Sunday, January 16, 2011

To the Devil, A Son

A serial killer.  Arson.  Just-released-from-prison-after-15-years-sex.  Child abandonment.  The near murder of a child by his adoptive father.  Animal torture.  An unethical child welfare system.  Kidnapping.  If all these things exist in a film it must be the 1990 family feature Problem Child starring John Ritter, Michael Richards, Jack Ward, Gilbert Gottfried, and Michael Oliver as the title seven-year-old who excels at violence.  I kid you not when I mention those things.  They are all in the film.

The film was not a critical success, though it did debut at number three in the box office, spawn two sequels (that's two more than Citizen Kane), and an animated series (one more than Citizen Kane).  Not bad for something that wasn't screened for critics (a common practice for movies considered so bad that they won't pass the intensely critical eye of the A&E editor from a Wyoming newspaper).

Problem Child was rated PG, so you can imagine that the serial killer stuff and John Ritter going to murder his child are played for laughs, but those concepts are there nonetheless, and it all makes for a fairly dark film if you are to take it seriously.  The plot involves a family that is duped into adopting a little boy who is nothing but a problem.  He causes mass destruction, hurts animals, and sets things on fire.  One can only imagine what he'd do when that erection would start to mean something.  He also starts a pen pal relationship with a serial killer, who breaks out of prison to visit him (and later kidnaps him and his adoptive mother after he has sex with her on the kitchen floor).  Disney this ain't.

Taken at face value, this film is kind of bold in its absolute commitment to bad taste.  There are some gags that are actually funny, too, but as a comedy the whole thing kind of fails.  (Though to be fair, a kid will probably like this and not get the entire underlying dark theme.)  As a family film, it fails.  Had the comedy been toned, though, it would've made a passable thriller.  Watching it, I did not view it as a comedy.  Instead, I looked at it as if it were real, and it comes out pretty damn disturbing.

I haven't seen the sequels, and I barely remember seeing commercials for the animated series.  I can't imagine any of them being as twisted as the first film, however.  That kind of magic really only comes around once ... and in this case it has happened by what I can only assume is a mistake or a really long lapse in sound judgment.  (Considering that the director went on to do Beverly Hills Ninja I think it is safe to say it is a mistake.)  If they do keep up with this film's theme, though, I will declare it as the most subversive family film franchise in cinematic history.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Entering the Void

As I was sick yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to do some comparison shopping on Enter the Void, due out 1/25/11.  I started, leaving Amazon for last, but in the meantime Amazon actually sent out one of those pre-order e-mails I rarely pay any attention to.  $14.99 for 160 minutes of non-stop, trippy Noe?  Throw one of the many books from my wish list on there and get free shipping?  Done.  I'm not the biggest fan of Amazon, but I do love seeing those boxes. 

The lights will be off that day.  The sound system in full effect.  Perhaps I'll abstain until the weekend and make it a Noe weekend with I Stand Alone and Irreversible bookending it.  (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest comes out the same day.  I may be getting that to review.)  The rest of you may be waiting for Red and Secretariat with the same sense of anticipation, but I think I can safely guarantee that at the end of the day, after watching the film, I'll be far more satisfied.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Devil's Rain

2:56 a.m. I awaken to massive stomach cramps.  I have been sick since Sunday night.  Slightly alarming, but I think it is something I ate.  (Organic mushrooms, perhaps?)  As I lay in bed, my head started to do its usual spin of thoughts and I suddenly remembered The Devil's Rain.  Maybe it was because I mentioned it to Girl during our Machete viewing session.  Maybe it was because I find the movie incredible in its own way.  May I was delirious with sickness.  Either way, I think this movie deserves at least one viewing from fans of bad cinema.  Not that it's horrible.  Well, it is horrible, actually, but in a way that only Seventies films can be.

1975.  Having John Travolta, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, William Shatner and Ernest Borgnine together in a film where Anton LaVey served as an advisor can only mean it's going to be mesmerizing in some sense ... and it was, but not because of anything good.

The plot exists on the head of a pin and consists of a family curse and the usual Satan worshipping nonsense that was popular in that time period.  Perhaps it was there to serve as a recruiting tool for the Church of Satan (of which Travolta later became a part of).  Maybe it was an attempt to catch in on Borgnine's superstar power.  The cast of characters, in an act of symbolism for the plot, end the film by melting in the rain.

Simply amazing.

If this movie had a different cast, it would not even be worth noting.  The cast, however, makes this thing an object of magic.  How these people were convinced to be in the same film together is beyond me (except that maybe they all needed the money, and Travolta wasn't a household name yet), but it seems like there would've been too many egos involved.  What do I know, though?  I was four when it came out, and I don't even remember seeing trailers for it.  I came across it when I read about it and then caught it about a year later.

Why I thought of this in the wee hours of the morning is still a mystery to me.  I'm glad I did, though.  I'm going to lay down this morning, try to get better, and see if I can stream this thing through Netflix.  I think it's time to revisit the great Satanic Beast.  And I so wanna see Borgnine melt.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Enter the Void

Enter the Void, director Gaspar Noe's latest, is due out on DVD later this month.  I am a big fan of Noe, which means I'm salivating like a dog looking at a fresh leg to hump.  I expect great things from the man, and I have yet to be disappointed. 

The film never made it to my local theatre.  That is chiefly because a few years ago a new company bought it (based out of Oregon) with the motto of money first, art later.  We did, however, get The A-Team.  I didn't even see that the "good" theatre in Arcata got it.  I was invited down to Santa Cruz to take in a show, but timing didn't work out on that, though I believe it must have been spectacular on the big screen.

The usual outlets (Amazon and Diabolik) will have it, and I hear there are two different running lengths available, with the longer being the drug of choice in this case.  That makes it easily obtainable, but still frustrating for someone who wanted to see it as it should be seen.  I can't help but be a bit bitter thinking fans of things like Season of the Witch and Little Fockers never have this problem.

I will, of course, be adding this my collection.  I have considered buying a Blu Ray player specifically for this purpose, and may still do it.  It is that important to me.  Had our local theatre, Coming Attractions, the one where hot dogs look old and the staff barely pays attention to whatever you are saying, shown it, my money would've went there instead.  Coming Attractions, which goes out of its way on its site to link itself to the "acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival by birthplace alone (an act of irony lost on anyone anxiously awaiting The Dilemma, has made it perfectly clear: the rabble is what it is after.  All the rest can go buy Blu Ray players.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Important News for Stieg Larsson Fans

I received an e-mail today that Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Trilogy is having its street date moved. It is now due out 2/22/11. It's going to be a four disc set (regular DVD or Blu Ray -- I wish I had a Blu Ray player at this point), with some nifty extras.

Of course, these films are being remade for American audiences, so you may want to get this before all that is good about this series is destroyed by Hollywood. It will retail for $59.95 for the regular DVD set and $79.95 for Blu Ray. I'd run the Amazon ad with this post, but Blogger is having all kinds of difficulties tonight, and it's been a pain in the arse just to get this posting up.

I'm recommending this one big time. It's got the original films, a documentary and a bunch of interviews. February is going to be a good month.