Movie Review: Spring Breakers (2012)

Comedy, Crime, Movie Reviews

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Harmony Korine is a very polarizing filmmaker and Spring Breakers is a divisive movie, despite being his most commercially successful and mainstream appealing movie to date; it’s also his best movie.  While not shying away from ogling the female leads bikini clad bodies with the camera like a peeping perv and exploiting their curves for the millions of dollars that they’re worth, Korine has empowered his characters to create the ultimate 21st century female anti-hero movie while also satirizing a quasi-religious American event; Spring Break has become such a cultural phenomenal that it’s exceeded its geographical borders to become known among all continents and cultures.  Spring Breakers is an exaggerated looking glass of America’s youths favourite annual past time; presented like a surreal fever dream, Korine both mocks and celebrates it in a manner only he could envision.

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Disney starlets have to grow up some time, but very few could have imagined this; marketed as a ”party” movie, it turns out to very misleading. Trailers and posters would lead you to believe that it was all beaches, bosoms, booty and Skrillex bass, and while it is a lot of the time, it’s only the surface.  The story revolves around 4 girls who rob a store to fund their cocaine and alcohol fueled getaway when during a raucous party they get arrested and bailed out by the gangsta rapper Alien (James Franco); what ensues afterwards is a crime spree as they plot the murder of Alien’s ex-home/now nemesis Archie (Gucci Mane).

Spring Breakers is viewed by some as a work of art, and by others as a trashy piece of pulp exploitation.  It’s a little of both: while not promoting rap culture like many of its critics have said about it, Korine has no qualms about flaunting the assets of his young starlets while making them act like teases?  Is it a declaration of female empowerment?  I believe so, as the four leads are very much dictated by their own motivations and remain firmly in control throughout the movie; male characters eat out of their hands and fall under the spells prepared to be crushed like ants.  There’s a scene where James Franco’s character deep throats a handgun at the behest of 2 of the girls; if that isn’t a symbol for matriarchal power I don’t know what is.

The ritual of Spring Break itself is completely mocked; the girls talk about it like it’s some sort of spiritual awakening that’s made them new women while Alien preaches how its the very definition of a sole reason to exist; the exaggerated presentation of the claims is a big joke, and no doubt intended to poke fun at the people the movie was falsely marketed to target.

Visually, the best way to describe it is hypnotic; at times it feels like you’re in a state of trance just watching it.  Vibrant colours, repeated dialogue, slow motion frames and surreal imagery give it a dreamlike quality.  Watching 2 young actresses wearing bikinis and pink balaclavas as they dance with guns to the tune of, ”Everytime” by Britney Spears is quite mesmeric; it also makes for one of the greatest segments in the history of cinema.

Spring Breakers is a movie a lot of people will continue to either love or hate for the rest of time; for that reason alone I rank it as a masterpiece that has to be viewed at least once.  10/10

Written & Directed By:

Harmony Korine

Starring:

Selena Gomez, James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson

Genre:

Crime, Comedy

Running Time:

94 mins

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Tetherball: The Movie (2010)

Comedy, Movie Review

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Tetherball is one of those movies that you could easily dismiss as just another dumb sex comedy by reading the synopsis; a group of slackers become tetherball stars and as a result they’re up to their nuts in beer, babes and boobies, and to an extent it is just that. It never tries to be anything else than a mindless good time; a movie to stick on when you’re inebriated with friends is what it’s perfect for. But don’t write it off just yet, because it’s more than that: while containing all the typical dick gags and frat humour you’ll expect, it also manages to create a few unexpected laughs out of nowhere that take you by surprise, as well as riff on the sports world to create some hilarious satire. Although not quite the ingenious masterpiece Baseketball is (nothing is for me though, that movie is in my all time top 10), it does provide a worthy companion piece to it. If Baseketball is the daddy of sports satire, Tetherball is its delinquent the son; still in college, impregnating women and living with alcoholism, but it still has his daddy’s genes and wit. Mark my words, Tetherball is a funny movie, if you’re a fan of slacker, sex and sports comedies. If the guys from Porky’s were amazing backyard athletes, then they’d fit right in with the Tetherball guys. It reminded me of a good 80’s sex comedy; not only are all the characters womanizing drunks, but even the fat guys get laid with ease. In most modern sex comedies Chubby has to work for it, and if some unfortunate women is feeling pitiful, he might just score.

The cast features some known names too; Ron Jeremy plays the sleazy man of power to demands sexual treats in exchange for granting wealth and fame for a start. Although it’s not hard to hire Ron Jeremy, he’s always a lot of fun and here he plays one of his better roles in awhile, up there with Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and One Eyed Monster. Dustin Diamond, who we all know as Screech from Saved By The Bell also gets a good portion of screen time as the down-on-his-luck coach with more casualties under his supervision than success stories. Lastly, Lloyd Kauffman lends his voice as a commentator; always a pleasant voice to hear, but let’s hope he didn’t stiff these guys for money. Cameos aside, it’s the cast of unknowns who steal the show – Rick Dawson, Brian Titus, Rob Fender, and Jon Alderman – and they all demonstrate natural comedic chops that could see them go places, together and apart.

14 year old me would have loved this movie, but 25 year old me still really enjoyed it and laughed regularly from beginning ’til end. If you can find it anywhere, check it out (it’s available on Amazon and other VOD outlets). It’s much funnier than any typical dumbfounded assumption would ever give it credit for, and you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. Comedies are supposed to make us laugh and Tetherball provides more laughs than you’d get having your nutsack tickled by a clown falling down some stairs. 7/10

Director:

Chris Nickin

Writer:

Rick Dawson

Starring:

Rick Dawson, Brian Fender, Brian Titus, Ron Jeremy

Genre:

Comedy

Running Time:

90 min

Movie Review: Easter Casket (2013)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews

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It’s strange to think that Easter is a relatively unexplored holiday in horror films; you’d think with all of the religious mythologies and potential killer rabbits it would be a gold mine for material, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s fairly untapped.  However, Dustin Mills saw this gap in the market, and thanks to the power of his wizardry, we have an annual holiday viewing that’s absolutely essential for your holiday horror hurrahs.  If you’re familiar with Dustin’s work, you know to expect something original with each of his offerings, which is why his fan base has been loyal and steadily growing since his first feature, The Puppet Monster Massacre (2012), which was, if anything, an unforgettable introduction that introduced us to a unique talent.  Easter Casket, like all Dustin Mills movies, could only come from the mind of Dustin Mills; a micro-budget horror comedy about a puppet rabbit hellbent on destroying Catholicism and reigning in the Apocalypse isn’t your standard fare, but that’s what makes it so wonderful.

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Easter Casket centers around Father Asher (Josh Eal), a warrior priest tasked with stopping The Easter Bunny, who is killing the clergy and Catholic school girls because the Church wants to do away with rituals not pertaining to Christ.  Needless to say a full throttle rampage ensues and the less said about it the better.  The element of surprise and unpredictability in store for you will only enhance your experience.

Dustin Mills really pulled the rabbit out of the hat with this movie, because despite being made for pennies, it’s impressive in so many ways.  First of all, it’s visually stunning and wildly creative; the lack of budget is a blessing in disguise as it encourages creativity and making the best of what’s available.  Puppets and toys are used to great effect, only adding to the films charms.  Its low budget is certainly not to its detriment as the inventiveness is what makes it so alluring.  However, the films greatest strength is its story; it just goes to show how far an imaginative, well crafted mythology can go and the tale of Peter Cottontail (aka The Easter Bunny) is engaging.  I’ve always felt that horror movies should explore unique mythologies more often as their creative scope is limitless; let those imaginations pour out all over the screen, I say.  Throw in a hilarious script, puppets at a coke orgy, female nudity and a Mega Pope and you have a certified cult classic on your hands.

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From an objective point of view, the only criticisms I can give Easter Casket are the obvious low budget constraints, which might not sit well with some viewers.  But, as I said earlier, I felt they worked in the movies favour.  At times it feels like a larger than life movie, set in a massive universe adjacent to our own.  Not since Astron-6’s masterpiece Manborg (2011) has a low budget movie had so much charm and high concept ideas that it sucks you into a world you’ll get lost in. This is the type of creative spirit that makes being a film fan the greatest joy on Earth, and discovering talents like Mills is just as good as rubbing one out when the house is empty and you can watch your porno with the volume up full.  9/10

Writer & Director:

Dustin Mills

Starring:

Josh Eal, Erin R. Ryan, Jason Crowe, Dustin Mills, Dave Parker

Genre:

Comedy Horror

Movie Review: Iron Sky (2012)

Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

iron If horror movies were history lessons, the Nazi’s would be a laughing stock: Throughout the years they’ve went from the most despicable people in history, responsible for the Holocaust and countless other atrocities, to space invaders who live in a swastika shaped space station on the moon.  But that’s no bad thing; if history has been good for anything it’s providing source material for ludicrous entertainment.  When I think of Adolf Hitler now, I picture him wearing a cape in Inglorious Basterds (2009); and when I think of Nazi’s I imagine zombies from the countless number of movies they’ve risen from the dead to munch on the living, regardless of their views on a potential Third Reich.  But now, thanks to Iron Sky, when I look at the sky at night and see the moon, I imagine a Nazi’s looking back at me as they plan another coup for world domination.  Nazi’s, eh?  Gotta love ’em.  Of course that all changes when I watch Schindler’s List (1993) and hit a 2 week depression…

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Now don’t get this twisted as me being a fascist prick who likes Nazi’s, but I’ve always found attractive women wearing skimpy versions of their uniforms to be incredibly sexy, so forgive me for falling madly in love with Julia Dietze at first sight in Iron Sky.  Even though she turns out to be a misinformed Nazi who’s actually a sweetheart who harbours no hatred towards a race of people or the desire to destroy Planet Earth, I’d still love her even if she did.  The same goes for Sheri Moon Zombie in Rob Zombie’s faux trailer Werewolf Women of the SS (2007), which he really needs to make someday.  Anyway, now that you know about my sick fetish, we can move on and get on with the review clouded in judgement.

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 The plot centres around an African American astronaut who lands on the moon in 2018, only to be captured by Nazi’s, who we find out have been living there since 1945.  The astronaut being sent to the moon is a publicity stunt by the right-wing president of the US in a bid to appear as equality driven in the eye of the public.  However, the Nazi’s assume that Earth is planning an invasion, so they send representatives to Earth who end up getting involved in the US Presidents warmongering plans; meanwhile, elsewhere, our African American astronaut hero now roams the streets as an ”Aryanized” hobo, after being dyed white through a science experiment.

To call Iron Sky ridiculous would be an understatement, but the overall product is merely average; the first half hour of the movie is absolutely fantastic as we’re introduced to the Nazi’s on their moon base, which is a tremendous feat in special effects considering the low budget it cost to make it.  The early stages provide some of the movies best gags too; ranging from irreverent racist humour (they are Nazi’s after all) to the advancement of technology.  The mad scientist steals the show as a racist Einstein spliced with the professor from Back To The Future.  He’s one of an array of over-exaggerated characters chewing scenery, but he just so happens to be the best of a fun bunch.

Once they arrive on Earth, things go drab for awhile and the movie starts to drag at points.  The humour even begins to get somewhat tiresome as it repeats itself, but the sub-plot of the African American astronaut’s stint as an Aryan hobo manages to provide enough entertaining scenes to carry it towards a thrilling climax.

Overall, Iron Sky is a movie with a great concept that could have been so much better; a screenplay revision and a few trimmings here and there could have elevated it towards masterpiece status, but it bogs itself down with pacing issues and some humour that falls just flat of tickling the funny bone.  However, when it hits the mark it’s a hilarious, goofy political satire with some dazzling special effects and fun performances from a cast boasting the likes of Udo Kier, so there’s enough going on to ensure the lows don’t disappoint your overall experience.  7/10

Director:

Tito Vuorensola

Writer:

Jarmo Puskala, Johanna Sinisalo

Starring:

Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto, Udo Kier

Genre:

Comedy, Sci-Fi

Running Time:

93 mins

Movie Review: Witching & Bitching (2013)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Review

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Divorces can be messy: especially when there’s a child involved who’s caught in the middle of a custody battle between his feuding parents.  Some movies in the past have shown how some parents go to extreme lengths to spend time with their kids; in 1993 Robin Williams even went as far as becoming a cross dresser and falsifying his identity just so he could enjoy quality time with his children while his wife was banging James Bond.  However, I don’t recall any parents ever taking their children to a stick up in a jewellery store then trying to flee the country: not until Witching & Bitching that is, the 2013 horror comedy from critically acclaimed Spanish maestro, Álex de la Iglesia.

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Jose (Hugo Silva) is a recently divorced petty criminal with no job and no money; this means that he can’t afford alimony payments, so he disguises himself as a silver painted Jesus and robs a jewellery store of its wedding rings along with a band of misfits dressed up like Spongebob Squarepants, The Invisible Man and a soldier.  It also just so happens to be the day he has guardian rights to his son, so he brings him along for the robbery to.  Nothing quite like some father-son bonding, is there?

After the robbery, the soldier, Jose and his son hijack a taxi cab and take the driver and passenger hostage to escape Madrid and get to France; while they make their way to the border, they bond over their unanimous hatred of women, unbeknownst that the trouble that waits for them ahead makes being taken to the cleaners for all your worth seem like chump change.  In pursuit of them are 2 police detectives and Jose’s psychotic ex-wife, Silvia (Macarena Gomez), who will stop at nothing to get her son back.  In order to get to France, they must pass through the village of  Zugarramurdi (a place in which there was a real witch trial in the 17th century), only to be captured by a coven of witches who want to eat them for dinner and use Jose’s son for their own personal apocalyptic agenda.

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Witching & Bitching is, quite simply, an absolutely bonkers battle of the sexes which pits a group of chauvinists against a group of cannibalistic women; the witches are portrayed as men hating, bloodthirsty fiends and the men are inept idiots, so any notion of it being sexist can’t be targeted at one particular gender as they’re both shown represented by their worst stereotypes.  But it leans a little towards women being the stronger and deadlier of the species; which as a man myself I can confirm to be an accurate assessment.  Those boobs hold power, and their ability to control, intimidate and manipulate is indubitable when you’re as nuanced as irresolute as the men in this movie.

Cannibalistic witches and silver spray painted Jesus’ aren’t the only deranged delights provided in Witching & Bitching: The insanity ranges from peeping toms living underneath lavatories and 50 foot obese naked Pagan goddesses, which fit in nicely with all the splattery goodness, dismembered fingers and kids in ovens.  Man’s tendency to think with his meat stick is also explored; it doesn’t matter if a coven of witches is trying to eat you for dinner and sacrifice your son to their goddess, but when the attractive one pours frogs blood over her barely covered bosoms and gyrates on a broomstick, everything else on earth might as well be non-existent for those few minutes.

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Iglesia’s previous feature The Last Circus (2010) portrayed the workings of a madman on screen; in film we call that an artist.  A true out-of-the-box thinker, his warped vision is continued in Witching & Bitching, and is a must see for those who appreciate transgressive cinema with sweet comedic sprinkles on top.  Best served with an open mind, but an absolute treat if you have the acquired taste.  9/10

Director:

Álex de la Iglesia

Writers:

Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia

Starring:

Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Pepón Nieto

Genre:

Comedy, Horror

Running Time:

112 min

Movie Review: Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970)

Action, Blaxploitation, Comedy, Crime, Movie Review

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Variety magazine credited 1971’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song as the first ever Blaxploitation film; but the first of its kind can arguably be traced back to 1970’s Cotton Comes To Harlem, directed by the legendary Ossie Davis, who some of you will know as the African American who played JFK in Doscarelli’s cult classic, Bubba Hotep (2003).  The fact is: Cotton Comes To Harlem has all the stylistic hallmarks of a Blaxploitation movie – music, lingo, action, etc – but many would argue that it’s a simple action comedy; but that’s irrelevant when the only thing that’s important is the movie itself, and Cotton Comes To Harlem is one sweet talkin’ soul brotha of a movie.

Based on the novel by Chester Himes, Cotton Comes To Harlem follows the head busting detectives “Gravedigger” Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) and “Coffin Ed” Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) as they pursue the scamming conman, Reverend O’Malley.  Along the way they encounter gangsters, militants and a host of other characters who stand between them and their target.

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The biggest compliment I can give Cotton Comes To Harlem is that it’s never boring and that it’s aged extremely well; if there isn’t a car chase there’s a shoot out; if there isn’t a shoot out there’s a brawl; and if there isn’t a brawl there’s some smooth talking exchanges between the characters, making for many moments that shift between melodrama and comedy.  The novel is regarded as an important piece of American literature, as the author was a pioneer of African American crime fiction; social commentary about race and inequality are evident in the film too, but it never gets preachy at the expense of entertainment.

I think one of the reasons that Cotton Comes To Harlem still hits home to this day is because of its social themes; with race and class issues still a problem in America, this movie still connects with people.  However, it’s not like the action and comedy haven’t stood the test of time either; these types of movies continue to find audiences because of how much fun they are, and with the popularity of Black Dynamite and even Austin Powers: Goldmember, it’s plain to see that there’s new generations continuing to be inspired by them.  Cotton Comes To Harlem was a fitting start to one of the most influential subgenres of exploitation cinema, and it’s well worth tracking down.  7/10

Director:

Ossie Davis

Writer:

Chester Himes (novel) & Arnold Perl (screenplay)

Genre:

Action, Crime, Comedy, Blaxploitation

Running Time:

97 min

Movie Review: Blood Diner (1987)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Review

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When it comes to camp, silly horror comedies of the ’80’s you’d be hard pressed to find many that are as camp and silly as Blood Diner.  It might very well be an updated version of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ sleazy Blood Feast (1963), but it’s far more superior in every conceivable way.  I have a very dark sense of humour, and I appreciate goofy, tasteless approaches to the macabre; Blood Diner is the epitome of wacky, tastelessness cooked up in a tasty dish.  This ticks off all the superlatives one could ask for in a horror comedy: Bonkers?  Check.  Unhinged?  Check.  Demented?  Check.  Smartly stupid?  Check.  Obscene?  Check.  I could go on all night forming adjectives to describe the beautiful joy that is Blood Feast, but they wouldn’t do it any justice.  So, instead, I’ll just try to explain it as best as I can without falling into a coma of unabashed, unadulterated love.

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After an opening monologue which talks about blood cults, we cut to 2 young brothers playing in the safety of their own home, when, all of a sudden, a man bursts through the front door carrying a meat cleaver, with his clothes and skin stained with blood.  Not to fret though, it’s only their loving Uncle, and he’s there to give them ancient necklaces before the police gun him down.  Years later, the boys dig up their uncle and take his brain so they can set about resurrecting the ancient Egyptian goddess Shitaar.  With their dead uncles talking brain as their guide, they set out to collect the body parts required for Shitaar’s body and find a virgin for the ceremony.  The body parts are assorted from chopped up whores, with spare limbs and insides used to cook up a special feast, along with serving customers in their popular health food diner.  There’s also wrestling Nazi’s, a ventriloquist disgruntled chef with an African American cowboy dummy that likes to sweet talk women and a police detective with a dubbed Eastern European accent.  Did I mention that there’s Nazi wrestling?  Because there’s Nazi wrestling.

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Blood Diner has all the talking brains, Egyptian goddesses, full frontal bush Kung Fu, severed limbs, projectile vomiting and fascist wrestling superstars you could ever hope for.  If you had to write down a list of of essential requirements needed to make a perfect movie, those would be on there somewhere. But if that isn’t enough there’s also a punk rock band whose singer wears a Roman helmet, backed up by Hitler’s, performing for zombies and cultists as they wreak havoc during a summoning ceremony for Shitaar.  And if that’s not enough, we’re treated to a bouncer’s head being crushed by the wheel of a bouncing lowrider; this in itself feels like a small victory for anyone who’s ever been denied access to a nightclub.

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Jackie Kong only went on to make one more feature after Blood Diner, and even though I miss her work dearly, it’s safe to say she went out in style.  Every self-respecting director should aspire to make a movie like Blood Diner.  Stanley Kubrick wishes he made Blood Diner in 1987 instead of Full Metal Jacket.  John Boorman wishes he made Blood Diner too; instead of that sentimental Hope and Glory crap.  This is midnight movie madness at its most maniacally magnificent; within 88 minutes it cooks up more treats than an entire season of Ready, Steady, Cook and you’ll find yourself coming back for extra helpings.  An absolute masterpiece of low budget trash.  9/10

Director:

Jackie Kong

Writer:

Michael Sonye

Starring:

Rick Burks, Carl Crew, Roger Dauer

Genre:

Comedy, Horror

Running Time:

88 min

Short Film Review: Wasted (2015)

Comedy, Horror, Short Film Review

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Cinecoup is a Canadian project where independent filmmakers submit 60 second trailers for a chance to win 1 million dollars to make a full feature, and have it released at Cinecoup theatres across the country.  And the cool thing about it is that, we, the fans, get to take part and dictate the voting  It’s thanks to Cinecoup we have Wolfcop in our lives; but what will be the next cult classic in the making?

One of the entries in this years contest is Wasted, a slacker comedy with zombies.  It revolves around a group of deadbeat friends as they drink terrible Canadian beer, smoke the drugs and discuss how they’d survive a zombie apocalypse.  The star of the show is Mark, a stoned budding sociopath, who is not only convinced the zombie apocalypse is going to happen, but he’s actually looking forward to it.  His friends – Sid, Steve and Anthony – are a little more grounded (and sober) than Mark, but not nearly as equipped.

In order to survive the end of mankind as they know it, a Zombie Survival Kit is a necessity; this kit has to include essential items such as a first aid kit, with bandages, rubbing alcohol and so on.  Flash lights are also a requirement; as well as matches for light, cooking and smoking Mary Jane.  But, the most important item of all is condoms, just in case you bump into a hot survivor – or decide to have sex with the undead.  Personally, I’d take either at this point.

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Mark also plans to drive around with an AK47, a chainsaw and a samurai sword in the trunk of his car, which makes sense since he’s the weapons and hunting expert of the group.  Anthony, on the other hand will be their designated doctor because he ”looks like one”. due to him being Asian.  Moreover, Steve will need to learn to become a mechanic, and from what we see of him fixing cars in their hypothetical discussion, he’ll need to become a better one, should an outbreak happen.  Lastly, they’d need a builder, which would be Sid’s duty, and like his friends, he’s a fumbling mess of a man.

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Their discussion is accompanied by animated diagrams of their plan, and live action scenes of their potential scenarios.  There’s ample amounts of blood, explosions and walking undead to wet your appetite, but it’s the relationship between the characters that makes it engaging.  They’re a loveable bunch of goons who seem to have it barely figured out.

I was treated to an exclusive of the 12 minute short film, which will hopefully light up many a festival in 2015, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The strength is in the characters: you could watch an entire movie of these guys just hanging out, getting drunk and talking nonsense and it’d be fantastic.  I don’t know what they put in the beer over in Canada, but whatever the magic ingredient is, it’s inspired some good humoured genre pictures the past few years, and I have no doubt in my mind the guys at Retro Grave Productions will make many valuable contributions in the future.  Just like the act of getting intoxicated, Wasted is mindless fun, filled with laughs, joy and imminent violence.  8/10

For more information, you can follow Wasted on Twitter and Facebook.  And if you like what you see from the trailer, pop on over to Cinecoup.

Written & Directed By:

Satheesan Nagenthiram

Starring:

Darrin Drugan, Steve Kasan, Samuel Lin, Satheesan Nagenthiram

Genre:

Comedy, Horror

Running Time:

12 min

Movie Review: Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (2014)

Comedy, drama, Movie Reviews

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The mentally fractured loner reaching breaking point isn’t a new concept in the annals of cinema, but Stuart Simpson’s dark pyschological dramedy Strawberry Chocolate Vanilla ranks among the best of them.  A movie about an ice cream man who’s addicted to a soap opera to the point of delusion might sound silly on paper; but thanks to a great script and a master class performance by Glenn Maynard, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a powerful movie that’ll stay in your mind long after the end credits roll.  It’s also yet another absolute gem from Australia; further reaffirming that their cinema is the best in the world.

 Glenn Maynard stars as Warren Thompson, an ice cream truck vendor who oscillates between living in fiction and reality.  Warren is tormented by bullies in his daily life and has spent the majority of his years alienated; his only solace comes in the form of a soap opera which he watches for the beautiful Katey George (Kyrie Capri).  Then one day, Katey starts to visit his ice cream van and the line between daydreams and reality becomes a blur.

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The film opens with our protagonist as a sobbing mess, having just accidentally run over his own cat.  Immediately we’re made aware of just how tragic his situation is, and it makes for uncomfortable viewing watching Warren project such heartfelt grief over the loss of his beloved pet; but there is some darkly comical humour to be found and it sets the tone for the rest of the film, which balances offbeat humour with disturbing and tragic psychological drama.

The supporting cast are comprised of characters who are mostly obnoxious, vile human beings: there’s a pimp who stands under a bridge who spends every scene he’s in with Warren abusing him either verbally or physically, for a start.  The pimps girlfriend’s son also just happens to be a thieving little bastard whose crimes come back to haunt Warren.  Furthermore, the neighbourhood teenagers poke fun at the way he walks.  To put it bluntly: you want to see these people get their comeuppance.  However, Warren does have one friend in the girl who works at the store, and their interactions make for some shy pleasantries in an otherwise unpleasant series of interactions.

On top of soap operas, Warren’s other love is westerns.  There’s a scene where he imagines himself as a heroic Man With No Name-like figure; in real life he’s pushed around daily, but in his fantasies he’s a bad ass of the Old West.

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I can’t praise Glenn Maynard’s performance with words that’ll do it justice; this is a case of it having to be seen to believe it.  Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla might not ever be held in as high regard as Taxi Driver, but Warren, in his own right, is a character who’s as powerful as Travis Bickle.  In some respects, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a lot like Taxi Driver by way of James Gunn’s Super (2010).  They all share fractured central characters, but here we see an offbeat quality similar to the latter that really screws with your emotions.  Will you laugh?  Yes.  Will you feel chills ripple down your spine?  Yes.  Will you hit a mild depression?  Probably.  But the beauty of this movie is that it plays so many cards, evokes every emotion and seamlessly shifts between gears without ever losing tonal balance or comprising its narrative.

This definitely isn’t a movie for everyone, but, for me, it catered to my tastes.  I thoroughly recommend it if you want something a little bit left of the norm.  It’s a fearless film; a dark, oft-hilarious character study that’s impossible to pigeon-hole.  As funny as it is harrowing, I felt it to be very moving and bittersweet as well; loneliness is more often than not a tragic theme to explore, and Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla delves into how it can affect mental health.  Unlike other similar movies of its kind, this one stands out by having restraint, and it makes the pay-off that little bit more satisfying.

And now I have another director and actor on my radar to look forward to in future.

Directed By:

Stuart Simpson

Written By:

Addison Heath

Starring:

Glenn Maynard, Kyrie Capri, Aston Elliot

Genre:

Comedy, Drama

Running Time:

85 mins

Movie Review: Parents (1989)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews

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In 1988, a great American poet, who went by the alias The Fresh Prince, spoke of strained parental relationships in his poignant hit smash, ”Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  Well, if he thought his mother buying him unfashionable clothes was detrimental to his well-being, imagine how he’d feel if he was little Bryan Madorsky (Michael Laemie).  Bryan is far from trendy, but his problems extend far beyond fashion troubles; Bryan has mental health problems, with paranoia stemming from fear of his cannibal parents.

The 50’s was a time of the suburban American portrait family: the man was the breadwinner, whose wife would pack his lunch. kiss him on the cheek and send him off to work with his briefcase intact.  The wife on the other hand would stay at home, do the housework and prepare scrumptious meals for the family.  The kids went to school, got good grades and absorbed life advice from Paw; and if it was a boy the father would call him ”champ” or ”slugger” as they played catch in the yard.  You know the scenario:  Bob Balaban’s Parents certainly does; this is a satire of the perceived perfect family which also plays on childhood suspicions of their parents doing unspeakable things after they put them to bed at night.  In reality, they were usually watching late night television or, to quote the Fresh Prince again. ”Gettin’ Jiggy With It.”  However, as kids we all suspected that our parents were flesh eating cannibals; in Parents it might be more than the overworking’s of a child’s imagination.

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Parents sits somewhere amidst a black comedy, a satire of suburban America and a Lynchian sprinkled horror; the tonal balance is hazy, never fully embracing each genre in its entirety.  However, it never comes across as uneven; by lingering on the fence of each, Parents makes you feel like you’re witnessing a child’s delusions and nightmares unfold through the eyes of the child himself.

Randy Quaid, long before he was playing Amish bowlers in Farrelly Brothers comedies, is excellent as the father.  On the surface he looks like the perfect stereotypical breadwinner; but from the get-go it’s apparent he’s harbouring something sinister underneath his shirt and tie.  Mary Beth Hurt as Billy’s mother is just as effective; she’s more silent and knows her role in the patriarchal system of the household.  But she does showcase a huge appetite for meat.

Parents is a strange movie; as a horror comedy it’s not scary or funny enough, but the way it blends aspects of each to create an oddity is magnificent.  A forgotten gem that deserves some more recognition, this cannibal caper is one tasty, exotic dish.  9/10

Directed By:

Bob Balaban

Written By:

Christopher Hawthorne

Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis, Michael Laemie

Genre:

Horror, Comedy, Drama

Running Time:

81 min