Rewatched Fritz Lang's THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS (1927) on Blu-ray
. Brigitte Helm's kooky facial expressions and "sinful" dancing at the Yoshiwara as "Evil" Maria (and the reaction of the men toward her) never fail to bring a dorky cinephile smile to my face. The more times I see "Metropolis" the more I realize what a bad-ass Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is for not only holding to a grudge against Joh Fredersen, but to implement a plan that will bring down an entire city and kill millions (using Joh's own idea) because Rotwag's still butt-hurt for losing the love of his life to his rival. From Gargamel to Megatron and from Cobra Commander to the Wicked Witch in "Wizard of Oz" along with every Bond villain ever conceived, compared to all of them Rotwang is the s***.
Plus the fact I live in a time when I can watch a 96% complete version of "Metropolis" in 1080p high-def (most of it looking pretty freaking sharp and vibrant) still kind-of boggles my fragile little mind. Noribumi Suzuki's SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST (1974) at Landmark Sunshine's Midnight Cinema
for the first time. Essentially a women's prison movie set inside a convent (i.e. nunsploitation
), "School of the Holy Beast" could easily be mistaken as 70's exploitation fodder because of its scenes of nude torture, rape, lesbian sex, incest and assorted weirdness (a lot of them unintentionally funny). But amidst all the required titillating sex and nude shots Suzuki-chan weaves a deliriously OTT narrative of revenge, purification of the soul and hypocrisy (personified by a Rasputin-like priest) that elevates this closer to art house fare than grindhouse, or a healthy combination of both. The excellent anamorphic cinematography, dreamy Masao Yagi score and solid lead performance by Yumi Takigawa make "School of the Holy Beast" a nunsploitation
classic worth seeing.MST3K #604: ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE (1994/1986) on DVD
for the first time. "Alien from L.A.," "Hobgoblins," "Final Justice"... pure, unadulterated 80's cinematic pain of the worst kind. For every "Cave Dwellers" or "Master Ninja" there were twice as many schlocky 80's flicks that not even Joel/Mike and the Bots could salvage with their rapid-fire quips. So imagine my surprise when, as much as I was off-put by its 80's Canadian cheesiness (and Shawn Levy's punk character getting the unwarranted courtesy of an off-screen death by the show's edit), "Zombie Nightmare" turned out to be an OK experiment. Most of the credit goes to Adam West. Halfway through the so-dark-you-can't-see "I Know What You Did Last Summer"-like flick, when the fumes of murdered-then-resurrected-teenager Tony (rocker Jon Mikl Thor) going about his vengeance against those that killed him start to wear off, Adam shows up as a burned and bitter cop. Between the million and one "Batman" jokes M&TB's throw out (almost all of them hilarious) and West's doing-it-for-the-paycheck performance "Zombie Nightmare" ends on a delirious high of impossible coincidence, surreal nonsense and a forensics guy that talks like he's in a 40's movie (or The Penguin). Don't think I can watch this again anytime soon (too painful!) but glad this Season 6 experiment didn't turn out to be as painful as anticipated.Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE (2011) in theaters
for the first time. My first Refn movie, one that now makes me wish I had seen the "Pusher" trilogy or "Valhalla Rising" beforehand. While this stunt-man-moonlighting-as-criminal-wheelman-that-falls-in-love-with-neighbor revenge crime noir isn't original (shades of Alain Delon's character in Melville's "Le Samouraï" plus "The Stunt Man" and every Walter Hill and Michael Mann 80's movie ever made) "Drive" embraces its derivative pieces and assembles them into an arthouse-meets-mainstream mesh that won't please everybody (my midnight theater crowd got restless with the pace of conversation scenes) but feels solid and confident throughout. Ryan Gosling gives so much of his character away by doing so little (especially movement) it's remarkable; the Driver's Kubriesque manners are a perfect 'ying' to the supporting peformance 'yangs' from Albert Brooks (cast against type), Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston and (looking an awful lot like Larisa Oleynik) Carey Mulligan. Like a time warp back to the 80's (pink font titles, Kavinsky's 'Nightcall' in the background, etc.) the elevator scene where Driver and Irene connect right before he's forced to violently reveal his true self is a self-contained world onto itself.MONEYBALL (2011) in theaters
for the first time. The considerable talents of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill are wasted (the former's a lot more than the latter's comic relief schtick) in this otherwise-excellent Brad Pitt vehicle that takes subjects I don't know squat about (baseball statistics and MLB financial deals) and boils them down to human terms and situations we can all relate to as often-hilarious everyday human/sports dramas. The need for the movie's narrative to highlight Billy Beane's single-minded vision comes at the expense of the real-life behind-the-scenes group effort that made the '02 Oakland A's team memorable (thus my beef with how P.S. Hoffman's portrayal of manager Art Howe borders on ridiculous), but that's Steven Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin screenwriting for you. Brad's acting has never been better than in scenes where Billy's apparent disregard for the sport he works for hide a deeper attachment for what baseball means to him than even he acknowledges. Director Bennett Miller (replacing Steven Soderbergh when "Moneyball" fell apart a few years back) lets the narrative do the talking with few signature shots/visuals, but the fact the movie holds together (despite my beef with the portrayal of Art Howe) speaks well for Miller's directorial skills.
And, last and certainly least, CINEMATIC TITANIC LIVE: EAST MEETS WATTS (2011/1974) at the Best Buy Theater in NYC
for the first time. Saw this on DVD recently
not worried about ruining the upcoming live performance by the Titans because they've earned a reputation (like the Rifftrax guys) for refreshing/changing jokes to keep the live performances fresh and different from the DVD versions. Well, either I was lied to or Joel/Trace/Mary Jo/Frank/Josh took the night off because the live version of "East Meets Watts" they did last Saturday night in Times Square was 95% identical to the one on the DVD, right down to the synchronized spit takes and scripted flubs. Even the pre-show bits were recycled gags from what the guys did in April of 2010
when their "Danger at Tiki Island" show went like gangbusters to a sold-out crowd. With the house half-full and laughing politely but less enthusiastically at jokes we already knew, I left the theater disappointed that I'd spent Broadway ticket prices for Off-Broadway quality work from people I like and admire but that clearly this time decided to phone in their work.