Midnight Movie Madness: “food of the gods”

“Food of the gods” – (88 minutes, USA, 1976 – PG)

The ’70s… Roller skating, creepy-crawlers, bean bag chairs, disco balls, and of course, Earth Day… “Food of the gods” is pure 1970’s grade fun which wonderfully makes no sense whatsoever.

Loosely inspired by part of an H.G. Wells story, “food of the gods” begins with a cautionary monologue by the protagonist, Morgan (Marjoe Gortner), about the wrongs done by man against nature: “just let man continue to pollute the way he is, and nature will rebel”, his pop used to say…

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Raccooneers of New Barbary Coast: threat over the water

Most San Francisco visitors I encounter seem eager to run through certain areas of the City, just so they can snap a few pictures here and there, before returning to their hotel satisfied they’ve pretty much seen it all… Fools.

It is like this:

The photos below were taken at tremendous risk, hence the shaky quality of some shots, but one does not simply tangle with raccooneers and expect to hightail it fully intact.

 They saw us. Sh*t's about to get real
They saw us. Sh*t’s about to get real

For those few who understand there’s more to the park than meets the cursory glance, I say go to the Conservatory of Flowers, Bison paddock or Stow Lake, all those storied places worth hours if not days of exploration, “but I do warn ye, if ye value yer life: ye stay well clear o’ North Lake. Place be full o’ monsters with ’em little teeth”.

The party readying to come ashore
The party readying to come ashore

We ain’t – I mean we’re not talking about cute Strawberry Hill over in Stow Lake with them owls and their neighbors, the blue herons. No.

Land Ho!
Land Ho!

I’m talking about that gloomy islet, New Barbary Coast, where Charlotte Raccoon (née Badger) and the others, like the Harpes,  scourge of squirrels and raiders of birds’ nests, ply their trade from dusk ’til dawn…

Who's that devil with a blue peeper?
Who’s that devil with a blue peeper? Major Tom?!?
A stare to chill the hardiest soul
A stare to chill the hardiest soul

One last word of warning: don’t feed the raccooneers, they’re turning into fat b****s… This ain’t no Disney movie.

raccoon smells humansYeah, bring your camera too, 'cuz we're gonna eat all of that
Yeah, bring your camera too, ‘cuz we’re gonna eat all of that

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“Beyond the black rainbow”: un film de…

Beyond the black rainbow” – (110 minutes, Canada, 2010 -NR)

How this film came to be is very easy to  imagine, as described by the writer/director: a typical awkward teenager browsing video stores in the ’80s, staring at video jackets of R-rated films his parents won’t allow him to watch, conjuring visions of what the movies are like.

‘Struth… But what makes it a little more unusual is that the kid’s father was George P. Cosmatos (1941-2005), who directed some popular movies in America and abroad, such as “the Cassandra crossing“, “Rambo II” and “Tombstone“. There isn’t much to find online about either father or son, and the elder Cosmatos’ decision to move his family to Victoria, British Columbia, reflects a strong desire for privacy and normalcy well away from Hollywood.

Barry Niles
Michael Rogers as Dr. Barry Niles

[…]1983. Dr. Barry Niles (Michael Rogers) runs the Arboria institute, created by his mentor Mercurio Arboria (Scott Nylands).

Mercurio Arboria
Scott Hylands as Dr. Mercurio Arboria

Dedicated to the development of human potential through technology and experimental medication, the facility houses a young girl named Elena (Eva Allan) with telepathic powers reined in by drugs and electronic voodoo in the form of a pulsating pyramid…

Eva Allan as Elena
Electronic voodoo

This is about as much of the story behind “beyond the black rainbow” which I’m willing to tell, because going further would only be laying out my own interpretation of a very personal film. “Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing. It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different.”  – Sherlock Holmes in “The Boscomb Valley mystery”.

The Sentionaut
The Sentionaut

Although “beyond the black rainbow” is very interesting visually, some would argue it isn’t anything particularly new. When I first saw the film’s trailer, I wondered: is that an early De Palma I missed? The stark decors with deep shadows and bright blue or red light, the mirrored surfaces and characters’ look…

But “beyond the black rainbow” is not imitation it is reflection, Pan Cosmatos’ imagined version of what 1980’s films were like, and an attempt at coming to terms with the loss of his parents. I suspect that a viewer’s take on the film will be very personal: much of what happens on screen, as well as the back story, is ‘hinted’ at.

Young Barry Niles chasing the rainbow
Young Barry Niles chasing the rainbow

Watching “beyond the black rainbow” is an experience of sorts, the combination of sharp visuals, slow pace and tonalities made me feel as though I was in some altered state. The unfortunate result being that I fell asleep twice trying to finish the film.

This in itself makes it somewhat difficult to recommend the film: it certainly doesn’t fit the usual “midnight movie madness” mold of entertaining weirdness. It does however has an appeal shared by  “the Lathe of Heaven” (the 1980 version), and “altered states“, exploring themes which are not readily translatable to the screen.

Niles' breakthrough
Niles’ breakthrough

I want also to single out the performance by Michael Rogers as Dr. Barry Niles, whose strange, androgynous appearance becomes clear in the last few minutes of the film. His  interpretation of a brilliant mind pulled between different realities, with muted lassitude, disgust and rage was subtle and fearsome at once.

Beyond the black rainbow” gets four jellybeans.

4 beans

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Christmas Movie Madness: “rare exports: a Christmas tale”

The evil of Farther Christmas has been unleashed upon the world once more. Can a small group of reindeer herders catch him in time to sell it to the Americans?

Rare exports: a Christmas tale” – (2010, Finland, 84 minutes – rated R)

Like all industries, Christmas is made up of many businesses, the more unsavory and dangerous ones, the more “interesting” the folklore.

The hunters
The hunters

While NORAD pretends to track Santa’s sleigh every year, the real hunting takes place on the frozen ground of Northern Finland, Lapland to be exact. There, rough men practice skills honed over generations, working in groups of three: the tracker, the marker and the sniper. Their quarry is the Wild Father Christmas, an elusive and savage predator pouncing on reindeer and naughty children alike. The following video is NSFW:

In “Rare exports: a Christmas tale“, Mount Kurvatunturi, the site where Father Christmas was entombed is being “excavated” with explosives  by an American company, Unwittingly, they unleash the ancient evil. It is now up to local reindeer herders and father and son Rauno and Pietari Kontio (Jorma and Onni Tommila) to capture the beast and sell it to the Americans.

Rare Exports

based on  the 2003 short “Rare Exports, Inc.” posted above, “Rare Exports: a Christmas tale” is another highly enjoyable example of dry, dead-pan Nordic humor, in the vein of “Trollhunter” or “the sound of noise“. Monty Python lives…  And…

… Father Christmas is out there, ravenous, nasty and lethal. Until the tame final product, result of hard work and hours of beatings, is fit for shipment around the world. “Rare exports: a Christmas tale” is where it begins…

Rare Exports: a Christmas tale” gets five jellybeans. They should show this in schools.

5 beans

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Caturday: four legged Klingons

“And they call it kitty love…”

That’s where the cuteness ends: Jenny starts by kissing on Tito, they exchange a few licks, and settle down for a minute, maybe a few seconds.

Tito & Jenny on love cushion
The quiet before the storm

Then the wrestling begins. The headlocks and body slamming, what every Trekker recognizes as the Klingon mating ritual, somewhat different from the Vulcan mating ritual which also involves ass kicking, but of a Starship Captain.

Star Trek yourself
Someone could get hurt…

As I type this, for instance, Jenny is still greeting me home, dancing figure eights under the chair, pawing at my leg and grabbing my arm to rub against. With purring and claws. I’m already bleeding in three spots. I got bit. Not too hard but firmly.

I will show you a paper tiger
I will show you a paper tiger

Must be the Tortie (Tortoiseshell) in her, the little brute. As a wrestler, she has a very solid stance: wide with hind legs bent. We saw her more than once using this position to wrap Tito in an embrace before slamming him down. Then again, he gives as good as he gets, and even has her retreating often, though never for long. Never for long.

I’m bleeding from a fourth scratch now.

Jenny will also walk on my pillow stopping just long enough to nom on my skull. If I pet her, which I always do, she farts. If my wife leans over to nose bonk her, Jenny’ll cough in her face, like Carol Beer on “Little Britain”:

Her newest trick: not a cough, but a vurp (a burp which sounds vomitous). All I can say is thank Ceiling Cat she doesn’t eat mice. Things are gross enough. Annnnd, I’ve got an eighth scratch… Well, a puncture, more like… Still, I feel like one of Jack the Ripper’s playthings.

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“Trollhunter”: Norway José

Corny jokes are all that I’m left with, along with growing paranoia.

Just over a week ago, I was trawling (geddit?) through our Netflix queue looking for something to watch,  promptly found “Trollhunter” sitting two thirds of the way down, and jumped over to Nekoneko to re-read her review.

By the way, if you’re interested in watching “Trollhunter” I recommend you read her write up. Because you see, I did not finish it. And I wanted to review it. By Grabthar’s hammer, this was not to be…

Trollhunter poster
Movie poster

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Midnight Movie Madness: “we are what we are”

“We are what we are” – (90 minutes, Mexico, NR)

We are what we are” is largely about what it takes to keep a family together and that thing here isn’t love. “We are what we are” is a Mexican film written and directed by Jorge Michel Grau whose career so far shows promise, mostly documentaries centered on culture, the arts and education.

we are whar we are poster

It helps to know this as this work of fiction has strong sociological themes, rather specific to Hispanic culture, Mexican in particular.

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Burke and Hare”

Burke and Hare” – (91 minutes, UK, 2010)

Funny story. Two Irish guys, both named William, go to Edinburgh circa 1827 and… Well, “Burke and Hare” tells of William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis), scraping by in a city experiencing a sort of Renaissance in scientific studies, particularly medicine. As it happens, two rival surgeons, Doctors Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson) and Alexander Monro (Tim Curry), are in stiff competition for fresh human meat to dissect.

Burke Pegg Hare Serkis
Burke (left) and Hare (right)

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“Don’t be afraid of the dark”: don’t be afraid to blow raspberries

Don’t be afraid of the dark” – (2010, USA/Australia/Mexico, 99 minutes – rated R)

This definitely has Guillermo DelToro’s fingerprints over it, but despite the occasional clever touch, this adaptation of a 1973 teleplay falls way short from the original.

In this version, the medicated offspring (Bailee Madison) of a divorced yuppie couple is sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes). Daddy and the girlfriend are renovating the auld mansion of Emerson Blackwood who disappeared mysteriously shortly after his young son about a century ago.

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Television series from supernatural to sci-fi

Waaay back in October 2010, I brought up the old TV series “Friday the 13th” as an enjoyable little trip down to memory lane: I used to watch the show back when it first aired in the late ’80s late night on CBS.

Something of a small guilty pleasure tinged with nostalgia when all the bad guys were supposedly from South of the border (Noriega, Escobar et al.). We’re now down to the last couple discs of the series, so it’s time for some more reviewing and suggesting.

The third and last season of the show saw Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay) replaced by another character named Johnny Ventura (Steven Monarque) and due to some weak writing, Ventura has about as much appeal as an old Mercury Grand Marquis. I know ‘cuz I drive one. The energy of the three original characters (Micki, Jack and Ryan) never really amounted to “magic” but it did keep you engaged in the happenings. Not so in the 3rd season which of course turned out to the last. Conclusion: watch the first two, maybe until the episode explaining Ryan’s “disappearance”, don’t bother with the rest.

More modern fare, interestingly set during the Dust Bowl, “Carnivale” ran for two seasons from 2003 to 2005. “Carnivale” follows young Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who possesses healing powers, on his collision course with Brother Justin (Clancy Brown).

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