Friday, September 28, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #39: Black Magic Rites

Black Magic Rites
Now this was a nice surprise. A twisted, loony Seventies madhouse of a movie - originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.
Our Take:

Black Magic Rites
was originally titled Riti, Magie Nere E Segrete Orge Nel Trecento... (which translates to “Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the Fourteenth Century...” and also sometimes called The Reincarnation of Isabel. All in all, a collection of names as loopy and vague as its plot. This is not a bad thing. One character towards the end says “Don't try to understand it,” and this is very good advice indeed.

In short, our plot has walking beefslab Jack Nelson (Micky Hargitay) buying a share of a castle already occupied by a vampiric cult of devil-worshipping men in red long underwear (with rear flaps, no doubt) who are murdering women in order to bring back Isabella, their long-dead mistress of bad body makeup. The fact that she burned to death in no way impacts the opportunities to show her topless with a painted ragged hole below her breasts. As in all horror stories involving reincarnation, everyone has a past life involving poor old Miss Issy, so we're asked to care that the cult targets Hargitay's wooden niece (Rita Calderoni) to be the next piece of kindling on their bonfire.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your Deathstar is Fully Operational

Monday night I made a quick jaunt to Athens to hang out with Chris, since he was there to attend an event this next morning. We popped into the Union to find they'd given it a makeover - paint, new lights, removal of pipes and the drop ceiling in the back half (which I don't really recall but according to Chris it was there). It looks good, but it now far more "Hipster" than "Dive." Written on a sign was "Your Deathstar is Fully Operational," which we took to mean they were re-opened for business after the rehab. On the whole, we liked it. (We're also weighing a trip next month since Mike Watt is playing...)

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"With Chris at the revamped Union- it feels like a different place..." 

""Your Deathstar is fully operational." - at the remodeled all-bright-and-shiny Union..." 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #38: Unholy (2007)

Unholy is a science fiction mind-bender with a dash of horror which bursts at the seams with ideas. A mad mix of pending insanity, Nazis, necromancy, and grief. Lead character Martha (Adrienne Barbeau) has already lost her husband and witnesses the suicide of her daughter, Hope. In dealing with the loss, Martha and her somewhat estranged, pothead son Lucas (Nicholas Brendon) try to chase down what drove Hope to kill herself. It's not a difficult journey, since the next door neighbor happens to be married to a conspiracy-minded madwoman who sends them down a conspiracy rabbit-hole.

Encountering nightmares and time-bending craziness, Martha and Lucas get into situations that quickly begin to defy all suspended belief and require Olympian leaps of logic. While low budget, Unholy is stuffed to the gills with plot and ideas. The execution suffers from the budget, but it wins some audience favor for the effort. Choppy story structure and dream logic don't help the story make sense, but effectively keep audience and characters off-balance. You just have to assume it'll all come together... but does it?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #37: Adua e le Compagne (Adua and Her Friends)

Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and starring to international, honest to goodness movie icons, Antonio Pietrangelli's ADUA E LE COMPAGNE (ADUA AND HER FRIENDS) is a slice of Italian neo-realist goodness.

The film starts when as the 1959 Merlin Law has shut down Italy's legal brothels, forcing many prostitutes to figure out how to change careers. If made now, this would probably be about four internet marketers forced into prostitution by the dot-com bust or economic collapse. (Evidently, this law is still in effect banning organized prostitution. The more you know, eh?) As the film opens, the girls are having the same conversation set to “Hard Candy Christmas” in THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. They've just finished their last night and tomorrow start new lives. Ringleader Adua (Simone Signoret, fresh from winning an Oscar) brings some old associates together to turn a run-down old country building into a restaurant. While catty to one another, they get down to the dirty work or rehabbing their new home and business. For all the flaring tempers they should probably name the place “Over Our Heads.”

When obstacles prevent opening their restaurant, they turn to Dr. Ercoli, a local “fixer” who'll make the license happen, but only for a price. His caveat, of course, is they return to their old line of work upstairs, while the restaurant runs downstairs. I've no idea what a million Lira amounted to in 1960, but they'll owe him that every month. Judging by Adua's expression, she's a bit daunted. They carry on, but know the past will eventually come knocking.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #36: Dreamscape

If you had the power to see the future and read people's minds, you would probably do the same thing Alex Gardner does: make easy money gambling and get laid a lot. There's no challenge when you know which horse will win and exactly what someone needs to hear. You may well also wind up being a target as well. Everyone from cheap gangsters to doctors to the government want a piece of a real life psychic.

Dreamscape is one of those big holes in my Sci-Fi/Horror film education, and I was glad to finally rectify that with a viewing. A young Dennis Quaid plays a cocky Alex, brought back into an experimental sleep clinic under the wing of his mentor, played by a surprisingly scrawny Max Von Sydow. Also working with comely sleep specialist, Jane (Kate Capshaw, an actress I like in everything but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), he's soon being sent into dreams to stop nightmares that caused other psychics to lose their minds. Between a young boy menaced by a snake monster and a US President plagued by crippling night terrors (Eddie Albert), Alex finds himself racing to prevent an "imaginary" murder that would have very real results.