FLICKSMACKS PODCAST

FLICKSMACKS PODCAST

My love of film has officially spilled over into the medium of audio podcasting.

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A couple of months ago, my friend Scott (@moviedrivel) and I, began throwing around the idea of doing a podcast about movies (and television to an extent). Thus was born FlickSmacks. With both of us being fans of B-movies and the stranger side of cinema, it was only natural that this is where our new venture went to. Each episode we pick a movie that we both watch. These are mostly decided by the title of the film, and/or the cover art. There is an endless well of these types of films at our disposal. As of this post, we have four episodes in the bag, with another waiting to be edited.

If you care to check out this often hilarious look at lesser-known movies, please find us through our website flickskmack.com or other avenues like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and most other pod places. Feedback is always welcome, as are suggestions. We are even looking to have some guests going forward.

This is definitely a passion project, and the quality will not be professional for the first little while as we learn the podcasting ropes, but once we get everything squared away, we will be unstoppable!

Please stop by for a listen.

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My Two Cents: READY OR NOT

Ready Or Not

Directed by Matt Bittinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Andi McDowell

Fox Searchlight

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By show of hands, who here enjoys a rousing game of hide and seek? If I was to bet, I would say that at some point in our childhoods, we have all played. For children, everything is about fun and games; tag, duck-duck-goose, and the aforementioned hide and seek. Count to one hundred then come and find me. Like I said, these are kid’s games. Now, what if, as an adult, you were thrust into a night of a deadly game where you had to hide to save your life, and if you were found, you’d be killed? This is the situation that the new film from Matt Bittinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Ready Or Not, presents to us.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is a lovely bride-to-be, marrying into the wealthy and eccentric La Domas family. The family, being rich, are skeptical as to Grace’s intentions. The La Domas Empire was built on the backs of board games and playing cards. Think Milton-Bradley or Parker Brothers. With this being said, it is only fitting that the family “welcomes” Grace into the fold with a wedding night game of chance. Unfortunately for Grace, she selects the wrong game; hide and seek. Thus begins a night of survival for the newlywed, as she must make it until dawn without being found.

Going into Ready Or Not, I had no real expectations. I saw the trailer for the movie a couple times, and thought it looked interesting. We decided to check it out, and will grab you right away with its back-handed charm. The characters are all jaded and untrusting, which makes them, as odd as it sounds, relatable. The family is dysfunctional and cagey, which is the case in a lot of people’s experience. The idea of someone having to survive the night until dawn, being hunted by lunatics is not original by any stretch, but the execution here is almost perfect. The dark humour and sarcasm contained in the dialogue is biting and beautiful, and the distain these characters show for one another adds to the humor and paranoia. Also, as an added bonus, there are outbursts of violence that will satisfy your bloodlust and your sense of amusement. The final ten minutes of the film are wild, and the creators do not skimp on the violence and gore. This was a welcome touch in a year that has been less than generous with good horror movies. Ready Or Not is a fun film if you take it for what it is. It may have even slid into my list of favorites so far in 2019. If you want to be entertained for ninety minutes, Ready Or Not is a game worth playing.

T.

JOHN CARPENTER LOVEFEST

Why John Carpenter Is My Favorite Director

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The Maestro in Action

Many directors have a distinct style. When directors carve out their own niche, for the most part, the men behind the lens gain notoriety. Great examples of this are Martin Scorsese, with his quick cut, narrated crime capers. Quentin Tarantino, who uses dialogue and ultra-violence to give his stories life. There is also, my personal favorite director; John Carpenter. From the time I was a boy, there is something about Carpenter’s films that hook me. The ingredients he uses to cook up his films fit perfectly with my movie pallet. For this reason, I would like to tell you why John Carpenter is my favorite movie director.

Simplicity   There is one common thread through Carpenter’s work; survival. From Assault On Precinct 13 to Ghosts of Mars and everywhere in between, a fight for survival against an evil force is the main theme throughout. This makes for his films to be unsettling, intense, and simple. Babysitter versus madman, scientists versus alien, or truck driver pitted against evil sorcerer. You get the picture. A simple plot. Good versus evil. Everything right down to Michael Myers expressionless white mask is uncomplicated. This makes a plot like an escaped mental patient stalking babysitters in small town Illinois seem plausible, organic, and more terrifying; it could happen to anyone. Simple is good. Carpenter does it well.

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The Soundtracks   If you were to take away the haunting synth-based soundtrack from the previously mentioned Halloween, what are you left with? You have footage of a man walking around the dark with a knife. This is not nearly as effective as the same footage armed with the iconic theme of the film. Carpenter’s soundtrack scores and themes are very effect in drawing out the tension and action. The main title from his 1980 ghost story The Fog is my personal favorite. The music is creepy in all the right places. Carpenter still continues to tour, performing his vast collection of synthesizer music. His Anthology and Lost Theme albums are amazing.

The Villains   All great stories have a great protagonist. John Carpenter’s films have a wide arrange of monsters and bad guys. From a possessed 1957 Plymouth Fury named Christine, to a whole island filled with violent criminals in Escape From New York, Carpenter villains run the gamut. The Shape, also known as Michael Myers has even become a pop culture icon since he first appeared in 1978. Perhaps his best creature is the parasitic alien that jumps from host to host in The Thing. This is Carpenter’s best film, and it is party because the alien is convincing and pretty damn cool. A great movie monster goes a long way in telling a great story.

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They Live (1988)

The Anti-Hero   John Carpenter’s films also have another common theme; the anti-hero protagonist. Anti-hero, by definition, is “a central character in a story, movie, or drama, who lacks conventional heroic attributes. Carpenter’s heroes do not wear capes, drive fast cars, or fit into any typical hero mold. Look at these characters, for example. Snake Plisskin is a convicted bank robber who sent into a crime infested Manhattan to save the U.S. president. In Big Trouble in Little China, Jack Burton is hard-living truck driver who battles a sorcerer. For the Kurt Russel hat-trick, whiskey drinking anti-social helicopter pilot McReady battle the alien that invades his Alaskan science outpost in The Thing. Nada, the drifter in They Live and Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers psychiatrist are also examples of Carpenter’s unconventional good guys.

Genre Crossover   Blending genres is something that can make a compelling story. John Carpenter is the master of blending horror and science fiction together to make great cinema. Look at films like The Thing, They Live, and Village of the Damned. All great horror films with some science thrown in for good measure. His use of aliens and Martians is pretty much a Carpenter trademark. Humor is also something the director does well. It is usually subtle, but in a movie like Big Trouble, the laughs are right on the surface. Starman is a blend of sci-fi and romance. I think you get the point I am trying to make. The man is a damn good writer and filmmaker.

 

My Top Five John Carpenter Movies:

  1. The Thing
  2. Halloween
  3. Escape From New York
  4. The Fog
  5. They Live / Big Trouble In Little China

T.

My Two Cents: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Directed by: André Øvredal (Troll Hunter)

Starring Zoe Margret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush

CBS Films, Entertainment One (2019)

Based on the book written by Alvin Schwartz

While I was growing up, there were not a lot of horror books and shows made for kids and preteens to enjoy. It seemed everything in the nineteen seventies and made for the horror genre was geared towards adults. The nineties kids had plenty of horror –lite to enjoy. That generation had Are You Afraid Of The Dark? And the Goosebumps books to jump-start their horror obsession. By the time these arrived, I was already desensitized from watching movies like The Exorcist and The Shining at a young age. No starter horror for me. I jumped in headfirst. Today, kids can be exposed to horror without being scarred for life. This is where Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark falls into place. The main characters are all younger teenagers, and the frights are far more palatable and less gruesome.

Scary Stories is the tale of a group of teens growing up in Middle American during one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history; the late 1960’s. On Halloween night, the gang visits a mansion, which according to legend, is haunted. The family that lived in the home had many dark secrets, including a hidden away daughter that lived a secluded, tortured existence. The kids take a book that once belonged to the daughter, and this begins a series of fateful stories being written into the book by a ghostly presence. These stories begin to happen in real-time, and the group must face their fears to save their lives.

Scary Stories is definitely meant for a teenage crowd, but also has enough to keep adults interested as well. Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape Of Water) co-wrote the screenplay, and if you are a fan of the directors work, you know there will be some wild imagery and creative monsters in the movie. I found the political and social references of the time set a dark tone for the story, although most of the younger viewers won’t understand them. Subtle humor is injected for a good counter balance the intensity of some scenes. All in all, I enjoy my horror with a little more violence, bloodshed, and of course, nudity. After all, I am a horror veteran. Scary Stories, however, would be a very nice jumping point for someone who is new to the genre, or feels like upping the game from light fare like Goosebumps.

T.

 

My Two Cents: Ari Aster’s MIDSOMMAR

Midsommar

Directed by: Ari Aster

Starring: Francis Pugh, Jack Raynor, Vilhelm Blomgren

A24 Films 2019

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After watching Hereditary, director Ari Aster’s first feature length film, I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it. Visually, the movie was great. The acting is stout and believable, and the characters are polarizing. However, I felt that maybe I missed a lot of the films symbolism after the first viewing. The film was very monotone for the first hour, and not until the final act did I become fully engaged in what was happening on the screen. After a second viewing, I was able to absorb a lot more, and pause and rewind when I felt a scene needed to be dissected. This made me appreciate Hereditary a lot more. Upon hearing about Midsommar, Aster’s second feature, I was hoping that I wouldn’t encounter the same trepidation I had after Hereditary. I was cautious.

This was not the case at all.

Midsmmar is the story of Dani (Francis Pugh), an early twenties woman whom experiences an absolutely horrific family tragedy. Dani’s emotionally absent boyfriend Christian, along with his college friends, are planning a trip to Sweden to experience a centuries old festival that takes place on a commune. Out of guilt and thinking she will decline, Christian invites Dani along. To the dismay of the group, she accepts the invitation and they are soon on their way to Sweden. Through a series of bizarre rituals and strange customs, the trip starts to unravel for the group of American outsiders (oddly enough, only one American actor stars in the film). I will leave the synopsis to this bare bones description, because honestly, you have to experience this film for yourself.

I love Midsommar. The film is a beautifully paced, and gorgeously shot look inside grief and the impact it has one a person’s mental wellbeing. I found it easier to process than Hereditary. The symbolism is there, but the messages and meanings are there for the viewer to grab on to, rather than piece together and think too much about. You know right from the time of their arrival that the journey will end badly. You just have to watch and see how badly it ends.

To be honest, there are not many likeable characters in Midsommar, but that is a good thing. This results in the tension being heightened and the dread more palpable. People grieve in different ways, which makes grief isolated and a subjective matter. This is why I feel not everyone will like this movie. I love looking beneath the surface of film plots, and with Midsommar, I was revealed a truly beautiful experience. The last thirty minutes of this motion picture is one of the wildest, imaginative and twisted conclusions to a film I recall seeing in cinema. If you enjoy watching something truly original, Ari Aster has cooked up a five star feast for your senses.

T.

 

Some pretty cool posters.

As I browse the internet, I come across so pretty cool images. I am a fan of music gig posters, and minimalist movie posters. A lot of creativity inhabits the world, and cyberspace is the easiest way to get your art out to the masses. As I come across something I find pleasing to the eye, I save it. Here are some of the images I feel are very sharable. I have no idea who the artists are, and I can take no credit for any of these pieces. Whoever did these, please keep up the amazing work.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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True Romance (1993)

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Lost Boys (1987)

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Blair Witch Project (1999)

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The Exorcist (1973)

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The Shining (1980)

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Goonies (1985)

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Ghostbusters (1984)

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The Shining (1980)

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The VVitch (2016)

 

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Danzig/White Zombie/Kyuss Gig Poster

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Melvins Gig Poster

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Pallbearer Gig Poster

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Blondie Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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The Sword Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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Beastie Boys Gig Poster

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Pink Floyd Tour Poster

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David Bowie Gig Poster

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Pink Floyd Gig Poster

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The Sword/Pallbearer Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

T.

Daily Tonality: Song of the Day 01/09/18

January 9, 2018

Today’s song is brought to you by putting my Spotify library on random and making the first song to play your Daily Tonality.

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Roky Erickson And The Aliens– Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer) (from the album The Evil One, 1980) Roky Erickson is an interesting fellow. He started his musical journey with the 13th Floor Elevators in the late 1960’s. After some pretty intense recreational drug use (LSD, Mescaline, DMT, and Marijuana), Erickson found himself in and out of mental institutions, receiving voluntary shock therapy. His lyrics and subject matter heavily lean towards horror and science fiction. Two Headed Dog is about Soviet scientist Vladimir Demikhov, who performed head transplants on dogs in the 1950’s. Erickson is highly respected by his peers, and quite often I have heard other artists covering his music. I am a fan of his straightforward, effective guitar playing, and intense vocal style. At seventy years old, he still plays shows and continues to write music.

Little Fact – In the 1980’s. Roky Erickson became obsessed with the mail, even getting arrested for mail theft. He wrote letters to both dead and alive celebrities during his obsession.

T.

My Two Cents: M. Knight Shyamalan’s SPLIT

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Split

Directed and written by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

2017 Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions

When you go to see an M. Night Shyamalan film, it’s like a roll of the dice. His first few films were a safe bet. Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and to an extent, Signs, are all good films. Lady in the Water and The Happening, not so great. His second to last release, The Visit, was decent enough that I was looking forward to seeing M. Knight’s latest; Split. The trailers looked good and the concept plays well as a horror/thriller.

Split is the story of Barry, a man whom has twenty-three separate personalities. The majority of harmless, but a few of the personas have malicious intentions. The movie begins with three young women being abducted, and the story unfolds from there. We soon learn the background stories of Barry’s many personalities, and one of the captives, Casey Cooke. There is really not much more I can speak of without ruining plot twists. However, I will say that Split contains one of Shyamalan’s signature twist endings which features a familiar face, and perhaps sets up a possible sequel for at least one of M. Night’s films.

All in all, Split is enjoyable and has enough suspense and story to keep the viewer interested. James McAvoy portrays Barry. He does an amazing job playing essentially a half dozen characters. Anya Taylor-Joy, who shined in last years The Witch, shines again as the captive with a past just as dark as her captor. The pacing is great and the story translates well on the screen. I do, however, have a couple of things that bother me about the film. We only get to see one third of the personalities that inhabit Barry’s brain. I think it would have been interesting to see a glimpse of each of the twenty-three psyches. I do understand that the director needs time for character development, but just a peek would have been nice. I also thought the film lacked violence. Not because I am a savage, but because it would have lent nicely to the mystique of one of Barry’s personas (for sake of spoiling, I cannot say which). A little more violence would also have intensified the already satisfying suspense.

To recap, the high points are the performances of James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. They dominate the screen, and their characters have compelling stories. The Shyamalanian twist at the end is also worth the watch. This is even more true if you are a fan of his movies, as it ties two of his stories together. Split is not The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable (both amazing films), but it is a million miles better than the happening. In a time (January and February) when crappy films are released and usually die, Split stands out and will hopefully succeed.

T.

List-O-rama: Top Five Favorite John Carpenter Films

Five Favorite John Carpenter Films

n-john-carpenter-433-1Mr. John Carpenter is the man. What else can I say about a writer/director who has manufactured so many brilliant stories, and memorable characters. His full-length film debut, Dark Star, was in released in 1974. Since then, he has treated movie-goers to thrills, chills, comedy, horror, science fiction, and just pure cinematic beauty. And despite what Hollywood has become over the last couple decades, Carpenter keeps it real and does it his way. Also, yesterday was his sixty-ninth birthday. Let’s celebrate with a top five list of my personal favorite J.C. films. You may or may not agree with these choices, so feel free to comment. From five to one…

5. Escape From New York (1981 MGM) – Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Earnest Borgnine? This is top five on that merit alone. Basically, the President of the United States crash lands in Manhattan. Sounds simple, but Manhattan in the future is now a large maximum security prison, and the inmates have the commander in chief. A one-eyes bank robber named Snake Plissken is sent in to retrieve the captives and the downed airplane’s cargo. I get a Mad Max, Man With No Name feel whenever I watch this movie. Amazing Soundtrack, a bad ass anti-hero main character, and Donald Pleasence as the President. I think I have proven my point.

4. They Live (1988 Universal) – Humans are being kept under sedation by a race of alien creatures through subliminal messages that appear on billboards, television etc. Nada (played by the late, great Roddy Piper), a down on his luck blue-collar guy finds a pair of sunglasses and soon uncovers the brainwashing and manipulation. I love this film because it does star “Hot Rod” Piper, but I also appreciate the Twilight Zone vibe it gives off. They Live is an alien movie, but it also a social comment on how society is told what to do through advertising, and we don’t even know it. Also contains one of the longest fist fight scenes in the history of film. You cannot argue with that.

3. The Fog (1980 Embassy) – The plot sounds crazy; one hundred years ago, a ship of lepers bound for the shores of Antonio Bay, California are deliberately guided to crash into the rocks along the coast, and thus left for dead. Now as Antonio Bay prepares to celebrate it’s centennial year, a ghostly fog washes across the seaside town. What is inside this fog now seeks revenge for the wrong doings of the town’ ancestors. A spooky ghost story with some creepy atmosphere and strong female performances make this one of Carpenter’s more underrated films. Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Adrienne Barbeau star, even though the real star of the film is the ambiance and mood.

2. The Thing (1982 Universal) – Claustrophobia and paranoia make for brilliant film. John Carpenter’s The Thing is chock full of both these elements. An American research station in remote Antarctica is confronted with a being not of this earth. Soon, it is all out panic and mistrust as the alien begins to take on the forms of the research team. Trust is lost and all hell breaks loose. Carpenter favorite Kurt Russell is R.J. MacReady, and Keith David is great as Childs, the two men who take it upon themselves to flush out and destroy The Thing. This is not only a great Carpenter film, but one of my favorite science fiction/horrors. If you have not seen this film, go watch now.

1. Halloween (1978 Universal) No big surprise here. The film about babysitters being stalked by a man wearing an expressionless mask, made on a shoe string budget, snowballed into a massive hit. A simple story about a boy, Michael Myers, gone wrong, locked away in an institution, only to return home fifteen years later to murder his estranged sister. It sounds like anyone could make this movie. Unfortunately, not just anybody is John Carpenter. On a low budget, Carpenter squeezed out all he could and the result is a true classic. To the point acting, an iconic soundtrack, and the quintessential slasher is the perfect storm. Sure, the Halloween franchise has pretty much spun out of control, but that has nothing to do with Carpenter. If you are a fan of bare-bones horror, I’m sure this film is right up there on your list as well.

List-O-rama: My 5 Favorite Werewolf films

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Movies based upon the shape-shifting, village terrorizing beasts are far and few between. Although most of them are pretty terrible, once in a blue moon (pun fully intended) you get one that is a real howl (that is TWO puns in one sentence, for those keeping score).

My 5 Favorite Werewolf Films

1)  An American Werewolf in London (Dir. John Landis, 1981) This dark comedy/horror is the top dog of all werewolf films. Two American students are hitching through Northern England, and are mauled by an unknown beast. One man is killed, while the other survives. He wakes up in a London hospital to realize that he is no longer the man he was before the attack. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are stellar as the college friends who end up in the wrong part of the Yorkshire moors. American Werewolf has three things I admire in a film; dark comedy, disturbing imagery, and savage violence.

2)  Ginger Snaps (Dir. by John Fawcett, 2000) Outcast sisters, obsessed with the idea of death, try to navigate their teenage years. Things get even more complicated when one of them bitten by a werewolf. As Ginger, who is bitten, becomes more of a danger, sister Brigitte must find a cure before it is too late. The performances by Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle are real and convincing. The story is surprisingly original and darkly twisted. Also, Ginger Snaps is a Canadian production, and me being a proud Canadian makes me like it even more.

3)  Dog Soldiers (Dir. by Neil Marshall 2002) A company of British soldiers are sent on a weekend training mission in conjunction with a Special Forces unit in the Scottish wilderness. As it turns out, this will be anything but a routine military exercise. The soldiers discover the remains of the Special Forces team, and realize they are being hunted by something that is not human. They hole up in a farmhouse and try to keep the beasts at bay until the sun comes up. This is a gritty, violent film with some good twists, and lovely special effects that kept me interested from the start. The portrayal of the British soldiers is very believable. A very original movie directed by the great Neil Marshall (Descent, Doomsday).

4)  The Wolf Man (Dir. by George Waggner, 1941) Along side Dracula and Frankenstein, The Wolf Man is a cornerstone in the Universal Monsters franchise back in the golden era of cinema. This true classic is the Story of Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who returns home to Wales upon the death of his brother. During a visit to a gypsy camp, Lawrence saves his friend Jenny from a wolf attack, but is bitten during the struggle. Talbot is now cursed, and transforms into a werewolf during each full moon. Lon Chaney Jr. is amazing as the man burdened with the fact that he is no longer human. This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and continues to inspire me to this day. The Wolf Man runs really short at seventy minutes, but that does not take away from it’s legacy.

5)  WolfCop (Dir. by Lowell Dean, 2014)  Another gem of a Canadian film, everything about WolfCop is ridiculous. If you are a small town police deputy with a pretty severe drinking problem and really nothing to look forward to, what do you do to turn things around? Correct, you become a werewolf. Lou Garou is no ordinary werewolf. He is a Wolf cop with a strong sense of the law and a lust for the ladies. This movie had me once the scene came on where WolfCop makes love to a lucky gal while the song “Moonlight Desires” by Canadian legend Gowan plays in the background. He also rips a dude’s face of during one scene. Pretty impressive, very ridiculous.

T.