Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brian Sammons Hi-Def Horror Hoedown!


Director: Alex Stapleton
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Roger Corman

There seems to have been a glut of documentaries on all things concerning horror, sci-fi, and cult cinema. From all the horror icons of the 80s, to even more classic fare like THE PSYCHO LEGACY, to examinations of the cultiest of cult movies like THE BEST WORST MOVIE that examined the awesomely bad TROLL 2. These docs have all been wonderfully varied and they have all had one thing in common; that is that I loved them.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of this new one, CORMAN’S WORLD, a doc on the “king of the B-movies”, Roger Corman.

To be honest, it’s not a bad movie. It is far more star studded than pretty much any other documentary I’ve seen in a long time. It has an impressive list of interviews from Jack Nicholson, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, Peter Fonda, Joe Dante, Pam Grier, Ron Howard, William Shatner, Quentin Tarantino, and more. It is well made and filmed, to be sure, but it is also sort of a boring watch. It lacks any of the vim and vitality of the other recent movie docs. It’s hard to explain, but it’s sort of just there. It could be because it kind of feels like a self-indulgent fluff piece where Corman is made out to be the best thing since sliced bread. I guess that’s to be expected, as the documentary is all about him, but I’ve heard enough stories about the man to know that he’s not all rainbows and gumdrops, and a little hint of that here would have gone a long way.

Further, and the thing that truly aggravated me about this movie, is that it spends an inordinate amount on time on some aspects of Corman’s incredibly long career, and yet all but skips over and dismisses other parts of it. A prime example of this is anything Corman did after the late 70s and the birth of the blockbusters such as STAR WARS and JAWS. This doc pretty much sums up that era with ‘oh he became upset that what were once B-movies like monster (killer sharks) and sci-fi flicks were given the A treatment and he just couldn’t compete’. While that may be true, that is personally my favorite time for Corman made (be it mostly produced) films. Movies like HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, GALAXY OF TERROR, CHOPPING MALL, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, and even PIRANHA and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, which were Corman’s rip offs of the JAWS and STAR WARS movies he so hated. Sure he didn’t direct any of these films, but he was the big boss of each of them, so they should have been covered in here, at least a little. And while I’d never say that these movies are masterpieces of cinema, I grew up watching them, I love the hell out of them, and yet they don’t even get a begrudging nod in their general direction. It’s as if he’s ashamed of these dirty little movies. Yet there are lengthy bits on his ‘amazing’ beginnings (IT CONQUERED THE WORLD) and the truly horrible, bland, Sci-Fi Original movies (DINOSHARK) he’s making now. Yeah, stuff like that gets some screen time, but not the 80s-tastic CHOPPING MALL or any of its brethren? Blah.

As for the special features on this new Blu-ray from Anchor Bay, they are as lackluster and bland as the feature. There is a very short collection of extended interviews and a collection of ‘messages to Roger’ where most of the people interviewed in the doc give a personal message to the camera for Corman. That’s it, that’s all the extra you’ll find on this disc.

CORMAN’S WORLD isn’t a bad documentary, but it’s not all that great either. It’s not particularly entertaining or informative, but if you are a big fan of Roger Corman, or just like run of the mill docs on movie making, then you may like this movie more than I did. If you’re just a typical horrorhead with no special love for the wacky movies Roger made, or worse yet, a fan of those classically cheesy 80s movies I mentioned before, then you probably won’t dig this flick quite as much.

IN TIME– (2011) Blu-ray review

Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy

This straight up sci-fi film is as about sci-fi as you can get without having little green men in it. In this movie immortality is an achievable thing, but only for a very privileged few. In order to make sure not everyone lives forever, and thus overpopulate and destroy the world, time has become the new currency. Starting on a person’s twenty-fifth birthday everyone is given a finite amount of time. A year, if I remember correctly. To get more time, you must work, but in order to purchase anything, you must literally give a bit of your life away. Want a cup of coffee? It will cost five minutes of your life. That is the pretty darn unique premise behind IN TIME. So it gets points for originality, but is it any good? Well if you have a few minutes of your own life to spare, keep reading and let’s find out.

IN TIME is the new film by writer/director Andrew Niccol, a man who knows sci-fi well. He wrote THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998), wrote and directed the forgettable S1M0NE (2002), and likewise wrote and directed the very good GATTACA (1997). So while he obviously has a passion sci-fi, it’s not like he has an impeccable filmmaker. Thankfully, this is one of his better efforts. Not his best, but still pretty good.

The same can be said about singer turned actor Justin Timberlake. I’m neither a fan nor a hater of the former teen heartthrob. While his music does nothing for me, I’ve found his work as an actor passible to fine, and here it is once again fine. The same can be said of most of the actors appearing here, with the one exception being his costar and love interest, Amanda Seyfried. While very lovely and a treat for the eyes, she was very bland and just sort of there.

As for the story it’s a thinly veiled commentary on the state of modern affairs where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Except for IN TIME, the rich get to live forever as they accumulate millions of years, and the poor live literally day to day, sometimes running out of time and then dying on the spot. As commentary, it’s sadly accurate, but as a movie, is it entertaining? Well it’s not too bad.

Timberlake plays a poor young man named Will who is just three years past the start of his potentially lethal biological clock. Will saves a man with more than a century saved up, but that man has been alive for far longer than that and is just sick of it all. So when Will isn’t looking, the rich man he gives him all his time in a weird form of suicide. This pole-vaults Will to the big time (ha, get it? Get used to it, this movie has a ton of time puns in it) but on the exact same day, his eternally hot twenty-five-year-old mother runs out of time and dies in his arms. This puts the young man on the path of righteous revenge to tear down the entire time-trading and hoarding system. Along the way he meets the daughter of the richest and longest lived man in the city, Amanda Seyfried, and the two become a Bonnie and Clyde and start Robin Hooding all the time from the banks (yes, time is kept in banks) to give it to the poor.

Now if that last sentence sounds a bit cliché ridden, that’s because it is, but then so too is this movie. Therein lies IN TIME’s biggest failing. Other than an interesting premise, nothing new or noteworthy happens in this film. Oh it’s a perfectly serviceable little slice of sci-fi, and it’s done well, but it’s also the same “fight the power with two young and very pretty people” movie that we’ve seen time and time (ha) again. Hell, it even pays homage – or perhaps rips off – the classics with an overly obsessive police detective right out of LES MISERABLES. So if you are looking for something completely new, you’ll have to look elsewhere. However if you want and entertaining bit of social commentary with futuristic overtones, IN TIME might be the movie for you.

As for the Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox, it has the usual amazing picture you come to expect from a modern movie delivered in HD. It is also one of those neat combo packs that come with the DVD and digital copy in addition to the Blu-ray. Unfortunately the special features gathered here are not so special. There is a single 17 minute featurette done mockumentary style and a collection of a few deleted scenes. That’s it, that’s all the time 20th Century Fox could devote to extras on this disc.

IN TIME has a great idea but a flawed and somewhat mundane execution. It’s a decent enough watch, but I don’t know if anyone would need to watch it more than once. As such, consider this one a rental rather than a purchase.

--Brian Sammons