Zombies are a horror trope that have gone through a number of phases in their undead history. Originally, they were very much the subject of pulp from their voodoo origins as unwilling victims brought back from the dead to serve evil masters. Then, in 1968, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed the perception of the zombie forever, making them very much a harbinger of apocalyptic visions. It became a creature of the horde, shuffling flesh-eating masses that inexorably consume mankind in a variety of siege situations. Continue reading
Of all the books and films I have devoured on Bill Hicks there is no doubt that American: The Bill Hicks Story is one of the most comprehensive and authoritative. What makes it so is that it’s narrated by his closest friends and family members.
The film delves into his comedy roots which started at a mere 15 years of age, the people he created his art with and follows his career in small clubs through to his breakthrough in England and his last tours in the US. And of course his tragic death from cancer. The only thing that was missing was any input from his girlfriends or any mention of any (he did have a fiancée).
The most interesting interviews are those with his best friend Dwight whom Bill started his comedy act with. Stories of rebellious teens sneaking out to go and perform comedy are golden and most importantly unheard. There’s also some tales about mushroom trips at a ranch the friends frequented. The archive footage is awesome, there’s clips of Hicks performing when he was just a baby, he’s so clean cut and his style is so different, but you can see his voice forming.
What I dug about his background is that his formative years are actually interesting. Sometimes its a bore to have to listen to or read about someone’s background. Comedy was in Bill at such a young age that the facts go from “born here, raised by, friends with” and then it’s straight to the good stuff, much like Andy Kaufman he was born to do comedy and knew it at a young age.
The film also utilizes a really neat method of telling the story. The directors went and captured images of different areas Bill lived in, hung around at and have used photographs of Bill (and his friends, family) to put them in the scenes and try and recreate events. It’s sort of a Tom Goes To The Mayor style but without the spazz-y movements and photoshop effects. It’s far more appealing than talking heads or unrelated stock footage and works well.
If you’re expecting a cash-in film this is not it. The film took three years to make and is crafted with love and respect, the Hicks’ family were also very involved in the film, thus ensuring a high standard.
There’s a whole assortment of extras here which makes this DVD release even more appealing if you’re into the extras thing.
- Austin Panel and SXSW (10 mins) – Interview with Steve Hicks and various comedians, they discuss meeting Bill and the first time they saw him perform.
- Dominion Tour (8mins) – The Hicks family travel to London and reminisce with director/producer of the Revelations performance. A neat short that focuses on the concept of the show.
- Festivals in the UK and USA with the Hicks’ (14 mins) – A bit of a filler extra, this one consists of Mary (Bill’s mother) and his siblings Lynn and Steven at various film festivals including London, Austin and Toronto.
- Hicks and Abbey Road studios ( 4 mins) – The Hicks family found some cassette recordings Bill had made and while they were in London they took the tapes to Abbey Road to have them remastered.
- Kevin Shoots His Film in LA (4 mins) – A little segment on Kevin’s (one of Bill’s friends) film about the war on drugs.
- 15th Anniversary Tribute (8mins) – A clip of the Hicks family attending the 15th anniversary tribute of Bill’s performance in London.
- Comedy School (18 mins) – Bill’s friend Dwight gives his thoughts on comedy.
- Dwight in London (5 mins) – Clips of Dwight’s stand-up and of him discussing the difference between UK and US audiences
- Making of Arizona Bay (7 mins) – Footage of Bill making the album.
- The Ranch (7 mins) – Clips of Kevin Booth showing us around the ranch where they used to take trips and relax.
As if that weren’t enough already, there’s also 7 minutes of deleted scenes, 8 minutes of early and alternative scenes, 15 minutes of early and rare clips of Bill’s stand-up and three decent audio clips of Bill. This release also features subtitles for the hard of hearing and has reversible cover art.
Another excellent release from Madman. A must see for those who have never heard of Hicks and a must own for those who have.
American: The Bill Hicks Story is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of this Comedy Central Roast is that Charlie Sheen doesn’t react to any of the abuse hurled at him. He takes every insult with a big grin and there’s some pretty touchy subjects. A few of my favorite taunts were concerning his children: ”If you’re winning, this must not be a child custody hearing. The only time your kids get to see you is in reruns — don’t you want to live to see their first 12 steps?” – Jeffery Ross and ”It’s amazing — after abusing your lungs, liver and kidneys, the only thing you’ve had removed is your kids.” – Kate Walsh.
Seth MacFarlane, Jon Lovitz, Jeffrey Ross, Steve-O, Kate Walsh, Amy Schumer and Mike Tyson are some of the Roasters and Slash provides some riffs as Charlie makes his way to the stage. I think Mike Tyson was a stand out Roaster as well as Patrice Neal. Steve-O wasn’t all that funny and ends up resorting to Jackass antics by running face first into Tyson’s fist.
I can honestly say a joke has never offended me and I don’t think this joke went too far, I think it was just very mean spirited. Amy Schumer made a joke about Steve-O’s deceased friend Ryan Dunn and poor Steve-O looks incredibly sad. It just wasn’t done well enough to be funny. You would expect a joke like that and fair game, Roasts are no-holds barred events, she could have made it work a bit better. Patrice Neal also gets worked up over some jokes targeted at him that he deems racist, but… yes “but” they were pretty funny and so over-the-top I have no idea how he could take them so seriously.
My favourite insult had to be from Amy Schumer: “You’re just like Bruce Willis — you were big in the 80s and now your old slot is being filled by Ashton Kutcher.”
It’s not the best roast I’ve seen, I think that honor goes to William Shatner and Flavor Flav but its still worth checking out if you are a fan of Sheen and/or Comedy Central Roasts.
Available on R4 DVD.
Fujio (Tadanobu Asano) and Mitsuo (Sho Aikawa) work at a fire extinguisher factory in midtown Tokyo… well, I say work but in reality they spend most of their time practicing Jujitsu. Mitsuo is attempting to transform Fujio into a master of this particular martial art, but he’s not having much luck.
Meanwhile, the gargantuan garbage dump that dominates Tokyo’s skyline, Black Fuji, is starting to vomit out zombies. Over the years the people of Tokyo have dumped everything from cars and stacks of gay porn to satellites and dead bodies here and it’s starting to take its toll. It seems the permutation of noxious gasses have somehow triggered the resurrection of the various corpses discarded at Black Fuji and they’re on the lookout for fresh meat.
When the zombies begin invading Fuji and Mitsuo’s factory, they make the best out of a bad situation by putting their Jujitsu moves to work on them. Eventually though, they are driven out of their factory and have plans to migrate to Russia – which they say is a more manly country – until Mitsuo gets bitten and things begin to fall around their ears.
Jump to five years later: zombies have overridden Tokyo and the few wealthy survivors have built towering apartment blocks wherein they hold gladiator-style games in which the underprivileged are forced to fight zombies to the death. Here we are reintroduced to Fuji who has gone on to become a Jujitsu master / zombie killer. In one of his last matches he is doomed to fight the “strong zombie” who has defeated over 150 humans and has a fearsome reputation, only to discover it is his old friend & mentor Mitsuo. Who will win this final showdown?
Directed by Sakichi Sato who is probably better known for his script-writing and acting abilities, having written & acted in both Ichi the Killer and Gozu, Tokyo Zombie is a worthwhile addition to the horror-comedy genre. Tadanobu Asano and Sho Aikawa, one sporting an afro, the other a bald cap, make a great oddball duo whose straight-faced slapstick shenanigans were the main point of hilarity for me.
With the humour often bordering on the absurd – as is Japan’s predilection – I was slightly disappointed there wasn’t more blood ‘n’ guts thrown into the mix as it could’ve made for some additional bad taste comedy. As it is there are few zombies and very little blood onscreen. Another small point of contention is the abrupt switch in tone that occurs halfway through the film: with the jump five years into the future comes a (slightly) more serious mood that ultimately knocks the film off balance.
Although minor shortcomings aside, Tokyo Zombie is an enjoyably retarded romp into “zom-com” territory that is inherently Japanese in all of its facets.
- Making of Tokyo Zombie
- Q&A Session
- Original Trailers
Available on R4 DVD from Madman.
Directed by French DJ Mr.Oizo (Quentin Dupieux), Rubber is a bizarro horror-comedy about a killer tire named Robert and his murderous adventures in the Californian desert.
Opening with a fourth-wall-breaking monologue concerning the film being a homage to the “no reason” theory often employed in cinema, Rubber proceeds to mess with genre conventions by having an on-screen audience watch the film – alongside the viewer – with binoculars and they comment on the action intermittently. There is also a sheriff who frequently acknowledges the fact that he’s in a film.
Ironic self-awareness aside, Rubber‘s star is without a doubt Robert the tire and his psycho-kinetic head exploding skills. As we witness Robert awake and begin to roll through the desert, he first encounters small obstacles such as a rabbit or a crow on which he tests his telekinetic abilities, thus reducing them to piles of gore. Then he moves on to a small town where he commences to explode the noggins of anyone in his way.
After finally being tracked down by law enforcement, Robert is shot to pieces but reincarnates into a tricycle and trundles off down the road, heading towards Hollywood.
Honestly, there’s really not much to Rubber. When I first heard the premise I thought how could this possibly go wrong? but after a while it does become slightly redundant.
There are definitely humourous moments and the idea itself is genius; it’s the execution that seems flawed. Had it been presented as a goofy Attack of the Killer Tomatoes-type deal minus the witty self-referencing perhaps it would’ve worked better, or maybe as a short film rather than feature length.
Nonetheless, it is definitely worth a look, just didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.
Rubber is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.
Even the most uptight prude has heard of Deep Throat. It caused a bonafide cultural phenomenon and single-handedly changed the face of adult film forever. As the first mainstream hardcore (and at the time, illegal) sex film, Deep Throat’s producers and performers were hauled into court on obscenity charges and after a long & arduous battle won the case under the protection of First Amendment. Nowadays Deep Throat is known for kick-starting the “Porno Chic” trend and launching Linda Lovelace into international porn-stardom. Continue reading
Crimson Celluloid: The obvious first question is how does a nice American girl like you end up in Germany filming what will quite possibly become one of the most infamous horror films of the decade?
Ashlynn Yennie: First of all…how do you know I am nice? ahaha… kidding… I am actually so sweet it is sick sometimes! We actually shot the film in Holland right outside of Amsterdam. It was a pretty quick process for me. I went into the audition… I was told it was a “controversial, European film” (not until I went to the first audition did I learn it was a horror. I had the option to stay or the leave… I read the synopsis and watch girl after girl walk out in shock. I was less shocked and more intrigued. I went into the room and there was this beautiful woman sitting there and she said “hello”… that was the producer Ilona… I sat down with her and asked SO many questions… I auditioned ,had a callback and had the part all within 3 day… a week later I was on a plane to Holland Continue reading
The Cinema of Transgression “movement” was the result of a loose collective of New York art school drop-outs and musicians reacting against the times. Reagan was in government and punk rock had been co-opted into the mainstream, so it was time for a new kind of kick. Something to push the boundaries to breaking point.
Taking their inspiration from such varied sources as pornography, exploitation films, Dada / Surrealism, and the films of Jack Smith, John Waters and the Kuchar brothers, directors like Richard Kern and Nick Zedd created no-budget (often) B&W shorts shot on super 8 that took mindless sex and violence to a whole ’nother level.
Angélique Bosio’s documentary covers the time period from the early ‘80s – early ‘90s during which these filmmakers were the most active. During the course of the films hour & fifteen minute runtime Ms Bosio interviews some of the main movers and shakers of the scene and shows clips from their various films in an effort to provide a much needed visual document of this little recognized group of artists. Continue reading
Comedy Central Roasts is a triple DVD pack featuring the Roasts of William Shatner, Denis Leary and Flavor Flav. I’ll put it bluntly – Roasts are not for those who find racial, homosexual and gender stereotypes and insults unfunny. The content contained on these three discs is offensive and at times absolutely disgusting but is never mean spirited. If you love taboo humour or are a fan of any of the three men featured in the set then read on.
ROAST OF WILLIAM SHATNER (80 mins)
I’ve never seen Star Trek and don’t really know much about the man, but when it comes to Roasts not knowing much about the person doesn’t really matter. Sure you don’t get the odd joke but people tend to rip on appearance and scandals. Everything from Shatner’s bad career choices, hair and weight were targets. Jeffery Ross and Betty White were on fire throwing some really great insults, not only at Shatner but at the other folk on the dais. An extremely wicked and thoroughly enjoyable Roast. Extras: Red Carpet Interviews (8 mins), Behind the Scenes(4 mins), Making of the Roast (2mins)
ROAST OF FLAVOR FLAV (73 mins) Continue reading
Actor/director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is probably most well known for his string of ultra-violent Yakuza films in the ’90s. Masterpieces like Violent Cop and Sonatine cemented Kitano’s stone-cold demeanor, deadpan humor, and often Zen-like atmospheres into the cannon of must-see Japanese cinema. After those films Takeshi went on to make more lighthearted comedy/drama fare (with the slight exception of his The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi remake), but now, 10 years after his last Yakuza oriented film, Brother, he makes a long-awaited return to the blood-spattered stage with his latest film, Outrage.
Outrage deals with the simmering-until-boiling-point conflicts between (and within) the Iketomo and Murase crime syndicates. It’s a rivalry that involves many complicated angles, but ultimately breaks down to: a long-ago vow made in prison, turf wars over drug territories, and a power struggle for the Boss’s favour. Also coming into play are a corrupt detective, a blackmailed African ambassador, and plenty of superbly choreographed and explicit violence.
Kitano describes the initial development process of Outrage as beginning by envisioning the various ways in which the characters would die, then shaping a story around the deaths. He wanted to make a film with no ambition other than to entertain, and it shows. Gone are the existential idiosyncratic gangsters that populated Beat’s early films and gone are the lingering poetic visuals, leaving only a cold and heartless Yakuza action epic, but a stylish one nonetheless. Which is fine, I’m all for violent Japanese genre flicks, it’s just almost hard to tell this one’s made by Kitano himself, despite his always entertaining grim-faced presence. Continue reading