The Unearthing, directed, produced, edited, and flat-out hustled by Tristan James Jensen, is a coming-of-age, supernatural discovery film done on a shoestring budget that surprised a lot of filmgoers at this year’s Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival. The movie stars local actors Riley Yearly, Angelina Masciopinto, and Kaleb Miller. It was filmed on location in Stillwater, Minnesota. You can watch the trailer here.
By Ezra Stead
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), USA, 2015
Written and Directed by Tom Six
As both of my readers know, I work at an indie/art-house movie theater in New York City. What you might not know, and might even find surprising, is that that is the type of venue at which the pretty much universally reviled Human Centipede movies get their theatrical exhibitions. The first one was kind of a big hit, to the point where we ordered enough promotional T-shirts that they were still on sale during the run of the third one, six years later. The novelty has worn off, though, and we only actually sold one of those T-shirts this time around.
The Human Centipede 3 did pretty healthy business, though; healthy enough to get its exhibition extended by a couple of weeks. The crowds weren’t as predictable as you might imagine, either. Sure, opening night was a collection of obvious scumbags, but over the course of a few weeks, curiosity (or masochism) brought in a lot of folks you wouldn’t immediately peg as Human Centipede crowd. I actually felt the need to make sure one group of four college girls knew what movie they were standing in line for, and when they enthusiastically replied in the affirmative, I said, “But you all seem so nice.”
I had to admit it then, and I’ll admit it again now: I’m no better. My own morbid curiosity had already compelled me to sit through the first two atrocities, and I knew then that it was only a matter of time until a combination of whiskey, loneliness, and an active Netflix account would have me buckling in for one more. The title promises this is the last one, anyway. If there is a fourth sequence one day, I’ll probably watch that one, too. I’m no better. Read More
By Mike Shaeffer
Chappie, USA / Mexico, 2015
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
In his 2009 feature-film debut, South African director Neill Blomkamp gave us the science fiction gem that is District 9, a stirring, gritty, and visually stunning allegory for how apartheid divided his home country. Blomkamp’s most recent foray into the science fiction genre, CHAPPiE, reflects one of society’s growing fears—the fear of a police force that has been granted greater technology, power, and room for corruption. With victims’ names like Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, and Jordan Davis making the headlines this past year, movies like CHAPPiE provide not only some intense escapism, but also a chilling look at what the day after tomorrow could bring if technology and power is placed in the hands of a corrupt and desperate police force. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Beethoven, USA, 1992
Directed by Brian Levant
I should start this off by saying that I am not truly a dog hater. Like virtually any human being, I have been known to find dogs charming in small doses, but I would never want to live with one, so I can relate to George Newton (Charles Grodin), the hapless protagonist / antagonist of Beethoven. This would seem, at first glance, to be the ultimate dog lover’s movie, but it is arguably more enjoyable, and certainly more interesting on a subtextual level, to view it from the opposite perspective.
The film stacks the deck against we dog haters from the beginning, opening on an ominously rainy night outside the “Pet Supply” warehouse where evil Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones) conducts his nefarious experiments on innocent puppies. A prime example of this deck-stacking occurs later in the film, when it is revealed just what Dr. Varnick has in mind for poor Beethoven: a munitions manufacturer wants him to “test” a new type of exploding bullet, to see the impact it makes on “big skulls.” While it can be argued that animal testing is worthwhile because of the potential human benefits gained from it, even the most dyed-in-the-wool dog hater would find it difficult to defend the scientific expediency of shooting a dog right in the goddamn face. Read More
By Mike Shaeffer
Directed by Amy Heckerling
“I’ve been fulfilling a lot of people’s prophecies about me; I’ve become a real scumbag.” –Danny Vermin (Joe Piscopo)
In 1984, director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) gave us the comedy Johnny Dangerously, starring a dapper Michael Keaton, fresh off the success of Mr. Mom. Keaton’s performance in last year’s Birdman, which netted the Oscar for Best Picture, was one of his best. It was a delight revisiting his gangster persona to see just how well the actor and this gangster spoof have aged.
One of the first elements that establish this film as a gangster flick is the setting—the Lower East Side of New York City during the height of Prohibition. After a brief set-up introducing Keaton as our protagonist, we flash back to city streets filled with Studebakers, alleys ruled by an Irish mobster called Jocko Dundee, played with humor and charm by the late, great Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein). Read More
By Mike Shaeffer
I was totin’ my pack along the icy frontier of Hoth, when along came a wild-eyed pistol waver a-ridin’ on his tauntaun. He said, “If you’ve heard of the Millennium Falcon, with me you can ride,” then he sliced open the tauntaun, and then I settled down inside.
He said he made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I told him that a parsec is not a unit of speed but a unit of distance equal to approximately three and a quarter light years, and then I looked right into his frostbit face and said, “Han, ol’ buddy… I’ve been everywhere, man.
“I’ve been everywhere, man. I’ve crossed the deserts bare, man. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I’ve had my share, man. I’ve been everywhere. Read More