Alejandro Jodorowsky's FANDO AND LIS (1968) on DVD
for the first time. A low-budget cinematic adaptation of a surrealist play the writer/director of "El Topo" shot from his recollections of staging the play in Mexico, "Fando and Lis" is just different and weird-enough to stand out (particularly coming from late 60's Mexican cinema) while also being too pretentious and full of itself (unless you're into the theater) to qualify as nothing more than a curio for new Jodorowsky fans like myself. Using a mix of allegory and in-your-face symbolism (everything from the implied rape of a little girl by circus people to the lead couple literally painting themselves and the room they're in completely black), "Fando and Lis" manages to visualize on a shoestring budget the absurd and arid landscape (the desolate locations most of the film takes place in as well as Fando's internal back-and-forth romance/hatred for the too-pure-to-be-realistic Lis) of Dante's Divine Comedy as the character's search for the mythical city of Tar takes its toll on them and the oddball weirdos they come across. I'm glad I've seen "Fando and Lis" because a few of Jodorowsky's cinematic trademarks (characters speaking without their mouths moving, small roles for deformed people, etc.) take shape here, but this is definitely the type of film I don't see myself coming back to ever again. THE BURGLARS (1971) on TCM-HD
for the first time. What starts as a diamond heist at a Greek magnate's mansion becomes a waiting game for a getaway boat to repair some damages, which keeps a team of professional thieves stuck in the island with the prized loot at the mercy of a crooked cop (Omar Sharif, clearly enjoying the job as a paid vacation) that wants the diamonds to himself. The old-school pace of this international co-production (including a pretty cool car chase that clearly inspired Frankenheimer when he directed "Ronin") is refreshing, allowing star Jean-Paul Belmondo to flex movie star muscle both seducing his co-stars (Dyan Canon and Nicole Calfan) and performing his own stunts (jumping off buses, falling from a truck down a steep incline in one take, etc.). The scene where Belmondo and Sharif play cat and mouse games at a restaurant feels like the DeNiro-Pacino meet in "Heat," only funny and actually engaging. Not a lost or forgotten gem, "The Burglars" is a pleasant way to kill time and have fun without having much to show afterwards besides the constant grin on your face you had while watching. Alejandro Jodorowsky's THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) at IFC Center Midnights
for the first time. P.T. Anderson's "The Master" makes a lot more sense now that I've seen the mother of all 'guru' movies (for lack of a better term). There aren't enough drugs in the world that could make me come up with a semi-comprehensible summary that could do "The Holy Mountain" any justice. It's so much more than what it appears to be, the story of a Christ-lookalike thief that falls in with a holy man (Jodorowsky) that teams-up with other characters so together the group can try to achieve immortality through _______... and something about turning defecated shit into gold, i.e. A Happy Madison Production (you're welcome, I'll be here all week!
). I thought "El Topo" was an amazing, disturbing and deep movie, but "Holy Mountain" tops it on every level (visually, artistically, thematically, allegorically, etc.) and concludes with a notorious final scene that I can honestly say I loathe and adore with equal zeal. It's a cliche but it's true: you don't watch "The Holy Mountain," you experience it. And the best way to do is either on Blu-ray or, if it comes by your town, a midnight theater screening. Between this and "El Topo" I've become a Jodorowsky fan for life. Bring on "Santa Sangre," motherf***ers! Enzo G. Castellari's THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978) on Blu-ray
for the first time. Like "The Dirty Dozen" with the boring parts (the training, the "getting to know you" moments, etc.) cut off, "The Inglorious Bastards" embraces and relishes the cliche that war movies glorify violence. That's exactly what this is, a violent comic strip that is a text-book of how to stage maximum war violence employing the tricks of the trade and stretching a budget smartly. It takes 45 min. until an actual plot to kick in, and you're never more than 5-10 min. away from a cool action scene and/or shootout. Bo Svenson (who appears, from his appearance in the making-of documentary, to be an intolerable douche), Fred Williamson (having a ball and being a physical mother) and Michael Pergolani (you can't take your eyes off of Nick when he's on screen) headline a small army of actors, technicians and stuntmen that director Castellari directs with the energy and skill of a dozen flicks combined. Plus he throws in a gratuitous bunch of naked chicks that fire machine-guns and some Peckinpah slow-motion montages just because the movie needs a stylish break from its relentlessly awesome war mayhem and effective-though-obvious miniature work.CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984) on DVD
for the first time. A proud member of the class of '84 films (along with "Gremlins" and "Temple of Doom") too violent for PG that ushered in the PG-13 rating, "Conan the Destroyer" is still a watered-down fantasy rehash of "Conan the Barbarian." Even Basil Poledouris rips-off his own memorable score with an inferior one. Directed with impersonal professionalism by Richard Fleischer (except for the bouncing rocks that also float on water... really?) "Destroyer" at least doesn't take itself so seriously that it doesn't have fun repeating/coasting on the beats of the first movie (punching animals, drunk behavior, Mako being Mako, etc.) and Schwarzenegger's physique, which the low-budget "Terminator" used to better effect the same year. Tracey Walter stinks up the movie with his unfunny comic relief schtick but Olivia d'Abo (Nicole Wallace on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") is fascinatingly miscast as a virgin princess that seems imported wholesale from "the Valley." Not the neutered piece of shit that I was expecting but a weak-sauce way to end Arnold's "Conan" franchise.LA CONSTELLATION JODOROWSKY (1994) on DVD
for the first time. A bonus documentary in Anchor Bay's "Fando and Lis" DVD release, this 19 year-old French documentary about the filmmaker (who is clearly more fluent in French than English) is an unintentionally great and lengthy coming attraction trailer for the upcoming "Jodorowsky's Dune" documentary
. A good deal of the piece deals with the aborted project that eventually became David Lynch's movie, but most of "LCJ" is taken by Jodorowsky just talking (to a class of paying listeners, to someone he's giving a tarot card reading, to the documentary director about his family tree past affecting his present, etc.), and that's just fine because Alejandro proves to be an engaging personality worth listening and paying attention to. Whether you agree with what he says is besides the point. Too little time is actually spent discussing Alejandro's movies ("Santa Sangre" is barely mentioned) but the clips shown (tattered, below-8mm quality junk) and some of the war stories (like the slice of humble pie he had to swallow to be allowed to make "The Rainbow Thief" with Peter O'Toole) at least make you appreciate more the restoration done for the post-2007 home video and midnight theater screenings of both his best-known films and Jodorowsky's reputation.Guillermo Del Toro's MIMIC: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1997/2011) on Blu-ray
for the first time. I'm not sure Del Toro's original vision for this $25 million 'B' movie (as both seen and described in his director's cut) was that good or interesting to begin with. The giant bug creatures are meant to be be a cross between a human and a poe'd cockroach ("Jurassic Park" meets "Aliens" set in Gotham's sewers) but the creatures behave more like movie psychos, killing some characters viciously and letting others live at the whim of the script. Between Josh Brolin's laughable CDC Police tough guy act, the trying-too-hard bad soundtrack, the autistic kid, the dodgy CGI, the guy from "Roc" doing the supporting black character routine and Mira Sorvino/Jeremy Northam as lame audience surrogates/leads "Mimic" never had a chance to live up to its potential even before the notorious meddling by the Weinsteins. Only Giancarlo Giannini, F. Murray Abraham (cameo), the design of the creatures and Del Toro's stylish touches (the movie looks gorgeous) lift "Mimic" from forgettable to passable. Great bonus features on the Blu-ray though, in which no punches are pulled and Guillermo shits on the Weinsteins as much as Lionsgate's legal team will allow him to.Richard Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES (2006) on Blu-ray
for the first time. Haven't seen "Donnie Darko" yet, and "Southland Tales" might keep it that way. It's not that I hated this movie as much as I don't know what to make of it, which I think was Kelly's intent all along. Like "Magnolia" on crack cocaine and with a huge cast acting as if each of them is the lead in their own movie (that many of them are former late night sketch TV comedians just adds to the incongruity), Richard Kelly's laundry list of post-Iraq Invasion pet peeves (NSA spying on citizens, reality TV, California laid-back culture, the GOP neocons, etc.) is an angry shout of artistic expression by a writer/director whose compass points everywhere and nowhere. I mean, Bush-Cheney running for office again with a good shot at winning California's 55 electoral votes is already post-apocalyptic enough. But an emasculated Dwayne Johnson and Seann William Scott(s) as the "saviors" that are key to the end of times? Justin Timberlake reading from Book of Revelations (deep!) and starring in a music-video-of-the-mind while high on drugs? "SNL's" Cheri Oteri and Jon Lovitz as tough bad-asses? Animated cars humping? Kevin Smith and Janeane Garofalo unrecognizable under tons of make-up? Christopher Lambert as an arms-dealing ice cream truck driver?
To his credit Kelly manages to link of these disparate elements together PLUS
shows Eli Roth getting killed while taking a dump in a toilet. This is definitely a unique and batshit take on the end of the world. Too bad those of us not in Kelly's wavelength (i.e. 99 and 44/100% of the world) have to struggle just to wrap our minds around what we're seeing, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi comedy that doesn't neatly fit into either category or any other category you might see fit to invent to try and classify it. It's not a total loss, but "Southland Tales" definitely separates fans of ambitious failures (like Judge Patrick Bromley) from pretenders like me, because this is just... just... WOW!