Saturday, 28 August 2010

Diary: Late Night Viewing

I'm sat in our bedroom, idly browsing the web while watching The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue. My girlfriend is asleep, and doesn't seem to be having any issues with her slumber while folks are getting their guts ripped out and chomped on the bedroom TV. I don't sleep well. I never really have. This means that no matter how full a day is, there is always time to squeeze in a film or a few episodes of something to see me into the small hours, when I'll finally feel sleepy.

It's weird - the more violent and disturbing the movie is, the more relaxed I get. I don't ink it's because I'm a maniac in waiting or something, more that there's some catharsis going on while watching weakly written characters get their limbs torn off and had as elevenses.

Zombie movies are great for this. Especially old ones. With the slew of recent zombie flicks, I've never got that same sense of exploitative nastiness that older films carry. I'll take a gaudy, implausible old horror film over the latest releases any time as late night viewing.

Maybe it's the glance at a more naive time that I find cheering. Whatever the reason, the simple fact is that I'm sat he in my boxer shorts and an old Red Dwarf t-shirt, rambling about horror movies while a sleepy British town is being eviscerated on the TV screen. Aaah, celluloid bliss.

Monday, 23 August 2010

TRAILER TREASURES: ROBOT JOX

Here's a classic Trailer Treasure for you. Robot Jox was one of those 'YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS' type movies amongst kids of a certain age at the start of the 90s.

It was a ridiculous, camp, cheap, silly, brash and lurid film with about as much dramatic gravitas as a bubbly fart. However, it was also a great big bag of visual sweets that sugar coated your eyes for 90 minutes. Hell, what kid wouldn't get excited by big robots kicking the shit out of each other?

The film was utter trash, and utterly wonderful.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

SALT (2010)

Angelina Jolie's headlining role as Evelyn Salt in this all-action popcorn flick genuinely saves the film's bacon. Y'see, it's ridiculously far-fetched, but a sprightly script, some juicy twists and Jolie's no-frills performance make it a lot of fun to watch. Salt is hugely entertaining back-end-of-summer blockbuster fodder. A new Bourne? Perhaps. We shall see. The plot? Aw man, that's anyone's guess after the first half an hour. I'm kidding.

The story follows Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who may be may be/may not be a Russian spy, as she runs from one loud set piece to another in an attempt to clear her name/save the world. The format is nice- little build up, with chunks of back story filled in via well timed flashbacks. Angelina Jolie must really get some bruises when making flicks like this, as there are some outstanding stunts and fight sequences amidst the twists and turns of this extremely fast paced film.

Liev Schreiber is well cast as her friend and work partner (although I couldn't stop thinking 'That dude was Sabretooth... that Wolverine flick sucked.'), and it's always a pleasure to see Chiwetel Ejiofor on the screen (even with a slightly too-forced American accent). Where the film suffers is that there is possibly too much going on at any one time to really take it in.

Mind you, this could be a good thing, as there are some moments that are just so very improbable that if you think about them too much, you would start to realize that Salt must actually have a mutant healing factor (Maybe she got it from Sabretooth...). As an entertaining action film, it works brilliantly, and there still manages to be a few surprises along the way despite the fact that the trailer gives the whole film away.

The whole espionage/counter-espionage angle is handled nicely and feels suitably secretive and complicated, but folks are really sat in front of this to see stuff blow up and watch Angelina kick people's faces to pieces. One issue I must take up is the rating - !”A in the UK – which is grotesquely inappropriate for a film with so much violence. However, this is the fault of the BBFC and not the people involved in the flick itself. A 15 would have been ideal.

Anyway, back to the film.

The scenes with the Russian characters have a delightfully sinister air, and while the ending is rather predictable, it is nevertheless satisfying. Things explode, Angelina keeps eluding capture, and her methods become ever more outlandish as the film goes on. The question of 'Who is Salt' is still not answered completely by the time the credits roll, but with a sequel nicely set up, there's plenty of time to find out more about this character and her past. Sprinkled lightly, Salt really does stop the film tasting bland.

Friday, 20 August 2010

COMICS: UNCANNY X-MEN 526 AND 527

What's going on here? Picking up the most recent two issues of Marvel's flagship X-Men title after a year or so away from it, I'm having trouble figuring out what's going on. While there's a catch-up page at the start of most Marvel titles right now (This can only be a good thing for casual and lapsed readers), it still leaves you with something of a 'Whu?' feeling. Nightcrawler's DEAD? Who is this 'Hope' character? Hmm.

Reading these two issues has been like a game of catch up for me. I find it a little odd that the 'central' X-characters of Wolverine, Emma Frost, Cyclops etc seem to be taking a back seat so that the new generation of X-men can shine. uh, this was also attempted a couple of years back and didn't work that great. I do like the direction these issues are taking though, with new mutants appearing around the world following on from the catastrophic events a while back that left all but 198 of the world's mutants powerless.

It seems that the X-Men universe is still enjoying playing with time travel, with Hope being from the future, which is something the title's been doing for decades now, so I guess that's one thing that's the same. What the hell happened to Kitty Pryde? Why is she a ghost in a tube? Erm... I'm gonna have to do some catching up.

The art is mostly great, but there are a few panels here and there that look rather rushed. The scripts are strong, but needlessly complicated and canon-heavy. I guess it's because I've come back on as a lapsed reader more than anything, but I didn't get much of a connection to these issues. That said, issue 526 has a brilliant back-up story featuring Magneto as he and the X-Men rebuild the X-mansion. That little story has some wonderful foreshadowing to the script, and is drawn beautifully. Niggles aside, I'm going to stick around a while longer and see if I can figure out what's going on.

UNCANNY X-MEN 526 7/10
UNCANNY X-MEN 527 6/10

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

QUICK FIX: RABID (1977)

Rabid is one of my favourite films from David Cronenberg. This is down to it being so deliciously odd and unnerving, and also for the audacity of casting porn star Marilyn Chambers in the lead role. An injured woman (Chambers) receives a skin graft of modified flesh.

The flesh takes to her, and while it heals her she develops an opening under armpit, which contains a disturbingly phallic stinger, which enables her to feed on the blood of any victim she chooses, while wiping their memory of any encounter. The thing is, everyone she infects via this process becomes a rabid zombie creature, which then spreads the virus further. Bloody chaos ensues.

The film was made with a very low budget, but it was crafted very well, making the most of every penny. It's tense and rather sick, and the sight of the opening under the girl's armpit is grotesque.

Cronenberg is an expert with creating horror from mutations of the human body, and while not his best film by a long way, it is a very fine little gem that serious horror fans need in their collections. The macabre subject and surreal construction of the film makes for perfect late night viewing.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)


Where A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge left a lot of people a little disappointed, the third film in the saga of Freddy Krueger was little short of a masterpiece of the genre. Returning to the chills of the first movie rather than the forced shocks of the second, it also saw the return of the original hero, Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp. Other notable cast members included a young Laurence Fishburne (Back when he was still called Larry) and the first movie role for a teenaged Patricia Arquette.

Rather than being set on Elm Street, this third film is set in a mental institute, where a group of troubled teenagers are sharing nightmares about a burned man with a clawed glove. They'll do anything to stay awake, as we see in unnerving detail onscreen. Their group therapy sessions don't seem to be helping, until a young woman called Nancy comes into their lives, and tells them all she knows about the demon in their dreams. Before long, the chaos is unleashed as Freddy tries to off the group of 'Dream Warriors' when they unite to do battle against him.
It was a fantastic idea, and is executed very well for the time. I always loved the fact that in the dream world, the teens are as they wish they could be. For example, the RPG fixated lad in the wheelchair has the use of his legs again, and is a powerful wizard. The mute lad can talk (and indeed scream), and so on. While some of the effects have dated, the suspense hasn't.

This is one of the only Elm Street sequels to actually feel like a real horror film, and while Freddy is letting loose with the odd wisecrack, he isn't presented as the cartoonish bogeyman of later sequels. The fleshing out of his character is done in a subtle way, with his origins described by the ghostly form of Sister Mary Helena. To be honest, the series could have ended very well indeed if it had been left alone with the end of this film, but alas the series was run into the ground with more sequels of decreasing quality.

There are a number of outstanding moments throughout 'Dream Warriors' though, some of which have become icons of the genre, such as the infamous 'Snake' scene in which a huge snake version of Freddy attempts to eat Arquette's character, Kristen. Then there are moments such as the unveiling of Freddy's soul-encrusted chest, or the equally notorious 'Puppet' scene (that still freaks me out to this day).

Really, if you just watched the first Elm Street movie and then this one, ignoring all of the others, it would make for a much more satisfying experience. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, is pretty much perfect. Oh yeah, and it has a theme song by Dokken, so it's even more awesome. Isn't it time you checked this film out again? I urge you to do so, and relive a time when Freddy was actually a villain and not a parody of himself.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

TRAILER TREASURES: GRINDHOUSE 'FAKE' TRAILERS

Welcome to the first in a new series for Diary of A Genre Addict- TRAILER TREASURES! The trailer is an art form in itself, and I'd like to start bringing you some brilliant examples for your delectation. These trailers will be from all corners of genre cinema, and I'm gonna get the ball rolling with the fake trailers created for the GRINDHOUSE project from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino a few years back.

These trailers, made by Rodriguez along with Edgar Wright, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie were quite brilliant in both their loyalty to the Grindhouse style and their pastiche of it. There was also a trailer made by competition winners (Hobo With a SHotgun). My favourite is Edgar Wright's 'DON'T!', which perfectly captures the deliciously daft films of the era it evokes, complete with jump cuts and shocked reactions (not to mention a cast that are clearly having a blast). Check these trailers out and enjoy once again.

TRON (1982)


Bow down and worship. That's about all you can do with TRON. The original movie may have bombed when it came out, but it has become truly iconic over the years since then. Its mix of ingenious visuals, a story blending SF and fantasy, a superb cast and an amazing soundtrack still floors me every time I watch it. Not seen it? How dare you! get out of my sight! Ahem. The film follows the adventures of Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a computer genius who gets sucked into the world of a video game he has created, and his battle to stay alive in the violent and bizarre world of TRON. Now there is the long-awaited sequel, TRON LEGACY, the time is right to take another look at the original.

When this film was released, it bombed. Now this wasn't due to it being a bad film- not at all. This was due to the fact that the story and the concept were both so far ahead of their time that it would take a little while for the world to catch up with it. Here was a virtual reality film released a decade before anyone was using the VR term. Here was a film for the internet generation before the internet had left the back rooms of universities. Here was a science fiction film filled with CG set pieces long before anyone was really using CGI at all in any impressive way (The Last Starfighter notwithstanding...heh). In short, it was as though something had been dropped from here and now into the early eighties, and audiences really weren't sure what to make of it.

Tron gave us some incredibly iconic visuals, such as the thrilling lightcycle races, the disc battles, the landscape, the vehicles and pretty much everything else in the TRON universe once Bridges is flung into it. The story nestles somewhere between science fiction and fantasy IMHO, as the concept is very SF, but its execution in the digital world feels somewhat like a fantasy story in the same way that STAR WARS always did. It's a Disney film, but it's far from fluffy and cute. People are offed in an astonishing number of ways, all rendered acceptable due to the fact that it's programs dying rather than humans.

The violence is extremely stylized, removing the horror of the deaths and adding an almost cartoonish quality, but it still has a massive amount of impact. Even now, the film looks brilliant. The unique look of the characters and the minimalist designs of the Tron universe held it back from dating much, and while there are some very noticeable matte lines around some of the cast in some scenes, it still has the ability to drop your jaw.

It is those minimal lines of colour against a background of solid black that amazes me still, as those simple wireframe models do look like they have mass and weight. Now there's something that most CGI still can't do, and yet this film was made in an age when digital visuals were at pretty much a primitive state. Back in '82 it had a cultural resonance as the home computer and video games were a brand new idea that was starting to sweep the world, and once again here and now it has possibly an even more profound significance in our age of dependence on computers. That stuff aside, TRON is an unforgettable film experience, and an absolute essential for the collection of anyone with even a passing interest in genre cinema.



Saturday, 7 August 2010

Wow, this year is zipping by...

Hey all! Apologies for the lack of updates here... life has been hectic and stressful of late. However, I can assure you that the DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT project is far from abandoned. New reviews will go up this coming week, along with some new features (TRAILER TREASURES, for one...) and a slightly different direction. As well as just reviews, the site will start to feature some Genre Addict lifestyle themed pieces, moviemaking anecdotes and more. What's more, the site will be returning to its DAILY (or as near to daily as possible) schedule!

Stay tuned...