Thursday, October 25, 2007


There are not too many women making testosterone loaded genre pictures, but one out there is James Cameron's ex-wife and former producer Katherine Bigelow. She has a spotty resume at best. There was that failed Harrison Ford submarine movie, K-19: The Widowmaker or the almost but not quite good Strange Days, a drug addiction murder mystery that was driven on pre-millenium tension. The boys behind Hot Fuzz certainly brought out the love for the glorious dunderheaded Point Break earlier this year. Near Dark, Bigelow's debut film from 1987 is definitely Katherine Bigelow's and one of my personal favorite vampire flicks. It is gritty and shocking and gloriously organic.

When a good ole country-boy tries to pick up a strange and exotic woman at the local bar, he gets pulled into a weird surrogate family of vampires. They drive around in stolen vehicles with the windows spray-painted dark and prey on out-of-the-way places in Oklahoma and the neighboring States. The new country-boy vampire has trouble with killing, and things are complicated when his real family, his dad and his little sister, set off to track him down.

What sets this take on the vampire mythos apart is the following. The dusty-dry states of the American South-West with it's anonymous and mundane urban landscapes (think trucker depots and blinkering neon) is very different from the aging velvet look to most of the classic vampire films out there. The run-down look of the vampire clan is more of that of junkies than the cliched suave aristocrat. The playful eroticism of the many european takes is replaced by raw, shamless need. Exposure to sunlight for these vampires causes their skin to smoke before catching fire in a way that is both organic and odorous. You can nearly smell the charred flesh coming off the screen. Then there is the famous scene where the clan takes down an isolated bar in a orgy of menace, violence and gore.

Cameron favorite Bill Paxton takes his jock Marine character from Aliens to a whole new level. This is probably his most showy, but also his best role on film and he gets to act along side his old co-stars here the husband wife team of Lance Henrikson (superb as ever) and Jenette Goldstein.

Curiously, it is the love of the Father (Beloved B-character actor Tim Thomerson in a straight and well acted role) for the lost son that glues the film together. Themes of family run thoughout the picture if you look past the carnage and the set-pieces. All in all it's a film that has aged very, very well in the now 20 years since its original release, and certainly worth visiting in the days leading up to All Hallows Eve.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

No KBT, but some Shaw Brothers Goodness?

Suffering from a bit of flight-malaise to have a KBT film today. But if we all ask really nice, maybe Glenn will bring over his nice new DVD copy of 36th Chamber of Shaolin for those who want a little Old School Shaw Brothers Kung Fu action. For the uninitiated, the film stars Kill Bill's wizened sensei Gordon Liu). And fret not if you show up and Glenn doesn't -- I'll show my favorite Shaw Brothers flick, Come Drink with Me (starring the lovely goddess Cheng Pei Pei).

This bout of pseudo-programming is timed too - because studio founder Run Run Shaw turned 100 (!) this month.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


At some point you have probably seen a film by Richard Linklater. He tends to make quite static very talky films that are as much centered on people or culture rather than story. They are tableaus of a time and place told almost entirely through conversation as opposed to conventional story telling and action. Perhaps most famously Before Sunrise is a romantic drama which consists entirely of two characters who meet randomly on a train and get to know one another walking around Vienna over the next few hours. In Dazed and Confused a portrait of the late 1970s is painted via suburban high-school on the last day of school. In his animated pictures, things are even less plot driven, particularly Waking Life, which is a philosophy survey meshed with dream logic (and lots more talking), which mirrors his debut film Slacker which used the novel structure of the camera following someone into a conversation and following the other participant out in an endless linking of random encounters in Austin, Texas.
I go through a brief survey of many of Linklater's films to illustrate how appropriate of a choice he was in the strange enterprise of translating Eric Schlosser's non-fiction book of investigative journalism and agitprop muckraking on the fast food industry, Fast Food Nation. Because the novel linked many aspects of American culture and disparate institutions into the machine of selling the soul of that nation back to itself in re-constituted parts, so too does the film. However, it does it in a non-documentary format, using Linklater's signature style of connecting a disparate collection of individuals through chance encounter and loads of conversation and ideas.
Now, this film was savaged pretty hard by the mainstream critics. Slagged as too obvious, too boring, not fun, not witty. I think that was entirely by design. Take for instance the Fast Food Marketing exec played by Greg Kinnear. for much of the film, he is sort of the moral center, slowly understanding the spiral of 'efficiencies' in running a business that gradually grinds the human element out of the equation. The film sharply mirrors this, in one of the most cutting scenes where he is broken of his idealism and just walks right out of the picture. Other threads, which mirror the talking points in the book, involve immigrant labour in the meat packaging plant (which supplies the burger patties for the fictional fast food company in the film), the fast food employees and dead-end nature of the McJob are filled either with fresh young faces or the occassional cameo of a known face. The attraction to this film however, is watching how Linklater and Schlosser's mourning for what America may have been at one time, and how painful it is to watch it wither away. Fast Food Nation is as much a lament for roads not traveled in American Society as it is about the compassion-less corporation. It may seem obvious, but the relentlessness with which the film is delivered was still ignored by the nation at large.

I guess the choir will have to do for now.

Come out Thursday Evening at 8pm for a cocktail and a nibble. Trailers and Showtime are at 8:30.