No More Nightmares: H.R. Giger (1940-2014)

Giger's Alien Cover 

There’s not much to say here other than he’ll be SORELY missed. As an artist, his work scared the hell out of me many times and yet inspired me to experiment more with my own art without trying to emulate the man’s style one bit. His work on ALIEN, like the entire film holds up to this day to the point that I’ve recommended the movie over the years to people who didn’t know it was made back in 1979 (yep, even with those old computers and monitors in use!). Granted, you could say that classic was more the result of Ridley Scott’s solid direction, but he was absolutely inspired by Giger’s mind blowing art and there’s NO doubt at all it would have been a lesser film without it…
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So, It’s James Brown’s Birthday Today (Or You WILL Be Dancing At Some Point)…

 
Yeah, I knew you needed a lift today, so here you go, lemon-face. Thanks to the always informative Professor Mortis over at The League of Dead Films for noting this in his excellent post today about Black Caesar, a film I absolutely NEED to write up as a Random Film of the Week or Week(end) soon. There’s nothing like a Larry Cohen flick when he’s in full-on guerrilla mode and this one’s a classic (despite the dubious idea of reviving a character who was killed dead in the first film, it works well as it is with all its unapologetic content intact). Anyway, Please, Please, Please enjoy this super Saturday, whatever you choose to do with it!

Mr. Hoskins Checks Out…

(thanks, FilmsActuTrailers!) 

I’ll do a proper RFToW for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? this coming weekend, but here’s a clip to remind me (and you, and you and you and you!) of how the late Bob Hoskins nailed it but good in playing his cheap detective so well against all those ping pong balls on sticks and other stuff on set, probably wondering what the hell he was doing while hoping the animators and tech folks could make the movie work. They did and it’s a classic for the ages.

 
I’d also recommend Hoskins in Mona Lisa, The Long Good Friday, and Hook for starters. Anyway, I think I’ll have a drink later as a toast to one more great actor lost to time…

Thank You, David Lynch For Making It Clear (Again)…

(Thanks, BrittneyGilbert!) 

So, I’m working on a long post about the demise of movie theaters in the area where I live because it just blows my mind to bits that something like fifteen to twenty or more cinemas around here are gone for what seems to be good and it’s a total joke that no one seems to care or mind. Granted, those people who don’t give a crap are a big part of the reason why theaters are vanishing from this part of NYC, but tell them that and they tend to get a bit more obnoxious than they would if you told them to shut off their damned cell phone BEFORE they even bought their tickets. Anyway, mini-rant over (although it’s not really a rant at all)… Back in a bit.

So Long, Lou Reed: A Walk on the Mild Side Brings Back Memories…

I made Lou Reed laugh once. A long time back (I think it was 1986 or 87, but my memory is a bit fuzzy), I ran into him downtown around St. Marks Place as I was walking to a friend’s place for a birthday party. I recall it was around sundown with fading light and he was coming out of a small shop I don’t recall the name of. As I stopped to nod in his general direction (what I usually did when encountering a celebrity type on the streets of NYC) a trio of Asian tourists (a guy and two women) recognized him and asked if he’d pose for a quick photo with them.

Since I was only about five or so feet away (and probably grinning like a nut on the loose from Bellevue), one of the tourists looked in my direction and smiling as if he’d won the biggest lottery ever, motioned me over pointing to his expensive camera and asked me to snap a shot or two. Of course, I jumped at the chance and three shots later (because I got my thumb in the way on the first picture), handed the camera back to the guy who now wanted ME to pose with Lou. I declined, as I’m not the “Lookit me with the star!” kind of guy (and back then I was a lot more camera shy than I am these days), but Lou was in a pretty good mood and said “Come on”, waving his hand up and forward… Continue reading

Two For The Road: James Gandolfini and Slim Whitman…

I actually didn’t like The Sopranos the first time I saw it (coming into the middle of an episode in the middle of a season has that effect on some people), but I wised up and stuck with it, enjoying the ride over the last four seasons or so and going back to catch most of the episodes I missed out on. For me, that final episode was quite a nice surprise but not too surprising, as it didn’t go for the expected. Of course, neither did the show on many occasions where stories were layered with hidden and not-so hidden depths mixed in with some shocking deaths just to hammer home the point that Tony’s world wasn’t a very nice place after all. I liked James Gandolfini’s work in most of the films he was in, but like many fans, he’ll always be Tony Soprano, driving down that highway through New Jersey on the way to raise some hell or suffer through some of his own creation. He’ll be missed…

As an impressionable teen, these commercials for Slim Whitman’s albums had my friends and I always laughing (and occasionally warbling awfully mangled versions of his tunes while strolling down the street), but I think they also made us appreciate other musical styles. Granted, I’m a nut with wild musical tastes (AM radio USED to play great music before it became home to the insane, incessantly annoying “opinions as facts” and “I’m famous because I have a radio show and people who believe my crazy BS!” talkers), so I think I came to see the man’s genius a bit more over time. But I do recall having the stupidest yet most amazing dream where Slim was covering The Ramones and yes, it was a spectacular a vision indeed. “I Remember Yoooooooou-ooooooooou-oooooooou!” (I still can’t listen to that song without laughing, by the way).

That and hell, Slim Whitman saved the earth, dammit. Go watch Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! if you don’t believe me…

Random Film of the Day*: The Three Worlds of Gulliver

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

gulliverOK, I don’t “hate” The Three Worlds of Gulliver at all, but as a kid, it did take me four attempts to sit through this classic family film without falling asleep. Sure, Ray Harryhausen’s “Superdynamation” effects and that lovely Bernard Herrmann soundtrack make this another perfect one-two punch for movie fans, but something about this flick has always rubbed me the wrong way.

It’s probably a combination of a few things from the silly refrigerator magnet names Johnathan Swift came up with being too nonsensical even for a kid to wrap a brain cell around (Brobdingnag? Glumdalclitch?), some languid pacing and seeing too much of Kerwin Matthews’ over-sized head (even when he’s normal-sized, his melon is a moon on his neck). Or it’s probably because Ray’s work here is “limited” in terms of the amount of stop motion effects (but you do get some great matte shots). The other technical work is fine, mind you – it’s just that compared to his more popular fantasy films, this one seems somewhat tame…
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Random Film of the Day*: First Men in the Moon

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

First Men in the MoonIt’s actually pretty fun to watch early 50’s to mid-60’s sci-fi films for their historical as well as entertainment value because the space race was in full blast and Hollywood was finding out fast that NASA was making most of what they were doing obsolete. Granted, other than the opening few minutes, Nathan Juran’s excellent First Men in the Moon doesn’t need to juggle much in the way of realism other than making sure its 1964 astronauts (made up of members of UN countries!) making that moon landing were wearing gear that at least looked up to date.

Once that’s out of the way, the film lets the imaginations of H.G. Wells and Ray Harryhausen (interpreting the author’s words into Dynamation) take over as the story shifts back in time to 1899 and tells the tale of man’s “real” first trip to the moon. Juran’s direction and his solid cast provide the proper Victorian tone and Harryhausen’s great effects add the perfect amount of rustic charm that propel the films wildly fanciful “science” into the plane of believability…
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Random Film of the Day*: Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

Sinbad & The Eye of the TigerWhen I was much younger, I wondered why Ray Harryhausen didn’t make more films until I found out how long it took him to design all those characters from drawing and painting some outstanding concept art to the construction and creation the visual effects. Let’s just say the man gained all the respect I had after that. That said, 1977’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is an example of what happens when a movie studio decides to rush things a bit too quickly, as it’s not his best work of the decade on display.

Yes, there are some major showpiece moments, but between some awful matte shots and a few creatures missing Harryhausen’s trademark expressionism, the film suffers a bit from a “by the numbers” look that’s noticeable to the point of distraction. Then again, that the film arrived in theaters a few months after Star Wars opened and was still generating a huge amount of money. I’m sure to many viewers blown away by George Lucas’ epic, Sinbad seemed almost like a relic from another decade…
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Random Film of the Day*: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

the golden voyage of sinbadHa! Motivation-killer flu, you can’t keep me from posting! Anyway, onward! It took Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen fifteen years to follow up their classic fantasy film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad with the second of three movies starring the fabled sailor and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad both looks and feels almost as timeless as that first adventure.

Much better casting for some of the principals in this “sequel” meant more engaging characters, Ray’s animation and effects work were mostly superb and composer Miklós Rózsa contributed a truly outstanding and memorable score that’s one of his best works of that era. As with the other Schneer/Harryhausen family films, this one’s not just for the kids and it’ll bring a nice Saturday morning smile to your face if you haven’t seen it before…
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