Saturday, June 14, 2014

El Rey Network - Ride With Us

As you may know, I have a decent movie collection that I'm pretty proud of.  From horror (Scream Factory), to Kung Fu (Dragon Dynasty), to even some art house (Criterion Collection), I collect Blu-Rays and DVD's so I can watch the films I like to watch whenever I want.  Unfortunately, when I watch plain old television, I endlessly flip through hundreds of channels before I find something that I can tolerate to watch...  that was until now!


Robert Rodriguez has created a Television Network that suits my needs.  Mixing TV shows with cult followings and exploitation films, El Rey is a cable network programmed for people who like real entertainment.  As much as I love original series from FX and AMC, El Rey has tapped into something really special.  I no longer need to get up from my seat and pop in a Blu-Ray disc.  Instead, El Rey is showing the same movies I've spent years trying to find.

Talking to people I know, there's few who know about this channel because it's relatively new.  Since I don't really have advertising on this blog (although Tarantino Comics would be a terrific venue for El Rey), I'm going to present 5 things I really love about this network:

5)  Flying Five Finger One Armed Eight Pole Shaolin Exploding Death Touch Thursdays
- I believe back in the day, TV channels had "Kung Fu Hours" as a part of their regular programming.  However, as time went on, pictures from The Shaw Brothers were no longer syndicated and they were hard to come across.  Luckily El Rey is providing us awesome movies such as The Flying Guillotine, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, and Dirty Ho.  Although the dubbed dialogue can be corny (yet I love the aethstetic), the choreography and stories are highly entertaining.  You have to remember, these movies inspired Kill Bill!  So if you've never watched Kung Fu, remember Jennifer Aniston's excitement for these films in Office Space and take advantage of Thursday nights.

4)  Grindhouse Fridays Rodriguez has really embraced Grindhouse films ever since Planet Terror.  To share his passion, Rodriguez established Grindhouse Theatre to showcase awesome exploitation films.  One of the first movies shown on El Rey was Switchblade Sisters (a film from Tarantino's Rolling Thunder line).  From that moment on, I knew this channel meant business.  So if you like movies that exploit sex, action, kung fu, horror, and bizarre subject matter, El Rey is the place to be on Friday Nights. 

3)  Badass TV - When awesome movies aren't being played, El Rey is showing some awesome old TV shows.  Syndicated sitcoms like Friends or Seinfeld aren't shown on El Rey... instead we get shows with strong cult followings.  Representing the era of 70's exploitation, we get Starsky and Hutch.  To ensure we believe in the paranormal and question the unknown, we get to follow Mulder and Scully in the X-Files.  And to satisfy my long-time crush on Jessica Alba (sorry Angie), I get to watch her beat-up bad guys on Dark Angel.

2)  Original Programming - As much as I love movies, Television has a greater advantage of taking its time with a story.  Knowing Tarantino has created some interesting characters, Rodriguez flushed out the From Dusk Till Dawn universe by giving it an original series.  Although I'm ashamed to admit this, I was somewhat skeptical of this show.  But after watching the pilot, I was hooked.  I love the locations, the cinematography, and even the "cool" dialogue.  Mixing veterans like Don Johnson and Robert Patrick with new comers D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz (who play the infamous Gecko Brothers), we get a really awesome cast.  And as hard as it is to top Salma Hayek as Santanico, Eiza Gonzalez is a great match for someone who can mesmerize a crowd.   Having recently finished the first season, I can't wait to see what's  in store for us next season.  Thankfully, El Rey is in full pursuit with more original programming and coming out with Matador in July.


1)  The Director's Chair - One of the reasons I still buy Blu-Ray movies is for the special features.  Cable TV can't provide those audio commentaries and behind-the-scene featurettes I love so much.  Luckily, El Rey is there for the movie buffs and has recorded hour long interviews between Robert Rodriguez and well-known movie directors called The Director's Chair.  The first show featured John Carpenter - A true visionary and inspiration to anyone who loves film.  They discussed how he got into the business, shared stories about his movies, and answered questions from fellow directors to give insight about his unique film making process.  Other interviewees I'd love to see in The Director's Chair are Brian DePalma, William Friedkin, Stuart Gordon, and of course... Quentin TarantinoThe Director's Chair is my favorite program happening on El Rey.

Although we haven't seen any news recently, I'm highly anticipating Lucha Libre.  I've never seen a match in my life, but I believe the colors and theatrics will resonate with my tastes.

As I hope you can see, I'm truly a fan of the El Rey Network.  I'm a huge supporter of what it's trying to do and may even get myself some swag.  If my enthusiasm isn't enough to excite you, at least watch Rodriguez's own excitement hereAnd for goodness sake, if you watch the promos, even Godzilla Rides With El Rey!
 
 

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Lovecraftian Journey - The Beast in the Cave

I'm not a huge reader of books, but I was enthralled by this beautiful (and affordable) hardback of H.P. Lovecraft - The Complete Fiction at Barnes and Noble:

 
What I find most interesting about Lovecraft is his influence on so many writers and directors of the horror genre.  Lovecraft was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, who in turn, inspired Stephen King.  This lineage of literary greats reminds me of the cinematic legacy spanning from Hitchcock, to DePalma, to Tarantino.  So that I can become a little more "cultured," I plan to give a summary of each Lovecraft tale I read.  Hopefully I can talk about any influences that have transpired, whether its in television, music, or film. 

To start things off, the first tale I read was "The Beast in the Cave (1905)."  The story begins with a man getting lost in the Mammoth Cave.  As our narrator searches for the rest of his tour group, his torch slowly dims away.  Having visited this National Park myself when I was a little kid, I can just image how terrifying it would be getting lost in a world of pure darkness.  Once all of his visibility disappeared, he hears footsteps of a "beast" following close behind.  Feeling for weapons around him, he flings two stones at the beast which is stalking him.  Successfully landing a blind throw at the monster, our narrator runs away and luckily meets up with his tour group.  Explaining his situation to the tour guide, the group decides to search for the monster that's lurking in the caves.  As they retrace the narrator's trail, they see a pale and hairy figure lying on the ground.  As they take a closer look at the body, they discover it was really a man!
 
Even at the beginning of the 20th century, Lovecraft alluded to creatures adapting to strange environments.  Just as naked mole rats have evolved to live in their pitch black surroundings, Lovecraft imagined human civilizations surviving in blind conditions.  When I associate this tale to film, The Descent comes to mind.  Although I'm certain better films have displayed this theme, The Descent is a modern horror classic that depicts an unknown (yet horrific) civilization living in the vast darkness.
 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Top Five Countdown - Best Movies of 2013



Although my picks won't necessarily line up with the Oscars this Sunday, I wanted to share my Top 5 Favorite Films of 2013:

5.  Elysium - After watching 2009's District 9, I knew Neill Blomkamp was the next great sci-fi director... And thankfully, he didn't disappoint me!  Filled with social commentary, this futuristic tale mixes the grittiness of an apocalyptic earth with high octane action adventure.  I think this film was forgotten in the Oscar hype, but I'll continue to enjoy it after many re-watches.

4.  American Hustle - This was my first David O. Russell film.  I like Marky Mark and Jennifer Lawrence, but I needed a crime film to get me acquainted with director (I promise, I'll eventually visit The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook).  The plot is intriguing - When the FBI uses a conman to con politicians, how does the conman con his way out of the situation?  Complimented with "Scorsese-like" narrations, all of the actors are fantastic - Jeremy Renner is surprisingly likeable, Bradley Cooper is despised, Amy Adams is beautiful, and Jennifer Lawrence is purely wild.  However, it's Christian Bale's performance that made me love this movie - For a fat and grimy conman, he is the hero of the story and the man we root for.  On top of that, I'm once again amazed how he can transform his muscular abs to a chubby potbelly.

3.  Pacific Rim - For something that's not related to the King of the Monsters (meaning Godzilla for  you naysayers), this is the best Kaiju film in years.  Guillermo del Toro grips the attention of the audience with mind blowing effects showcasing gigantic monsters fighting enormous robots.  Although the story isn't an award winning script, the plot is still fun and serves it's purpose in this visually intense film.  I don't think this movie did as well as expected, but I'm hoping there's a Pacific Rim sequel in the future.

2.  The Wolf of Wall Street - Martin Scorsese is one of my favorite directors of all time.  Once again casting his "new De Niro," Scorsese proved he's the King of the Crime Drama... or should I say Jester of the Crime Comedy?  DiCaprio plays the resourceful stoke broker Jordan Belfort.  Although he's not really a good person,  he charms us by talking directly to the audience.  But unlike Goodfellas and Casino, this crime film has no murders or killings. Instead, it focuses on the dirty shenanigans that can happen in the corporate world of Wall Street.  Mixing sex and drugs with midget throwing and chest singing, this movie creates uncomfortable situations inducing laugh after laugh.  With a mesmerizing story and an extraordinary cast, this was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

1.  Man of Steel - After Bryan Singer introduced Lois and Clark's love child, I had no interest in seeing another Superman film.  However, Warner Brothers changed my mind by putting Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan at the helm.  So why do I consider this the best movie of the year?  To start things off, choosing Henry Cavil to play Superman was a superb choice.  His physique truly captures the build and demeanor of the ultimate superhero.  Second, everybody knows the origin of Superman. Unlike The Amazing Spiderman which rehashes the hero's backstory at the very beginning of the movie, the Man of Steel perfectly sprinkles the Smallville scenes throughout the film to enhance emotion. Finally, the Man of Steel puts Action at the forefront.  Rather than focusing on how Clark is going to keep his identity a secret from Lois, he's battling robots and aliens. The visuals were stunning and the fight scenes were creative.  So for those of you who complained this film had too much action, realize Superman originated from ACTION COMICS!  I know I may be biased because I'm a comic book fan, but I can re-watch this movie over and over again.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tarantino Comics - Issue 31

 

Happy New Year!  To kick off 2014, I present to you Tarantino Comics # 31 illustrated by Larry Watts at C2E2 2012.

Inspired from Kill Bill, Larry perfectly captures the fluid motions between the Bride and Gogo.  The action is crisp and clean and I love how the background pushes the image out of the page.

Larry is a fellow Floridian I hung out with at C2E2.  He's an awesome artist and a great guy, so if you ever see him at a con, be sure to say hi.  He's currently working on Robyn Hood at Zenescope.  You can also check him out on his blog at http://larryewatts.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year in Review - Part 4 (A Criterion Collection Edition)


To conclude my film journey this year, I've saved the best for last.  Here's a quick review of the Criterion Collection films I've watched in 2013:

Revanche - This Austrian revenge film was directed by Götz Spielmann.  While a criminal was robbing a bank, his prostitute girlfriend was accidently killed by a police officer.  So what better way to get back at the cop other than sleeping with his wife?

The Naked Kiss - The first minute of this Sam Fuller film was litterally a punch to the face.  When a woman escapes the life of a street walker, she believes she is starting her life anew.  However, she learns shiny opportunities can also have dark and disturbing secrets.

Cronos - Director Guillermo del Toro makes his full length cinematic debut with this eerie horror film.  He establishes notable motifs he is well known for including trinkets, fairy tales, and monsters.

Robocop - As a kid, I had a few Robocop toys.  However, I was never allowed to watch the movie.  After recently watching Paul Verhoeven's film for the first time, I now understand why my parents forbade me to watch it.  For a sci-fi film made in the 80's,  I still find it to be violent, entertaining, and relevant.

Chungking Express - I consider this to be one of my favorite films in the collection.  Made famous in Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Line, Wong Kar-wai's film is truly beautiful and mesmerising.  Built upon two different love stories, this movie is gripping enough to keep you interested even if you're not a fan of romances.  Plus, the music is awesome.

Night of the Hunter - Robert Mitchum plays a bad guy on every level.  Using religion as a torturing device, he is willing to kill women and children for money.

Last Days of Disco - As the title suggests, Whit Stillman narrates the transition into the 1980's.  Although the film is of a different tone, it's the perfect prologue to American Psycho, using Chloë Sevigny as a cast tie-in.

Stromboli - Although I've seen very few of their films, Roberto Rossellini casts Ingrid Bergman in a different light.  When a classy broad marries a man for all the wrong reasons, we see her mind and actions deteriote into desperation.  To thicken the plot, the desolate island the couple inhabits also occupies an active volcano.

Lonesome - This buried Hollywood classic is fun to watch.  It's much more than a charming tale about love at first sight.  This movie captures so much substance on both a technical and historical level.  The filming of Coney Island is such a treat to the eyes.

The Wages of Fear - Who says that Black and White films can't carry thrill and suspense?  Obviously they never watched Hitchcock.  But besides the Master of Suspense, Henri-Georges Clouzot had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire movie.  Watching a convoy of trucks transport highly combustable fuel through hazardous terrain makes Keanu Reeves' Speed look like childs play.  After watching this masterpiece, I can't wait to get my hands on William Friedkin's Sorcerer.

There's a few films I left off because I'd like to write something more in depth in the future.  Regardless, stay tuned as I plan to switch things up next post!  Maybe a new issue of Tarantino Comics...

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013: A Year in Review - Part 3


Following up from the last post, this almost concludes my viewing list of 2013:

The Conjuring - Once again, James Wan makes another fun haunted house film, this time harkening back to the 1970's.  I enjoyed the idea of a married couple visiting haunted grounds, exorcising demons, and storing evil relics in their personal museum.

Frankenweenie - This is the best Tim Burton film in years!  I enjoyed this adaption of his original short and the homages to the cheesy sci-fi and horror films of the 50's.

Oblivion - I know a lot of people don't like Tom Cruise, but I really enjoyed this film.  It has a lot of influence from various sci-fi films, but it uses them to create one unique story.  Plus, Zoe Bell makes a quick appearance at the end of the film.

Prisoners - This movie reminded me of Zodiac, especially the police procedural with Jake Gyllenhaal.  Also, the "prison" scenes with Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano were some of the most thought provoking yet disturbing sequences to see this year.

From Beyond - Scientists unlock the secret functionality of the Pineal Gland (it's a third eye in your brain).  But in doing so, the unleash terrors from another dimension.  Imagined from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft and directed by Stuart Gordon, this was a fun horror gem I never heard of.  Thanks Scream Factory!

This is the End - Featuring the typical "Apatow Comedy Cast," this film shows how a bunch of celebrities would react to the Apocalypse.

The World 's End - Although I feel this movie was overshadowed by This is the End, The World's End was the perfect wrap-up to Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy.  Although I enjoyed the sci-fi elements, the journey of the pub crawl was most entertaining.

Bad Grandpa - This time, Johnny Knoxville takes a lesson from Sacha Baron Cohen.  Still filled with hilarious stunts and pranks of the Jackass franchise, the story thread throughout the movie made for an engaging film.

500 Days of Summer - This fun little film shows the quirkiness and lovability of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Somehow, I think America would really love to see this couple together.

Fantastic Mr. Fox - Starring an amazing voice cast, this charming tale focuses on a colony of forest animals who must defend themselves from crotchety old farmers.  Wes Anderson brilliantly creates an extraordinary world with stop-motion animation.  Also, this is going to be the first animated film to join the Criterion Collection next year.  So if you really want to know "What does the Fox say," just ask George Clooney.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013: A Year in Review - Part 2


This is just a continuation from the last post:

Evil dead - So this was a viewing of the remake, not the Raimi version.  Although I found it to be more disturbing, I prefer the original.  However, it wasn't terrible.  Plus, I had some fun tormenting Angie as she sat in the theatre beating and cursing me out throughout the entire film...

Pain and Gain -  Mark Wahlberg and The Rock play as stupid meatheads.  Although there's no Michael Bay explosions, the story is enticing and you can't believe the situations that ensue... However, maybe you can believe it just because it takes place in Miami.  

The Great Gatsby - The visuals and music of this film made me appreciate the novel we had to read back in high school. The sequences I enjoyed the most were Gatsby's crazy parties.  They have the same flash and glamour of those "Bacardi" commercials.

Romeo and Juliet - Since I enjoyed Gatsby in theatres, I thought to revisit another English Class standard by Baz Luhrmann.  The visuals and acting were good (it's fun to see Claire in something other than Homeland), but I still had a hard time interpreting Shakespeare... I know, not very scholarly of me.

Star Trek Into Darkness - Overall, this was a cool re-envision of The Wrath of Khan.  However, when J.J. Abrams takes over Star Wars, I hope he eases up with the lens flares and shaky cam.

Man on Wire -  I decided to watch this documentary after seeing Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon.  Featuring Philippe Petit, we discover he's a daredevil who's a little more mischievous than Wallenda.  Not only does this film beautiful display Petit's walk across the Twin Towers, but suspensefully describes the secret preparations he had to perform beforehand.

Meet the Woodmans - Following a family of artists ranging from photography to pottery, this documentary shows how some art is decades ahead of its time.

World War Z - Usually a zombie flick takes place under tight quarters with a small group of characters.  This story takes a different approach by traveling with Brad Pitt across the world to find the cause behind the "Zombie Disease."

Oz: The Great and Powerful - I enjoyed James Franco and the various actresses playing the witches.  However, this film would have been so much better if Sam Raimi stuck with practical effects rather than the cheap-looking green screen.

Cosmopolis - Cronenberg has always been a master of body horror.  The thought of just watching Robert Pattinson ride around in a fancy limousine seems like a boring plot.  But as he meets intriguing characters and escapes a violent "revolution" in the background, Cronenberg has proven he can derive psychological terror as well.