Friday, March 30, 2012

The Wild One

We ended at the start.

Last night we closed out this season's "Shitty Biker Movie Night" with the original biker film that spawned a whole sub-genre over a decade later. Marlon Brando is unforgettable in The Wild One. The movie is excellent and worth watching over and over.

The film is a great snapshot of post-war America. This new breed of rebels find a nomadic home on their motorcycles and America recoils in knee-jerk fright. They wander from town to town, their legend grows, and misinformation and rumors run amok. The tone of the townspeople and the tone of the film adds to the sensationalism surrounding the bikers. No one knows what to make of them. And they're pitched as a generation that doesn't know what to make of themselves, either. Brando is brothers-in-arms with Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (which is a brilliant film). Two sides of the same coin. One on two wheels and the other on four.

Brando aka Johnny, and his gang (the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club) set the tone for biker fashion. Pretty much anything Brando did back then set the tone for masculine fashion, regardless of your preferred mode of transport. They look amazing as they roar towards the camera in the opening scene. Black leather-clad mob 30 strong on a killer round up of period bikes. Mostly British. Mostly Triumphs. But looked like a Matchless or AJS snuck in for good measure.

There's some crappy effects going on that don't really make any sense. They have all these great riding shots and I didn't see the need to pepper them with hokey rear-screen projection shots. They had enough footage to keep it all legit. But no matter. It's a product of 1953 after all. Lee Marvin puts on a great performance as the leader of the opposing gang. It can't go without saying. Terrific actor.

The music is great. It's pretty much an all jazz score. The patter is brilliant. It's hepcat jive dropping jazz on your mind, daddy-o. The film does its best to generalize, commercialize, and stereotype the American counter-culture of the time. Which is fine by me cuz it's clearly the coolest fucking counter-culture there ever was. Coltrane, great style, and Triumphs.

"What're you rebelling against, Johnny?"
"Whaddya got?"


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jazz on a Summer's Day

Evidently in the 1950's high schooler seniors were handed chins like Rock Hudson and the effortless cool of Montgomery Clift as parting gifts upon graduating. That's how they did it back then. What happened to us all? The women look cool, the women look confidently sexy, and the dudes have a great nonchalant style about them. The movie is like a time-capsule for "cool." I've always said that La Dolce Vita (one of my absolute all time favorite films) is the quintessential dictionary definition of "cool." That still stands. It's fucking Marcello Mastroianni in 1960's Italy for god's sake. But hop the pond and the audience at Newport could be the American distillation of the idea.

This was filmed at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 and it features some of the greatest musicians in history like Monk and Armstrong. Even though Davis played in 58 there's no coverage, but no matter. This film is still cool as a motherfucker.

It's more like an 85 minute music video, really. The story is told with music and fly-on-the-wall footage. There's no narrator or anything else. The sea, the music and the audience tell the whole story as it needs to be understood. The camerawork is artistic, the editing and the angles captured are very personal. It's mellow and flows really well. You can watch it in the background or you can pay incredibly close attention; the film works on both levels. I found myself getting goosebumps at a couple of performances. Anita O'Day just kills it.

Hammer of Doom, if you watch it, here are some totally crazy observations that I could argue are somewhat grounded in truth:

• Chico Hamilton Quintet is the Neurosis of the 1950's. Mesmerizing tribal drumming in this appearance.
• Louis Armstrong plays a track to the 1950's equivalent of the D-Beat.

Stream it on Netflix, daddy-o.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Angel Time

First time I've ever thought about not finishing a Rice novel...but I didn't and I'm glad. It's about poverty, suicide, an assassin, an angel, Christians, Jewish persecution, ritual murder and of course redemption. Started off pretty slow but slowly I got hooked. It didn't have the usual Anne Rice style that normally grips me. She put aside her usual stories of the supernatural for awhile so she could write 3 books on the early years of Christ and this is her first book back into the supernatural fiction she's more known for.

All her books are really historical and she usually goes into great detail so that you feel like you're really there. This one didn't have that. It's a short book, so maybe she's just trying to churn them out these days. It is her 30th book after all. This story was pretty good but I'm looking forward to the next book (which I've already started) in this series. I think now that we know the assassin & the angel and their purpose the story will move along at a better pace.

I'm glad I read it, but you don't need to.

The Devil In The White City

I love history and I love horror so I loved this book. Two talented men driven towards their respective passions. Art & Murder. Two separate stories that are perfectly intertwined. The hardships on people towards the end of the 1800s as well as the naivety. The charm & wits of Burnham & Holmes. The eerie castle and mystifying fairgrounds. The stench of Chicago. I really got into this story. Reminds me of the book Gangs of New York. Can't wait for the movie. There's a hour long documentary on H.H. Holmes streaming on Netflix currently.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Northville Cemetery Massacre

The Captain thought this was the best film of the season. Or at least one of the best. I wasn't so sure. Maybe it's because I had just watched C.C. and Company and that was so good that I thought Northville Cemetery Massacre didn't hold up as well.

Obviously the endearing thing about this flick is that is was filmed in Northville, Plymouth and Detroit. You can recognize the streets and old buildings they're hanging around in. The effects were pretty decent. It was filmed in 1972 and released in 1976. They had a slightly more robust plotline going on than what we're used to. But as you'd expect, it wasn't ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination either. Cop vs. biker war.

The bulk of the bikers were actual Detroit riders from the outlaw M/C, the Scorpions. It must be cool to look back and see themselves immortalized in their 70's glory. They even filmed at their old clubhouse (swastikas included). They had bad ass fucking bikes and they looked pretty awesome, though.

For some reason the audio sync wasn't really all that great. And the editing was super shitty. Go figure. They had a pretty cute chick, though. Hot 70's number for sure.

The movie was pretty good. Not my all-time favorite this season, but not a dud by any stretch of the imagination (in context, of course).

Monday, March 12, 2012

C.C. and Company

I'm shocked. I don't know where to begin. C.C and Company was a legitimately good movie. Other than Easy Rider and maybe Girl on a Motorcycle, this is the only other classic biker film that has an iota of artistic merit.

We're used to watching awesomely bad and entertaining trashy biker films from the late 60's/early 70's. But they're simply exploitation films that speak to the zeitgeist of the times. However, this film was actually good regardless of whether you're a biker nerd or a film nerd. It's just a legitimately good movie. And it's shocking to say that a fucking American Football player is the lead!

Before you get carried away, I'm not nominating this for any Oscars. But I'd feel comfortable recommending this flick to non-bikers or film-buffs. Just barely. Hell, it was even described as "the 'Ben Hur' of motorcycle movies," by a critic.

I'll give you a few examples of why it shocked me and why it ruled:

• Ann-Margaret (Elvis's girlfriend) is the main chick. She won me over hardcore in the Cincinnati Kid, and I was excited to see her again. Soooooo fucking seductive.

• Ann-Margaret tells a chick to "Fuck off!" This is the first time we've heard that phrase in a biker film and it was uttered by Elvis's freakin girlfriend! Amazing.

• There's a flat track race with choppers.

• There's a motocross race with choppers.

• Sid Haig (aka Captain Spaulding from House of a 1000 Corpses/Devil's Rejects) has a part, as well as many bit-rate players such as dudes who were in Maniac Cop, Chinatown, and the Outsiders (amongst others).

• A chick actually says, "It's a cross between Antonioni and A.I.P." in the film. That line was more shocking to me that Ann-Margaret's, "Fuck off!" I started taking notes during the film. I couldn't believe it, but it clearly confirmed my assumption that the writers and directors were a cut above the rest and came from some sort of artistic background.

• Far and away the best cinematography out of any film we've seen in this genre, with the exception of Easy Rider.

• It had a plot that wasn't so shallow you could write it on the back of a bus ticket.

• The acting didn't suck. In fact some of it was good (not Joe).

• The motorcycles are sick. Great keystone bars, raked choppers, and awesome sissy bars.

• The stunt driving is pretty awesome. Lots of great crashes. Very impressive.

• Legit nudity. Including Ann-Margaret.

• A chick gives a dude a reach-around on a motorcycle!

• A chick says, "I'm a teenage prostitute. Does that give you any ideas?"

Anyway, let me back up. The only reason I watched this was because I realized it was going to disappear off Netflix steaming on Thursday, so I had to watch it beforehand. I actually started at work today during lunch but the Bandit walked by as some boobs hit the screen and I realized it wasn't really SFW. I will definitely add the dvd to the queue for next season, though. This is a must see for "shitty biker movie night."

I don't know what else to say. This flick ruled. braaap braaaaap braaaaaaaaap!!!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Iron Man

What a surprise, I read another bio.

I'll keep this one short since Hammer of Doom already reviewed it. Said gentleman was kind enough to trade me Iron Man for Devil in the White City (which I hope he is currently enjoying). I thought this was good, but just as H_o_D said, it's nowhere near as good as Ozzy's.

I felt like this was kind of like reading a book of, "This one time when I was at band camp..." stories all strung together. It's 90 odd chapters long and each one is only a few pages long, like a Dan Brown novel. Only Dan Brown novels have plots. This was entertaining and I'm glad I read it, but it didn't feel like a cohesive narrative, but instead just a bunch of stories told one after another. And by that I mean that you could probably skip every fourth or fifth chapter and not have it affect your comprehension of the book or story.

Black Sabbath fans should read it. No doubt, but do yourself a favor and read Ozzy's first. While Tony is a way fuckin cool dude, Ozzy's book is just so much more compelling. Clearly he can afford a better ghost writer or "contributor" or whatever they're called.

The best bits of the book were when Tony was being introspective and giving you insight into his head. All the other stuff about drugs and albums and shit can be put together with internet research of through interviews and other peoples' accounts. But the true value is in finding out what Tony thinks about things. Not the technical crap.

At times I identified with Tony. I did feel a little kinship, I ain't gonna lie. But anyway...I like Tony's 70's mustache a lot better than his current mustache.

I need to check out the later Sabbath stuff with all the post Dio singers. That's just part of the catalog I never gave much thought to. But you know what, I don't think anything after the first six hold a fucking candle to those records. There's a huge line drawn in the sand right after Sabotage. I'll get rotten fruit thrown at me for saying that, but whatever. I'm not gonna get into that here because this is about Tony's book, not Bill Ward's tepid drumming on post Sabotage records, Ozzy's phoned-in vocals or Tony's more generic non-bluesy riffs. ;)

Yeah, read this if you love Sabbath. It's worth the time.

Nice shirt, Ozzy.

Always loved this shot. That's a lot of hair. Like freakin pirates of Birmingham.

Alpine white with gold hardware and triple humbuckers. Nice one, Tony.

Aged like a fine wine.


I really dug this. It was unusual.

My friend Jill has never steered me wrong when it comes to film or music. She's advised me on many occasions over the years and once again she came through. From Ghostface Killah to Jenny Lewis and from documentaries about cinematography to Drive. Being from Chicago she got to see this in the theatre before it came to Detroit. She saw it and raved about it and I only now got around to checking it out, but I'm glad I did.

Pickle had said it reminded him of Taxi Driver and there was certainly some accuracy to that comparison. Ryan Gosling plays an anti-hero not unlike Travis Bickle. The two characters are handled differently, but there's a common thread. I think Taxi Driver is one of the 10 greatest films ever made and there's no contest when it comes to the two, BUT Pickle wasn't off base with the influence. There was certainly a nod to Bullitt when the Mustang and the Chrysler 300 got into a chase together. And it certainly felt a little like Death Proof at times. It definitely drew on good stock.

But the real differentiating factor was the music and the aesthetic of the film. It was wholeheartedly and unabashedly a product of its time. Sure there were some classic cars and some retro cool, but it felt very current. There's always a spotlight on the timeless style of icons like Steve McQueen. Their legacy is indelible. But the movie was honest and current. It's hard for me to really articulate this, and I really don't care to spend time on it cuz it's after midnight and I'm tired...but the point is that the movie had its own point of view and that was important.

There was one scene that reminded me of a scene in Irreversible, but don't let that stop you from watching it. It's nowhere nearly as graphic.

Marie is probably buying the soundtrack right now. I felt like it was one big music video to her. I don't think she minded watching Gosling drive around in shades and brown leather driving gloves too much, either.

This was cool. But as much as I've just praised it, when it comes down to it I didn't think it was AS fucking amazing as everyone's going on about. It was really tight, but so far of all the new movies I've seen in 2012 I'd give the nod to Red State or the Artist over this.

Whatever. Everyone should watch it. It was still great.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blood and Gold

Anne Rice is my favorite author. Been reading her books since junior high and I've never been disappointed by any of them. She is so descriptive, I don't think any other author draws me in like she does.

This is another book in The Vampire Chronicles, so it's tied in to her classics like Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. In Blood & Gold she tells the story of Marius, one of the most ancient vampires. It's a very historical, fantastical and romantic are all of her stories. 

Marius lives in pagan Rome, witnesses the rise of the strange new cult called christianity and battles with a satanic coven of vampires. He suffers the loss of all his loved ones after he is burned to a black husk. He is the guardian of Those Who Must Be Kept. He is thousands of years old. 

If you've never read any of the other VCs you could still start with this one, but I wouldn't recommend it. Start at the beginning with Interview. I really feel the need to go back and start at the beginning too after reading this one.

I can let you borrow them obviously.

Straw Dogs (2011)

So I'm thinking that since you have a "shitty biker movie night" I'm going to start having a "crappy rape-revenge movie night".

I have to admit that I've never watched the original Straw Dogs with Dustin Hoffman. Have you? 

This movie was pretty dumb. I've heard it's fairly close to the OG movie. Don't know....prolly won't ever know. I just couldn't relate to the characters which made me not give a fuck about the terrible things happening to them. I hate to say "she was asking for it" but....  And don't get me started on the husband. It would have taken about an 1/8 of the amount of shit to happen before I resorted to violence. A wise man once said "I'm a violent man when put to task".

Whatever...I'm sure you won't bother with this film. Don't blame ya. It deed redeem itself somewhat with all the violence at the end. Similar to the same reason you watch your shit biker films...I still find enjoyment watching rapists get their comeuppance.

Find your own trailer if you feel the need. ;)

Cop Land

How can you go wrong with Stallone, De Niro, Liotta and Keitel in the same movie? You can't.

Don't know if you've seen this. I hope you have. I'm assuming you have.

It's like Goodfellas but with cops. De Niro looks awesome with the shaggy hair and bushy mustache. Even with a limited supporting role, Bob steals every scene he's in. Ray Liotta plays a scumbag like no other, whether it's a wiseguy or a crooked cop on the take. I love the scene when he's leaving town and catches his reflection in the rearview mirror.

Is this movie underrated? I feel like it is. Is it a classic? I say so.

Check it out if you haven't already. I feel like we saw it in the theater together....
Is it weird that I think Michael Rapaport is a good actor?

Asphyx - Deathhammer

Goddamn this album fucking rules and you're a pussy if you don't agree. OK, sorry about that, but I felt it needed to be said. I've been listening to this album all week. Every time I work out. Every time Amy isn't home so I can blast it. Every time I want real death metal.

These guys have yet to put out a bad album in 25 years of existence. That being said, I like this album even more than 2009s "Death...The Brutal Way". It's so fucking catchy. Every song stands out. Put this in your Amazon cart now. It crushes!!

Hooded Menace definitely draw inspiration from Asphyx, especially from the slower Asphyx songs. "Into The Timewastes" is my favorite track but I couldn't find a video for it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eames: The Architect and The Painter

Another high quality production about high quality people.

I streamed this the other night and thought it was very well done. I had a cursory knowledge of Charles and Ray but this doc helped flesh that out quite a bit more. I didn't know how deep they got into so many avenues of design. They're obviously lauded for their furniture, but their films were awesome! I think Charles was a gifted fucking Director and Editor (assuming he edited the films?). The clips you saw were insightful enough to see that he had fantastic vision from behind the lens.

They worked with a bunch of misfits, man. The people interviewed had the weirdest voices and mannerisms. Ray seemed to have a perm-a-grin and talked through her teeth. That kind of annoyed me. And dressing like an Amish woman didn't get me too stoked either. But whatever. I'm interested in her art, not her threads.

If you care one iota about Eames then you should watch this. No question. My only gripe would be that it was too short. You quickly learn that these peeps had such a vast body of work that this would be better served as a series. Maybe one on furniture, one on films, one on architecture, etc. Of course, that's not really legitimate criticism, but you know what I'm saying. It's just too vast to distill into 90 minutes or whatever. It's a good overview.

I really dug the typography and the poster.

Kick back on your Eames Lounge Chair and enjoy the film.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Angels from Hell

I gotta review this while it's fresh in my mind. 

"I'm gonna drop some jazz on your mind, man." The immortal words of the Pres are still reverberating in my brain. This shit ruled hard! 

While this was awesome, keep in mind it ruled hard in context of other movies of the biker genre. In and of itself it's a pile of crap, but in context this thing is the Citizen Kane of biker flicks, baby. It forgoes the obligatory opening scene of bikers riding down the street to a lukewarm 60's garage rock track, and instead cuts right in on the action. Someone asks the bartender for some penis, at least that's what it sounded like, and next thing you know there's a hate crime going on in the bathroom. It seemed like it was gonna get all prison-gay or something in there, but it turned out to be some white dudes jumping a brotha from a black M/C. The terrible fake blood flows like wine, and the penis-asker kicks some ass and saves the brotha. He takes him outside to meet up w/ his righteous gang of brothas with deep voices and fro's. But then we never see them again for the whole movie. 

And that's pretty much a microcosm of this flick. It's like the whole thing is a bunch of vignettes or skits that involve the same characters but are only very loosely related. There's a lot of "whys" and "whats" to be asked throughout the movie. "What happened to that dude?" was on my mind a lot. Things just happened, then they moved right along to the next part of the plot with no regard to what really happened before or after. 

But don't let that distract you from a groovy flick, brothers and sisters. This flick had everything you wanted in a 1968 biker movie: Gnarliest fucking biker gang we've ever seen? Check. Bad-ass trikes?! Check. Hot mommas in mini skirts and go-go boots? Check. Nip? Check. Gang members named Pus and Balls? Check. Cop vs. biker war? Check. Bud Ekins cameo role as a Richie Cunningham-esque square who rides rings around the gang? Check. Amazing period correct dialog? Check. Lots of weed/grass/pot? Check. Hippy commune? Check. Incredibly un-PC depictions and stereotypes of lesbians, blacks, jews, bikers, Hollywood actors, squares, and cops? Chickity-check-check. This movie didn't give a fuck. And probably didn't know any better. It was hilarious. 

A lot of the bikers were real bikers. It clearly showed in their riding. These dudes had some legit moves. Nice wheelies to kick off the flick. And even though the acting was typically weak, there were a couple stand-out roles. Tom Stern's portrayal of the Pres who comes back into town after getting out of Nam was actually really good. He was one of the more charismatic actors we've seen. And the dude who played the local sheriff was pretty good, too. He knew how to play stoic without coming off as boring or too wooden. I wouldn't give him an Academy Award or anything, but he's probably the best copper we've seen in any of these films.

Artistically the film really made some socio-political indictments against the status quo, governmental erosion of civil rights and judiciary abuses of power. The best of this genre will generally have a legitimate political commentary that is sometimes masked by girls with no bras in tight shirts and dudes with no brains getting hassled by the Man. You gotta look past the fuzz and the grass to see that great films like Angels from Hell are really all about truth, justice and the American way. Liberty and freedom for all, man.

I definitely recommend this flick. Our very own Magician even commented on the fabulous velvety wallpaper in Ginger's love-shack. So let's not forget that along with truth, justice and the American way, comes every citizen's right to own groovy wallpaper.

Stream it on Netflix or you're not American. 

Look at those pipes! That's a sick scooter.

Free mustache rides for all. It's the swingin' sixties.