What to Watch in October

October appears to be the month of Hollywood uninspired remakes and throwbacks. Why is it so acceptable in the megabucks film industry to be unoriginal? Anyway, this installment of my “What to Watch” series shows you just how few amazing films are pumping out of the studios these days. Strikethroughs are strongly discouraged viewing.

October 7, 2011

Dirty Girl by Abe Sylvia. An interesting cast rounds out this indie-feeling teen road movie/comedy which was helmed by a former-Cats-dancer-turned-UCLA Film School Grad. I say give it a chance. With tinges of Raising Arizona and Easy A it appears to have a nice balance of comedy and drama.

The Ides of March by George Clooney. Political intrigue Clooney style looks to be light on the politics and heavy on the intrigue. Clooney’s smart-man genre has both stood out and fallen through the cracks in the past, but I’m looking forward to this one. The addition of the of-late, ever-present Ryan Gosling certainly can’t hurt either.

Real Steel by Shawn Levy. So the brilliant movie concept here was to make a film based on that game with the boxing robots 10-year old’s used to play in the 80s? Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Something or Other. What actually bothers me more though is that I’m fairly certain this idea has already been put to celluloid by Spielberg, Scott and/or Cameron at some point in the past 30 years. And while Michael Bay is my favorite summer movie director of the lot, I’m pretty sure any Transformers flick will overshadow this thing to a middle schooler.

Texas Killing Fields by Ami Canaan Mann. Is it wrong to wish you were related to a famous filmmaker? That seems to give a number of young filmmakers in recent years the power to write and direct and actually find backing for their projects. Oddly enough though their projects are many times not nearly as great as someone unrelated to a hit director. So this run-of-the-mill crime drama doesn’t really stand out, but the trailer is relatively taut and looks like it will fit right in between two more movies on Cinemax on a Friday night.

Toast by S. J. Clarkson. Standard British coming-of-age drama with Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore. Nothing to get to excited about, but it’s bound to be endearing.

The Way by Emilio Estevez. Ok, so we’re back to classic Hollywood nepotism in our October lineup. This time in a film starring Martin Sheen and directed by none other than Emilio Estevez! Interestingly though, even for a real life father and son to play off each other in the film, their acting almost comes across a little subpar. Check out the trailer, it almost feels like their conversation is scripted, when even if it was, you’d think they’d play off each other a little better. Anyway, it’s a cute, typical looking journey film, but nothing career defining.

October 14, 2011

The Big Year by David Frankel. Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson as comedic trio in a film about competitive bird watching? Yeah… I’m not really feeling it either. Sounds like a fun rental though!

Footloose by Craig Brewer. It pains me greatly to say that the stellar Brewer, coming off creating some of the best neo-exploitation films of the past ten years, would stoop to the level of a remake – already. In the realm of cult classic dance movies of the 80s, you’d not expect to see Footloose cropping up ahead of that other one… but, alas, here it comes. So kick off your Sunday shoes and get comfy.

The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar. There’s no way I would miss any new film by this Spanish auteur, but this one just looks gloriously dark, creepy and quite apropos for October. Antonio Banderas, working with Almodóvar for the first time since their last disturbing work together (the 1990 NC-17er Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), plays a sociopath/plastic surgeon who experiments on women he holds captive in his mansion. And, if you like this film, definitely check out the amazing short by filmmaker Sébastien Rossignol, Le Miroir.

The Thing by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Watch the red band trailer here. Ok, I admit, I’m kind of a 70s and 80s trashy film nerd, so yeah I love John Carpenter’s The Thing, and while it disheartens me to see that it’s being remade (like everything else lately), I’m a little excited underneath it all to see it in maybe a slicker, gorier version than before. I’ll have to go a little hypocrite here, and say I appreciate the facelift on this schlocky horror gem.

October 21, 2011

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey by Constance Marks. I really dig personal journey and inspiration documentaries like this, so I may be a little biased here, but I would recommend giving this film a shot.

Father of Invention by Trent Cooper. 2010 holdover and weak comedy about a Kevin Spacey character who is released form white collar prison life and has to shack up with his daughter and work at a Hollywood-type Walmart. Pass.

Margin Call by J. C. Chandor. High drama in the banking and investment world seems to be a theme of a lot of films lately (no surprise), this one is run of the mill and sports a 50/50 cast. This seems a genre better suited to the likes of Oliver Stone and/or David Mamet.

Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin. There’s a new Olsen girl in town! Her name’s Elizabeth. From the looks of it, she’s not interested in following in the footsteps of her sisters oeuvre, and instead has debuted her acting career in this indie Sundance word-of-mouther about the titular, multi-personaed girl who is part of a religious cult. See? Now here’s that originality I’ve been looking for!

Paranormal Activity 3 by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman. The first was relatively captivating, but two sequels since then? Paranormal stuff is better viewed on basic cable when it comes on without knowing after an Anthony Bourdain marathon.

Revenge of the Electric Car by Chris Paine. I can only hope this film makes some waves.

The Three Musketeers by Paul W.S. Anderson. Another unnecessary remake of a perfectly suitable classic. The story is one of those that really looks better in classic film form anyway, so upgrading this one seems a little gratuitous. On the other hand, Paul W.S. Anderson has been known to do some pretty decent action flicks, and the obvious addition of Milla Jovovich is more than welcomed.

October 28, 2011

Anonymous by Roland Emmerich. Summer movie maven Emmerich slows it down for the Fall and tries out Shakespeare instead of catastrophe. Same premise, of course: he wants to turn The Bard on its head (sort of like humanity). Yes, this film is of the position that Shakespeare did not actually write his world-renown plays, and that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford did. Pleasantly surprised; this appears to be a step up for Emmerich. Rhys Ifans’ and David Thewlis are always great, too.

In Time by Andrew Niccol. No stranger to this sub-genre, director Niccol creates a future where humans are genetically engineered and designed to die at the ripe old age of 25. In the cliched future-film/suspense genre there’s always one individual who breaks away from the mold and goes on the run, chased by whatever futuristic armed and uniformed drones the screenwriter has come up with – and, while this film doesn’t really look any different (despite the unique life-span concept), it does have the gorgeous Olivia Wilde playing a (…wait for it) mom. Commence dirty acronyms… now.

Johnny English Reborn by Oliver Parker. The inimitable Roman Atkinson dusts off the 007-parody character Johnny English and gives it another try after almost a decade.

Like Crazy by Drake Doremus. Director Doremus is a Sundance veteran now, but as I’ve said many times on this blog, don’t see a movie just because it played Sundance. Do, however, see Like Crazy because it’s heartfelt, realistic, humorous and painful all in one – and for me – it’s hits home all too much (but that’s for another blog, another day). This is solid work and great indication of what’s to come from this fledgling filmmaker.

The Rum Diary by Bruce Robinson. Okay, well you’ve got three things to consider here: 1.) Hunter S. Thompson; 2.) Bruce Robinson; 3.) Johnny Depp. Add them all together and you’ve got a winning combination in my mind, however I haven’t seen the film yet, but if Robinson’s cult classics How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Withnail & I are any indication, this film will be witty, effervescent, and full of colorful characters.

Sleeping Beauty by Julia Leigh. In a film “presented by” Jane Campion you can expect the material to be pretty raw and jolting, but Leigh’s film has the eerie, off-kilter presence of Dogtooth and the concept and tone of Eyes Wide Shut. Not to be confused with the children’s story, this is very adult-oriented material. A young college student (Emily Browning) takes a job as a “sleeping beauty” in a venue where men pay to watch her as she sleeps.

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Liam Bachler

Filmmaker Liam Bachler’s videos are gloriously soft focus 70s throwbacks with pretty women doing mischievous things… What’s not to love!? Check out the best below and as soon as I can find his short film Time Machine I’ll be sure to put up a review and/or post it here.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra “Little Blu House”



Computers Want Me Dead “Letters and Numbers”

Still from Time Machine

What We Do Is Secret

The L.A. punk rock scene in the late ’70s produced a lot of noteworthy bands and even more one-hit wonders. None was so “one-hit” though as The Germs. Punk, as a subculture, is no stranger to violence and self-destruction, but L.A. punk was more clean-cut in its appeal than East Coast punk. More… glamorous. If there’s one area in which this cult classic-aspiring film What We Do Is Secret does excel, it’s depicting the systematic destruction of a punk icon by his need to maintain image.


Let’s break it down. First there’s the blue circle: perfection; a branding; lead singer Darby Crash (played by Shane West) always wears it. But the idea of punk rock is to not subscribe to a branding or perfection, so it seems in direct opposition to any punk band’s way of life. I think that’s what bothers me most about The Germs and singer Darby Crash in general. What’s more, this (in places) badly acted biopic of the rise and fall of the band hints at this same concern of mine (whether or not they intended too).

The Germs basically are started in a fit of milquetoast boredom. They don’t know how to play any of their instruments, the singing is less than spectacular, but the lyrics of Crash are decent and youthfully powerful. On their first gig, Crash feels compelled to slash himself across the chest with a shard of broken glass, in maybe in an effort to appear violent or menacing, but all he ends up looking is disillusioned. At any rate, the crowds in the punk scene are looking for anything that involves cutting or bashing or breaking or beating, so Crash finds himself causing disarray and horror at many of their following gigs. Once they get a bad name for themselves (with club owners), they basically can’t play anymore in L.A.

Do they every consider going anywhere else? No. Or, at least not Darby. But just when you think punks don’t travel, he heads off to London in a vain attempt to forget the capitalist suckling he’s been doing on both his mother-figure of a groupie/manager and the whatever little reward came of The Germs’ debut album getting a release. He comes back from London (where he was impressed by music that would not appear to be his style, e.g. The Go-Go’s, Adam and the Ants) with a mohawk and plays one final show in L.A. (the only one that will book him). When no one at the L.A. gig gets the new image (which you’d think the idea of being different was part of a punk rocker’s joie de vivre) the next time we see him he’s changed his hairstyle.


This film doesn’t do anyone justice and certainly doesn’t make any great, defining points. The Germs were always overshadowed by their own scene, always concerned with their own appearance and style and many of the members (who stayed on the longest) wanted to do something more with the band. The film also lightly infers Crash was homosexual, but then suddenly seems to drop it. At the end we see where apparently Crash died on the same night as John Lennon, so of course he was overshadowed by that too. Oh well.

Shane West apparently garnered some appreciation somewhere in his role as lead singer of The Germs, as the band reunited and have been touring with him since. Too bad I’ll never see them.

Thurston Goes No Wave

Thurston Moore is no stranger to publishing books. just check out ECSTATIC PEACE.COM. But tackling an underground NYC music scene from the late 70s is one of his better reads. Granted, I’m a few months behind in blogging about this, but

NO WAVE.
POST PUNK.
UNDERGOUND.
NEW YORK.
1976-1980.

is such an interesting compendium of a seemingly forgotten (but all too eerily similar to present day’s) music style, that i thought it too important not to note here.

So yes, on a blog where I whine about wanting to omit genres from music and just listen impartially, I promote a book which does just the opposite. C’est la vie.

Violence Is Sexy

Although it had always been prevalent in cinema, violence was only becoming glorified and exploited in the early 1970s. As far back as 1903 the ending in The Great Train Robbery is that of a pistol barrel pointed at a viewer. Film noirs of the 30s, 40s, and 50s only took it to another, somewhat respectable level, while the shock-and-schlock horror films of that time slid to the opposite end of the spectrum.

The 60s, a time of radical change in the world, produced yet another breed of on-screen violence, by gradually throwing in sex, nudity and other easily identifiable exploitations to further muddy the waters. One sub-genre that was taking a firm hold of on-screen violence was the slasher film, proposing a dark reflection of society typically through one character’s actions on a number of characters who were staples or stereotypes of the rapidly evolving American and European societies.

Alfred Hitchcock was the director most notable in pioneering this sub-genre with his indelible mark on celluloid that is Psycho. But more importantly, it was little known films like The Toolbox Murders or Driller Killer which helped this burgeoning sub-genre explode into the onslaught of slasher films the 80s produced. Films like Friday the 13th maybe wouldn’t have been possible if not for the inspiration of ones like, say, Bloodbath.

There’s something intrinsically frightening to a society where only one individual is a threat. At the same time though, there’s something utterly captivating about an individual who could pose a threat to an entire society, and the 80s capitalized on this idea as well, spinning it off into Predator, Die Hard and Rambo, where one man stands as both savior and menace.

Generally, horror films appear in greatest amount during or after a time of war, so it’s conceivable that during a war such as that in Vietnam, where a society finds itself in an opinionated divide, the horror genre, always in flux, should begin to peak once again. Just look at the last seven or eight years.

In the late 60s films were trying to shape the way audiences perceived life, society — the world, and were subsequently slapped on the wrist while critically applauded (e.g. Midnight Cowboy). Gritty realism was in full swing during this time and was spilling into the early 70s, so much so one could almost feel the slime on the streets of New York (just read some of the the article below).

Politics of cinema were vastly changing during this tumultuous time, especially in the horror and drama genres; in fact, by the mid 80s horror (and its many sub-genres) would be the most produced (and rapidly produced, at that) films of any genre! 1971-72, I propose, was the catalyst for this horror film explosion, due to a concentrated collection of four films which were typically filtered out of being considered in the “horror film” genre.

Through the future articles on this blog Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972), Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971), Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972) will be carefully (open to debate) dissected. Subsequent comparison of the parts to circulating ideals, morals and motifs of those years will show that society is reflected in horror films as an instrument of aversion; and therefore, this genre can thrive in times when society needs to reflect upon itself in order to find something, anything, which could be more frightening.

The Panic In Needle Park


“God help Bobby and Helen. They’re in love in, Needle Park.”

Well, if this logline from the trailer doesn’t make you want to see this gritty 70s masterpiece from director Jerry Schatzberg, then don’t watch Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. You might find, much like I did, that some of the scenes between the “fucked up pooh-butt” Uma Thurman, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette and John Travolta are homages to Schatzberg’s sophomore film.

Bobby (Al Pacino) and Helen (Kitty Winn) play the epitome of the heroin addict spending nearly the entire 109 minutes of the film roaming around the streets of New York City, looking to buy a hit, looking to sell a hit, looking to fall in love and escape their fate. The film seems to centralize on the fact that they are not getting out of the life they’ve continued to lead without being pulled out. Whether it be by accident, fate, death or arrest, they continue to wait for something to happen to them instead of doing something for themselves.

Kitty Winn took home the award for Best Actress at Cannes for her role in this film, and she deserved it maybe, but it was really Pacino who dominated many of the scenes throughout. Wonderfully shot and directed, I was enthralled till the stark ending. An ending which I must admit sort of took me surprise. I think this film was ahead of its time for 1971, and while it may not serve to affect an audience in the maelstrom of glossy drug addiction flicks that plagued the disillusioned late 80s and 90s, it makes a huge impact if your not yet desensitized to such fare.

For more on Schatzberg, click HERE.

Boxcar Bertha

Scorsese’s 1972 feature Boxcar Bertha unfolds like an exploitation flick and looks like both foreshadowing to the director’s later works such as Last Temptation of Christ and a throwback to works like Who’s That Knocking At My Door? Barbara Hershey portrays the titular Bertha, a woman wildly in love with Bill Shelley (David Carradine), a Union man who finds himself in rapidly declining situations. Usually because of Bertha.


Regardless, their love seems to prevail, and while she ultimately seems to save Bill more often than not, she appears to be his death in the end. Literally crucified, thanks to Bertha (it seems), Bill hangs by his impaled wrists from the side of a boxcar which begins to gather speed – racing away from Bertha.

Another (in some ways more important) storyline is that of Bill’s friend, a black man named Von Morton. Though the film is set in the era of the Depression, Scorsese (whether intentionally or simply due to budgetary restrictions) infuses references to the 1970s as well. The film, while trying to be a period piece of sorts, feels increasingly more modern than it’s story’s date would indicate. Von Morton is not afraid to show how he appreciates Bill’s (and even Bertha’s) friendship throughout the film, and these moments are very tightly directed, combining an underlying tension that viewers might be expected to have, with a poignancy that surprises at times.

The loves scenes, which Carradine and Hershey have reportedly stated are “not acted,” seem fresh and honest, a tribute (or extension of) the beautiful honesty exhibited in the earlier Who’s That Knocking At My Door?. Boxcar Bertha is a wonderful film overall, a welcomed detour from the director’s other films from the 70s, drawing from the sharpness of Bonnie and Clyde and the moodiness of Badlands, proving that if Scorsese had of kept working on The Honeymoon Killers (later shot by Leonard Kastle), it may have been his first Raging Bull.