Geek Doc: Electric Boogaloo (2015)

electric boogaloo posterHere’s a statement I don’t often make, but I was super excited when the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films popped up on Netflix Instant not long ago. Now, I love a good geeky documentary, but I usually stumble across them while looking around instead of knowing about them ahead of time. But, Electric Boogaloo comes from Mark Hartley, the same guy who made Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens, the former of which is a masterpiece and the latter of which is highly entertaining.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, cousins, bought a US film company called Cannon Films that would go on to make some of the best and worst action and sci-fi movies of the next few decades. They particularly dealt with stars like Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris, but also made movies like Cyborg, Superman IV, Masters Of The Universe, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and more than I can even count.

The doc itself tells the story of how these two guys hustled, begged, borrowed and even stole their way to Hollywood success by making more movies than anyone could keep track of. Unfortunately (for them and audiences paying good money for a ticket) the movies tended to be pretty bad, but a goldmine for fans of less-than-perfect cinema like me and a lot of my friends.

Told at a breakneck pace, Electric Boogaloo feels like an open and honest recounting of a company that was neither. Everyone from producers and directors to editors and stars appeared on the film to talk about the slap-dash way some of their projects were put together and presented to the world in general. Ultimately, it’s a story of how quickly these two men and their company could rise and how fiery they eventually fell. The only downside is that Golam and Globus, who are both still alive, refused to appear in this film in order to do their own doc called The Go-Go Boys, which doesn’t seem to be available on Netflix. Actually, there’s one other downside: there’s no mention of James Cameron’s Spider-Man film which was set up there for a while. I’d like to have seen them talk about that, then again, maybe there’s a full doc in the works for that. I hope.

Geek Doc Double Feature: Journey To Planet X (2012) & The American Scream (2012)

journey to planet x poster A few weeks back, a friend asked for geeky Netflix documentary suggestions. I rattled off several including King Of Kong, Chasing Ghosts and The Rock-afire Explosion only to find out that they’re not actually on the streaming service any more. Heck, you can’t even get a DVD copy of the latter two. Anyway, I wanted to check out a few newer geek doc offerings and recently knocked out two, one I’d never heard of and one that’s gotten a lot of praise from the horror community.

First up, we’ve got Journey To Planet X, a film that follows two guys named Troy Bernier (left on the poster) and Eric Swain who have joined forces to create a sci-fi short film. Directed by Myles Kane and Joshua Koury, this doc gets into both men’s filmmaking background which revolves around Swain creating short sci-fi and fantasy films on a homemade green screen. Eventually he made friends with Bernier who joined in first as an actor and later as a creative partner. The main thrust of this film follows the pair as they work on a longer form sci-fi film that would not only include a larger cast and longer run time, but alsoutilize better technology and use more practical locations when possible.

I enjoyed this film on several levels. On one hand, you’ve got this story about two guys trying to make an ambitious film. It’s a  different take on things like Son of Rambow and Raiders! both of which I loved. That desire to create something and putting in the work to make it happen is something I can relate to, but also find incredibly admirable.

And then there’s the dynamics between Swain and Bernier that I find fascinating. Swain was pretty happy doing things the way he had done them for years until Bernier came in and wanted to up their game. There’s definitely some friction there that isn’t a huge part of the film, but is certainly there. As the film progresses, Bernier becomes a more and more interesting character to me. He takes the project very seriously, which makes sense, but he seems to become more obsessed as it progresses. There’s something of a disconnect for me in this because he’s making a film with some wooden acting and CGI effects that look straight out of an early 90s PC game. But he doesn’t see any of that and considers this film to be a calling card that will move him on into a new realm of success and filmmaking. On one hand, that attitude was probably necessary to get the film finished, shown at a viewing party where it got a lot of unintentional laughs and even a festival appearance, but at a certain point you wonder how connected to reality he is.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter though, does it? These guys got what they wanted and made a movie that got shown to people. That’s something I wish I could do and will maybe actually make happen in the next few years if I can tap into some portion of Bernier’s passion or obsession or whatever you want to call it. As far as I’m concerned, though, there’s a lot more personal value in Koury and Kane’s documentary about these guys than their movie. Showcasing the struggles of creativity, bringing a film to life and doing their damndest to make it happen is a lot more engaging to me than watching the results of all that. It’s that whole, “life’s a journey not a destination” trip. Plus, the doc filmmakers were clearly working with better cameras than the filmmakers because this film looks fantastic.

The American Scream I decided to watch The American Scream, Michael Stephenson’s doc about three families in a Massachusetts town that build huge haunts in the yards for Halloween because I’d heard a lot about it, but it actually made a solid double feature with Journey because both movies showcase people pursuing their particular arts with varying levels of obsession.

The three Fairhaven-based stars include Victor, a dad who’s something of a haunt perfectionist, father and son team Richard and Matthew and Manny who does it because he knows the people in his neighborhood love it. Manny’s pretty straightforward and seems to do it for the love of the game which means he’s not featured nearly as much as the others. Matthew and Richard have some friction between them which garners more attention, but Victor’s the real star of the show.

Not only does Victor have the most detailed and complex haunt of the group, but he’s also got the most drama surrounding him. Of his two daughters, one’s really into the whole thing and the other isn’t. But there’s some sadness because dad’s desire to keep the yard clear for Halloween lead to them not getting the swing set they wanted. Meanwhile, his wife is very supportive of this whole thing, but it definitely sounds like there’s some rationalization going on there with how much money he spends on this whole thing — we see him drop $200 on a coffin — especially in light of the revelation that he knows he’s getting laid off. I had a real problem with him at this point because that just seems like burying your head in the sand and ignoring your impending problems in favor of doing something you love. But by the end there’s some vindication. I won’t get into it, but I actually gasped when they went back to him after Halloween and revealed his post-lay off plans.

Stephenson not only starred in Troll 2, but went on to create the documentary based on that film called Best Worst Movie. He does a great job of capturing and presenting real scenes without laying any kind of judgement over them. You can argue all day long that the way a doc is edited may or may not convey a certain mission statement from the director in order to present a certain kind of story, but to me it felt like he was just telling this tale and letting the audience judge. Personally, I found myself wishing these guys could figure out a more consistent outlet for their artistic creativity that happens more than once a year, but that probably misses the point to some extent. 

On a personal note, this movie brought back a lot of memories from my trick r treating days. When I was growing up, my neighbor Denny who’s probably 8 or so years older than me used to decorate his garage and get his pals to dress up like various movie slashers. I think the first time I ever saw a version of Leatherface was his friend running out from behind a set of hedges with a chainless chainsaw. Even though I’d watch them prepare, there was still no way I’d go in there. I don’t like being scared in real life and I’m not even that big of a candy fan. No thanks. There was another house further away that I remember coming upon a time or two as well that made an even bigger show of things with items (maybe people) coming down from the trees in the yard.

Halloween Scene Blu Review: Scream Factory’s Body Bags (1993)

body bags I love seeing horror movies that I’ve heard about over the years but never actually seen. I also love the TLC that Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint gives to films like that as far as presentation and special features go. So, as you might expect, I loved Scream Factory’s recent Body Bags Blu-ray.

Originally conceived as a Tales From The Crypt-like horror anthology series for Showtime. Body Bags features director John Carpenter as The Coroner, a creepy, pun-loving ghoul who opens various black bags in the morgue and tells the person’s tale. Carpenter directed the first two installments, “The Gas Station” and “Hair” while Texas Chainsaw Massacre mastermind Tobe Hooper came in and did “The Eye.” As with most of the horror anthologies I’ve seen — like Cat’s Eye or Creepshow 2 —  this one features two solid stories and one weaker one.

I loved “The Gas Station.” It’s about a young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher) working over night in a gas station in one of those small booths so she can take money and sell cigarettes. While there she encounters a few creepy regulars, a few nice guys and a bum-murdering adversary who wants to add her to his kill list. Carpenter does a killer job of making this whole thing feel tense and dangerous. There’s a scene where Anne locks herself out of the booth and has to go find keys in the main building. I got super nervous during this portion of the short. Then you’ve got the end where she actually faces the killer. It’s great how Carpenter never leaves the gas station and makes it seem both cramped and huge depending on the scene.

There are a lot of fear elements here, many of which are simply related to work. She’s new, wants to prove herself and also make herself seem super capable. This seems like less of a pride thing and more a need for cash to keep putting herself through school, which is super important to her. You’re also dealing with the claustrophobia of the booth which goes from safe zone to cage and the seemingly expansive space between it and the main building.

Sometimes with anthologies or shorter form horror stories, they feel like truncated films, but I thought this story was perfectly suited for this format and used the timing well. Too much longer and it would be filled with too many fakeouts and lose suspense, which it has in spades.

SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH I want to talk a bit about the killer reveal in this one. Carpenter set up several possibilities for the killer in the forms of various customers — including a super-creepy Wes Craven — but I’ve got to say, I never once thought it was going to be Anne’s fellow employee played by Revenge Of The Nerds star Robert Carradine. He got me there. Even though I didn’t recognize Carradine right away, I knew he was a nice guy and didn’t even think about him again  I also liked how Carpenter included a few nods to his other films like when Carradine’s character does the background sit-up Michael Myers style with Anne in the foreground.

I wasn’t nearly as interested in “Hair” which stars Stacey Keach as an aging rich business guy who becomes obsessed with his thinning hair. I understand that this is something that does get into peoples’ heads, but it’s not really on my radar. Anyway, Keach goes to Doctor Lock whose method for hair growth seems to work really well, so well in fact that hair starts growing everywhere. I won’t get into the end reveal, but I’ll say it didn’t do much for me. I’ve actually gone back and watched this segment with an eye for the satire of it all and enjoyed it a lot more. 

Thankfully, I enjoyed the third installment, “Eye” starring Mark Hamill and Twiggy. Hamill plays baseball player Brent Miller who gets into a car accident that leads to the loss of an eye. He gets a transplant, but soon comes to realize that this new organ might be a bit defective as he begins seeing morbid scenes some of which are genuinely spooky. As it turns out the new eye came from a misogynistic killer who starts taking over his body which doesn’t work out so well for his wife. This is definitely the darkest, most intense entry in the series as Hamill struggles for his sanity.

It’s funny, while watching the movie again with audio commentary, “The Gas Station” whizzes by. The first time I watched, I was so absorbed and freaked out that it felt like a feature. Carpenter also points out that he used a station out in the middle of nowhere so it would feel even more remote and lonely. He also pointed out a number of shot set-ups that add to the feel of the picture. Carradine also joined in on the fun. The pair caught up a bit and talked about a few other things, but mainly stuck to the story at hand offering lots of insider details.

Keach comes on and does the same for “Hair” and it’s a ton of fun listening to these two longtime pros talk craft. More than that, Keach says that this story was very personal for him because his parents always told him to wear his hairpiece in part because his dad thought he didn’t make it as an actor for being bald. They even went off on a bit of a tangent about zombie movies after pointing out effects artist Greg Nicotero in a quick shot which was a lot of fun. Listening to this track actually framed the story in a better light for me which will definitely make repeated viewings more fun.

For “Eye” Hooper wasn’t available, so producer (and Carpenter’s wife) Sandy King and Justin Beahm talked about not only his segment, but also some of the goings on behind the scenes that went into filming the various segments and how the movie came to be. This one’s a bit more dry, but still really interesting.

The last major bonus feature on the disc is a doc called Unzipping Body Bags. Carpenter and King get a little more into the background of the show, which started out as an anthology script that they presented to Showtime who bit. So, they decided to do the first one without much thought to anything beyond this first offering. Carradine and Keach also joined in on the doc, which adds a lot of depth to the proceedings.

I’ve been on a John Carpenter kick lately and this movie just continues to build my feelings of affection for this director who has such weird, great sensibilities that have resulted in some of the most fun, creepy and adventurous films around.

Quick Doc Review: Jedi Junkies (2010)

Jedi-Junkies-poster The concept of Jedi Junkies is fairly simple, its a documentary about the many aspects of Star Wars fandom from people who dress up in costume for conventions and obsessive toy collectors to fan film and lightsaber makers. Fun side note: the lightsaber maker lives pretty close to us! Anyway, the problem with the film is that Star Wars fandom is just too damn big for one 75 minute doc.

In addition to the four subjects I mentioned above this documentary, directed by Mark Edlitz, also interviews a few actors who appeared in the films as well as celebrity fans, goes behind the scenes of the New York Jedi and attacks hard hitting questions like “Who shot first?” That’s just way too much to tackle in such a short amount of time.

I get that Edlitz and company wanted to cover as much of the Jedi loving-community as possible, but a bit more focus would have been appreciated. Another option would be to break this up into more focused segments, but it’s not like Netflix was doing its original series thing back in 2010.

Personally, I would have been interested in diving deeper into the collecting side of things. That’s something that I got into a bit myself, but never to the extreme levels as some of the people in the film who have multiple copies of so many toys I want! There was one guy in particular who I could watch for much longer who was married with two kids and slept on the floor because his collection took up an entire room in their small apartment. Making matters even more interesting, he knew that he had some kind of problem, but also didn’t seem like he was in a place to actually fix it. I also appreciated that they got not one but two psychologists to talk about the collecting mentality. That was a nice layer, but it was yet another aspect that made me wish this was a larger project all around.

At the end of the day, Jedi Junkiues seems to revel in Star Wars geekery which is great. It’s even well put together and, aside from the “Original vs. Prequels” and “Who shot first?” sections, it gets into some really clever and unique territory (can we stop asking those pointless questions, already?), but it’s just too ambitious of an undertaking to cover the width and breadth of Star Wars fandom with one 90 minute movie. Good effort, though!

Halloween Scene: The Shining (1980) & Room 237 (2012)

The Shining movie PosterHave you ever had a movie in your life that has built up such legendary status that you almost don’t want to watch it? Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was like that for me, but not always. Back in high school I tried watching it a few times, but kept hitting roadblocks. One time, a bunch of us were watching it in a friend’s basement where we were sleeping over. I think we got to the bathtub scene when a friend started freaking out and demanded we turn it off. I begrudgingly obliged and it wound up being the kind of movie that got swept away.

As I mentioned when reviewing Stephen King’s book, I picked up a DVD copy of the movie last year, but still hadn’t gotten around to watching it until today and you know what? I kind of didn’t like it. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Shining (1980) & Room 237 (2012)

Bullet Points: Hot Rounds Of Information Goodness

i-frankenstein-aaron-eckhart-1Aaron Eckhart looks pretty badass in this teaser for the first I, Frankenstein trailer which hits tomorrow. [via Collider]

amber_heard_machete_killsAmber Heard looks ready to handle anything in her solo Machete Kills poster. [via SHH]

hunger games catching fire poster fullSpeaking of dangerous ladies with pointy objects, Jennifer Lawrence wants to shoot you with an arrow in the latest The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster. [via Moviefone]

Hugh Jackman recently told the world that he’s got a part in Neill Blomkamp’s robot kidnapping drama Chappie. [via Screen Daily]

transformers age of extinction Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack ReynorMichael Bay showed off this picture of Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor from the set of Transformers: Age Of Extinction. [via Michael Bay]

Discovery Channel’s working on an Evel Kineval documentary called True Evel. [via Deadline]

gina carano fast & furious 6Gina Carano’s In The Blood will be distributed by Anchor Bay and Fox home video. In the film, the MMA star goes on a mission to get her kidnapped husband back in the Caribbean. [via THR]

joely richardson nip tuckMaggie, the film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a dad trying to help his daughter played by Abigail Breslin after she gets bit by a zombie, has rounded out the family unit with Joely Richardson joining on as the mom. [via TheWrap]

Casting Internets

shootfirstIf you don’t buy my friend Justin Aclin‘s upcoming Dark Horse comic S.H.O.O.T. First, you suck.

I recently discovered a site called Humans Of New York that I can’t get enough of. A photographer walks around NYC, snapping pictures of people and asking them questions then presenting them on the site. Sounds simple, but that’s why it’s so interesting.

Oh my goodness, you guys, this Screen Junkies Honest Trailer for Batman & Robin is super-great-fantastic. Thanks to The Mary Sue for bringing it to my attention!

As a kid, I read The Giver more than any other book. The adaptation is shaping up to be quite a film. Jeff Bridges is in it and according to Deadline, Meryl Streep’s on board too. I will certainly see this flick.

Not quite sure what to think about the CBGB movie. If it’s got even a fraction of Please Kill Me in it, it should be alright. The Ramones look like gods in the first trailer over on THR, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Variety‘s telling me that there’s going to be a Disney Imagineering documentary. I went on the Behind the Magic tour at Disney World which was fascinating, so this should be even better.ace mccloud centurions custom

Not too long ago, I talked about how much I enjoyed the concept of Centurions and wondered why it never made a comeback. Now there’s a killer custom of Ace McCloud by Hemblecreations as posted on ToyNewsI that looks all kinds of rad. That’s internet synergy, yawl.

Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer is hilarious, you should check it out. I will definitely check out her Judd Apatow-produced film, Deadline reports.

Transworld Business, an action sports website I recently discovered, tells me that Oakley’s doing a 6-part web series featuring skateboarder Bob Burnquist showing off his own personal skatepark. The part where he skates around a helicopter made me super nervous.

Right after the X-Games, Nyjah Huston wrote this fantastic column for THR about the greatness of his sport and its potential for inclusion in the Olympics. I’ll throw my vote in for that idea right now.

Danny Way told ESPN might return to the X-Games, bringing a whole new gigantic ramp thing to the proceedings. Yes, make this happen.

I’ve always been interested in how Alice Cooper balances his normal life with his stage one, something he talked to Esquire about recently.walmart-library-5

Web Urbanist posted these amazing pictures of a Texas Walmart that was converted into the largest single floor library in the country.

I picked up The Tom Tom Clubs’ latest record Downtown Rockers this year and have really grown to dig it, so I’m glad to hear they told Rolling Stone they’re likely to get back together and record later this year.

Brilliant physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about science and how it needs to be more prevalent during SDCC. (via Spinoff).

If you’re like me and wondered why the producers on Real World and The Challenge don’t seem to be interfering as much when things get violent, Variety did an interesting write-up on why.sam bosma-lisbon

Finally, go check out the larger version of Sam Bosma‘s Lisbon drawing. It’s wallpaper-worthy, no doubt.