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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Defendor(2009)


This little film was an (un)pleasant surprise. From the trailer I was expecting another high-action, lowbrow laughs, super-hero movie. What I got, was a very dark comedy masquerading as a feel good movie. I am always on the fence with Woody Harrelson, he has done some good things like The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Natural Born Killers, but he has had his share of turds too. Also, I am NOT a fan of super hero movies, but Jeff wanted to see this, so here we are. I am glad that I watched this, because it goes against the grain of most Hollywood movies.


Harrelson plays Arthur Poppington, who is obviously mentally impaired in some manner, which is never explained, but seems Autistic to me. He is a city worker by day, and crime fighter by night. The whole reason that he is said hero comes from a misunderstanding when he was a child, so the whole film hinges on the fact that is he is mildly-retarded. He goes after a corrupt cop who he thinks is working for the evil "Captain Industry", a semi-fictional character, who he thinks is responsible for his mother's death. Along the way he gets involved with Kat, a young crack-addled prostitute, who loves Defendor even though she steals from and lies to him. It's impossible not to care for his character and the plight he has gotten himself into. Just don't go into the film thinking that it's something different, because it might be a real bummer. Think Donnie Darko meets Mystery Men, and you might be in the ballpark. Way to go Woody!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Band Of Horses-Infinite Arms(2010)


Band Of Horses came out of nowhere in 2006, with their stellar debut album, Everything All The Time. A country/rock hybrid that stood out like a sore thumb on Sub Pop Records. That record had two of my favorite songs of all time on it(Part One, and I Go In The Barn Because I Like The), but there wasn't a bad track on the record. A lot of other people took notice as well, because the record sold really well, and the "jam band" crowd also took a shine to the boys. They followed it up the next year with Cease To Begin, also on Sub Pop. I was so eager with anticipation for that record, and it kind of left me hollow, although there were two amazing songs on it as well(The General Specific, and Marry Song). It just wasn't as immediate and personal as the debut record, but they had a lot of lineup changes, so I was very forgiving. When I heard that the new record would be BoH's first for a major label, I have to admit, I had visions of a major "sell-out".


While it's far from a sell-out, it still lacks several things to make it a stellar record. Once again the boys deliver two amazing songs(Older, and Bartles & James), and some Ok songs, and one song that is the worst they ever recorded(Northwest Apartment). Ben Bridwell is the singer/songwriter/guitarist/pedal steel/keyboard player, and I think that he hasn't given himself the time or space to apply his talents towards making another stellar record like the debut. Like some other records I am hoping that this one is a "grower", and I come to love it a lot more than I do after some more listens. Maybe they will continue to release albums with 2 great songs on each one, and after five records I can compile all of them into the best record ever? If you are a fan of Iron & Wine, Phosphorescent, Son Volt, Will Oldham, and other artists of the "alt-country" movement, you could worse than picking up this record. I definitely think you will like it, I just need to spend some more time with it. Kudos to the boys though for not "selling out" and for securing the opening spot on Pearl Jam's US Tour, it will be nice for them to be able to play Madison Square Garden, just four years into their career.

Sleigh Bells-Treats(2010)


Some bands are so simplistic in their approach that it makes reviewing them very easy. Sleigh Bells, are such a band, they have had hipsters drooling for about a year now, and all they have released are some demos. That is until now, their new CD "Treats" is out on M.I.A's own label. The formula is pretty simple, and this band is either a love it or hate it prospect, there will be no middle ground. Derek(ex Poison The Well, Surfer Blood) plays guitar and makes the beats, and super-cutie Alexis sings, and coos, and screams. They make a hip-hop/indie hybrid that reminds me of the earliest days of hip-hop more than anything. Derek's beats are super blown out, and over the top, and sound like your speakers are blown, but IMO this adds to the sound and aura. He also plays herky/jerky, squally, catchy guitar lines over the beats, and Alexis sings her heart out. I think this band has massive potential, even though I think it will go over many people's heads. Too "rock" for the hip-hop crowd, and too hip-hop for the indie crowd. Only time will tell if they are loved or hated, in the meantime, go on Youtube and check out the song, "Crown On The Ground". That song is the best example of their sound, and you will tell if Sleigh Bells are for you immediately.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Movie Theatre Recollections: The House By The Cemetery(1981)


I am a regular over at the forums at the great The BodyCount Continues website. They are a great bunch of people, and share a love of the cheesy treasures of the by-gone Golden Era of Slasher Movies. We don't always see eye to eye on some of these gems, but no one is disrespectful, and that's why I appreciate them. Anyways, we were discussing the fabulous Lucio Fulci classic, The House By The Cemetery, and I was in the middle of posting a long winded story about seeing this classic at theatre, when I lost power! So I decided to take it over here to Vitamin Burger, and write the story here. Hell maybe I can make it into a regular feature, memories of seeing the classics on the big screen for the first time( us Slasher Movie freaks love shit like that....it's all about the details baby).


It was in 1984, a full three years after this film had originally been released. That happened often back then, because it took time for foreign films to get a distribution deal for the States, and then usually they were only released to a handful of screens. In many instances, they were only released to the then booming Drive-In circuit. This is were I saw many of the horror and slasher classics that made me who I am today. Our drive-in was called The Isle Of View, I know, what a name? I saw everything from Let's Scare Jessica To Death to Cannibal Ferox at that Drive-In. But that's another story, today we are talking about The Triple, Panama City's version of a grindhouse. It had 3 screens, 2 cavernous monstrosities, and one small cave of a room, that all of the slasher films played, especially the European ones. The Triple was one of those dirty, seedy theatres that repelled you, but attracted you at the same time, it was almost like a dirty love affair. I loved going there almost more than Christmas. The sticky floors comforted me as I trotted down that dark corridor to the smelly little cave, that showed the movies that I loved, and took me to another place, and most of all, scared the shit outta me!

So one Friday night, I was 13 years old, my best friend Joey and I were performing our weekly ritual of trying to find a new horror film to go and see. In the 80's it wasn't uncommon for there to be a new cheesy nugget of gore to hit the theatre every week, if not, we would just watch last week's again! When we spied the ad for The House By The Cemetery, we were on a mission. So we conned Joey's older brother into driving us across town to see the film. Recently The Triple, had gotten into trouble for letting under age kids in to see very gory horror films, therefore, we now had to get an adult to take us. So his older brother or my older sister were usually the victims. My sister was cool, she enjoyed any Horror, and could find something to like about any piece of trash that we drug her to. The brother was not that cool, he liked Horror, but only "well made", and not the "B-Rated" as he called it, that his brother and I devoured as quickly as we could find them. For this reason, I did not have a good reputation with the older brother. I had made hims see several that he didn't care for like Basket Case, but just a week or two prior, I made them sit through a REALLY BAD Italian stinker called "Revenge Of The Dead". The movie infuriated the older brother so bad, that I had to give him his money back for the movie ticket!


So we finally have it all set up and we get to The Triple, and see all of the bums and junkies hanging out on the side of the building. Not really that great of an element for a kid to be spending countless hours hanging around. I guess back in the day, people weren't as concerned about such issues? While standing in line for the tickets, older brother gets an ugly look on his face, and shouts "no fucking way are we seeing this movie"! His arm outstretched, I follow the direction of his fingertip to see what the source of his irritation is. I look at the marquee and see that instead of a gory movie poster, there is a piece of blue construction paper. Across it is the most childish drawing(think Napoleon Dynamite) of a hand and arm holding a bloody axe. In the same childish scrawl, the words "The House By The Cemetery" plastered against it. Older brother was furious, and bellowed, "this is some of that homemade B-Rated shit again" we aren't going. So some serious begging and pleading begins now, I was on the verge of tears. After a few minutes of begging, and me finally agreeing that I will purchase every ones tickets, if he hates the movie, we finally buy our tickets, they were $3.00 by the way. We get in the theatre, and I remember that we see the trailer for A Nightmare On Elm Street for the first time. We are all in quick agreeance that "we wanna see that one", even older brother looks interested. The movie starts, and within the first five minutes, we see two brutal murders, one being the infamous "knife through the back of the head, and out the mouth" scene, and we were hooked. Of course there was some bitching about the painful dubbing job, and especially the little boy Bob. This now has became a horror fan cliche' to diss on this movie, because of that fact. I never let something like bad dubbing get in my way of an otherwise awesome slasher/horror film.


We were delighted at the gore, never before had we seen such visceral on screen murders. We squirmed at the real estate lady getting poked in the neck several times, and then jetting gallons of blood from the wounds. We cracked up at the "bat-attack" scene, and wondered about those now famous Lucio Fulci plot holes. Even big bad older brother was squirming in his seat when Dr. Freudstein was stabbed and maggots came pouring out. The whole movie had us mesmerized by it's outlandishness, and outright blatancy, not to mention the gore was the best we had seen at that time. Maybe because I have such vivid memories of the experience, and it really was an awesome time, despite the begging and bickering, that I love The House By The Cemetery more than any other Fulci film, and that's saying a lot. Hell, I would even place it on my Top Ten Horror list any day! It gets a bad rap for not making a lot of sense and the aforementioned dubbing problems, but that adds to the charm of it all. There was a lot of fun stories about The Triple, like seeing a couple getting it on during a screening of Silent Madness in 3-D, or me sitting on a lady, when I went to see Twice Dead. But now The Triple is an CVS Pharmacy, and all I have is the memories. But I am grateful that I came from an era that were able to see what are now considered the classics of the genre on the big screen in all their glory, aren't you?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Final(2010)


How appropriate that The Final is my final review for this year's bundle of After Dark Horrorfest. To any of you that have been paying attention, I took the challenge to watch and review all this year's films. What initially was something that excited me, finally filled me with dread. I started with ZMD, which was fantastic, so my hopes were really high. Then after that, one by one, the next sucking worse than the one before, I could barely stomach finishing the project. Hidden was another bright spot, but the rest were laughable, if barely passable.


Then like a ray of light, a beacon from the heavens, The Final comes along to leave me on high note. Definitely not a straight up horror film, almost like a modern version of Massacre At Central High(1976), with some tasteful bits of torture thrown in for good measure. Had the director went a bit more in the "torture porn" direction, this film would have failed miserably. The film is about Dane, a high schooler and his band of miscreant friends. Actually they are all very intelligent kids, the only problem is that they attacked and tortured daily, by the jocks and the "beautiful people". Dane's friend Ravi, is of middle-eastern descent, so of course, he is the butt of all the racism the jocks can muster. There is a female in the group, Emily, and the cheerleaders are the ones that make her life miserable. The bullying goes beyond the normal high school levels, as the villain's beat them, and break expensive items that belong to the "nerds".


It's not long before we discover that Dane and the gang have a plan to get even with the high school terrorists. They throw a party in an abandoned house, and invite all the students who have made their lives hell. They drug the punch, and one by one the elite pass out. When they come to, they are all chained to the floor, and the kids are well disguised in some sinister looking costumes. Ravi is an evil looking clown, there is an SS soldier, a gas mask, and a hood that looks like the "hillbilly" era Jason. The kids have made a vow that they will not kill the jocks, only torture them until they realize how they made the nerds feel for years. That is the basic plot of this film, but surprisingly it is executed pretty damned well. There are some Saw-esque moments where the nerds make the kids torture each other in order to save their own lives. Some twists are thrown in, a kid who they like shows up to the party and escapes. Also, one of the kids is bit to over-zealous and does not live up to the promise of not murdering the tormentors. The ending is good, which is one of the problems with previous After Dark films, and the acting is good, considering the silly high school dialogue they deliver. Vitamin Burger definitely recommends this film, and to close out, if you are interested in this years ADHF films, stick to ZMD, Hidden, and The Final, the others you can watch at your own risk.