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You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Burl reviews Holy Motors! (2012)

Hé hé, Burl ici to review a new, and long awaited, picture from the great Léos Carax! I’ve always enjoyed his pictures, right from Boy Meets Girl and through the time I saw Carax himself introduce Les Amants du Pont-Neuf! And what a fine picture that was! Still haven’t seen Pola X though, ha ha!
Well, I just caught up with his new one, Holy Motors! I’ll tell you right off the top, I was simply enchanted! It’s a movie about movies if there ever was one, an encomium and elegy not to cinema itself, but to its mechanical parts: the film camera and projector – the holy motors of the title!
Of course Denis Levant is the star, as he has been of all, or just about all, of Carax’s past works! He’s always been one of the most talented physical performers since Keaton if you ask me, but here he outdoes himself and turns in a performance that really ought to collect quite a few awards at the end of the year, though I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis or someone like that will take the salmon once again!
What’s the plot, you might wonder? Ha ha, don’t even ask! Do you remember when I said that in The Visitor it seemed anything could happen at any time? Same deal here! Denis Levant plays a number of roles, as he is enacting “appointments” all over Paris which dramatize situations from the fantastical to the cliché to the dramatic but banal! He travels by a limousine driven by none other than Édith Scob from Eyes Without A Face, a film which gets heavily namechecked by more even than Scob’s presence! She’s pretty gorgeous, by the way!
The appointments are frequently bizarre or violent, and a prosthetic penis figures in at least one of them! The penis is oddly shaped, looking something like Lowly Worm from the Richard Scarry books! Ha ha, he’s the worm who wears a bowtie and a Tyrolean hat, but in Holy Motors, the penis is wearing nothing at all! Nothing at all! Nothing at all!
It feels a bit like a dumping ground, and apparently that’s what it is – a bunch of story ideas Carax had amassed over his last dozen years of relative inactivity, all thrown into a stewpot and simmered at low heat! But it’s the tastiest stew to come along in some time! It feels a lot like a David Cronenberg picture at times (he too has just made a picture which takes place largely in a limousine, ha ha!), and the music reminded me at least once of one of those chilly Howard Shore scores from the early 1980s!
The movie can be a bit on the nose at times, as when Levant complains about the dwindling size of cameras, or when Scob dons her mask, and a bit crotchety-old-man in its attempts at humour, as with the url-sporting headstones (Egoyan rather than Cronenberg here!); but these moments are few and their impact minimal!
I always mark it as a great moment in cinema when I walk out of a movie wondering how in hockeysticks it ever got made! Enter the Void was a bit like that, and so were Naked Lunch and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas! There are others too, and I love ‘em! Holy Motors fits into that group like a crouton in a duck, and I’m proud to give it four homemade Spider-Man masks!

Burl reviews Robocop! (1987)

Ha ha, please don’t leave, it’s just me, Burl, here to review an action picture from the 1980s! It’s called Robocop, and of course we’ve all seen the picture and have a healthy appreciation of it, no doubt! I recall seeing this one in the movie theatre, though I had to sneak in! Ha ha, I once tried to sneak into the same theatre to see Cobra, but didn’t make it that time! I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that was bad luck operating for me then, or good!
I was certainly pleased to get in to Robocop! As we’re all aware, it takes place in some near but unspecified future year (my guess: 1997, just like Predator 2!), and in Detroit, and in this particular time and place, crime is rampant! Police services have been privatized, and robot forces are called in to deal with the malfeasants! There are two schools of thought on this point, however: should they be huge, machine-gun laden stop-motion robots, or cyborgs puzzled together from hydraulics, computer chips and the corpses of dead policemen? Ronny “The Beast Within” Cox encourages the former, Miguel “Leviathan” Ferrer the latter, and it’s up to Dan “Halloween III” O’Herlihy to make the final call!
A small workplace accident ensures that Ferrer’s idea, a robocop made out of shiny purple-blue plastic and otherwise unusable Peter Weller parts, will be the one put into development! Ha ha, we all know the rest of the plot: Robocop slowly recovers his humanity as he battles the thugs who killed him (or at least his likeable family man Peter Weller persona), and ultimately takes down the corrupt and murderous Cox!
Ha ha, lots has been written about the picture’s sharp satirical digs at corporatism! There are indeed a few fake ads for violent board games and for electric hearts on the layaway plan, and some snippets from a moronic sit-com called I’d Buy That For A Dollar, but the film treads curiously lightly on the whole privatization of the police force thing! It’s certainly an issue in the picture, but the real dangers of privatization, namely the profit motive getting in the way of the services, doesn’t really come up!
It’s certainly a violent picture! There’s lots of shooting, and every bullet takes big chunks out of the person it hits! There’s stabbing too, and also a scene in which a man is rendered into oatmeal by a little mishap involving toxic waste! It’s entertaining all the way through, and fast-paced, and it has a great cast! It’s not action packed, at least not by 21st century standards, but that’s okay! I’ve still never seen the third installment of the Robocop series, despite owning a DVD set containing all three entries, much in the same way I have yet to bother watching my DVD of Poltergeist III! Both of them seem like they’ll be watered down and lame!
In closing, I would like to say that the upcoming remake of this picture looks terrible, and as with the recent remake of another Paul Verhoeven film, Total Recall, I’m not going to make any particular effort to see it! In the meantime, I give the original Robocop three “nee-nee-nee-nee-nees!”  

Thursday 22 November 2012

Burl reviews Gunslinger! (1956)

Hi, kapow, kapow, Burl here, tzing tzing tzing! Ha ha, sounds like I’m in a gunfight, doesn’t it! No, I’m just here to review a movie for you: Gunslinger, the Roger Corman western! It’s not the only Roger Corman western, of course: there’s also Apache Woman and Five Guns West, and probably others! But this was his last one, or so they say!
It’s a lot like Nicholas Ray’s great picture Johnny Guitar, which had come out two years before! But this wasn’t a case of Corman recreating someone else’s massive hit on a micro-budget, I don’t think, because I’m pretty sure Johnny Guitar was no barnburner at the box office! This was just a movie Corman wanted to make because he liked the idea of two ladies wrestling and shooting at one another, maybe!
Beverly Garland, who I think was Roger’s girlfriend at that time, plays the sheriff’s wife, and the sheriff is played by Joe Dante regular William "Innerspace" Schallert, back when he was younger but looked the same! Ha ha! Anyway, he gets bumped off by a curtain rifle pretty quickly, and Beverly must pin on the silver star and take vengeance! Her main antagonist is Alison Hayes, the fifty foot woman herself, who keeps sycophantic ponyboy-cum-moron Jonathan "Carnival Rock" Haze as her assistant and literal bottle washer as she attempts to buy up all the local real estate she can get in advance of the railroad coming through town!
Haze is sent to Tombstone (where else, ha ha!) to hire a gunslinger that can take care of the formidable new ladysheriff, and he comes back with John Ireland, well known for his work in The House of Seven Corpses and Satan’s Cheerleaders! Well, even though Bill Schallert is not yet cold up in Boot Hill (yes, their graveyard is really called that), Sheriff Bev likes what she sees, and the feeling is mutual! Of course, Ireland starts to feel a bit conflicted about his assignment, but on the other hand, the fifty foot woman is offering all manner of persuasion, and in all sorts of coin!
Just about everyone in town ends up getting shot, ha ha! There’s not much of a town left by the time Sheriff Bev canters her way out past the bodies of Corman stock players that are stacked like cordwood along the roadside! Even the great Dick "Sorority Girl" Miller, playing a cheery Pony Express rider, is shot in the back by the evil fifty foot woman! Bruno "Attack of the Giant Leeches" Ve Sota is plugged too, and so is Jonathan Haze!
The movie’s very similar to Apache Woman in its circular pacing and the way it seems to be the same scene playing over and over again for great stretches! It's also really similar in plot to Blazing Saddles, ha ha! But it has a certain conviction, and then there’s that great cast! All the players are pretty good, and Beverly Garland especially so, I thought! Fred West’s colour photography is a bit dim – no Floyd Crosby, he! – but that’s probably because it rained for the entire shoot, so they say!
Altogether, I enjoyed the picture, but not as much as some other Corman joints I’ve seen! I give it two of Dick Miller’s shoulderbags! (He rode for two weeks and that’s all he was carrying? Ha ha!)

Friday 9 November 2012

Burl reviews The Visitor! (1979)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here to tell you about a really rather unusual movie! It’s called The Visitor, and whatever other genres you might place this one in, and there are many, it fits very nicely in a personal genre of my own, Movies With Weird, Amazing Casts! This picture’s got John Huston, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, Mel Ferrer, Lance Henrikson (who played a similar role in the superficially similar Damien: Omen II around the same time), and featuring the director of The Killer Elite, Sam Peckinpah (!), as a casual doctor, plus Franco Nero from Die Hard 2 as Jesus Christ, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Fletch as himself, and with a special appearance by right-wing jibber-jabberer Neal Boortz, who plays an ill-fated ice skater and has his name misspelled as “Bortz” in the credits! Ha ha!
It also fits nicely into the genre of Movies I’m Sort Of Glad I Saw The Shorter, More Incoherent Version Of! Ha ha, I just watched my VHS copy, but there is a DVD out there with the full meal deal on it, apparently! It’s ten minutes longer and letterboxed, but somehow VHS was good enough for me on this one - it was a cover I looked at with intrigue many a time in the video store, but never rented! And, naturally, it’s a Multiple Genre Movie; aside from the ones already listed, this is a horror picture, a religious fable and a sci-fi head trip!  
It’s crazy clown time for sure! Huston plays an elderly space hobo who planet-hops about in colourful Bruno Bozzetto animations! He’s concerned in a sort of beatific way about a mean little girl in Texas, who is some sort of diabolical telepath in addition to being naturally unpleasant! Meanwhile, the girl’s mother is under pressure to marry Lance Henrikson, and is paralyzed in a terrible freak accident involving a mysterious loaded gun! Soon Inspector Glenn Ford is on the case, and Shelley Winters appears as a housekeeper who strolls about singing the most menacing rendition of “Short’nin’ Bread” possible! The little girl tells Glenn Ford to go fuck himself, and calls Huston a bastard multiple times!
Then we get some Omen deaths! Glenn Ford is attacked by a bird in his car, has his eyes gorily pecked out, crashes through a chain link fence and rolls down an incline, and is trapped by the chain link as the car burns and explodes! Yowch, ha ha! There are some other strange incidents, a few odd dream sequences or something, a growing conspiracy plot involving Mel Ferrer, his butler, and a roomful of grim-faced Satanists in suits; and a counter-plot co-orchestrated by Huston and Jesus, and staffed by a horde of bald-headed children who live on a rooftop! Huston shows up at Lance Henrikson’s house in the guise of the world’s oldest babysitter, and he and the girl have a confrontation that plays like Obi Wan Kenobi facing down Regan from The Exorcist!
There’s more, but you get the idea! I realized part of the way through that the movie was actually scaring me a little, and I realized that was because it had created a world in which absolutely anything could happen! By the time John Huston gurns insanely at a series of coloured, flashing shapes, Mel Ferrer is found dead with slime on his face and the house fills with killer birds, you really know you’ve seen something!
There are all sorts of little treats on offer! The Winters/Huston pairing is one of them, and was cleverly imported straight from Tentacles! As well, there’s some lovely cinematography courtesy of Ennio Guarnieri, who shot movies for Fellini, Wertmüller and De Sica! There’s a shot of a truck on a highway that might be the most beautiful I’ve seen! It’s not a good picture, but it’s weird, and sometimes weird is enough! I give The Visitor two and a half exploding basketballs!
PS: I saw the movie again recently, this time in a theatre! I was better able to appreciate the fine cinematography of Guarnieri, who, don't forget, also shot Pasolini's Medea, De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Wertmüller's Swept Away and Fellini's Ginger and Fred! Ha ha!

Monday 5 November 2012

Burl reviews Halloween II! (1981)

Hi, it’s me, Ben Tramer! Ha ha, no, actually it’s Burl, here again with a review for you! The other night, which was actually Halloween night, I watched Halloween 2 once again! I’m talking about the original sequel, not the sequel to the remake that didn’t itself actually seem to be a remake of the sequel! Ha ha, are you following me? Doesn’t matter! The point is that Rob Zombie had nothing to do with this one, as he was a mere cradle baby when it was made!
As you know from my review of the original Halloween, I consider it a superior picture in almost every respect! And I also harbour a great fondness for Halloween III, even as I recognize the great lost opportunity it represents! So where does a fellow like ol’ Burl stand on Halloween II, the sequel that doesn’t simply take up the story exactly as it ended in the first picture, but shows us the last five or six minutes of that John Carpenter masterwork, just in case we’d forgotten them!
After a few pokings and jumpabouts, Michael Myers makes his way to the hospital where Jamie Lee Curtis is being treated by Doctor “I’ve Just Been To A” Mixer! Ha ha, he’s pretty soused, is old Doc Mixer! Some kind of terrible statewide health care budget cuts have evidently taken effect, as the hospital is severely underpopulated! Perhaps it’s simply that the Haddonfield General administration recognize what an important holiday Halloween is in movies like this, and have let as many staff as possible have the night off! (They must have learned the trick from the administrators of the hospital in Hospital Massacre!)
Michael sets about reducing the staff roster to zero! The only patients we see in the place are babies, but he lets them alone as far as we can tell! But everybody else is fair game, and Michael gives the old kitchen knife a rest and tries a few creative variations, like exsanguination, needles, a boiling hot tub, and a claw hammer! Ha ha, I guess this sort of thing was hinted at by his use of a curly phone cord in the first picture – an example, I guess, of movie murder using a weapon that no longer exists in our day and age!
At any rate, it’s all very unlikely, and though there are some efforts at stylization, as well as the usual attractive, pumpkiny camerawork from the portly cinematographer Dean Cundey, the picture has a slightly wheezy air! I used to think it was a crackerjack entertainment, bold and gleaming, but as each year passes the gap in quality between this sequel and the original becomes more apparent! To a certain segment of the population this one might come out on top, as there are more victims and even a few Special Makeup Effects! Dr. Loomis is a bit crazier, as one might be after shooting someone six times! Ha ha!
Altogether for an early-80s slasher picture it’s pretty good! The technical quality is marvelous, and The Shape will always be an iconic fellow, and a pleasure to watch on screen as he walks purposefully down a corridor or melts slowly out of the darkness! It's a typical 80s slasher movie, but as such things go, a superior one, though as a sequel to such a grand original, is inevitably a disapointment! I give Halloween II two razor blade apples!  

Thursday 1 November 2012

Burl reviews The Shining! (1980)

He-e-e-e-ere’s Burl! Ha ha, it’s me, back finally with another review of a horror classic! I have a long history with the story of The Shining, since before the movie was made even! My schoolteacher in some very early grade, perhaps four, perhaps five, read the book to us in short installments over the year! I remember really enjoying it, though I’m not sure about the rest of the class!
Famously, of course, Stephen King was mighty disappointed in the movie, calling it “a big beautiful Cadillac of a movie with nothing under the hood,” or words to that effect! I can understand his chagrin, to a degree anyway, but I think he was too close to his own novel to be able to distinguish the book from the movie as clearly as might be required to fully appreciate Stanley Kubrick’s effort! Ha ha, I’ll bet he started to appreciate it a little more after Firestarter and Children of the Corn and The Lawnmower Man came out, though!
But Kubrick, famous for movies like Killer’s Kiss and Full Metal Jacket, undeniably took some liberties with King’s novel! I can only imagine how crushed the poor bearded author was when he saw Jack Torrance leap out with that axe and nail poor Dick Hallorann right in the parka! Or when he realized that the hotel’s frondescent threat would be a simple hedge maze and not ambulatory topiary animals! Or when Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, appeared well on his way to crazy right from day dot!
The maze, I think, was an improvement over the book, and the living hedge creatures would likely have been too much for the trick effects teams of the day, even the team Kubrick would have assembled! Ha ha, it was certainly too much for the makers of the TV movie remake, and they even had CGI capabilities! But I was very sad to see old Dick Hallorann buy the biscuit! I wanted Kubrick to show them all relaxing at the pool in Florida at the very end, just like in the book!
I’ve seen this picture a few times now, ha ha! What really struck me this go round was how impressive the sets were! Boy oh boy, those must have cost a pretty penny to make! I can’t blame Kubrick for wanting to shoot fifty or sixty takes of each shot, although I have heard that he wore out poor Scatman Crothers at one point, and that I can’t condone! He was getting on in years at that point, but at least he hadn’t made that rat picture Deadly Eyes yet! That was still in his future!
I’ll just say that I think this is a really fine adaptation of a book I also like, and I for one am content to have two very different takes on this story! The movie has great photography, a really brilliant use of music, great performances all around, even from young Danny, and many creepy scenes! Those two girls sure were eerie, ha ha! Come play with us, Danny! I give The Shining three and a half crash zooms into Redrum!