Author Archive

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Freaks (1932)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 4, 2011 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Tod Browning

Written by: Tod Browning

Based on: Spurs by Tod Browning

Cast: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Henry Victor, Harry Earles

Genre: classic horror, drama

The Freaks: “We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”

In the 1920’s, Hollywood introduced the glorious talkies. With the use of sound entertainment was changed forever. This change strengthened the experience that the average movie goer witnessed. Due to this, films that previously had heavy references to sexuality, sex,  illegal drug use, and violence were now subject to the Motion Picture Production Code or Hays Code, which forced films to follow strict censorship guidelines. It would be these guidelines that would wreak havoc on the production of horror films. Before sound, the audience did not feel fear that was meant to be brought on by the now classic horror movies but with sound, the movie monsters was given the bark to their bite. It was sound that complemented these films and brought about the fear that these films deserved. While sound brought about the much needed fright that horror films starved for, it also subjected it to drastic editing and limited releases. After the 1932 release of the film Freaks, horror movies would never be the same. It was Freaks that helped startled audiences call for stricter forms of handling of such films. It was also the death sentence for the career of the film’s director, Tod Browning, who collaborated with Lon Chaney and directed Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931).

Freaks follows a traveling carnival in 1930’s France.  Focusing on the daily lives of sideshow performers, Freaks details the survival code of these men and women, cross one and you have crossed them all. Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova), a vainglorious trapeze artist who mocks the carnivals freaks, has little interest in a little person performer, Hans (Harry Earles), until it is revealed that he is air to a vast fortune. With the help of Strongman and romantic interest, Hercules (Henry Victor), Cleopatra constructs a plan to relieve Hans of his inheritance. After marrying the little performer, Cleopatra slowly poisons her husband until the freaks realize her scheme.

Due to the Hays Code, Freaks was cut from ninety minutes to sixty-four minutes. It is the end of the film that has suffered from the most editing. In the original cut, Freaks settled this Greek tragedy by having the sideshow performers come after Hercules with a range of weapons. After castrating him, Hercules is later seen singing falsetto. Cleopatra’s fate is, while not similar, just as severe. The freaks melt and reform her hands to look like duck feet and tar and feather her. After butchering a rather fitting ending, MGM pieced together a happier alternative without the violence. Much of the editing was due to poor audience test screening. One movie goers reaction was to sue MGM after watching Freaks because she believed it caused her to suffer a miscarriage. Despite the cuts, Freaks was still poorly received and was banned in the United Kingdom for thirty years due to the shock brought about by its cast. Even after MGM added new comedy sequences, a new prologue, and a new epilogue, Freaks caused its audience to question their 1930’s cookie cutter morality.

The cast of Freaks showcased a wide variety of different sideshow performances that were popular in the 1930’s. With performers like Zip and Pip (pinheads), intersexual Josephine Joseph (half man/half woman), Prince Randian (the Human Torso), and Koo-Koo the Bird Girl (who suffered from Virchow-Seckel syndrome, also known as bird-headed dwarfism), the film was drawn from personal experiences that Browning had had during his early years traveling with the circus. While Browning attempted to show his audience that the sideshow performers were admirable hardworking people and that the film’s real villain were those that society deems as “normal”, the film appears more exploitative than a tale of innocent love gone awry.  Browning provides no explanation or evidence as to why the audience must see the freaks as “normal” while he shows them behave in a manner that in the 1930’s would seem as actions purely performed by the insane. The audience’s reaction is almost predictable given a basic understanding of an era that did not allow women to vote until eight years earlier and it was still illegal for interracial marriage. The response of the public can best be expressed in the reaction of screenwriter, F. Scott Fiitzgerald. After witnessing a scene involving Siamese twin sisters, Fitzgerald proceeded to run to the bathroom and vomit.  Sadly, this reaction is lost on the audience of today.  While sound may have played a key role in the disturbance that the audience felt when they first viewed Freaks, time has passed and with most audience members being subject to far more horrific concepts than sideshow performers, Freaks has lost any fright is once held. Viewing Freaks seventy-nine years after its original release feels more like a study in film than a true scare. Freaks may pale in comparison to many of today’s horror films but it still holds value among those who treat movies more as an experience and less as entertainment.

Horror films of the 1930’s can only be described as having captured the essence of early Hollywood, of when art came in a variety of forms, even scares. With the newness of the talkie and the act of many directors adapting German expressionist techniques to dramatic films, classic horror films such as Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and even Freaks, have had the ability to withstand the test of time. While many of the early horror films are not as intense or graphic as horror films of this era, one must question will these newer film be considered classics in another seventy-nine years as Freaks is? What is this generations Dracula? What is this generations Bride of Frankenstein? What is this generations Freaks? Will films such as the Saw franchise be look back upon in greatness and studied by film students or as filming technology improves will it be laughed at?

For some, it may be difficult to view Freaks as a horror film. In the almost eighty years since its release society has become more excepting of persons with deformities and disabilities. In the past someone with dwarfism or born without limbs could be seen as terrifying. There are in fact very few horror films from this era that do not feature a monster that is not disfigured in some way. In a time when a person born with a disability was sent away to live in a asylum or not allowed to leave their home, it is not surprising that the cast of Freaks would be seen as frightening. It is only today that we are getting better at embracing those who look different. It is this reason alone that makes one question if this classic horror film is purely just a sad little love story.

Freaks, while not perfect by any measure, is still a very interesting and prevailing piece of work. Known to have inspired The Ramones to David Lynch, Freaks has earned its right to be considered a counterculture cult film. It is by no means a movie for the average movie watcher. A passionate fan or student of film can look past the weak voice work and at time poor acting, to see how this misunderstood work of art is truly a significant piece of horror movie history.

Freaks receives a 7 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader presents: It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2011 by chainsawcheerleader

Homosexual marriage, Mother Nature’s wraith, turmoil in the Holy Land, a black president…is it the Liberal agenda? No, it’s the end times! While Liberalism may seem like one of the signs of the Apocalypse, nothing says look busy Jesus is coming quite like giving some batshit crazy asshole national media attention. Harold Camping, the asshole in question, has predicted that on May 21, 2011 around 6 p.m. the rapture, as foretold within the Bible shall begin. Conveniently, he believes that only 2 percent of believers (a barely recognizable amount out of nearly 7 billion people on Earth) will be raptured right away, though the total destruction of the Earth will occur in October. While Camping is the type of Christian that gives other believers a bad name, he is 89 years old and as his end time it literally any day now, we shall take a look at films that have entered the theaters since his last rapture prediction (1994). Randomly selected, these films all fit into the categories that each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would enjoy with a bit of popcorn and the destruction of mankind.

White Horse (Pestilence)

Sickness, disease, plague…the scariest things are always that which we cannot see. How can you save yourself or your loved ones from something that is nearly invisible? How can you defeat what is beyond your knowledge or understanding? The answer is simple: you need a film that solves the problem within its last ten minutes by blowing your mind so you do not once question the legality of its method. Hollywood loves to pull the strings of our paranoia. Whether it is aliens, terrorists, or something else we lack control over, these are individual fears. It is only universal fears that are end of the world worthy.

12 Monkeys (1995)

12 Monkeys not only displayed the fact that Brad Pitt can play crazy pretty well but it also show cased the idea that the disease of the mind can be scarier than a disease that wipes out the majority of the human population on Earth. Bruce Willis’s character was not only trying to find more information on the events that led up to the near extinction of humankind, he was a man that showed clear signs of paranoia and psychosis. Sure, certain events throughout the film validated his paranoia but it was the treatment he received in the future that helped prove that the loss of one’s mental facilities can be more frightening then the loss of their life.

Other Examples:

28 Days Later (2002)

Children of Men (2006)

Three Random Movie Plagues:

The sequel and prequel

The milking of popular genres

The awful actor that is somehow still working (example: Keanu Reeves, Megan Fox)

Red Horse (War)

Edwin Starr once asked, ” War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?” The answer is simple: the underlying theme of some of the greatest movies ever made. While brave men and women give their lives so we can secretly watch the Ben Affleck film, “Pearl Harbor” for the third time while pretending to scoff at how horrible the film was, Hollywood plunders their souls and experiences to cash in. The war film makes its  horrors safe for the viewing public while giving them a false belief that they understand that horror because they watched it in a theater. For many, the war film is the closest they will ever get to actual combat and that is clearly close enough.

Jarhead (2005)

Jarhead may not be the next Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now or a lot of other things but it’s entertaining and sets a great example of the perception of war in Hollywood. The film industry  has had a shady record of glorifying or sexualizing war. Nothing demonstrates this better then when Jake Gyllenhaal celebrates Christmas in nothing more than a Santa hat during operation Desert Storm. Obviously sexualized behavior happens on any Army base regardless of location but one must ask themselves besides that scene what else does one remember from that movie? Gyllenhaal proves…the rapture should be sexy.

Other Examples:

Adam Resurrected (2008)

The Pianist (2002)

Three Random War on Films:

The dismissal of an actor due to age and not talent

Censorship of taboo subjects (example: sexuality, history)

The pussifacation of young male stars

Black Horse (Famine)

America is one of the most well-feed and over-weight countries in the world. Like our muffin tops, we wear this fact well as a symbol of wealth and the prosperity of our country. This writer will be the first to admit that if I could eat pizza for the rest of my life and never see another vegetable again, I think I would understand the true meaning of Nirvana as spoken about by the Buddha. But like most others from privileged countries, I’m allergic to a food that someone from a third-world country has most likely never tasted. While my body rejects what I believe should be healthier then broccoli, Hollywood has done the same with certain movie concepts. Force feeding the viewer watered down ideas of love, sex, and relationships, Hollywood laughs as we gobble it up. Sure, we could say no. We could put down that last slice and walk away but damn it, just like that carb-infested slice of grease we cannot get enough of entertainment. It is only when a film tells the truth and presents the subject in its untouched form should we say fuck it and pray later on that we do not double over in pain.

Just call me Pizza the Hutt.

American History X (1998)

Hollywood is a great manipulator. They give us small brief glimpses of uncensored reality only to quickly devour it in front of us. They starve us of storylines that tell the truth and deny us of films that do not have polished endings. The truth that lies within American History X indulges in the idea that sometimes regardless of how hard you try to turn your life around you may still be fucked. There is no happy ending. The main character does not solve all his problems within the last ten minutes of the film, he does not get back together with his Nazi girlfriend, and the one person he tried to save is beyond his reach. American History X also tells the truth about family and how  one person’s abnormal is another’s normal. Every family, regardless of them being Nazis or not, is insane. For those who may disagree, just remember your mom does things when your away that neither of us want to know about.

Other Examples:

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Three Random Movies Themes We Need More of:

Strong female roles where the woman is neither a bitch nor relies on a man

Main characters without love interests

Films that do not try to connect with the younger generation by mentioning social media networks or modern gadgets.

Pale Horse (Death)

Death is the one final concept that all living creatures share. While I cannot share my irrational hatred of Sarah Jessica Parker with for example, a seahorse, I can share our inevitable end. The rapture may use this fact against us but it is Hollywood that either embraces the fact or tries to scare the shit out of us with it. Depending on the film, a certain characters death can be gut-wrenching, note-worthy, or hilarious. It is often the death scene of a film that is remembered far more than other key events that take place during an interesting film. Not only does death make life powerful but film as well.

Milk (2008)

In 1978, politician Dan White shot Mayor George Moscone dead and then killed our nation’s first openly gay man to be voted into office, San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk. After the two murders, White proclaimed that his reasoning behind the shootings was that he had eaten to many Twinkies and was thus given a five year sentence by the courts. While incompetence on behalf of the courts may seem like reason enough for Armageddon, the fact remains that if you truly wish for your film to win an Academy Award an important character in the movie must die. Death may bring about the most primitive of feelings but it also almost guarantees admiration. Milk is an excellent film and is a reminder that Sean Penn is indeed a wonderful actor, it also raises the question had Harvey Milk not died, would this fight for equal rights be given its rightful praise?

Other Examples:

The Lion King (1994)

Fargo (1996)

Three Random Death Scenes that Should be in Film:

Electrocution via the penis

Breasts implant explosion

Someone gets hit by car only to bounce off of it to hit another car (chain reaction)

Fuck the rapture. I still have to many movies to watch before the end of the world.

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Paul (2011)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2011 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Greg Mottola

Written by: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, Blythe Danner, John Carroll Lynch, David Koechner, Jess Plemons, Jeffrey Tambor, Luke Jackson, Paula LaBaredas, Justin Reed, Steven Spielberg, Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker

Genre: sci-fi, comedy, adventure

 

Graeme Willy: What’s the matter, Clive?
Clive Gollings: There is an alien in the kitchen making bagels and coffee.
Graeme Willy: Did you want tea?
Clive Gollings: No, I don’t want tea!
Graeme Willy: Right, because tea is weird in America.

 

The fanboy, is a deeply devoted and often bias being that has dedicated him or herself  to an interest. Whether it be science or science fiction, there are few audiences that are more difficult to please then the fanboy. It is only when the fanboy writes his/her own script and is able to produce a film that all fanboys may come together and share a laugh that is solely understood by them. The film Paul (2011) is a movie made by fanboys, about fanboys, and for fanboys. Often drawing from classic films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indian Jones, and Star Wars, Paul is seen as a love letter to Steven Spielberg. This feel good buddy movie plays for laughs but underneath the comedy runs a jab at homophobia and extreme Christianity in America.

Paul follows Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), two sci-fi nerds, as they travel about America on a pilgrimage to Comic-Con and the most infamous UFO hot spots. Traveling by RV, the two set out on their road trip believing they are following their dream of visiting all locations of extraterrestrial importance.  After crossing paths with two rednecks, Graeme and Clive flee only to cross paths with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an alien on the run from federal agents.  In desperate need of their help, Paul convinces Graeme and Clive to help him escape. Fumbling their way through America, the trio are aided by Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig), a Creationist Christian that they have accidentally kidnapped.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost take the proven movie formula of the road trip and restructure the genre to fit to their science fiction tastes. While most road trip films rely on the same routine to produce laughs, Paul takes its time in developing its characters and why the audience should not only find them funny but also likeable.  Paul does rely on fart joke type humor but Pegg and Frost have personalized the comedy by inserting their own brand of wit. This act helps keep the film within the fanboy realm without straying from its key audience.  Pegg and Frost have created a film that is fast paced, moving quickly from scene to scene. Not only do they proved laughs but a dramatic and emotional edge to their well-written script. After providing a poignant scene that is needed to draw the audience in, the heaviness of the moment is quickly shifted by a perfectly timed curse word or comedic gag. It is only at  the climax of the film does the movie become suddenly dark. It is during this time that the tone of the film shifts and no longer drives for laughs. While the scene is heavy for a comedy it is appropriate. There are very few ways to end a movie about an alien that fit not only within the scope of the fanboy realm but also within the sci-fi genre itself. Pegg and Frost are able to make scenes such as this and those with humor work because it is obvious that they are truly enjoying themselves. The duo come across as believing in the plot and what they are creating. The chemistry between the two only strengthens the believability of their roles as best friends.  Aside from their comedic and acting ability, Pegg and Frost offer a film that is unpredictable and leaves the audience surprised when key aspects of the storyline are finally revealed.

Seth Rogan once again plays the fat stoner slacker as Paul. The stoner, ultimately his trade mark, Rogan is the perfect choice to voice the CGI created alien. It is important to remember that Paul has been stranded in American for the last fifty years and Rogan’s voice completely portrays an Americanized stereotype, overweight and all consuming. While comedy is the one genre that is well suited for Rogan, it has type casted him in a single role. Often and mostly playing the stoner, Rogan leaves his audience to wonder if there is more to the actor than being high. It is important that Rogan finds the opportunity to expand upon his roles or his career will be short lived. It is no longer funny and rather sad when the stoner ages out of his target audience and continues to play that role as a middle aged adult.

A highlight of Paul is the limited use of CGI. The only noticeable use of CGI is Paul but that is clearly obvious due to the fact that currently there are no pot smoking aliens walking about in the public, at least that we know of. It is a pleasure to see how well Paul was created and it is his appearance that demonstrates the time and dedication put into this film. From the texture of his skin to his third eyelid, Paul is an excellent example of the talent of his creators.

There is more to the alien, Paul then just the creation of him. Paul is a jokester with a crude sense of humor. He is more E.T. than Predator and bonds with his human companions by chatting about the mysteries of the universe. While utterly aware of the reaction his appearance brings to humans, Paul appears worn out from the whole idea that he is a space man and how people react to it. At the heart of his character, Paul simply craves conversation and the experience that good friends bring about. The emotional and very human side of Paul is not used for laughs but respected. Of all the characters within the film, Paul is the only one that fits better within society then that of his human companions. While Graeme and Clive have a difficult time interacting with society outside of Comic-Con and the science fiction genre and Ruth sees the world as defined by her religion, Paul sees the world beyond his comforts and in its entirety. In the end, it is a nonhuman that shows Graeme, Clive, and Ruth how to live outside of their comfort zone and in society.

Paul plays respectfully to the fanboy with in-jokes. The idea of the inside joke is based on humor that only a select social group understands or can identify within their community.  An inside joke uses humor to bring together a community at the expense of outsiders.  The power of the inside joke is that only a select few will have knowledge that others do not. The issue with this is that it further separates those who laugh at it. This is an issue due to the fact that the fanboy is already social separate from the rest of society. To be the only one or one of a very few to laugh aloud within a movie theater is a lonely feeling knowing that no one else knows or understands why you find something funny. Paul thrives on the in-joke. Ranging from the obvious to the obscure, the jokes are written so well that those who do not understand it will not feel like they are missing in on a laugh. A few examples of the in-jokes that Paul provides are the use of the Wilhelm Scream during a random moment that accompanied no action, upon entering a bar a western band is playing cantina music from Star Wars, Graeme and Clive reenact the fight between Gorn and Caption Kirk from Star Trek, and the warehouse scene from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Other in-jokes center around the comic book The Boys, Karate Kid, and Star Trek: Generations.

There is a deeper and darker side to Paul. While focusing on laughs, Paul questions two issues that seem very American. This satirical look at America points toward gods, guns, and the idea that anyone who is different must be gay. While not bashing religion, Wigg’s character Ruth, is a Creationist Christian and only begins to question her beliefs once she meets Paul. Ruth initially does not think that Paul is real due to the fact that she believes that God created the Earth and man in his image. After Paul gives Ruth the knowledge of the universe does she question everything that has been told to her. While trying to find the answers to her know many questions, Ruth states that since there is no God that she can be sexual promiscuous because there is no sin. After spontaneously kissing and then groping Graeme’s privates, Graeme stops her and explains to her the idea of dignity without God. Aside from the concept of knowledge verses God, Paul takes on America’s idea and behavior toward homosexuality. Several scenes occur where Graeme and Clive’s sexuality is questioned. With every wink, wink, nudge, nudge that questioning parties give Graeme and Clive, they are met with the truth that the two are often oblivious to the fact that in America their close friendship is seen as gay. One example of this is when Paul goes on to make physical gay sex references and Clive does not understand his actions. A second example occurs after Graeme and Clive believe they are being chased by red necks who think they are gay. As they speed away Clive blurts out that what is happening is like the defining moment in the movie Deliverance and states that the red necks are going to rape them and then break their arms. Graeme replies to this by saying that he doesn’t want his arms broken. By not saying that he does not want to engage in gay sex, Graeme is implying that there is nothing wrong with two men making love. Pegg and Frost joke about homophobia in America with a respectful tone. While those within the film who instigate the question of the friends being gay are written to demonstrate that these are not nice people. Like jokes about blondes or the overweight, gay jokes are easy jabs at a group of people. The gay joke is an uncreative fall back when the writer cannot think of something funnier to write. This, thankfully, does not seem to be the case for Pegg and Frost. While handling the sensitive issue, Pegg and Frost are poking fun at those who are homophobic and not those who are gay. With such a focus on extreme Christianity and homophobia this leads one to question if this is how the rest of the world views America. Pegg and Frost are English and see America from a different point of view then that of an American. Paul is an opportunity to see America through the eyes of the world. It is a frightening view if hate takes center stage.

Paul is a valentine to fellow fanboys. While its humor is universal and appeals to a mass audience, its true purpose is to bask in all things sci-fi. Those who do not understand the in-jokes will enjoy Paul but those who recognize the many references in almost every spoken line and inch of scenery, will find a deeper joy that Paul brings. Ultimately sentimental and at times simply sweet, Paul embraces its unadulterated affection for its love of geekdom.

Paul receives an 8 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Wizards (1977)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2011 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Ralph Bakshi

Written by: Ralph Bakshi

Narrated by: Susan Tyrrell

Cast: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, James Connell, Steve Gravers, Mark Hamill

Genre: animation, sci-fi adventure, fantasy

Fairy Child: Where’s Daddy? What’s he doing?
Fairy: He is guarding our home, son.
Fairy: There has been a war, and this land is lost.
Fairy Child: Why can’t we fight and win, Mommy?
Fairy: Because they have weapons and technology. We just have love.

Ralph Bakshi, a politically adult oriented animator of such films as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin, was given the challenge to create a family film that did not attract controversy. Bakshi, wanting to prove that he could create a family film that had the same tone of his adult oriented animations, accepted the challenge. From this decision, Bakshi would go on to animate his first animated fantasy film and now cult classic, Wizards.

Wizards takes place two million years into the future after the Earth was annihilated by nuclear war. As the  radiation settles and allows life to prosper once again, elves, fairies, and dwarves return to the Earth. After the last of the humans has died or mutated into monsters, the true ancestors of man begin a 3,000 year celebration of peace. It is during this celebration that the queen of the fairies falls under a trance and gives birth to twin wizards, Avatar (Bob Holt) and Blackwolf (Steve Gravers). While Avatar is peaceful, his brother Blackwolf plots world domination. After being banished to live with the former humans, now mutants, Blackwolf tries but ultimately fails to capture fairy territory. Realizing that the mutants  lack passion, Blackwolf excavates ancient military sites looking for the proper incentive. Soon, Blackwolf unearths the most powerful weapon of all, propaganda. After restoring ancient technology, a 35mm projector, Blackwolf  inspires the mutants with reels of Nazi propaganda footage. With the rediscovery of Adolf Hitler, Avatar must fight his way to the castle of his brother and defeat him. An over sexualized fairy queen, a rage-filled elf, and a robot that rebels against his creator, Blackwolf, aid Avatar in his quest.

While, Wizards is considered a psychedelic figurative comment on the moral objectivity of technology and the destructive force that is propaganda, it is also a reflection on our past that may be considered slightly more innocent then when compared to the use of nuclear weapons. In the film, technology is seen as a force of evil but also as a needed good. The evil comes in the form of propaganda and various tools of war (guns, tanks, aircraft). On the other hand, Avatar must use technology in order to save not only himself but the world. Bakshi agreed with this but also stated that Wizards was about the creation of the state of Israel, the Holocaust, and the Jews looking for a homeland while fascism seemed very present in the climate of 1977.

If compared to the computer animation of today, Wizards would fail miserably. Two factors that contributed to this is the severe lack of funding and a polished creation has never been Bakshi’s style. Often the artwork of Wizards ranges from powerful to poor. Along with the help of illustrator Ian Miller (Warhammer, Magic: The Gathering, and other role playing games) and comic book artist Mike Ploog (Ghost Rider, Heavy Metal, Kull the Destroyer), Bakshi was able to save the film through the use of his own money and rotoscoping. It is due to this film and the animated Lord of the Rings series that rotoscoping has become a trademark of Bakshi. Perfecting the art of tracing over live-action film movement, Bakshi painted the footage of advancing Nazi armies. This style sets a striking contrast to the child’s cartoon style animation of the fairy folk and their kin. Relying heavily on recycled cels and stills, Wizards has used this disadvantage to help define the most visually striking aspect of the film, the war scenes. The combination of different styles of animation and stock footage from World War II,  makes the war scenes appear frantic or chaotic. By doing this, the art helps emphasize the toll of war.

Wizards had a budget of $1.2 million. Newer films such as Toy Story 3 cost $200 million and How to Train Your Dragon cost $165 million. While the budget differences are remarkable and yes, one must account for inflation and the platform in which the films were created, it is questionable whether or not this major funding will push these two films into cult status. Wizards is not a cult classic because of its low budget or the fact that a lack of funding did impact the film. It is a classic because its mashing of different art styles, its timeless storyline, and that it can be enjoyed by both the adult and the child. At its very core, Wizards is a testament to every artiest, writer, and director that creativity does not come with a price tag. Bakshi is an excellent example of the will overcoming the means.  He did indeed cut corners but did so in a manner that did not affect the movie. One example of this is in order to save money and supplies, Bakshi drew the horses in the film with two feet instead of four. Since the film has a psychedelic feel, this animation short cut seems plausible. Throughout the entire film, Bakshi enforced cost saving measures but proved that it is not always the budget that makes the film.

The 1970’s was defined by the anti-war movement and from this came psychedelic cultural tones that not only shaped a generation but the art they created. It is because of this that Wizards is liberated from previous definitions of what should be expected from art and the cartoon. While not a masterpiece, it is still incredibly visually appealing. Suffering at time from weak voice work and apparent drawing mistakes, Wizards is a neatly packaged film that easily combines science fiction and fantasy. Even though the film focuses on social commentary, it also delivers an nice array of slapstick and violence.

The concept of fairies and elves fighting the wrath of Adolf Hitler may seem ludicrous but war in itself is ludicrous. Wizards is a reminder as to why we should learn about history, so that we may learn from it.

Wizards receives a 8 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: A Reader Request: Surrogates (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2011 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Jonathan Mostow

Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, Robert Venditti

Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, Jack Noseworthy, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames

Genre: sci-fi, thriller, action, comic book adaption

 

Older Canter: Surrogacy is a perversion. It’s an addiction. And you have to kill the addict to kill the addiction.

 

One of the most interesting premises of the sci-fi movie genre is the film that looks into our future and slightly alters it while still connecting with the present.  The film that slowly introduces certain sci-fi aspects while set against a modern backdrop gives the viewer the ability to understand the progress of that change and makes that change seem more plausible. The film that is able to produce this while not feeling like a thinly veiled variation of other films of this level is often destined to become a favorite amongst many fans of the sci-fi genre. It is for this reason that when this type of premise is squandered that the film that has done so is harshly received. The film, Surrogates is guiltily of doing just this. While built around an enthralling concept, Surrogates is weighed down by a boring generic conspiracy therapy plot that wastes the talents of its actors.

Surrogates takes place in the no-so distant future where the use of remotely-controlled androids called “surrogates” allows the public to live their lives according to their desires and in their quintessential forms. While living life through the use of robots, people remain safe in their homes. The world has become a utopia due to the fact that the surrogates have freed people of their fears, pain, and consequences. This idealized existence is shattered when the first murder in nearly a lifetime occurs. With the death of two surrogate users, FBI agent Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) are assigned to investigate the deaths and uncover why one of the victims was Jarod Canter, the son of Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell), the inventor of the surrogate robot. It is quickly determined that the deaths are part of a larger conspiracy that will force Agent Greer to leave the safety of his surrogate and face the dangers of reality in his human form.

Surrogates adds an appealing twist to the android as human concept. This twist centers around the fact of how the surrogate assumes and consumes the user’s life and identify. While the goal of the surrogate was to allow the user the ability to pursue deeper and higher levels of interest, the reality of the matter is that the user fell into a spiritual lull. Often resorting to the use and abuse of drugs or alcohol to pass the time, the user has become emotionally devoid of true human interaction. While the surrogates are the physically perfect mechanical representations of the user, their faces are mannequin like thus lacking expression. This makes it difficult to care about or feel for something that is human-like but still very non-human. There is very little reason to embrace the danger of the situation when the viewer cannot connect to  the living being behind the machinery. This lack of living ultimately hurts the film as almost every action performed by the surrogates is bland. The surrogates actions or lack thereof drains the energy of the film. Coupled with high energy action scenes, the film suffers from extreme highs followed by extreme lows in concerns to the movies liveliness.

The high point of Surrogates is the idea of the robots themselves. To have the ability to go out into the world without the possibility of harm would change the very existence of life. From the safety of one’s home, an individual has the possibility to help end violence, war, and a majority of the world’s problems that plague us. The film does try to include this into its story. For example, Surrogates shows that wars are now fought through the robots and not by living soldiers. While androids rush a field with machine guns in hand, the solider controlling it is safe from harm. When the surrogate is disabled by a bullet, the controller simply logs into a new robot and continues the fight.

The low point of Surrogates is the films sub-plot. The movie is a mere eighty-eight minutes long and to insert a sub-plot takes away the needed time to help flesh out the main-plot. The sub-plot is ultimately unnecessary and adds neither depth or emotion to the film or the main character. The sub-plot centers around the strained relationship of Agent Greer and his wife, Maggie. After the death of their son, Greer never sees his wife outside of her surrogate and is often criticized by his wife about his need to interact with their human forms. The only resolution for the sub-plot is for the physical interaction between the two characters to occur. The issue with this is that it does not add to why Greer must stop the killer, how he feels about the situation or even the use of surrogates. The sub-plot may have seemed more appropriate had the film not been troubled by a lack of character development.

While this did take away from the film, having Bruce Willis play the main character added to it. Willis’ most enjoyable roles have always been the flawed hero. Sadly, Surrogates may not be the best example of this. Thankfully, Willis’ surrogate is destroyed near the beginning of the film. Dressed in a blonde wig and wearing a thick coating of pancake makeup, Willis’ surrogate is more frightening to look at than any other moment in the film. The fright of his character is only enhanced when the viewer realizes that a traditional cop cliché accompanies it. This cliché is the only real development that the Greer character is faced with. Being haunted by a dead child, a distant spouse, and being teamed with an upbeat female partner is a cliché that hurts and not helps the storyline for Greer.

Had Surrogates been written by a different team and directed by another director this comic book adaption may have fared better. The team who wrote the script is also the same team who wrote 2004’s Catwoman and the last two Terminator movies. Naming these three films should be all the information the viewer needs to know in order to understand what they are about to watch. The movie’s director, Jonathan Mostow, easily entertains in a number of fight scenes but when he tries to depict the everyday lives of the machines he relies too heavily on mainly showing them walk about in the background. Had Mostow lacked the ability to use special effects to the degree that he did it is likely that this would have hurt the film further. It is difficult to imagine if Mostow could have done as well as he did without a computers aid. While the special effects are enjoyable to watch, they lack the ability to make the viewer care or to allow them to immerse themselves into it.

While Surrogates is not a great film or a film that demands the devotion of the serious sci-fi fan, it is a wonderful movie to be used as an introduction of the sci-fi genre to a mainstream audience.  The inability to present a promising premise has prevented the film from moving beyond its B-movie feel. Relying too heavily on senseless action does not conceal the fact of a poorly written script. With an underwhelming end result, Surrogates seems as it appears, mindless but still entertaining. Setting aside the fact that Surrogates squanders wonderful ideas and turns toward a generic formula too soon, it is amusing. To watch a large truck plow through a crowd of robots and to see a number of them bounce off of or pile onto the truck is somewhat hilarious. Surrogates is purely escapist fun.

Surrogates receives a 6 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Tromeo & Juliet (1996)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2011 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman

Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn

Narrated by: Lemmy

Cast: Jane Jensen, Will Keenan, Valentine Miele, Debbie Rochon, Tiffany Shepis, Stephen Blackehart, Patrick Connor, Steve Gibbons, Sean Gunn, Joe Fleishaker, William Beckwith, Earl McKoy

Genre: comedy, satire, drama, cult classic

 

Juliet Capulet: Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Tromeo Que: Yeah, it totally sucks.

 

Troma Entertainment is a low-budget independent film production and distribution company, which is known for their shock exploitation films that often encompass graphic violence, extreme gore, gratuitous nudity, and sexuality. Formed in 1974 by Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) and Michael Herz, Troma films specialize in B-movies that are surrealistic in nature and often contain social commentary that is a play on 1950s horror, often done so in a mocking manner. In 1996, Troma Entertainment went on to continue their legacy of magnificent trash with release of the studio’s most popular in-house production, Tromeo & Juliet.

Tromeo & Juliet is a mordern punk adaptation of William Shakespeare’s most famous work, Romeo and Juliet. While a rather faithful adaptation, Tromeo & Juliet follows the basic storyline and keeps the character partly true to the original source material. The dialogue of the film often draws from the literary legend himself but served with a twist. It is certain that Shakespeare never used the word cunt or cocksucker in any of his plays but if he had, it is apparent that many students forced to read his work would have paid more attention in high school English class. Tromeo & Juliet is the mutant child of Romeo and Juliet but only with the addition of tremendous amounts of violence and sexuality. Though the ending has been revised and the film is sprinkled with liberal interpretations of events, such as lesbian sex scenes and a continuous theme of incest.

The film, Tromeo & Juliet focuses on the ongoing feud between two warring families (the Ques and the Capulets) and the tale of two star-crossed lovers. The feud began after Cappy Capulet (William Beckwith) stole from his dear friend, Monty Que (Earl McKoy). Taking his adult entertainment company and his wife, Cappy forced Monty into a life of poverty and alcoholism. Left to care for his only son, Monty raised Tromeo (Will Keenan) to hate the Capulets. Twenty years after the falling out and taking place in modern-day Manhattan, the hatred between the families still boils. This hatred only deepens when Tromeo meets Cappy’s daughter, Juliet (Jane Jensen) at a consume party. It is love at first sight when the two meet but their love is met with violence as old hatred dies hard. With the help of his cousin Benny (Stephen Blackehart) and friend Murray (Valentine Miele), Tromeo is able to fight for his Juliet, while her abusive father and the man she is arranged to marry stand in his way.

For Troma Entertainment, Tromeo & Juliet was the answer to the bombardment of contemporary adaptations of the plays of Shakespeare that came about in the 1990’s. Films such as Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann, My Own Private Idaho (a retelling of Henry IV), and Ten Things I Hate About You (a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew) were seen as fresh and new with cast members that were often the latest teen-idols. As these films began winning accolades, Kaufman teamed up with James Gunn (of Slither and Dawn of the Dead fame) to construct a script for modern day film extremists. This union penned and produced a film true to Troma standards of entertainment. These principles employ the “kitchen sink” approach. Kaufman often assembles his films with a message that is carried throughout the movie with a loud and in your face tactic that frequently uses violence for laughs but inserts a few brief moments of serious banter.  Troma Entertainment has never been known for trying to push a message subtly and Tromeo & Juliet is no exception. As no topic is off-limits when used as a plot device, Tromeo & Juliet show cases an eyeball being plucked out, a squirrel hung from a noose, an extreme close-up of an actual nipple-piercing, bondage between father and daughter, a three foot penis, a monster penis, cunnilingus, two men kissing, incest between siblings, self mutilation, lesbian sex, and a Catholic priest frolicking with a young boy (all of which is narrated by Lemmy of Motörhead). While these actions and knowing that this is a B-movie, may present the idea that the film is poorly shot and poorly acted, the viewer will be surprised to learn that Tromeo & Juliet is rather polished when compared to Kaufman’s earlier work and that the acting is quite good for a film of this caliber. Aside from Troma Entertainments latest release, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, Tromeo & Juliet is one of Kaufman’s better acted films.

Tromeo & Juliet stars Troma Entertainment scream queens,  Tiffany Shepis (plays Peter, the Capulet Servent) and Debbie Rochon (plays Ness, the Capulet nurse and Juliet’s lesbian lover). The duo excel at their typically over-the-top sexual performances. Another Troma favorite is Joe Fleishaker. Known for his large size and his large appetite, Fleishaker has become a staple of Troma films.

Will Keenan (Tromeo) and Jane Jensen (Juliet) share a compatible chemistry as the main characters. Despite the fact that a Troma film will never win an Oscar, the pair look more natural and comfortable reciting Shakespeare than Leonardo DiCaprio did in 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. One great example of this occurs when Juliet seeks the help of a Rastafarian priest to halt her arranged marriage with a meat tycoon named London Arbuckle (Steve Gibbons). After ingesting a potion given to her by the priest, Juliet transforms into a half-human/half-cow hermaphrodite monster with a three foot penis. Upon seeing the beast that is to be his bride, Arbuckle crashes through the window of Juliet’s bedroom, committing suicide out of seer fright. It is obvious that Shakespeare never intended such a scene for any of his works but the language he used is still applied to even the most outrageous of scenes in Tromeo & Juliet. While Jensen seems perfectly natural while reciting Shakespeare, even while having a three foot penis dangling between her legs, one must wonder why for an actor of DiCaprio’s stature it seemed as if every word he spoke was daunting. Yes, DiCaprio was twenty-two at the time he starred in Romeo + Juliet but with films such as This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Basketball Diaries shot before the release of this film he had already proven to be an actor that was far wiser then his years.

Each cast member of Tromeo & Juliet acts well beyond the stereotypical abilities of a B-movie. The one cast member that shines above all is William Beckwith, who plays Cappy Capulet. Beckwith’s portrayal of Juliet’s abusive father has fashioned one of the more disturbing father roles in film that is more akin to Ed Wilson in Natural Born Killers than Jacob Fuller in From Dusk till Dawn. It is not the physical violence toward his daughter that is most disturbing but his incestuous behavior. The best example of this occurs when Juliet awakes from a nightmare screaming to be greeted with her father laying beside her in her bed. While holding her curling iron, Capulet laments that about his daughters libido and states that she used the curling iron to masturbate. Grabbing her, Capulet then drags his daughter into a dark room, dresses her in pink bondage, and cages her in a Plexiglas box. At no point is Capulet actually seen touching his daughter in a sexual manner and Juliet proclaims that she has not known the pleasures of a man but during the bondage scenes he is seen sweating profusely which leads one to believe that he may be masturbating as the viewer is presented with no other reason for him to be sweating. While Capulet’s behavior is disturbing, the viewer must remember that like every Shakespearian play, the villain always meets a justifiable end.

A staple of any play penned by Shakespeare is filled with not only internal conflict but physical conflict as well. Tromeo & Juliet has a number of well choreographed fight scenes that are used as a vehicle for gore and laughs. With each new fight the level of the intensity of the violence deepens and helps to move the story toward its climax. One such fight that best displays this acceleration in violence occurs after Juliet’s cousin Tyrone (Patrick Conner) learns that she is involved with his mortal enemy, Tromeo. After finding Tromeo at his cousin’s tattoo parlor, Tyrone tries to force Tromeo to fight him. Tromeo refuses but his challenge is agreed to by his friend Murray. As the two fight others in the shop soon join in. Murray soon finds himself out matched after accidently stabbing a tattoo gun into the wrong man’s eye. Tyrone bashes a club into Murray’s skull and upon his death takes flight. Enraged by his friend’s death, Tromeo chases after Tyrone. As the two fight a ladder hanging out of a car window slams into his chest. The force of the connection causes Tromeo to rip off Tyrone’s arm as the car drives away with him attached to the ladder. It is through a series of car crashes that Tyrone is finally dismembered.

Tromeo & Juliet, as well as all Troma Entertainment films, are pure enjoyment for a select portion of the movie going audience. It is not that, Kaufman tries to appeal to a certain group, it is the fact that art is subjective While some may find Tromeo & Juliet revolting, there are those who would disagree and proclaim that a love story without violence is truly the film that is disgusting. In all its B-movie greatness, Tromeo & Juliet is the one Shakespearian film that will never bore its audience.

Tromeo & Juliet receives an 8 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader presents a bias review: Happy Fucking New Year

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

The year 2010 saw an interesting array of films that drew a clear line in the sand between awesome and awful. With remakes and sequels abound, some fared better than others (Kick-Ass, Inception, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood). While the majority wasted film and the audience’s valuable time (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The A-Team, A Nightmare on Elm Street). The end of one year may be seen as a joyous occasion when films like Legion and Johan Hex are largely disappointments. With films like Thor, Paul, and The Eagle coming to theaters in 2011, the new year seems promising in concerns to film. After all that is what the new year is about, fresh starts.

The ushering in of a new year may be about starting over but the past has a mighty pull when it comes to film. It is difficult to forget about the movies that shaped you childhood or stirred a passion within you. It is movies such as these that prove that regardless of  the year, some films should be embraced despite the times. While many New Years films are about the happily ever after or the epic disaster, three highly respectable films have used New Years as an important tool to set up scenes that have now become legend. These three films are Ghostbusters II, The Godfather II, and The Shining.

So, put on a silly hat, grab a kazoo, and crack open the alcohol. These are three movies that help show the importance that New Years has served in film.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

“Here’s something off the request line from Liberty Island. We’re gonna squeeze some New Year’s juice from ya, Big Apple!” -Peter Venkman

Plot:

Taking place five years after the Ghostbusters team saved New York City from a supernatural evil, the group is now out of business due to lawsuits from the event. With the discovery of a river of ectoplasm under the city of New York, the Ghostbusters are soon back in business as Peter Venkman’s ex-girlfriend’s infant son is stolen to be the new host of a malevolent tyrant.

Ghostbusters 2 was a commercially successful sequel. Despite this, many hardcore fans of the original Ghostbusters film considered the sequel to be a disappointment. For many critics, they share the same complaints. While some believe that the script was bland and others thought that the film strained for laughs, Ghostbusters II is still considered a great film by those who would rather be entertained then complain. Most of this entertainment comes from the second half of the film. As the film counts down the days toward New Years, the ghostly encounters soon come to a climax on the eve of the new year.

Some may consider that the main villain of Ghostbusters II, Vigo would be no match for the killer hell hounds of the first Ghostbusters. It may be difficult to find a man who jumps out of a painting to be frightening but scares are not the point of the film. Call it nostalgia or purely love for the entire cast and concept of the film but it is difficult to dislike a sequel that one has grown up on. Even after twenty-one years, many of the films elements are still very relevant, Bill Murray is still a wonderful comedian and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man will always be one of  the most delicious and evil movie monster ever.

The Godfather: Part II (1974)



“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” -Michael Corleone

Plot:

The Godfather: Part II explores the beginning and the continuation of the organized crime syndicate, the Corleone family. While exploring the families roots, the film focuses on Vito Corleone’s voyage from Sicily to New York and the building of his empire. Vito’s grown son, Michael is then shown expanding the family’s business from Nevada to Cuba, while having to deal with disloyalty and murder.

While considered one of the best movies ever made (which is a very small club to belong to), The Godfather: Part II does what only a handful of sequels have been able to accomplish. It has successfully carried the story from the first film into the second and faithfully expanding upon it. The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II have come to symbolize the zenith of film making from America. Seen as the finest of crime family dramas, The Godfather saga is more about those involved with or family members of the Corleone’s, then about crime. One of the best examples of this takes place during the peak of their success, the Corleone family is celebrating New Year’s Eve in Havana. After confirming Michael’s worst fears, his brother Fredo accidently proves that he is the traitor in the family. In one of the cinema’s most iconic scenes, Michael embraces Fredo while mournfully uttering one of the most well known quotes in the mobster film genre, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.” Drawing, Fredo to him, Michael gives him the notorious kiss of death.

The Shining (1980)



“Great party, isn’t it?” -Injured Guest

Plot:

Jack Torrance, an out of work writer, takes a job as a winter caretaker of an isolated hotel. Bringing his wife and son, Jack slowly slips into insanity as the hands of an evil presents and the former  guests of the hotel. Using his telepathic gift, known as the shining, Jack’s son sees visions of past and future murders in the hotel. It is this gift that may help save his mother and himself.

The Shining takes place during the majority of the winter season. The film does not give specific dates and does not show the celebrating of holidays. The only time during the film where the viewer is given some idea of when the movie is taking place occurs during Jack’s stroll into the Gold Room. After having been driven to madness, it does not seem odd to him that a New Year’s Eve masquerade ball is taking place with ghosts that were former guests of the hotel. This is an important scene because Jack is convinced by a waiter that he needs to “correct” his family. It is after this conversation that Jack will go on to try to kill his wife and child.

The Shining is a brilliant movie. It is one of the very few movies that have been adapted from a Steven King book successfully. It is filled with quotable lines and scenes that have been paid tribute to in many other movies, television shows, and cartoons. The Shining also stars a wonderful cast. The most notable is, of course Jack Nicholson. Nicholson has the ability to show a wide array of emotions with facial expressions. His best by far, is insanity. It is this insane expression and manic laugh that help define The Shining.

Alternative Mentions:

54 (1998) *200 Cigarettes (1999)*2012 (2009)*Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)*Bloody New Year(1987)*Boogie Nights (1997)*Cloverfield (2007)*End of Days (1999)*Entrapment (1999)*Gridlock’d (1997)*Jaws: The Revenge (1987)*Ocean’s Eleven (2001)*Money Train (1995)*New Year’s Day (2001)*New Year’s Evil(1980)*Night of the Comet (1984)*Strange Days (1995)*Terror Train (1980)*The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)*The Poseidon Adventure (1972)*The Signal (2007)*Trading Places (1983)

Honorable Classic Mentions:

An American in Paris (1951)*Holiday (1938)*Holiday Inn (1942)*New Year Sacrifice (1956)*Sunset Boulevard (1950)*The Apartment (1960)*The Gold Rush (1925)

Happy New Year!

Side Note: Yes, I purposely left out Bridget Jones’s Dairy, Sex and the City, and When Harry Met Sally. Considering these titles, I believe no explanation is necessary. Other such romcoms and romantic films will always be excluded regardless of topic.

%d bloggers like this: