Ben Wheatley will try anything. He’s directed horror movies, crime dramas, action movies, comedies, and today’s film, a psychedelic black and white horror film about the English Civil War. Apart from a sardonic sense of humor you never know what to expect from Wheatley. He can play a story close to the vest or throw all rhyme or reason out the window. Sometimes he does both. He’s an unpredictable filmmaker. His next film is a Tomb Raider sequel for god sakes. Which is crazy when you consider he made today’s film about alchemy, tripping on mushrooms, and a guy showing off his diseased wang.
This one’s particularly hard for me to process.
As you may have noticed, I just reviewed Purple Mountains, the fantastic self-titled debut from David Berman’s new band earlier this week. The album’s only been out for about a month, but it’s already become one of my most listened to albums of the year as well as one of my favorites. I’ve just been listening to it constantly, because the lyrics are so god damn funny and wise and raw, where you know that the person writing them was clearly brilliant but also in a lot of pain (hence, my not-so-subtle review title). Continue reading
If you haven’t heard, Larry Cohen passed away on Saturday, March 23rd at the age of 77. There’s so much to say about the maverick filmmaker. I feel bad I haven’t written more about the acclaimed cult writer/director on this blog. I have reviewed Cohen’s 1974 killer baby film (no, that’s not a typo) It’s Alive along with his 1985 satirical sci-fi dark comedy The Stuff but there’s so much more to dive into. There’s Cohen’s years as a blaxploitation pioneer with films like Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. There’s God Told Me To, a trippy religious sci-fi flick. Q, a movie about the ancient god Quetzalcoatl taking the form of a stop-motion dragon and taking over the Chrysler building. I haven’t even got to the Maniac Cop series.
There’s a lot to admire about Cohen as a filmmaker but for me, two things come to mind. 1) Cohen was the “King of the Concept”. All his films had such bizarre yet tantalizing premises. They sound like awful B-movies from the fifties, yet they were smart and satirical pictures with great characters and even better monsters. 2) Cohen was the original guerrilla filmmaker. This is a man who would film killing sprees and cars speeding down the sidewalk in the heart of New York City. Cohen was a risk taker a “Whatever-it-takes” to get the shot kind of guy. He was passionate about his stories.
Cohen was never a household name but he had a long and fruitful career. From his early years, creating TV shows like Branded and Coronet Blue while still in his twenties, all the way to writing thrillers in the 2000s like Phone Booth for Joel Schumacher. The man was prolific and beloved among so many fans of so many sub-genres. There are so many stories about Cohen that writer/director Steve Mitchell made an excellent documentary about the man two years ago called King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. Which is available on Shudder at the time of this review. Or better yet, check out a Cohen film. I think you’ll find he has the STUFF.
I decided to watch Splinter after watching the 2014 film The 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen on Amazon Prime . I’ve been chipping away at the list since June–I have 13 left–and I have to say most of the film’s recommendations have been solid. If not for that list I may have never watched cult classics like Burnt Offerings or Alone in the Dark (Not the Uwe Boll version, oh god.) Though not all of the recommendations have been good. There’s no reason anyone should have to witness the laughable onslaught of giant rats in Food of the Gods or the rapey sea creatures in Humanoids from the Deep. Splinter aka #20 sits somewhere in between good and bad. It’s not a must see movie for horror fans but it’s not a bad film. It has good performances and a unique antagonist. I just wish that wasn’t all it had.
We introduced this new feature, The Mildly Pleased Hall of Fame, back when we were celebrating our 10th anniversary in February, and I’ve long wanted to contribute to it. But it’s been hard to think of something worthy, especially in the realm of music. Because there seem to only be so many artists and albums that me, Sean, and John all have affection for. Though this one jumped out to me for many reasons, considering it celebrated its tenth anniversary around the same time our blog did. Also, I can’t speak for my colleagues, but to me, Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut was such a potent snapshot of where the blog’s music tastes were at in 2008. Yet is also an album that still sounds great now. Continue reading
It’s always hard being on the road when a pop culture figure who was important to you dies. The last time I remember this happening to me was when James Gandolfini died. Though, I suppose it’s easier with a musician. Since it made it pretty easy to decide what I’d be listening to in the car yesterday, even if the occasion was less than ideal. Because even if it’s a busy day, you always want to be able to take the time and stop to appreciate the figure in question’s importance and the work they left behind, and its hard to think of many singers who left more great music behind than Aretha Franklin. Continue reading
Harlan Ellison died this week and it’s a drag. Harlan Ellison was a mad genius. We hear the word “Genius” thrown around a lot when great artists and entertainers die but I want to emphasize the “mad” part for Ellison. Harlan Ellison was one of the most gifted speculative fiction writers of the 20th century. He was also batshit insane. This was a guy who mailed bricks and dead gophers to editors that pissed him off. A guy who belittled fans that asked him dumb questions and a guy who would sue at the drop of a hat.