Well, I'm going to be starting something new here on The Film Connoisseur called Behind the Scenes Awesomeness! These types of articles will feature behind the scenes pics of your favorite movies; in todays installment we focus on the Alien Franchise, I've purposely left out the Alien Vs. Predator films and Prometheus, for a possible future post. On this article I've included pics from Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997). Behind the scenes pics are really insightful as to what goes on behind the making of the film, often times you'll see how tricky camera shots were achieved, or the tricks filmmakers used to fool us, like for example, how Ridley Scott used little kids to make his sets look bigger! You'll also get to see actors fooling around in between takes which is always fun for me. So anyhows, I leave you with the first installment of Behind the Scenes Awesomeness! Hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Title: Dario Argento’s Dracula 3-D (2012)
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Unax Agalde, Giovanni Franzoni
There’s this idea amongst film buffs that directors tend to make worse films the older they get; and I think it's true, with very few exceptions, as directors get older, they lose that magic that made their first films great. Case in point: Dario Argento who had his golden age back in the 70’s and 80’s when he made films like Suspiria (1977), Deep Red (1975) and Opera (1987). I remember those movies being awesome because of their atmosphere, the over the top violence and those special camera angles that Argento was so fond of. But somewhere around the late 80’s and early 90’s Argento was showing signs of fatigue, his films just weren’t the same. I guess when I started to notice something was off with Argento was around the time he made his version of Phantom of the Opera (1998) which was just a goofy, goofy film. Trying to be all serious and romantic, yet failing horribly at it. After that one, he’s never really ever given us anything as remotely good as his early stuff. Seeing Argento’s Dracula cements the idea that Argento is totally done for as a director. Sadly.
I get what Argento was trying to do with his take on Stoker’s Dracula; simply put Argento was going for a tribute to Hammer’s Dracula films, you know the ones that starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Specifically, Argento’s Dracula plays out a lot like Terrence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula (1958), the very first Hammer Dracula film, it even uses that idea that Terrence Fisher used in Horror of Dracula were Jonathan Harker travels to Dracula’s castle to function as a librarian. The film feels like it’s trying to be purposely old school, right down to this silly sounding Halloween soundtrack that it has. The film looks and feels pretty much like a Hammer film, the difference lies in the graphic gore which was something that Hammer films never dabbled too deeply into. I mean, Hammer films had their blood, but they were never too graphic, not like Argento’s Dracula which goes over the top at some points. That’s right my friends, on this one Argento amps up the levels of gore, which is always fun in my book. There’s this moment where Dracula goes nuts and starts slicing off heads like there’s no tomorrow, I have to admit, those were some cool scenes. But gore alone does not make a good horror film; we gotta have other things thrown in there, like for example some common sense, which Argento has always loved to throw out the window. Did you ever think you’d end up seeing Dracula transform into a giant Praying Mantis? No? Well, after you see Argento’s Dracula you can scratch that one off your bucket list!
So this film has enough gore and nonsensical elements to get the fan boys talking on the net, what else do we need to make this one stand out? Oh yeah, how about some good old fashion nudity? Well, there’s tons of it as well. I mean, five minutes into the film two young lovers are making out in a barn and there’s flesh everywhere! If you ever wanted to get a good look at Asia Argento’s nakedness, this is your chance! Don’t worry about it, her dad is okay with it, he’s the film’s director! So yeah, this one has all the shocking elements necessary to get fan boys attention. Problem is that along with all these ‘goodies’ we get some really terrible elements to this film, which sadly brings it really down or makes it cheesier, which some folks don’t mind. For example, the computer animation is just freaking terrible. God! How can a director like Argento look at this footage and say “were good to go”? I mean, the digital stunt doubles on this one? So laughable! But then again, even the real actors are terrible! There’s this actress that plays Mina Harker (Marta Gastini), she has these scenes where Dracula and her are all emotional about their love for one another and all that…you should see that scene, it’s the most shameless rip off! She’s imitating Wynona Ryder in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)! She uses the same facial gestures, the same everything, her performance was Xeroxed, it made me want to puke because it was such a shameless copy/paste! Asia Argento herself turns in a terrible performance, but she was never much of an actress if you ask me. Not even Rutger Hauer can save this one, sorry.
Overall, even though this movie isn’t what I’d call a good Argento film, I’d say that it retains a certain cheesy watchability to it which reminded me of another one of Argento’s goofy yet enjoyable films: The Phantom of the Opera (1998). Argento’s Dracula is a train wreck of a film, but it’s a fun train wreck. It has all the things you’d expect in a Dracula film, the full moon, the spooky woods, the mist, the castles, the big breasted vampire ladies, crosses, stakes, coffins and lots of blood! It really is trying to be an old fashioned horror movie, and I have to give it props for that. It’s kind of like a modern day Hammer film, but cheesy to the max, with bad dialog and acting, and Argento’s unique brand of weirdness. For example, Argento’s obsession with insects returns! I’ve already mentioned the giant Praying Mantis, but he also plays with some images he’d played with before in Phenomena (1985), namely, a horde of insects swarming outside of a house. Yup, on this one Dracula can also turn into a bunch of flies! In many ways, this is a fun movie, because hearing this dialog is a trip, but also because it’s trying so hard to be spooky and old school that it’s kind of endearing in that way. I’d say this one would make a fun watch come Halloween night, but that’s all its good for because no matter how hard it might try, Dracula 3-D won’t be reminding you of Argento’s glory days; those days are long, long gone.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Title: Vampyres (1974)
Director: Jose Ramon Larraz
Cast: Marianne Morris, Anulka, Dziubinska
I’ve been catching up with the whole Lesbian Vampire sub-genre and it’s been a trip. Weirdest thing about these movies is that most of them are very well made and beautiful to look at, also, most of the time they lean more towards being artful and beautiful to look at. Vampiros Lesbos (1971) and The Living Dead Girl (1982) surprised me in that way, as did Daughters ofDarkness (1971), which I like to call 'the classy one'. Vampyres always gets mentioned as an important part of the sub genre, so I decided to finally give a spin. Up to this point, I’d seen nothing but good lesbian vampire movies, this I’m sad to inform was the first of the bunch to disappoint me. Why? Well, my disappointment lies in the film being so simple minded, I mean, there’s no meat to this film. The story starts with these two lesbian chicks making out in bed and suddenly this mysterious dude comes in and shoots them. Talk about coitus interruptus! So anyways, after that they become vampires. Their modus operandi in order to feed is to use their female powers on men who pass by their castle. Then they ask for a ride and wham, guys fall in the trap like flies on a spider web.
I don’t mind simplicity in a film if said film compensates with something else, like for example style, or action. Gore will do the trick as well. Maybe even funny elements? The only thing this film has to offer is nudity, and tons of it. These vampire girls are naked practically throughout the whole film, in fact, the film starts with the girls naked in bed! I don’t complaint when there are beautiful women up on the screen, but when that’s all the film has to offer, and everything else falls flat, then the film feels like a poor excuse for a porn film. It feels empty. I mean, this literally feels like soft porn. I didn’t get this desperate empty feeling that the film was going nowhere with films like The Vampire Lovers (1970) or even Vampiros Lesbos (1971). In those films, the nudity is tantalizing and yeah, why not, gratuitous, but at the same time, the nudity wasn’t these films main focus, the nudity is like an extra. Plus, there was always the beautiful cinematography, the locations, the atmosphere, the gore! Vampyres lacks a lot in all these places, all it has going for it are the naked girls, everything else is simply put: boring as hell.
The films plot reminded me a bit of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) because it is a film about women using their sensuality to reel in their victims, unfortunately, Vampyres has none of the shock value seen in Hellraiser. The film did have a couple of chances to be shocking, but it completely wasted them to completely bore us to death. For example there’s this scene in which the girls feed on this guy, and we see blood all over the place, but where are the wounds? The blood seems simply put on the actors before filming the scenes, it wasn’t gushing out of any wound. And speaking of wounds, there is this one scene that kind of got my attention in which one of the vampire girls slits this dudes wrist and starts sucking on the open wound, it was a pretty nasty sequence, which by the way just went on and on and on. I have to admit it had me cringing, but unfortunately that’s as far as this movie went in terms of getting a reaction from me. The other thing I did enjoy where some of the shots of the castle during the night, these scenes where truly eerie, made even cooler because this is the same castle in which The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) was shot in! I thought I recognized that castle!
Now if you’re the kind of person who is satisfied with a film that focuses entirely on nudity and sex, then by all means indulge! These actresses are beautiful and well, they do go down on each other on more than one occasion. Speaking of the sex scenes on this movie, they are feral, almost animal like. The girls are vampires so that’s to be expected I guess, but one dude is like all beastly when he has sex with one of the vampire vixens. So anyhow, I wasn’t impressed at all with this one, I’d recommend it to hardcore fans of vampire films, but even then you might be disappointed because there are no fangs, no gore and none of the traditional things you’d expect to see in a vampire film. You almost feel like these girls are simply weird girls who like to drink blood. Vampyres was my first real disappointment in the lesbian vampire sub genre, I recommend seeing other films in this genre before wasting your time with this one.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
This comparison between Robocop (1987) and Robocop (2014)comes from a hardcore Robocop fan, who truly freaking loved the original. I mean, when that first movie came out, it was the talk of the town, I remember. All my buddies and I could talk about was Robocop and how cool it was. How awesome was Robocop to me? Well, this is how cool: I made a mini comic that was a parody of Robocop! I called it ‘Bobocop’, the series went on for five whole issues! My 12 year old self loved this ‘R’ rated film, I worshiped this freaking movie. Thinking back, I was a pretty tough kid, I mean, I loved this hardcore ‘R’ movie that included scenes of drug abuse, nudity and hardcore gore! I mean, here’s a movie where Alex Murphy, a Detroit City cop literally gets his brains blown out by the bad guys! But then again, that’s what I liked about it; how over the top it was. How hardcore was Robocop? Well, let me put it this way, in the original film, when the Robocop project gets green lit, the guy who was spearheading the project goes and gets a couple of hookers, sprays some cocaine on their breasts and snorts away to celebrate his success! Want more? Well, in that first film, a bad guy gets a vat of chemicals poured on him and we see his flesh melt off his bones! Basically, this movies modus operandi was called overkill. And you know what? That’s the way I liked it! That was director Paul Verhoeven’s way, many of the movies he made during the 80's and 90's were always over the top with their violence. If you don’t believe me, then check out Total Recall (1989), a film that was criticized for its bucket loads of blood and disregard for human life.
Paul Verhoeven directs
But it’s like Verhoeven says, the violence in these movies is an exaggeration of real life, cartoonish in some ways, in other words, it’s all in good fun. Which is exactly what I loved about Verhoeven’s Robocop, the shock value. And let’s talk a bit about that, I didn’t watch a film like Robocop for how deep it was or how it touched upon what it means to be a human, as a kid I devoured Verhoeven’s film for the cheap thrills, the shock value, that jolt of electricity that you get when Robocop slashes Clearance Boddicker’s throat. It’s what made these movies fun. Not that I’m some sort of blood thirsty violent person, I’m actually quite the peace loving dude, but I love the shock in movies like Robocop, it was never, not for one second boring! Of course, I also loved that science fiction angle; I loved that Robocop was a cyborg and I loved ED-209. In the end, to my twelve year old mind, Robocop was an irresistible mix of science fiction, action and shock, what’s not to love? And I’m not just talking through my nostalgia goggles here, I still think Verhoeven’s Robocop is a solid film with an amazing cast in every single role. Heroes took chances and risks, I mean, Alex Murphy was a brave guy! So was Lewis. The villains where scary dudes, Clearance Boddicker, that guy was really evil in that movie, it took me a while to see that actor as anything but the villain from Robocop. You felt a certain kind of energy through their performances, which is something I didn’t get from the new one. Everyone is so one note on this new film, it was nauseating! Where was the anger and fury on these people? Doesn’t anybody feel? Point is the old Robocop was an intense, solid film all around. The action was so intense and in your face, it just felt real.
In contrast, this new Robo does not deliver the same levels of intensity, which is sad. Now, when I first heard about the news of a Robo-remake I was excited as hell because I’d been needing a new dose of Robo action. I wanted more Robocop, even if it was through a remake. I was thrilled with the prospect of a new Robo film, and I have to admit that in certain moments of the new film I was genuinely excited to see Robocop again, unfortunately the cons outweigh the pros on this one. Of course, as it is always the case when the remake of a beloved franchise is announced, film buffs and geeks all across the world shouted sacrilege. I’m not the type to immediately hate a remake because as I’ve said a thousand times before, there’s the off chance that it might be one of the good ones. I was seeing a lot of good things in the previews. In all fariness, the remake does not warrant the intense hatred it’s been getting. It actually has some good ideas. For example, I liked that whole idea about the United States using robots to invade (read: conquer) other countries, the military applications for Robocop where not ignored, this is an element we never saw in previous Robocop films. They dwelled a whole lot more on the technological advances that allow these people to merge a man with a robot. They explored the ideas of what makes a cyborg a cyborg a whole lot more than on Verhoeven’s film. But then again, therein lies part of the problem; while the first film glazed over a lot of the logic in order to make room for the fun stuff, this one wants to be a bit more cerebral.
They spend too much screen time explaining everything; which by the way is something that a lot of films are doing nowadays; they analyze things to death. The original film didn’t explain everything about Robocop, we were meant to take certain things for granted, we found our own explanations in our minds. We as an audience connected the dots in our heads. Not so on this new film where they explore ideas to death. The problem with that is that after seeing Verhoeven’s Robocop and watching this new one, I swear I felt like a junkie with freaking withdrawal symptoms, I needed my jolt of shock! I needed that fun factor turned up! Sadly, this is a problem with films nowadays, they want to be so politically correct that they are no longer fun. They don’t want Alex Murphy to say fuck, they don’t want drugs, they don’t want blood, they don’t want gore…we my friends are living in an age where action films are being sensored, the action film as we knew it no longer exists. We are living in an age where films simply have no guts. I know that studios want to make more money, and that making films PG-13 is a way to do that, but damn, seriously, is every single thing that Hollywood makes going to be watered down? Is everything going to be made for pre-teens?
And here’s part of the problem with the Robocop franchise, it started out as a hardcore action franchise for adults. The first two films were ‘R’ rated sci-fi films for adults, but once they got to the third one, well, the owners of the Robo franchise decided to turn it into a franchise for kids. By then they had made Saturday morning cartoons of Robocop, a television series, toys, video games and even comic books, all made for children, which makes no sense whatsoever. I mean, why would you want to make a cartoon series for children based on a movie where Robocop’s creator snorts cocaine from the breasts of a prostitute? You know what I mean? From inception Robocop was a very adult series of films, but Hollywood thinks Robots, and they immediately think kids and toys. Which is the reason why by the time the franchise arrived to its third film, well, Robocop had a little kid sidekick. It was also by the third film that the studio decided to make Robocop a PG-13 franchise. And you know how that story goes, Robocop 3 (1993) turned out to be the worst film in the franchise because it wasn’t the Robocop that we knew and loved, it was by then, a watered down version of the first film.
More of this please!
Which, I’m sad to say is what we get with this new Robocop film. This is not to say the film doesn’t have its moments. I mean, I love Robocop itself, how he looks when he puts the visor on and aims his gun is positively cool. I loved seeing Robocop in action, sadly there’s not enough action to be had, and what action we do get, is computer generated. On the first film when Robocop gets shot to death by all those cops, you can practically taste the gun powder and the shards of glass, you felt an intensity in Peter Weller’s performance, even through the helmet. Weller’s eyes and mouth expressed the pain; I felt sympathy for Robocop in those scenes! On the new one I didn’t feel for the character. Joel Kinnaman was a bad choice to play Robocop, it’s the biggest bit of miscasting since John Cusack playing Nixon in The Butler (2013). I felt no sympathy for this Robocop because I didn’t care for the guy, there were no moments in the film where I connected with the character. In the first we felt we were Alex Murphy, a cop out on a new turf, Detroit. On this film the city is not a character and neither are the people who inhabit it, in the old one Detroit was a hell hole you did not want to live in. And then there's Kinnaman, why fill a movie with all these stars and then leave the most important role in the film to a complete unknown? You know how much better Robocop is because Peter Weller’s in it? A whole lot better! I’m sorry, but Kinnaman even looks goofy in his robo gear. And speaking of Robo gear, I was willing to give the film a chance in this department, but the black was a bad choice. Here’s the thing, they should’ve left him looking all metallic, whenever Robocop looks metallic in the new film, everything was so much better! If it aint broke don’t fix it. Robocop is not black, he’s metallic!
One of the biggest problems with the film is that nothing feels tangible or intense, the film felt as cold as the robots it portrays. My advice to Hollywood is: stop doing entire films in CGI! However cool you guys think everything looks, things just don’t feel real. Use freaking computer animation sparingly dammit! The minute I saw a computer generated Robocop jumping through the air in the previews, I knew something was rotten in Denmark. So my final say on this is that the first film is still superior in every single way possible. I gave this one a chance; I gave it the benefit of the doubt and while it has some cool moments and shots, the film as a whole felt like it was missing what made the old one so much fun to watch, Hollywood is an old man afraid to have fun these days. When it started, Robocop was a concept made for adults, it had biting satyre! I mean, beneath all that shock and action, the film made fun of society. Basically, what happened with this new Robocop remake is the same thing that happened with the Total Recall (2012) remake, while enjoyable to some extent, they took away the edgy, fun elements, it brings down the film if you ask me, it makes it less than what it was. And you know what I say to that? Boo, is what I say. I want my fun movies back. Bring back the freaking eighties because I don’t like what action films have become. Simply put: they don’t feel like action films anymore. If you want to see what all the hoopla is about go see this new Robocop movie, I’m not calling it a bad film, I’m calling it a watered down version of its former self. Shame on you Hollywood, you know what we want, you’ve just decided not to give it to us.
Robocop (1987): 5 out of 5
Robocop (2014): 3 out of 5