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BIG BAD WOLVES

BIG BAD WOLVES-Israel-110 Mins. 2013

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Lior Ashkenazi as Micki (R) and Menashe Noy as Ramir in Big Bad Wolves

Lior Ashkenazi as Micki (R) and Menashe Noy as Ramir in Big Bad Wolves

Rotem Keinan as Dror in Big Bad Wolves

Rotem Keinan as Dror in Big Bad Wolves

Tzahi Grad as Gidi in Big Bad Wolves

Tzahi Grad as Gidi in Big Bad Wolves

Directed and Written by  Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado

Have you ever watched a film that has so simple and cliché’ a plot that you think that it would be child’s play to describe it to a friend; yet when the time comes you find yourself at a complete loss for words? That’s the dilemma I have with the Israeli produced revenge-torture thriller Big Bad Wolves. If it were an American film it would star Jason Statham as the hero, feature a cardboard villain that any B-movie actor could portray and it would have lots of explosions. Instead, we have a film that uses those same clichés to keep us in doubt right up to and perhaps after, the final frame of the film. Big Bad Wolves is a grim, slow burn of a film infused with just enough jet-black comedy to take our minds off of its dismal subject matter if only for a few seconds.

Seeking answers, the father of a murdered child and the ex-cop seeking vigilante justice kidnap a religious studies teacher who they suspect of being the killer. They only want to know one thing; where are the heads of the little girls that he raped, tortured and murdered? They torture him and he maintains his innocence. That’s when the seed of doubt begins to play into our minds. Is this man guilty of these crimes; or are we gleefully watching the torture of an innocent man? Writer-Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado masterfully manipulate us through every frame of the film to give us a movie that is both surprising in its use of tired themes and yet brilliant in the way it turns those themes completely on their ear.

None other than Quentin Tarantino himself proclaimed Big Bad Wolves to be the ‘best film of the year’ for 2013. The late Roger Ebert said that Tarantino’s proclamation was a ridiculous one. I believe them to both be correct. Granted, Tarantino does have a tendency to be hyperbolic in his assessments of motion pictures but this time he’s right. Big Bad Wolves may not have been the best film of 2013; it was definitely, however, one of the best.

NO TRIVIA

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Lior Ashkenazi also appears in Walk on Water and Late Marriage.

Rotem Keinan also appears in The Exchange and Epilogue.

Tzahi Grad also appears in Eyes Wide Open and Off-White Lies.

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RESERVOIR DOGS

RESERVOIR DOGS-United States-1992

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Quentin Tarantino as Mr. Brown

Quentin Tarantino as Mr. Brown

Harvey Keitel as Mr. White

Harvey Keitel as Mr. White

Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde

Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde

Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue

Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue

Tim Roth as Mr. Orange

Tim Roth as Mr. Orange

Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink

Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink

Chris Penn as Nice Guy Eddie

Chris Penn as Nice Guy Eddie

Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot

Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

I seem to recall a while back that I said that I wasn’t going to review any more non-horror motion pictures on this blog. Yet, here I am with cast photos, a poster and a trailer from Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, Reservoir Dogs. How do I explain myself? How about with “Honey, I had no idea she was your sister?*” or “Yes, this is exactly what it looks like.”

Why am I reviewing Reservoir Dogs? To be honest I didn’t like the film all that much when it was first released in 1992. But like Mickey says in Natural Born Killers when asked if he liked Key Lime Pie; “No, but I was a completely different person back then.” It took the knock-out punch of Pulp Fiction before I was able to appreciate that Tarantino already had us on the ropes with Reservoir Dogs.

The plot is as simplistic as you’re going to get with a heist film; six strangers, their Christian names unbeknownst to one another, pull off a diamond heist that goes south. Two are killed, one is shot and the rest of them smell a rat. We never see the heist and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. Tarantino is more interested in showing us the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ rather than the ‘during’. The beginning of the film opens in a restaurant with our six bandits; along with Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn, True Romance, and Rush Hour) and boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney, Pulp Fiction, Dillinger) in a moment of male bonding before ‘going to work’. There’s joking, bullshitting, male chauvinism and enough testosterone going around the table to make a stud bull jealous. It’s everything and nothing we’ve ever seen before. It makes you kind of sad that it’s all going to go to hell and fast.

Reservoir Dogs is a film that we appreciate for the smaller parts and come to love when we put them all together. Mr. Brown’s pornographic explanation of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” (It’s all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The whole song is a metaphor for big dicks.”); Mr. Pink’s near-convincing reasons for not tipping (“I don’t tip because society says I have to.”) The doling out of the color-coded names (“Why am I Mr. Pink?”); the ‘ear’ scene in which Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen ( Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2, Sin City) gets creative with a straight razor upon the pallet which is Marvin the cops’ (Kirk Baltz) hapless face. (…”I’m gonna torture you anyway…all you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain’t gonna get.”) I believe this scene may be tribute to both the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho in that we think we see blood when we really don’t; and to Scorcese’s Taxi Driver in that like the scene where Travis Bickle is pleading with Betsy on the phone the camera pans away as it too painful to watch; the camera pans as Mr. Blonde begins to cut and all we have are Marvin’s muffled screams and our own imaginations.

So, that’s why I’m reviewing Reservoir Dogs; to show appreciation for a film that I should have appreciated from the beginning. That sounds weak; but it’s all I’ve got.

*My lame at attempt at being witty. Do not take it literally.

TRIVIA

Quentin Tarantino wanted James Woods to play a role in the film, and made him five different cash offers. Woods’ agent refused the offers without ever mentioning it to Woods as the sums offered were well below what Woods would usually receive. When Tarantino and Woods later met for the first time, Woods learned of the offer and was annoyed enough to get a new agent. Tarantino avoided telling Woods which role he was offered “because the actor who played the role was magnificent anyway”. It is widely accepted that the role that Tarantino was referring to was Mr. Orange.

David Duchovny auditioned for a part.

According to an interview on the DVD, Michael Madsen says that Kirk Baltz asked to ride in his trunk to experience what it was really like. Madsen agreed, but decided as he went along that this was time for his own character development. So he drove down a long alley with potholes, and then a Taco Bell drive-through before taking Baltz back to the parking lot and letting him out. The soda he ordered at said drive-through is the same one he can be seen drinking during his character’s first appearance in the warehouse.

Mr. Pink’s numerous references to being “professional” are a reference to movie director Howard Hawks, a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s.

Edward Bunker, a former career criminal, was the youngest felon to be sent to San Quentin. (He was 17.) He was a novelist and also played cons in other films – Runaway Train, The Longest Yard and Straight Time (which was based on his novel) and worked as a technical advisor on others – Heat, for instance. Jon Voight’s character in ‘Heat’ was based on Bunker.

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THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 (FULL SEQUENCE)

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 (FULL SEQUENCE)-United States-2011

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Ashlynn Yennie as Miss Yennie-Centipede #1

Ashlynn Yennie as Miss Yennie-Centipede #1

Laurence Harvey as Martin

Laurence Harvey as Martin

Written and directed by Tom Six

The Plot (Taken from IMDb.com): Inspired by the fictional Dr. Heiter, disturbed loner Martin dreams of creating a 12-person centipede and sets out to realize his sick fantasy.

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is a vile, depraved and disgusting film that deserves no recognition and no place in cinema. Writer/director Tom Six can kiss my ass. On second thought, no he cannot kiss my ass; I don’t want to give him any ideas for future movies. I refuse to waste any more words on this garbage.

TRIVIA

On June 6, 2011, the BBFC (UK certification board) refused to grant this film a certificate, effectively banning the movie from being shown in cinemas or DVD in the UK. However, on October 6, 2011, the BBFC granted the film an 18 certificate after 32 cuts totaling 2 minutes and 37 seconds were made.

When Laurence R. Harvey auditioned, Tom Six asked him to “rape” a chair, which he did.

Miss Yennie tells Martin she can’t believe she’s auditioning for a Quentin Tarantino movie. Tarantino shot portions of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 in black and white to appease gore-sensitive censors; it’s rumored that Tom Six filmed The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) in black and white for the same reason.

0 BLOOD DROPS

AFTER 10 EDITIONS OF “WHAT’S THEIR BEST FILM?”, WRITTEN IN BLOOD WEIGHS IN

Wow, I’ve done ten editions of “What’s Their Best Film?” already. In that time I have received great response from some of my regular and my non-regular commentators. I’m sure that a lot of you have voiced your opinion of not what you thought a particular filmmaker’s best movie was; but listed your favorite film from said director instead. Hey, that’s cool; because in order to accurately give an opinion of a director’s best movie you would have had to have seen every film in their catalog. I love movies, but I will not and cannot watch movies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are more important things such as work, supporting a family and figuring out ways to get Honey Boo Boo off the air. Damn what an annoying kid and her equally annoying mother!

So why am I babbling on and on? I shall tell you. In the last ten editions of “WTBF?” it has been you, dear reader, who has voiced your humble opinion. Now it’s my turn to give you my opinion. I will list each director below and I will tell what I think is their best movie or my favorite movie; whatever you want to call it.

Let’s begin:

MARTIN SCORSESE

Is it any surprise that I’m going with Goodfellas for this one? In my opinion it’s the greatest gangster flick ever made.

Runner-up: Taxi Driver

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MICHAEL BAY

Most of what Bay puts out is complete shit; but if I had to choose a movie of his to watch I’d go with Armageddon . At least it got the Criterion Collection treatment.

Runner-up: Transformers

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Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho. It’s my favorite “Hitch” film and in my humble opinion it is also his best. The shower scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Runner-up: Rear Window

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STEVEN SPIELBERG

Schlinder’s List. Spielberg may have given us the first summer blockbuster with Jaws; but with Schindler’s List he gave us his first and finest masterpiece. Ralph Fiennes is chilling as Amon Goeth.

Runner-up: Jaws

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QUENTIN TARANTINO

Two words: Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2, Okay, so that’s six words. That’s because these movies rock so hard they blow up two words and turn them into six!

Runner-up: Pulp Fiction

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PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON

I loved Magnolia and watch it at least three times every year. There are just so many great performances in this film from Julianne Moore to John C. Reilly. Tom Cruise was robbed of an Oscar for his role as informercial sex guru Frank ‘T.J.’ Mackey.

Runner-up: Boogie Nights

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JOHN CARPENTER

Do you honestly think I would choose anything other than The Thing?

Runner-up: Halloween

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DAVID CRONENBERG

Jeff Goldblum had the role of a lifetime in Cronenberg’s vision of the George Langelaan short story The Fly. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Runner-up: The Dead Zone

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BRIAN DE PALMA

Some might say Carrie, some might say Scarface; I’m going with Blow Out as De Palma’s best. Travolta’s performance is one of the key reasons Tarantino wanted him for Pulp Fiction.

Runner-up: Carrie or Scarface (tie)

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ROBERT ALTMAN

I loved Short Cuts the first time I saw it and every time after that. Fantastic ensemble acting.

Runner-up: M*A*S*H

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ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

Not only is Sin City Rodriguez’ best film; but it is also the single most faithful adaptation of a graphic novel from page to screen that I have ever seen in my entire life. It’s also the movie that once again made a contender out of Mickey Rourke.

Runner-up: From Dusk ’til Dawn

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CLINT EASTWOOD

Unforgiven is one of the greatest westerns ever made. It was directed by Clint Eastwood; who in turn learned a few tricks from one of the greatest filmmakers, Sergio Leone.

Runner-up: Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River (tie)

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SAM RAIMI

This is cheating, but I’m going with the entire Evil Dead trilogy for this one. Who needs Spider-man when you’ve got Ash? Bruce Campbell rocks!!

Runner-up: Spider-man 2

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DARIO ARGENTO

To be honest, I’ve only seen three Argento films: Suspiria, Mother of Tears and Opera. Of the three of those I suppose my choice for his best would be Suspiria. What a creepy and atmospheric film.

Runner-up: Opera

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DARREN ARONOFSKY

I have to go with The Wrestler on this one. I’ve been a fan of the squared circle for quite a long time and it’s the first film to take the subject matter seriously. Mickey Rourke was amazing as Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

Runner-up: Black Swan

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WES CRAVEN

I could be a complete asshole and go totally against the popular choice of A Nightmare on Elm Street as Craven’s best; but that would just be stupid. He gave us Freddy Fucking Krueger with this one, for crying out loud!

Runner-up: The Last House on the Left or Scream (tie)

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TOBE HOOPER

Just as Craven brought usFreddy Krueger with his greatest film A Nightmare on Elm Street; so did Tobe Hooper bring us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Leatherface 10 years prior. Watch this movie and you’ll think twice about picking up hitchhikers and eating Texas Bar-B-Que.

Runner-up: Poltergeist

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ALEXANDRE AJA

It may seem like a strange choice, but I pick his remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes over High Tension (aka Haute Tension aka Switchblade Romance) as Aja’s best film. It’s close though; both movies are fucking brutal.

Runner-up: High Tension 

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ROB ZOMBIE

Some people seem to love Rob Zombie’s films and other people seem to hate his films and his fucking guts. There’s no middle ground. What’s his best film? That’s easy: The Devil’s Rejects.

Runner-up: Halloween

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JOE DANTE

What have I said before? The Howling is the greatest werewolf movie ever made; so the choice here is a no-brainer.

Runner-up: Gremlins

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STUART GORDON

Re-animator, of course. Those of you who disagree can get a job in a sideshow. This film brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘giving head.’

Runner-up: From Beyond

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GUILLERMO DEL TORO

I haven’t seen everything by Del Toro, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Devil’s Backbone. It was an amazing little ghost story.

Runner-up: Hellboy

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GEORGE ROMERO

There is no question that Night of the Living Dead is Romero’s greatest film; the trouble is that Dawn of the Dead is every bit as awesome. Folks, we have a tie! Zombies everywhere have Uncle George to thank for their popularity.

Runner-up: Day of the Dead

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BRAD ANDERSON

I loved Session 9 and The Machinist on equal terms; but if I had to choose I’d have to go with the latter based simply on the strength of the performance from Christian Bale. The Machinist is a brilliant film about guilt and how it can affect us so deeply.

Runner-up: Session 9

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WILLIAM FRIEDKIN

William Friedkin

The Exorcist. Nothing else need be said.

Runner-up: The French Connection

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LUCKY MCKEE

Lucky McKee

I choose May as McKee’s best for one simple reason: the deliciously disturbing performance from Angela Bettis. She deserved an Oscar for that movie.

Runner-up: The Woman

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EDUARDO SÁNCHEZ

Eduardo Sanchez

It’s going to take Sanchez a long time before he gets out from under the shadow of The Blair Witch Project. He’s been making heavy strides with films like Altered and Lovely Molly. Still, it is the witch who holds sway over all.

Runner-up: Altered

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MARIO BAVA

I’ve only seen one Bava film and that is Black Sunday. I do want to see more.

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LUCIO FULCI

The same goes for Lucio Fulci and Zombie. I know, I know I need to watch more Fulci and Bava.

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SERGIO LEONE

The man who gave us The Man with No Name. It’s hard to pick one great Leone film. A Fistful of Dollars? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Once Upon a Time in the West? Once Upon a Time in America? Nope, I just can’t do it.

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There you go; my choices. Some are your choices as well and some are not. Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one and they make the world go ’round.

THE WRITTEN IN BLOOD EDITION OF DESERT ISLAND FILMS

I was asked, by my friend Tyson at Head in a Vice, if I would submit my list of eight movies, one book and one luxury item that I would want to have with me if I were stranded on a desert island. I must say that I am glad that he finally asked as I was feeling left out and would soon resort to stalking and glaring menacingly at him while cleaning my fingernails with an ice pick. Just kidding, Tyson. Maybe.

I got to thinking about what to include on the list. I’m not a professional critic; I don’t know all about the various techniques that filmmakers and actors use to make a great film. I don’t use fancy words to describe a performance or a scene. I am just a guy from California by way of South Carolina who has watched movies since he was six and knows what he likes when he sees it.

So, here’s my list. As you can guess most are horror movies but with a few non-genre films tossed in for balance. I don’t think my choices will surprise anyone; but who knows. There is no particular order to the selections.

1. The Thing (1982)-John Carpenter

Alright, I told a little white lie. There is no way that I was not going to put this movie anywhere but Number 1. The Thing is the best film of John Carpenter’s long career and is a perfect example of how hand-made special effects are far more convincing than something a four year old could do on a fucking computer. Isolation, paranoia and a creature that can assume any form; what more could you ask for in a movie?

2. The Howling (1981)-Joe Dante

Best werewolf movie ever made! Best werewolf transformation ever! These are not your daddy’s Lon Chaney Jr. werewolves. These are werewolves whose sole purpose is to keep you, me and Little Red Riding Hood in therapy for the rest of our lives. I fell in love with Dee Wallace in this movie. There was no way I could have shot her; it would have been like shooting Ole Yeller.

3. Hostel and Hostel Part II (2005 and 2007)-Eli Roth

I’m cheating quite a bit with this selection as Hostel and Hostel Part II are two entirely different movies. But then again, how different are they? Both feature dumb Americans in foreign countries who get in way over their heads. Both feature torture and gore. Even the Bubble Gum Gang makes an appearance in both movies. Why do I love these two sicko movies so much? I have no fucking idea! Best line goes to Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) for “I get a lot of money for you, and that makes you MY bitch.”

4. Goodfellas (1990)-Martin Scorcese

Where do I start? I take nothing away from The Godfather; but in my humble opinion Goodfellas is the definitive gangster movie. I could, and did, write an entire post on this one movie. Give me time and I could write 10 more. There are so many great scenes in this film; Henry and Karen’s first date and that masterful tracking shot, Tommy’s death and Jimmy’s heartbreaking reaction. Last but not least there’s that great scene:

Henry Hill: You’re a pistol, you’re really funny. You’re really funny.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean I’m funny?
Henry Hill: It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.
[laughs]
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?
Henry Hill: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy DeVito: [it becomes quiet] Funny how? What’s funny about it?
Anthony Stabile: Tommy no, You got it all wrong.
Tommy DeVito: Oh, oh, Anthony. He’s a big boy, he knows what he said. What did ya say? Funny how?
Henry Hill: Jus…
Tommy DeVito: What?
Henry Hill: Just… ya know… you’re funny.
Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?
Henry Hill: Just… you know, how you tell the story, what?
Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don’t know, you said it. How do I know? You said I’m funny. How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what’s funny!
Henry Hill: [long pause] Get the fuck out of here, Tommy!
Tommy DeVito: [everyone laughs] Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

5. Taxi Driver (1976)-Martin Scorcese

Taxi Driver is one of the most perfect American movies ever made and by far the greatest performance of Robert De Niro’s career. It is a paranoid journey into the seedy heart of New York City. It is a film that the lonely can understand and that the rest of us can be awed by. The scene where Travis is pleading with Betsy over the phone is one of the most heart wrenching in movie history.

6. Role Models (2008)-David Wain

What? Did you seriously think I wouldn’t take a comedy with me? If I watched the other movies on the list without having something to laugh at I’d go insane. This goofy movie about two losers forced into community service at a Big Brother type program makes me LOL and ROFLMAO every time I see it. So take that, Reindeer Games. I know; you’re not Ben Affleck. You know something? You white, you Ben Affleck.

7. Inside aka À l’intérieur (2007)-Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury

I had heard that the French were making some brutal horror movies lately. I didn’t believe it at first; and then I saw Martyrs and this movie, Inside, and my eyes were opened. Brutal does not even begin to describe this movie. Beátrice Dalle is fucking terrifying in this film about a woman, her unborn child and the woman who will do anything to make it her own. Inside is intense!

8. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (2003 and 2004)-Quentin Tarantino

The Kill Bill films are my absolute favorite Tarantino films. QT pays homage to nearly every genre that he can cram into the narrative of his tale about a vengeful bride and Bill, the son of a bitch who shot her down. You’ve never met anyone quite like The Bride, Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

My one book would have to be Ghoul by Michael Slade. This was Slade’s second novel and the first that I read. After that I haven’t missed one since. Slade’s books are mystery, history and bloody horror all rolled into one brilliant little package. Ghoul is a masterpiece.

As for my luxury item that would be a toothbrush. If she were with me my wife would at least want me to have healthy teeth and gums.

WHAT’S THEIR BEST FILM? Part Deux

What’s Their Best Film? Part Deux 

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and cats of all ages. It’s Friday and time for another edition of ‘What’s Their Best Film? ‘Once again I will throw out the names of three directors and it’s up to you to tell me what you consider to be the best damned movie they ever made. Now, I don’t want you to go ‘Baa Baa’ and give me the popular answer. I want your opinion, not Roger Ebert’s, not Richard Roeper’s, not even Joe Bob Briggs‘, just yours. So without further ado let’s get this show on the road.

STEVEN SPIELBERG

DUEL (TV Movie, 1971)

SOMETHING EVIL (TV Movie. 1972)

SAVAGE (TV Movie, 1973)

THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974)

JAWS (1975)

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)

1941 (1979)

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)

THE COLOR PURPLE (1985)

EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987)

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

ALWAYS (1989)

HOOK (1991)

JURASSIC PARK (1993)

SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997)

AMISTAD (1997)

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)

A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001)

MINORITY REPORT (2002)

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)

THE TERMINAL (2004)

WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)

MUNICH (2005)

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (2011)

WAR HORSE (2011)

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QUENTIN TARANTINO

RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)

PULP FICTION (1994)

JACKIE BROWN (1997)

KILL BILL: VOL. 1 (2003)

KILL BILL: VOL. 2 (2004)

DEATH PROOF (2007)

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

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PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON

HARD EIGHT (1996)

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

MAGNOLIA (1999)

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002)

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2012)

Yes I know, it’s a bit of overkill listing each movie from each director, but that’s just the way I am. I listed TV Movies only if they were actual made for TV movies and not guest director spots on already established TV shows. That’s why you see Spielberg’s “Duel” listed, but not Tarantino’s credit for “C.S.I: Crime Scene Investigation” or Anderson’s shots on “Saturday Night Live” for example.

I can’t wait to hear from you. Take care and stay scared!

RABID DOGS

RABID DOGS-Italy-1974

Riccardo Cucciolla as Riccardo

Lea Lander (L) as Maria

Maurice Poli as Dottore

Luigi Montefiori as Trentadue (Thirty-two)

Aldo Caponi as Bisturi

Directed by Mario Bava

Screenplay by Alessandro Parenzo

“Rabid Dogs” is an intense thriller that packs more claustrophobic, sweltering action into 90 minutes than Michael Bay has packed into his entire career. What’s even more amazing is that most of the action takes place within the confines of a small white car filled with three desperate men and their prey; a woman, a man and a sick child in need of medicine. The three men are on the run from the police and their abductees are in the wrong place at the wrong times as they usually are in movies like this.

Mario Bava’s film has been compared to Quentin Tarantino’sReservoir Dogs” and I guess I can understand the comparison. Both films are about the aftermath of a botched robbery/escape attempt, both feature the abduction of innocent(s) and both feature characters that are cruel and without moral foundation. In “Reservoir Dogs” it is the razor wielding Mister Blonde; in “Rabid Dogs” it is Bisturi and Trentadue (Thirty-two). Like the title implies, they are men needing to be put down.

However, the main difference in the two films is the twist. Tarantino lets the audience in on the secret early in the film. With “Rabid Dogs” Bava never once lets us in on the secret and the final scene in the film is a complete surprise. For a director to have that kind of control over a film is a work of genius and it’s no wonder that Bava was compared to Hitchcock throughout much of his career.

“Rabid Dogs” is not an easy film to watch. There are scenes in the film that I hated at first; but then came to realize that they are necessary in conveying the cruelty of the characters. In the end, my final assessment of the film is that if you can find it, watch it.

TRIVIA

One of the robbers is called Bisturi (Blade). His weapon of choice in the movie is a knife. Another Robber is called Trentadue (32) which is a reference to his penis size in centimeters. The final Robber is called Riccardo, the same first name as the actor who plays him.
 
Often mistakenly is considered an influence on Reservoir Dogs because of how the movie is based around the after effects of a heist. The film wasn’t released till 5 years after Reservoir Dogs. Quentin Tarantino has said that Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath influenced Pulp Fiction, however.
 
Lea Lander (who played Maria) was previously in Bava’s Blood and Black Lace.
 
Was not released until 1997, 23 years after it was made.
 
 

An Interview with Kerry Bellessa

Kerry Bellessa-Director of “Amber Alert

Kerry Bellessa is the director of “Amber Alert”. It is his first film. I talked with Kerry by telephone on July 7, 2012. Word of warning: seeing as how this is Kerry’s first movie I didn’t have a whole lot to go on. The term ‘winging it’ applies heavily to this interview.

(Phone rings…once…twice…three times)

Hello?

Hi, is this Kerry Bellessa?

This is Kerry.

Hi Kerry, this is John with Written in Blood. I’m the guy that’s calling you for the interview today. 

How’s it going, John?

It’s going great, how are you doing?

I’m doing alright. Where are you…you’ve got a 661 area code. Are you in California?

Yeah, I’m in Bakersfield, California and I’m burning up here. It’s hot!

It is hot isn’t it? I’m in Phoenix right now and we’re pushing over a hundred degrees.

Wow. First of all, tell me a little about yourself. How did you get started making movies? Who were some of your influences?

Alright, I like it. As a kid I always enjoyed going to the movies. I grew up in a little place called Federal Way, Washington, which is just outside of Seattle. I’d always go to the movies and what ended up happening is a good friend of mine, his sisters moved to California in the ’90’s to go produce commercials and music videos and things like that and they were like my only tie because in Washington I didn’t know anything about making movies. I just went to the movies. I’d go all the time. What happened was when I was 21 is that I moved to California and I started as a PA and I started working for a couple of years as a production assistant. Am I rambling on too much?

No.

So, yeah, I wouldn’t learn any movies as a kid; I would just go to movies all the time. So, then after about two or three years working it was a great experience for me. My first commercial that I worked on was an AT&T commercial for Gore Verbinski; who now does all the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and he’s a big deal. I just learned a lot for years but then I decided to go to school ’cause there were things that I needed to learn more about. So I went to a school called The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. There is where I studied film and television. Working on set was awesome and I worked for a couple of years and I learned a lot. But then there was stuff that I felt by going to school could also help me learn a little more.

Film school’s not for everyone. There are a lot of directors that think it’s a waste of time. But then there are a lot of other filmmakers who have been to film school. I think it’s just more for what’s best for them.

 I remember that Quentin Tarantino has always been quoted as saying that he didn’t go to film school, that he went to films. 

Absolutely, he watches DVD’s and all the behind the scenes stuff. Paul Thomas Anderson went to N.Y.U. for a semester and then he left. There’s a ton of them. But then Ron Howard went to film school. Zack Snyder is an alumna from my school. I think it’s just the individual. For me it was great, for others it’s a waste of time.

It’s basically one of those things that you learn in the best way that you possibly can.

Absolutely; there’s things that you learn on set that you can’t learn in school and I think there’s stuff that you learn in school that you don’t have time learning on set. I liked doing both, it was great.

Let’s talk about “Amber Alert”. Let’s break this down; first of all how did you come up with the idea?

Well, I’d been trying to make a film for a long time. In 2006 I went to New Mexico to make a film that I wrote and our funding fell apart. So the last couple of years I’ve been in a funk; how am I going to get my film up and running again? I wanted to do something and I came to the realization that (Steven) Spielberg wasn’t going to give me $50, 000,000 to make a movie. So I somehow needed to be able to have a good idea that I could just go out and do. So what happened was that one time we were in L.A. and we were driving back to Arizona, and coming into Phoenix I saw an active Amber Alert and it broke my heart. I hate seeing those signs. Then me and my wife had this 30 minute discussion of what would you really do if you saw the Amber Alert car. I was like ‘I’m going to find the car, I’m going to get a bat, and I’m going to run them off the road’ and she said some things that she would do and it just kind of lead to this discussion of ‘what would you do’? Obviously you call the police. So, I remember calling my buddy and saying ‘what do you think of this idea? Someone sees the Amber Alert car and craziness ensues’. It just seemed like it was a great idea and everyone I would tell they would always wonder what they would do if they saw the car. So I guess that’s kind of the genesis of the idea.

How would you categorize the film? Would you call it a horror film?

I’d call it more of a thriller. I think some people are going to think that it’s horror just because of the ‘found footage’ genre where usually everything’s horror; but in this film there’s nothing paranormal or phantasmal. This is all something that could actually happen that got caught on tape. I think the reason the film has been very well received is because of that element. So yeah, we could go with thriller. There’s a bit of everything. There’s a little action in it. Action-thriller, maybe; we could go with that.

There was of course a found footage film called”Chronicle” and that was more science fiction than horror. 

They’ll probably come out with more. People think it’s just so easy for them; horror and found footage. They think it’s easy and cheap.

Well, it’s basically what most people would assume is a hand-held camera that you carry around with you. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that.

I think that’s the fallacy sometimes. To be honest with you I wanted my first film to be beautiful. I wanted Roger Deakins as my cinematographer and for it to look like a Coen Brother’s film. But then the realization was that we have a great idea; and I think that this film works best in the ‘found footage’ genre and so we decided to go with it. I think it worked great. I think it would be kind of that it would just turn out to be one of those other type of films if didn’t go ‘found footage.’ I think it gives it a bit more realism.

Can you tell me a bit about the stars? I see one of them is listed as Summer Bellessa. Is that your wife?

Yes, that is my wife. We lived in L.A. the last ten years and she’s been like a working actress, going to school, she helped pay the bills doing commercials. Initially she helped me produce the film because I guess I didn’t want it to be ‘oh I’m making it and she’s starring in it.’ It just sounded like a low budget recipe for disaster. So at first I held castings; and I initially wanted someone else. But something in the back of my mind kept saying ‘hey, swallow your pride and use Summer.’ But after about a month I decided that Summer would be the best and she was amazing. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife. She did a great job. One of the things that everyone who’s seen the film is that they’re always impressed with her. I think it’s great for an actor that they just kind of had to act in the manner of what they would really do in that situation. Women are always a little more assertive than guys in this situation. Summer is a mom and a lot of it just played to her strength and it just worked out really well.

Women are a lot more assertive. As far as the women I’ve known they’re also a lot more logical. They tend to think things through before acting out on it. Men are impulsive. 

We’re more impulsive, a little crazier, too. But when there’s a kid put in danger I think women will do stuff that I don’t know if men will. It’s instinctual; they can lift a two ton truck if they had to.

(Note: This where the ‘winging it’ came into play)

I asked you earlier what your influences were and your answer was that your influences were movies. What are some of the movies that have influenced you? What are some of your favorites over the years that helped bring about the making of”Amber Alert”?

That’s a good question. As a kid I would watch “Spaceballs” every week. I loved all those movies. I loved Spielberg. Then I went to film school and everyone would like give those answers like ‘oh, Godard is my favorite’ or Fellini and they would just say it because it’s like the trendy thing to do. I’ve always just liked good movies. I remember seeing Spielberg’s name as a kid and thinking that guy’s obviously making good movies. Now as I’ve gotten older and I know more and gone through school I’d have to say that I love the Coen Brothers. I think they’re great because of their storytelling and because they do everything. They’ll make a thriller, they’ll make a comedy, and they’ll make a dramedy. I would love to have a career where you’re not just pigeon-holed. I want to make a different type of film and not the same film all the time. Ridley Scott is another who does that well.

One example of someone giving the trendy answers can be found on the internet. I used to read where people would pick their dream cast and crew for a movie and nearly everybody picked either Steven Spielberg or George Lucas to direct because they were the most popular filmmakers at the time. I would always laugh and think they needed to get a clue. They’re not the only directors out there.

I think now it’s such a business where they want a name attached, where they want someone who knows what they’re doing. There’s so much money involved with it now. They don’t want to give anyone a chance. It’s like a boys club. We’re just excited. We went out and we made this film with absolutely no expectations. I wanted to make something that I was proud of and it’s exceeded all of our expectations.

Do you have any other projects in mind?

We have a Bermuda Triangle film. We’re in talks right now with a couple of people that are interested in it. We went out with it last week and I’ve already had conference calls with two different sets of people that want to attach themselves and we’re just waiting to see what the best fit for us is.

Here’s a question for you. I asked this same question of Eduardo Sanchez because he had “Lovely Molly” coming out. In your own words tell my readers why they should see your movie. 

First off it’s a film that’s a little different. I know that sometimes people will try to trick you with these ‘found footage’ films and tell you that they’re based on a true story when they’re really not. This is something that could actually happen to someone. It has happened to people before. I think it’s just an hour and a half ride of ‘what would you do?’ After the film is over I think that someone is going to agree with the guy and someone is going to agree with the girl. I think both have valid reasons to side with them. So I think the real reason that you would want to go see the film is because it’s something that could happen. I don’t know if you saw the news a couple of months about this couple in Alabama. The guy saw an Amber Alert and he saw the car and they chased it for like twenty minutes. Then the guy who had the girl got out of the car and started running and the cops chased him and it was like ‘Oh my God that’s like our movie.’ It’s a super low budget film that we shot on digital camera. Everyone lived in the house for a month. We went out and just did it very independently. There was basically like two actors and me. I sat in the back of the car and shot it and it was great. We wanted to make a ‘found footage’ film that was a stand-alone film. We didn’t want the gimmicks of a ‘found footage’ film where you’re just waiting at the end for a big jump or something. We spent two months writing the film; so there’s a first act, a second act and a third act. We just used the ‘found footage’ genre to tell the story. We didn’t have a script per se, but we had what we referred to as out 18 page bible. The actors had a lot of freedom, but they knew the story. I let them improvise a lot of the dialogue, but the story was set in stone and they would just kind of react to the situation. I think a lot of times people think that with these films that you just grab a camera and roam around and that’s not the case. There’s a lot of preparation that went into making this film.

One of the things that Eduardo Sanchez talked about was how they would leave a set of instructions each day about what he and Daniel Myrick wanted done; but that there was also that room for improvisation. You also mentioned about how nearly every film of this genre has that last minute fright scene. With “The Blair Witch Project” it was the scene in the house with Heather and Michael. It’s also been done in”The Last Exorcism” and”The Devil Inside” just to name a few.

We definitely want to make the end memorable. We just don’t want to drag you along for like an hour and a half just to get a good ending. We feel like all our scenes are still pretty meaty and we’re hoping that we can keep your attention the whole film and that there’s a good pay-off also towards the end as well. Chris Hill is our lead guy and on a side note he was my lead when I made my very first short film. When I had this idea and we still didn’t have it written I just called and said “Hey Chris, can you come and live with me for about a month?” Without hesitation he was just the type of guy that wanted to make a feature film and was just down with anything and so I was just always very grateful for him. When I was in L.A. holding castings there were all these actors that were probably really good; but they had all these demands that I just couldn’t meet. So I basically just went out and Jasen Wade, who plays the bad guy, is another friend. I basically went out with friends and family and made this film. I think that if I had got other people it would have just been too hard. There were times when we would work long days and everyone would come and stay at our house. There was really no schedule. It was really just how we were feeling and just go with it. Sometimes we were eighteen hour days; sometimes we were four hour days. My dad came out and he just drove the bad guy’s car all day. So it was just family and friends helping out and we all just had a good time.

When can we hope to see the film? Will it be in theaters?

Our distributor is Wrekin Hill and I think they have it set for like six or twelve theaters and then it’s going Video on Demand on the same day. It’s either September or October. We just turned in all our deliverable legal stuff and everything is all done. So we’ll probably talk to them at the beginning of this week to find out the date and their game plan.

Kerry, it’s been great talking with you. I appreciate your time and I wish you the best of luck with “Amber Alert”. I can’t wait to see it. 

Thank you, I appreciate it.

AMBER ALERT TRAILER

DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK

DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK-CANADA-2009

Written and Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska

Yeah, okay so being a movie reviewer means that I’m always looking for new and different stuff to watch, to write about and to generally express my crazy fucked up opinion thereof. So with that in mind let me say that I was perusing bloodydisgusting.com for new ideas as to the level of depravity to which my cinematic mind would stoop. Lo and behold I see a title jump out me like a porn star on an appendage; DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK. Now I think to myself just how fucking fucked up do you have to be to name a movie something like that. The answer would have to be not very and pretty fucked up. The debut film from the Soskia sisters revolves around four friends and their attempt to get rid of the body of a dead hooker that’s been left in the trunk of their car. Pretty soon we are steeped in murder, torture, amputation and any word ending in -ion that you can fucking thinks of. The sisters Soskia load DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK with every influence that’s clicked in their pretty and twisted little minds since day 1. I noticed references to Martin Scorsese (tracking shot and introduction of most of the major characters) and Quentin Tarantino (POV shot from the trunk of a car as well as Pulp Fictionesque dialogue) within the confines of this movie. I’m sure that there are others that I haven’t quite caught on to, but it’s a fair indication that these babes mean business if they pay homage to these two directorial giants. DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK has its flaws, but not so much that they get in the way of the story line. If they play their cards right (shameful shameless cliché), then these sicko sisters may just have a place in the horrific horror genre. I’d love to see how they handle a remake of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.

TRIVIA

The role of Goody Two-Shoes was originally written for a female – as the whole main cast was set to be female. When production started for the feature, their original Goody dropped out two days before filming leaving the directors. Sylvia Soska and CJ Wallis went to a screening of his work where he played a character very similar to what they were looking for with Goody. He was cast that night and the script was rewritten with a male in the role.

The first screenings of the film took place in February of 2010. The very first screening being at the Ghouls on Film Festival in the UK with the second being the Pretty/Scary DOA Bloodbath Film Fest in Texas a few days later.

C.J. Wallis not only played Goody Two-Shoes in the film, but also edited, shot, sound tracked, marketed, and did all post on the film.

No hookers were harmed during the principal photography of this feature film production.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN-United States-1996

Harvey Kietel as Jacob Fuller

Cheech Marin as Chet Pussy

Cheech Marin as Carlos

Ernest Liu as Scott Fuller

Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Story by Robert Kurtzman

Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

From Dusk till Dawn is a high octane, supercharged vampire film that takes no prisoners, pulls no punches and never, ever backs the fuck down for one second. It is to the vampire film what The Wild Bunch is to westerns, bloody as all hell and completely uncompromising. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt my favorite vampire flick of all time.

George Clooney (The Descendants) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) are the notorious Gecko brothers. The two have robbed and killed their way across Texas as they make their way to the border of Mexico and freedom. They commandeer an RV driven by Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel), who is on vacation with his two kids, daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and his adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu). Jacob is a fallen minister who’s lost his faith after the untimely death of his wife. Trust me; this will come into play later on in the film. The brothers Gecko and the family Fuller make their way to a little bar near the border known as the Titty Twister. The sign says ‘Open Dusk Till Dawn’ and the two fugitives figure it will be a good place to hide out and make the connection they need to make their way into Mexico. They enter the establishment and in a very short time all hell breaks loose. It turns out the Titty Twister is a feeding ground for vampires. Sucking blood is their business and business is booming! How the hell could it not be when you’ve got Santanico Pandemonium to lure them in?

In fact, let’s talk about Miss Pandemonium for a bit. Portrayed by the gorgeous Salma Hayek, she is the devil in beauty’s guise. She is the kind of woman who will build you up only to stomp your heart and laugh as it squishes beneath her feet. She is the kind of woman that every man wants and that know they stay the hell away from. The first time she appeared onscreen I let out a very audible “Rowwwwwrrr” much to the dismay of my wife. I just looked at her and said ‘well, what did you expect?’ She concurred.

From Dusk Till Dawn is the vampire film I have been waiting years to see. Vampires that show no mercy and victims that do everything they can to give no quarter. With a great cast led by Harvey Keitel and George Clooney, a kick ass screenplay by none other than Quentin Tarantino and direction by Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Desperado) and a supporting cast that includes SFX wizard Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, Michael Parks and Danny Trejo (Machete), this movie is 100% fun from beginning to end.

TRIVIA

The band playing in the “Titty Twister” is Tito & Tarantula, featuring Robert Rodriguez; the lineup also features Oingo Boingo drummer Johnny ‘Vatos’ Hernandez.
 
The name of the movie is taken from the signs found on drive-ins. These signs indicate the length of the shows, which ran “from dusk till dawn”. The movie is full of references to midnight movies and films which were often intended for teenagers to watch late at night from their cars.
 
 Salma Hayek did not have a choreographer for her dance. Director Robert Rodriguez just told her to feel the music and dance to it. Rodriguez would later use the same tactic with Jessica Alba in Sin City.
 
Erik Estrada was lined up to play Carlos the gangster that Cheech Marin plays at the end.
 
 
 
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