Friday, January 15, 2010

A Quick Political Aside: Jesse Ventura for President 2012!

A quick political aside, then I'll get back to my snail's paced inventory of the Top Ten Movies of the Oughts. I watched this speech today and it really spoke to me. Cheesy 'reality' show aside, Jesse Ventura is a very smart guy, and I agree with much of what he says. The Democrats and Republicans have driven this country into the ground while furthering their own power. Its a natural progression, I suppose, the government's only goal seems to be furthering their power and influence at the expense of the common people. Its sick, either way, whether the Republican oil and military complex or the Democratic drive to expand the government's role further and further into the private sector. Either way, they win, we lose. This speech is great, even if you don't agree with Jesse, you should be able to appreciate a good speech for what it is. I personally think any American politician who is comfortable with the people overthrowing the government is a breath of fresh air. Enjoy:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 3


This double feature is the ultimate gift from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to their hardcore fans. It is also a tribute to just how much fun going to a ratty Times Square movie theatre or a drive-in was back in the 80s or 70s. I was too young to experience this back then, but I have spent most of my adult life scouring the world for the rarest, weirdest, gnarliest films I can find on VHS or DVD. This film is a gift for people like myself. Its Q and Rodriguez's homage to the weirdest and wickedest aspects of underground cinema. Each of the movies aren't the greatest movies ever made, but they both are fun and fit the concept perfectly. Out of the two, I like Deathproof the best. Some of the most exciting car chase footage ever, expertly directed by Tarantino. This package didn't translate very well to DVD. For some reason, when you watch these movies on TV they lose their power. This is a double bill, two for the price of one movie going experience. The fake trailers, the whole presentation is so cool and fun. I remember having a really great time at the theatre when I saw this film. The whole theatre was yelling, laughing, etc. This movie is really about how much fun going to the theatre could and should be. An awesome concept, delivered in full.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 4

4. Rambo

If your nose wasn't turned up at my list yet, I bet it is now. Yep, Rambo is one of my favorite movies of the past decade. Beyond the surface-level reasons that a rad dude would like this movie "its wicked frickin gory, dude!", lurks possibly the most insane anti-war film ever made. Its perfect, when you think about it. The tail end of 8 years of terrible government, war at home and abroad, the shadowy aftermath of 9-11, where the country's deepest fears and darkest impulses were lived out day to day on a global stage. The past decade has been a non-stop war. So, here comes Rambo to save the day. Pickup trucks with American flag stickers on their bumpers jammed the multiplexes to see John Rambo defeat Old Glory's enemies, just like he did in the Reagan era. The 2008 Rambo was different, however. Stallone went completely batshit insane on growth hormones and made one of the most unrelenting, dark, and horrific action films ever. If you feel good about war after you see this movie, you have some serious problems. When I saw this film in the theater, the tension was palpable. There were older guys there, who looked like Nam veterans, there were dumb kids, and there were my friends and I. We all thought we'd be in for a jolly old over the top romp. The level of viciousness, the completely disgusting and terrible stuff on display in this film made me really uneasy. A little part of me wanted to have fun with the film, but I was absolutely revolted and sickened by the actions of the bad guys, the 'Burmese' army. Burma is now known as Myanmar, but maybe Stallone kept the old name to avoid a lawsuit, or something.

This isn't gore for gore's sake, either. Stallone filled this film with innocent people, women and children being butchered to show you what is really going on all over the world. If the big, bad U.S.A is all for what is right and good in this world, why aren't we trying to stop the genocide in Myanmar, or the Congo or anywhere else in the world where the only law is respect the man with the biggest gun? Fact is, if there is nothing that serves the wishes of the government and the economy, there is no reason for us to be the good guys. Stallone doesn't spell this out for the audience, but if you are a thinking person, this movie will stick with you and really make you think. I remember I couldn't sleep the night I saw it. The violence is so intense and sickening that it will haunt you.

Stallone really makes you hate the bad guys to the point where you are just really, really excited to see them get theirs. And, oh boy, do they ever. The aging Stallone, hulking around sullenly, is more menacing than he was back in the 80s and in the dark, rainy jungle, as he stalks his prey, the film almost becomes like a Friday The 13th movie with Rambo instead of Jason. I mean, he even machetes people. This movie is a work of pure whacked out, sick brilliance, and I think its the best and most effective anti-war movie I've ever seen. Its also one of the only truly great action movies of the past decade.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 5

5. Bubba Ho-Tep

This is the sleeper of the list. Brandon Collins and I drove all the way to Nickleodeon Cinemas in Falmouth from Orleans in the middle of a horrific blizzard in the winter of 2004 to see it. It took us about an hour in the swirling snowflakes, and when we got there, the movie hadn't made it over the bridge. The distributor was scared by the snow. Viking warriors that we are, we waited out the storm in the Quarterdeck in Hyannis, then drove about 15 mph all the way back to Exit 12. It was a good night, after all, but I wish we had seen this movie like we planned. I bought the DVD as soon as it came out in the summer of 2004, for some reason I wasn't that taken with it. (It may have had something to do with the fact that I spent most of my time blaring heavy metal and jumping into bushes for fun back then. Damn, that was a long time ago now. It was fun. What I can recall of it.) This DVD went to Santa Cruz, back to Cape Cod, back to Santa Cruz, down to Louisville, KY, back to the Cape, up to Somerville, MA, back to the Cape and finally wound up in Roslindale, MA with my girlfriend, me and our hedgehog, Huey. About 3 weeks ago, scouring my shelves for something to watch (I have an enormous DVD collection but am too broke to afford cable, a weird predicament that I have a feeling isn't too rare these days.) I stumbled across this movie, popped 'er in. I was immediately in love.

This film is based on a short story by the brilliant Texas author Joe R. Lansdale. I call him brilliant but I've never even read any of his books. The writing in this film, however, which is apparently incredibly faithful to Lansdale's story, is absolutely brilliant. Cult legend Bruce Campbell plays Elvis Presley, who is now a sickly old man in an East Texas rest home, bedridden and depressed. Everyone thinks he's insane, that he's an Elvis impersonator who has dementia and thinks he is really the King. Elvis, it turns out, actually traded places with an Elvis impersonator, also played by Bruce Campbell, in the 70s. He was never into the fame. He just like rock and roll and ladies. He hated all his leech-friends, so he was happy to live a semi-obscure life as an impersonator of himself. But, all this backstory is told by Elvis himself, so it could very well all be made up. Now, this on its own is a brilliant premise, but this is just the beginning.

One of Elvis' neighbors is JFK. JFK is played by Ozzie Davis. Yep, JFK is an old black guy. They took JFK's brain and switched it with a black man's before the assassination. So JFK's room is full of pictures of Jackie O, a diorama of the scene of his assassination, and all sorts of odds and ends relating to JFK. And it still gets better.

An ancient mummy is in the rest home, eating the souls of the old people, because they are weak and easy to prey on. Elvis and JFK team up to battle the mummy and protect their home. The dialog, and Elvis' monologue is SO good, its some of the best writing ever in a movie. Seriously, the dialog is perfect. Its genius. From the opening scene: Elvis lays in bed and looks in the mirror. Bruce Campbell VO: "How did I go from the King of Rock and Roll to this? An old guy in a rest home in East Texas with a growth on his pecker. And what is that growth? Nobody's talkin." And the direction, by the legendary Don Coscarelli, is perfect as well. So, you have an amazing premise on top of an amazing premise on top of an amazing premise paired with genius writing and excellent effects and direction. This film is hilarious, fun, creepy, depressing and uplifting, usually all at the same time. Its just about a perfect movie and like no other movie you will ever see.

UPDATE: Made a hot link to Don Coscarelli's page and discovered that they are making a sequel called "Bubba Nosferatu"!!! Its written by Lansdale and Coscarelli!!! See "Ho-Tep" now so you can be as excited about this as me!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 6

6. The Devil's Rejects

Film nerds may turn their noses high at this choice. After all, Rob Zombie did direct the much loathed Halloween remakes (which I loved, even the second one, which might be the most hated horror film ever. I seriously think I'm the only person on earth that liked it.), keep on pointin' your noses to the stars, nerds, while me and the rest of the real people on the ground enjoy this seriously effed up, jet-fueled, shock-a-minute piece of pulp thriller sleaze. This movie is SLEAZY. There are not a whole lot of newer films that you can say are really SLEAZY. That is a term left mostly to describe by-gone drive-in and grindhouse fare of the 70s and 80s. This is the genre that Zombie was paying homage to in this film, and he wound up making a sleazy piece of art that is actually a solid addition to the grindhouse canon. When I saw this film, I was hoping that it wasn't the type of movie that tries to make the serial killers look cool, to appeal to some psychobilly, kids who wear Charles Manson shirts and think they are rebels demographic. It does, I guess, but it balances out the folk-legend of the evil, killer 'family' with an even bigger, more awesome folk hero: Sheriff Wydell. Bill Forsythe, who is always amazing, in anything he's ever been in (especially this movie and Out For Justice), is a massive one-up to the killer family. He's the ultimate avenging cop, who gets so caught up in his 'demon killin' that he goes completely insane and becomes a monster so awesome and vengeful that he scares the crap out of the killer family themselves. Wydell is my favorite part of this movie, and he's really the reason the film is above and beyond. He's an original invention created by Rob Zombie that is greater than the sum of his parts. He's part Johnny Cash, part Dirty Harry Callahan, part Wyatt Earp and 100% badass. Try not to cheer as he humiliates and tortures the sick serial killing family. Its messed up justice at its best. The soundtrack, direction, writing and acting (except for Sherri Moon, who is as annoying as she is gorgeous... wait, maybe she was supposed to be like that... yeah, I think she was, so yeah, all the acting) is top notch. This is Rob Zombie's best movie and definitely one of my favorites of the past 10 years.