Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tobe Hooper (1943-2017)


Another legendary horror filmmaker has passed.  Mr Hooper's filmography lists some of the most original, and probably the most scariest films of modern times.  Of course what Tobe Hooper is best known for is the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".  A film that has been listed in both the museum of modern art in New York, and the library of Congress in Washington.  Not bad for a film when it was released was dismissed as a sort of pornography of cinema.

What the film "the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was a film beyond its time.  Scholars have written about the film, and I believe it will be continually be written about when talking about horror or American cinema.

I was introduced to the film by a friend, and when I saw it I did not know what to make of the film.  It certainly pushed some buttons within me, and that's what I think it did for a whole lot of people.  When people describe the film they say it was the most bloodiest and goriest film they had ever seen, but if you really look at the film there is little to no blood in the film.  There is no blood in the film and the gore is almost non-existent because it's all implied, and that's because of the mastery of Hoopers filmmaking skills.

The film is about terror, and it does have some very dark humor in the film.  Listen to the conversation between the cook, and Leatherface, our chainsaw weilding protagonist.  Though Leatherface does not utter a word his gestures and his eyes convey it all.  Gunner Hansen who played the villain Leatherface does some extraordinary acting in the film, and it is these performances that make "Chainsaw..." the film it is.  I can only surmise that Hansen got his directorial instructions from Hooper who saw Leatherface as not a caricature, but a complex personality whose reality is warped because of the way he was brought up by his strange family.

Back in 1974 when the film was released there was no film like this around.  The country was experiencing Watergate, gas shortages, inflation, and the defeat of Vietnam.  Kent State was in the social consciousness as well.  "Chainsaw...." burst upon the screen like the angry child it was.  It laid to rest that we were heading to a beautiful future.  What "Chainsaw..." showed and said that madness is around the corner and it is waiting to consume you if you don't watch out.  All the protagonists meet grisly deaths except our survivor who goes through hell and back.

"Chainsaw...." was a film that gave it to you right between the eyes.    It is because of this that "Chainsaw...." is a film that will always be remembered as a classic.  It was and is a no holds bar slugfest that doesn't let up, and when you think it does it goes into overdrive, and into territory that makes us uncomfortable.

Even if you discount "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Hoopers other films were filled with terror that disturbed us.  "Poltergeist" was a film about an assault on the modern suburban family, "Salems Lot" was a TV movie epic about people fighting modern vampires.  From the film "The Mangler" to "The toolbox Murders" are all films that make it's audience uncomfortable because Hooper knows how to scare his audience while at the same time make them laugh even though it is a nervous laughter.

It is this formula that made Hooper the great director he was.  Mr. Hooper taught film at the university of Austin I believe , so he knew his material, and knew how to evoke responses to certain material.

All I can say is that another great American filmmaker has passed, and for that we are all at a loss.  Thankfully we have his work to study and talk about.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)


Dunkirk is one of those movies that is better seen in the theaters then seen later at home.  Dunkirk is a film that harkens back to great filmmaking.  Every frame of this film is a work of art.  The sound design is quite intricate and when the German Junkers dive bomb the beach you feel as though you are there.  Christopher Nolan the director of Dunkirk uses all the tricks of the trade to really make you feel that you are there at Dunkirk, and the dread that faces the troops stranded on the beach.

Nolan divides the film between the sea, the air, and the beach.  To say that there is no one character to concentrate on would be correct.  Nolan divides the screen time among various actors who do a fantastic job at conveying the dread and the fear of the early months of the war when Germany was running through Europe, and devouring all that was good.

Throughout the film we see the horrors of war, and the film begins with a bit of silence as several soldiers wander the streets of Dunkirk and are suddenly surprised by enemy troops.  Nolan never really shows us the enemy.  They are at a distance, and it makes them more scary.  We as the audience know what will happen, but how do these soldiers get away to fight another day.  Well that is Dunkirk.

In history Dunkirk was very important.  It rescued many British, Belgium, and French troops trapped at Dunkirk.  Tom Hardy plays a RAF pilot who does his duty without thought.  What he does and how he does it is a reflection of how badly the British were overwhelmed by the German blitzkrieg, yet they persevered against insurmountable odds.  Tom Hardy is almost unrecognizable in the film because he is outfitted with his airflow mask, yet he conveys everything through his actions and his eyes.  Harry Styles also does an impressive bit of acting as well.  There is little dialogue throughout the film for our characters to engage in, but there are moments where they all shine, and that's all die to Nolan's direction.

Going in to the movie I was aware of the history of the events that took place at Dunkirk, but the film brings it home, and makes it very personal, and because of that the film is better for it.

I would be remiss to mention nothing if I was not to mention the cinematography, the music, and the audio mixing of this film works all in its favor.  Nolan surrounds himself with true artists and makes the film work on so many levels.

The cinematography was by Hoyte Van Hoytema, and shooting in 70mm sure makes the screen epic.  The music is by Hans Zimmer.

Dunkirk is worth seeing in the theaters.  I saw it in 70mm, and was a bit taken back by the movies landscape.  I would suggest seeing the film in IMAX because Dunkirk is a film better seen on the big screen.

I did notice a bit of a flicker on the 70mm, yet I do not know if this was because of a technical issue or if it was normal since I was seeing the shutter on a analog projector (celluloid) and I was watching a non digital image.  I still enjoyed the film, and it never really bothered me because I was wrapped up in the film.

Monday, July 17, 2017

George A. Romero 1940 - 2017




George Romero the director of such films as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, Knightriders, and Martin has passed at the age of 77.

Romero directed Night of the living Dead back in 1967 with some friends and colleagues and changed cinematic history.   Shot for about 100K the film would go on to become a classic of modern horror, and would also be inducted into the museum of modern art, and into the Library of Congress’s National film registry. 

Romero would go onto produce and direct many other films such as Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and Knightriders.  It was the film Dawn of the Dead that put zombies back into the media and it is a film that re-invented the zombie genre.  Many current shows and movies have Romero to thank for being the first to re-inventing the zombie genre and making it profitable.  Roger Ebert considered "Dawn of the Dead"one of the best horror movies ever made.

On a personal level George Romero showed that one could work outside the studio system, and so he really was one of the first DIY filmmakers that would go on to be very successful.    His passion for story telling was very well known, and he loved talking to his fans about filmmaking and his movies.  To many of his fans Romero was very approachable and it was that that made him so special.

Talking about the production of his film “The Crazies” or his film “Martin” you understood that Romero's films had so many different sub-text.   Whether an allegory about consumerism (Dawn of the Dead), or a story about loneliness and misunderstanding (Martin) Romero's films work on many levels.   Even towards the end of his life he was still trying to get films made.  He had boundless energy, and loved what he did, and took the time to meet his fans and admirers. 

Romero is survived by his wife, his daughter, his son Andrew Romero as well as his other son Cam Romero from a previous marriage to Christine Romero  



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)Saldan


What is it that make the Guardians of the Galaxy films so fun and worth seeing?  It's the characters simple put, and the actors who play them.  Plus there is a theme in the movies that run throughout the series or franchise and that is that their more then superheros their family.  A dysfunctional family, but no less a family.  That's what makes this franchise so good.  The humor that is built into the films, and the actors who play them so well.  From Chris Pratt who plays Star Lord to Dave Bautista who plays Drax the actors really bring a certain joy to their characters that they are playing.  Even Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper who do the voices for the characters of Groot and Rocket are entertaining and fun.

I could go on about the direction, and the art direction, but why?  It's all good.  In fact its so good you take them for granted.  The writing is perfect James Gunn and Dan Abnett do an admirable job keeping it close to what the Marvel comic of the Guardians was like.

And even if you're not familiar with the comic you'll enjoy the film(s).  The filmmakers do this by casting actors who love their characters, and who are having fun doing so.  The chemistry between  Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana is magical, and you really want to root for our heros because they are family.

The latest film also expands the character of  Yondu played fantastically by Michael Rooker who is a personal favorite of mine.  The theme in this film is family, and how Star Lord finds out who is his father played by Kurt Russell who seems to get better and better as he gets older.  The theme of what a father really is hits close to the heart, and plays well into the narrative of the film.  

So it's not the effects, or that it is a superhero movie that makes Guardians of the Galaxy 2 a superior film, but it is its theme of family, and adversity that makes it a fun movie.  Audiences can relate, and that's what makes the film a superior fun filled family film.  Even when the jokes are a bit risque they are funny because you know some of them will be over children's heads, and adults, don't have to stress about explaining it to their young ones. 

Also don't get me started with the soundtrack.  Both films have some great  old music that brings back a nostalgic vibe to the film.  It's unique to the films, and I really enjoy it.  It's an added bonus, and I really like it, and I'm sure many fans of the film also enjoy it.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a fun filled action packed summer movie with heart.  


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rogue One - 2016


So after seeing Rogue One I was thoroughly impressed to see how Disney is expanding the Star Wars universe.  A picture about getting the plans to the Rebels became an interesting and thought provoking story that greatly expanded the Star Wars universe, and added depth to the story.  Plus the effects, the acting, and the direction push the Star Wars universe in a very interesting place.

I remember seeing the original so long ago in a theater in Manhattan.  It was my first venture into the city, and I was overwhelmed at the movie,  The sound, the effects, the story all compelled me to know more about this film.  How they made it.  Who made it, and was there more.

The same could be said about Rogue One.  Special effects have come a long way since 1977.  The re-creation of Peter Cushing is remarkable, and certainly it opens a whole new way to make films, while at the same time opens a whole can of worms for the acting industry.   The last shot of Princess Leia in the film is remarkable as well since Carrie Fisher who portrays her is no longer with us, and yet we see a 19 year old princess Leia taking the stolen Death Star plans.

The filmmakers definitely wanted Rogue One to be the film that precedes the original Star Wars "A New Hope".  It is well done.

I don't want to spoil it, and I tried to not know much because I wanted the experience to enjoy the film without knowing much about it.    First off Felicity Jones does a great job here playing our heroine.  The writers create a very well written character who just wants the love of her father who is played by Mads Mikkelsen.  As Star Wars did it relies on many foreign actors too, since it was filmed on many locations just like the original.  It's from this vast pool of talent that makes the films so fantastic.  It's creators Lucas and now Disney know where the talent is, and the Star Wars universe is richer for it.  Maybe that's why Rogue One makes a great companion piece to "Star Wars: A New Hope".

While watching Rogue One I was reminded about another film.  A film about misfits with a mission, and that film was the World War 2 film "The Dirty Dozen".  Starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes and George Kennedy.  It is a favorite of mine, and the director of Rogue One, Gareth Edwards, certainly makes you feel like you're watching a film about a bunch of rebels with heart.

I've always been interested in why many who play the video games, or watch the movies side with the Empire.  I looked at the statistics of game play and a lot of players play as the Empire.  I guess it's the cool gadgets.  Walkers, tie fighters, and stormtroopers, but I've always sided with the rebels. Guess I'm just a hopeless optimist, and always had a problem with authority which the empire represents.

I find it interesting that a film like Rogue One comes out now just as a new administration comes into power here in the United States.   Where there is hope their is resistance.  Rogue One gives that in spades and I like that.  Hence I like the film, and I'm sure a lot of Star Wars fans will enjoy it.

It's also wonderful to see the film along with my teenager boys.  It's like looking back in a mirror at myself when I was young.  I'm sure this is a feeling that is happening to many families also.  The Star Wars epic has encompassed a generation of fans, and is now making newer fans with the new films.  It's brilliant marketing, and one that works very effectively on its audience.  I just hope the stories stay well written, and are not released haphazardly or written in haste to produce box office gold.  

To sum up.  It's a fun film, and a superior looking and feeling film.  Enjoy it.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Star Trek at 50


Okay first I was going to write a review on the newest Trek film "Beyond", and then after seeing it I thought what's one more stupid review of a film.  And then with all the hoopla of Star Trek turning 50 I thought maybe I should do something about why Start Trek appeals to me.  So bear with me while I try and write something a bit different then your standard review.

While I was growing up Star Trek was a show that was running in syndication on a local station in New York city.  I loved science-fiction, so me loving Star Trek wasn't a surprise.  It was an uplifting and well written series.  With writers like D.C. Fontana,  David Gerrold, Robert BlochTheodore Sturgeon, and Harlan Ellison how could a series go wrong.  Why it didn't do well back in it's original viewing was probably due to several factors, but which don't matter now.  Because the series was in syndication for so long so many of my fellow peers watched it also.  What also happened was that there were other science-fiction series that followed.  I was an avid fan of Space 1999, and the British series created by Gerry Anderson UFO, and don't forget I was a fan of Dr Who also.

Of course back in the day before cable it was hard to find these programs.  Some played on UHF stations, and I remember very well trying to align the TV's antenna to get the signal in just right.  These shows held a certain mystic for a small boy from New York city.  They were seeds for a very fertile young mind.  Imagination was fueled by these shows, and I'm certain that I'm not the only one who was very much influenced by these shows.

Star Trek was more then science fiction though.  It was about family.  It's crew was family, and we enjoyed the adventures they were on.  That's why the latest Star Trek film "Beyond" is such a classic.  The writers and creators of the film got it.  They knew that it was the characters that we all liked, and that the new cast does that so well.  At the end of the film when they show a still photo of the old crew on the bridge of the Enterprise that seals it for me.  Dedicating it to Leonard Nimoy and Anton was a nice touch, but one I got.  People come and go.  That's what life is, but an idea like Star Trek keeps going and perpetuates other memories in new fans.  Now with the new series and new crew we are given new stories, but with the same fun and loving family we always knew.

That's why Star Trek is what it is.  It isn't a running cliff-hanger show where we wonder what will happen to our characters.  We are vested in the characters, and the shows are well written enough to not insult us.  There is no gimmick for higher ratings.  If you consider how good shows survive it's because they don't talk down to its audience.  Star Trek never did.

That is not to say that Star Trek has it's misses.  I can remember on Star Trek: The Next Generation I was always amazed that within 5 or ten minutes the writers could rescue the crew with some sci-fi jargon, and a miraculous plot development.  My wife and I would get a big kick out of how things would resolve.  But hey it's only television, and it worked for many fans, and I can't say I didn't watch it,   How the Enterprise went from a exploration vessel to a luxury cruise liner with even a ten forward on board with the beautiful and mysterious bar tender(Whoopi Goldberg) tending bar is beyond me. But I digress, I think how Star Trek evolved for it's fans throughout the years is something that someone could write a great dissertation for their college thesis.  For now I'll say that Star Trek survives today and flourishes because of it's fan base, and that fan base has been in the making for about several decades now.

The series is forward thinking, and a family relate-able TV show.  That's why it's lasted.  The topics it's covered hits home and still does.  Star Trek's fans are legion, and they could give you a million reasons why the like the series, but one reason Star Trek will continue is because we love the characters, and they share our optimism for the future.

It will be interesting how Star Trek evolves now.   But one one thing is for sure I'm sure we'll be celebrating its 60th, and 75th anniversary in future, and they're will be more material to talk about and discuss.  So as our favorite Vulcan would say "live long, and prosper"  because Star Trek will be around for some time and that makes us all a bit happier.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Around the library


This is a short showing a tour of the library & some of it's exhibits.  Done with an Android Galaxy 5 cell phone, and Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015.  I had a problem of seeing myself in a reflection of the art on the wall, but I went with it just because it was a test.  Wished I had a better camera, and one that was a bit heavier so I could be a bit steadier.  The phone had no weight to it at all, and I could see every bump, so I slowed down some of the footage to minimize it.    But this was done quick, and cheap, so I'll be testing more out in the coming days.