Archive for June, 2010

Jaws Turns 35

Posted in Misc. Horror with tags on June 20, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Jaws

Seems like only yesterday we were sitting in movie theaters and soiling ourselves while watching what has since become the greatest shark movie of all time. And yet here we are 35 years later, still testing the absorbent properties of our Old Navy™ pants while enjoying the endlessly thrilling Jaws.

Jaws

The plot was as basic as it gets: A rogue Great White feeds on the summer beach crowd doing the 4th of July thing on Amity Island in New England. (There’s a NEW England?) The shark eats its weight in swimmers until the local sheriff, a shark expert and a salty sea captain go after it. Or rather, it goes after them.

This became the formula/template for literally hundreds of fish gone wild movies, and is still in use today. But you can’t top the original for sheer exhilarating action, suspense and swimsuit-staining terror. While the sequels were nothing but weak cash-ins, it proved that the public’s taste for being eaten by sharks is not only a good business model, but that our primal fear shows no sign of slowing down. That’s why Jaws is so resonant. This isn’t fictional horror – you could actually be eaten by a shark while out dog-paddling in the middle of the ocean while sipping a refreshing cocktail. There’s something equally horrifying and intriguing about that. The drink, too.

Jaws

And cheap knock-offs weren’t the only things to profit from Jaws legacy. Every year the Discovery Channel’s™ Shark Week is a ratings bonanza and hauls in millions in advertising revenue. I can sit through as many commercials as they throw at me, just as long as I get to see a reenactment of someone being attacked and half-chewed by a frenzied shark from the safety of my couch.

The tag line for Jaws II summed up the phenomena perfectly: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” (If you’re not old enough to remember, ask your parents what happened after Jaws came out; no one went in the water the entire summer. Now that’s good marketing.) It’s been said that Republicans do to politics what Jaws did to swimming. Whichever side of the political fence you wave your flag from, that’s pretty dang funny. And TRUE.

Thirty-five years ago Jaws was made for $9 million dollars and went on to fishnet (sorry) $470,653,000. That’s a lot of goldfish. I dare you to watch it right now, and then go swimming in the ocean. Can’t be done without polluting the water.

Jaws

Strange Beasts of Japanese Film

Posted in Giant Monsters with tags on June 19, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Killer Kaiju

So why would a book on Japanese movie monsters not have any Japanese movie monsters on the cover? That’s because a lot of Japanese film studios prohibit the use of their intellectual property on anything but what they sell. Fine. Shove a copyrighted Godzilla® up your butt. See what I care.

So that’s just the first of several glaring problems with Killer Kaiju Monsters: Strange Beasts of Japanese Film, written by Ivan Vartanian (that doesn’t sound very Asian). Originally titled Godzilla and Friends: The Art of the Japanese Monster, over half of the book’s content is devoted to rubber action figures. Then there are the illustrations (way cool, by the way), and some other stuff, like cut-outs so you can turn your favorite Japanese monster into super fun happy origami.

Killer Kaiju

But there seem to be more coverage given to the toys that have nothing to do with Japanese monsters made by U.S. manufacturers, than what the book’s title is trying to pitch. And the photos of the monsters are ones you’ve seen hundreds of times. Maybe millions.

One of the neater features, though, is contributions by Shoji Ohtomo, the guy who did An Anatomical Guide to Monsters. If you ever wanted to see what the inside of Rodan’s butt looks like, Shoji puts it on the glass. Or rather, under the glass.

Conspicuously missing is Godzilla®, whom the entire book owes its existence. But thanks to those strict copyright laws, we’ll just have to be content with a half dozen lesser monsters. All in all, an interesting read, but more for the occasional fan than a hardcore, who will tell you there’s a metric ton of stuff missing. Killer Kaiju Monsters: Strange Beasts of Japanese Film is nicely packaged, though I’m not too keen on the almost $30 shelf price. I could buy a limited edition Gamera action figure/shampoo bottle with screw-off head/cap for that. But hey, it’s available now, so go nuts…

Killer Kaiju Monsters: Strange Beasts of Japanese Film
Written by: Ivan Vartanian
Publisher: HarperCollins
SRP: $27.99
Format: Hardcover, 7 x 10
Pages: 144

King Wrong

Posted in Giant Monsters with tags on June 18, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

King Krud

What have we ever done to Bangladesh? Are they paying us back for that lackluster hippie rock concert benefit we did for them back in the ’70s? (It wasn’t George Harrison’s fault – he had to put Ringo on the bill. Paul made him do it.) So why has the People’s Republic of Bangladesh insulted not only the American people by making a mockery of our beloved icon, King Kong, but the great ape himself? If we were all in a bar, it’d be on.

What you’re looking at is Banglar King Kong, their version of King Kong, a movie poster advertising it stuck to some high-rent district wall in Bangladesh. And to add insult to injury, it’s a musical. OK, I get that Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. But did they have to put some guy in a hair-covered sleeping bag and make him dance and sing? You’d have to be a poet to describe my adjective-laden anger right about now.

King Krud

And if all this wasn’t turd frosting, where they ran out of money for special effects, they jammed in footage from Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong (1976). Why not just wipe your butt with an American flag?

Clearly, a LOT of questions need to be answered. For instance, where are Kong’s copyright attorneys? When can the Stealth Bombers be ready to take to the air? How many Starbuck’s do we want to see going in after the craters are filled with the corpses of the unforgiven?

A press release for the film (you can see the trailer for it on YouTube™) states that Banglar King Kong is the product of the combined efforts of director Iftekar Jahan and producer Sharmin Osman for the government backed FDC (the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation). Apparently, this goes all the way to to the top and proves that no country, however destitute, is immune to corruption.

And I thought King Kong Lives (1986) was bad.

Godzilla Podcast

Posted in Giant Monsters with tags on June 17, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Kaijucast

If you think you’re the world’s biggest Godzilla fan, you are wrong. So go to your room (or Japan) and reflect. That title belongs to Kyle Yount, the indefatigable uber G-fan behind Kaijucast.com, the northern hemisphere’s all-Godzilla podcast. And while he claims to not be a ’Zilla professor, you’d be hard-pressed to tell him something he doesn’t know.

Says Kyle, “I love Godzilla. I take pride in being able to enjoy all of Japan’s giant monster films. Am I an expert? Not by a long shot, but that’s kind of the point with this podcast – I want an excuse to learn more about Godzilla, his friends, his foes and the men and women who have created this fantastic genre!”

“I used to run Henshin! Online with August Ragone, Bob Johnson, Keith Aiken, Aaron Cooper and many others (I was just the webmaster). I also have a little website called The Shrine of Gamera. In 2004, I put on the 50 Years Of Godzilla Film Festival here in Portland, Oregon at the Hollywoood Theatre. I’ve had a really great time learning about and sharing my love for Godzilla.”

So log on to kaijucast.com and listen to Kyle go gooshy (in a good way) about all things Godzilla. FYI: The above graphic is also a limited edition screen print designed by Kyle himself (with a decided nod to Shepard Fairey).  The cost is 969.014 yen or $10.65 ($5 poster, $5.65 shipping).

Happy Birthday, You Psycho

Posted in Misc. Horror with tags on June 16, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Psycho

PSYCHO TURNS 50

Hard to believe it’s been a half century since the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, a horror movie that not only became the template for thousands of slasher flicks, but launched a horror icon in Norman Bates, the loveably warped hotel operator, all of which was brilliantly embellished by one of the greatest horror movie soundtracks ever composed.

Released June 16, 1960, Psycho has gone on to become one of the most recognizable films in cinema history, and nominated Hitchcock for an Academy Award for Best Director. (He didn’t win. He later unleashed Norman on the voting committee.)

There have even been college courses to analyze the groundbreaking film, from the Oedipal overtones to the frame-by-frame breakdown of the infamous shower scene, which has been called one of the most horrifying and scariest moments in modern filmmaking. And to think Hitchcock did it with only a shrieking violin score, sharp editing, implied nudity and barely any blood, all of which was filmed in black and white. Try doing that today and you’ll be laughed and pointed at.

In 2001, AFI [American Film Institute] acknowledged Psycho as being the #1 on a list of all-time most thrilling movies, beating out Jaws, The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs, Alien, and even two more of his own (North by Northwest and The Birds).

Watch Psycho and try and figure out how Hitchcock did it – and still continues to do it 50 years later.

That’s French For “The Undead”

Posted in Zombies with tags on June 15, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

La Horde

This one’s kinda confusing, so bear/bare with me: The above movie one-sheet is a French zombie movie called La Horde. If my internet French lessons are to be trusted, that translates to “The Horde.” But slap my butt, you say. The writing on the poster is Japanese! How is that possible? Are the French finally friends with the country that could take them out with one blast from Godzilla’s French-fry-eating mouth?

So, yeah – a Japanese poster advertising a French-made horror movie. And it doesn’t stop there. Other countries are getting in on the act as La Horde is the hot talk around e-Town and is shaping up to be the “go to” zombie movie of the year. And judging from the looks of this thing, we shan’t be disappointed.

Here’s La Horde’s twist-y plot:
“Setting: north of Paris. In order to avenge the murder of one of their own by a group of ruthless gangsters, four corrupt cops go on a rampage in a condemned building serving as the mobster’s hideout. Now trapped, the officers are about to be executed when the unimaginable occurs: hordes of bloodthirsty, cannibalistic creatures invade the building, savagely attacking everyone. Unexpected alliances are made when their lives are threatened by the unthinkable.”

They had me at four corrupt cops on a rampage.

No release date yet, but as soon as I finish this flaky butter croissant and a freshly-brewed Cafe’ Noisette, I’ll make some calls and get back to you.

Ishiro Honda: Godzilla’s Dad

Posted in Giant Monsters, Science Fiction with tags , on June 15, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Ishiro Honda

MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN:
THE FANTASTIC CINEMA OF ISHIRO HONDA

If you’re into Japanese monster movies, then the name Ishiro Honda is right up there with Abraham LincolnOrville Redenbacher and Jesus. Lofty credentials yes. But then Sir Honda was only the creator of Godzilla, one of pop culture’s coolest icons ever in the history of the world. He was also the guy behind RodanVaran The UnbelievableThe MysteriansThe H-ManBattle in Outer SpaceThe Human Vapor, and Mothra – over one million films in all (um, give or take). And that didn’t include his TV shows, The Return of UltramanMirroman and Zone Fighter. And yes, Honda was also the guy who brought us Matango (aka, Attack of the Mushroom People). And salads were never the same again.

Since the Bible has been taken, a new book called Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda is now available for your eyeball-rubbing pleasure. Written by Peter H. Brothers (wonder what the “H” stands for – haiku?), this is the first time an American book has been published about Japan’s greatest film director.

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men is the first book to cover in English print Honda’s life as well comprehensively evaluates all 25 of his fantasy films.  It is also gives objective and critical analysis of Honda’s filmmaking methods, themes and relationships with actors and technicians. (I didn’t write that, the book company did. I would’ve included the works “rad,” “kick ass,” and “totally kick ass.”)

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men is available online at AuthorHouse.com as a physical book or an electronic download for your 8-track player…uh, I mean, Kindle™. The E-book is $4.95, the carbon-footprint paperback is $14.95. The cover is kinda sucky, but the info inside is pure not sucky.

Ishiro Honda

36th Annual Saturn Awards

Posted in Misc. Horror with tags on June 14, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Saturn Awards

Now in their 36th year, The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films is holding its annual Saturn Awards and have listed their nominees for best blah, blah, blah in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. And nowhere is there a category that nominates me for anything. That sucks. The presentation ceremony, which I haven’t been invited to, is being held on June 24th, 2010 in some place called “Burbank.” (That sounds so made up.)

Here’s what films, or “movies” are up for the year’s best…

BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM
AVATAR (20th Century Fox)
Good flick. Made one trillion dollars at the box office. Will probably smear the competition.

THE BOOK OF ELI (Warner Bros.)
There wasn’t anything remotely science fiction about this movie, so why is it being nominated? Is it because the film takes place in the future? Since when is the future “science fiction”?

KNOWING (Summit Entertainment)
Didn’t see it. But someone’s gotta lose.

MOON (Sony Pictures Classics)
An unusual sci-fi film, smart and different. Why is it here? Because the moon is in it? I thought the moon was pretty much science fact by now.

STAR TREK (Paramount)
Best. Star Trek. Ever. In a fair and just world, this would win. But Avatar made more money, so…

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
(Paramount)
That thing sucked future butt. The title says it all.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox)
Kick ass movie from start to finish. But was it fiction?

BEST HORROR FILM
THE BOX (Warner Bros.)
Didn’t see it as it did not look like a horror movie to me. I could be wrong. But I rarely am, so…

DRAG ME TO HELL (Universal)
And it did. I thought the exorcism scene was a stand-up comedy routine with projectile vomiting.

FROZEN (Anchor Bay Films)
This was barely released in theaters. They must have someone on the inside workin’ the angles.

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (Rogue/Universal)
Nothing even comes close to this knock-out punch. Best of this and any batch that dares calls itself horror.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON (Summit Entertainment)
Horror? Really?

ZOMBIELAND (Sony)
The first 10 minutes were better than most of the entire zombie movies made in the last several years.

BEST FANTASY FILM
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
(Warner Bros.)
The darkest Potter yet. Not the best, but certainly in the Top 7.

THE LOVELY BONES (Paramount)
Brilliant, grim, tense, surreal. These bones are definitely lovely. This better win.

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (Warner Bros.)
Didn’t see it. I tried, but had the wrong day in time.

WATCHMEN (Warner Bros.)
I didn’t realize Watchmen was fantasy. While it had to be one of the more confusing movies of last year, its probably better served in science fiction.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (Warner Bros.)
Gimme a break.

There’s more categories and filler crap, but these are pretty much the high notes. If you count some of the nominees as being as such. I don’t. But then, that’s why I’m not on the nominating committee. If I was, there’d be no way in hell that dumbass Twilight series would make it through the front door.

Saturn Awards. Hmppf. They should call it Uranus Awards.

Monster Maker

Posted in Giant Monsters with tags on June 13, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Monster Maker

BILL GUDMUNDSON makes monsters. Unlike his contemporaries (I’m looking at you, Victor Frankenstein), Bill prefers to make his monsters out of resin instead of cadaver flesh. Not only is resin more durable, it doesn’t stink if left out in the sun.

After watching Destroy All Monsters (1968), a giant monster fest featuring Japan’s biggest hitters, from Godzilla to Mothra, Bill, only 9 years old at the time, was forever changed. Thus began a lifelong journey to recreate these magnificent building mashers in model form. On his modest website you’ll see incredibly detailed hand-sculpted models of dai kaiju (giant monsters) of everything from Godzilla, to more obscure G-foes as Gaborah, King Seesar, Titanosurus, and Hedorah (aka, The Smog Monster, shown above.)

His painstaking detailing is astonishing, replicating every nuance, from pitted scales to semi-transparent fins. Says Bill, “For my first ‘man in a suit’ monster, I went with one of my favorites. Titanosaurus has always been under-represented in model form, and there were never any 30 cm sized kits. When Billikin came out with their beautiful MechaGodzilla II kit, I knew that I had to make a Titanosaurus to go with it. Despite being such an early sculpt, I’m still very happy with it. Making all of the individual scales was a pain, but I had a lot of fun making it look like a rubber suit.”

Each monster model has anywhere from 13 to 65 photos, shot from all angles. While most of his subjects are Japanese giant monsters, Bill has detail-defying space ships and even King Kong pieces. You could call him the Michelangelo of Monsters. Or just Bill.

If you’re a giant monster movie freak like Bill or myself, then you’ll want to visit his website here: http://www.bills-kitchen.com/Bills_Kitchen/home.html

As for the Hedorah model shown in the picture above, while it displays the Smog Monster in one if its three forms, it actually looks a lot like a gal I used to date. One part of her, anyway.

Titanosaurus, Gappa

(shown above: Titanosaurus, Gappa)

Vampire-Con Film Festival

Posted in Vampires with tags on June 12, 2010 by Drinkin' & Drive-in

Seems odd to have a vampire film festival in a place where the sun shines 24 hours a day. But hey, even creatures of the night need a little vitamin D every now and then. The 2nd Annual Vampire-Con Film Festival kicks off on June 24 and runs for three days. So I guess that’d have to include June 25 and 26. I’ll have to check my Mayan calendar to be sure.

If you live in Los Angeles and are currently a bloodsucker (movie agents don’t count, although they should), here’s where Vampire-Con is at and what classic vampire movies they’ll be showing for less than you’d pay for sunblock…

NEW BEVERLY CINEMA
7165 West Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

• Tickets are $7.00 (cash only) •
Tickets to be purchased at the New Beverly Cinema only

THURSDAY, June 24th
(Summer of Vampire Love (Swinging ’60s Bloodsuckers)
7:30pm – The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
9:45pm – Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

FRIDAY, June 25th
There will be Sangre! (Co-presented with LatinHorror.com)
7:30pm – Dracúla (1931 – Spanish version)
9:35pm – The Blood-Spattered Bride (1972), aka La novia ensangrentada
11:59pm – Midnight Madness – Trasharella (2009)
In Person: Director/star Rena Riffel, co-star Count Smokula, and more

SATURDAY, June 26th
Saturday Night Vampire Fever
5:15pm – Nosferatu (1979)
7:30pm – Dracula (1979)
9:40pm – Love At First Bite (1979)

Friday features Count Smokula in person. I don’t know who that is, but I feel compelled to party with him. He probably got his name from catching on fire at one point in his life. That, or he sucks cigarettes instead of necks.