant, non-sensical (what was up with William Finley's character going crazy?) and just slow.  Though not a waste of time by any means, Eaten Alive had all the elements to make it a horror classic but instead it turned out being an average film with a stellar cast.  I think this may actually be a film you need to watch several times before it clicks so I definitely plan to revisit it in the future.

Fun fact:  Mel Ferrer was in another film also titled Eaten Alive, an early 80s Umberto Lenzi Italian Cannibal flick.


RATING:  6/10

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008, James Nguyen)


Finally, my first free movie screening thanks to this here site.  Thank you site.  My friend and I drove into Boston (Cambridge technically) to the best worst theater in the area (The Brattle) to check out Birdemic.  I had read about the film online and really didn't know what to expect.  The fact that it is being distributed by Severin Films is really what made the film a must see, based on their incredible output of sleaze.

The film starts out with the main character Rod (Alan Bagh) driving down the street, walking around and sitting in a coffee shop.  The camera frequently misses the action points (not that there really are any) and the footage of Rod looks as if it was filmed on a camcorder by a blind man.  I immediately knew what I was in for.  Rod ends up meeting (stalking) a girl in the coffee shop that he remembers from high school and somehow manages to exchange phone numbers.  The girl, Nathalie (Whitney Moore) is a fashion model who heads off to a photo shoot at a one hour photo shop.  Yes, you read that right.  Rod and Nathalie meet up for some Thai food and end up with big advances in their careers (Rod's company is doing well and he is looking forward to early retirement while Nathalie becomes a Victoria's Secret model).  They also find out that their friends are dating and agree to go on a double date.  After finally sealing the deal in a motel room, Rod and Nathalie wake up to find the city (world?) taken over by killer eagles (yes eagles).  Not just any eagles though.  These eagles not only attack people, but they also explode on impact.  Rod and Nathalie meet up with army vet Ramsey (Adam Sessa) and his girlfriend Becky (Catherine Batcha) and they take to the road in Ramsey's van, which happens to be loaded with guns.  They find two abandoned children on the side of the road and take them along to try to find out what is causing the "Birdemic".

How do I begin?  Birdemic was easily the worst movie ever made.  I even hesitate to say so bad its good.  It was just BAD.  The acting (especially Rod who sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles) was atrocious, the camerawork looked like they strapped a cheap camera to an unsuspecting bystander's head and the sound popped, hissed, cut out and frequently drowned out the actor's (if you can call them that) voices with background noise.  Not to mention the sound of the birds attacking which was almost deafeningly loud and ear piercing.  Oh and speaking of the birds, they looked as though they were CGI'd via a child.  Despite all of this (and much, much more), the film was actually very entertaining (thanks to the great late night movie crowd we viewed the film with).  By the end, I'll admit I was a little antsy because some of the gags got old, but through most of the film, the whole crowd was laughing hysterically (even the usher standing behind us).  The film exceeds at being the worst movie of all time and I urge viewers to check the film out in its limited theatrical run because the crowd really enhances the film.  I'm not sure how it would come across on home video, especially if you watch it alone.  I'm convinced it might actually cause insanity or cause the viewer to never watch another film in fear it might be as bad or (gasp!) worse than Birdemic.  Those who have seen it, know that last statement is impossible.

RATING:  7/10*

*(this rating is for the enjoyment level of the film - the film itself is unrateable)