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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS -- DVD Review by Porfle



In the latter part of the 20th century there was a brief but wonderful phenomenon in which people took their camcorders, which were designed for Mom, Dad, and the kids to shoot their own crappy-looking home videos, and started making crappy-looking "movies" with them. 

As the technology progressed, the homegrown charm of these crude do-it-yourself productions began to fade, leaving us with a precious few memorable examples of the camcorder genre which are noteworthy for being either surprisingly watchable (as is David A. Prior's SLEDGEHAMMER, the first shot-on-video horror movie) or just jaw-droppingly awful (and thus, perversely, still just as watchable, as in the case of Barry J. Gillis' mindboggling THINGS).

The 1995 sci-fi opus PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS (Intervision, DVD) falls into the former category thanks to the competent direction of Erica Benedikty (also a co-writer, among other things) which, amazingly enough, even includes a crane shot or two (!). 


Originally conceived as a horror-themed feature film to be shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, its projected half-million dollar budget was later reduced to around a few hundred bucks--which, as you might expect, resulted in a considerably less lavish finished product, shot with a Betacam Sp, which made its debut on a Canadian community cable TV station. 

The script involves a cop from the planet Mondora who's been tasked to track down an escaped cyborg creature known as a "Phobe."  The Phobes (short for "Xenophobe") were originally created as super-warriors in an interplanetary war but are now on the loose. 

When one of them steals a spaceship and hightails it to Earth, Sgt. Gregory Dapp (John Rubick) is ordered to bring it back alive.  This he attempts to do with the help of a high school cheerleader named Jennifer (Tina Dumoulin) after she is inadvertently drawn into the whole potentially bloody mess while walking home from school through the woods. 


The less-than-svelte Rubick is supposed to be playing a cool supercop but he looks more like that guy in high school you dread showing up at your house because he eats all your snacks and drinks all your beer.  As a cheerleader, the cute Tina Dumoulin is a bit on the plus side but that just somehow seems to make her even cuter. 

While both are rather lacking in acting skills, if they'd actually been good I would have been severely disappointed.  Besides, the dialogue is so amusingly banal and unsophisticated that their unpolished acting style fits it perfectly.

The Phobe itself is like a shaggy cross between the Terminator and Swamp Thing, the costume being not too bad at all when photographed right.  Sgt. Dapp seems to alternate between actively tracking the beast and being tracked down by it so that the film can emulate various scenes from THE TERMINATOR, PREDATOR, and other similar sci-fi/action films. 

Naturally, it's pretty much irrelevent in this case to notice things like bad acting, gaping plot holes, inept production values, bad sound, or, in short, bad anything.  These are to be fully expected and, as such, are as normal and natural as whiskers on a kitten. You like kittens, don't you?  Sure you do.


The filmmakers do pull off some nice touches here and there (such as the aforementioned crane shots that pretty much had me agog).  The few outer space/spaceship shots that we see are pretty basic computer graphics but in this context they're quite passable.  A later spaceship landing benefits from some clever forced perspective.  Ray gun FX are well done, and in one fight scene between Dapp and the Phobe we even get a couple of honest-to-goodness lightsabers! 

The DVD from Intervision is in 1.33:1 full frame with Dolby 2.0 sound, remastered and greatly improved from its original form.  No subtitles.  In addition to a pleasant director's commentary plus Benedikty's first feature-length movie, the supernatural adventure BACK IN BLACK, we get a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette entitled "The Making of PHOBE", a recent cast and crew Q & A which followed the remastered film's first actual theatrical screening, a comparison of FX shots between the original TV broadcast and the new improved version, outtakes, and a rendition of the film's catchy theme music by the group Gribble Hell. 

When talking about camcorder films, the two most basic questions are: (1) does it vaguely resemble an actual movie?, and (2) is it watchable?  With PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS, the answer to both questions is a cheerful "yes."  While it didn't exactly blow me away or anything, the fact that it's effortlessly charming and just plain fun to watch in its own amateurish way is enough for me to recommend it.  Unless, of course, you simply insist on being a camcorder-phobe. 

Buy it at Amazon.com


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Melantha Blackthorne Joins Debbie Rochon On Easter Island For "ASTRONOMY WALKERS"



"Astronomy Walkers is like Eat Pray Love (2010) meets Flatliners (1990)." 

HKCFN fave Melantha Blackthorne (SINNERS AND SAINTS, ORDER OF ONE, AVERSION, PRISON OF THE PSYCHOTIC DAMNED) tells us that she has officially joined Debbie Rochon (MODEL HUNGER, THE THEATER BIZARRE), Aaron Smolinski (SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE), and the rest of the great cast of Reno Anastasio's "Astronomy Walkers" that is set to shoot on Easter Island next year.

She'll be playing the titular role of the Spirit Guide who is an Astronomy Walker.

The character is a combination of ghost and angel and lives in the supernatural realm. She is the spiritual embodiment of an unborn human soul with thousands of years of supernatural experience and can affect change in our human world with telepathic ability.

"It's my understanding that there has only been one studio movie made on Easter Island back in the 1990s called 'Rapa Nui'," says Melantha.  "It will be quite the adventure."


SYNOPSIS:
Struggling theater actress Taylor Murdoch finally gets her big break on London's West End. The part calls for her to be in peak physical condition.  However, the day after landing the role, she has a positive pregnancy test.  With rehearsals beginning in less than two weeks, she decides to have an abortion.  Towards the end of her nine month tour, she tells her boyfriend Anthony about the abortion and the recurring nightmare that haunts her.  Anthony invites her to Easter Island so they can rekindle their relationship.  While the Island works its magic on both of them, he shares his views about life, family, meditation, and the unborn souls that he calls the Astronomy Walkers.  With Anthony's help, can Taylor overcome her nightmare and mystically connect with the soul of her unborn child?

Astronomy Walkers stars Aaron Smolinski, Melantha Blackthorne, Debbie Rochon and Troy Fromin.  It is the first indie movie to be shot in HD on Easter Island, with additional footage shot in Canada.  Principal Photography began in 2016, with film festival release slated for 2019.

                                Teaser trailer:


IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3162854/

Website: http://www.astronomywalkers.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AstronomyWalkers/

Twitter: @HealingLightF




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Monday, September 26, 2016

STRANGELY IN LOVE -- Movie Review by Porfle



I've never read anything by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky of "Crime and Punishment" fame, but I'm willing to bet that his novella "White Nights" was in a somewhat more serious vein than STRANGELY IN LOVE (2014), the wacked-out romantic comedy that has been based upon it.  Because even for a rom-com, this is one seriously nutty little flick.

I didn't like it at first because I thought it was intended to be a standard cutsey-pie relationship weeper with "quirky" characters doing "offbeat" things.  It only gradually dawned on my that the movie wanted me to think this at first so that it could all the more effectively put me on with how wickedly satirical and off-the-wall it turned out to be.  And make no mistake, this movie is a total, and one might even say exquisite, put on from start to finish.

It starts out with a wimpy but calculatedly lovable little loser named Fyo (Jemuel Morris) who sweeps up in a printing factory and vainly tries, in a small-voiced, passive little way, to make friends with the people around him, to whom he may as well be invisible.
 

Fyo's one of those socially awkward movie nobodies you'd consider off-puttingly weird in real life although here, since he's cutely childlike, doesn't smell bad, means well, and is in a movie, we're meant to find him endearing.

When Fyo ends up saving the life of an attractive but wildly eccentric blind woman named Nastenka (Michelle Lang) by interrupting her attempt to hang herself from a tree in the park, he's drawn into her strange tale of lost love for a man named Steve who went to Africa as a missionary and never returned on her birthday as promised.  (He's over six months overdue.) 

The situation practically screams CITY LIGHTS with Chaplin's "Little Tramp" involved with a pretty blind girl who "sees" beyond the homely misfit's exterior to recognize his inner wonderfulness.  In one shot there's even a direct reference to the Little Tramp, and later Quasimodo is invoked as well.

Naturally, Fyo falls madly in love with Nastenka and must try to win her in his awkward way while competing with her overwhelming grief over the missing Steve.  And when I say "awkward", you can imagine the sort of sappy courtship montages and sickly-sweet romance tropes that the usual chick flick would heap on with a trowel, which STRANGELY IN LOVE is only too happy to do.  Except that here, it's all done with a soft-peddled but knowingly sly "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" attitude that deftly hovers between outright satire and an almost sincere pathos.


In fact, the deeper we get into Fyo and Nastenka's up-and-down love story, which is inevitably thrown into utter turmoil by the return of none other than Steve himself, the more we actually start to respond to them in real emotional terms that go beyond simple kooky comedy.  In this way, STRANGELY IN LOVE seamlessly goes from wickedly spoofing sensitive, emotional love stories to actually being one without losing any of its delicately-rendered weirdness. 

The leads are ideal for their roles--at least, that's what I thought after it dawned on me what they and director/co-writer Amin Matalqa were going for here.  Sean Carrigan also scores as Steve, and, in a wonderful cameo, Amanda Plummer (PULP FICTION, FREEWAY) is ideal as Sister Sarah, a nun who's been keeping up with Steve's whereabouts in Africa and tends to get somewhat crazed when the subject comes up. 

STRANGELY IN LOVE oozes with meet-cutes, melodrama, neck-wrenching plot twists, and enough willfully sappy lovey-dovey stuff to make Erich Segal look like Mickey Spillane.  And, strangely enough, that's exactly why I liked it.  It takes all those ingredients, throws them into a blender, and whips them into a yummy comedy smoothie.

Buy it at Amazon.com

TRT: 89 minutes
Format: 1:78 FF
Sound: Dolby SR
Rating: Pending
Country: USA
Language: English
Website: www.indicanpictures.com
Genre: Comedy, Romance


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

The "Sin" of Women's Choice Sets a Small Town Ablaze in "SHE WHO MUST BURN"



She Who Must Burn Debuts on Cable VOD
Digital HD & DVD October 11
Cult Provocateur Larry Kent Turns Up the Heat
On the Red-Hot Debate over Women's Choice
                                                       
"She Who Must Burn is strong meat." --Variety

"Emotional and intentionally baiting...a horror-siege-witchhunt with no punches withheld" --Coming Soon

"An extraordinary piece of filmmaking that digs past the headlines which make us shake our heads over coffee in the morning."--Film Thrills

   
Los Angeles, CA - Midnight Releasing has announced the October 11th Cable VOD, Digital HD and DVD release of She Who Must Burn, Canadian cinema provocateur Larry Kent's latest feature. Kent and co-writer Shane Twerdun have crafted a thought-provoking and violent horror story centered around the all-too-real battle between personal choice, state-sanctioned law and religious dogma.  She Who Must Burn will be available to rent or own starting October 11th on Dish Network, Cox, Charter, Verizon Fios, DirecTV, iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, XBox and more.

Sarah Smyth ("Cedar Cove", 50/50, "Supernatural") headlines as a healthcare provider at odds with the evangelical family in her small town.  When she refuses to stop seeing women in need and even helps a desperate member of their own family (sci-fi icon Jewel Staite, "Firefly", "Stargate: Atlantis", "The LA Complex"), they decide she is to blame for the mysterious deaths in the community and must pay.


She Who Must Burn has been acclaimed by mainstream and horror media since its world premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival, where the film took home the award for Best Feature Film.  It went on to screen around the world, winning Best Feature Film at Blood in the Snow and sweeping the awards at the Fright Night Festival, taking home Scariest Film, Best Villain and Best Supporting Actress.  Modern Horrors raved that "the horror is all in the reality"and FilmFestivals.com declared She Who Must Burn is "a profound, thought-provoking movie that brilliantly speaks about our flawed human nature".

A deadly storm heads towards a small mining village as the local preacher feeds the dark resentments seething in the souls of its citizens.  Angela is the only medical resource for women in this unfortunate town where stillbirths and cancer have become disturbingly common. The local preacher and his followers blame Angela for the miscarriages and deaths, and even her Deputy Sheriff boyfriend can't protect her from their wrath. Dark clouds gather as the preacher's followers, infected with religious fervor and inflamed with passionate righteousness, seek to cleanse their community. Those who sin against the Lord must pay.

           She Who Must Burn (Official Trailer)



The DVD release of She Who Must Burn (SRP $17.98) will be available exclusively from Amazon.com.


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Friday, September 23, 2016

"SLASHER.COM" Hits the Web with New Teaser, Art & Stills



Slasher.com Hits the Web
New Trailer, Art & Stills Launch for Horror Film

   
Los Angeles, CA - MuchoMuchoMucho Productions and Firefly Films have uploaded a new trailer and art for their new film Slasher.com.  The latest feature from horror director Chip Gubera (Song of the Dead, Academy of Doom), Slasher.com puts a gruesome twist on the perils of modern dating.

Co-written by Gubera and Chelsea Andes, Slasher.com combines the time-honored tradition of young people facing unfathomable horrors in the wilderness with the every day horror of meeting people online. 


 Ben Kaplan (ADDicted, Wingman Inc) and Morgan Carter star as the hapless would-be couple, anchoring a cast supported by R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Hatchet II), Jewel Shepard (Return of the Living Dead) and Grammy winner Delious Kennedy.

At a time where online dating could prove fatal, Jack and Kristy decide they're ready meet in person. Aiming for an adventurous first date, they plan a weekend getaway to the woodlands of rural Missouri. While discovering each other, they soon learn of the terrorizing horrors that the forest has in store.

                  Slasher.com (Official Trailer)


Slasher.com will tour on the festival circuit, screening next at the Bloody Horror International Film Festival in Ottawa and Grindhouse Planet Film Festival in the UK.


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Thursday, September 22, 2016

HIGH NOON -- DVD Review by Porfle



Hoo boy, is this movie ever harder than a greased pig to get a critical grasp on.  On one hand, producer Stanley Kramer's HIGH NOON (1952, Olive Signature) is a widely-recognized classic that deserves its place in film history for a number of reasons.  And yet, for the most part, I really, really don't like it very much. 

This is just the second time I've seen it--I rented it way back in the 80s expecting to be blown away due to its reputation, only to find myself reacting to it with the same cool indifference its protagonist, Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper), encounters while attempting to enlist the help of his fellow citizens to fight the trio of outlaws waiting to get revenge on him as soon as their leader, Frank Miller, whom Kane previously sent to prison, arrives on the noon train.

I was hoping this new viewing would make all the film's wonderfulness clear to me at last, and yet my appreciation of it remains as jumbled as a bag of trail mix.  Cooper, of course, is a joy to watch as the aging lawman (Coop himself, no longer a "pretty boy", was maturing nicely), retired and set to leave town right after his wedding to young Quaker girl Amy (Grace Kelly) when the news of his old nemesis' impending arrival throws a monkey wrench into their plans.


Kane's first impulse, at his wedding guests' urging, is to hustle his new bride into their buckboard and hightail it out of town.  While he thinks better of it a few miles down the road and returns, this still isn't a very good sign.  His change of heart causes his brand new pacifist wife to abandon him and buy a ticket out of town on the very train that her husband's prospective killer is coming in on, also not something which I found endearing. 

As she waits for the train along with everyone else, Kane then undertakes the hopeless task of drafting various men in town as deputies, men who are, quite understandably, keenly reticent to wade into a blazing gun battle against hardened kill-crazy psychos with a score to settle. 

This series of disheartening encounters (the film is deeply pessimistic) portrays everyone Kane comes into contact with--former deputy Harvey (young Lloyd Bridges playing a dislikable rat as only he could), members of the local church, officious town officials--as self-centered cowards and hypocrites ready to sell him out when the chips are down.


Here we get a lot of screenwriter and former communist Carl Foreman's hashing out of his troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee in fictional form as the story's downtrodden hero embodies his own embattled nobility and feelings of abandonment on the screen. 

My main misgivings with the film involve Kane himself, a man hired to protect the town and yet gradually crumbling into a tearful mess when faced with the prospect of doing it alone as he galumphs up one barren street and down the next.  The image of him being reduced to barging into a church during Sunday service to beg for help from a bunch of men who are hardly capable of facing down blazing six-shooters borders on the pathetic.  As he passes a group of children playing outside on his way out, we almost expect him to hit them up for help as a last resort. 

It's no wonder that John Wayne and Howard Hawks had such a negative reaction to HIGH NOON that it prompted them to answer it seven years later with RIO BRAVO, about a lawman facing a similar predicament but refusing to endanger the lives of unqualified civilians by involving them in a dangerous situation which he considers his own responsibility.  (Wayne did accept an absent Gary Cooper's "Best Actor" statuette for his performance as Will Kane at that year's Academy Awards.)


Still, HIGH NOON is a classic that's been revered by millions since its release, so obviously a lot of fans fully sympathize with Will Kane's plight and are riveted to the screen during the suspenseful real-time buildup (several clocks can be seen onscreen keeping an accurate countdown to noon) to the final showdown we know is coming.  As, truth be told, I am as well.

Skillful editing of director Fred Zinneman's exquisite black-and-white images along with a fine score by Dimitri Tiompkin (both editing and score won Oscars) also heighten the ever-present tension which keeps viewers on the edge of their seats despite the fact that, save for some punches thrown here and there, much of the film is devoid of the usual western action. 

Taking its place for much of the screen time is pure old-fashioned drama, much of it involving Kane's old flame Helen Ramírez (the exotic Katy Jurado), formerly a woman of ill-repute now involved in legitimate business.  Helen's previous associations with Kane as well as his craven deputy Harve and even the dreaded outlaw Frank Miller himself make her a dramatic epicenter of the story.  It is Helen who will eventually help mixed-up Amy face her doubts about her new husband, which will then land her right in the middle of things when Kane and the bad guys finally clash.


The cast is studded with several other familiar faces including the great Lon Chaney, Jr. as the town's aging former marshal, a briefly-seen young Jack Elam, Thomas Mitchell, Harry Morgan ("Dragnet"), Otto Kruger, Harry Shannon, Ian McDonald as Miller, Lee Aaker (HONDO), Virginia Christine, and John Doucette.  Miller's men, who spend much of their time waiting at the train station a la Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, are played by Robert Wilke, Sheb Wooley, and future Leone star Lee Van Cleef.

The DVD from Olive Films' "Olive Signature" label (also available in Blu-ray) has a 1.37:1 aspect ratio with mono sound and is mastered from a new 4K restoration. Subtitles are in English.  In addition to the trailer, extras include the featurettes "A Ticking Clock" (editing), "A Stanley Kramer Production", "Imitation of Life: The Hollywood Blacklist and 'High Noon'", "Oscars and Ulcers: The Production History of 'High Noon'" (narrated by the late Anton Yelchin), and the text essay "Uncitizend Kane" by "Sight & Sound" editor Nick James which is also included as a handsome illustrated booklet insert.

One of the main reasons I wanted to love HIGH NOON is because it opens with a beautiful shot of a young, steely-eyed Lee Van Cleef--long before his breakout stardom in Italy--just leaning against a fencepost under a tree in the middle of a field, in beautiful black-and-white.  Wow.  The rest of the film looks terrific too, and, despite my reasons for not being all that crazy about it, some other things about it are also pretty terrific.  At least, that is, enough to warrant the occasional viewing and perhaps, over time, a growing appreciation. 

Buy it from Olive Films:
Blu-ray
DVD

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD


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National Comic Book Day Celebrates a Favorite Pastime and Lucrative Industry



National Comic Book Day Celebrates a Favorite Pastime and Lucrative Industry

The Experts at Dallas Fan Days Talk Comics


DALLAS (Sept. 22, 2016) – Every year on Sept. 25, comic book readers, collectors, lovers and fans celebrate National Comic Book Day. Comic books – are they a hobby, a pastime, a casual form of entertainment? Try a billion dollar a year industry and a powerful consumer market. According to the latest estimate by ICV2 and Comichron, total comics and graphic novel sales in North America hit $1.03 billion in 2015, the first year for the industry to ever hit over a billion dollars in sales. Comic books are no longer just a cultural experience; they are an economic powerhouse.

At first thought, comic books may not be considered a largely sought-after product; however, the demand for their colorful pages and fascinating stories continues to climb. Sales in 2014 were up 8 percent from 2013, and 2015 sales were up 10 percent from 2014. As traditional fans of the comic book age and are now adults, the primary purchasers of comic books are adults between the ages of 25 and 44 according to ICV2 – individuals who have more disposable income to spend on a treasured form of entertainment. Their deep-seated love for comics is elevating the industry.

“Comic books have continued to become a cultural unifier,” says Andrew Moyes, show director of Dallas Fan Days™. “People all over the world can connect over their love and passion for comic books, and we see that at our conventions year after year.”


Whether it’s nostalgia or excitement over new superhero movies and TV shows, fans are showing their love for the comic book industry.

“At conventions across the country, we have seen an influx of new faces that have only been exposed to these comic characters through the movies, and the attendance has swelled to record numbers because of it. In stores, we have seen older customers who had stopped collecting or reading coming back in to catch up,” says Andy McMahon, owner of Duncanville Bookstore, a shop that offers a range of comic books, graphic novels, games, toys and action figures. “The DFW area has a large number of people still trying to collect every issue of a series. Because the DFW area is so diverse, our customers are willing to branch out and try new titles, which is nice to see because there are some great non-superhero titles being produced right now.”

Dallas Fan Days – one of the best comics, sci-fi, horror, anime and gaming events in Texas and set to return Oct. 14-16, 2016, at the Irving Convention Center – will host comic guests such as: Neal Adams, Brandon Peterson, Jim Calafiore, Ty Templeton, Joe Eisma, Jeremy Clark, Sam de la Rosa, Ben Dunn, Steve Erwin, Scott Harben, Mike Krome, Andrew Mangum, Danita Mangum, Jason Metcalf, Ande Parks, Lawrence Reynolds, Marlin Snoop, K.T. Smith, Shaun Steven Struble and Jamie Tyndall.


For the full list of appearances and family-friendly activities, tickets and other information, please visit www.dallascomiccon.com. Stay connected with the show for announcements and updates by registering for their newsletter, and following them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For vendor information, please click here. Those interested in volunteering can find more information here. Accredited media can request press passes by applying for accreditation at http://dallascomiccon.com/press/.



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