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Category — indie

VHS Love Letter – REWIND THIS!

REWIND THIS! had its world premiere at SXSW and IOC was were!

Josh Johnson‘s ode to the VHS age, Rewind This! (2013) opens with a film enthusiast combing a flea market for VHS tapes, overflowing with the sort of passion any and all global VHS hunters (and film lovers) will immediately recognize. This image sets the tone for the love story to follow, between human film fanatics and the dead format known to Gen X‘ers as VHS. As some of you may recall I interviewed Josh before the film’s completion (here), as he, Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer set out to tackle the subject none had dared tackle before them. And now, seeing the final result, it’s safe to say that their film will go down as a definitive work: an in-depth documentary that dives into the history of VHS, from it’s inception to its demise (Betamax is touched upon but as victor of the format war the spoils go to VHS). We get a glimpse into some incredible VHS collections, owned by people eager to proudly show them off and explain how they acquired their precious and rare finds. Although loaded with local Austin film junkies and VHS collectors, Rewind This! manages to broaden its horizons by traveling the globe: to Japan, where legendary Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii explains his relationship to the format and how he became “spoiled”by it. To Canada, where Exotica director Atom Egoyan explains the magic in discovering the uses you could get out of VHS. Film critics offer perspectives as well, including heavy hitters like Drew McWeeney and James Rocchi, and what emerges is a well-rounded portrait of more than just a format but a moment in time. Having grown up in video stores (and currently employed by one) my favorite moment is director Frank Henenlotter explaining the unique feature on his sublime horror comedy Frankenhooker‘s VHS box: press a button and hear a reanimated prostitute ask you “Wanna date?” This prompts a montage of several other VHS junkies explaining the same feature, and results in the sort of rush of recognition shared by enthusiasts across the world: I personally hit that damn button a million times with every visit to the video store! But beyond my own attachment to VHS, Rewind This! is an essential historical document. Without the VHS boom there’d be no video stores, no developments in home video, no DVR, no making films in the backyard with friends and family, and none of the thousands of future filmmakers mesmerized by aisles of VHS boxes sitting like dreams up on video store shelves. As we inch closer to an all-digital age, where all is streaming with little to no physical media at all, the younger generations of film-aficionados can now fully understand the foundation – because it was during the VHS age that true cinematic passion thrived, and that passion today fuels all their cult/weird/action-packed journeys into the incredible – be they film or interactive gaming or whatever. Like Not Quite Hollywood  (2008) and Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) before it, Rewind This! will whet your appetite for rare films to add to your collection, but with the added bonus of causing you to scour the earth hunting for a VHS player the second you finish watching it. Powerful stuff, and a must see for cinephiles everywhere!

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March 20, 2013   2 Comments

Great Scenes – BLACK DYNAMITE

So what if some of the jokes are recycled and cheesy - Black Dynamite (2009) is just plain lots of fun. Directed by Scott Sanders, it feels a lot like the Michael Jai White show. The martial artist proves himself to be a talented comedian, and brings a great deal of charisma and energy to every frame of celluloid he’s in. He’s so freakin’ good that even when some of the plot drags towards the third act he’s evolving the schtick and making small moments memorable. Check out this early scene where Dynamite gets some bad news in the midst of his kung-fu training – a scene which would make Peter Sellers proud. Starring familiar faces Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, and Kym Whitley, Black Dynamite is now also an animated series on Adult Swim.

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October 9, 2012   2 Comments

Great Scenes – CREATURE

Nobody’s arguing that this shameless Alien knockoff is any good. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not totally unwatchable either. There are several redeeming factors in William Malone‘s Creature (1985) – namely the presence of scenery chewing Klaus Kinski in a teeny-tiny-itsy-bitsy role, some serviceable Fangoria moments that’ll satisfy gorehounds, and above all – wait for it – the presence of an exploding head! Which of course brings the grand total in IOC‘s boom-capitation series to six (6) – and we haven’t even begun to look at the Scanners trilogy and spin-offs yet! The story of a space crew that travels to Titan and inadvertently awakens a creature who’s been sleeping for like a million centuries is one I’d recommend to horror completists only – or cellulo-masochists who enjoy flicks like Troll 2. This scene, however, is a different story – so if you can stand a bit of gore feast your eyes on some ‘splodin’ noodles.

September 25, 2012   No Comments

Deliciously Dark Valentine – SEX AND DEATH 101

SEX AND DEATH 101 asks you to step outside of normal – with fantastic results.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day – the day we celebrate the monetization of love, when our personal relationships are repackaged and sold back to us wholesale, in the form of giant teddy bears, heart shaped boxes o’ chocolate, or whatever mindless romantic comedy they’ve strategically released on Blue-ray & DVD. It’s the Superbowl of the heart, when everyone’s rooting for the same team – LOVE, and naysayers are branded infidels and treated like Pro-choicers at a Republican rally. But if you’re like me – a fan and supporter who resists being made a lemming in the name of love – there’s a movie for this season of roses: writer/director Daniel WatersSex &Death 101 (2007), a romantic comedy by way of the Twilight Zone. The story of Roderick Blank (Simon Baker), a man who’s soon to wed the woman of his dreams (Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen), who receives via email a long list of his lovers, past present and future – problematic given the fact his fiancée comes in at number 29 of 101 names! The rest of the film chronicles Roderick’s descent into sexual madness (some would call it freedom), and if you accept the central metaphysical conceit – of an “Oracle” run by a group of bumbling technicians (Robert Wisdom, Tanc Sade and Patton Oswalt) – you’ll be in for a fun ride, one in which romantic tropes are skewered and the masculine archetype gets a shellacking. After all, as budding Lotharios are taught, “if you know you’re going to get lucky you probably are,” and this movie takes that idea of a self-fulfilling confidence to its logical extreme. Along the way S&D101 explores unhealthy relationships, asks serious questions about freewill, and examines our individual responsibility for the happiness of others. And despite these noble pursuits, it’s also a lot of fun – because at its core it’s essentially a superhero movie disguised as a romantic comedy – Roderick’s list fulfilling the same function as Green Lantern‘s ring or Stanley Ipkiss‘s Mask. And there’s also an evil villain, Death Nell (Winona Ryder), a serial killer out to eliminate “bad men,” whose crusade mirrors Roderick’s thematically and promises an eventual showdown. Give Waters (who also wrote Heathers) a lot of credit – he still has the balls to explore the vanishing artform known as the dark comedy. Sure, S&D101 has its flaws (mainly related to budget), but it tries more than other films ever do, and achieves many of its goals. And though it won’t sell you any target=”_blank”>giant teddy bears, it’s movie about romance that not only entertains but also makes you think, proving you don’t always have to check your brain at the door in affairs of the heart.

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February 13, 2012   No Comments

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