Features

VINCENT PRICE discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Vincent Price Collection II A duel between magicians leaves one man transformed into a bird in The Raven. An undertaker takes matters into his own hands in an effort to increase business in The Comedy of Terrors. A widower finds new love complicated by an obsession with his dead wife in The Tomb of Ligeia. A scientist is the last normal human alive after a plague turns others into vampire-like creatures in The Last Man on Earth. The abominable Dr.Phibes rises again in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. The son of the first film’s scientist begins some experiments of his own in The Return of the Fly. A millionaire offers a cash reward to five people if they’re willing and able to spend a nigh tin his home in House on Haunted Hill. Vincent Price is a genre legend, and his output is filled with horror classics. Scream Factory’s second collection of his work brings together seven films highlighting Price’s dramatic, horrific and (in a couple instances) comedic chops. Everyone will have their own favorites among the collection, but for me The Last Man on Earth, House on Haunted Hill and The Raven are the real stand outs. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, featurettes, commentaries, trailers]

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Demon Knight Tales From the Crypt

Continuing on our Schlocktober frolic through the underrated horror of the 1990s, Cargill and I accidentally traipse across a forgotten cemetery in the middle of nowhere and arouse Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight from its ancient slumber. Our fear subsides in seconds as we instantly recall the fact that this is one of our favorite horror films of any decade. If you’ve been putting off seeing this film, make tonight your demon night and then join us as we not only pay blood tribute to the greatness of the movie, but also discuss its slow, painful slog through development hell. It’s (Dick) Miller time and things are about to get in-Zane! You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #28 Directly

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Viper Gotham

It had to happen sometime: “Viper” has brought superpowers to Gotham. A superhero show without superpowers is like a carrot cake without luscious cream cheese frosting, and when it comes to Gotham, we’ve been eating our cake dry for far too long. Here’s the deal. A guy by the name of Stan has been distributing a new wonderdrug among the homeless of Gotham. It comes in a cute little mini-bottle imprinted with the words “BREATHE ME.” Follow its advice, and you’ll gain a few hours of unbelievable super-strength. Do whatever you want with those few hours. Snap baseball bats in half like twigs. Hurl a pile of policemen off of you in dramatic fashion. Drink your weight in dairy products. Your choice. Then, when the allotted hours are up, your bones crumble apart and you die in agony. Naturally, Gordon, Bullock and the rest of GCPD would prefer a population with regular human strength and intact bones, so they spend most of “Viper” trying to get the stuff off the streets.

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My Little Pony and Sheep

It may seem obvious that a My Little Pony movie is being made. The magically friendly horses are very popular and, more importantly, are a part of the Hasbro family of toys. The company has been busy turning as many of their products into movies as they can, such as Transformers, G.I. Joe, Battleship and this month’s Ouija. There’s also Jem and the Holograms due next year and maybe eventually we’ll see the promised features based on Monopoly, Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Tonka trucks. But one of these things is not like the other, and that’s this latest addition to the slate. My Little Pony will be an animated feature, which means it will likely just be a feature-length edition of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. All the other properties are adaptations of some other medium or directly based off the toys and games. Hippos and Tonka are the only others listed above that have been optioned for animated films, and both of these are different from the My Little Pony plans in that neither have been turned into narrative entities before. Regardless of what you think of Battleship and Ouija, they’ve required some level of imagination to find inspiration from their respective games for the makings of a movie plot. The same will be the case for animated stories involving marble-craving beasts and construction vehicles. 

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The Town that Dreaded Sundown

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info. My Halloween journey continues. I was going to do a different film this week, but after I had so much trouble finding a copy of Monster Squad and looked to be in a similar situation with this one, I swapped with something that’s on Netflix right now for your viewing pleasure. Put pleasure in the biggest irony quote marks ever though, because this movie, well… If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, it’s pretty simple. This film purports to tell the true story of The Phantom Killer — a real serial murderer who operated in Texarkana, an aptly-named city on the border between Texas and Arkansas, in the 1940s. I say “purports” because I actually did some research on the subject for an article I wrote a few years ago. To say they took liberties with the story is like saying that Inglourious Basterds took liberties with the events of World War II. It’s not even close, and not in the fun way (like with Basterds).

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Drive

As the search for an actor to play Marvel’s Doctor Strange rages on, a new name has been added to the mix of possible contenders (read: “actors who have name recognition and even a passing interest in being in a superhero franchise”), with Ryan Gosling joining a list that also reportedly includes Jared Leto, Justin Theroux, Keanu Reeves and Ethan Hawke. THR reports that Gosling has at least met with the Marvel team to talk about the feature, which sounds like a  nice way to pass an afternoon. This news comes on the heels of yet another big, Gosling-centric superhero rumor: that he could also star in DC’s upcoming Suicide Squad feature. THR shares that Gosling is “being courted to star” in that film, with other names like Will Smith and Margot Robbie also mentioned for possible parts. It now seems unavoidable: Ryan Gosling will probably end up starring in a superhero film. But does he need to?

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Daniel Borgman/The Current

We’re teaming with The Current for the next two months to deliver 10 short films from 10 different directors, focused on social trends explored through cinema. The third short film, Deadbeat, feels like it might make a great alternative opening to Drive. Director Daniel Borgman decided to find a figure who none of us would normally think worthy of documentation or exploration, and he landed on a young man who cares deeply about doing skids and tire burnouts with his car. “I’m interested in the way people manage in the world we live in, what they do to survive and what they are driven by,” says Borgman. “I’m also interested in the sublime. I wonder, ‘Where do we look for moments of peace and how do we access something greater than the material?’ Many people search for a moment, an awakening beyond what we consider normal living, something to affect them in a deeper more abstract way. Often that pursuit varies from person to person, and sometimes those pursuits are in conflict with one another, even though in there essence all pursuits of emancipation share a commonality. “I think storytelling is a way to bring people closer to one another, to share and give insight into worlds that we don’t normally experience.”

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Arrow Video

Small video labels lack the reach and recognition of the much bigger studios, but they have advantages when it comes to the content. Chief among them is that instead of simply pushing a new product line they’re able to hand-pick titles for release — new, old, cult classics or forgotten gems. They’re curating an affection for movies, and two of the best from across the pond are Arrow Video and Eureka! Entertainment. Neither label is a stranger to genre films, and this month sees them each bringing some ’70s-style horror into the world of high definition with new Blu-ray releases. Arrow is giving the HD treatment to David Cronenberg’s first feature film, Shivers (aka They Came From Within) while Eureka! is putting out a double feature of Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream.

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The Awful Truth Movie

Gone Girl is a cynical movie. No doubt. It features two sociopaths working out their deeply troubled marital issues in the public eye with just the right amount of bloodshed. Yet in more than a few ways, it could be an unofficial remake of The Awful Truth, Leo McCarey’s 1937 screwball comedy where two assholes realize that they want to stay married. The movie opens with Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant, naturally) lying to his wife about a trip to Florida (complete with sunlamp sessions at the gym and fake letters). When his wife Lucy (Irene Dunne) returns home later than expected, and with her debonair singing instructor in tow, Jerry can’t believe her story of a broken down vehicle. He’s furious. She finds out he was lying about visiting the Sunshine State, and mutual divorce proceedings commence. They both want to keep the dog. The rest of the film involves Lucy’s engagement to the folksy Dan (Ralph Bellamy, naturally), more lies, insinuations of social impropriety, Jerry’s engagement to the high class Barbara Vance (Molly Lamont), the intentional destruction of relationships and an automobile, and a metric ton of snide conversations spat between Jerry and Lucy’s smiling faces.

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Doctor Who Flatline

Last week’s episode of Doctor Who kept Clara (Jenna Coleman) mostly on the sidelines while the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) was front and center doing all that he does best. So, it’s interesting that the show follows it with an episode where he is mostly offscreen and she’s front and center doing all that he does best. Yes, he. In “Flatline,” Clara gets to play Doctor in a way that allows her to understand him a little better. That’s important for a season in which she is constantly on him about his methods and manners. She has to deal with situations where she too needs to lie for the better of the mission, to give people hope because those without it are more likely to die. But she also has to cope with the fact that some people may die while she’s in command. I’m a little surprised that she doesn’t have more of a reaction when one of the men does die under her leadership. In fact, I’m a little disappointed that there’s not more felt in the responsibility of her role in this episode. Outside of some dialogue in reference to what this experience of walking in the Doctor’s shoes means to their relationship, there isn’t a whole lot of substance here, neither for character development nor for the ongoing story and thematic developments of the show. Still, like last week’s episode, which was also written by Jamie Mathieson, the slightness of the story doesn’t take away from the fun. “Flatline” has a […]

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Count Duckula

Dracula Untold was out last weekend, starring burgeoning (maybe?) Hollywood talent Luke Evans as the title vampire. Or, rather, as the title historical figure with a particular fondness for bats. This is one of those Vlad the Impaler-focused stories, moving to the source material of this age-old Balkan legend. As usual, I won’t dive into the details of whether this particular new release is terrible. Instead, let’s look at some much more successfully entertaining Transylvanian fare. It may not involve Dominic Cooper but it does involve ducks. I am talking, of course, about the evergreen ridiculousness of Count Duckula, scion of the line of Duckula. As the opening credits explain, he was resurrected by his scheming butler Igor and gregarious Nanny when the moon was in the eighth house of Aquarius. They accidentally used ketchup instead of blood in the ritual, so he’s the world’s first vegetarian vampire. He has a nemesis named Dr. Von Goosewing, who is of course ripped right from Dr. Van Helsing, except that he is a goose. It’s actually fairly straightforward.

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Adam Sandler in Men Women and Children

Jason Reitman is a hard filmmaker to pin down. He’s made six features, and when a director has made that many films, it’s usually not terribly difficult to find themes or ideas that tie a filmography together. Besides generally following smart but naive characters, you can’t really do that with Reitman’s pictures. The element that comes closest to defining Reitman’s body of work is his passion for self-reflective stories. After his past two divisive efforts, Labor Day and Men, Women & Children, it’s obvious his voice and interests go beyond one story or one specific idea. What’s missing from those films, for starters, is Reitman’s comedic wit. That’s not to say they don’t have his sense of humor, albeit in much smaller doses, but they wear a more serious face than his earlier work. Critics certainly aren’t used to this side of Reitman. “It feels like the snarkier I am, the more the critics like it,” Reitman tells me with a laugh. “I mean, you gotta make films in your own voice. When you start trying to please people, you’re never going to win.”

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Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate

The true first rule of Fight Club is that you have to start a piece about Fight Club by referencing the “first rule of Fight Club” line. After 15 years, it’s more of an impulse than a cliche, like in the way that boys have an impulse for violence that’s not a stereotype. Anyway, it’s time yet again to talk about Fight Club because one and a half decades gone by calls for another anniversary celebration of David Fincher‘s modern classic. And just as I like to do with all modern classics, I’m commemorating this occasion by recommending relevant older classics (and some not-so-classics) that preceded it. Fight Club is another movie from the 1990s that has been highly influential on what has come after and was highly influenced by what had come before. Unlike Pulp Fiction and others, though, Fincher’s movie doesn’t wear its allusions so obviously. There are some direct references (Valley of the Dolls for one), but most of those are to titles that aren’t significant in terms of the ingredients that make up the big picture. This week’s recommendations aren’t all known inspirations for either Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel or Jim Uhls‘s script or Fincher’s direction. A few are, while others are just important movies with similar plots or themes, and as usual there are another few involving members of the cast in earlier roles. After you honor the anniversary by watching Fight Club for the thousandth time this week, follow it with any of the following dozen titles you haven’t already […]

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Candyman

Speaking as someone who has been on this earth since the early 1970s, I can attest to the fact that some movies often behave like wine. They may be novel when they first come out, but after a few years they become bland. However, if you let them age long enough, they become good again, often times embodying a nostalgia factor that makes their imperfections seem endearing. This process takes about 20 years for the effects to be initially felt, which is why nostalgia often runs in 20 year cycles, which coincide with a person in his or her 20s looking back fondly at what they watched as a child, and major movie studios remaking beloved titles old enough to drink. Because of this, the films of the 90s are starting to look more and more vintage. Yeah, there’s that bump in the middle of the decade with really bad CGI that will always hamper films like Spawn and Species, but the movies from the earlier part of that decade seemed to have escaped that. Such is the case with the 1992 horror film Candyman. Candyman took on the subject of urban legends when they were gaining popularity, and it started its own legends about the now iconic monster. Case in point, I saw it as a college preview back in 1992, and I knew plenty of people who immediately went home and said the name five times in the mirror. (My sister, who was often affected like this from […]

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Purge Anarchy

Horror films live and die by their scores because the music is what helps drive the story and makes us feel anxious. While the images get stuck in the front of our brains, hearing tracks like John Williams‘ theme for Jaws immediately takes us back to the fearful place the film conjured up when we first watched it. In the spirit of the season, I looked back over the horror scores released this year to see which delivered the most frightening music and soundscapes, and discovered a recurring, synth-y theme. First, a little history.

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Radius TWC

Korean director Bong Joon-ho‘s latest film, Snowpiercer, is about a train-shaped metaphor hurtling around the planet’s surface at high speed. Inside a rebellion is unfolding as the train’s lower class citizens begin a fight towards the front of the train where they believe they’ll find answers, freedom and the life they feel they deserve. It’s an entertaining film filled with solidly crafted action, a strong visual sense and an international sensibility evident in its cast, crew and themes. The Blu-ray (pre-order it now from Amazon) features a commentary track that, much like the film itself, is a bit different from the norm. Instead of featuring a member of the cast or crew the track consists of a film critic hosting a series of five additional critics who join him one at a time to offer insight and thoughts on the film. Usually critics on commentary tracks act as moderator for the talent or are there to discuss an older film for which no cast/crew members remain alive, but neither of those are the case here. They are film critics — and friends to varying degree of myself and this site — but they’re understandably not here fully in that capacity. Instead, they’re here as fans of the movie, and they use their time to talk about the elements of the film they love as opposed to offering anything that could be perceived as negative criticism. Also worth noting, while we’re used to seeing the studio’s warning that the commentary track is […]

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Neo in The Matrix

Let’s call this pitch Filmography Expendables. Take an actor or actress, list his or her best characters and throw them in a movie together as a team of awesomeness. Or, since I’m still certain we’re heading into a “Vs.” movie trend — and the “Civil War” idea for Captain America 3, where Cap fights Iron Man, is further evidence — take a star’s best two characters and pit them against each other. We’re talking gold right there. The necessary effects are there and have been long enough that I’m surprised we haven’t seen more action sequences where an actor is fighting himself as clones or lookalikes or something like that. Oblivion gave us Tom Cruise versus Tom Cruise, but now the next step is to see Ethan Hunt go up against Jack Reacher (it could easily happen since both are from Paramount properties), and then of course they finish in a draw and unite, alongside Maverick, Lestat and Frank T.J. Mackey. I was inspired to think about this idea from two places. One is this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in which Ming-Na Wen got to fight herself in the role of Agent May and a S.H.I.E.L.D.-turned-Hydra spy wearing an impossibly perfect Agent May mask. It was one of the best things ever seen on the show. The second thing is a tweet from my buddy Justin Robinson, who wrote: “I want a shared universe of Keanu Reeves characters. That way Neo, Ted, Johnny Utah, Jack Traven and John […]

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Justice League movie

Quick question: what do you have going on in your life for, oh, like the next six years? You’re free? Awesome, because Hollywood has just changed that for you in a big, big way. You’re busy now. Yes, for the next six years. With yesterday’s announcement of Warner Bros.’ extensive DC Comics-centric release schedule — which starts in 2016 and goes like a freight train all the way up until 2020 — the superhero movies landscape has ballooned out to almost unfathomable levels. Remember when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seemed like a distant dream? Just wait until you hear how long you have to wait for your Green Lantern reboot (hint: it’s a long time). Get out your day planners, people (okay, fine, your phones), and let’s plan out our next six years of superheroic movie-going madness. Print it out. Stick it on your fridge. Tell your friends. And buckle up.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin

With adults, you have to put in a lot of effort to make them creepy – layering on makeup and blood and involving them in increasingly horrific acts to impact increasingly apathetic audiences. With children, however, you often need little more than a cherubic face juxtaposed with an evil act to make an impact. Mixing evil into childhood innocence is often the perfect horror concoction for movies, whether it’s a horror movie teasing at the fear of the unknown or a drama exploring the world of a truly terrible child. Of course, sometimes it’s nothing more than the result of really bad parenting. In the premiere of The Affair, Dominic West’s son fakes a suicide to get a rise out of his dad. But when West’s Noah quickly gets over his anger and shrugs off the stunt, it’s perfectly obvious why his kid is acting out – dad is an ineffectual parent. But sometimes it’s about much more than slightly atypical adolescent rebellion. Nothing compares to the chills that a child can evoke, whether they’re the perpetrators of evil or the seemingly innocent guardians of it with their redrum warnings. Many of our most chilling cinematic moments come at the hands of children, whether it’s little Gage bringing Mommy knives in Pet Semetary, twins wanting to play in The Shining, or some of the most truly terrifying images, like Linda Blair’s young Regan in The Exorcist – a film whose frights transcend the tarnish of age. Here are some of […]

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Miles Teller and JK Simmons in Whiplash

Who would have thought the most brutal film of the year would be about jazz? Andrew (Miles Teller), the protagonist of Whiplash, is a first-year jazz drumming prodigy who possesses the talent to be one of the greats but not the work ethic. When he finally meets someone who can train him to be the best, it is both a blessing and a curse. He makes it into the elite “studio” band led by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a legendary teacher and conductor, and Andrew’s confidence at having made the group is immediately and brutally ripped apart. Fletcher abuses him in every way imaginable: he slaps him repeatedly, screams ethnic slurs, and even throws a cymbal at his head. Why are such stringent teaching methods necessary? It’s all part of Fletcher’s teaching philosophy: “The two most destructive words in the English language,” he tells Andrew late in the film, “are ‘good job’.” Still, Fletcher’s abuse is nothing compared to what Andrew does to himself: practicing until his hands bleed, pushing his muscles to the brink of collapse, and running away from a violent car crash in order to be on time for an important band competition. This is not a simple case of a teacher abusing his student; Andrew wants to be great just as badly as Fletcher wants him to be, and both of them have bought into a system of physical punishment to achieve that goal. Does any of this sound familiar? Many films have utilized the dynamic of a […]

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