Sunday, December 30, 2012

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000)

Hilariously bizarre 4th sequel to the 80s Cult Hit  

Nobody makes disgusting, lowbrow, depraved films devoid of any form of redeeming value better than Lloyd Kaufman and the folks at Troma Entertainment and that's what makes them so fun. Kaufman's fourth installment in the adventures of the Toxic Avenger, the cult campy classic from the 1980s is an unashamed, downward spiral into a cesspool of severed limbs and toilet humor with myriad political, cultural and societal references thrown in for added pleasure.

The difference between this low budget gem of a flick and other gross-out fare (including from the B-movie specialists at Troma) is that Citizen Toxie has a take-no-prisoners attitude with enough social commentary. There is something to offend everybody in this edition and I do mean everybody. 

This time around, our beloved Toxie finds himself replacing his evil counterpart - the Noxious Offender aka Noxie in an alternate time warped universe - Amortville (Troma in reverse), where corrupt politicians, crooked cops and evil drug dealers reign supreme - sort of like the present day United States on steroids. 

I want say more but Citizen Toxie is the best Toxic Avenger film since the ground-breaking cult original that was released in 1985 (it's also one of Troma's best). Watch out for Ron Jeremy, B-movie queen Debbie Rochon and fun cameos by Corey Feldman, Hugh Hefner, Al Goldstein, Eli Roth,  Julie Strain, the director himself - Lloyd Kaufman and others. A bizarre superhero movie of the cult kind to end 2012! 

Free Video Link - Streaming and Download - VeeHD

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Spy Game (2001)

Deftly scripted spy thriller that stays true to its name

There's a scene in this movie when his secretary asks "What's this all about?; "Money," says Nathan Muir. "Microchips. Toaster ovens." Muir (Robert Redford), a CIA agent about to retire, is bitterly certain that what he's saying is true - that the tricks being played by higher-ups in the CIA are motivated by American greed and international trade interests. But that turns out to be only part of what Spy Game (2001) is about. There's also friendship, love and loyalty.

The film, directed by the late Tony Scott (Top Gun), moves through two decades over two hours, but the breakneck pace never gives you a chance to get bored, aided by a great score by the English composer Harry Gregson-Williams.

In 1974, CIA agent Muir meets sharpshooter Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) in Vietnam. Brad Pitt lends credence to the role and impressed by the kid's guts and skills, Muir recruits him. The snippets of spy training we get to see as Muir instructs Bishop are the coolest part of the film, and Redford lends his usual easy authority to the role of mentor. It must've been a thrill for him to resuscitate his All the President's Men wardrobe, too. 

Ten years later, the two men are on a mission together in Beirut. Somehow, amid the carnage and constant shelling, there's time for Bishop to fall in love. He meets Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack), a volunteer who, among other things, smuggles medical supplies to a refugee camp. In Muir's eyes, Bishop has broken a cardinal rule of spydom: He's allowed his emotions to cloud his judgment. Muir intervenes in a ghastly way, with horrifying consequences that don't become fully clear until 1991. 

What could've been a run-of-the-mill spy thriller turns out to be a great movie. It's smart, well written and well paced and like its tag line crafty and intelligent . However, most of the credit for its success goes to Robert Redford rather than Brad Pitt. Sure, he's played the role of the old pro before; but Redford just keeps getting better at it and in the Spy Game, he shines. 

Free Video Link - Streaming and Download - VeeHD

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lawless (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes deciphers this engaging prohibition era crime tale

Lawless tells the true story of bootlegging moonshine in Depression era Franklin County Virginia. The Bondurant family had perfected the business almost to a science with everyone partaking in the illegal booze; police, politicians and the townspeople in the entire area. That is until the Governor of Virginia sent in a special deputy named Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) whose viciousness was perfected as much as the Bondurant's business. 

The Bondurants are three brothers Jack (Shia LeBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke). Jack is the youngest and he is still pretty naive to the evil that lurks out in the world but he desperately wants to prove to his brothers that he can be a part of the business and do it well. Howard is the least intelligent of the three (probably from too much of what he sells), and he spends most of his time with Forrest as additional security or in a drunken stupor with the ladies of the night. 

Forrest is the most sullen of the three. A World War I vet who had nine lives and was the sole survivor of his platoon. Every form of death has hit Forrest and he was still standing, although he has become very cold. He seems almost incapable of being close to anyone, even the new waitress he hires played well by Jessica Chastain. Forrest has a low throaty, gutteral way of communicating but when Special Agent Rakes gets introduced, Forrest knows this guy ain't going away. The Bondurants refuse to knuckle under when Rakes and the law try to muscle in on the boy's profits and a war ensues. 

The script for Lawless was based on the book "The Wettest County In The World" by Matt Bondurant (the great grandson, if I am not mistaken). The script, written by the multi talented film score composer, writer Nick Cave does a good job of getting into the personalities of the Bondurant boys and Special Agent Rakes. They are at loggerheads and there is no give on either side. 

Guy Pearce, who actually plucked his own eyebrows out for the character of Rakes, gives one of his best performances. He is a foppish thug who dresses impeccably and swims in extravagant cologne. He likes his women but he likes himself more and looking good is his way of life. Shia LeBeouf is a fine actor and he does a good job of being the youngest who quickly realizes that maybe he not cut out for this way of life as he begins to feel the pangs of love for the first time with the local preacher's daughter. Jason Clarke is effective as Howard; a blunt instrument of destruction that you would want backing you up in a clutch situation. Let's put it this don't want to be on Howard's bad side. 

Lawless is an efficient, almost flawless film; well written and acted. It is also efficiently helmed by John Hillcoat who previously directed Guy Pearce in the under appreciated The Proposition and Viggo Mortensen in The Road (Pearce also had a tiny cameo in that film, as well). Hillcoat's direction coupled with Cave's script gets into each character and lets them grow in our psyche. I cared what happened to them and it was fascinating to see not only their interaction amongst themselves and they all play off of each other quite well. The acting is flawless and there is even Gary Oldman thrown in for an added bonus as infamous gangster Floyd Banner.  Lawless has some action in it but it not action just for action's sake. It flows out of the story, the characters and the time in which it takes place. Now if you don't mind... I am going to have a drink.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Horror Films of David Cronenberg

Cult Horror Hits from the Canadian Master of Shock!

Hate him or love him, the Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg is indisputably one of the most enigmatic if not the most audacious Horror Movie Directors of our time. 

However, most seem to know him only for his most recent movies like Naked Lunch (1991), Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999), the under rated Spider (2002), A History of Violence (2005) based on the 1997 graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke, Eastern Promises (2007) and more recently, the lukewarmly received & confounding Cosmopolis (2012). However, his genius is more visible in his prior movies, mostly cult Horror gems released before his biggest mainstream hit - The Fly (1986)

Listed below are some of his early masterworks what I consider his very best, many of which unfortunately now are out of print. (in ascending year order)

THEY CAME FROM WITHIN (1975) –This neat little chiller produced by Ivan Rietman (Ghost Busters) is the first major effort from the master of shock and gore. Residents of an apartment building are overwhelmed by sexually-manifested parasites, which bring about their undoing in a variety of sick and bloody ways. Reminiscent of Cronenberg's subsequent effort The Brood, this film contains the seeds of a truly aberrant talent. Also released as Shivers, Orgy of the Blood Parasites, The Parasite Murders and Frissons (in France). Video link

RABID (1977) – When porn starlet Marilyn Chambers met the King of Shock, the result was described by one critic as "venereal horror." Post a horrible motorcycle accident, an experimental skin graft turns Marilyn into a blood-sucking ghoul who leaves her victims foaming at the mouth and more. And soon the entire city erupts into chaos and mayhem. Ivan Rietman was a co-producer for this movie too. Video link

THE BROOD (1979) - Cronenberg's Kramer vs.Kramer (as he puts it) is a stomach churning science fiction horror blend of a woman (Samantha Eggar) who, as the result of some strange therapy, gives birth to a bunch of creepy children who go out and kill folks whenever their mom gets mad. With Oliver Reed as the strange therapist and Art Hindle. Eerie music by Howard ShoreVideo link

SCANNERS (1981) - Canada's master of "organic horror" concocted his usual fascinating mix of high-blown conceptual conceits and low-down gore and guts into a exciting mix. Scanners are super telepaths bred by an experimental drug who tend towards, uh, explosive behavior. Classic climax pits good vs. bad scanner in a literal battle of mind over matter. Despite some wooden acting by the entire cast including Stephen Lack, Jennifer O'Neill, Michael Ironside and Patrick McGoohan and excessive brain-bits-on-the-wall special effects, the boldness of this director's ideas always comes through. Great music by Howard Shore in this one too. One of his few movies that have generated sequels and spin-offs. Video link

THE DEAD ZONE (1983) - After five years in a coma, school teacher Johnny Smith (a superb Christopher Walken) awakes with a supernatural ability to see into both the past and the future. Bsed on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this is Cronenberg’s most controlled effort. Smooth handling of a convoluted script with plot twists reminiscent of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone series. Walken's characteristically narcoleptic style perfectly suits this role. Also starring Tom Skeritt, Anthony Zerbe, Brooke Adams, and a maniacal Martin Sheen as a sinister politician. Awesome score by Michael Kamen. Video link

VIDEODROME (1983) – Cronenberg takes the biological upheaval nightmares of Scanners and The Brood even further in this cult multimedia horror story. James Woods plays Max Wren, a sleazy opportunistic owner of a cable station who gets involved with mysterious porno channel called Videodrome, which transmits hypnotic signals to the viewer forcing him into a world of violent hallucination. Debbie Harry (of the band - Blondie) in her breakout debut is very sexy as Woods' masochistic paramour Nick Brand. Great music once again by Howard Shore. Video link

THE FLY (1986) - A cult remake of the 1958 sci-fi classic based on George Langelaan's 1957 short story "The Fly" about a creepy crawly Kafkaesque tale of a man who metamorphoses into a ghastly insect. Cronenberg is already notorious for his inventive ugliness in films but here he gets to play with a big budget and an excellent cast and has a field day. Jeff Goldblum is astounding as the nerdy scientist whose world is irrevocably changed by life in the larval mode. Geena Davis is his love interest. Apart from a memorable score (you guessed it) by Howard Shore, this movie won a Oscar for best Make-up for Chris Walas and Stephan DupuisVideo link

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Theatre Pirate

What an anonymous blog reader sent in the email today!! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes Tells you why this is undoubtedly the Best Batman film ever !

At long last, the final chapter of the Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale Batman trilogy arrived in a fitting conclusion to not only one of the best films of the year but one of the best trilogies in the past fifty years. 

Although it has been criticized for not being as good as its predecessor, for me it would be like comparing apples to oranges. The Dark Knight Rises(TDKR) picks up where The Dark Knight left off. Harvey Dent is dead and has become a martyr, so much so that Gotham now has "Harvey Dent Day". Bruce Wayne has now taken refuge in a portion of his estate and does not go out or take visitors unless you are Alfred or a maid feeding Bruce thorough the mail slot. 

One night at a party being thrown on Bruce Wayne's property a cat burgler named Selina breaks into Wayne's safe and steals his mother's pearl necklace and a set of Wayne's finger prints. Why? What could she possibly need Wayne's prints for? Thus enters Bane. He is a brutal thug of a man; angry immensely strong, powerful, and intelligent. He has hatched an elaborate scheme to leave Gotham a smoking pile of cinders. The plan is very involved but there are lots of twists and turns and to say anymore would ruin the film. Needless to say there are things you won't see coming and that is the joy of this film. 

Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan have created a smart and fresh script that has all of the elements of the Batman series including all of the original cast, but has gone above what one would expect and is pure genius. Not only does TDKR have energy, wit and intelligence but the characters seem to have grown wiser, too. 

This includes the newest characters in the form of Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the newest rookie on Gotham's police force, Miranda (Marion Cotillard) as Wayne's newest business partner, and Selina(Anne Hathaway who may be Wayne's best friend or his worst enemy; after Bane, of course. Tom Hardy as Bane is real evil SOB and yet, he is played with intelligence and there is a real sense of impending doom whenever Bane is on screen. His face respirator, wheezing, coughing and speaking his dialogue through his raspy voice with a matter of factness that is chilling. Bane will tell what he is going to do to you but say it like he is telling you the weather. 

The returning cast is superb from the suave Bale, honest Commissioner Gordon(Gary Oldman), Alfred(Michael Caine) who loves Wayne as the son he never had, and Fox (Morgan Freeman) who is trustworthy as the day is long. But TDKR is really Christopher Nolan's triumph. His script and direction are solid and almost poetically etched in cinematic history. 

This is great film making and it held me for almost three hours. I was never bored and was always interested in what the characters were doing. Hardy's performance as Bane is a real treat, too and it is every bit as good as Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, albeit the characters are about as different as they could be. To say one is better than the other is unfair to both. The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic film on so many levels so I will say that it simply needs to be seen to be believed. And yes, the best Batman Film ever! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Best Horror Films of the Late 70s

The Best Horror Cinema between 1977 - 1979

What's notable about the years between 1977 and 1979 isn't the number of horror films made, but the number of good ones made and perhaps the foundation of Modern American Horror era. The movie list below is a rough sampling that only represents the best of the best and horror films of real significance. Of course there are tons of flicks left out. Lot's of sequels, and knockoffs, and little films not worth mentioning, or films that many only think are so-so. Read on...


DEMON SEED (Donald Cammell) - It's not software, it's not softcore - it's Demon Seed, the tale of Proteus IV, a horny super computer that forces Julie Christie to bear his child. And you thought those guys at Apple were just fiddling with floppy disks! Video link 

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (Wes Craven) - A family driving a camper through the South¬west desert suffers a breakdown, and then really suffers when a cannibalistic family descends from the surrounding hills. This intense, gruesome thriller helped get director Wes Craven a cult following before he hit big with Nightmare on Elm Street. Video Link


HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter) - They say it started with HalloweenA psychotic killer does his thing on Halloween. And it isn't trick or treating. John Carpenter's movie changed the way we thought about the genre and inspired dozens of imitators, and many sequels, and many imitators' sequels. Let us not forget the dazzling score either! Video Link

Most people consider this the greatest zombie movie ever made.
I'm partial to Day myself (I just think it's scarier),
but I wouldn't give up either without a fight.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (George Romero) - That same year, George Romero's Dawn of the Dead heralded the true Zombie phenomena - would also generate a plethora of (mostly Italian) gory zombie massacre movies. But both are masterworks, no matter how much crap they would inspire.  This second installment in Romero's Zombie trilogy is non-stop blood feast mayhem. Four survivors battling the undead in an abandoned suburban shopping mall provide the perfect setting for a pointed satire of consumerism. The unnerving horror of Night Of The Living Dead gives way to an uneasy mix of satire and apocalyptic carnage that will please cultists and offend the weak of stomach. Video Link

EVIL (Gus Trikonis) - A haunted house horror film in which a psychologist (Richard Crenna) takes a group of patients to a remote mansion, where everyone starts getting shock treatment of a most unpleasant kind. Lots of scares and gore for chiller fans. Video Link

PIRANHA (Joe Dante) - John Sayles scripted this neat little send-up of Jaws about scientists and swindlers who discover a species of specially bred, super-nasty piranha fish living in a stream near a resort. The acting is almost incidental to the overall "bite" of this piece. An early effort in gleeful gruesomeness by the director of Gremlins. Video Link

TOOLBOX MURDERS (Dennis Donnelly) - A vile and violent shocker about a nut case with a couple of screws loose. Cameron Mitchell portrays the drooling sickle. With Pamelyn Ferdin, Aneta Corseau and Kelly Nichols. Video Link


ALIEN (Ridley Scott) - In space no one can hear you scream, but there was plenty of screaming to be heard in movie theatres when Alien exploded out onto the scene.  High-tech, chest-bursting horror as a very unfriendly extraterrestrial stows away on a spaceship and gorily disposes of its crew. Sigoumey Weaver made her film debut in this scary reworking of 1958's It! The Terror from Beyond Space which went on to spawn James Cameron's smash sequel, Aliens. Video Link

SHINING (Stanley Kubrick) - "H-e-e-e-e-ere's Johnny!" Bringing all latent demonisms to the surface in a totally lunatic performance, Jack Nicholson plays a disillusioned writer who moves his wife (Shelley Duvall) and moody little son (Danny Lloyd) to a deserted Colorado hotel for the winter. Soon the snow falls and deep weirdness sets in. The little boy rides his tricycle down empty corridors battling telepathic visions; Jack makes manic mischief at the typewriter; Shelley becomes even more pop-eyed in a progressive freak-out culminating in the famous nocturnal maze scene. Kubrick concocts an unusually black, occasionally comic, horror-thriller. Video Link

Monday, December 10, 2012

Henry Fool (1997)

An acquired taste of independent cinema that deserves a larger audience

When blockbuster hit Titanic was released to extraordinary worldwide attention, James Cameron is supposed to have said "Titanic is not just a cautionary tale - a myth, a parable, a metaphor for the ills of mankind. It is also a story of faith, courage, sacrifice, and, above all else, love"; for which someone on one of the many Anti-Titanic web pages had added "He also forgot to mention that it also cures cancer".  

Yes, 1997 was the year of Hollywood bloat.(And the year of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet - Hell they were everywhere!) Not content with sinking the world’s biggest ship, Hollywood wanted to end the world too, a few times over. (Deep Impact, Armageddon, etc) But none of this could disguise the fact that a good script is about as native to Hollywood as a beer gut ‘n stubbies is to Venezuela. 

As one critic put it, is a good script more expensive than $200 million? [in reference to Titanic’s atrocious script] though many will disagree. Rhetorical as that question is, the answer is no. And one movie stands out - the Cannes award winning Henry Fool directed by the independent auteur Hal Hartley and starring Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak and Parker Posey.

Henry Fool's budget was probably a million dollars yet its story was clever and insightful. But apparently this is irrelevant because the movie is devoid of baby faced lads in wet shirts to ensure the movie grosses a few squillion dollars.

I lurve this movie because there are oh so many layers to it. Henry Fool operates on many a level - it can be read as a story about the contentious issue of “what is art?” and “what is pornography?”. It explores the mentor/student relationship. In ways, it is a love story -Henry: I love you. Fay: Tough. It’s funny. It’s bleak. 

Though the ending is ambiguous, the movie is still complete. The toilet humor is a tad disconcerting, but otherwise it is superb. It is also supposedly, “a return to form” for Hal Hartley:) I think I have used that term as often as Barack Obama has trumpeted that Hope is the solution to all problems - economic, social, medical, animal, mineral, or vegetable. So, apologies!! Now, click the link below and watch this amazing piece of truly independent cinema. 

Free Video link - Streaming and Download - VeeHD

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Resurgence of Horror Cinema

The New Horror Movie Revival

As 2012 comes to a close, horror fans would be content that the last 24 months witnessed a sudden (and a long overdue) revival of good Horror cinema. Personal favorites like Rubber, Red State, Insidious, Possession, Cabin in the Woods, Thing, Mothers Day and more recently Sinister come to mind. 

Its a different argument to judge what qualifies as good horror but genre aficionados have got to applaud this sudden horror renaissance that we've been experiencing over the past few years. The only annoying aspect of the resurgence is that we have to endure analysis from the mainstream media trying to explain why horror is popular again. 

The conventional wisdom is that horror flicks are big in times of national stress, such as during the cold war, or during the depression /recession. For this latest wave, religious and xenophobic paranoia is the common scapegoat. While the cultural critics may be partially right, and are almost certainly mostly wrong, they are correct in one observation: horror movies come in cycles. 

One would argue that these cycles correspond not to national stress but simply to demographic trends (it's no coincidence that horror flicks have shared their popular eras with gangster pics, teen rebellion movies, and later teen angst movies), but that's not the issue. The point is to examine the cycle to see how profound it really is. 

Looking back on the recent past, horror films enjoyed about 10 years of great popularity in the 70's and 80's followed by nearly ten years in which the genre was virtually dead. If this trend continues, we should be getting one or two terrific horror flicks every year. That seems a lot to ask for in this fickle age of rapidly changing technology, but one can always hope. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Boiler Room (2000)

Hard edged, Madoff-esque Thriller

How can you not bet on a movie that manages to reference The Notorious B.I.G., Microsoft Network and the New York Stock Exchange all in the first two minutes, and still make sense? That's exactly what Boiler Room does and why it's undeniably the definitive representation of young men at the start of the modern 21st century chasing the classic greed-driven American dream.

Ben Younger's debut succeeds wonderfully at what many consider Fight Club failed (I don't think so though) to do when it became bogged down in trite anarchy, and that's show how young men struggle to survive in a society that judges them by how much money they make and what kind of cars they drive. 

For college dropout Giovanni Ribisi, that means becoming a stockbroker, "the white boy way of selling crack rock," for an off Wall Street brokerage firm that recruits young men weaned on gangster rap (constantly pounding the soundtrack) and movies like Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross

Ribisi learns that the firm makes millions selling fake stocks over the phone to wealthy, unsuspecting targets. Details of the game can be hard to follow for non-stockplayers, but a smart, accessible script propels the story along with rapid-fire scenes like foul-mouthed recruiter Ben Affleck promising $3 million within three years and energetic sales pitches that are so much fun to watch. 

The two main leads Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Afleck no doubt give memorable performances, ably supported by a stellar young cast including Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Tom Everett Scott and Scott Caan so you'll still watch it even if  stock broker cinema is not your taste! 

Boiler Room also smoothly introduces a new set of terms like "don't pitch the bitch," the firm's rule about not selling to women because they nag you every time the stock moves. It's one of many crowd-pleasing moments, including a ferocious homophobia comeback and of course a great cast, that makes Boiler Room an awesome, crime tinged high finance thriller. 

Free Video link - Streaming and Download - VeeHD
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