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recent viewing
28/1/2010
thursday
Up
The latest Pixar movie. Boy, has this received gushy reviews or what? It was all right in 2D...one assumes that it would have been more spectacular in 3D via digital projection in a cinema. Nevermind, huh. There's a nice seam of nostalgia and melancholy running through Up prevents it from being too frothy. Recommended with dampened expectations.

2009
DVD
26/1/2010
tuesday

Aussie Day
Movie Cull
Lantana +
Repeat viewing.

1999
DVD
Chopper +
Repeat viewing.

2001
DVD
Two Hands +
Repeat viewing.

1995
DVD
Thank God He Met Lizzie +
Repeat viewing.

1995
DVD
17/1/2010
sunday
Moon +
Repeat viewing.

2009
DVD
16/1/2010
saturday
Horror of Dracula
Shit, I don't remember much of this, the first true Hammer Horror film. With Pete Cushing and Chris Lee in vintage acting form, there wasn't much to dislike. It was more enjoyable than Brides of Dracula, too, which lacked the manic intensity of Horror.

1958
DVD
14/1/2010
thursday
Hard Boiled +
Once upon a time, I cherished the Criterion laserdisc of Hard Boiled like an only child. At last, the uncut English DVD is in my possession – the only true 16:9 transfer of this Hong Kong classic, according to Tartan's DVD slick copy. And it does look sweet-az, which is to say nothing is wrong with the image. It's not as sharp and lush as, say, Body of Lies. The primary enjoyment of this and other Hong Kong actioners derives from the pure, delirious, wanton carnage of key set pieces. This approach to filmmaking mirrors that of their European cousins: style over substance, immortality via fleeting spectacle verses narrative logic. Seeing this again, I wasn't blown away as with earlier viewings. And yet Hard Boiled holds its own two decades later, and still goes criminally unnoticed by Australian movie fans thanks to DOA local distribution. The impeccable craft and passion of John Woo shines through, even though general character and plot elements are lacking. I once thought and said that this was my favourite John Woo movie. Today, having seen The Killer again late last year, I'm not so sure anymore.

1991
DVD
uncut
12/1/2010
tuesday
Tropic Thunder
Yeah, well, there's no ignoring the elephant in the room: it's a piece of shit. This is not surprising given that it sank into celluloid oblivion practically before it was released theatrically, the Downey Jr. in blackface makeup playing an Aussie actor revelation notwithstanding. Now, is it too much to ask that someone assassinate Ben Stiller? By and large, his comedies suck dribbling putrescent beached-whale tube steaks. Granted, I wet myself during the 'kitty litter' scene in Meet the Parents, and parts of Poolander tugged my lips northward occasionally. Ultimately, us here in the Toxic Waste offices are stymied at the continued support Benjamin Stiller receives from major studios. Are test audiences that gullible? Are marketing campaigns that effective? Is it a Jew thing? Choose one or more of the above options. The director's cut wot I saw includes some humour-gore and restored bridging scenes. Sadly, it also retains the scenes of Tom Cruise playing a paunchy studio executive who, aaah, pretends to dance badly to hip-hop music. The talented Paul Thomas Anderson almost let Cruise ruin Magnolia. Almost, by an arse hair. Subsequently, Tom Cruise has been artistic syphilis to any movie he appears in. Not that he had 24-carat material to work with here. Why do I detest this movie? Because it's fucking dull and unfunny. P.S. I don't hate Jews, just stupid dickheads who don't have a clue.

2009
DVD
director's cut
9/1/2010
saturday
The Outer Limits: 2x Harlan Ellison Episodes
During my recent Sydney visitation, in the sweaty pit of a Saturday afternoon blighted with Ultimate Heat and Insane Humidity, my gracious hosts played two Harlan Ellison-scripted episodes for me, 'Demon with a Glass Hand' and 'Soldier'. These are the famous entries which James Cameron used as a springboard to conceive The Terminator. Initially, all three of us punters were skeptical of any similarities to said blockbuster, even though Ellison had won a settlement out of court, David and Goliath style. However, watching the actual material, the parallels were patently obvious. And yet both stories held up in their own as taut and compelling narratives, punctuated with humour and quirky performances. Robert Culp stands out in 'Demon with a Glass Hand' as Trent, the temponaut entrusted with an awesome responsibility. Like the best of Ellison's short fiction, this tale sticks in the mind like mental Velcro. 'Soldier' carries less mythic freightage, and is therefore not as memorable once the end credits roll. On the other hand, how can you not like a phantasy in which a military automaton addresses a domestic cat as his commanding officer? Muwahahahaha...!!!

1968
DVD
Police Story II / Supercop
I've finally seen this bloody thing all the way through. It's good, not great. Way too much plot and dramatic bullshit slowing it down and getting in the way of the stunts. It only cranks up in the last 30 minutes. With that said, it's still essential to have this on the shelf.

1988
DVD
6/1/2010
monday
Legends of the Fall +
All right, lay off. I watched this with my mum. Julia Ormond is the only actor who came out of this mess relatively unscathed. After making Se7en, Brad Pitt commented that he was in the middle of his "killing Tristan Ludlow phase". I should be more forgiving, because the director was Edward Zwick, who made the most excellent Blood Diamond – a favourite of my dad's, as it happens.

1996
DVD
2/1/2010
friday
Avatar 3D +
Repeat viewing. I had meant to see it in 2.35:1 ratio on a huge multiplex screen. Memo to movie fans: the screens in the Brisbane Myer Centre are not huge. They are little theatrettes. Now, the Hoyts Centres on the Mall, where I first saw Ghostbusters, Aliens and The Fly (1986), didn't even have Avatar showing in 3D. The Brisbane CBD is now rather pathetic for cinemas. The movie held up better than I expected, given it's weak story. Still, James Cameron throwing a tantrum because his actors were snubbed for Best Acting Oscars is ridiculous. Get your hand off it, Cameron.

2009
cinema
4/1/2010
saturday
Sherlock Holmes
I've got the Sherlock Holmes stories here, in a book, albeit unread. Somehow though, I doubt that the original Sherlock Holmes character was a cage fighter. Directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch and others), this new movie is a lot of fun all the same. It has equal parts plot, character, action, humour, and sleuthing, with a dash of romancing on the side. It could have been worse.

2009
cinema
2/1/2010
thursday
District 9
Aliens in fucking South Africa? Works for me. As with Avatar, the experience of watching District 9 is more wondrous than reflecting upon the movie later on. For me, the fizz died in the arse about five minutes after the credits rolled. But wow, those preceding 100 minutes were electrifying. Where as Moon takes us back to poignant 1970s science fiction, District 9 recalls grunge SF from the 1980s and 1990s: everything from V (recently defrosted and reheated for TV) and Enemy Mine, to The X-Files. Within its limited scope, District 9 delivers exactly what the filmmakers intended. Production involvement from Peter Jackson helped, obviously. What I loved was the strong thread of interior logic and the believable science. Oh yeah, and the gore and weirdness, and the black humour. This is basically a black comedy – with those South African accents, how can it not be? Imagine Shakespeare in Kiwi accents. If you have not seen District 9 yet, march thyself to the video shop and rent it tonight, you bloody prawn!!

2009
DVD

 
2009 viewing
30/12/2009
monday
Surf's Up!
The computer animated films keep coming. Surf's Up! employs the same blueprint of an outcast youngster who uses determination, luck, and retired mentors to triumph against impossible odds. Yawn. Here we've got penguins and surf culture blended together – sounds perfectly natural to me! Ahem. To be truthful, Surf's Up! fleshes out its template with lots of clever touches and smart, funny writing. It's key approach is to tell the story as a documentary, so you've got faked archive film footage and stiff on-camera interviews with principal characters. I suppose this makes it different enough from Happy Feet (yet to unspool at the Toxic Midnite Drive-In) to avoid endless law suits. Don't take it seriously and you'll find yourself chuckling more than you expected to.

2008
DVD
20/12/2009
sunday
Core of Corruption: Volume 1
Another 9/11 truth documentary. This one fills in a few gaps that other documentaries missed. That said, the same general elements are presented slickly in what is slated to be a three-part series. One does wonder what the filmmakers will cover next? Core of Corruption is a solid presentation and a welcome addition to the 9/11 archives.

2009
DVD
19/12/2009
saturday
Dark Dreamers: Volume 1
Horror fiction fans, listen up. This package contains four DVDs of interviews with writers, artists, and filmmakers linked to the genre of the macabre. Your host is Stanley Wiater, staff writer at Fangoria for roughly 8000 years. This TV series complimented his book Dark Dreamers, which I dare say overlaps a great deal with this fascinating video footage and has more content. Now, it has to be said that Stanley is not the world's most charismatic screen presence to be broadcast on UHF. It's like he's just recovering from a major stroke. But his monotone, gollem-like persona grows on you after umpteen intros and outros. "Are you a dark dreamer? Richard Matheson most certainly is." Other interviewee include Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, Richard Christian Matheson, John Skipp, Craig Spector, Edo Van Belkom, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Douglas Clegg, Bernie Wrightson, Wes Craven, Forrest J. Ackerman, Larry Cohen, Nancy Kilpatrick, Chas Balun (RIP), and Joseph Stefano. A second volume has not been released, and may never be, assuming the 2nd series was even produced.

2000-2001
DVD
17/12/2009
thursday
Avatar 3D
With an unlimited budget and therefore unlimited resources, would James Cameron make a literary science fiction movie, a mainstream crowd-pleasing SF action film, or a mixture of both? Avatar has traces of each approach, though weighted towards pleasing as wide an audience as possible – as he's done in all of his earlier films. For some of us, me included, that signals a missed opportunity. Who's left? Ridley Scott, perhaps. Danny Boyle tried and failed with Sunshine. The director of Moon might have a promising 'future' in the SF field if he continues on the same path. But back to Avatar. Let's start with the problems, as I saw them. This is almost a remake of Aliens with Starship Troopers and Dances with Wolves thrown into the mix, plus many other film and literary references as cited by other reviewers. Cameron apparently conceived the story in the mid-1990s, and it has a dated feel to it. Some characters are totally one-dimensional, such as Colonel Quaritch and the slimy company representative Parker Selfridge. Also, the conflict between the human military faction and the aliens is simplistic. Apart from those sticking points, it's all good. In particular, the experience of watching Avatar is quite mind-blowing. Bogan the Wanderer and I saw it at IMAX in 3D, which means the frame is opened up to 1.85:1 instead of 2.35:1, revealing more of the amazing world of Pandora. The special effects work by Weta (NZ) is top shelf...I never wanted to blink for fear of missing something. Despite the basic plot, there are a few interesting ideas in Avatar. These include controlling animals and beings remotely – a concept covered by Peter F. Hamilton in his Night's Dawn Trilogy – and the notion of a planet-wide ecological consciousness. Add in some droll humour and superb design work to realise military hardware and various monsters, and you've got a cracking feast for the imagination. I'll be seeing it again.

2009
cinema
IMAX
14/12/2009
saturday
Look Around You: Season 1
"Look around you. Look around you. Just...look around you." From Peter Serafinowitz and company comes a bizarre spoof of those ultra-daggy school documentaries that teachers made us watch in the late 1970s. In my state school, these tended to be poorly dubbed broadcasts of Behind the News and other similar fare covering topics such as mining, agrigculture, aboriginies, geography, etc. Fascinating stuff. Not. Nothing about what I was into was ever shown, namely dinosaurs, werewolves, monsters, paranormal phenomena, haunted houses, outer space, horror films, science fiction, etc. There are two seasons of Look Around You on UK DVD – I've only seen the first one. It's pure gold to play when friends are visiting for a drink and starting to get a bit silly. Press Play and remain schtum.

2002
DVD
15/12/2009
tuesday
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth +
'Sup, it's Hammer time. Yes, yes, and fucking yes. It's been 30 years since this genrephile first saw the trimmed US version of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth aka WDRTE on late night television. At last the uncut DVD (99:37 NTSC) played in front of my disbelieving eyeballs. The 16:9 transfer from the Warner US disc is excellent and all three nudie scenes appear as listed in the literature. Warner never meant to release this US R version, which is the original British 'ooo-er' assembly, but rather the tame G-rated version for an exclusive Best Buy retailer promotion. Anyway, you probably don't give a shit about that. The film itself has Val Guest (War of the Worlds 1953) as director and writer, with cult writer J.G. Ballard supplying the treatment. And what a treatment. You've got two tribes of very homo sapiens-looking cavemen and cavewomen dealing with a solar cataclysm in typically superstitious fashion. One blonde coastal hottie (Victoria Petri) escapes being sacrificed by running into the desert, while her lust-struck rescuer pursues her and becomes a pariah himself. Thrown into the mix are giant sand crabs, two plesiosaurs (one gets bar-b-cued), a centrosaurus that lives in a cave and gores several hunters, a pterodactyl (cue obligatory aerial snatching sequence), and what might be an anteosaurus with short plates, plus a bonus baby version of same. Let's forget the squeezed stock footage of lizards fighting from The Lost Continent, and never mind the paleontological gaffes in this "time before the moon existed" (uh-huh, right). When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is a corny bourbon and pizza flick par excellence.

1970
DVD
uncensored
13/12/2009
sunday
Ghost World +
Repeat viewing.

2005
DVD
Sideways +
Ah, it's just too good. I wonder how the novel is to read? The film has to be the ultimate middle-aged bromantic comedy ever made. And I still can't play this without hearing the brilliant audio commentary with Church and Giamatti.

2005
DVD
12/12/2009
saturday
American Beauty +
Caught this on television to see what the 16:9 open matte framing did to the careful compositions. The original 2.35:1 ratio is preferrable. Mena Suvari's performance stuck out this time as being clunky.

1999
TV
8/12/2009
tuesday
Zombieland
Featuring the best opening credit sequence since Watchmen (and scored with 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' by Metallica), Zombieland is the latest rom-zom-com to take a bite out of the living dead genre. It has some terrific innovations and stylistic touches, such as Rules for Survival that are demonstrated in hilariously gruesome set pieces. There's also the expected zingers in the dialogue, running gags (literally), and quirky performances by the likes of Woody Harrelson – whose American bogan character takes glee in the lawlessness of the post apocalypse – plus a suitably droll cameo by Bill Murray playing himself. The gore is plentiful without going over the top, but the main thrust is comedy, therefore gorehounds should keep their expectations low. Where Zombieland stumbles is with its weak story. The middle section is slow (the Bill Murray bit seems to be tacked-on) and the climax in the amusement park doesn't payoff satisfactorily, although if you've ever wanted to see zombies climbing on a rollercoaster, this is your film. It's way better than Lesbian Vampire Killers, but a fair stretch behind the better-conceived Shaun of the Dead.

2009
cinema
6/12/2009
sunday
Moon
No, not New Moon, just plain old Moon. Wow, it's still possible to make a science fiction movie of quality and intelligence. And I mean "science fiction" in the literary sense, not the fucken Star Trek or Dr Who sense. Moon is a haunting psychodrama set on our closest celestial companion within a mining station that supplies Helium-3 for fusion reactors on Earth. Sam Rockwell plays the role of the sole station custodian whose three-year contract is coming to and end. To say more would spoil the experience. The production design, special effects, characterisation, science/realism, music score, and story (with some minor plot holes) all come together beautifully in what you could almost call an arthouse SF flick. Listen, the internet buzz about Moon is actually justified here. Highly recommended.

2009
DVD
29/11/2009
sunday
The Brides of Dracula
Yo, it's Hammer time again. This title cost me $6.00 brand new...terrific value for an old fright flick with a great anamorphic transfer from Umbrella. Pity that the movie is a rather prosaic entry in Hammer Studio's revival of Dracula on celluloid. This one follows on from their successful 1959 reboot Horror of Dracula and sees Peter Cushing coming up against not only Dracula (a well groomed David Peel), but also his "undead" brides. Doesn't Dracula know that bigamy is illegal? He'd probably say it's just polygamy, anyway. Naturally, Van Helsing wins out, but with one of the stupidest ways of defeating the Count ever filmed: the olde cross-shaped shadow of a windmill. Yeah, good on ya, maaaaate!!!

1960
DVD
29/11/2009
saturday
Dracula AD 1972
Yo, it's Hammer time. After waiting decades to see it, Dracula AD 1972 was a huge let-down. The movie is sloooow and booooring, lacking bloodshed, gore, sleaze, interesting characters, comedy, and suspense. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing look uncomfortable and awkward playing their roles in modern-day England. Meh. The Satanic Rites of Dracula screened after Dracula AD 1972 on Go! but I've already endured its funkadelic shenanigans on DVD.

1972
TV
Superbad
Aptly named, Superbad updates the horny male virgin dilemma addressed by the vastly superior American Pie and countless others, including Judd Apatow's own above-average debut The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Now, I'm not averse to low-brow pee-pee humour. Superbad is just so puerile and cringe-worthy without being the least bit funny that I can't imagine anyone of any age or attitude liking it. The plot has two dweeby high school seniors scheming to lose their virginity before they enter college. An opportunity arises when they offer to buy alcohol for a party run by a fuckable female classmate, but first they need to enlist the help of an ultra-dweeby friend who's just purchased a fake ID. Beside the attempts to obtain said booze, a couple of idiot cops are introduced in act two, seemingly to pad out the script. Of course, act three results in the standard Apatow Pty Ltd male wish-fulfillment ending in which high-quality women fall for complete fuckwits. At least the throat gashing effect in the bottleshop perked my interest briefly. There's an extended version of this travesty on DVD – I'm guessing the shorter assembly was broadcast on channel Go! Lastly, I have to praise channel Go! for its brief and infrequent commercial breaks.

2008
TV
The Big Chill +
Repeat viewing.

1984
DVD
24/11/2009
tuesday
2012
Cheap-arse Tuesday...what a great tradition. Tonight I went along to see this, the new Roland Emmerlich disaster epic, 2012. It starts well enough in 2009, with shots of planets in our solar system lining up (the scale is all wrong) and a nice close-up of the sun. Then we're inside an Indian neutrino detector, and from here 2012 goes careening off the rails. You see, prompted by the alignment of the planets, the sun starts spewing out solar flares that contain, ummm, "mutated neutrinos". These wunder particles somehow begin to heat up the Earth's core just as water molecules heats food in a microwave oven. Yep, this is how it's explained in the exposition! Cut to three years later, and the Earth's crust is going berserk, just like the screenplay. Look, the film is not that bad, really. I mean, it didn't make me want to drink bleach or anything like that. What you've got is one reel (20 mins) of set-up followed by a string of crazy cliffhanger escapes. John Cusack's in it, trying to patch up his broken marriage to Amanda Peet, and who can blame him? So that's interesting. California and Yosemite National Park are both destroyed with amazing photo-realistic SFX (remember, Emmerlich brought us the photo-realistic woolly mammoth stampede in 10,000 BC). Also, the third act has some great visuals, but also the worst Touching Hollywood Moments we've seen since, well, The Day After Tomorrow. Additionally, there's too many cringe-worthy speeches by assorted protagonists – not enough of them die horribly. That said, 2012 kept my suburban audience of plumbers, single mums, emos, and Japanese students entertained with its sheer excesses; this punter just never wants to see it again.

2009
cinema
23/11/2009
monday
At the Earth's Core
Based on the novel by early genre maverick Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), this awful AIP production stars Doug McClure (hoo-ray!), Peter Cushing (hoo-ray!) and Caroline Munroe (hoo-ray!) in a cockeyed period piece about drilling through the Earth's crust and discovering a prehistoric underworld. Reminicient of The Time Machine and Planet of the Apes, you've got primitive humans being ruled by trolls with mod haircuts, whose stuttery language sounds like bad mobile phone reception. Also included is a sect that worships lava (of course), underworld primitives who speak English, laughable rubber monsters, lots of rear-projection effects, wonky science, Peter Cushing in Gay Professor mode, Ms Munroe showing a bit of leg, Doug McClure's never-changing expression, a nifty drilling contraption, a giant variation of rhamphorhynchus that can hypnotise humans (!), and other sundry bullshit. However, the main offense At the Earth's Core committed was to induce boredom in the viewer. Two stars, and that's being charitable.

1973
DVD
21/11/2009
saturday
City of God / Cidade de Deus
I managed to miss Cidade de Deus on DVD and television. SBS Two screened it again with minimal commercial breaks. I didn't miss one frame. The talent and confidence of the filmmakers behind Cidade de Deus is astounding. They bring to mind Martin Scorcese in top form, which is most of the time. I suspect some censorship trims were made by SBS, since the movie was originally rated R 18+. It would probably receive MA 15+ these days. It could have also spent about 10 extra minutes slowing down here and there to reinforce some of the characters, i.e. insert a few more emotional beats.

2002
TV
censored?
Sexy Beast +
What better film to see on a stinking hot day than this one? "I know a bloke, who knows a bloke, who knows a bloke..."

2001
DVD
Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth +
This wasn't my second viewing, it was probably my fifth viewing, not including an audio-only playback while I was mucking around on the internet. Ah, if only it was longer...I will have to download and collate the YouTube clips once those bums in IT support at Toxic Waste upgrades us from rubberband for broadband.

2007
DVD
20/11/2009
friday
Impact
High anticipation preceded this mini-series broadcast. One of many recent epic disaster movies made for television, Impact shares an idea explored by Jack McDevitt in his 2000 novel Moonfall. Instead of the Earth being hit by a planet-killing comet or asteroid, it's the Moon that gets knocked for six. Earth is then threatened by the after-effects. In McDevitt's riveting book, a deadly chunk of Moon heads for Earth. In Impact, astrophysicists lead by (ahem) ex-model Natasha Henstenridge (Species, Ghosts of Mars) watch as the devastated Moon itself swings into an ever diminishing perihelion. That kinda sucks. The twist is that the object that hit the Moon was a fragment of superdense brown dwarf material. Besides doubling the Moon's mass, it causes electromagnetic and gravitational chaos in cities with each near approach. OK, there is an attempt to upload more 'science' than usual into this melodrama – a triumph in itself. That didn't stop me from nodding off a few times...Channel 7 Two broadcast both parts back to back.

2008
TV
14/11/2009
saturday
Night of the Creeps
Well now, this was a treat. Here is the newly-minted US DVD from Tri-Star of a 1980s minor schlock classic, one I never watched after hearing it wasn't the complete version. The new high-definition digital transfer looks amazing – the wait was worth it. As you can guess, Night of the Creeps concerns nasty things terrorising a small country town one night. Said nasty things are human victims of ingested alien slugs that lay eggs in their brains then hatch more slugs after they incubate. The slugs can infect living or dead people and animals...cue the zombified dog and cat. Heeeeeere, puss-puss! This mayhem is all staged and played for laughs by Fred Dekker and his appealing cast, which includes Tom Atkins and the kid from European Vacation. The gore and other special effects are on par with other 80s contemporaries such as Return of the Living Dead. No complaints from me. As for the director's cut amendments, they only seem to be comprised of a longer epilogue that replaces the abrupt 'shock' ending.

1986
DVD
director's cut
Combat Shock / American Nightmares +
A disappointing double-dip from Troma's dubious 'Tromasterpiece' line of re-releases. The only drawcard in this two-disc set is the original version of Combat Shock called American Nightmares. The transfer was struck from the original 16mm answer print before it was modified by Troma to add stock war footage and to appease the MPAA with censorship cuts (the shot of blood seeping from the oven is now restored). Sadly this edition still looks like shit. The original theatrical version is not much better than the original DVD from a few years back. What's the point of expecting good transfers from Troma? Bah! Extras include observations by various underground filmmakers, and the funny commentary track recorded with Jorg Buttgereit, of Nekromantik infamy.

1984
DVD
uncensored
13/11/2009
friday
Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth
US writer Harlan Ellison is very popular around the offices of Toxic Waste. His books are on the shelves of the reception area, all around the boss' office, in the tearoom cupboards, inside toilet cubicles, up and down the fire escape; they're even on the ceiling. Dreams with Sharp Teeth is a DIY documentary about Ellison made by Erik Nelson that dates back to 1981, when Nelson interviewed Ellison for a PBS programme. Various friends and associates provide on-camera commentaries about Harlan Ellison's fiction, career, romances, personality, and how he affected their lives and world views. However, the majority of screentime is taken up by Ellison himself: reading passages from stories, telling jokes, recounting childhood memories, showing us around his amazing house (nicknamed The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars), talking candidly about social issues and writing projects, or just bumming around Los Angeles. Even though there's about 60 clips of Ellison on YouTube, fans should grab Dreams with Sharp Teeth because it's a priceless distillation of the phenomenon that is Harlan Ellison, warts and all. The only problem is that at 96 minutes, the documentary is too brief. Maybe that's a compliment? For example, many rare archive clips could have run a few minutes longer without tormenting people's bladders and taxing the film's editor. The US DVD includes snippets of story readings, footage of the premier in LA, and an extended chat with Neil Gaiman over pizza. No Aussie release is imminent.

2007
DVD
11/11/2009
wednesday
Interview with the Vampire +
Thomas Cruise, Bradley Pitt, and Tony Banderas sucking each other off. One has to assume that women lapped this one up for the cast alone. But with a script by Anne Rice from her novel and Neil Jordan's European sensibilities, Interview with the Vampire stands out from the pack as an intelligent treatment of inveterate vampire tropes that are enjoying a renaissance with Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries. Today the dialogue and voice-overs in Interview are at once timeless and a tad purple. And yet, is it any different for Shakespeare, James Whale, Dario Argento...Ted Tally, even? Hmmm. Kirsten Dunst delivers a superb performance in a script filled with talky, existential highlights. Is this film already an anachronism in the horror genre? One hopes not. Anyway, it was great to revisit this olde Toxic Waste favourite whilst imbibing one can of Wild Turkey and Cola per act. Even though familiarity drains its impact upon each viewing, throw-away moments such as Lestat patting a dead rat and the gallows humour continue to entertain in ways that too many recent horror films do not.

1991
DVD
10/11/2009
tuesday
Colossus: The Forbin Project
A fine example of 'analogue' science fiction cinema. A gigantic computer called Colosuss is designed and built under a mountain in Colorado by suavo geek Dr Charles Forbin to run the US nuclear weapons arsenal. Roughly eight seconds after going online, Colosuss becomes self-aware (uh-oh) and starts running the planet with the help of Guardian, an equivalent computer built in secret by the Russkis. What's fun about the movie is watching the urbane Dr Forbin (Eric Braeden) handle this alarming crisis while smirking confidently from behind a martini glass. (Said smile gets wiped off pretty fucken quick when two of his programmers are executed by Colossus...tee hee hee.) Of course, it's Frankenstein set during the Cold War, so you can guess that things don't exactly work out for Charles and humankind. Moral: don't abrogate responsibility to others, especially megalomaniacal machines based on vacuum tubes. Fans of industrial music will recognise the synthesized voice of Colossus from the album World Control by Manufacture.

1970
DVD
5/11/2009
thursday
To The Devil...a Daughter +
From our good friends at Universal Australia comes the 16:9 Studio Canal PAL format port of To the Devil...A Daughter, a latter-day Hammer Studios fright flick. I saw it yonks ago on VHS but remembered little of its black magic malarkey, culled from a novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley. Now, the movie came out in 1976. Demonic possession, Satanic rituals, and the worship of pagan gods were hot topics in films like The Omen and the numerous Exorcist clones. It seems that Hammer tried to keep abreast of this trend, even when it was clear that their genre monopoly was coming to an end. The movie kind of plods along, trying to be too serious instead of pumping up the exploitation aspects to compensate for Wheatley's by-then dated storyline. It's not a total waste, though. There's Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, and über perve Denholm Elliot chewing scenery in their respective roles, while a post-pubescent Natassia Kinski (playing a virginal nun) becomes a conduit for Ultimate Evil to re-enter the modern world. The violence is tame and the supernatural elements are limited to some cheesy camera effects and a demonic little homunculus drenched in pasta sauce. Fans of Kinski's full-frontal reveal on blurry VHS are well served by the clarity of this digital transfer, which would have been rated MA 15+ today if Universal had resubmitted it to the Aussie censors. No big deal...I quite like having the anachronistic R 18+ legend (granted in 1976 and 1985) on my DVD cover.

1976
DVD
2/11/2009
monday
The Evil of Frankenstein
A below-average Hammer film about our favourite mad scientist, the deluded Victor Frankenstein, M.D. (Pete Cushing again). After being chased out of his laboratory by local rate payers who objected to his experiments with the undead, Victor and his young assistant flee back to Karlstaad, the scene of earlier carnage involving another re-animated monster and some collateral damage. Whilst holding out in a cave with a mute girl because his castle had been trashed, the Baron finds his lost creature frozen in a glacier (!!) and sets about resurrecting it with the help of sleazoid hypnotist Zoltan. Meanwhile, the corrupt authorities rattle their sabres at the return of the Baron and his gimp abomination. Random observations: the monster's head is shaped like a Wheet-Bix box covered in paper maché; in one scene, Cushing pronounces the word festival as "feeestival"; I'm sure I've seen the actor who plays Zoltan in other films, but can't place him; the creature was played by wrestler Kiwi Kingston; the dodgy 'science' in this farce extends to hypnotising the monster back to consciousness; there's not enough violence or bloodshed on show; wearing masks in a pub is not the best way to be inconspicuous; director Freddie Francis went on to lens Dune with David Lynch, among others. The Evil of Frankenstein passes the time well if your standards are low enough. The Aussie DVD from Umbrella boasts a beautiful 16:9 PAL transfer, and is therefore worth owning.

1964
DVD
31/10/2009
saturday
Night of the Living Dead
Repeat screening for Halloween. Well, what do you know...it still holds up. I love this movie. One aspect that's rarely mentioned is the dialogue. It's consistently engaging and humorous – without it and the lively characters, the film would probably have been a total bore. P.S. Barbara has nice legs. It's a pity they ended up as sashimi for the zombies. Lastly, it's funny to think it was the colourised version of this film that Your Humble Narrator first saw on VHS rental.

1968
DVD
27/10/2009
tuesday
The Fog
Another fucking remake, this time of John Carpenter's scary little ghost yarn from the early 1980s. It had his blessing (what else could he do) and involvement from one-time collaborator Debra Hill. So is it any good? Watchable is how you could sum it up, and that's being kind. The tone and atmosphere is similar to the original. In other words, the filmmakers took the material seriously and played it straight. But as with Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween, The Fog remake explains too much of the backstory, thus buggering up the sense of mystery and malevolence. It ceases to be a nightmare and becomes an episode of Scooby-Doo. Not good for horror, people. The special effects now boast the mandatory CGI upgrades, and the main cast are fresh-faced Generation Ys. The presence of my future wife Selma Blair as the radio DJ helped to mitigate against the shitty aspects of The Fog, which starts well, then loses the plot big time.

2005
DVD
extended
Rest Stop
The plot of this horror thriller reminds me of a disturbing short story by Dennis Etchison called 'It Only Comes Out at Night'. An attractive young couple driving across America catch their breath at a highway rest stop, and terror ensues. The bloke apparently drives off while his girlfriend is in the toilet reading ominous messages scrawled on the cubicle walls. For the next 12 hours she is terrorised by a shadowy figure in a dirty yellow pick-up truck that has a license plate of KZL303. Killer point-of-view 'flashbacks' show that the boyfriend and other sundry rest stop victims have been abducted and tortured to death in a broken-down bus hidden in the woods. Now, this is all played straight, creating a grim and gruelling ordeal for the heroine that also brings to mind Duel and recent torture porn epics. Rest Stop lost a few points due to some obvious and ridiculous twists, and the filmmakers clearly had no singular vision for the ending, of which six versions were shot. That said, you'll enjoy most of Rest Stop if you don't expect too much for your $1.00 rental fee. And because I'm a caring sort of dude, I'll track down the sequel and report back.

2006
DVD
25/10/2009
sunday
Halloween
The good news is that this awful remake of Halloween (1978) by Rob Zombie is better than House of 1000 Corpses, and yet it's worse than his second movie, The Devil's Rejects. Even his music clip for the song 'Dragula' is better than this movie. Of course, Rob's Halloween instantly earns bad karma by being a remake that's not as strong as The Thing (1982) or The Fly (1986). This director's cut features an extended prologue that explains how Michael Myers aka The Shape became a killing machine. Correction: it tries to explain. The fatal problem is that there's a disconnect between the abusive childhood little Michael endures and the mute psychopath he becomes as an adult. John Carpenter wisely avoided this trap, thus retaining the mythical quality of his immortal Bogeyman. Not so here. Sorry Rob, you fucked up. Being rated R 18+, there is plenty of bloodshed and hard-edged brutality on show, even though it's all for nothing. Naturally, Robert Zombie is now hard at work on the remake of Halloween II. In the latest Fangoria, he talks about how disappointed he is in his version of Halloween I and is keen to make amends with the remade sequel, which goes in a different direction to the original. I do like Mr. Zombie, but the man has no clue about making movies.

2008
DVD
director's cut
House of 1000 Corpses
Well fuck me. I was warned by reviews and message board comments high and low about how bad this was. Even its writer/director Rob Zombie grudgingly admits that it's total shit. The only aspects that save it from being awarded one star are the relatively high production values, its frenetic pacing, and some low brow humour from Sid Haig and Bill Mosley. The plot? Dumb college kids get captured and terrorised by loud psychedelic rednecks. The clear inspiration behind this mess was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II (1987), but without the talent of pre-1990s Tobe Hooper, it's just another wasted oportunity.

2004
DVD
The Midnight Meat Train
All right, a real horror film that's not a sequel or a remake. This one is based on a story from Clive Barker's immortal 1985 horror fiction debut, The Books of Blood. It was directed by the Japanese tyro filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus) with the expected moments inventive chaos, but with much more restraint – ahhh, if you call Ted Raimi losing both eyeballs in slow motion 'restraint'. As a result, vital characterisation in act one keeps you engaged as things become more gruesome and bizarre. Knowing the plot beforehand drained much of the tension and mystery for this viewer. The good news is that Kitamura delivers the required gore and viciousness. The only downsides are that (a) the original 30-page story had to be padded to be viable as a feature film, and (b) we don't get to see the main beast at the end – ripped off. And I would have preferred the film to look like Taxi Driver or Driller Killer instead of a David Fincher rock video. Can't have everything, I suppose. Look out for the film adaptations of 'Dread' and 'The Book of Blood', coming soon. I'd also love to see a movie version of Barker's great debut novel, The Damnation Game (a Barker-approved script exists). Ah, those were the days...discovering modern horror fiction at 18 years old, back when I'd actually get scared witless reading the likes of Pet Sematary.

2009
DVD
Feast
Creature Feature. Vicious carnivors of unknown origin attack an isolated roadside bar at night. Those inside do what they can to barricade themselves against four ravneous monsters. Cue quirky characters, forced humour, good characters who die unexpectedly, Henry Rollins in pink tracksuit pants, elaborate schemes to venture outside and reach parked cars, camera work so shakey you can't see what the fuck's happening, a few tame off-screen deaths, characters fucking each other over to survive, and so on. The gold standard for this kind of hokum is Tremors. Feast might be quick low budget 'fun', but long-suffering genre junkies have seen it all before. In case you want more, Feast II and Feast III are now hogging shelf space at your local Video Ezy.

2008
DVD
Killing Zoe
Yipee!! I've finally seen it! Sadly, the Australian DVD looks like a censored version, with suspicious cut-aways occurring whenever somebody gets blown away at point-blank range. Ostensibly a heist movie, this Roger Avary scripted-and-directed actioner has a fine sense of grunge and a fuck-it-all attitude. Most of this vibe is channelled through the performance of French actor Jean-Hughes Anglade, who plays a drug-addled career criminal. In the lead roles are safe-cracker Eric Stoltz and love interest Julie Delpy. A bright note about the Aussie DVD is that it's got a 16:9 transfer, contrary to the 4:3 legend on the slick. That said, the image is soft and the colours are dull...two things that actually enhanced the grotty Eurotrash atmospherics (it was set in Paris but filmed in Los Angeles).

1992
DVD
censored?
24/10/2009
saturday
Silent Hill
By sheer coincidence, this movie and Killing Zoe were written by Roger Avary, the estranged friend (?) of Quentin Tarantino. I hired both flicks with a stack of other weekly rentals from my local Video Ezy. Silent Hill is based on a popular horror-themed computer game produced by Konami (Japan). As such, it suffers from 'computer game logic', where an arbitrary mythology is enough to explain strange plot points and character motivation within the scope of the game...and now the movie. However, if you go with the flow and accept its dream logic terms, the experience is enjoyably creepy, haunting, and grotesque. The high production values help...a huge amount of effort and investor coin has gone into this movie, which resembles a Ramsey Campbell novel crossed with Saw and Witchfinder General. No complaints from moi on all three counts! Naturally, this level of expenditure comes at the detriment of real horror, i.e. giving the audience a genuine mindfuck. And so you're still left with an essentially conservative and moral approach to storytelling (good vs evil) and an ambiguous conclusion that leaves the door open for a sequel. From what I know (which isn't much) none is forthcoming.

2006
DVD
22/10/2009
thursday
Lesbian Vampire Killers
File under: Frothy British Horror Comedy. More than slightly less successful than the reigning premier league champion, Shaun of the Dead, Lesbian Vampire Killers has a gonzo hyperactive kineticisism (if that's a word) going for it, not to mention naked breasts. In terms of erotic content, it falls way short of your typical Redemption feature film or Cradle of Filth album cover. A lack of extreme gore also hurts its campaign for genre immortality. The two leads are appealing, even if they are shamelessly modeled on Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (skinny straight bloke and funny fat bloke). Sadly, the filmmakers thought the title slash core idea were enough to support a story. Wrong, dickheads. The humour is clever at times, although way too forced and intrusive, as if those involved were afraid of not being liked if they stopped being funny, and the high production values spew forth just enough eye candy to retain your attention. Try before you buy. It's a classic example of a film you want to like, but can't, if that makes sense.

2009
DVD
The Cell II
The real name of this movie is The Cusp. At some point during its genesis, it was renamed The Cell II. 'Number Two' works for me. Anyway, the movie has 'major fuck-up' written all over it. A female survivor of a serial sadist who nearly kills then revives his victims for another go can now enter his thoughts remotely – a'la Jennifer Lopez in the original film. Given this gift, she agrees to help police find the perp before another female captive expires horribly in the killer's torture chair from fatal heart surgery. If you can imagine a boring movie derived from the aforementioned premise, feel free to skip The Cell II. Life is too short.

2009
DVD
21/10/2009
wednesday
The Burrowers
Creature Feature. Set on the frontier of the American wild west circa 1850, The Burrowers transplants the behaviour of wasps that paralyze their prey (spiders mainly) long enough to supply a meal for their larvae, to a human scale. The eponymous burrowers are alien beasts that paralyze and dissolve mammalian prey for later liquid consumption. This all happens amidst the paranoia of Indians slaughtering and abducting and torturing-to-death white settlers, so you've got a posse of Indian hunters roaming the plains who slowly realise that their opponents are literally less human than the feared aboriginies they've demonised over the years. The Burrowers doesn't deliver much beyond what's promised on the DVD cover. But what it does get right is more than what most contemporary horror films give to punters who're just looking for some cheap scares.

2008
DVD
Eden Lake
True, there's nothing new here, but in terms of execution, Eden Lake exceeds any luke-warm expectations prompted by its mundane title or its hyperbolic DVD cover plot synopsis. It leaves the viewer almost as brutalised and abused as the protagonists. For what it's worth, the Toxic Waste judging panel was left suitably unnerved by Eden Lake, and had to watch VHS dubs of Dancing with the Stars to recover. The story has the dark simplicity of a faery tale: a young couple decide to spend some quality R&R time at an isolated body of water called Eden Lake. They fall foul of the local louts, and before you can say "fookin' aye" the stakes have been raised. Since Eden Lake works best without prior knowledge of events, I'll stop here and let you hunt down this excellent little shocker.

2009
DVD
Tokyo Gore Police
Review pending.

2008
DVD
Splinters
Review pending.

2008
DVD
20/10/2009
tuesday
The Girl Next Door
Review pending.

2007
DVD
Kinky Killers
Review pending.

2007
DVD
Prey
Review pending.

2009
DVD
I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer
Review pending.

2009
DVD
The Final Destination 3D
Review pending.

2009
cinema
19/10/2009
sunday
Assault on Precinct 13 +
Review pending.

1976
DVD
Ultraviolet +
Review pending.

2006
DVD
uncensored?
Resurrection +
Review pending.

1999
DVD
18/10/2009
saturday
State of Grace
Review pending.

1990
DVD
Glengarry Glenross +
Review pending.

1992
DVD
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Review pending.

2007
DVD
extended
15/10/2009
wednesday
Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup
Review pending.

2009
cinema
11/10/2009
sunday
Walking with Dinosaurs +
Review pending.

1996
DVD
10/10/2009
saturday
Walking with Monsters
Review pending.

2006
DVD
4/10/2009
sunday
Inglorious Basterds
Review pending.

2009
cinema
20/9/2009
sunday
Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets
Review pending.

2005
DVD
12/9/2009
saturday
Dirty Dancing
Review pending.

1988
TV
29/8/2009
saturday
Sudden Impact
Review pending.

1978
DVD
26/8/2009
wednesday
Scarface +
Screening for house guest.

1982
DVD
24/8/2009
monday
Tyson
Review pending.

2009
cinema
22/8/2009
saturday
Platoon +
Screening for house guest.

1986
DVD
10/8/2009
sunday
Drag Me to Hell
Review pending.

2009
cinema
censored?
1/8/2009
saturday
Boogie Nights +
Screening for house guest.

1999
DVD
25/7/2009
saturday
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre +
Screening for house guest.

1974
DVD
15/7/2009
monday
Kill Bill: Volume 1 +
Repeat viewing...just because. Hey, you've gotta love any film in which people drink sake, no? Kudos to Kiwi Zoe Bell as Thurman's stunt double. The complete re-edited into one movie version – comprising part one uncensored and part two – is inching toward reality. According to the interweb, the release title should be Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair. I believe legal problems are keeping it sheathed for now. It's lucky that this movie fan has:

Now, what about Inglorious Basterds? This beast is worse than a sequel: it's a remake, and therefore tainted, diseased, an abomination, Satan's hemorrhoid. I'll catch it on dee vee dee eventually.

2003
DVD
uncensored
11/7/2009
monday
Buddies +
At last, the Queensland gemfields movie has arrived on DVD courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment. I bought this for my father, who took the family on many trips to central Queensland on gem digging adventures. We even found a few good stones after much back-breaking effort. This film stars Colin Friels in 'lovable larrakin' mode, scratching out a meagre yet contented existence until he comes into conflict with one of the mining corporations that mechanised the prospecting process just before the sapphire boom shattered. It's a fun movie, filmed on location around Rubyvale. Nothing life-changing, but it's got Bruce Spence in a supporting role as a drunk miner/horse punter who steals every scene he's in. The local DVD has a welcome 24-minute featurette.

1983
DVD
29/6/2009
monday
The Haunting +
Heh heh, Eleanor thought she was holding Theo's hand, but...Theo wasn't there. Wooo-hooo. Ah yes, more spooky black and white cinema, this time with Robert Wise's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's famous novel of literary supernatural shenanigans, The Haunting of Hill House. I enjoyed the book, even though the absolutely terrifying early descriptions of the house gave way to a somewhat talky psychosexual drama later on. This is what gives the novel and the film longevity over the decades with serious filmgoers and critics. Robert Wise also made sure audience members there just for the cheap thrills were kept entertained by spacing out Eleanor's guilt-ridden decay with frightening set pieces, dashes of humour, and bravura cinematography. It lacks the shocks of Psycho, hence today's viewers might find it a drag. Fans of snappy dialogue and old school special effects should get a lot out of The Haunting. And hey, in the first six and a half minutes the body count reaches four – a veritable massacre for a ghost story. P.S. Avoid the risible 1999 remake, and Eleanor's brother-in-law was in Aliens.

1963
DVD
28/6/2009
sunday
Psycho +
It's all there in Robert Bloch's 1959 novel, which is a good solid read, if only to see how Joseph Stefano (The Outer Limits) and others changed it. For example, Marion gets her head cut off, and Norman Bates is a fat, slovenly misfit who's fond of reading about the gruesome rituals of native cultures...and who doesn't enjoy that? The movie itself still gets under my, umm, skin. Even the first act, with its methodical set-up of key characters and the moral dilema, is loaded with suspense, engaging dialogue, and beautiful cinematic moments. All said and done, though, this is still a scary fucking movie. Each time I finish watching it, I feel much better when the lights are turned back on. I have the local 16:9 DVD for viewing, and the US DVD for the superb 90 minute making-of documentary; it's stupidly absent from the Aussie disc.

1960
DVD
Revenge of the Nerds III
The movie was listed with a subtitle in the TV guide, but I forget what it was. Well, my brother and I were big fans of the first movie back in the day. One supposes that it's achieved cult status by now, much like other mainstream films from that era, like Caddyshack. No such luck with Revenge of the Nerds III I dare say, even with Robert Carradine in a pony tail trying to act cool by cooking haute cuisine, and some reasonable one-liners in the script. Nerd #1: "Ira, I'm about to lose my virginity!" Nerd #2: "With a girl?"

TV
23/6/2009
tuesday
Mad Max II / The Road Warrior +
Fuck yes, and double fuck yes. Shit, let's go for a triple fuck yes!! The first reel alone is better than all of the European post-sync apocalypse cash-ins put together. It's amazing that for an action film, Mad Max II has great characters, a good dose of humanity, and moral dilemas woven into its story. This is all accomplished with extremely deft touches throughout. Even Max's blue heeler dog steals just about every scene he's in. The action sequences are exciting, and the threat posed by the marauders is terrifying when you put yourself in the clan's predicament. My DVD is still the original Australian release in the cardboard snapper case. The Warners Blu-ray is the uncensored pre-MPAA version that first surfaced in Japan on laserdisc. However, the ghost of an even longer Aussie R 18+ version still haunts this movie. Gone forever?

1982
DVD
censored
21/6/2009
sunday
2019: After the Fall of New York
As with the other two masterpieces screened today at Toxic Towers, this reviewer is certain that 2019: After the Fall of New York was also released on VHS rental locally. In fact, every video emporium usually had at least one of these titles for $1.00 per week – all the better to enrich Aussies with Culture. 2019: ATFONY scores bonus points with its ambitious story. You see, in 2019, all humans have not only been sterilised by radiation, but most have been turned into mutants: freaks, dwarves, apes, and so on. However, word's gotten out that a fertile pure human female is hiding in the ruins of New York City, and an expedition is mounted to snatch her from other factions who want her fertile eggs and perfect genes for nefarious reasons. There's so much going on in this bizarre hybrid that it's quite challenging to summarise the plot without sounding ridiculous. For that reason it comes out the winner in today's post-sync apocalypse marathon, even if it did feature horses. Ahhh, you've gotta love those dodgy models of New York in ruins.

1983
DVD
1990: Bronx Warriors
Starring Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson as The Ogre and a gay Italian body builder as a gang leader who tended to skip when he walked (not the best look when you're supposed to be a tough badass), 1990: Bronx Warriors picks up where Escape from New York, The Warriors and various other gang films from the early 1980s left off. This piece of trashploitation only gets two stars because it's boring for too much of its running time. The final act does gets cracking and culminates in an assault on Fred Williamson's headquarters by the authorities, who're trying to rescue a pretty blonde heiress, played the director's daughter. How original. Overall the gore level is disappointing apart from the numerous impalings. It also includes another bloodless decap. I must say that the image transfer to DVD from Media Blasters (US) is incredible.

1982
DVD
The New Barbarians
Uh-oh, we ain't in Kansas no more. With the somewhat familiar-sounding tagline "Warriors of the Wasteland" comes this Italian Mad Max ripoff. Then again, it's much closer to Mad Max II if you want to be more accurate, and here at Toxic Waste we certainly pride ourselves on delivering perfection to our readers. In the blasted nuclear wastelands just outside Rome, Italy, wandering death squads in dune buggies who call themselves Templars aim to kill every person who lived through World War III. A lone anti-hero appears on the scene, rouses the useless survivors, and takes on the Templars' homicidal attitude and worse dress sense. The violence is not bad but it could have been gorier. This is one of those low budget movies in which people get decapitated bloodlessly – there's just some red foam where the exposed flesh is. Finally, spaghetti horror fans get a treat by seeing the two-foot tall 'Bob' aka Giovanni Frezza as an expert car mechanic.

1984
DVD
20/6/2009
saturday
Phase IV +
Analogue SF-Au-Go-Go from the 1970s. It was utterly marvelous to see Phase IV again after catching it on late night television in Brisbane perhaps...what, 30 years ago? Strewth. Made by the late Saul Bass, who masterminded the opening credit sequences for all those Alfred Hitchcock movies, Phase IV posits ants gaining super-intelligence via cosmic rays that drench planet Earth. The ants then scheme to become the dominant species. We see the process affect two scientists who study the phenomenon from a remote and silvery research station in the desert. This patently absurd premise becomes surreal and disturbing as Saul Bass fills the frame with disorienting macro photography and twitchy performances from Nigel Davenport and Michael Murphy (Dead Kids). In an age of seamless visual effects, Phase IV requires patience and sleep deprivation to appreciate fully. My US DVD boasts a crisp anamorphic transfer. No extras, sadly.

1974
DVD
15/6/2009
sunday
Martyrs
Take recent news stories about captives held in suburban dungeons, and chuck them into a meatgrinder with various elements from the current cycle of brutal torture flicks, and you end up with Martyrs. Being more specific about its influences would spoil the surprises in this French movie from Pascal Laugier, who was slated to helm the remake of Hellraiser (give me a break) but now might be passing on that lame project. Despite the familiar themes, a dodgy idea behind the premise, and a third act that doesn't really live up to the first two, Martyrs is as visceral and shocking as they come. This is a nightmarish cocktail of sights and sounds that refuses to appease audience expectations – it basically fucks with your head. Good stuff. Punters with surround sound gear should turn it up as loud as possible.

2008
DVD
7/6/2009
sunday
Rape: 13th Hour
No, this movie was not directed by James Cameron. Ah, those crazy Japanese. What are they up to here? A male sex fiend, who affects a perpetual smirk and never takes off his red jacket even when he's doling out abuse, recruits a shifty petrol station clerk to accompany him on 'rape and enter' field trips around the neighbourhood. On their tail is a gang of gay thugs who eventually catch up with Red Jacket and exact revenge for past and present transgressions. The inherent sleaze factor is balanced against a lovely anamorphic transfer from a clean and colourful print source. Like other over-the-top movies of this type, Rape: 13th Hour can be seen as a blacker than black comedy, but only a complete sicko would suggest that. Ahem.

1977
DVD
6/6/2009
saturday
Terminator II: Judgement Day +
An inevitable choice, and a better one than seeing Terminator: Salvation me reckons (hello Hooverdust). As with Alienz, it's been years since I last caught this movie. While I prefer the extended edition, Cameron does drag out the beat-em-up sequences. Gawd. Arnie trying to smile still cracks me up.

1991
DVD
extended
The Terminator +
Not much to say, really. To this jaded genre junkie, it does plods along a bit nowadays. Taken in context it was ground-breaking in its day, although I must mention once again that Cameron admitted to drawing inspiration from 'Soldier', the Outer Limits episode written by Harlan Ellison, who sued and won. About the film he wrote, "It is a superlative piece of work and deserves its success. Director and co-author James Cameron has made an auspicious debut. The film is taut, memorable, and clearly based on brilliant source material." Anyways, watching this flick whilst demolishing a whole box of Savory Shapes biscuits was a fine way to spend an afternoon indoors. Oink. Oh yeah, I don't think I've ever been so bored by seemingly endless car chases than during this replay.

1984
DVD
4/6/2009
thursday
Aliens +
With its posse of galactic mercenaries, the novel Consider Phlebas inspired me to watch Aliens again. But it's been so long, I had trouble finding the stupid DVD. As for the film, Jimmy Cameron's sequel to Alien still holds up. What's astonishing is that very few movies today in any genre are made this well. Here you've got the perfect synthesis of story, character, and action, together with fantastic special effects and a production design team lead by futurists Ron Cobb and Syd Mead. Plus don't forget that James Cameron is an excellent freehand artist himself (all of the drawings in Titanic were done by him). If you haven't seen this movie for a few years, dig it out and rediscover those classic scenes and classic one-liners. Anyone caught watching the shorter theatrical version will be nuked from orbit.

1986
DVD
extended
1/6/2009
monday
Dead Kids / Strange Behaviour
There's a decent little horror picture in here somewhere trying to get out. Co-scripted by worthy moviescribe Bill Condon, I reckon the production was let down by the ponderous direction of Michael Laughlin, who also helped with scriping duties. Shot in New Zealand but featuring American actors, Dead Kids tells of thought control experiments being run on university students in a small town. Strange behaviour ensues, together with some dodgy gore effects: stabbings and what not, including a severed hand in the bathroom sink. The DVD from Umbrella boasts a clean but soft anamorphic transfer in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, forcing me to up the sharpness on the Loewe CRT. Despite the improved results, there's just something wrong about the way parts of this movie were shot.

1981
DVD
31/5/2009
sunday
Diary of the Dead
George A. Romero is always welcome at the Toxic Waste Dump Sinemaplex. Tonight featured a somewhat anticipated screening of his latest zombie opus, Diary of the Dead. Mixed reviews kept my expectations realistic; this approach is recommended for anyone else, too. Technically this is a superb achievement for a low budget production. The use of existing locations and available lighting saved money on building sets and gave the narrative a grounded and immediate vibe. Diary of the Dead follows the hand-held digicam template to show how a group of Pittsburg University film students cope with the start of the zombie plague. The characters are more engaging than those in Cloverfield, and the camera work is far less nauseating. There's plenty of MA 15+ gore and random brutality on offer as well, with a gruesome gag occurring every five minutes or so. The only disappointment is the abrupt ending. Even with that snag, Diary of the Dead left a surprisingly good impression overall.

2008
DVD
30/5/2009
saturday
Slaughter High
Another Lionsgate release of a 1980s body count flick done on the cheap. In other words, full frame 4:3 transfer, shitty print source, and lousy sound. Its only saving grace is being supposedly the uncut version. There's certainly more gore on offer than in the execrable Final Exam, but the script, characters, acting, direction, and production values are of the same dire quality. The violence includes a minor disembowelling effect (with real guts) after a dickhead chugs a can of poison thinking it was beer, death by electrocution while shagging, being stuck under a ride-on mower, a skewering from behind in a car seat, and in the funniest scene, a dumb woman taking a bath to watch some blood off dissolves when the tap water turns into...nitric acid. Heh heh, ha-ha, heh heh. A contact might be sending me copies of the local VHS rental and an uncut VHS import for censorship comparison.

1986
DVD
uncensored
17/5/2009
sunday
Kung Fu Panda
Don't remember much of it. Typical homogenised Dreamworks computer animation formula: use irreverant humour and alienated characters to hide the underlying ultra-conservatism of the money men and women who run the studio. Ooooh, harsh. To be totally honest, I wasn't really paying full attention to the movie – it was a big weekend.

2009
DVD
16/5/2009
saturday
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Wwwhhhhhaaaattt tthhheee ffffuuuuuuuuucckk??? Here's a perfect example of how dangerous it can be to watch a big budget movie sober. With the mind lucid and exposed like a raw nerve, my IQ must have dropped at least 30 points, and folks I never had that much CPU power to start with. Now, let's talk about Jaden Smith, son of actor Will Smith, who's ruined more than one brainless SF actioner in the last 10 years. Jaden Smith should have been shot in act one by the crack-head army sniper, not Keanu Reeves, who plays the softly spoken alien envoy visiting Earth to determine whether we have enough moral fibre to remain alive or be wiped out to give other species a turn. Jesus Wept, there are so many ways this movie licks a Poop Cornetto. For instance, how about that ending? See this crap at your own risk. Also, what the hell is Jen Connelly doing in this mess? The only positive aspect was hearing scientists talk without having their language dumbed down.

2009
DVD
12/5/2009
tuesday
The Right Stuff
Nope, never seen it before. I know Mr Phillip Kaufman's work, however, from The Unbearable Lightness of Bonking and Quills, plus a few others. Needless to say (but I will anyway – what a dumb and pointless phrase) that Phillip Kaufman is a Serious Filmmaker, and good on him. At 186 minutes in PAL format, The Right Stuff was based on the book by Tom Wolfe that describes the space race from the breaking of the sound barrier to the historic flight of...well, let's not give the plot away to the four remaining punters who have not seen the movie. X Gens will recognise many familiar faces in the cast, including genre regular Lance 'Bishop' Henrickson.

DVD
10/5/2009
sunday
Dune +
Who'd have thought that the (completely unauthorised) 176-min extended version of Dune would be a shitty viewing experience? If memory serves me right, Lynch famously took him name off this shabby TV assembly and replaced it with "Alan Smithee" as director and "Judas Booth" as writer, the latter meaning "traitorous assassin". Even though Universal's US DVD is anamorphic with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, the extended version contains clunky editing, horrid music cues that are worse than dead silence, and several interesting new scenes ruined by others that should have remained in the cutting room toilet. The weirdest thing of all is that, if anything, the extended version is more difficult to follow. As a comparison, I played the theatrical cut for 30 minutes, and it was immediately more compelling and coherent. At 136 minutes it's no drive-in quickie either. Adding to the disappointment is a tawdry clutch of making-of featurettes on the DVD that seem to confirm Universal's contempt for this project. I say fuck'em. The David Lynch version of Dune stands up as one of the best true literary SF novel adaptations ever made. That author Frank Herbert endorsed it should come as no surprise. Finally, for fans of the movie I recommend Ed Naha's book The Making of Dune, as well as these comparisons between the French and Aussie DVDs.

1984
DVD
extended
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Close mates and ex-girlfriends will tell you that I can be, at times, during certain moments, a little bit vague. I'd be happy to quantify this vagueness using the accepted metrics and pinpoint precisely when these episodes (alledgedly) occurred, but I don't recall enough to say either way...whatever it was I was explaining. Yeah. So it should come as no surprise that I don't remember ever watching Star Trek V: The Final Frontier before today. The memory of its sheer awful grandure is not immediately reachable via SQL, or any other database query language invented by humankind. Now, as crap as this Bill Shatner movie is, The Final Frontier harks back to the kinds of plots the original series featured umpteen times or more, and thus it deserves respect. The story: charismatic dickhead espouses transendental metaphysical cosmic bullshit, only to be unmasked as a poser. This time it's not a man-child, or a vast jellyfish, or an insane computer the size of a planet. Sadly, by the end of this cinematic travesty, you don't care. Let's just say that Toxic Waste's Law of SF Movies holds true here: if there are horses in an SF film, then said SF film is going to be baaaaad.

DVD
8/5/2009
friday
Star Trek
Hmmm, I dunno. It's received a lot of good press, even from the likes of Marg and Dave on The Movie Show. However, I was very underwhelmed, especially by the time the second and third acts came online. For starters, there's some deeply offensive rubber science on display. You will cringe. And then there's the whole time travel plot device that allows Leonard Nimoy to play an older Mr Spock. The character of Scotty, played by Simon Pegg, is a complete waste of his talents – clunky humour, and the worst Enterprise engine room sets you can imagine (think disused sewage plant). The new Kirk, Spock and Bones are all effective, but Eric Bana as the mad Romulan has nothing to do except snarl on video screens. And what the fuck is the "MILF" dude from American Pie doing in the movie? Sure, there were fun moments, and the film is not meant to be taken seriously. On the other hand, seen from the point of view that the original Star Trek movies and TV series are embarrassing relics that should be locked away in a basement archive forever, this franchise reboot is so disturbing it borders on perversion. Why not film Dan Simmon's Hyperion novels instead?

2009
cinema
5/5/2009
tuesday
Star Trek IV: The Journey Home +
Review pending.

1986
DVD
30/4/2009
thursday
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock +
Review pending.

1984
DVD
28/4/2009
tuesday
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan +
Review pending.

1982
DVD
27/4/2009
monday
Star Trek: The Motion Picture +
Review pending.

1979
DVD
26/4/2009
sunday
Patrick
Everette de Roche (RIP) and Richard Franklin (RIP) made this potentially lame-brained concept actually work. Who wouldn't be gradually freaked out by Patrick's undead, unblinking stare? I know I was, even though the scruffy actor looked like he'd just come off the set of The Sullivans (Loud Youth #2). And nevermind that Patrick was an antipodean cash-in of Brian De Palmolive's adaptation of Steve King's breakthrough novel Carrie. I'm quite proud of the fact that some local filmmakers followed the grand Italian tradition of copying US box-office hits with their own product. Hey John Williamson, why don't cha write a song about that, ya bloody drongo? But back to Patrick. Listen, it's a good, effective spook-a-thon, quietly unnerving and content to apply the slow build-up approach. By the time Patrick kinestypes "GET STUFFED SLUT" on the Olivetti, I was in Ozploitation heaven. The local DVD proffers the new anamorphic NTSC transfer struck by Don May Jr's US Synapse label, together with some welcome extras and a sub-twenty pesos price tag. As me workmate Pete says, "That's the business, son!"

1978
DVD
25/4/2009
saturday
Red Cliff
Toppling Red to Kill as the most expensive Asian movie ever made, Red Cliff is Johnny Woo's return to form. According to Bogan the Wanderer – who was the Chinatown Cinema correspondent for Fatal Visions in the 1990s and therefore should know a little bit about the subject – John (The Killer) Woo left Follywood behind and set up camp in Beijing. His four-hour war opus Red Cliff is the end result. Set in the year 460 AD, the story concerns two ancient Chinese states in conflict, one ruled by an all powerful despot, the other by a more sympathetic leader whose army is out numbered. Yep, here we have the standard underdog story hook that goes back to the days of Zulu and The 300 Spartans. Anyhow, it's the way John Woo builds up the narrative that really sets this film apart from similar battle tales, making Red Cliff one of the most compelling films I've seen in a long time. And for action fans there's plenty of stylised violence on show. This is before the invention of gunpower, which means every skirmish involves 100s of soldiers being slashed by dirty big meat clevers mounted on poles. Pass the Bandaids, please! Along side the slow-mo bloodletting are colossal set pieces in which the two armies clash on land and on water. The incredible naval assault sequence has to be seen to be believed. Released in two parts, Red Cliff deserves global success after smashing box office records in Asia. Grab it.

2009
DVD
21/4/2009
tuesday
Sav V
Review pending.

2009
DVD
uncensored
14/4/2009
tuesday
Rabid +
Review pending.

DVD
12/4/2009
sunday
Bring it on Again
Team Toxic worships the original film in this franchise, namely Bring it On. The sequel had big (small) pleated skirts to fill (flatter), and it failed miserably. What a shock. That said, there were a few lines that cut through the cinecoma it induced in me and raised a few chuckles. Girl to female protagonist discussing a cute boy: "He was all over you like ugly on an Osborne." And then there's this diss come-back in another scene: "Hey, I was born with brown roots, okay?" Apply liberal helpings of biatch pouting to that line reading. In summary, I only managed to stave off suicide by hoping that the various dull female leads would strip off or get hacked to death in the last reel. Fat chance, given this was a matinee TV broadcast. (Hmmm. Cheerleaders getting dismembered. Excuse me, I must retire to the bathroom for a spell.)

TV
22/3/2009
sunday
Seinfeld: Season 3
Review pending.

DVD
11/3/2009
wednesday
Hollow Man +
Review pending.

2000
DVD
director's cut
9/3/2009
monday
Donnie Brasco +
Review pending.

DVD
extended
9/3/2009
monday
Bill Bailey: The Classic Collection
Review pending.

DVD
9/3/2009
monday
Dylan Moran: The Live Collection
Review pending.

DVD
9/3/2009
monday
Must Love Dogs
John Cusack. Diane Lane. Chris Plumber. And one/many dog/s? OK, I should write these capsule reviews closer to when I see these titles. But wait...if memory servers me right, Must Love Dogs was moderately entertaining. Being based on a novel (a long-form fictional story printed onto many rectilinear sheets of flattened pulped woodchips and sold at specialist outlets) would have helped elevate it above the usual turdadcious scripts penned by major studio arse-kissers and inbred gimps. Not that I'm above evaluating such dreck as a service to the greater DVD-renting and hardcore TV-viewing populace (hello Heathen). You're welcome. To its credit, Must Love Dogs the fillum has more 'rom' than 'com'. A ghoulish surprise was the scene in which the terminally single upper middle-class Diane Lane (for fuck's sake) accidentally meets her upper upper middle-class dad Christopher Plumber (who's also thin, wealthy, and single: yeah right) on a blind date. Oooooh, call ACMA.

TV
reviews/articles

Transformers

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

King Kong (2005)

John Carter

2012

Death Ring

The Hitcher '07

Hannibal Rising

Pan's Labyrinth

TCM: The Beginning

Saw III

The Grudge II

Monster House 3D

Lady in the Water

Dialogue of the Dead

Star Wars DVD

subtitles

Every movie I watch gets a capsule review, and they appear here in exact viewing order. I generally rate movies within genre and then adjust across all genres if necessary. This means, for example, that an exploitation film may receive a high rating compared to accepted mainstream classics. Budget, dubious morality or subject matter should not limit the ranking of one film over another. I also rate the capacity for repeated viewings highly, although this is a more subjective judgement that may propel an unlikely title to a five-dot rating. One recent example is Larry Clark's Bully, which I think is a contemporary masterpiece.

I don't write full reviews very often anymore. I realised that in the time it takes me to write a proper review, say upwards of four hours, I could have watched two or more new films. Since there are plenty of competent reviewers out there in print and on the Internet, there isn't much I can say that is fresh or different without spending a week dissecting a film. Actually, I'm planning to do that for the Matrix trilogy one day.

The + symbol denotes films I have seen before. 'CFDUSTD' is an abbreviation of "censored for dumbfuck US theatrical distribution". The term 'Follywood' refers to the increasingly desperate major studio system that continues to suffer from salination of the intellect and anemia of the imagination.

Finally, mucho thanks to anyone who has lent me movies to feed my celluloid addiction. Special thanks to Heathen and Mr Anthony for lending various tasty titles viewed, chewed, and reviewed here.


 
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