Q: The Winged Serpent Is Awesome

Q The Winged Serpent Last fall a buddy of mine sent a few Blu-rays he got through his work my way. I’m always super appreciative when people do nice things like this because, unless I hit a really good sale, I’m probably not going to get my hands on a great many things. In that package was a little movie called Q: The Winged Serpent directed by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) and starring Michael Moriarty (Troll), Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and David Carradine (Kill Bill). I was sold solely on Moriarty’s involvement who I had just seen in The Stuff and, as it just so happens, that film was also directed by Cohen, so I guess they bring out the best in each other because I love both of these movies, like hard.

Here’s the basics, as best I can remember them. People in New York City are dying and going missing. The police don’t know why, but it’s because there’s a giant flying monster eating them. Moriarty plays a wheelman dragged into pulling a jewelry heist that goes south. On the run, he winds up in the top Chrysler Building  which just so happens to be the monster’s nest. Meawhile detectives played by Roundtree and Carradine are trying to figure out what’s going on. In the process, Carradine becomes convinced that it’s not only a big monster, but also the reincarnation of the Aztec god Quetzlcoatl.

One of the many elements I love about this film is the fact that Moriarty’s character is so important to how this story plays out. This isn’t the story of a down on his luck hero finding the threat to the city and bringing it to the attention of the authorities. Instead, Moriarty uses the monster to take care of two guys trying to shake him down and he only tells anyone in the local government about what’s going on until after he’s made a deal to get a huge pile of money and pardons for all crimes, even the ones the NYPD might not know about (a “Nixon-like pardon” he says). Since he’s a sneaky, shifty dude, the movie goes places it wouldn’t if this were a more typical Hollywood tale.

For his part, Moriarty really carries this movie. He pulls off this oddly alluring synthesis of charming, down-on-his-luck and  bad that works so damn well. You might like him because he can play the piano so causally, but then you hate how he treats his long-suffering girlfriend. Then, at just the right point, he reveals a piece of his personal history that doesn’t excuse his behavior, but might explain it. That’s another major plus for this film, Cohen reveals bits and pieces of Moriarty’s character when they’re necessary, not before. In that way, it’s a really great example of delving out information at just the right time.

It might sound like I’m going overboard about this strange monster movie from the early 80s and maybe I am, but I still think it’s got a lot of greatness held within. However, it’s not perfect. The special effects don’t look so hot these days. From animated shadows to poorly composited images, there’s a lot for the modern eye to pick apart, but for me that was all part of the film’s charm. It did the best it could at the time and probably looked pretty darn impressive in 1982. I thought the actual Q monster looked pretty solid when it was on screen and there were plenty of dizzying aerial shots of NYC (maybe too many) that acted as monster perspective shots.

Now that I think about it, I think I might like this movie because it’s a combination of two of my favorite films without directly ripping them off. On one hand, all the perspective stuff reflect’s John Carpenter’s Halloween where he puts us in the killer’s perspective for chunks of time. Since we’re dealing with POV on a completely different level, it doesn’t feel like a direct lift. On the other hand, there’s a lot of “you don’t get to see the monster JUST yet” elements taken from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Around the time I watched Q, I heard a lot of people saying that the latest Godzilla  was like Jaws in the city, but it’s a dynamic that worked well given the setting and time of this film.

Also, like both of those admittedly much better films, Q also makes the locale a huge part of the film. Cohen and company made such good use of the Big Apple that it practically oozes all over ever frame. Obviously, the Chrysler Building plays a huge part in the proceedings, though how accurate the film is or whether they actually filmed inside, I don’t know, but those swooping arial shots also firmly cement the fact that we’re dealing with NYC. There’s even a scene shot at Columbia which I only knew because I’m familiar with another film that made such good use of New York City, Ghostbusters.

At the end of the day, Q: The Winged Serpent benefits from a great many positive notes. Moriarty is stellar, Carradine and Roundtree are great, the setting is perfect, the story works specifically because of the characters involved, the monster looks pretty good and presents a definitely threat and it’s got a pretty well thought out mythology. For all those reasons and more, I fully recommend checking this movie out.

Live Blogging: Crank High Voltage (2009)

Continuing the Crank fun from the other day and to show my support for tonight’s Manly Movie Night I’ll be missing, here’s my live blog of Crank’s sequel Crank: High Voltage. I was super jealous of Sean when he got to see this flick in theaters and blogged about it. Sean had this to say earlier this year: “Like an unholy cross between Chuck Norris’s Invasion U.S.A., Troma, and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the movie was wildly and needlessly experimental, and was offensive even to me at times, and had no redeeming social value whatsoever except to punch you in the face repeatedly with a fist made of entertainment. I’d be amazed all over again if I see a movie I enjoy more than this one for the rest of the year.” I would honestly count this as one of the best action movies of all time and it’s ability to top its predecessor, which was already an impressively over the top movie is, well, just plain amazing.

The plot of this one is that Chev Chelios fell out of the helicopter, but they grabbed his body right away and kept him alive for 3 months before opening him up to harvest his organs. They get his heart and replace it with a robot one, but it isn’t until he overhears them talking about cutting of his penis that he freaks out and kicks ass. Amy Smart and Dwight Yoakam return in their same roles and Efren Ramirez plays his character from the first movie’s brother Venus. Now, instead of needing adrenaline to stay alive, Chev has to shock his robot heart to keep it charged. As you can imagine, it’s amazing.

Again spoilers follow and I highly encourage you to see this movie as soon as possible. It just came out on DVD last week or the week before. It’s simply amazing. Well, here we go.

*Love that 8-bit credits.

*This is like watching Star Wars or Lord of the Rings back to back, but way cooler.

*News guy calls events of the first movie “implausible” – no kidding.

*Oh man, that dude puts ashes in Chev’s open chest cavity. That’s cold.

*He’s awake during the surgery!!!

*”The famous Chelios heart” – subtitle, dude’s so rad his HEART is famous.

*Where did she shove that pencil? Not cool.

*He dips the shotgun in tar and sticks it up the dude’s ass–that’s what you get bad guy!

*I like that he basically figures out the catch to survival on his own in both movies.

*”Jesus H. Chelios” – needs to be on a T-shirt.

*Nice film strip-like fake heart explanation from Yoakam.

*Oh man, his battery is already messed up after skidding.

*I don’t think any movie star runs more than Statham.

*I love seeing the Social Club get emptied from the outside, that’s a great touch. One man goes in (Chev) and everyone else flies out!

*There’s Corey Haim…in a strip club, did he even know this was a movie? He’s wearing a Nice Jugs t-shirt with pictures of milk jugs. Classy.

*Strippers with guns, it’s like Sin City with implant jokes.

*Haha, the cops tazed him, not good for them.

*They finally explained that he’s been gone for three months, love the phone message explanation.

*”Is Doc Miles gonna have to choke a bitch?” – nice one Dwight!

*Nice porn star cameos in the porn strike scene.

*Free style walking ball smash!

*Dog shock collar and the dog bits the cops junk, heh, nice.

*Kaylo’s brother Venus has tourettes, that should be interesting.

*He’s dry humping an old lady and she’s loving it!

*The soundtrack is brilliant, Tarantin-esque.

*People love watching people have sex in various positions on a race track.

*Smart’s way too turned on by seeing horse penis.

*”Well, you ain’t no Ralph Macchio yourself Chev” – Venus.

*Gotta love a good man vs. car chase.

*They just made the heart transplant nonsense make sense. Impressive.

*Best in-car shootout ever.

*Dude just cut off his own nipples, squirm-o-ramma.

*Love seeing Haim get the hammer dropped on him by Smart after sucking.

*The shrink totally wants to bang the orderly from the first one…heh, sucks to be him.

*What the? It’s like Godzilla under the power lines!!!

*Interesting talk show-style flashback to Chev as a kid with his mom complete with “he’s a bad kid” clips. His mom looks an awful lot like Amy Smart.

*That’s a lot of balls, but nicely followed by lots of boobs and butts.

*Floating robot head villain from the first movie AND his brother is The Ferret AND Ferret’s beating Chev with a cat-o-nine-tails.

*Venus FINALLY kicks ass and with nun-chucks no less.

*Crazy awesome multi-group shoot out and fight scene!!!

*Chev’s literally on fire and kicking ass, damn, even his face. GET SOME WATER!

*Watch through the credits as they actually end the story there and then do some fun out takes and whatnot.

"Look, Another Girl Fight Season Finale"

The above quote was straight from my lovely wife’s mouth as we watched the last episode of the third season of Alias. If you could somehow throw the word “crying” in there it would completely sum up my thoughts on this show. Season 3 really seemed to rehash a lot of previous ideas from the show (a man being betrayed by his spy wife, distrust in the organization, lying to loved ones, bad guys who just won’t die, incredibly sloppy spy stuff and crying. Lots of crying from our bad ass heroine.

The funny thing, though, is that I kind of liked these storylines better than those from the previous seasons. Maybe it’s that I knew what I was getting into when we started. Maybe it’s because the few people whose opinions I’ve heard said it was supposed to get so much worse this season, I’m not sure. I actually enjoyed this season more what with all the Rambaldi stuff taking center stage and twins and other family members coming to light. It’s not a great show, but the ticks seemed to be less (or at least less obvious) and you can see where shows like Lost and Fringe may have had their earliest seeds.

The most impressive element of this show, by far, has been the crazy amount of high quality guest stars they were able to pull in. Here’s a fairly completely list from Season 3: Scott Adsit, Djimon Hounsou, Bradley Cooper (he came back!), Richard Roundtree (seriously, Shaft is following me), David Cronenberg, Terry O’Quinn (he also came back!), Quentin Tarantino (also came back!), Isabella Rossellini (yeesh), Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais (of original Office fame and general awesomeness), Raymond J. Barry, Peggy Lipton (Julie from The Mod Squad and Norma Jennings from Twin Peaks) and David Carradine (another returner). That’s a pretty impressive roster, especially when you consider that many of them made appearances in multiple episodes.

So, I’m curious to see how Season 4 and 5 go. I know there’s a twin or something. And a baby. But, since my expectations are pretty low, so I can’t really get TOO disappointed.