Saturday, February 26, 2011


Director: Roman Coppola
Year 2001

CQ is something of an enigma, in that it is about so many different things, yet it's all held together by the central character's love of the cinema and its unmistakable power to tell a story, whether truth or fiction. This freshmen effort by Roman Coppola, is a rather ambitious undertaking that carries the weight of a lot of well thought out ideas about love, life, personal dreams, and the never ending struggle to find balance in ones life. It's told in a dream like haze where film mixes with life in vibrant and unusual ways, pressing the boundaries as we follow a young filmmaker on his journey to find himself in personal and professional stability. It's really a wonderful movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, giving an affectionate look into one person's journey to find truth and substance in the everyday search for personal acceptance.

Wow! The future is going to be awesome!

The film follows a young dreamer by the name of Paul, played by the always outstanding Jeremy Davies, as he balances between his cinematic ambitions in the film industry and his personal relationships in the year 1969 in Paris, France. While working on a groovy sci-fi film called Dragonfly, Paul must overcome his deteriorating relationship with his live in girlfriend Marlene, and at the same time try to complete his personal independent film that focuses on truth, reality, and understanding, which happen to be all the things that he is struggling with within his own life. In an almost therapeutical sense, Paul speaks to the camera in his documentary, putting together the pieces of his mentally hectic life as he begins to understand himself and reach out for happiness.

A peaceful moment on the crapper.

This film is almost an inner look at what it is like when you struggle to find yourself and your voice in a world that seems so overrun with uncertainty and improbable possibilities. Coppola tackles this notion with great ease, making us feel for Davies' character. He seems to connect with the audience and it appears that Coppola is pulling these same uncertainties from his own life. Narratively speaking, it lies close to the director's heart, possibly stemming from being the son of a world famous director and having to fill the rather large shoes of the directing legend. In all aspects, it's very personal in its presentation and in this fashion, he is able to bring us an outstandingly poignant story, one that has relevance in most everyone's experienced memories of grand aspirations and incessant fears of failing. This is both intimate and compelling, as we begin to take a part of this man's journey onto ourselves and share in the burden of self worth and realization.

I know someone who looks absolutely FABULOUS in her polar bear hat!

The imagery of this film complements this tangible struggle, by rooting it in a period that seems so full of life and lavish vision. It's a time that was substantially grounded in the physical, both humanistically and cinematically speaking. It was a place where film was king and the physical nature of the medium, both splicing and developing, was a more personal undertaking for the filmmakers then as of now with the cold impersonal touch of the new digital age. Setting this film in 1969, gives a great opportunity for Coppola to express his utmost love for the cinema and for a good many works that have inspired him throughout his own journey to become a filmmaker in his own right. That personal endeavor is mirrored perfectly in the role of Paul as he uses his own black and white film to answer the many questions he has about life.

This film is simply DAZZLING!

Paul's quest to present something real and tangible in his independent film, juxtaposes the work that he is doing on his sci-fi feature. The Dragonfly film is hip and kitschy, but doesn't satisfy his inner artist, while the independent endeavor serves to calm his creative urges. In doing this it maintains a balance that he isn't able to accomplish within his own romantic relationship with Marlene. In his documentary he speaks to the camera, asking questions about who Marlene is and what she truly wants from the relationship, as if the answers will suddenly become clear to him or inspiration will suddenly strike. Through random bits of footage that he has shot, in contrasting black and white, we get a look into their lives and get to witness the life the couple share. There's moments that are really genuine, like the sequence that has Marlene asking Paul why he films everything. He responds that he wants to portray the truth and show people something that is real. She responds by asking, but what if people find it boring. It's those moments that show so perfectly the fine balance, both in his artistically driven aspirations and in his personal relationship with Marlene, that he must attempt to maintain.

My god man, will you put some damn pants on!

In doing this, Coppola is in fact accomplishing the same thing that Paul is trying to achieve. He's bringing about a real snippet of the lives of this couple as they battle to find some kind of happiness or worth in their relationship. Paul's battle is to quench his creative muses while Marlene's battle is to vie for the attention of Paul and to come to a decision if this whole thing is worth it. The give and take of the themes of this film, work really well off each other and the blending of both the cinematic elements with the very personal struggle of the two lovers is an inspirational combination. Things only get more complicated as the film introduces Paul's new love interest, in the form of the Dragonfly actress, Valentine, who seems to encapsulate all that he is looking for in order to achieve a balanced existence in both career and life. The only problem is that these urges could be just a symptom of Paul's need to escape from the dying relationship that he is already in or it could indeed be a beacon for a new and fruitful life.

You should really clean your ears out once in a while.

To see these very personal themes being played out, is something of a rare treat. Unknown to me, I have never viewed a film that combined such unrelated elements and then managed to infuse them together to portray the story of a man's uncertainty in life, love, and everything a coming of age tale encompasses. There truly is a lot to be said for Coppola's inspiration and bold execution in delving into the film in this manner, relying on the integrity of the heart of the story to pave the way through the twisted narrative. As we flow between all of these intoxicating ideas, we never lose the point of the story. The incidental nature of Paul's random undertakings, in both business and personal situations, never seem to reach too far away from his centralistic pursuit of following his heart and essentially discovering the secret to happiness. It's really a pleasant surprise to see such a young director tackle such a colossal undertaking and in the end, just nail it.

I see what you're looking at you little pervert.

Not only does Coppola nail the emotional and spiritual story arch of the piece, but he also nails the overall look of Paris, 1969, at least in film form that is. Garnering inspiration from countless films of the era, Coppola paints a beautiful collage of stereotypical elements of the age from the groovy and camp visuals of the Dragonfly film to the dress and wear of everyday life. Fellini would be proud, for there's many moments that seem stripped from the pages of his ever impressive visual hand book. I just loved how most of this film felt so familiar, yet fresh and new at the same time. One could say that this film pays homage to that era and that is quite true, yet it's done in such a way that it never takes away from the film or cheapens it in any way. The similarities are blended so well into the narrative that you almost consider it a companion piece to those beautifully cherished films.

Hello Dean. You are a stupid head.

Coppola's mesmerizing, homage filled cues, also play a great part in conveying the surreal and atmospheric quality that saturates the frames in the waning moments of the film. The blending of Paul's love for cinema with the real world, gradually begins to blur together until we aren't sure if what he is experiencing is in fact the truth or something else entirely, which is a brilliant play on the material and compliments what we see prior in the film. Paul's pursuit of creating something that is real and truthful in his documentary, has now become something of an obsession where he is beginning to lose his grip with reality. He's losing himself in the fantasy that he longs for to be true, while subsequently letting his real life relationship with Marlene fall to the way side in conquest of a dream girl that could and could not actually feel the same way or even really exist in the real and definitive sense. It boggles the mind and adds so much to the final representation of the film.

Godzilla! Godzilla!

The conclusion of all this madness is reached in full realization as Paul comes to terms with his dead in the water relationship and satisfyingly is able to make a conclusive ending to both his sci-fi feature and his independent personal piece. Both conclude with a rebirth in the character, expressing a hopeful outcome on things to come. Paul's rebirth mirrors the end of his failed love and the start of a new relationship, both in cinematic pursuits and in soul searching. The ending is rather beautiful as it ties up all the loose ends of Paul's life and breathes an air of relief as the madness and confusion dissipates into the memories of the past. Paul's character comes full circle, just as every filmmaker does when completing a project and looking to the future. Always optimistic on what's on the horizon. Always confident that they will perfect their craft and learn from their mistakes. The metaphorical context is abundant and the richness of the entire piece can be solely credited to Coppola's daring decision to put so much of himself into the film.

Could you be... the most beautiful matte painting in the world.

CQ is a filmmaker's allegorical journey from project beginning to project end, comparing the likes of creative minds most beloved things, their personal and professional loves. This comes off as Coppola's love letter to a cinema age that is long gone but not forgotten. The way that so many complicated elements within the film come together so nicely, speaks volumes on what true talent this first time feature director really has. The intimate quality of the film is beyond words and you can feel the humanistic radiance of the narrative like a beacon shining from the main characters soul, thanks to the expert acting and sympathetic portrayal of Jeremy Davies', Paul.

The combination of Coppola's imaginative story and Davies' wondrous performance, really add to the overall appeal of the piece and provide a film that won't easily be forgotten or idly be dismissed. This film comes highly recommended to anyone you loves films that celebrate the cinema and the inspirational and personal stories that can sprout from its silver screen. CQ is a small film, but with a giant heart, one that might catch you off guard if you're not ready. Watch it for the film lover in you.

5 out of 5 stars      A Cinematic Love Letter to Life and Love!

Friday, February 25, 2011

REVIEW: La Horde

La Horde
Director: Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher
Year 2009

La Horde is a gritty and grungy french zombie flick that pits a handful of cops and gangsters against an endless throng of rabid flesh eating walking corpses. Violence is the name of the game, when the two rivaling factions clash in an abandoned and decayed apartment complex only to be greeted by a full blown zombie apocalypse. The blood and brain matter flies in spectacular fashion, as the French once again show us that they have the balls to carry on the torch of this much beloved genre.

This twisted story features a cast of morally flawed characters, from revenge filled coppers to soulless thugs, who seem to mirror the blackened hearts of the hordes of undead that threaten to pull these jaded souls down into hell where they belong. The metaphors of the undead compared to the lack of moral compass of the characters is rather inspiring and seems fit to be compared to a person's soul being judged after it passes into the afterlife. Throughout the film, you feel as if all of these characters are paying for something that they've done in their life, whether it happens on screen or not. The finality of their actions and the repercussions that result from their decisions, weighs heavy on the brutal deaths that befall each character as they reach the end of their life.

What did you just say about my mustache?!?!

The film opens up at a funeral, where we discover a horrible tragedy has occurred. A group of cops have just lost one of their own during a botched bust against a group of local thugs and the tension and remorse ripples through the tight knit group. To make matters worse, another one of their numbers has also been captured during that same bust, so they decide to go against the precinct and put justice into their own hands. They organize a raid on the night of the funeral and plan to take out the dirty bastards that created this whole mess.

Right from the start of this film, we see the tendencies of this universally moral group go right down the shitter. They make it absolutely clear that they aren't taking any prisoners in this raid and that everyone must die. This is a perfect set up and inclination towards what the remaining 90 minutes of this film will entail. The pure nature and imperial image of the noble police officer gets a bloody and overtly dark makeover as we see what happens when revenge turns to obsession and when ones moral compass gets skewed and skewered when traveling down such dark paths.

Holy Shit! Bring out the gimp!

The clash that results between the two warring factions is explosive, resulting in battered bones and exposed midsections, leaving the group of coppers wounded and defeated for the most part. They're end seems imminent, that is until something wholly unexpected happens when the recently deceased corpses begin to rise from their broken bodies and feast on the living. The change of events and initial transformation from dead to undead is a violent and bloody mess, bringing about a visceral carnage that can give past films like the 28 Days Later series and Lamberto Bava's Demons films a nod of gruesome recognition. The rage and bloodlust that these zombies possess is quite frightening and definitely gets the film's blood pumping early and never lets up.

Man is this city a shithole.

The transformation from living to dead and then to undead is also rather quick, igniting the action of the film and keeping the tempo locked at full blown ridiculous levels. Add this to the overwhelming numbers of undead beings that lay outside of the apartment complex, who are thirsting to get inside and at our main characters, and you've got one hell of a devastating force of pure and unadulterated flesh seeking antagonists. The filmmakers do an amazing job of bringing on the doom, suffocating us in this unrelenting despair that there is no hope of survival or salvation. This damning nature that the characters are pitted up against, gives way to many of their selfish and immoral decisions, which then provides a nice underlying layer to the narrative. Not only do we get a violent and carnage driven zombie hackfest, but we're also presented a side helping of moral ambiguity and spiritual dismemberment. Delicious!

That stain is never going to come out.

On the topic of the zombies, they are a viscous and dangerous bunch in this film, prone to ripping flesh and devouring internal organs in a heartbeat. The best way to describe them would be a sort of cousin to the Rage victims of 28 Days Later, but on speed. These guys are fast, jerky, and basically pissed off 24 hours a day and when they get a hold of their victims they go right for the kill and settle in for a nice long meal. There's no fist beating or smothering, like the confused Rage creatures, just concise attacks featuring razor sharp teeth meeting tender fresh flesh. Many of the animalistic maulings are rather gruesome and exceptionally perverse in their succinct precision and ultimately unified execution. We definitely get that these are creatures that you don't want to encounter in twos or threes and that makes the exploration that the main characters make throughout the darkened corridors of the apartment complex that much more tension filled and danger ridden.

I'm not gonna let you dope me up!

That brings me to one of the films main strengths and that would be the location of the abandoned apartment building that morbidly mirrors the decay and despair that the newfound zombie apocalypse has now inflicted unto this French urban metropolis. Like the deterioration and downward spiral of the human race as they turn into these rabid and primal creatures, this subdivision that the warring factions find themselves in, bridges the two themes of the economically struggling subdivision with the deformed and chaotic intentions of the starving hordes of zombies in one bloody and cohesive mess of mass confusion. The relation of this broken building to the moral failings of the spiritually troubled characters is quite inspirational and gives way to a number of interesting comparisons that only help to lift up the overall narrative.

Everyone watch out! Grandpa is about to go ape shit crazy again!

The interesting part about these moral quandaries that the characters experience, is the added level that they rise too. After surviving the initial zombie uprising, the two separate groups of cops and gangsters decide that it's in both their best interests to work together in order to survive this new and ferocious enemy. This unlikely union is short lived as past grudges come to the surface and inner jealousy breaks throughout the ranks on both sides, often creating new alliances and new enemies. The intermingling of the two groups is fascinating and it helps in bringing some of the less then corrupt figures out into the forefront of the film. It also serves up something rather original within the zombie genre, where instead of having a group of random strangers go at each other while trying to survive against the army of the dead, we're rather shown two separate groups that initially have clear opposing sides, but eventually through the turmoil, they become randomly intertwined in the confusion to stay alive.

Nothing like picking out a zombie at the pound. Isn't it cute?

That is what I think is most brilliant about the concept behind La Horde and I believe it is one of the main inspirations that the filmmakers wanted to bring to this film and to the table of zombie movies in general. The set up is simple, place cops and gangsters in an already precarious situation and then make matters ten times worse by unleashing the very gates of hell onto them. In theory it sounds pretty basic, but the fact that they give each individual within the group their own motivations and characteristic tendencies, makes for a very entertaining plethora of outcomes and unexpected alliances that surprisingly work well together. It's random in its nature, but overall extremely satisfying to not know exactly what will happen next. Like I mentioned above, it follows that same kind of unexplainable flow of the Demons series, where people are just doing anything they can to survive as they're picked off one by one by the attacking hordes.

Zombie zoos are really not that exciting.

In La Horde, watching things pan out as new factions form and various people begin meeting their demise, you come to realize that this is similar to any Romero driven narrative that has ever been brought to the screen or any story that pits its characters against large numbers of enemies as they desperately try to survive within a barricaded structure. You have the ultimate enemy of the group being themselves as they fight and bicker with each other and eventually loose all control, allowing the zombies to overtake them in their own humanistic stupidity. Everything fits to formula, except for the slight change of the two warring factions, but in reality that subtle variation is enough to inject some new life into the tried and true genre. Myself being a fan of such stories would have been fine with just the simple set up of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, but I appreciated the added touches that the filmmakers brought to this film and to the overall concept.

Are you ready to ROCK!

Now I've been talking up this movie like it's some high art masterpiece, when essentially it's a showcase to show how badass these groups of people are when dealing out death to the zombie hordes. While it does have the previous elements that I mentioned earlier in the review, at the heart of the film it's a take no prisoners kind of balls to the wall zombie flick, bringing the pain in bucket loads and splattering the lens in crimson gore. It relishes in the carnage of it all and never shies away from the obscene or graphic nature of zombie killing. In fact it celebrates it, which maybe comes off to some as amateurish or pedestrian, which just gives the filmmakers an excuse to parade a steroid infused injection of muscles, guns, and gore. I say bring it on. If you can back it up with some meaningful elements like the film has, then you have all the rights to bring the pain and go all out even if some may be turned off by its boyish manner and brute force. In the end, it's a fucking zombie movie. The more gore the merrier.

What a nice end to a shit day.

La Horde is the perfect flick for a person that loves to see a more grittier and sadistic side to the zombie apocalypse scenario. It doesn't stray too far from the Romero-esque trappings that have become a staple in the zombie world, but it does bring about a new sort of immoral tone to the proceedings. Almost every single character in this film has a dirty soul in some way shape or form and the ones that are pure intentioned are anything but angelic. The fact that we have a whole stage full of basically bad people, makes for a unique vision of a nightmarish world. The intermingling of the characters is quite interesting in the film and the factions that reemerge after the world goes to hell, is rather refreshing and entertaining to see play out.

To top it all off, the overall feel of the world is filthy and foreboding, giving way to the very real and terrifying zombies that spring forth with the sole animalistic intention of devouring flesh. It's a bleak picture and one that keeps the tone and thematic elements of the zombie genre in clear and consecutive glorification. I highly recommend this film to all zombie fans and anyone that just wants to watch a high octane splatterfest with a side topping of new age French goodness.

4 out of 5 stars      French Zombie Splatter With Balls!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

REVIEW: Monsters

Director: Gareth Edwards
Year 2010

Monsters tells the intimate story of two ordinary strangers who are suddenly thrust together into an extraordinary situation, helping them to both grow as individuals and at the same time bring them closer to each other. Within the film, the world has been cast into a dreamlike stupor after a NASA satellite crashes into the region between the United States and Mexico, bringing with it an alien entity that since its arrival seven years ago, has began consuming the surrounding crash site and producing some larger then life creatures. The main plight of our main characters is to travel from Mexico to the United States, by passing through the quarantine zone, which is now the territory of these walking megalithic beasts. The interesting turn of this film is that the focus is much less on the alien creatures and more in tuned to what the characters are going through, both in the journey and in their personal lives. It's a bold maneuver, but one that is pulled off with a delicate and ever watchful eye, as Edwards compliments the visuals in a near picture perfect companion to the characters life changing journey. 

What do you mean I don't have monster insurance!

The film really is an unexpected treat, giving us a romantically charged monster flick that throws the conventional wisdom of the genre out the window and relies heavily on a plethora of unorthodox inspirations to morph the film into something else entirely. It's a unique beast that harkens back to a large number of films and subsequent genres, but never falters too far from its creature feature origins. In this approach, Monsters becomes a heartfelt and mesmerizing film. It's one part independent romance and one part monster flick and the balance between the two opposing themes never seems to tip in either favor or outshine the other.  The balance is perfect and most of that can be credited to the overall atmosphere of the piece as a whole. Edwards creates a wondrous world that feels real and lived in and in this approach has made an excellent playground in which to set this balancing act of romantic drama and science fiction.

Don't worry. You'll eventually get to see some monsters.

If the ambitious nature of the film wasn't enough, we're also given the astounding appreciation that Edwards was able to create such a rich and lavish world with just a small amount of resources at his disposal. Monsters sets the gold standard on what can be accomplished in the independent circuit if you have the skill and ingenuity to back it up. You would be hard pressed to realize that this film wasn't a big budget Hollywood movie if you weren't privy to the history of the production. Everything in the film seems so grand and larger then life and the overall feeling of the film screams epic proportions, but it's daunting to realize that most of the effects were created on his personal laptop and the majority of the movie was shot guerilla style as they traveled all over Mexico. Gareth Edwards' first feature film is really something to behold and you will literally be mind-struck over the wonders that he was able to cultivate onto the screen for a mere $15,000.

The monsters didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the world was turning.

The main aspect of this film, the thing that holds together the entire concept of Monsters, is the world's lore. The painstaking efforts that went into making this world believable and tangible is striking to witness and just plain beautiful to behold. There is a constant reminder of the dangers that inhabit this world and Edwards does an amazing job in displaying that numerous times throughout the film, from showing us newscasts of the latest monster attacks, to the large quarantine maps that frequently show up on their journey, to the constant and contemplative shots of the devastation that the monsters have inflicted on the land, that we really get a sense of the threat and how truly real it is for these people. It's a world unlike we've ever known, but through the filmmaker's skillful ability to immerse the audience in this foreboding imagery, we begin to believe in the validity of the situation at hand and take it at face value to be fact within the confines of this story.

Damn these mall maps! Where's the Build-A-Bear?

With the world's lore firmly embedded within the story, Edwards is able to branch off in varying inspirational paths and combine a good many random ideas to add to the overall recipe that is Monsters. This technique allows him to delve into a highly engaging dramatic and intimate story-line that relies less on the action and overall over the top nature of normal monster films, and instead focus on what makes these characters tick. Now I wouldn't say that this film gives an overly intricate look into their inner souls, but the simplistic and peaceful nature that Edwards allows to come through in the film is quiet in its execution and passive in nature.

We're guided along with them on their journey and are given quick and subtle insights into their lives and who they are outside of this crazy alien infested world. Nothing is slammed over the audiences head as you get to know the characters. The information is given gradually, much like how you'd get to know a person in real life, by small exposition through casual conversation. It's a liberating feeling to experience the same understandings that the characters in the film are realizing for the first time and to gently move with them on that mental trek. It's a delicate approach to the normally heavy handed nature of this kind of genre, where we are usually given the rundown on each character's profession, love interest, favorite food, and stereotypical typecasted appearance in the first few minutes of introduction. That staple of the blockbuster monster film is gladly left by the wayside, replaced by a more mature and believable approach to the old 'getting to know you' routine.

Jesus bus. The only way to travel.

These subtle tweaks can also be found throughout the film when glossing over the visuals of Monsters. I don't know about you, but I can't remember when a monster flick has looked this beautiful. I'm not talking about sleek imagery and top of the line effects. I'm talking about beautiful in a more reflective and metaphorical sense. That kind of imagery that talks to the soul of the characters so they don't need to say much at all to get their mood across. Edwards allows for the visuals to paint most of what the two main characters are thinking or experiencing. There are many moments in this film that are quite uneventful in the traditional sense, in where there is no substantial dialogue to be heard, only the powerful observation of the characters surroundings and the contemplative combination of the composed frame and its accompanied musical cues. It's odd to see these kind of high concept and artistically infused elements, that are usually found in an arthouse film, to be taking up much of the frame of a monster flick, but I think the unexpectedness of it all makes the film that much stronger and meaningful.

Take my breathe away.

In essence, the film is more about the experience of the characters then it is about the monsters, which is why I think many people seem misled. Make no mistake about it though, you feel the presence of these monsters the entire runtime of the film. Every moment is cautiously contemplating where they are and anticipating their arrival in miraculous wonder or brutal violent beastly nature. That impending doom of the first interaction with these otherworldly beasts lies heavy on the narrative and builds that uneasy feeling that so injects this film with a sense of energy and life.

The amount of time that these monsters were on screen was enough for this viewer and the fact that after seeing them, we still have no idea what the hell they really are. In truth we don't need to know what they are because the fact of the matter is, they are a background element to the main focal point of the film. It's the two main characters that are the stars of the piece, as we watch them come to terms with their personal lives and each other. The monsters are just a bonus and the unknowing qualities of these beasts is icing on the already delicious cake.

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

It may be frustrating for those that came into the film thinking monsters, explosions, and chaos oh my, but the mystery behind their origins and how they became these large ominous beings only adds to the intrigue of their existence. The fact that they are portrayed so subtly in the film helps to keep that mystery intact. We're given small glances into their appearance, but never languish long enough to get our fill. Every instance where it seems like we might get our money shot, we are slowly shrouded back into the mystery. It's a tease that propels us onward and combining that with the overall journey of our main characters as they trudge through the quarantined zone in order to return home, makes for one hell of a compelling story and one that moves us along in anticipation of what's next. A good story always leaves you wanting more and Edwards has concocted a hell of a story with Monsters.

If only I could see past this hair in my face.

Mystery aside, another element that adds to the overall feel of the film is the manner in which Edwards and company decided to approach the production of the movie. By going the guerilla filmmaker route, they've added another and wholly important layer to the film, one that grounds the film in reality and helps establish the believability of the monster infested world. That on the fly feeling of the production, compliments the backpack journey that the main characters are taking, bringing us along through all of their trials and tribulations. It is in almost a road-trip kind of sense where we go from location to location experiencing the things they are experiencing, getting our hands dirty right along side them. Just like the film in general, it is an intimate approach to filmmaking and one that highly benefits the story in bringing about a sense of truth and substance. All of these elements help to raise up this film and make it appear more expensive then it really is while at the same time providing a cohesive look that gels perfectly across the board on all fronts.

Someone's got to clean this shit up.

Lastly, the fact that the film is headlined by two unknown actors, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able, only helps in differentiating this film from anything we've ever seen before. The epic scale of this piece seems destined for a Hollywood caliber pair of actors to equal its grandeur, but luckily we're given a more down to earth and relatable couple that only help to showcase the fact that this film is in a world of its own. The unfamiliarity of it all allows for the audience to be swept up in it and I think if there was a more known and established actor in the main two roles, then it would have taken away from the overall raw nature of the film. Edwards has done such a tremendous job with the entire look and feel of the film, that it really is hard to imagine anyone else other then McNairy and Able, playing the roles of the title characters. They do a commendable job in bringing their characters to life and allowing us into their world.

What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.

Monsters is a film that seems to do everything right, from its imaginative plot to its most intricate and intimate moments. We're given a mature and respectable film that is approached in such an interesting and unorthodox way, that it really does breath life into the various genres that it tackles. Whether you love romantic dramas of the independent persuasion or have an insatiable appetite for large overgrown creatures that go bump in the night, I think this film has something for everyone to enjoy. Just don't go into this film thinking you're going to be seeing the next big budget action film. This movie has a quiet and contemplative nature to it, one that revels in the silent moments of anticipation and wonders in the amazing locals that grace this independent gems every loving frame. Gareth Edwards has brought a quality that I thought I'd never see in a monster film, heart. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested to see how far an independent production can go when put in capable hands and expert imaginations. A definite must for any genre fan with an arthouse soul.

5 stars out of 5     A Refreshing & Intimate Monster Movie

Friday, February 11, 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT: Trailer Obscura

If you've been following the site as of late then you might have noticed the barrage of random movie trailers that have been flooding most of my updates here on The Lucid Nightmare. If you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, then let me explain.

I've been recently hard at work compiling a collection of fake and real movie trailers made by myself and a core group of friends. The trailers are inspired by some of our in-production projects and from random ideas and concepts that pop into our demented little heads. The idea to make a compilation of trailers sprang to life after Grindhouse came out a few years ago and I've been mulling over bringing this idea to life ever since. Well I'm happy to say that we've got a few gems under our belt in the form of Musky!, Tis The Season To Be DEAD, The Book of Jacob Huxley, The Wanderer, Soulless, Corjo and Kill Kringle Kill. I've also been hard at work scripting a slew of trailers to come. 

I'm particularly looking forward to working on the killer Sasquatch film 'It Came From The Woods', the creepy prank calling 80's slasher film 'The Whisperer', a morbidly atmospheric zombie film called 'The Night of the Walking Corpses, the trippy giallo flick 'In the Eye of the Violet Prism', and the old school 50's creature feature 'Mad Ants'. We've got a lot of work in the pipeline and you'll be hearing and seeing more about these trailers as the months go by, but the main reason for my announcement is that I finally came up with a name for the compilation. Trailer Obscura.

I thought it would be appropriate to go with a title that is as ambiguous, obscure, and as random as the trailers that will take up its runtime. It's going to be a strange collection of trailers so I wanted to capture that essence some way in the title and hopefully Trailer Obscura does it justice. Well that's it for now and stay tuned for my next update on this tremendous undertaking of trailer movie goodness.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Wanderer Trailer

Well as promised, I've got the fresh out of the oven trailer for my obscure little film, The Wanderer. The trailer is a nice quick addition to the trailer compilation that I've been working on and it's more of an abstract piece for me. It's a real quick take on the repetitive trailer concept that was so prevalent in the Grindhouse circuit and other cult films of that era. I had a good time playing around with it and I think I was able to come up with something original and fairly entertaining. Well, that's it for now and enjoy the trailer.

i Spy Eurospy: Special Mission Lady Chaplin

Special Mission Lady Chaplin
Director: Alberto De Martino & Sergio Grieco
Year 1966

Special Mission Lady Chaplin is the third and most competent entry in the Dick Malloy secret agent series, allowing for Ken Clark's death defying agent to really soar next to the ranks of uber-agent James Bond. In this mission, Malloy is assigned to retrieve a cache of nuclear warheads that have recently been stolen from a downed submarine, by a diabolical deep sea salvager who moonlights as a submarine researcher and millionaire extraordinaire, named Kobre Zoltan. To spice things up a bit, Zoltan's chief henchmen is a henchwoman named Lady Chaplin. She's a master of disguise whose talents abound from performing merciless assassinations while dressed as a nun to posing as an old wheelchair bound woman as she snuffs out one of her victims at a poorly guarded hospital. Can Dick Malloy foil this mad genius' plans to sell the warheads to the highest bidder and can he also resist the deadly charm of the dangerous Lady Chaplin? How dare you ask such a ridiculous question. Of course he can.

Clark.... Ken Clark.
Secret spies are watching you. They see your every move.

This entry in the Dick Malloy series is as close to the Bond formula that you can get. We have the evil mastermind that hopes to benefit from some sort of global catastrophe, added to that the amazing locations from all over the globe, and finally to top it all off we get the outstanding portrayal of a femme fatale that matches Malloy in all his cunningness and skillful agent ways. In fact the film starts out with a bang as it presents us with the title character Lady Chaplin, played by the Italian knock out Daniela Bianchi. She just happens to be one of the main strengths of the film, as she firmly takes the film by the reigns and plunges right in. We're given this perfect set up for Malloy's formidable oppenent when Lady Chaplin infiltrates a monastery that happens to be a cover for a secret organization. She takes out the monks there in style and right then and there, we get a pretty straight forward idea of what this film is going to be like. Pure fun. Daniela does a tremendous job in bringing this outstanding and memorable character to life. It's nice to know that after her role as Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love, that she went on to even more acclaim within the spy world. Her Lady Chaplin character is definitely one for the Eurospy record books.

Ken Clark's looking for that red light special.
Once again, Ken Clark gets the point.

As always, Ken Clark knocks it out of the park as he gives the character Dick Malloy another go. His charismatic and often physical approach to the character is always greatly appreciated by this reviewer. I really wish he would have kept the role going, because I would have loved to go on a few more missions with this legendary super spy. In retrospect, it's nice that they ended the series on a high note and kept the integrity of the series intact. I still think that they could have kept this character alive and well, much like what has happened with the Bond series. There is so much potential in Dick Malloy's spy world and the presence that Ken Clark projected in his three starring roles just begged to be continued for at least a few more missions. Oh well, I'll take what I can get and in this film he gives his most energetic and enthusiastic performance to date.

Lady Chaplin, you are one vain son of a bitch.
Get em Dick Tracy!

Another Bond element that is highly recognizable in this film, is the inclusion of a sub henchmen that's armed with a hook for a hand, complimenting his mean mugged bastard attitude. This noteworthy character filled that familiar void that many memorable Bond villains had satisfied throughout its glorious history, by having the bad guy possess an unorthodox weapon of his choosing. Just like the character of Jaws, from both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, where he has his razor sharp metallic chompers to bite at Sir James Bond, we see the same thing in Dick Malloy's outing. In Special Mission Lady Chaplin, this mysterious henchmen wields all of his ruthless anger by the tip of his razor sharp hooked hand. There's some pretty entertaining fight scenes in the film, where Agent Malloy is fighting for his life against the overpowering brute. These moments are pretty heavy in the physical nature of the two combatants and we really get a good tension filled altercation as these two immovable objects attempt to usurp the other. This familiar Bond element really adds to the overall enjoyment of the film.

Despite all my rage I am still just a Ken Clark in a cage.
Shit the chicks packing!

The main villain, and overall biggest threat to Malloy's health, is the overly ambitious and the overtly over the top named Kobre Zoltan. Why isn't there a band out there with this name? Mr. Zoltan is played by Jacques Bergerac, who brings a sense of swagger and snobbishness to his role of the well to do submarine researcher. It's interesting that, unlike his Bond villain counterparts, he doesn't want to dominate the world or destroy it, rather he wants to benefit from it's destruction by making a small fortune in the transaction of said weapons of mass destruction to the real terrorists. The fact that he carries an air of arrogance throughout the film, makes him a perfect villain to hate and root against. The only problem is that he shows up sporadically and with nothing much to say, leaving much of the heavy lifting of the plot to be done by his second in arms Lady Chaplin. This problematic plot device is later remedied when the allegiances of Ms. Chaplin come into question. It's at this time that we are finally confronted with who the true villain of this piece is. It's a fun little turn of events and one that makes Special Mission Lady Chaplin the wonderful little yarn of Eurospy goodness that it is.

Ken Clark does his best Donkey Kong impression. Jump the barrel!
Nobody move... I lost a contact lens.

Special Mission Lady Chaplin does a great job of rounding out the Dick Malloy series and ending it on a high and memorable note. The characters are varied and the story is intriguing enough to keep our attention throughout its entire runtime. Ken Clark gives his usual outstanding performance as Agent 077 and there really isn't anything that he doesn't do right in the role. The inclusion of Daniela Bianchi as Lady Chaplin, elevates the film up onto another level, garnering it some great moments and entertaining set pieces. I had a blast with this last of a series and couldn't ask for a better way to close the curtain on this remarkably fun filled journey of Secret Agent 077. This film and the entire series comes highly recommended for spy, Eurospy, and any action film lover that likes their movies to be fun and entertaining. Good stuff.

5 out of 5 guns       A Great Book-End to a Great Series!