A project idea for David Cronenberg: Electric Ant.

For decades now, I have been a fan of the literary works of author Philip K Dick. And while he has posthumously enjoyed success vicariously through adaptation after adaptation of his fiction in the form of moving pictures, few have hit the mark as far as capturing the depth and complexity of his characters. And yet as I read and re-read some of his fiction; the latest being Electric Ant, a certain filmmaker comes to mind. Perhaps the only filmmaker who would be able to capture the true pathology of PKD’s world. I speak of Mr. David Cronenberg.

brundleflyElectric Ant comic

 

I have been a long time fan of his. While his style has morphed and changed a bit, his earlier pieces, primarily Videodrome, Existenz, Rabid, and even Naked Lunch all share this nasty, organically wrong layer that is impossible to ignore. Mr. Cronenberg has carved out a career of showing us the ugly pathology behind human behavior. The truth of what we truly look like when you hold up a mirror and start peeling away at the layers that disguise us. Not much different then Mr. Poole. One day he’s running a successful corporation and the next he’s dissecting himself, not so much disgusted by him discovering he is machine but curious as to how he can push the limit on what he perceives as life. Experiences without boundaries, not much different than the Brundlefly.

I would love to see. If you need anyone to write you a killer adaptation Mr. Cronenberg; I’m your guy!

 

-O.G.A.

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Riddick…Third time is not a charm

Well… Technically, if you count Dark Fury, it’s the 4th installment but I am only counting previous live actions; Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick. 

Riddick falls short on quite a bit but it does a pretty good job retreading Pitch Black. Having known that this was basically a Pitch Black redux I was impressed by how well the filmmakers deceive you, throwing up all sorts of figurative smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand to trick you into believing the story is original. It’s done very convincingly by interjecting bits and pieces from Chronicles in the beginning and at the end; serving as story arch bookends of sorts. I actually did not have an issue with this ‘illusion’ as it was executed well. As a fan of the previous two films, I felt I was thrown a pretty good sized bone in terms of giving me a bit of story to compliment Chronicles. One could think that at some point early on, David Twohy wanted to release a Chronicles of Riddick Directors Cut version 2.0, pulling a Lucas and inserting a few new scenes, and at the same time he wanted to remake Pitch Black with a bigger budget and fancier effects. He pitched this (no pun intended), was given 40 mil and instructed to put both of his ideas together and make a new film.

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Okay…So you want to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing? It depends on how hardcore of a fan you are would be my answer. Like I said earlier, I loved the first two films. I respected them for the lush underverse world they created. The creatures, the necromongers; the overal cannon…You don’t get this level of originality too often in modern science fiction these days. Where this one hurts the franchise is it doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table. A disposable subplot of Johns looking for answers about his son’s ill fated encounter with the Furyan goes absolutely nowhere. It makes no impact on the story but doesn’t detract from it either.

On a technical side. I was bothered by the fact I knew this film was shot entirely in a confined soundstage before I even watched the special features. At times the camera is tracking the action you can tell there is no depth in the background. This can pull you out of the moment if you fixate on it long enough like I did a couple of times. Also, I know we are not watching a film like this expecting Oscar-worthy performances but some performances are really bad. Bad to the point that I’m not sure if it was done intentionally to elevate Vin Diesel’s delivery of deadpan lines or just for the ‘camp’ effect. The Visuals are at times awe inspiring and at times they look like matte paintings. It would seem that the FX team were novices in their craft and did not realize how many FX shots go into a science fiction flick that is filmed entirely in a green box and they cut corners…A lot of corners.

The score is mostly carried over from Chronicles, which is a good thing. Sometimes it has it’s rough moments but all in all it won’t make or break the experience.

Bottom line.. Riddick IS enjoyable…If you liked the first two and enjoy Sci Fi action flicks. If you don’t, or are on the fence, this one won’t charm you over. It may push you further away from getting your feet wet in the pool that is this great genre. While I don’t like using numerical scores on films, I will agree with IMDB’s review average of 6.4…Maybe even go as high as 7 but no more. I hope that if there is a 4th one somebody reads this review and heeds my simple, honest gripes. This is a great world that has been created. It deserves better!

 

-Orlando G Acosta

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Disney,again, proves just how shallow they are!

Originally posted on tenseicoalition:

Shake it up! The Suite Life? Jessie? Something and Ally? This is the kind of prepubescent crap available for kids to watch these days. Gone are the days of Old Yeller and Mickey Mouse. Seriously, with Disney’s huge back catalog why do they insist on spending their ‘not so hard earned’ money on crap like a couple of kids living on a fancy cruise ship?

As I sit here, listening to Joseph Trapanese’s wonderfully Daft Punk-ish TRON UPRISING score, I begin to think that, aside from a home video release, this is it. Why? Because a day after the TRON UPRISING soundtrack was released, Disney leaked out that they do not have any plans to bring back

Elijah Wood and company for another pass down the Grid.

For the uninitiated. TRON UPRISING is the animated series that made its debut last year on Disney XD. It take place between the…

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Review

Originally posted on tenseicoalition:

I will begin this adventure by making a few statements.

1. I will refer to ‘An Expected Journey’ throughout this review simply as ‘AUJ’ and Lord of the Rings as ‘LOTR’

2. I will refrain from using the word ‘film’ because ‘AUJ’ was shot on RED digital cameras at 48fps

3. I will not hold Peter Jackson solely accountable for any production decisions for there were a total of 1o producers on this project and a few writers as well, including Mr.Guillermo Del Toro. So I will state ‘producers’ in reference to creative decisions made.

‘AUJ’ opens up with a great set up of the Dwarves living it up in their mountain stronghold of Erebor. These Dwarven digs are really a site to behold. Majesty on par with anything we were treated to during our previous visits to Middle Earth. I really felt this scene worked

very well. It portrays…

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Hector Arce….The G-Lord of Sculpture Cometh!

Originally posted on tenseicoalition:

The G-Lord of Sculpture Cometh!

by Orlando G Acosta

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Some time ago news came out that resounded dread to my frail ears. News that, after Tri Stars’  disastrous bastardization of a franchise near and dear to my heart back in ’98, the powers that be in Hollywood were revving up to give it one more go. The Memories crept back into my brain:  Rounding up some friends, heading to the Cineramadome in Hollywood, and somehow stomaching the films disgraceful attempt ruin Ishiro Honda’s creation. Of course I am referring to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s “spit in your face” rendition of what they considered ‘Godzilla’

You, dear reader,  can imagine the skepticism bestowed upon me when hearing of the task Legendary Pictures was about to undertake. I immediately began scouring cyber space for any information, speculation, leaks…anything I could find. I started reading about who the players were going to be and different story ideas…

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Grindhouse gets their hands on another GEM….An American Hippie in Israel

American Hippie 1

Okay…

With this one I really just want to say two things;

1. Watch the trailer on You Tube or Grindhouse Releasing’s website

2. Buy the damn film while you can. There are only 2000 of these bad boys.

That should conclude my review but it won’t. Because that would be getting off the hook too easy.

An American Hippie in Israel is a long lost film from an age of cinema long forgotten. An age where anyone with passion and a few bucks could make something out of nothing. While it may, at first, seem like a stretch to compare An American Hippie in Israel to the likes of THX 1138, American Graffiti, Schlock, A Kentucky Fried Movie and Dementia 13…These films were all made by a pool of auteurs who all had a passion to create something different, with limited resources. I know I am comparing Amos Sefer, who really only made this one film, to George Lucas, John Landis and Francis Ford Copolla, who have had thriving careers. Amos Sefer had the misfortune of making an Israeli movie in a time when it wasn’t marketable in any country. Had this not been the case I wonder just how many more memorable films this guy could’ve made. The fact that Mr. Sefer never got to see just what a phenomenon his film turned out to be -The Rocky Horror-like screenings and such, is saddening to say the least.

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But on the positive he left us with an inspiring ‘Hebrew Road Pic’ to watch, over and over now thanks largely to Grindhouse Releasing.

At it’s core this film is about the exploits of an American Vietnam Vet as he pursues a life of true freedom. Having been disillusioned by war he travels to Israel, another country not a stranger to conflict, to find all the freedom, weed and free love he can handle. Along the way he picks up like-minded folks, some of which do not even speak english and he doesn’t speak Hebrew, but that doesn’t stop him from being a, sort of…Hippie leader. But exactly what does he lead his small band of deodorant fearing buddies to? That I won’t spoil. Watch it for yourself.

At 93 minutes the film is very easy to watch. Quite engaging are the many anti war monologues, rampant nudity, drug induced delirium and so forth. The acting is better than one would expect from a director’s first outing. Filled with memorable lines, crazy imagery and scenic locales. There were a lot of films made in the late 60’s-early 70’s that one can draw parallels to but none of them as grossly engaging as An American Hippie in Israel is. Grindhouse Releasing has done a commendable job in cleaning up the transfer in both the audio and visual departments. This is quite evident when watching the un mastered raw cut of the film on the bonus disc.

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This release is chalk full of extra goodies…All of them worth repeated viewings.

Long story short…An American Hippie in Israel is FAR OUT COOL! If you love retro cinema or any cinema that breathes new life out from a creators lungs of passion (Seriously you will see what I mean when in my earlier comparisons once you watch), you owe it to yourself to own this important film.

La heim brothers and sisters! La heim!!!!

- Orlando G Acosta, for Cinema Bizarro

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Renny Harlin’s Prison

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I feel obligated to preface my review of Renny Harlin’s 1988 thriller Prison by stating that I am NOT the world’s biggest Renny Harlin fan. I’ve said this before and I will say it again. Some filmmakers do not understand the difference between action and suspense. Mr. Harlin falls under this category. All one has to do is watch his version of Exorcist 4 (remember the first one filmed was Paul Schrader had directed the first one, then Renny made his version and his version was released first) to see what I mean. Crappy CG effects, explosions, a guerrilla revolt warfare subplot infused within William Peter Blatty’s world. I remember walking out so disappointed…so let down by him. Paul Schrader’s vision, despite being released with unfinished effects and editing, was far superior because Paul Schrader understands action from suspense.

Back to Prison…The crux of the story is a guy is wrongfully electrocuted then he comes back from the dead to enact revenge on those that have wronged him. There is a funky ‘reincarnation/doppelgänger’ concept that is never fully realized but that aside it’s a story told quite well. Prison has a lot of things going for it. Excellent set designs within an actual Wyoming state penitentiary (adds so much to production value), some impressive practical gore effects, an original, for it’s time, plot line and solid acting by everyone except Katherine Walker (more on that later). The film is well paced, at times it tries to take off in an ‘action film’ direction and it never quite works but it doesn’t kill it. The cinematographer chose to shoot the film with a slightly washed out look and dream-like look. Not sure it goes with the tone. A grittier look would have been better suited. But the look doesn’t detract too much because a lot of cinematographers were using this look for in the 80’s so one can chalk it up to a product of it’s time.

The music was surprisingly not much to write home about. Having two composers, known for such great scores as Phantasm 2, From Beyond and ReAnimator, I expected much more. Apparently Renny Harlin was using James Horner’s Aliens as a temp score and its influence creeps through. Horner’s score is fitting of a space thriller but not so much a prison flick.

I was also, and I touched on it earlier, surprised by Katherine Walker’s pathetic performance in Prison. Especially considering how great of a job she did on Dust Devil. Her line delivery comes across like she’s reading off a teleprompter at times. Stiff, robotic mixed in with very inappropriate reactions. There is a scene where she’s working in a room and everything around her comes to life-Maximum Overdrive style and she’s like  ‘whatever’ about it. Not the kind of reaction anyone would have I guarantee it.  Her performance doesn’t mar the film too much, mainly due to everyone else’s better performances- especially Lane Smith’s who plays the formidable a-hole; Warden Sharpe.

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There is also a scene, early in the film, where we are introduced to Viggo’s character; Burke. I really liked how it was done because there is no emphasis on this as being the main protagonist to follow like it could’ve been. I’ll explain. A convoy of prison busses pull up and park in the middle of a field. Camera cuts to a tight shot of one of the busses being unloaded. One automatic assumes some guys will come out, we’ll see Viggo, and camera will follow him, forcing the emphasis on his character. Instead a few guys get out, then Viggo. Camera does not cut away to track him. A few more guys follow him and then camera cuts away to a few more shots before we see him again, now lined up, flanked by a few other inmates so he’s one in the crowd and, thru his charisma and demeanor he earns the emphasis. It’s such a subtle scene yet I found this most impressive and kudos to Renny if that was his idea or the editors.

Speaking of editing, it’s done so quite effectively but, again, sometimes it feels like it’s trying to be a Die Hard 2 or a Cliffhanger and it’s not. I know these films came after but you can tell when the filmmaker is antsy for action. A better-albeit different prison film that came out that same year was John Hillcoat’s Ghosts of the Civil Dead. While I enjoyed Prison, I could only imagine how much better it could’ve been in John Hillcoat’s hands, or in David Cronenberg’s. But I don’t want to take credit away from Renny. It was his best film, in my humble opinion. And one of the better prison films out there.

In a nutshell, there are flaws in just about every department in this film but none are strong enough to ruin the experience. If you like films set in prisons you’ll get a kick out of this one. If you’re looking more for suspense you won’t find much under the covers here, but what you find may be enough to tide you over. This is no Session 9 but it’s a lot fun, in the end, to watch and for Renny Harlin, it was an early win in a career of near disasters, in my opinion.  Give it a chance.

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